Is summer ever going to end? Is it ever going to rain again? Probably two of the most asked questions around these parts these days. I’ve never seen it like this before that I can remember. Maybe some of you can but I can’t. I sure hope it breaks pretty soon or we are not going to have a fall at all.
I have been somewhat surprised as I have researched the history of some of the old hymns in that how many of them were written by people who had such Godless backgrounds. It seems that there was a period in time that God used some of the most unlikely folks to pen the words of such powerful and inspirational songs. John Newton, the writer of the well-known hymn “Amazing Grace”, was one of those people. Again, it is another example of the fact that God can and does use ordinary people to do great things to further His kingdom. The following article by Robert J. Morgan in his book “Then Sings My Soul” tells the story of Newton and how “Amazing Grace” came into being. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.
Amazing Grace by Robert J. Morgan
It’s hard to shake off a mother’s influence. John Newton’s earliest memories were of his godly mother who, despite fragile health, devoted herself to nurturing his soul. At her knee he memorized Bible passages and hymns. Though she died when he was about seven, he later recalled her tearful prayers for him.
After her death, John alternated between boarding school and the high seas, wanting to live a good life but nonetheless falling deeper and deeper into sin. Pressed into service with the British Navy, he deserted, was captured, and after two days os suspense, was flogged. His subsequent thoughts vacillated between murder and suicide. “I was capable of anything” he recalled.
More voyages, dangers, toils and snares followed. It was a life unrivaled in fiction. Then on the night of March 9, 1748, John, at age 23, was jolted awake by a brutal storm that descended too suddenly for the crew to foresee. The next day, in great peril, he cried to the Lord. He later wrote, “That tenth of March is a day much remembered by me; and I have never suffered it to pass unnoticed since the year 1748–the Lord came from on high and delivered me out of deep waters.”
The next several years saw slow, halting spiritual growth in John, but in the end he became one of the most powerful evangelical preachers in British history, a powerful foe of slavery, and the author of hundreds of hymns.
Here are some things you may not know about Newton’s most famous hymn. His title for it wasn’t originally “Amazing Grace” but “Faith’s Review and Expectation.” It is based in Newton’s study of 1 Chronicles 17:16-17:”King David … said: ‘Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet … You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree …”
And here’s a nearly forgotten verse that Newton added near the end of “Amazing Grace.” Try singing it for yourself:
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine;
But God, Who called me here below, shall be forever mine.
I encourage you to read all of the published verses of this old hymn and be reminded of what God has done and does for each of us who belong to Him. It really is amazing grace!