There has been a lot of interest in “Amazing Grace” after President Barack Obama led the congregation in singing the refrain of the hymn at the funeral of state senator and pastor Clementa Pickney on Friday, June 26, 2015. Rev. Pickney was killed along with eight others by Dylann Storm Roof at the Emanual African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17.
“Amazing Grace” is perhaps the most well-known and loved hymn of all time. It was written by John Newton who lived from 1725-1807. People will appreciate the hymn more if they knew Newton wrote it from his own personal experience. When Newton was young, he didn’t know Christ as Lord and Savior. He was morally corrupt.
When Newton was 18, he became a sailor in the Royal Navy, and later a captain of slave ships. The conditions on the ship were so bad, Newton deserted the ship. He was later captured, flogged, placed in irons and suffered more harsh punishments. The abuse was so bad that Newton considered suicide. He suffered such cruelty that he had a near-death experience. It was during these times that Newton decided to give his heart to Christ.
When Newton was returning home in 1748, the ship he was on encountered a terrible storm that swept his crewmen overboard. This is when Newton prayed to God for the first time. This marked his spiritual conversion. Whilst his boat was being repaired, he wrote the first verse of his world famous song. He continued slave trading until 1754, when he began studying Christian theology. He lived long enough to see Britain’s abolition of the African slave trade in 1807.
“‘Amazing Grace’ was based on how alone he felt. He came to the realization that it was only by God’s grace and forgiveness that he was still alive.”
The message of Newton’s song indicates that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of what sins have been committed, and the soul can be delivered from despair through God’s mercy. “Amazing Grace” is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world.
“Amazing Grace” is a universals song that gained popularity in the U.S. during the 1960s and has been recorded thousands of times. It is especially popular in African American churches. Even though people might not know the entire song, most people know the refrain.
“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.”