Words: John Newton, Olney Hymns (London: W. Oliver, 1779), Book 1, number 41. Exception: The last stanza is by an unknown author; it appeared as early as 1829 in the Baptist Songster, by R. Winchell (Wethersfield, Connecticut), as the last stanza of the song Jerusalem My Happy Home.
This is probably the most popular hymn in the English language. Perhaps it is because its words so well describe the author: John Newton was a slave trader before coming to Christ. The American Public Broadcasting System, with narrator Bill Moyers, made a television documentary about Amazing Grace in 1990.
Ironically, the hymn is sung in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by the titular Uncle Tom, a slave himself. In addition to Newton’s words, Tom sang the final stanza below. Though that stanza appeared in the 1829 Baptist Songster, Uncle Tom’s Cabin may be the first time the words
When we’ve been there ten thousand years are used as part of Amazing Grace.
Wethersfield, Connecticut, where the Baptist Songster was published, is only a couple of miles from Stowe’s home town of Hartford, Connecticut. Interestingly, there is also a town named New Britain just outside Hartford.
This hymn was sung at the funeral of American president Ronald Reagan in 2004.
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.
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’d first begun.