To say that everyone today will know and will probably have sung this hymn is an understatement. Yet the story behind the hymn, AMAZING GRACE, will give it so much more meaning.
There have been so many versions of this story over the years. Yet, there are some facts about the life of John Newton, author of this hymn, that remain common. He was born in 1725 and was the son of a sea Captain. His mother died when he was 6 and by age 11, he had joined his father at sea. His early life was one of debauchery, deceit and failure. He was rejected by his father, in trouble with all of his employers and finally was publicly degraded and jailed. At one point he joined the British navy, but deserted. He was caught, put in chains and whipped in public. He signed on to a slave ship and eventually became the captain of it. All this occurred before he was 23 years old!
Reportedly at one point while at sea, a storm came up so severe that even seasoned sailors thought they were doomed. Captain John, in great fear, cried out to God and made a commitment that if God would bring his ship, crew and cargo safely to harbour, he would commit the remaining of his life to God’s ministry. God answered this prayer and true to his word, John trained as a pastor. Late in his life John Newton would say, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner and that Jesus Christ is a great Saviour.” That truly is amazing grace!