Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)

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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.

Psalter Hymnal (Gray)

Author: John Newton

Newton, John, who was born in London, July 24, 1725, and died there Dec. 21, 1807, occupied an unique position among the founders of the Evangelical School, due as much to the romance of his young life and the striking history of his conversion, as to his force of character. His mother, a pious Dissenter, stored his childish mind with Scripture, but died when he was seven years old. At the age of eleven, after two years' schooling, during which he learned the rudiments of Latin, he went to sea with his father. His life at sea teems with wonderful escapes, vivid dreams, and sailor recklessness. He grew into an abandoned and godless sailor. The religious fits of his boyhood changed into settled infidelity, through the study of Shaftesbury and… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
Author: John Newton (1779)
Language: English
Liturgical Uses: Confession Songs, Communion Songs
Article: Amazing Grace: a journey in time and faith by David Douglas (from "The Hymn")


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

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. J. Newton. [Grace.] No. 41, Book i. of the Olney Hymns, 1779, in 6 stanzas of 4 lines, entitled "Faith's Review and Expectation," and based upon i. Chron. xviii. 16, 17. In Great Britain it is unknown to modern collections, but in America its use is extensive. It is far from being a good example of Newton's work.

-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



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 hy…

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