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"Songs of Faith: Part 3 - Amazing Grace" 1/9/24

Dear brothers & sisters,

You've heard the words 


"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound" 

and you can probably finish the verse "that saved a wretch like me..." [with the tune in your head :)].

The hymn Amazing Grace, penned by John Newton, is certainly one of the most famous hymns ever written. 

You may be familiar with the story of John Newton. He was a sailor known for his reckless and sinful ways until God saved him one stormy night at sea by his amazing grace. Even so, for many years after he was saved, he was involved in the slave trade. Later, he wrote "I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders" (Newton, "Thoughts upon the African slave trade," 1788). In spite of his checkered past, Newton's life really had changed by the grace of God. Indeed he summed up his life this way "by the grace of God I am what I am". Eventually, he was recommended for an appointment within the church of England and he ministered to the parishes of Olney and St. Mary Woolnoth (in London) for the rest of his life.

You may be less familiar with the origins of this beloved hymn.

In 1773 John Newton wrote the hymn to accompany his sermon on New Year's Day. 

His text: 1 Chronicles 17:16-17.

The sermon was titled "Faith's Review and Expectations".

Newton emphasized three points.

1) Look back

2) Look around

3) Look forward

In these verses, David looks back with amazement at what God has done in his life, looks around and sees how far God has brought him, and looks forward to the good God had promised to his servant. 

Can you find each of these themes in 1 Chronicles 17?

You'll notice each of these themes in the hymn. In fact, many of the phrases come directly from 1 Chronicles 17. The article below has an interesting comparison between the Scripture and the Hymn. 

This link also has all six verses to the original hymn.  You'll notice that the familiar last verse "when we've been there 10,000 years ..." is not there. This verse was added later by an unknown individual.

The original verses are as follows: 

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 has brought me safe thus far,


And grace will lead me home.


The Lord has promised good to me,


His word my hope secures;


He will my shield and portion be,


As long as life endures.



Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail


And mortal life shall cease;


I shall possess, within the veil,


A life of joy and peace.



The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,


The sun forbear to shine;


But God, who called me here below,


Will be forever mine.


 


John Newton, Olney Hymns, 1779 

[Note: This entire collection of hymns was written and put together by Newton and his friend William Cowper. Like Newton, Cowper is a remarkable testimony of God's grace. He struggled with depression all his life, even attempting to kill himself on more than one occasion. Yet he put his hope in Christ and is known today for hymns such as God Moves in a Mysterious Way and There is a Fountain].

May you too look at your life (past, present, & future) and praise God for his grace in your life. The lives and hymns of men like Newton and Cowper remind us that the grace of God is what makes all the difference in our lives. Apart from God's favor (which is what the word grace means, grace is an unmerited gift) we would be lost and blind as the rest of mankind. Praise God for his glorious grace.

Grace & Peace,

Matt

P.S. The historical information and original verses come from the following articles.

Matthew Deneault

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