Recently a story caught my eye about the history of the song, “Amazing Grace,” one that most of us can sing by heart.

“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.” – published around 1779 by John Newton, English clergyman and seaman

Recently a story caught my eye about the history of the song, “Amazing Grace,” one that most of us can sing by heart.

It is a hymn that resonates with people everywhere in a way that almost no other song does and thus could be the perfect Thanksgiving hymn.

“Amazing Grace” is, quite simply put, adored worldwide.

In this country, it is sung at countless Thanksgiving Day and Veterans' Day events and at such sad and unhappy occasions as the memorial services after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

However, its unfailing optimism and uplifting message makes it popular with scores of recording artists, such as Judy Collins, Elvis Presley and Leann Rimes.

For more than two centuries the song became a fixture across spiritual and secular cultures worldwide, according to Joe Edwards, AP religious writer.

He notes that according to, “Amazing Grace” has been recorded more than 6,600 times.

Edwards explains why it is so popular: “It crosses denominational doctrine… and is unfailingly positive… the word ‘grace’ is mentioned three times in the second verse alone.”

How “Amazing Grace” came to be written is what I find intriguing.

For example, Newton's lyrics “that saved a wretch like me” are understandable considering the fact that as a young midshipman he endured great suffering at sea with unbearable living conditions, public flogging, exchange into service on a slave ship and brutal abuse.

As the son of a merchant ship commander, Newton learned seamanship from his father and eventually signed on with the H.M.S. Harwich, a man-of-war.

Al Rogers authored a magazine article in 1996, “The Story of John Newton,” in which he explained that conditions on board were so intolerable that Newton deserted. He was soon recaptured, publicly beaten and demoted to common seaman. He was exchanged into service on a slave ship that took him to the coast of Sierra Leone and eventually rescued by a sea captain who had known John’s father.

This ordeal coupled with a violent storm at sea led Newton to write about these life-changing experiences. Rogers explained, “on a homeward voyage, while he was attempting to steer the ship through a violent storm, Newton experienced what he was to refer to as his great deliverance.”

Newton later recorded in his journal that when all seemed lost and the ship would surely sink, this self-described non-religious sailor asked for mercy and was saved.  He believed, according to Rogers, that “amazing grace” had begun to work for him.

After retiring from sailing, he decided to become a minister, furthered his education and was eventually ordained. He accepted the curacy (“guiding the souls of the parish”) of the church of Olney, Buckinghamshire. In little time, the services became so crowded that the sanctuary had to be enlarged.

Newton wrote his own epitaph using words that mirror the lyrics of his beloved hymn:

“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 lyrics of “Amazing Grace” offer reassurance, while at the same time, the music is easy to sing with few high notes.

Many of us know the words of this enduring hymn and love the melody. And like John Newton, we are grateful for what he most aptly described as “amazing grace.”

Indeed, the perfect song for Thanksgiving Day.