Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace, one of the most popular hymns of all time, is sure to be appreciated by all those who believe in God, no matter which religion he or she belongs to. It was written by John Newton (1725-1807) in 1772. This article takes a brief look at the song, the poet and the people who supported him.
Newton’s life story is amazing. Son of a ship master, he went out to the sea at the age of 11 with his father. He was forced to join the navy after that and was caught while trying to desert. Later he was exchanged to a slave ship where he faced much travail. But finally he had his own ship that he commanded, and was involved in slave running for some time.
Newton had no religious convictions during his seafaring days though he was born to Anglican parents. There are two versions of how his ‘conversion to Christianity’ came about. One is that his ship ran into a violent storm and was saved because, due to some amazing grace, he suddenly turned to God and prayed. The other is that he fell seriously ill out at sea and eventually pleaded with God to cure him.
The first stanza of Amazing Grace seems to describe this turnaround in the man’s life:
‘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.’
Newton gave up sailing and took a shore job. During that time he learned several languages. Then he developed the desire to become a minister. A call of God, one could say. Initially the Bishop of York turned down his request. But after a few years of frustration, he was ordained as a priest by the Bishop of Lincoln.
Another stanza of Amazing Grace is appropriate at this point:
‘Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.’
John Thornton, a financier, philanthropist and evangelical layman sponsored Newton as curator of Olney. In his later life Newton was involved in a campaign to abolish slave trade along with William Wilberforce, Member of Parliament, and others.
It was at Olney that Newton wrote the lyrics of Amazing Grace and several other hymns. John Thornton helped to publish them, along with some poems by William Cowper (Cooper?), in a volume titled Olney Hymns.
And, Amazing Grace began to gain popularity. Many church choirs in English speaking parts of the world took up the song. The 20th century saw several recordings of the hymn. It was featured in movies and on the television. In the UK, Amazing Grace attained top ten rating in the charts during the early 1970s, two centuries after it was written!
The concluding stanza of Amazing Grace says:
‘The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine.’
Till then, Amazing Grace will live in the hearts of men and women who have listened t it.

[This is cross-posted from Articles By Abraham Tharakan with some modifications. Visit to download music and for the lyrics. But the lyrics given on that site appear to have some changes form the original. The images are from Wikipedia and in the Public Domain.]

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Happy Kitten said...

Thank you for mentioning this hymn.. it is one great hymnn which can instantly bring comfort..

Your post also brought to my mind the great movie "Silkwood" that introduced me to the greatest actor 'Meryl Streep". the movie along with this Hymn which is present in the movie was very touching...

Unknown said...

Happy Kitten, I am glad that you liked the post.

Kamini said...

It is a beautiful hymn, so majestic, and mellow at the same time.
Was this John Newton related in any way to Isaac Newton?

Unknown said...

Yes, Kamini, the hymn is so beautiful.
I do not think there is any connection between John Newton and Isaac Newton.

islandgal246 said...

This hymn is comforting and soothing even to the non religious. I am not a religious person but I love this hymn. It has definitely crossed over to many religions and has brought many together.

Unknown said...

islandgal246, thank you for the comment.