In his youth Mr. Newton was employed in planting lime and lemon trees on a plantation in Africa, One day his master sneeringly said to him: ”Who knows but by the time these trees grow up and bear, you may go home to England, obtain the command of a ship, and return to reap the fruit of your labors? ”John Newton really did return, in command of a ship, and with some hope of heaven in his heart, and saw the trees he had planted grown up and bearing fruit.
At the age of eleven he went to sea with his father. He drifted away from his pious mother's teachings and grew into an abandoned and Godless sailor. He was flogged as a deserter from the navy, and for fifteen months he lived, half-starved and ill-treated, on the above mentioned plantation, under a slave-dealer. His Christian belief matured while in command of a slave-ship. He soon became an ardent worker for Christ. In 1805, when no longer able to read his text, his reply when pressed to discontinue preaching, was: ”What, shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak? ”He was a lifelong friend of the great hymn-writer, William Cowper, and him self wrote a large number of hymns.
“Saviour, Visit Thy Plantation” is usually sung to the tune ”Rathbun,” written by Ithamar Conkey.