This morning’s CBS Sunday Morning show featured a profile of the song Amazing Grace. That song has been at the top of the charts for 250 years.

The hymn was written in 1783 to accompany a sermon delivered by a pastor, an ex-seafaring man, John Newton, delivered on New Year’s Day in Olney in the British Isles. The poet, William Cowper is also associated with the creation of the hymn as it first appeared in his book of Olney hymns, 1779.

Now here is the rest of the story!

Pastor John Newton had been a slave trader on a ship named The Greyhound when a storm nearly sank his ship and at least one sailor drowned. Nelson, reportedly an agnostic and cynic prior to the event, began to pray. Although he continued to work as a slaver, he finally retired, went to seminary, and became preacher. He wrote a treatise condemning slavery and sent it to all members of the British parliament. Nelson’s influence for the betterment of mankind did not stop there. As a pastor, he mentored William Wilberforce, the English lawmaker whose 20-year struggle to end slavery resulted in the 1807 law that ended the trade of enslaved people in the British West Indies.

The song itself has taken on a life of its own and has played a significant role in many cultural events here in America, and it is rightly considered to be the anthem of the Civil Rights movement.

The meaning or take away for us can be linked to an understanding of the word Grace.

Grace: The concept is not unique to Christianity, but in Christian terms, Grace can be generally defined as God’s favor toward the unworthy or God’s benevolence on the undeserving. When in a state of Grace, we revel in blessed forgiveness even though we often fall short of living righteously.

Lessons available to be learned:

  1. We are capable of overcoming the inherent tendency towards evil that may grip us in our youth, an argument against the death penalty.
  2. We can redeem ourselves in the Eye of the Universe but only by humbling ourselves and making our higher values the center of our lives, a lesson that many including current politicians would do well to learn.
  3. We should reserve our condemnations and our recriminations!

Merry Christmas