Today is January 1st, 2013. Happy New Year! It also happens to be the 240th anniversary of the sermon with which John Newton introduced his newly written poem, Amazing Grace. From Near to the Heart of God: Meditations on 366 Best-Loved Hymns,
On Friday morning, January 1, 1773, John Newton, former slave trader and infidel, preached a New Year’s message from 1 Chronicles 17:16–17 in his church at Olney, England. Newton opened his sermon, saying, “The Lord bestows many blessings upon His people, but unless He likewise gives them a thankful heart, they lose much of the comfort they might have.” He told his church to look back at God’s goodness, look around at God’s promises, and look forward to future usefulness. In concluding, Newton introduced a poem he’d written for the occasion, the hymn “Amazing Grace.”
- Morgan, Robert J., Near to the Heart of God: Meditations on 366 Best-Loved Hymns
The scriptural text that Newton referred to in his sermon, the setting just after the announcement of the Davidic Covenant,
Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And this was a small thing in your eyes, O God. You have also spoken of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have shown me future generations, O LORD God!
(1 Chronicles 17:16-17 ESV)
And Newton’s original six verses:
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!
Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.