If America had a national folk hymn, this would probably be it. This well-loved and oft-sung hymn, written by John Newton in the late eighteenth century, is a powerful assurance and declaration of the grace of God working in all our lives. When Newton was just eleven, he joined his father at sea and began a tumultuous life in the Navy, eventually becoming captain of a slave ship. In a period of four years, however, his life was drastically turned around: he nearly drowned, he married a very pious Mary Catlett, and he read through Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ. In 1754 he gave up the slave trade and joined forces with the great abolitionist, William Wilberforce. A number of years later, he was ordained for ministry, and soon after wrote this great text, declaring that we are saved only the grace of God. Newton wrote, “I can see no reason why the Lord singled me out for mercy…unless it was to show, by one astonishing instance, that with him ‘nothing is impossible’” (Newton, The Life of John Newton). As we sing the very familiar words of this hymn, how powerful it is to think of ourselves as an “astonishing instance” of God’s grace and mercy.
View this Featured Hymn
Articles concerning John Newton and “Amazing Grace”
This month’s ‘Featured Article’ is actually a collection of short, online articles that all relate to John Newton and his hymn, “Amazing Grace.”
“The Dissemination of ‘Amazing Grace'” available at The Library of Congress.
“Amazing Grace, The Story of John Newton, Author of America’s Favorite Hymn” by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson available at Joyful Heart Ministires.
The John Newton Project available at http://www.Johnnewton.org
by John Newton
This collection of hymns published in 1779 contains some of the most popular Christian songs of all time, “Amazing Grace” among them. By 1836, the book had gone through at least another 37 editions. There are over 300 hymns, some of which still appear in modern church worship. John Newton and his friend, William Cowper, one of the most respected and influential English poets of the 18th century, worked together on this project. Both men shared passion for showing others that they could befriend God personally, receiving forgiveness, freedom, and love. In many ways, their collection epitomizes the booming Evangelical movement of their time.
-The Christian Classics Ethereal Library