Amazing Grace: Love in Action
WELCOME TO TODAY'S WORSHIP SERVICE
Amazing Grace: Love in Action
written by John Newton
1 Chronicles 17:16-17Prayer of David
16 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said:
“Who am I, LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 17 And as if this were not enough in your sight, my God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant. You, LORD God, have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men."
[These verses were the text Newton used when he wrote "Amazing Grace."]
Apocalypse Explained (Whitehead) n. 205
205. ... It is evident also from the representation of "David," as being the Lord in respect to Divine truth. By "David" in the Word the Lord is meant, because by "kings" in the Word the Lord in respect to Divine truth is represented, and by "priests" there the Lord in respect to Divine good. The Lord is represented especially by king David, because David had much care of the matters of the church, and also wrote the Psalms. (That "kings" in the Word signify Divine truth, and "priests" Divine good, see above, n. 31; moreover, that all names of persons and places in the Word signify spiritual things, which are the things pertaining to the church and to heaven, see above, n. 19, 50, 102.)
Amazing Grace: Love in Action
In 1807, the British slave trade officially ended. In 1807, John Newton died. Without Newton’s influence, the slave trade would have continued for many more years with indescribable suffering and death.
Newton is perhaps best known for writing “Amazing Grace,” which, in many ways, is the story of his life. He wrote:
I was born in London ... in ... 1725 ... My parents, though not wealthy, were respectable. My father was many years master of a ship in the Mediterranean trade. In the year 1748 he went Governor of York Fort in Hudson's Bay, where he died in the year 1750. His mother died when he was six, and his father's new family had little place for him.
A new biography of Newton was released in 2007: John Newton: From Disgrace race to Amazing Grace by John Aitken. I downloaded the Kindle version onto my computer to look through it for today's message. However, I was so engrossed in this extremely well-written account of such a fascinating life, that I could not put it down.
In 1743, young Newton was grabbed off the streets and pressed into naval service. He tried to escape, and was brutally beaten. His attitude and behavior were an on-going problems for this superiors, and he was left in Africa to be held in brutal captivity.
He was eventually rescued and returned to England to marry his childhood sweetheart and apparent soulmate. He worked on slave ships until becoming a captain. He was successful and prosperous in his work of selling slaves.
On March 10, 1748, his ship was caught in a terrible storm, and it did not seem likely that they would survive. He prayed for help, and when the storm ended, he knew there was a God. It was a powerful conversion experience that he honored throughout his life.
In last week's message, we looked at the power of Love that can bring such transformations into anyone's life. This week, our focus is the story of how such an experience can lead from an inner ecstacy to an outer action for good in the world.
Like many conversion experiences, the moment of the encounter with God is felt deeply within. But it takes time for it to be absorbed and translated into action. For Newton, the process took many years.
Atlantic was still high, even though the wind had somewhat abated. One or other of the two men must have made one last suggestion for shoring up the ship, for Newton concluded his side of the exchange with the somber statement, "If this will not do, the Lord have mercy on us." As soon as he had uttered this sentence, Newton was astonished with himself. "I was instantly struck by my own words," he recalled. "This was the first desire I had breathed for mercy for many years." His amazement was understandable. Instead of the oaths, blasphemies, and rude rejections of God that habitually poured from his lips, John Newton had spoken the Lord's name with respect and reverence.
He began exploring the early Methodist movement. At that time, it was a controversial part of the Anglican Church. Its adherents were criticized for being “too enthusiastic” about their religion; meaning they had an evangelical fervor.
Concerns about the poor
Newton's turn toward Methodism was partly caused by his personal admiration for George Whitefield, partly by the style and substance of his hero's preaching, and partly by the social status of the population to whom Whitefield's message was primarily addressed - the poor of Liverpool.
Newton clearly had a growing heart for "the poorer sort" in society, for there are many references in his diaries to his quiet good works among the impoverished, the bereaved, and the sick of Liverpool.
Deeper Bible Reading
Newton was not only reading his Bible for some three hours each day, he was also learning how to translate it from the languages in which it was originally written. His facility for Latin was extended to Hebrew and New Testament Greek.
Call to Ordination
Newton increasingly felt a call to ordination. He struggled between seeking it in the Anglican Church, and being ordained by one of the newer evangelical sects, such as the Methodists. He was turned down several times by the Church of England because he was too "enthusiastic" -- or involved with Methodists. He was on the verge of seeking an alternative ordination, when the influence of his friends led to his ordination as an Anglican priest.
A friend and priest,Thomas Haweis, persuaded Newton to write the story of his journey from being a slave trader to a priest. Haweis helped the publication, An Authentic Narrative. It has been released in an updated version as Out of the Depths.
Life as a Priest
He was an active Anglican priest, serving two parishes over many years. He was strongly connected with the evangelical movement in the church, and was an inspiration to a great many people. He wrote many hymns; the most known being "Amazing Grace."
William Wilberforce visited Newton's parish as a boy and listened to him preach about the evils of slavery. As a young man, he sought Newton out in a new parish to seek help on how to respond to an incredible experience of feeling God's presence in his life. Wilberforce wanted to leave Parliament and seeking out a life in the church.
Here is where Newton had a profond impact: pointing out that serving God does not just happen within a religious life, but in the actions of the world. Newton felt that God was calling Wilberforce to fight slavery in the British Parliament.
Perhaps the most important single episode in the correspondence came in July 1796 when Wilberforce wrote to Newton saying that he was considering retirement from public life. If this letter had received a reply supporting the suggestion that Wilberforce should leave Parliament, the loss to the abolitionist campaign would have been devastating. Fortunately, Newton strongly opposed Wilberforce's urge to end his political career, writing back to him on July 21, 1796 to say that his recent reelection as MP for Hull was a sign that God had further work for him to do:
Supporting Abolitionist Movement
Newton himself became quite active in the abolistionist movement. He wrote a popular and profound pamphlet about slavery.
The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade recorded its decision on February 5, 1788 to send a copy of Newton's Thoughts to every member of both Houses of Parliament. This distribution was carefully timed. The next mention of the pamphlet in the minutes confirmed that all MPs and peers had received their copies before Wilberforce introduced his motion for a bill to abolish the slave trade on February 18. Newton's first publication as an abolitionist campaigner certainly reached the right people, for in a matter of days the right people were wanting to reach him. In the third week of February, Newton received an invitation to give evidence to the Privy Council.
Newton gave testimony in the Parliament about the evils of slavery.
The bill to abolish the slave trade passed parliament on Feb. 24, 1807. Newton died Dec. 21, 1807.
Newton and Wilberforce undoubtedly knew about Swedenborg's writings. Many early Swedenborgians were quite active in the abolitionist movement. One such man was Charles Berns Wadstrom. He was an active Swedenborgian and active in the abolitionist movement. There were a number of times that he and Wilberforce worked together on their common cause.
There were many years between his conversion in 1748 and his starting his first parish as a priest in 1764. His was a life that impacted countless people and was instrumental in ending the slave trade in Great Britain. His life was truly an example of "amazing grace" in action.
Inspiration & Prayer for the week of January 21, 2012:
Your inspiration for this week is to go within and ask for the inspiration of God's Love and Direction.
"Thank you, God, for everything in my life both good and bad for these teach me to grow in your Love, Grace and Mercy. Without your Direction and Care my life would be pointless and unmanageable. Give me the strength to seek you in every event and gather the teaching and inspiration you would have me receive. Bless those that I come in contact with this week and let them be a blessing to me. AMEN."
With Love and Prayers,
Michael Bochman, performing his own arrangement
Now extinguish your candle [s]
Now extinguish your candle [s]