John Newton was the author of “Amazing Grace,” “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken,” and “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds.”
William Cowper was the author of “There Is a Fountain” and “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.”
They lived in the same small town in England in the mid-1700s, where John Newton was the pastor. William Cowper was a troubled soul, a poet with flashes of brilliance but also depths of depression.
At one point, Cowper had a particularly troubling dream and felt that God had abandoned him, and fought depression for the rest of his life. The whole time in the valley, though, Newton stayed his friend, walking alongside him, and reminding him of the truths of the Gospel.
All these were facts I knew, off the top of my head. But yesterday, when I read this article, I learned something that I did not know.
Cowper had the dream that started his final round with depression on January 1, 1773. That day also had a particular significance in John Newton’s life, though he did not know it at the time. On that day, Newton introduced a new hymn to his church, a hymn he wrote to commemorate the new year. He called it “Faith’s Review and Expectations.”
We know it by its first two words: “Amazing Grace.”
So after he had one of the most trying moments of his life, these would have been some of the first words he heard:
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.
’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 hath 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.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
We know how God, in His Providence, has used words like these in the years since. Only now did I realize how providential His timing was in giving Newton the inspiration for these words on the exact day his best friend needed them more than any other.