15 Tips on Blogging from John Newton
by Tony Reinke
John Newton, the slave-trade ship captain turned pastor and hymn-writer, wasn’t exactly a blogger. Many of his writings, however, fit in the category of we today would call blogging. He wrote mostly letters — small, topically oriented and experience-based pieces — and he became increasingly aware those letters would be published for a wider audience. When you pick up a copy of his published letters and begin reading, they remind today’s reader of the blog style many Christians find edifying.
Here are 15 lessons from John Newton on letter-writing that will serve blog writers (all quotes taken from The Works of John Newton, 6-volumes).
1. Bloggers should write to learn, to meditate, and to remember. "I think you would likewise find advantage in using your pen more: write short notes upon the Scriptures you read, or transcribe the labors of others; make extracts from your favorite authors, especially those who, besides a fund of spiritual and evangelical matter, have a happy talent of expressing their thoughts in a clear and lively manner: you would find a continued exercise in this way would be greatly useful to form your own style, and help your delivery and memory" (2:76–77).
2. Bloggers should write to edify, therefore it is preferable to write simple truth than to spread eloquent trifles. "Language and style, however, are but the dress. Trifles, however adorned, are trifles still. A person of spiritual discernment would rather be the author of one page written in the humble garb of Bunyan, upon a serious subject, than to be able to rival the sprightliness and elegance of Lady M. W. Montague, unless it could be with a view to edification" (2:16–17).
3. Bloggers should expect the well to run dry at times, and understand some of the personal factors that explain this barrenness. "My silence has been sometimes owing to want of leisure; and sometimes when I could have found leisure, my harp has been out of tune, and I had no heart to write. Perhaps you are ready to infer, by my sitting down to write at last, that my harp is now well tuned, and I have something extraordinary to offer: beware of thinking so, lest you should be sadly disappointed" (2:206)…
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