Can You Hear Me Now?Series: The Gospel of Mark
Most of us are familiar with the hymn, Amazing Grace. Some may not be familiar with how it came to be written. John Newton, a former British slave trader turned abolitionist, penned the famous words in 1779, describing his conversion experience three decades earlier.
Newton’s life was one of hardship and heartbreak. His mother died when Newton was only six, and John’s father, a sea captain, took him off to sea with him at age eleven. The sea was a hard life for a young boy. At age eighteen, while home to visit some friends, Newton was pressed into service in the Royal Navy. John did not do well in military life. He once tried to desert his ship and received a beating of 96 lashes for his crime. Newton eventually found himself on a slave ship, working in the transatlantic slave trade. He did so for several years.
On a return trip to England in 1748, Newton’s ship encountered an enormous storm. It was so big that Newton feared for his life. Crying out to God, he repented of his sin and asked God’s forgiveness and mercy. The storm began to calm. This experience marked the beginning of John’s conversion. Over a period of several years, John left the slave trade. He gave up drinking, gambling, and profanity. He eventually entered ministry, becoming a preacher and a staunch opponent to slavery. He was instrumental in ending the trade he spent nearly a decade of his life working in, living to see the passing of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 which abolished the slave trade in the British Empire.
Reflecting on his previous life, John Newton would describe his conversion in the famous hymn, writing, “I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.” Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound!