On March 10, 1748, during a church service in Warwickshire, England, the captain of the slave ship Greyhound converted to Christianity. John Newton, who was just 22 years old at the time, vowed to spend the rest of his life making amends for what he had done.
A quarter of a century later then ordained Rev. Newton delivered a New Year’s Day sermon on the subject of faith. Although the text of that sermon has been lost, a hymn he wrote based on his notes went on to become one of the most popular gospel songs of all time. “Amazing Grace” has been recorded more than 1,800 times by such disparate musicians as Aretha Franklin, Rod Steward, the Dropkick Murphys and the Blind Boys of Alabama. In the early 1970s, a version by Judy Collins spent 67 weeks on the single chart in the United Kingdom. In 1972 an instrumental version by the Pipes and Drums and Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards was No. 1 in England for five weeks.
In the past 237 years, Newton’s grateful, graceful lyrics have given comfort and inspiration to many millions of people. And they no doubt will continue to do so for many centuries to come. We’re all familiar with the first stanza of that lovely, memorable hymn. But here is the complete text:
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That sav’d 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 reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!
“Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
“The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
“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.
“The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.”
May you be richly blessed, too.