Lyrics: John Newton
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. [Ephesians 2:4-9, NIV]
Everyone knows the story of John Newton, the slave trader who experienced God’s amazing grace, left his slaving and his own slavery to sin, and became a pastor and the author of this most amazing of hymns. However, this video featuring Wintley Phipps at Carnegie tells what is perhaps The Rest of the Story: (If not, it should be!)
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.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.
Most versions include an additional verse, not written by John Newton:
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
This verse probably became known with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in which Uncle Tom sings these lyrics.
This is the (Chris Tomlin) version we usually sing in my church these days:
And here’s ye olde bagpipe version:
John Newton’s Epitaph
The epitaph on John Newton’s gravestone says:
Once an infidel and libertine
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy
of our Lord and Saviour
restored, pardoned and
appointed to preach
the Gospel which he had
long laboured to destroy.
Near sixteen years in Olney, in Bucks,
And twenty eight years in this Church.
By the way, I fully expected this hymn to be number one on the list, but the point spread between this one and the one that did win the most points was significant. Anyone want to guess what the most loved hymn in my survey was before I reveal it tomorrow?