Very few Christian songs ever make it into the top ten, but what was even more remarkable was the one that did a few years ago. It was not a new song. It was an old hymn, a hymn over 200 years old. It was certainly one of the better known hymns, Amazing Grace. Personally, I cannot think of a better hymn to make it to the top. That song thrills my heart every time I hear it, even when I have heard it sung in Cherokee.
The song itself is very moving, but the story behind it is also moving. It was written by John Newton. The only religious influence he received in his younger days came from his mother, who passed away when he was very young. At age 11, he went to sea with his father, who was a British sea captain. At age 18, he was serving in the British navy. Later, he became involved in the slave trade. During this time he forgot or ignored any religious training he may have had. Petersen writes, “he fouled the ship with his presence, shocking even the roughest of sailors with his languages.” (William Petersen and Randy Peterson, 100 Bible Verses That Changed the World )
In March 1748 John Newton’s life took a dramatic turn. A violent storm threatened to sink his ship. Newton surprised the others and shocked himself by saying, “The Lord have mercy on us.” As he tried to recall the limited Bible teaching of his youth, he remembered that Jesus had died for our sins and wondered if he had been too sinful to be saved.
Not only did John Newton give his life to the Lord, he became a minister of the gospel. In fact, later Newton got involved in the fight against slavery.
Amazing Grace was John Newton’s story. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found. Was blind but now I see.” It is our story, too. As Christians, we are all sinners, unworthy, yet saved by grace.