“Amazing Grace,” chances are you sang it before, but do you know the story behind this amazing hymn of the church? It was authored by a man named John Newton. He was a English sailor who worked on slave ships involved in human trafficking between Africa and England. 

Newton and his fellow crew mates would pick up men, women and children who had been captured in tribal raids in Africa. They would trade arms and other goods for the finest of the prisoners. They would then chain them to prevent suicides, and lay them below deck side by side. As many as 600 people were crammed together on the ship as it made its three week voyage. Due to the inhumane conditions, at times, up to 20% of those captured would die. During such a journey the ship he was on began to flounder in a raging storm and it was at this time he found faith in Jesus Christ.

After becoming a Christian, Newton left the sea for good and became a priest. He then wrote this hymn. Read these words carefully knowing now why he wrote them.

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 hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The mercy and grace of God radically changed John Newton’s life. He came to know and understand God’s unconditional love for his life. Reading these words through the eyes of a man who actually realized he did not deserve grace, I am humbled. I all too often chalk up the good things I have done and wait for what I think I deserve. However, according to the Bible, the truth of the matter is that I deserve judgment. And, I don’t really want that! I am thankful for God’s love and that He sent His one and only Son to die for us so that we would not get what we deserve, but His generous love instead. 

“As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world's interest in me has also died. May God's peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle (Galatians 6:14,16 NLT). This is truly amazing grace!


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