I’ve recently been thinking and blogging about books that have changed my life, and as I’m reading Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior, I’ve been introduced to a book that changed More’s life:
In 1780, during the height of her high-society years in London, More read a book that changed her life. Cardiphonia, sometimes translated by publishers as The Utterance of the Heart or Voice of the Heart, was a collection of letters penned by John Newton, author of the hymn “Amazing Grace.” As was common, Newton’s book was published pseudonymously. More was curious to know whom the author of this marvelous and moving book was. She wrote a letter to her friend Frances Boscawen, thanking her for introducing the work to her. “I like it prodigiously,” she said. “It is full of vital, experimental religion.” Those words, within the context of the times, are telling. By vital, More meant “full of life,” so opposite the stale, dead religion found in many Church of England members, wearied with centuries of religious conflict. The word experimental alluded to the growing emphasis during the eighteenth century on the importance of individual experience in religious practice, the need of each person to have an authentic and personal faith rather than simply to adhere to rote tradition.
Although little known today, Cardiphonia is a classic of Christian literature. The volume of personal letters by Newton put forth his convictions concerning human depravity and the sufficiency of Christ to redeem fallen humanity…
I also love learning through biographies. Prior goes on to write more about Newton, and this I did not know:
Despite his newfound faith, Newton did not immediately recognize the evil of slavery. He continued to work in the slave trade. In fact, it was after his conversion to Christ that Newton became captain of a slave ship…Newton withdrew from the horrid business only gradually; his failing health was a greater cause for this, at first, than his developing convictions. As his faith matured, he decided to pursue the priesthood within the Church of England. Only when he was no longer immersed in the business could he truly see the slave trade for the evil it was.
So far, 2016 is a good reading year!