Hymn #547: Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound

John Newton (1725-1807) wrote this autobiographical yet universal hymn some time prior to its publication in Olney Hymns (1779), a collection named for the English church and town where Newton served as pastor from 1764 to 1779. The final stanza, common to a number of nineteenth-century hymns, was added later and has become the standard conclusion for Newton’s text.

John Newton, along with William Cowper, published Olney Hymns (1779), which consisted of three books on varied topics, as opposed to following the church year. It became an important resource among Evangelicals within the Anglican Church.

AMAZING GRAVE is an early melody from the United States that takes its name from the first line of Newton’s text. This old Southern tune once was sung to “Loving Lambs.” It has also been called NEW BRITAIN, HARMONY GROVE, SYMPHONY, SOLON, and REDEMPTION. It was first published in Columbian Harmony (1829).

Edwin Othello Excell (1851-1921) arranged the tune AMAZING GRACE in its present form for his hymnal Make His Praise Glorious, published in Chicago, Illinois, in 1900. Excell had moved to Chicago in 1883 to begin his gospel-song publishing business.