No. 255



To my knowledge the United States Of America does not have an official spiritual song but today I would like to cast my vote for one that I believe is worthy. The song, Amazing Grace has no doubt brought peace, comfort and healing to millions of people through the years, especially in times of great tragedy. I shall never forget the touching memorial service in Oklahoma City soon after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building by a sick, deranged man. This song was sung because it brought hope and assurance to the survivors that they would someday see their loved ones again.

When I began to think about writing this column I wished that I had taken a moment to jot down all the times through the years that I had heard this song sung at memorial services. The small and great alike are touched by the message contained in its words and to me this song is almost a national treasure. It cuts across all barriers and makes us aware of just how precious life really is. What songs would we sing if we didnt have it?

Because of the impact this song has had on my life, along with millions of others, I thought you might like to read or be reminded of the words it contains: Verse 1. 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. Verse 2. Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed!

Verse 3. Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home. Verse 4. When weve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, Weve no less days to sing Gods praise Than when we first begun.

While these words may be familiar to millions of Americans, Im convinced that far less know the name of the one who penned these words and the story behind them. The writer of this song was an Englishman by the name of John Newton (1725-1807), the son of a sea captain who was engaged in the Mediterranean trade. His mother died when he was six, and after only two years of formal schooling he joined his fathers ship at the age of eleven.

His early life was one of immorality, debauchery and failure. He was rejected by his father, in trouble with all of his employers, and finally jailed and degraded. In later years he served on slave ships, where he so incurred the hatred of his employers Negro wife that he became virtually a slave of slaves.

This miserable seaman was brought to his senses by reading Thomas A. Kempiss book, Imitation Of Christ. His actual conversion was the result of a violent storm in which he almost lost his life. At the age of thirty nine, John Newton became a minister and gave the rest of his life to serving God in the church, but he never forgot the sea. Late in life, when he was pastor of St. Mary, Woolnoth in London, Newton entered the pulpit in the uniform of a sailor, with a Bible in one hand and a hymnbook in the other.

It should be noted that John Newton did not write the fourth verse of Amazing Grace but it could well serve as the epithet on his tombstone which can be found in a cemetery in Olney, England. The next time you hear or sing the song Amazing Grace I hope you will remember that fateful day when John Newton almost lost his life. During memorial services across the land in times of tragedy, there is a reason why we sing this wonderful song. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)