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Monday, 20 April 2015

The Story of Amazing Grace

"Amazing Grace" is hymn well known and loved by Christians everywhere. The inspiring lyrics speak for themselves but become even more meaningful when you understand the story behind them.

A movie called "Amazing Grace" directed by Micheal Apted came out in 2006. The film shed some light on the story behind this song. The movie is mainly about William Wilberforce who was a member of Parliament that dedicated his life to abolishing the slave trade. The film does a wonderful job of depicting the many personal sacrifices that noble men and women have to make when fighting for the cause of right. There was a minor character in the movie named John Newton who was a blind old preacher who Wilberforce went to for support.

As depicted in the movie, the lines of "rings amazing grace" were actually composed by a preacher named John Newton to accompany a sermon he was planning as he sat in the attic of his home in 1772. This was common for him as he often wrote a hymns to supplement his sermons. He delivered the sermon and hymn to his congregation on New Year's Day, 1773. At that time, hymns were more like religious poetry that could be chanted or set to a variety of tunes that fit the meter of the lyrics. "Amazing Grace" was set to many different tunes over they years. It wasn't until 1835 that William Walker published the lyrics with the "New Britain" tune which is how it is sung today.

Newton was not always a religious man. Surprisingly, he was a rough character as a young man and worked in the slave trade for many years. One night the ship that he was on was hit by a terrible storm. Fearing for his life, Newton prayed to God for mercy. That impressionable experience eventually led him to leave the slave trade and pursue of life dedicated to serving God. He studied theology and was ordained a priest in the Church of England.

To help Wilberforce with his efforts, Newton later wrote Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade which was a pamphlet recounting the horrors that he saw when he was a slave trader himself. This pamphlet helped to make others aware of how horrible the slave trade was. It helped Wilberforce gain the support he needed to be successful.

Obviously, these lines held great personal meaning for Newton: "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." Additionally, these are words that all of us who are sinners that have turned to Christ can relate to. All of us have different struggles in life but Jesus is there for all of us.

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