Amazing Grace! (How sweet the sound)
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see
The words were first written in 1772 by a British clergyman with a colorful past. John Newton was a former slave trader, a drunk and a general reprobate: a man who was clearly in need of grace.
Newton was a member of the Royal Navy and later became involved in the Atlantic slave trade.
It was during a raging storm off the coast of Ireland in 1748 that Newton had his conversion experience.
His vessel nearly sank.
He cried out for God’s mercy and miraculously was saved in a strange twist of events.
Thro’ many dangers toils, and snares
I have already come;
“Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home
Newton was certain that his deliverance was a sign from God, although in his own words, “I cannot consider myself to have been a believer in the full sense of the word until a considerable time afterwards.”
He did begin reading his Bible and started having doubts about his slave trading career.
A stroke put an end to his seafaring days in 1754 or 1755 and he turned his attention to the study of Christian theology.
In 1764, John Newton was ordained by the Church of England as an Anglican priest.
During that time he wrote over 280 hymns with an English poet by the name of William Cowper.
“Amazing Grace” was first used in a sermon on New Year’s Day in 1773 and most likely not put to music but was recited by the congregation.
“Amazing Grace” never reached much acclaim in Britain, settling into obscurity for many years and didn’t resurface until the 1790’s and early 1800’s in America during the Second Great Awakening.
It wasn’t until 1835 that the hymn was accompanied by a composition called “New Britain” by composer William Walker and the words were given new life, becoming the creation that you and I know today.
It was the marriage of melody and the written word that has left such an indelible mark on the heart of a nation, making it the most recognizable and beloved hymn in America.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
The song is as beautiful in its simplicity as it is timeless.
It was sung by the slaves in the American South. It was also very popular during the nation’s two greatest crises, the Civil War and the Viet Nam War.
From country church revivals to the Civil Rights Movement, from the Civil War to Woodstock’s music festival, the song seems to transcend race, religion and creed.
“Amazing Grace” is America’s anthem describing our collective spiritual, cultural and historical journey.
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace
Life is full of irony.
How could so much joy and comfort be found in a hymn written 245 years ago by a former British slave trader turned fiery preacher?
The answer is in the song itself. “Amazing Grace” is a song of redemption.
I see a great parallel with the song, the songwriter and the nation that has embraced it.
Newton’s story didn’t end with him at the helm of a slave trading ship.
He found “Amazing Grace.”
The same can be said of America. We have an incredible story – from the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock to the present day.
We must preserve and honor it – ALL of it.
I must warn those trying to remove America’s culture and history, we do not learn by forgetting, we repeat it.
Like Newton aboard the ship in a violent storm, our nation is being battered and tossed by leftist agitators and extremists hell bent on anarchy.
My sincerest hope is that we find what John Newton found – grace – “Amazing Grace.”
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine