Believers and nonbelievers know the haunting melody of the song Amazing Grace, written by John Newton. The story of Amazing Grace and its composer has a great message for us all. Newton was born in 1725. His mother died when he was eleven, and his father took the boy to sea with him. On a visit back home, the British Navy impounded and pressed him into service.
Newton escaped, but the Navy again impounded him and turned him over to a slave trader. During his time in the slave business, he rose to the rank of captain but sank into disbelief and gross immorality. Eventually, he was imprisoned and then rescued by a friend of his father.
In 1748, Newton boarded a slave ship named the Greyhound headed for home. The vessel encountered a severe storm and was lost at sea for 27 days before finally sighting land. The experience in the storm shook Newton back to the faith his mother had taught him as a child. Not only did he come back to the faith, but he also became a preacher.
On a previous journey with a hold full of slaves, Newton had heard their African chant. That chant became the tune for Amazing Grace, and it can be played on the black keys of a modern piano. The story of Amazing Grace has special meaning when you understand the life of John Newton, the source of the beautiful melody, and the inspiration for the words attached to it. Newton lived for 82 years, but his song lives on to inspire people today.
— John N. Clayton © 2023
References: Songs of the Church pages 128, 129, Shaw and Spilman’s Columbian Harmony 1829, John Newton Collection of Sacred Ballads 1790, Praise for the Lord published by Praise Press © 1997.