One of the most sung and recognizable Christian hymns in the world was written by a former slave trader. “Amazing Grace” was written by English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725–1807) in 1779. He wrote the words to the hymn based on his personal experience while Captain of a slave ship. In 1748, a violent storm battered his ship off the coast of Ireland so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion.
After the storm, while his boat was being repaired, he wrote the first verse of “Amazing Grace.”
He did however, continue his slave trading career until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1764.
“Amazing Grace” was written to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day of 1773. It is unknown if there was any music written with the verses. It has been associated with more than 20 melodies, but in 1835 it was joined to a tune named “New Britain” to which it is most frequently sung today.
“Amazing Grace,” with it’s message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, is one of the most famous folk hymns in the English-speaking world.
Enjoy this great version by Judy Collins. It gives me the chills every time I listen to it.