William Reed Newell was born May 22, 1868, in Savannah, Ohio, and passed away in Deland, Florida, on April 1, 1956. He attended Wooster College in Ohio, and after completing his studies at Princeton and Oberlin Seminaries, he pastored the Bethesda Congregational Church in Chicago until 1895 when Dwight L. Moody invited him to become the assistant superintendent of Moody Bible Institute under R.A. Torrey.
In this position, Newell demonstrated an extraordinary gift of Bible exposition. Great audiences in Chicago, St. Louis, and Toronto flocked to hear his city-wide Bible classes, all of which led to the publication of his now widely-known commentaries - Romans Verse-by-Verse, Hebrews Verse-by-Verse, and The Book of Revelation. Newell’s Romans commentary is our personal favorite, available all over the internet, and we highly recommend it.
Here’s a sample from Chapter 1:
“Personal grace must come before true service. The grace Paul had received concerned both his personal salvation and his service as the great example of divine favor. Paul’s own words are the best comment on this: ‘I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not found vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me’ (I Cor. 15:9, 10); and, ‘I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all His longsuffering, for an ensample of them that should thereafter believe on Him unto eternal life’ (I Tim. 1:16).
“Paul’s apostleship was marked out by the fact that he had ‘seen Jesus our Lord’ (I Cor. 9:1), and by the ‘signs of an apostle,’ in ‘authority,’ (II Cor. 10:8; 13:10), in ‘all patience, by signs and wonders and mighty works’ (II Cor. 12:12). Though desperately resisted by the Jerusalem Judaizers, he continually insisted, to the glory of God, upon ‘obedience of faith among all the nations.’ To obey God’s good news, is simply to believe it. There is now a ‘law of faith’ (3:27); and Paul ends this Epistle with this same wonderful phrase: ‘obedience of faith’ (16.26). Paul was not establishing what is now called ‘the Christian religion’! Having abandoned the only religion God ever gave, that of the Jews, he went forth with a simple message concerning Christ, to be believed by everybody, anybody, anywhere. And all was ‘for His name’s sake’ —Christ’s. And why not! The Christ of glory had done the work, had ‘emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross.’ He was the ‘propitiation for the whole world’ (I John 2:2). We are likely to think of the gospel as something published for our sake only, whereas in fact God is having it published for the sake of His dear Son, Who died... Preachers, teachers, and missionaries everywhere, should regard themselves as laboring for Christ’s Name’s sake, first of all.”
Finally, Newell was also known for writing the famous gospel hymn, At Calvary:
Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty
By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;
Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned
Now I’ve giv’n to Jesus everything,
Now I gladly own Him as my King,
Now my raptured soul can only sing
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
- Joel Hayes, FBC Librarian
[Bio with the help of WithChrist.org.]