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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

AMAZING GRACE



A dear friend commented on a video a few days ago.  I had happen to click, (LIKE) on face book and my friend wrote me stating it just about brought tears to his eyes.  If anyone knew the man who made that comment, they might be some what surprise as he is not just any ordinary guy.  He's a tough character who works out everyday, willing to face and confront the enemies of our nation with a life of "No Fear." He is a member of an elite community of Naval Special Warfare, yet, a man who too, shares the values of life and given the heart which can find the appreciation within all men.

Many of us perhaps use our hearts with kindness, others seem too use it with quick judgements. Too often, we as people among the world will bash our fellow man. Perhaps because they did not meet our liking, our standards or believe in the same views or ideas. Be those of politics, religion, the way we live, the automobile we drive or our standard of living. Perhaps because we do things differently than how they would do things or just because they may be a green horn learning how things are done. I'm even guilty of such judgements but remember a quote from Will Rogers who once said, "I never met a man I did not like." Perhaps Will could see beyond the faults in each of us and perhaps Will understood such words as those of Amazing Grace.

When I hear the hymn, "Amazing Grace," I reflect on the man wrote the words, John Newton 1725-1807.  He became an ordained Minister of the Church of England in 1764 after nine years of study and training.  Through the years, John wrote nearly 200 hymns, many of which today continue to be sung.  He was also inducted to the parish of Olney in Buckinghamshire.  In 1780, he became the parish priest of a church in London, meeting William Wilberforce. Bonding a strong friendship, the two devoted their lives to goodness and as Wilberforce became the leader in Parliamentary campaign for the abolition of the slave trade, John Newton provided his utmost support and mentoring.

Although, John was not always a man of such goodness. His life grew from the innocence of childhood, into a rebellious young man.  Born the son of a merchant captain, John's mother often read Bible stories to her son and desired that he would become a clergyman.  Although, dying from tuberculous when John was a mere 6 year old, he would be raised in boarding school until age 11 when he joined his father aboard ship becoming a cabin boy.

In 1744, John was celebrating his birthday.  The alcohol was in plentiful supply, and falling drunk, he was kidnapped and taken aboard a ship with the Royal Navy.  His impressment, "Shanghai'd" to the Navy did not leave young John pleased. Although, the captain of the man-o-war HMS Harwich, knew of John’s father, so John was made a junior officer and given the rank of midshipman.  Nevertheless, John did not care for the conditions aboard ship nor the disciplines of being a naval officer.

Ashore at Plymouth, John was left in charge of the Liberty Boat and his duty was to ensure no sailors absconded from their duty of  the Royal Navy though John took advantage of this opportunity and deserted.  Captured, John was returned to the ship and placed in irons, flogged before the crew and his rank removed demoting him to common seaman.

It's believe that through the disgrace and humiliation, Newton initially contemplated suicide.  He recovered, both physically and mentally. Later, while HMS Harwich was on route to India, he transferred to the slave ship, Pegasus bound for West Africa.  Goods carried by the ship were traded in Africa for slaves which would be shipped to England and other countries. Although, while Newton had no problems trading slaves, he remained a problem for the crew which the ships captain left him ashore with a slave trader, Amos Clowe.

Clowe took Newton to the coast, and gave him to his wife Princess Peye, an African duchess. Newton was abused and mistreated along with her other slaves. It was this period that Newton later remembered as the time he was "once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in West Africa." Although, in 1748 he was rescued by a sea captain who had been asked by Newton's father to search for him, he made it to freedom.


He sailed back to England in 1748 aboard the merchant ship Greyhound, where he experience his spiritual conversion as the ship encountered a severe storm.  Off the coast of Donegal, the ship entered high seas, the winds blew fierce throwing the ship about.  The wooden hull breaking, the ship began to sink as it flooded with the ocean water.  John awaken by the storm realizing the ship is sinking cried out to God, begging for a miracle and his mercy.  As the ship stirred out of control continuing to role about the seas, the cargo fell free plugging the holes leaving the ship afloat to drift.  Although, his conversion to become a clergyman would not come yet for many years.

After marrying his childhood sweetheart, Mary Catlett in 1750, Newton would continue to captain ships used in the slave trade until 1754 when he suffered a serve stroke. He retired from sea taking position as a  tax collector and began studying  theology. As he became well known as an evangelical lay minister, he applied too become ordained as a priest in the Church of England in 1757, but it would be seven more years before he was eventually accepted.

After the lost of four daughters, Newton reflected to a time when his life was nearly ended. Short notes of that reflection, "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now, I see" would be words he later shared with a young poet, William Cowper, who moved to Olney in 1767.  Cowper worshipped in the church, and collaborated with Newton on a volume of hymns, which was eventually published as the Olney Hymns in 1779.

While most have long forgotten John Newton's life of evils, his desertion, drunkenness, or wrong doings, we long remember the wonderful words he once penned.  A forgiveness among him in his grace.  Those words which grew to become a Hymn are often shared over those we've lost,  of our veterans, or our loved ones as a reminder how precious did that grace appear.  How precious life should mean to each of us.  Words which perhaps every man should step back and reflect upon.  Perhaps a reflection where we should look for the best in all men rather than their worst.  To find the best in life rather than seeking the negatives and to mentor the inspirations to build greater men and world of forever peace.


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
T'was Grace that taught...
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares...
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.
The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
as long as life endures.
When we've been here ten thousand years...
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
then when we've first begun.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

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