Summary: The message concludes this series and focuses on the song "Amazing Grace" by John Newton.
Songs of Our Faith Part 8
This message will conclude my series “Songs of Our Faith.” I started this year with the series “A Slave For Christ.” In that series I mentioned that slaves had songs that they wrote and/or sung as a part of their slavery experience and their faith of a better day which would come through Christ, their Savior. That series led to this series focused on some of the songs of our faith. I wanted us to focus on songs that had influenced our roles as “slaves” for Christ. I am concluding this series with the song, “Amazing Grace.” This song for many is the foundation of their faith walk with Christ.
We all have opinions of what grace is and what it means for us individually. I was working on this message when I noticed an update on the news about hurricane Sandy and the destruction on the east coast. Some people walked away from that storm thinking that they were spared because of God’s grace. Some praised God and thank Him for showing mercy on them even though many around them suffered loss. While I am not saying that God was not merciful to them, I was left with the thought that if God was truly merciful to one person does that mean He was not merciful to their neighbor who suffered loss? Matthew 5:45 says “So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Bad things will happen and when they do, they will happen to both the righteous as well as the unrighteous. I do not want us to only think that God is gracious to us when we are spared from something bad because to believe that means that when we do experience bad times in our lives it is because God is not showing grace to us.
In my message this morning I want us to think about the grace of God according to what the songs tries to bring out. The lyrics you are seeing are the original lyrics from the author John Newton who is believed to be the original author of the song. Some also attributed a version of this song to Isaac Watts whose songs were a favorite of John Newton. As I have done previously, let me give you a short history of the Rev. John Newton and how historians have documented how he came to write this song “Amazing Grace.”
I. John Newton
John Newton was born in London July 24, 1725, the son of a commander of a merchant ship which sailed the Mediterranean. When John was eleven years old he went to sea with his father and made six voyages with him before the elder Newton retired. In 1744 John was impressed into service on a man-of-war, the H. M. S. Harwich. Finding conditions on board intolerable, he deserted but was soon recaptured and publicly flogged and demoted from midshipman to common seaman. Finally at his own request he was exchanged into service on a slave ship. He then became the servant of a slave trader and was brutally abused. Early in 1748 he was rescued by a sea captain who had known John's father. John Newton ultimately became captain of his own ship and became a slave trader. Although he had had some early religious instruction from his mother, who had died when he was a child, he had long since given up any religious convictions. However, as he was returning home from one of his trips he encountered a violent storm. As he attempted to steer the ship through the storm, he experienced what he was to refer to later as his “great deliverance.” He recorded in his journal that when all seemed lost and the ship would surely sink, he exclaimed, “Lord, have mercy upon us.” Later in his cabin he reflected on what he had said and began to believe that God had addressed him through the storm and that grace had begun to work for him. For the rest of his life he observed the anniversary of May 10, 1748 as the day of his conversion, a day of humiliation in which he subjected his will to a higher power. “Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ’tis grace has bro’t me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
He continued in the slave trade for a time after his conversion; however, he saw to it that the slaves under his care were treated humanely. Later he decided to become a minister and applied to the Archbishop of York for ordination. The Archbishop refused his request, but Newton persisted in his goal, and he was subsequently ordained by the Bishop of Lincoln and became the overseer of the Church of Olney, Buckinghamshire. Newton’s church became so crowded during services that it had to be enlarged. He died in London December 21, 1807. Infidel and libertine turned minister in the Church of England, he was secure in his faith that amazing grace would lead him home.