A repentent slave trader humbled the words of the first stanza to a modest gathering of folk at a prayer meeting on the first day of 1773.
It was barely a year since the itinerant clergyman had been admitted to Gods ministry and twenty since he had, whether by intention or fate, given up the debauchery of his previous vocation.
It would have taken more than just a shipwreck for this shattered soul to become found when once he was lost and to be able to see when once he was blind.
Here was a man who sought reconciliation with humanity, forgiveness and redemption in exchange for freedom and peace.
But he knew not if he would make it through heaven’s pearly gates while twenty thousand ghosts were haunting him day and night to his grave.
They were not going away anytime soon.
In two hundred and fifty years, the stanza has hardly been modified, though there were many additions to it by the clergyman’s own hand.
A tune was added and the stanzas formed into a hymn which in turn became a popular anthem, sung rejoicingly and reflectively by millions of people across the world of every creed.
The stanzas do not intend to convey anti-slavery sentiment and yet there are those who looked beyond the persona of the evangelist who wrote them and applied them to campaign and fight for the cause to remove chains from every man woman and child who was deemed not free.
It is a hark from a bygone era but still strikes a cord in the world today.
Slavery and Colonialism went very much hand-in-hand
And the chains were coming off.
The author of the stanzas lived for eighty-two years between the years 1725 and 1807.
He lived just long enough to see laws passed in his homeland which abolished slavery.
He wrote the lyrics for many more hymns but none more meaningful than the one which the London seaman derived from his own personal experience.
This, as you may have gathered, is the background story to ‘Amazing Grace’, written by John Newton and the inspiration for a Yorkshire member of parliament, William Wilberforce, to finally win the day for the abolition of slavery at the fourteenth attempt in 1807.
Both John Newton and William Wilberfore lost a parent in childhood.
They both claim to have seen the light when once they were blind.
They were drawn together and united for the cause of abolishing slavery.
John Newton was ironically blind in his last years but this did not prevent him reciting ‘Amazing Grace’ one more time before he died and in the presence of William Wilberforce.
This was the stanza which struck the chord on that occasion:
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil
A life of joy and peace.
It was a surreal moment in time and a testament of faith.