Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Sunday, 27 August 2023

Hymn 'Amazing Grace'… an untold story

By Munir Bayouk/ :

Going to church, where Holy Masses are celebrated on daily bases, is one of the divine pleasures that one acquires in life. Apart from receiving the Holy Communion and getting enlightened by readings from the Holy Bible, hymns are being sung which glorify the Almighty Lord and thank Him for the divine graces He bestows on humans living in our Earth.


Among the hymns being sung in churches is "Amazing Grace". This hymn has been very popular as its embodies the grace that the Lord has been overwhelming the world with in spite of the sins and miseries committed by humans that wreak havoc  and create problems affecting every walk of life.


Much has been reported about this hymn that emanates beauty and piety, while pacifying the faithful. Was this hymn almost lost at sea? The story of this best known hymn that that ever to come from the Christian songbook, is much less ubiquitous. Reports indicate that it was penned in 1772 by John Newton, a slave trader turned anti-slavery advocate who would eventually become a clergyman for the Anglican faith. The lyrics were written after Newton was caught in a tumultuous storm while sailing up the Irish coast to Donegal.


Born in England, in 1725, Newton found himself pressed into service with the Royal Navy as a young man. When his time of service had ended, he became involved in the Atlantic slave trade which was at the height of its prevalence. It was during one trip from Africa to Ireland that his vessel was caught in a storm of epic proportions.


Fearing his demise, Newton cried out for God’s mercy, while he wondered to himself if there could be any mercy for someone involved in the wretched business of slavery. Newton often referred to himself as a wretch, acknowledging the sinfulness of his profession even before he began his conversion to Christianity. As the ship ultimately reached the port undamaged, yet the storm had a profound effect on him and marked the beginning of his spiritual conversion.


Ending his seafaring days all together, Newton began to study Christian theology and became a vocal abolitionist. He was ordained to the Church of England in 1764 and was named the curate of Olney, Buckinghamshire. There, he began to write hymns in earnest with help from the English poet William Cowper.


“Amazing Grace” was originally written to illustrate Newton’s sermon at a New Year’s Day service in 1773. The hymn was published in 1779, but the song fell into relative obscurity in England.  It was at that time when American songwriter William Walker composed the modern beloved melody.


In our modern world that abounds with obscurity, uncertain future, wars, violence, famine, and social problems, it is due time to plead that mercy of the Almighty Lord and ask Him to bring into this world His nonpareil grace so that the world peoples would tumultuously acknowledge His "amazing grace."


The grace of the Lord is inexhaustible as mentioned in the Holy Bible, "He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time." (Timothy 1:9)