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Text Illustrations
John Newton was a man who knew both the bondage of sin and the liberating power of the Holy Spirit. He was nurtured by a devout Christian mother who prayed that her only son would become a preacher. But she died when John was very young, and he became a sailor, after the example of his sea-captain father. He eventually sailed for places where he believed he could “sin freely,” as he put it. He ended up on the western coast of Africa, working for a slave trader who mistreated him, but after more than a year of abuse he managed to escape from the island in 1747. The following year his ship was battered by a severe storm. Newton was reading The Imitation of Christ at the time, and became a Christian. However, he then served as captain of a slave ship for six years. He hated his sin and turned to God for help and deliverance from life that made him as much of a slave as those he had captured. As he surrendered to God’s control, God delivered him from his life of shame. He grew to the place where he became an outspoken opponent of slavery. He became known as the “old converted sea captain.” He began to preach, and also began writing hymns that told the story of his spiritual journey. One day he sat down and wrote the words of the great hymn “Amazing Grace!” which say,

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!


Near the end of his life, Newton suffered from bad health and failing memory, but he said: “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!” He found liberation from the sin that had bound him for so long — and so can you.