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.

A tablet on the north wall of the Church of St. Mary, Woolnoth, contains the inscription:
“John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a seller of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.” These simple words describe in rugged terseness and brief outline the life-story of the writer of the famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.”

Speaking of the momentous change which occurred when “the wicked, licentious libertine” was transformed into a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, he says in another of his hymns:
In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.

I saw One hanging on a tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fixed His longing eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.

Like the demoniac amongst the tombs, this man, on whom the laws of God and the bonds of society and civilization had no power, was changed. The lion was turned into the lamb at the sight of the Victim of Calvary, and by the power of the Gospel of the Grace of God (Rom. 1:16).

It was not the ethical Christ, the Founder of the Christian religion, nor the exemplary Christ, the object of modern thought, but rather was it the rejected, thorn-crowned, pierced, dying Christ of God. John Newton required something deeper than the ethics of Christianity, something more powerful than the example of perfect manhood to change the evil within him and remove the guilt of a life of sin. He found it, not by an elaborate system of prayers and penances, but while yet in the midst of his sin. He learned that “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The condescending love of Christ to a rebel so unworthy touched his heart, and smote his long seared conscience. It brought home to him the awful sin of which he was guilty, rejecting a love which was so full, and doing despite to the salvation which was so free.

You may be as deeply sunk in sin as was John Newton. Or, you may be an upright and virtuous person. However, if the revelation which brought conviction and conversion to the slave trader has never been yours, your sin is as great as his, and you are still “in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:23).

The sight of a crucified Saviour not only wrought conviction of sin, but brought peace to his heart:
Another look He gave which said,
I freely all forgive;
This Blood is for thy ransom paid,
I die that thou mayest live.

Here Newton saw the love of God supplying the sacrifice which His holiness demanded (Heb. 9:25, 26), the Son of God stepping into the place of ungodly men, and at the hands of justice suffering the wrath and condemnation due to man on account of sin. On the ground of what Christ has accomplished, God can now be just, and justify all who come to Him through the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:18). By trusting to that finished work the “African blasphemer” was saved: — truly, this is “Amazing Grace”!

The grace of God which softened, and saved, and raised up John Newton as a witness is unmerited and free. God is no respecter of persons. His grace extends to you: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). The precious Blood which cleansed John Newton’s crimson stains was shed for you (1 John 1:7; 2:2). The Word of God thus assures you of salvation, if you will but believe on His Son (Acts 16:31). Then, like John Newton, you will be able to sing:

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved:
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Yea, though this heart and flesh should fail,
Though mortal life should cease,
I shall possess, within the vail,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing His praise,
Than when we’d first begun.

— J.H.
Gospel Tract Society, Inc.
Independence, Mo.

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