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.
(The 1982 Hymnal, Hymn 671)
In the last few weeks, I have been re-watching some of the movies that we have on DVD. Amazing Grace is a favorite of mine. It tells of the events led by William Wilberforce, which resulted in the abolition of slavery in 1807 by the English government. Wilberforce was an evangelical Christian and his spiritual mentor was John Newton, a former slave trader who had repented and who had been the pastor at Wilberforce’s church when he was a child.
It was during a voyage that the ship, of which Newton was the captain, was caught in a storm off the coast of Ireland and almost sank. Newton prayed to God for mercy, the hole in the ship’s hull filled with shifting cargo and the vessel drifted to safety. Newton took this as a sign from God and marked it as his own conversion to Christianity. In 1764, he was ordained as an Anglican priest and wrote the words of 280 hymns to accompany his services at his church. "Amazing Grace" was written to illustrate a sermon on New Year's Day of 1773.
The words of the hymn Amazing Grace reflect Newton’s personal experience and profound thanks for being saved by a gracious God. It has a message of forgiveness and being saved from sin, error or evil, i.e. redemption. It is through the mercy of God that we are forgiven regardless of sins committed.
It was not originally intended as a hymn to be used at funerals. However, it has become very popular as it is comforting to people because they sing and attest that their loved one goes to the Lord fully forgiven by His grace.