Amazing Grace --An Analysis of John Newton's Poem. Monday's Inspiration, 33. To my Friend Chris Mills and Family
Wisdom-Quotes from Sri Chinmoy
"Compassion and grace are the same thing, but compassion is much more intense. The same grace, when it has tremendous intensity is called compassion. Water is everywhere, but when there is a torrential rain, you can say compassion is descending. It is like a heavy downpour from Above, with tremendous force, Grace is also water, but water is here, there, everywhere." -Sri Chinmoy
As I write this piece about how amazing Grace can be, I am reminded of one of my poetical performances late last year. I did a poem called Interwoven, written for Black History Month, during which I sang the first stanza of Amazing Grace. One man up front started to sing the song, another, and then another followed him and before long, the whole audience was standing and singing the song. It was one of the most amazing responses that I have ever had, while reciting poetry.
Amazing Grace is a timeless and perhaps unmatched song, that has healed many souls and have been saving lives since 1779. This is when the English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton wrote and published the song. Of course, Grace Itself is perhaps the ‘pinnacle tool’ of the Divine, which has been around from the dawn of Creation.
What is Grace? Ellen G White, Author and American Christian pioneer of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, referred to it as God’s goodness and God’s mercy. The Buddhists speak of ‘Mehta’ (Loving-kindness) and Karuna (Compassion). Yoga Philosophy uses the word Kripa (Grace), and it can be read in several spiritual treatises as well as being spoken of endlessly by the Sat guru’s (Souls who are one with the Supreme Self) themselves.
All the Eastern Masters that I hold in high esteem speak of everything as 100% God’s Grace and God’s Compassion. So, for example, when we are in the abyss and in need of God’s Light to enfold us, it is the Divine Itself who is there with us, giving us an experience necessary for our spiritual progress or inner growth. The good Psalmist David says it best:-
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (KJV) Psalm 23:4.
Author of 'Amazing Grace.'
Writing in the Christian scriptures, the Apostle Paul states:-
“For by Grace are you saved through faith and not of yourselves. It is a gift of God and not of works, lest any man should boast.” The Holy Bible, KJV, Ephesians 2: V 8, 9.
I was once told a remarkable story by a woman who prayed all night. Her husband had left her and she had lost her job. She ran out of money and had two children to feed. One night she prayed and prayed until she fell asleep and was awakened by the telephone ringing. This woman had one single gift. She knew how to make cakes.
The first phone call was for an order to make a cake and the woman at the end of the line, hearing her friend’s plight, offered to buy and pay for the ingredients as well. This woman told me that for the entire day, her telephone never stopped ringing; many of the calls from people who wanted her to make cakes for them.
Another quick story is of a patient who was rather fond of saying: “Patience, Lord, patience.” She had a terminal problem and was not expected to survive. The nurse who told me that story, said that every time she went past this woman’s bed, she found her on her knees praying. However, the funny thing is that all she ever said was “Patience, Lord, patience.”
This woman got well and went home and the same nurse saw her shopping two years later. She had forgotten the nurse, but she reminded the woman of the hospital and ward and enquired how she was. Yes, it was indeed the same woman and she told the nurse that she was now fine.
Today I wish to look at this immortal song, but before I do, let me just say that Sri Chinmoy, my spiritual teacher, agrees that All is Grace … that ultimately God is the only Doer. He describes Grace and Compassion as the same. The former is like rain and the latter is a torrential downpour of the same rain. For our souls, of course.
John Newton speaks of Grace as a musical healer and Saviour. Furthermore, Grace is a precious teacher, responsible for our fears as well as the getting rid of them. It is important here to realise, that Grace abides in both states. It is already there in our shadows and our toils, just simply awaiting the appropriate moment, to take us home. I believe that John Newton was a very spiritual man.
The great Paramahansa Yogi of the eighteenth century, Sri Ramakrishna, likened Grace to sunshine. All we ever need to do, is to open our curtains and the Light will come in. Translated this means that to attract Grace, intensity and receptivity are essential components, being present only when the fears and shadows of the Heart … the inner vessel, has dissipated.
Newton tells us that Grace is a reliever. When we have a bad asthma attack, we take salbutamol and steroids. So too, Grace, in a spiritual way, is the Higher Force necessary to shield and save us, from our own impediments or obstacles standing in the way of Truth. Newton finally comforts us by reminding us that the Lord keeps His word and never fails. He entreats us to praise Him at the end, as we did at the beginning.
Here is the song and poem:-
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 has 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
Yet, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we have been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
we have no less days to sing God's praise
than when we have first begun
You will have noticed that the first stanza speaks of a ‘sweet sound’. God is both Sound and Silence and the Yogi’s talk of what they call the Aum or soundless sound. Aum is the mother of all mantras, as it is actually the voice of God. Grace comes from this same Source that praises, saves, protects and flows from God’s Goodness and Love, all the way throughout the entire song.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. He made all things; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” The Holy Bible, John 1 -4 KJV
It is worth mentioning that God-men, Saviours’ … call them what we will, can transmit and do transmit that Grace to us, but contrary to some belief, we do have to do some of the work… prepare ourselves. Now here is the paradox. The Messiahs tell us, that while self-effort is necessary, it will ultimately take us to the place where we come to realise, that it is God who was carrying us all along.
It is said that Newton wrote Amazing Grace from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his life's Path was formed by a variety of twists and coincidences, that were often put into motion by his recalcitrant insubordination. He served in the Royal Navy, and after leaving, he became involved in the Atlantic slave trade.
In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland, so severely, that Newton called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion. He continued his slave-trading career until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying .Christian theology.
Wisdom-Quotes from Sri Chinmoy
"God’s grace is responsible for everything, but before we feel it, it is always advisable for us to make a conscious personal effort. If we do not consciously make a personal effort, then we will never be able to know the highest Truth. We shall see that personal effort is nothing but God’s hidden grace. Without the Grace-Power, everything is out of reach. With the Grace-Power, everything is within easy reach." -Sri Chinmoy
Have you been influenced by Grace or the song itself?
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