Amazing Grace (Sublime Gracia) es un himno litúrgico muy conocido en el ámbito del cristianismo y entonado por casi todas las denominaciones cristianas angloparlantes.
La letra fue escrita por John Newton, un antiguo esclavista inglés que más tarde se convertiría al cristianismo. Redactado en 1772, este himno forma parte también del legado de Olney Hymns y William Cowper, otros escritores de himnos con los que Newton trabajó.
El ritmo de la melodía en el himnario cristiano, como algunas otras de su tiempo, fueron entonados de diferentes maneras. La letra más aceptada hoy en día aparecería en los himnarios de las iglesias estadounidenses alrededor de los años 1830.
Existieron dos diferentes tonadas para esta canción: una fue la versión "New Britain", la cual fue rebautizada como Virginia Harmony en 1831. La letra exacta de esta predecesora no se conoce. Se supone de origen irlandés o escocés. Es de escala pentatónica y se la relaciona con la música de gaita. La otra tonada es conocida como "Old Regular Baptist" y era interpretada por la congregación Little Zion Church de Jeff, Kentucky.
Este himno ha sido muy popular en la comunidad cristiana mundial como reflejo de la gracia divina descrita en I Crónicas 17:16. En este pasaje, Moisés y su familia se maravillan por haber sido escogidos por Dios para reinar sobre Israel. Este pasaje inspiró a Newton un sermón que tituló "Faith's review and expectación" (Revisión de la Fe y esperanza), que recitó para el año nuevo de 1773 y que se supone la base de la letra.
Newton también fue conocido como defensor de la libertad y los derechos humanos tanto por cristianos como por seculares.
Sublime gracia del Señor,
Que a mí, pecador, salvó,
Fui ciego mas hoy veo yo,
Perdido y El me halló.
Su gracia me enseñó a temer,
Mis dudas ahuyentó,
¡Oh, cuán precioso fue a mi ser,
Cuando Él me transformó!.
En los peligros o aflicción,
Que yo he tenido aquí,
Su gracia siempre me libró,
Y me guiará feliz.
Y cuando en Sión por siglos mil,
Brillando esté cual sol,
Yo cantaré por siempre allí,
Su amor que me salvó.
"Amazing Grace" is a Christian hymn. The words were written late in 1772 by Englishman John Newton. They first appeared in print in Newton's Olney Hymns (1779), which he worked on with William Cowper.
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.
John Newton, Olney Hymns (London: W. Oliver, 1779)
John Newton is believed to have written the words to this hymn in 1772 in the village of Kineton, in Warwickshire, England some time after having been ordained priest in the Anglican church. The lyrics are based on his reflections on the Old Testament text in First Chronicles, chapter 17, verses 16 and 17, adding his perspective about his life in the slave trade while in his youth. Although Newton acknowledge the beginning of his conversion to evangelical Christianity being linked to the near-death experience on the slave-ship the Greyhound in 1748, it was another episode of illness on the Brownlow where he served as a first-mate which made him realize the inadequacies in his life and professed his full faith in Christ. Although this was a spiritual turning point in his life he continued his slave-trading activities until 1754 with three further slave-trade voyages as a captain of the ships Duke of Argyle and the African. In 1757 he applied for Anglican priesthood and was ordained minister in 1764 and accepted the curacy in Olney, Buckinghamshire which was where the hymn was first published in the Newton's Olney Hymns in 1779 together with the poet William Cowper. In the 1779 and 1808 edition of the Olney Hymns, the hymn consists of six stanzas (with minor spelling differences) and first appeard under the heading Faith's Review and Expectation. Through the years, additional verses have been added to the hymn, some verses from other Newton hymns and some by other writers, which then collectively and gradually made the hymn known as Amazing Grace.
The melody most often used for this hymn was not original (nor was Newton a composer). As with other hymns of this period, the words were sung to a number of tunes before and after they first became linked to the now familiar variant of the tune "New Britain" of which the composer is unknown and is in William Walker's shape-note tunebook Southern Harmony, 1835.
There are several tunes to which these words have been sung. "New Britain" first appears in a shape note hymnal from 1829 called Columbian Harmony.
Shape Note version from 1835.
The melody is believed to be Scottish or Irish in origin; it is pentatonic and suggests a bagpipe tune; the hymn is frequently performed on bagpipes and has become associated with that instrument. This tune seems to have been firmly established as the 'standard' for this hymn after an arrangement of it appeared in a series of popular hymnbooks in the early twentieth century. (See also the versions in the Sacred Harp article.)
Another tune to which it has sometimes been sung is the so-called "Old Regular Baptist" tune. It was sung by the Congregation of the Little Zion Church, Jeff, Kentucky, on the album The Ritchie Family of Kentucky on the Folkways label (1958).
Newton's lyrics have become a favorite for Christians, largely because the hymn vividly and briefly sums up the doctrine of divine grace. The lyrics are based on I Chronicles 17:16-17, a prayer of King David in which he marvels at God's choosing him and his house. Newton apparently wrote this for use in a sermon he preached on this passage on New Year's Day 1773, and for which he left his sermon notes, which correspond to the flow of the lyrics. (He entitled the piece "Faith's review and expectation.")
The song has also become known as a favorite with supporters of freedom and human rights, both Christian and non-Christian, in part because many assume it to be his testimony about his slave trading past. The song has been sung by many notable musical performers, including iconic folk singer Judy Collins.
The hymn was quite popular on both sides in the American Civil War. While on the "trail of tears," the Cherokee were not always able to give their dead a full burial. Instead, the singing of "Amazing Grace" had to suffice. Since then, "Amazing Grace" is often considered like a Cherokee National Anthem. For this reason, many contemporary Native American musicians have recorded the song.
In recent years, this song has also become popular in America with drug and alcohol recovery groups, particularly Christian ones, at celebrations of how they "once were lost, but now are found."