Clearly, John Newton never commented directly on blogging. This pastor, author, and hymn writer lived primarily in the 1700s dying early in the 19th century. Nevertheless, I believe we can surmise what he would have thought about blogging by evaluating instructions he gave to those who would pursue the ministry.
The instructions appear in his treatise called A Plan of Academical Preparation for the Ministry in which he imagines and records his suggestions for preparing students for the ministry. The following thoughts are Newton’s in regards to the benefits of writing to these pupils:
“The pupil likewise must write as well as read; and he should write frequently. Let him fill one commonplace book after another, with extracts from good authors. This method, while it tends to fix the passages, or their import, in his mind, will also lead him to make such observations respecting the order, and construction, and force of words, as will not so readily occur to his notice by reading only. Then let him try his own hand, and accustom himself to write his thoughts; sometimes in notes and observations on the books he reads; sometimes in the form of essays or sermons. He will do well likewise to cultivate a correspondence with a few select friends; for epistolary writing seems nearest to that easiness of manner which a public speaker should aim at.”
I’d like to draw your attention to 3 benefits that Newton espouses in this excerpt. These three benefits are some of the main reasons I got into blogging, and continue to be important to me as I endeavour to get into the habit of blogging regularly again.
First, Newton declares that the simple act of writing out passages from books helps one “fix the passages, or their import, in his mind.” I have found this to be the case. One of the most common general topics of blog posts that I have written have been those that respond to things I have read. And I am much better at remembering passages—as well as the author and book they are in—if I write out the quotation.
Newton also believes that there is a further benefit to writing out passages from authors: it helps one study and comprehend the passage better. So the process of writing does more than just help us remember, it helps us think and evaluate as well. This is an encouragement to me to not “copy and paste” a passage I have read, but to actually write/type it out.
Finally Newton declares that writing out one’s own thoughts on an issue, presumably wrestling with other author’s writings, along with writing letters to friends, will result in an increased capacity and ability to speak publicly. I have also found this to be true. When I blogged regularly over several years, I found I could more easily speak publicly. That is, I became increasingly more comfortable and proficient with delivering ideas verbally.
Now, Newton encouraged these imaginary pupils to write in a notebook which of course would still be valuable. However, I think the process of doing the same thing digitally—like in a blog post—would result in the same benefits.
So, I’m going to try and maintain the discipline of writing by blogging once a week. And hopefully, the benefits will accrue as Newton suggests they should.