Have you ever been amazed? A Sequoia tree, the largest living thing on our planet—is amazing. The sheer volume of water pouring over Niagara Falls—is amazing. The Great Wall of China, stretching for hundreds and hundreds of miles over rugged terrain—is amazing. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon—amazing! Roger Bannister running the first four- minute mile—amazing! A man falling in love with a woman— amazing! There are many amazing things in this world, but the most amazing thing of all is God’s grace.
John Newton, “an infidel and a libertine” as he would call himself, was, among other things, a slave trader. Newton jammed 600 slaves into the bowels of his ship—they were chained together and forced to stand for the two-month voyage from Africa to the New conditions of their life on board. In 1748, Newton left the shores of Sierra Leone with a ship full of slaves and was engulfed in a massive storm. In the midst of the tempest, and afraid for his life, Newton cried out to God to “save his wretched soul!” The storm did not overwhelm the vessel, and Newton survived to sail another day.
This conversion experience was to set Newton on a journey that would eventually lead him to become a clergyman, a preacher of the Gospel, and an abolitionist (he would be instrumental in helping William Wilberforce abolish the slave trade in England). Newton’s real life encounter with God’s grace would inspire him to pen the words of the famous hymn, “Amazing Grace:”
“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.”
But what’s so amazing about grace? What makes anything amazing? It’s the impossibility of a thing that amazes. The redwood, the roaring falls, walking on the moon, overcoming physical handicaps, love—it’s the impossibility of these things that make us gape and wonder. If these things make us think of the impossible, maybe it’s because they are just shadows and types of the impossibility that is the grace of God.