Dr. Bruce Hindmarsh (Regent College) spoke on three hymn texts in our hymnal by John Newton. A brush with death on the high seas in 1748 brought a prayer to the lips of this slave trader, but he retracted it, realizing there was no reason God should pay any attention to him, given his history of sexual exploits, profession, and foul language which shocked even hardened sailors. However, Newton eventually came to recognize the seriousness of the many wrongs he had committed against others, especially by selling human beings. After his conversion and study, he ministered to a congregation, and especially to a weekly small group for which he wrote some 400 hymns. These songs are built solidly upon scriptural truths and helped his illiterate remember what they were studying every Sunday evening in his home. Amazing Grace speaks eloquently about Newton’s realization that for God’s grace to cover his past, that grace would indeed have to be amazing. (“For a wretch like me” is not a favourite phrase among Christians, but Hindmarsh said that the secular world sings the words more readily.) Glorious things of thee are spoken and May the grace of Christ our Saviour are also either biblically based or paraphrasing scripture. One of Newton’s late entries reads, “What thou wilt, when thou wilt, as thou wilt”, a prayer we might consider using ourselves. [JEK]
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