Summary: The hymn is a personal testimony of a sailor and slave trader who became a Christian, then a minister, then a hymn writer and then an advocate for the end to slave trading, which was made illegal in the UK from 1813.
OT: Psalm 107:23-32
NT: Romans 5:1-15
Sermon: Amazing Grace
"Amazing" means astonishing, incredible, wonderful,
and “Grace” means either a pleasing or charming quality.
(for example we say someone, like Grace Kelly or Princess Diana, possessed “Grace” because they were elegant, and refined),
or it can mean a short prayer before meal.
Catholics: "Benedictus, benedictat, per Jesum Christum Dominum Nostrum, Amen."
Jews: "Baruch atah, Adonai, Melekh melehenu."
Children: “Thank You for the world so sweet, thank You for the food we eat,
Thank You for the birds that sing, thank You Lord for everything.”)
For Christians, however, the word “Grace” refers to the belief or doctrine,
that God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
gives His unmerited and undeserved love to sinners,
that's every human,
providing we are honest and humble enough
to truly and sincerely repent of our sins
and believe that Jesus not only died for the world, but died for us.
And the Bible clearly teaches that while God’s grace is available to all,
it's not ours to keep to ourselves, like a miser hoarding gold;
it is something we should pass it on to as many people as we can.
In our OT reading we see how God's hand was on Jonah;
and He saved him from a watery grave,
so that Jonah, having received God's grace,
could go and preach the Gospel of grace to the people of Nineveh.
Another beautiful example of grace being received and being passed on
can be seen in the life of John Newton.
Even though we live in the 21st century
just about everyone in the English-speaking world
knows most of the words of one of the 200 hymns
that he wrote 300 years ago:
“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.”
As a child, John Newton’s mother had told him about Jesus
and the Christian way of life, but she died when he was only 7.
His father was a sea captain and John joined his ship as a cabin boy
at the age of 11.
Over the next 10 years “religion” meant nothing to John,
as there was too much excitement and too much danger to think about.
The excitement of maybe finding a new island or even a continent
that would be named after the discoverer,
e.g. the Cook Islands, Tasmania;
and the danger of pirates, or shipwreck.
Things like Jesus, the Bible, and Church,
had been very important to his mother,
but John's life revolved around drinking
and this, together with brawling, often got him into trouble.
"Sin" to him was not a "religious word",
but an everyday experience.
On his 18th birthday, celebrating with alcohol was in plentiful supply,
he was “Press ganged” (or kidnapped) into the Royal Navy.
Fortunately the captain of the ship, the man-o-war HMS Harwich,
was a friend of John’s father, so John was made a junior officer
and life for him was easier than it might otherwise have been,
but he did not like Navy discipline.
One day he was sent ashore at Plymouth in charge of a Liberty Boat.
His job, as Officer in charge, was to make sure none absconded,
but he took advantage of the opportunity himself, and deserted,
but was captured and brought back in irons.
He was flogged and thrown out of the Royal Navy
but the sea was in his blood so he got a job with a slave trader.
He was part of the crew of a ship which carried cheap manufactured goods
such as scissors, mirrors, needles and thread
from ports such as Liverpool, Bristol or London to West Africa.
There, Europeans entered into deals with local chiefs
to exchange the manufactured goods for slaves,
men, women and children, who had been taken prisoner.
Slaves were packed into the ship’s hold or chained on the deck
and transported across the Atlantic
to become labourers on tobacco fields or cotton or banana plantations.
They were fed as little as possible on the voyage
in order to keep costs down and boost profits
and the bodies of those who died were thrown over the side
without any burial ceremony.
Those who did not die were exchanged
for bananas, cotton, rum or tobacco,
which was brought across the Atlantic Ocean
and sold, making great profits for those involved in the Slave Trade,
and some of the big houses and great estates that people visit today
were built or bought with money from it.
At the time very few people thought trading in human beings was wrong,
because they were pagan natives without souls,
and even if some people thought it was a sin, John Newton didn’t,
until one night when his ship was crossing the Atlantic back to Liverpool