Blog Post

Minister’s Letter – 250 years ago today…

1st Jan 2023 – Minister’s Letter – 250 years ago today…

… John Newton’s Hymn Amazing Grace was sung for the first time. Newton’s story is well-known to many. A man who was heavily involved in the Atlantic slave trade, he became a Christian, was ordained as an Anglican clergyman, repented of his work trading human beings, and wrote the hymn Amazing Grace.

The hymn was written towards the end of 1772 to accompany a sermon Newton was preparing for New Year’s Day. Newton was preaching on 1 Chronicles 17:16-17, a text where King David expresses his wonder at the grace the LORD had extended towards him. In his sermon, Newton encouraged his listeners to reflect upon the grace God had shown them in the past, to seek God’s grace in the present, and to look ahead to the glorious future God has in store for us. The hymn—originally titled 1 Chronicles 17:16-17—works through each of these perspectives in turn. Apparently, it was snowing at the time Newton composed the lyrics. Perhaps this is the inspiration for the final stanza’s opening: The world will soon dissolve like snow.

The hymn remains popular. Why? Is it because the tune is so catchy? Hardly. Is it because Newton is so admired? Not really. I think it’s because its message is timeless: we are sinners in need of grace, and God provides it abundantly. May 2023 have us arrive at an even deeper understanding of the blessings of God’s mercy!

If you’d like to know more about John Newton and Amazing Grace, head to johnnewton.org

Martin Kemp