John Newton – 1779
For many of us, a mother’s influence is one that tends to linger, and that was no different for John Newton. Although John’s mother died when he was only 7 years old, his memories of her were clear. He would often think back and remember his mother nurturing his soul by reading the Bible and praying to God. As a young boy, at his mother’s knee, he would memorize Scripture and hymns that she would sing to him.
After his mother’s death, John went back and forth between boarding school and life on the high seas. He always desired to live a life that would have pleased his mother, but found himself falling deeper and deeper into sin instead. After reluctantly joining the British Navy, he deserted his country and was recaptured by his crew. A few days after his capture, he was flogged to point of considering suicide… he recalled thinking to himself, “I was capable of anything.”
John’s hard times didn’t stop there! On the night of March 9, 1748, a violent storm unexpectedly hit their ship before the crew had time to prepare. Both, the ship and crew received great damage that night. The next day, John cried to the Lord, “The tenth of March is a day much remembered by me; and I have never suffered it to pass unnoticed since the year 1748 – the Lord came from on high and delivered me out of deep waters.”
Starting that day, John started to see slow but measurable spiritual growth. Day by day, he grew in his walk with the Lord, and he ended up being a powerful British preacher, an enemy to slavery, and the author of countless great hymns of the faith! “Amazing Grace”, being his most well-known hymn, was originally called “Faith’s Review and Expectation.” The song was based on his study of the life of David.
“(16) And David the king came and sat before the Lord, and said, Who am I, O Lord God, and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?
(17) And yet this was a small thing in thine eyes, O God; for thou hast also spoken of thy servant’s house for a great while to come, and hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree, O Lord God.” – I Chronicles 17:16-17
Just like many great hymns of the faith, “Amazing Grace” was written from a time of great pain and sorrow. Oftentimes, God humbles us to help us see how much we need Him. When life is going smoothly, it’s easy to forget how fragile life can be. Praise God for his amazing grace!
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!
The Lord hath promised good to me, His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be As long as life endures.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we first begun.