We hear the words of this old, very well-known hymn played and sung everywhere, sung by Christian congregations the world around, at funerals of both believers and unbelievers, and piped by the Scottish pipe bands at military memorials. There is an interesting story behind the writing of the hymn.
The author was John Newton who was born in London, England and lived from 1725 to 1807. At the tender age of eleven, he went to sea with his father who was a commander of a merchant ship which sailed the Mediterranean. He was later pressed into service on a ‘man-of-war.’ Finding conditions there intolerable, he deserted, but was soon recaptured, publicly flogged and demoted from midshipman to common seaman. At his own request he was exchanged into service on a slave ship, which took him to the coast of Sierra Leone in Africa. He then became the servant of a slave trader and was brutally abused. Ultimately John Newton became captain of his own ship with which he continued in the slave trade.
He had had some early spiritual guidance from his beloved mother, instilling in his young mind a love of the great hymns of the Church. When he was yet a child, his mother died, and, following his occupation in the slave trade, he soon gave up any religious convictions. Rather, he gained a reputation for profanity, coarseness and debauchery, earning the name of “The Great Blasphemer.” However, on a homeward voyage in May of 1748, while he was attempting to steer the ship through a violent storm, he experienced what he called his “great deliverance.” His journal records that when all seemed lost and the ship would surely sink, he cried out, “Lord, have mercy upon us.” Later in his cabin he reflected on what he had said and began to believe that God had addressed him through the storm and that God’s “Amazing Grace” had begun a work in him.
The slaves, imprisoned in the belly of the ship would often sing a haunting five-note melody of what is known as the pentatonic scale (the five black keys on the piano keyboard). It is believed that Newton wrote the words to fit the melody.
He eventually became a minister of the Gospel and wrote many treasured hymns of the Church. “Amazing Grace” is without doubt the most well-known and best loved of Newton’s hymns, having endured and thrived for two-and-a-half centuries. Included here are some not-so-well known verses:-
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.
Through 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 promised 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 called me here below, will be forever mine.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.”
GRACE! What a lovely word. It has been defined by some as “unmerited favor.” It denotes forgiveness and mercy to the repentant sinner. By Grace the sinner is justified. That is, God, in His Grace, treats him, though guilty, as if he had never sinned.
Having been “saved by Grace through faith,” Grace continues to be an integral part of our spiritual experience. When the Apostle Paul beseeched God for deliverance from his “thorn in the flesh” God’s reply was “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” (Eph. 2:8; 2 Cor. 12:9)
Ah, yes! God’s Grace is sufficient for every need. It is “All Sufficient Grace” – which I have entitled this poem:-
The Lord is all in all to those
Who place their trust in Him,
When Life has brought its deepest woes
And dreams and hopes grow dim.
A Husband to the widow lone;
A Father to the child;
A Shelter for the family
When storms are blowing wild.
A Welcome for the wayward son,
His wasted years restored;
A Healing for the wounded heart
With balm of Love outpoured.
The one whose trust is in the Lord
And looks to Him for Grace,
Will find His all sufficiency
In Love’s Divine Embrace.
(c) Eulene Hope Moores
May the God of your HOPE
so fill you with all joy and peace in believing –
through the experience of your faith -
that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound
and be overflowing (bubbling over) with HOPE
(Romans 15:13 Amplified)
In Agape, Eulene