by John Newton (July 24, 1725 – December 21, 1807)
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
The Lord has promis’d good to me,
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
John Newton, Olney Hymns (London: W. Oliver, 1779)
© From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
John Newton (July 24, 1725 – December 21, 1807) was an Anglican clergyman who had, at one time, been a slaveship master. He is best known as the author of the hymn Amazing Grace.
"Amazing Grace" is a well-known Christian hymn. The words were written c. 1772 by Englishman John Newton. They first appeared in print in Newton's Olney Hymns, 1779 that he worked on with William Cowper.
The melody most often used for this hymn was not original (nor was Newton a composer). As with other hymns of this period, the words were sung to a number of tunes before and after they first became linked to the now familiar variant of the tune "New Britain" in William Walker's shape-note tunebook Southern Harmony, 1835.
There are several tunes to which these words have been sung. "New Britain" first appears in a shape note hymnal from 1829 called Columbian Harmony.
Shape Note version from 1835. The melody is believed to be Scottish or Irish in origin; it is pentatonic and suggests a bagpipe tune; the hymn is frequently performed on bagpipes and has become associated with that instrument. Another tune is the so-called "Old Regular Baptist" tune. It was sung by the Congregation of the Little Zion Church, Jeff, Kentucky, on the album The Ritchie Family of Kentucky on the Folkways label (1958).
Newton's lyrics have become a favourite for Christians, largely because the hymn vividly and briefly sums up the doctrine of divine grace. The lyrics are based on I Chronicles 17:16, where King David marvels at God's choosing him and his house. Newton apparently wrote this for use in a sermon he preached on this passage on New Year's Day 1773, for which he left his sermon notes. (He entitled the piece "Faith's review and expectation.")
It has also become known as a favourite with supporters of freedom and human rights, both Christian and non-Christian, in part because many assume it to be his testimony about his slave trading past. The song has been sung by many notable musical performers, including iconic folk singer Judy Collins.
The hymn was quite popular on both sides in the American Civil War. While on the "trail of tears," the Cherokee were not always able to give their dead a full burial. Instead, the singing of "Amazing Grace" had to suffice. Since then, "Amazing Grace" is often considered like a Cherokee National Anthem. For this reason, many contemporary Native American musicians have recorded the song.
In recent years, this song has also become popular in America with drug and alcohol recovery groups, particularly Christian ones, at celebrations of how they "once were lost, but now are found."
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Whereas the original lyrics were penned by John Newton in 1779 (stanzas 1-6), this additional verse (stanza 7) was added by John P. Rees (1828-1900) in the nineteenth century.
For the 2006 movie Amazing Grace, the following verses by Chris Tomlin were added to the original lyrics:
"My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
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a se no i u ne tse i
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u na da nv ti a ne hv