In 1773, a curate of the Church of England based in Buckinghamshire, named John Newton, wrote Amazing Grace, a spiritual hymn that is widely recognized as one of the most powerful in the World. Newton wrote this in his 48th year, but his earlier life was anything but spiritual. He spent much of this 20’s and 30’s in virtually all aspects of the slave trade, from capture and acquisition in the interior of Africa through distribution and sales in colonial America and elsewhere. He was also known as a uniquely rough and profane man to those who met him.
A series of events in his 30’s resulted in a profound conversion and he became a well regarded minister of the Church. The primary words of the song are magical:
Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found.
T’was blind but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Grace can be defined, as per Webster, as “the favor of God,” or a “divine assistance for regeneration.” Every time I hear this song it strikes my heart as what the process of recovery has meant to me. For once I accepted that there was a higher power to whom I could turn over my life and be guided in my everyday activities, the fears that had ruled my life from first consciousness became manageable.
Many of us have had alcohol and addiction bottoms of horrendous magnitude, truly evil actions and intentions stretched over decades. But think about the activities in which Newton must have trafficked…capturing whole families from ancient communities, transporting them in chains and deplorable conditions halfway around the world, and then selling them to slave masters to be used as chattel for the rest of their lives. How hard must that heart have been to make such decisions…and how beautiful that he could have been so thoroughly relieved of such a dark mantle of human depravity through the gift of grace.
…and how wonderful is it that all of us could have been blessed with the same gift of grace….