John Newton, 1779
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.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
John Newton wrote the words from his own personal experiences of “dangers, toils and snares.” He grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his life’s path was formed by a variety of twists and turns that were often put into motion by his disdain for authority. He was conscripted into service in the Royal Navy, and after leaving the service, he became involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland, so severely that he called out to God for mercy. This became his moment of spiritual conversion. He continued his slave trading career until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology.
“Amazing Grace” presents a message of forgiveness and redemption that is possible regardless of the sins we commit. It tells us that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God. “Amazing Grace” is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world. It has been sung at nearly every funeral I’ve ever attended and never fails to be presented with a beautiful rendition when sung in church. The beauty and simplicity of the message is one of the universal teachings of Christ.