That man was John Newton, a slave trader, a man of many misdeeds and (while not immediately) he slowly turned from an atheist to a believer (I once was lost, but now I am found) and in his most pious moments he composed a hymn – one that has over centuries been a hymn sung in troubled moments – a requiem that graces churches during some of the most poignant funeral masses.
Here are the words of the autobiographical hymn. Most people know the song but not the story.
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas 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
I have already come,
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me 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.
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.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.
And if the words keep ringing in your head… well… it’s amazing grace, grace that will lead us home.