GB | ET Student
Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound
That Saved a Wretch Like Me
I Once was Lost, but Now I’m Found
Was Blind but Now I See
These words were written in the small, quaint town of Olney in England. They have touched the lives of people all over the world for the last 238 years since their publication in 1779. This hymn has become so ingrained into Christian society that I think many people forget they came from a man who was very impacted by the world in which he lived.
John Newton was the son of a Christian mother who died when he was young, allowing his father, a nonbeliever, to mold him as he saw fit. Newton grew and was known for living in moral abandon and rebellion. After being dismissed from a job and gaining employment on a slave-trade ship, Newton became a part of an industry that we now see as one of the most shameful in our human history. Newton was blind to the injustice and severity of his actions.
The grace that Newton refers to in his hymn first touched him on a stormy night on board a ship that nearly sunk. He was lost in the dark world of slavery, and his life was nearly ended in that moment. This night is famously known as the night of Newton’s conversion to Christianity. Grace was a sweet gift given and received by Newton during a dark period of his life. This grace was instant, as God’s grace always is, and defined the rest of Newton’s life.
Spending nearly six more years on slave-trading ships, Newton dedicated his life to sharing God’s word to those he worked alongside and the slaves the ships carried below. He found God in some of the most blinding places and shared it to those as lost as he once was.
Newton eventually did leave the slave-trade and became a voice for the abolition of slavery. He was ordained into the Anglican church in 1764 and starting in 1769 Newton began a Thursday evening prayer service where he wrote a new hymn for each gathering in Olney. Hymns became a way for Newton to praise the God he received grace from all those years ago.
We had the privilege to visit the church in Olney where Newton preached and where “Amazing Grace” was first sung. We sang the precious words and the acoustics were gorgeous in the sanctuary. The lyrics of this song are Newton’s testimony to the world. In his story, we can see the words of his hymn come to life.