By Pastor Mike Gudka St. Paul United Methodist Church
My articles for this month are going to be a little different than what I have done in the past. For these articles I am going to look at the history behind some of the great old hymns that many have come to know and love. Many of these hymns have an interesting past; they come from many different people and church denominations, and help tell a powerful story of what we believe. They can comfort us, bring back strong memories, and help us draw closer to Christ.
This week I am going to explore the history of the hymn “Amazing Grace.” This hymn was written by a most unlikely author. John Newton was a man that many people considered just plan evil. He was a rough and tough sea captain who made his fortune as a slave trader. Many people died under his command. Then one day John was listening to a powerful preacher of his time by the name of George Whitefield. It was during this time that he became convicted of his sin, received Christ, became forgiven, and set free to embark on a completely new life. John Newton was later ordained as a pastor in the evangelical wing of the Church of England and a vigorous opponent of slavery. The epitaph on his tombstone sums up his life, “John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.”
John Newton’s encounter with Christ completely transformed him, changed him, and all because he knew that he had been forgiven for even the worst of his most evil deeds. John knew he had been set free through belief in Christ. So remember how far into the depths of evil John was, and how far Christ lifted him up the next time you sing these words, “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.”