The year is 1748. A trading ship departs from an island off the west coast of Africa headed for England. Aboard is John Newton, a seaman with a reputation for profane language and ungodly living. As Newton later described it, the captain "would often tell me that to his grief he had a Jonah on board; that a curse attended me wherever I went, and that all the troubles he met with in the voyage were owing to his having taken me into the vessel."

The captain may have been right. Newton had earlier turned his back on God. But just as a storm had threatened to destroy the boat bearing Jonah, so too a fierce Atlantic wind rudely awakened John Newton. The vessel nearly broke apart. As the damaged ship drifted at sea, Newton prayed for God's mercy and put his faith in Jesus. That's how a blasphemous, disreputable seaman became, by God's grace, the godly penman of the words of the beloved hymn "Amazing Grace."

-Sermons Illustrated May/June 1990