John Newton (1779)
1. 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.
2. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
3. Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
4. The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
5. 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.
6. The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
This is possibly the most famous hymn in existence. It gained popularity through the 50’s and 60’s as it was used during the civil rights movement. During that era, it resonated with the African-American experience of slavery and bondage and the intense desire to be freed. In the following decade, Amazing Gracebecame a hit song with the folk singer Judy Collins’ rendition hitting number 15 in the popular music charts in the US and number 8 in the UK during the early 70’s. Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart, Johnny Cash and even Elvis Presley all recorded versions of this hymn throughout the 1970’s.
But Amazing Grace was not written about the African-American experience. However, the author, John Newton, has captured the feeling of bondage, fear, helplessness and wretchedness that is common to all sinners.
We will sing of being wretched, blind, lost and fearful. This is our natural state. We are in slavery to our sin and we have no hope in ourselves. We cannot make ourselves see. We cannot find ourselves. We need grace, grace, grace! Amazing grace!
Grace is free, unmerited favour. It is a gift given to undeserving sinners. It is all the unearned gifts that God rains down on his people.
We need grace to open our eyes. We need grace to even see that we should fear (vs 2). And we need grace to relieve that fear as we are brought to believe in Christ.
Our own helplessness and our need for the grace of God is evident throughout this hymn, not just in our conversion but also in our Christian walk and even in glory.
It is grace that leads us through the “dangers, toils and snares” of this fallen world as we wage war against our sinful flesh, the world around us and the powers of darkness. It is grace that promises good to us. God promises to be our shield, and this is grace. God owes us nothing and yet he promises to give us all we need for life and godliness (1 Pet 1:3).
This grace of God that is at work in our conversion and our Christian life will come to its full completion when we are taken home to glory. God’s amazing grace continues past the grave to the glory we will enjoy as we enter into the holiest place, the very presence of God, where we will enjoy peace and joy and the very presence of God forevermore. And even this eternal joy is ours, not as wages, but as a gift. As Amazing Grace.
– Tom Eglinton