“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” John Newton wrote those famous words, as he reflected on the day he was aboard his ship off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. It was being battered by a severe storm, there was a hole in its side and it was sinking rapidly but amazingly he survived.
Newton was born in 1725 in Wapping, London. He was the son of a shipping merchant Christian family. However, by many accounts, he was not the conforming kind. He renounced his faith, deserted a career in the British Royal Navy and joined the merchant ship slave trade from Africa to the Caribbean and North America. It is said that he would openly mock the Captain by, “Creating obscene poems and songs about him that became so popular the crew began to join in”.
When his crew abandoned him in West Africa, because of his extreme behaviour, John Newton became a slave himself but was fortunately rescued through the actions of his father. Later, commenting on his abuse and ill-treatment as a slave, he referred to himself as an “Infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves.”
John Newton’s near-death experience led to his gradual conversion to Christianity. He started reading the Bible and other religious literature and studied Theology. He reformed his language and behaviour and, although he didn’t give up the slave trade until 1754/5, he ultimately became an anti-slave trade activist.
In 1764 John Newton was ordained a Priest in the Church of England and made a curate at Olney, Buckinghamshire. He wrote the hymn, “Amazing Grace” from his own personal life experiences to illustrate a New Year’s Day sermon in 1773.
Few of us have such poetic abilities as John Newton but many of us have a past that we deeply regret. Many of us may also have found solace in the words of Amazing Grace as we reflected, repented and sought God’s merciful forgiveness.
How often have we found ourselves repeating the same wrongs, fallen into the same temptations and thought, why would God want to, “Save a wretch like me”?
God is a loving God. He does not leave us, we leave Him… “I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see.”
Remember, God sent His Son Jesus to die for, “Sinners;” you and me.