Amazing Grace

Newton Web‘Amazing Grace’ was penned by John Newton during his time here in Olney and today is his best known hymn.

To find out more about how John came to write ‘Amazing Grace’  we suggest you visit the John Newton Project website where you will see his diary, the notes he made for the sermon he was giving, and more information on the hymn’s origin and history.


Although this hymn was included in ‘The Olney Hymns’ , when it was published in 1779 contemporary sources show that it did not immediately became popular, nor was it considered to be his best.  To find out more about how ‘Amazing Grace’ crossed the ocean to America and became so famous, you may wish to read this article based on Steve Turner’s book, ‘Amazing Grace: The Story of America’s Most Beloved Song’

The Illustrated Timeline on the American Library of Congress website also gives a fascinating overview of how the 18th century English hymn became one of the best known hymns in America.  Here you will be able to see and hear how the hymn evolved with information, images and sound recordings from the online catalog of the Chasanoff/Elozua Amazing Grace Collection which includes more than 3,000 published recorded performances of the hymn.

Amazing Grace Hymn

1 Chronicles 17:16,17

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 those 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.

Yes, 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.

John Newton, Olney Hymns, 1779, Book 1, Hymn 41

John Newton and Amazing Grace Today

We in Olney, through the Olney Newton Link, continue to support villagers in Sierra Leone whose ancestors suffered so. We also recognise that the slave trade continues today, albeit in most cases under cover of criminal activities.
Using Amazing Grace as a theme and having no control over content, we offer links below to other websites you may find interesting and inspiring.

The John Newton ProjectOh, it was mercy indeed to save a wretch like me!
John Newton wrote these words in his journal on 21 March 1796 (at the age of 70), 48 years after his conversion.
Amazing Grace being used for a special family. We feel sure John Newton would have approved,This shows how a very special village comes together to help one of their own in what must be a unique project with over half the local population singing 'Amazing Grace' to raise money for Berni Cliffe's cancer treatment. - (quotation from
The Olney Newton LinkThe Olney Newton Link's aim is to advance education and relieve poverty in Newton, Sierra Leone by the provision of charitable assistance.
Amazing Grace and its connection with Lough SwillyIreland's beautiful Lough Swilly was the setting for a dramatic story which changed the life of a foul mouthed slave trader. John Newton went on to pen one of the most famous and well-loved songs of all time - "Amazing Grace" and to mentor William Wilberforce in his long battle to abolish the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
Amazing Grace Experience
St. Kitts
Discover more about the John Newton's story the song "Amazing Grace" and the beautiful island of St Kitts. Be inspired to continue Newton's fight by discovering more about slavery in today's world.
Pete Seger and 'Amazing Grace' - by John YatchisinI corresponded with Pete on a number of occasions, but I want to share a letter that I wrote to Pete about Olney and John Newton, and his response. ..... it will be on display at the Cowper and Newton Museum in Olney, Buckinghamshire, England, as part of their selection of items relating to John Newton and the song “Amazing Grace”:
ws/video/2015/jun/26/obama-sings-amazing-grace-clementa-pinckney-eulogy-video" target="_blank">Obama sings Amazing GraceObama sings Amazing Grace during eulogy for Charleston pastor
British Abolitionistswesite of Brycchan Carey , academic and author specialising in the history and culture of slavery and abolition in the British Empire.
The Abolition Project websiteThe Transatlantic Slave Trade and Thomas Clarkson and his fellow abolitionists who fought for emancipation of enslaved Africans in the British colonies.

Commemorative bench in the museum garden to remember Pete and Toshi Seeger

Pete encouraged 18,000 people to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ at his 90th birthday party in Madison Square Garden, New York. He loved this hymn.

(Thank you to John Yatchisin for this inspiring donation).
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