462. Amazing Grace--How Sweet the Sound

1 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.

2 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!

3 The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.

4 Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come;
'tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.

5 When we've been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
we've no less days to sing God's praise
than when we'd first begun.

Text Information
First Line: Amazing grace--how sweet the sound
Title: Amazing Grace--How Sweet the Sound
Author: John Newton (1779)
Author, verse 5: William Cowper (1790)
Publication Date: 1982
Meter: CM
Scripture: Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 142:5; John 9:25; Ephesians 1:3-14; Ephesians 2:8; Ephesians 2; Ephesians 1:4
Topic: Songs for Children: Hymns; Redemption
Source: A Collection of Sacred Ballads, 1790 (st. 5)
Language: English
Tune Information
Name: NEW BRITAIN
Adapter and Harmonizer: Edwin O. Excell (1900)
Meter: CM
Key: G Major


Text Information:

Scripture References:
all st. = Eph. 1:3-14
st. 1 = Eph. 2:8, John 9:25
st. 3 = Ps. 142:5

One of the best loved and most often sung hymns in North America, this hymn expresses John Newton's personal experience of conversion from sin as an act of God's grace. At the end of his life, Newton (b. London, England, 1725; d. London, 1807) said, “There are two things I'll never forget: that I was a great sinner, and that Jesus Christ is a greater Savior!” This hymn is Newton's spiritual autobiography, but the truth it affirms–that we are saved by grace alone–is one that all Christians may confess with joy and gratitude.

Newton was born into a Christian home, but his godly mother died when he was seven, and he joined his father at sea when he was eleven. His licentious and tumultuous sailing life included a flogging for attempted desertion from the Royal Navy and captivity by a slave trader in West Africa. After his escape he himself became the captain of a slave ship. Several factors contributed to Newton's conversion: a near-drowning in 1748, the piety of his friend Mary Catlett, (whom he married in 1750), and his reading of Thomas à Kempis' Imitation of Christ. In 1754 he gave up the slave trade and, in association with William Wilberforce, eventually became an ardent abolitionist. After becoming a tide-surveyor in Liverpool, England, Newton came under the influence of George Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley (PHH 267) and began to study for the for the ministry. He was ordained in the Church of England and served in Olney (1764-1780) and St. Mary Woolnoth, London (1780-1807). His legacy to the Christian church includes his hymns as well as his collaboration with William Cowper (PHH 434) in publishing Olney Hymns (1779), to which Newton contributed 280 hymns, including “Amazing Grace.”

"Amazing Grace" was published in six stanzas with the heading "1 Chronicles 17:16-17, Faith's review and expectation."

Four of his original stanzas are included in the Psalter Hymnal along with a fifth anonymous and apocalyptic stanza first found in A Collection of Sacred Ballads (1790). The fifth stanza was first published separately in the 1859 edition of The Sacred Harp and joined to Newton's text in Edwin O. Excell's Coronation Hymns (1910); it has been associated with Newton's text ever since. The Hymnal 1982 Companion calls it "an example of a 'wandering' stanza in [common meter] that appears at the end of a variety of hymns in nineteenth-century hymnals" (Vol. Three B, 671).

Liturgical Use:
Many occasions of worship when we need to confess with joy that we re saved by God's grace alone; as a hymn of response to forgiveness of sin or as an assurance of pardon; as a confession of faith or after the sermon.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

NEW BRITAIN (also known as AMAZING GRACE) was originally a folk tune, probably sung slowly with grace notes and melodic embellishments. Typical of the Appalachian tunes from the southern United States, NEW BRITAIN is pentatonic with melodic figures that outline triads. It was first published as a hymn tune in shape notes in Columbian Harmony (1829) to the text "Arise, my soul, my joyful pow'rs." It was first set to "Amazing Grace" in William Walker's (PHH 44) Southern Harmony (1835) (see facsimile at p. 85).

The setting is from Edwin O. Excell's Make His Praise Glorious (1900). Excell (b. Stark County, OH, 1851; d. Louisville, KY, 1921) grew up in a German Reformed parsonage and worked as a bricklayer as a young man. In 1871 he became a singing school teacher. Soon after, while leading the music and singing solos in a Methodist revival, he experienced a conversion. Excell joined evangelist Sam P. Jones as a song leader, and the two traveled the United States as an evangelistic team. An important figure in the Sunday school movement, Excell wrote over two thousand gospel songs and edited ninety songbooks. He became a very successful publisher of hymn books in Chicago; his company, the Biglow-Main-Excell Company, eventually merged with Hope Publishing Company.

Since NEW BRITAIN is pentatonic, it can be sung unaccompanied in a two- or even four-part canon, with groups entering after one or two measures. Sing stanzas 1 and 5 in unison and stanzas 2 and 3 in harmony, and to illustrate the text, try stanza 4 in canon. Use light accompaniment, but consider singing stanza 3 unaccompanied.

Some recordings of "Amazing Grace" by recent pop singers have cast a sentimental shadow over this hymn, presumably because those performers do not understand the experience of salvation that so amazed Newton. Christians should sing this hymn with some vigor and a moderate tempo that supports their convictions.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook


Media
MIDI file: MIDI
MIDI file: MIDI Preview(Faith Alive Christian Resources)
More media are available on the text authority and tune authority pages.




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