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He was a British naval midshipman and a slave trader, who became a hymn writer and clergyman. He was on a homeward voyage while sailing his slave ship through a violent storm when he experienced what he referred to later as his “great deliverance.” Newton awoke in the middle of the night and prayed to God as the ship filled with water.
In writing the words to Amazing Grace, he ironically used the pentatonic scale in the composition. This scale has often been referred to as the ‘Slave Scale’ as most black spirituals are composed using only the black notes of the piano. He observed the anniversary of May 10 for the rest of his life. Although he became a Christian, he did not renounce slave trading until 1754.
"During the time I was engaged in the slave trade," he later wrote, "I never had the least scruple as to its lawfulness. But later he became an evangelical minister and looked back at his early life with horror. "I once was lost, but now am found," he wrote in his great hymn "Amazing Grace."
He was ordained and became a curate at Olney Buckinghamshire.
"Amazing Grace" was part of his first publication in 1779.
"Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav'd 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 reliev'd;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ'd!
"Thro' 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 promis'd 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 call'd me here below,
Will be forever mine...."
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