History Of Amazing Grace
All have sinned and fall short
of the glory of God.
John Newton encountered "many dangers, toils, and snares" on his life's voyage
from slaver to pastor, hymn writer, mentor, and abolitionist. What lessons does
his life hold? Here are a few
Moral maturation can take time. Newton the morally corrupt slave trader
embraced faith in Jesus, then continued slave trading. Only years later did his
moral and spiritual conscience catch up on this issue with the high principles
of the One he followed. We should hold hypocrites accountable, but realize
that blinders don't always come off quickly. One bumper sticker I like reads,
"Please be patient; God is not finished with me yet."
Humility became a hallmark of Newton's approach to life. He learned to
recognize his shortcomings. While revising some of his letters for publication,
he noted in his diary his failures to follow his own advice: "What cause have
for humiliation!" he exclaimed. "Alas! . . . How defective [I am] in observing
myself the rules and cautions I propose to others!" Near the end of his life,
Newton told a visitor, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things
That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior."
Newton related Jesus' message to current events and everyday life. For
him, faith was not some dull, dusty, irrelevant relic but a living relationship with
God, having immense personal and social relevance. He grew to see its import
in fighting the slave trade. He used both the Bible and friendship to encourage
Wilberforce. He tied his teaching to the news of the day, seeking to connect
people's thoughts with the beliefs that had changed his life.
Newton was grateful for what he saw as God's providence. Surviving the
storm at sea that helped point him to faith was a prime example, but there were
many others. As a child, he was nearly impaled in a riding accident. Several times
he narrowly missed possible drowning.A shooting accident that could have killed
him merely burned part of his hat. He often expressed gratitude to God.
Here's part of what Newton wrote for his epitaph. It's inscribed on his tomb: "John
Newton. Once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa was by the rich
mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ preserved, restored, pardoned and
appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy."
Created as a poem in 1772, It hardly seems possible that the lyrics of the most popular
hymn in the English language was written by a man who once had the foulest mouth on
the ship, Greyhound. John Newton gained notoriety for being one of the most profain
men the captain had ever met. In 1835, the poem was then set to music to a tune known
as "New Britain" which is still known today. William Walker is the composer who first
joined John Newtons verses to "New Britain" to create the song "Amazing Grace". It
first appeared in Walkers Shape Note hynmal "Southern Harmony"
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.
Thru 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
Then when we'd first begun.
In His Love!
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