Amazing Grace

The part played in Israel’s restoration by this beloved hymn.

Christian love for the Jewish people and active engagement in the restoration of Israel dates back to long before the rebirth of the Jewish state.
Christian love for the Jewish people and active engagement in the restoration of Israel dates back to long before the rebirth of the Jewish state. Photo: Orel Cohen/FLASH90

It is my contention that wherever the gospel is faithfully preached and honoured, support for Israel will never be far behind.

This was surely the case in respect of the globally-loved hymn, Amazing Grace, first sung in rural Buckinghamshire, England, 250 years ago to mark the new year of 1773.

It was written by former slave ship captain John Newton, curate (assistant priest) for the parish of Olney, as testimony to his own, undeserving, salvation in Christ, and begins:

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

It has since been echoed throughout the world as the testimony of millions. But how is it connected with Israel?

Saved from shipwreck in a furious storm at sea after praying for mercy, Newton duly became a key witness in the long campaign for the abolition of slavery led by William Wilberforce.

Wilberforce also experienced a powerful conversion to Christ and was considering a pulpit ministry when Newton persuaded him to stay in politics where he was to become hugely influential in the major issues of the day – including the place of Israel in the world.

As it happens, it was shortly after the passing of the Abolition Bill, and Newton’s death, that Wilberforce became co-founder of the London Jews Society (later the Church Ministry among Jewish people) in 1809.

He thus helped to play his part, in a hugely significant way, in the restoration of the Jews, both physically to their ancient land and spiritually to recognition of their Messiah in Jesus.

As with other great evangelical Christians of the day – men like Charles Spurgeon, Charles Simeon and J C Ryle – he was persuaded of the significance of Old Testament end-time prophecies concerning the return of Jews to the Holy Land and their subsequent spiritual re-birth.

Being a leading MP, and friend of Prime Minister William Pitt, he was thus also able to influence other politicians of the timely opportunity given to Britain to help the Jewish people fulfil their destiny. This ultimately led to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in which we promised to do all we could towards this end. The rest is history, as they say, and Amazing Grace had clearly played a key role in the end-time miracle of modern Israel.

The hymn was also featured – and indeed was the title – of the 2007 film on Wilberforce marking the bi-centenary of his successful campaign starring Ioan Gruffudd, with Benedict Cumberbatch as William Pitt and Albert Finney as John Newton.

During his 16 years at Olney (he was later rector of London’s St Mary Woolnoth), Newton and his friend and fellow poet William Cowper wrote a new hymn each week for the church prayer meeting.

Another popular Newton hymn – and my personal favourite – is How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds. The last two verses are especially apt for everyone who has known a complete transformation of the kind Newton experienced:

Weak is the effort of my heart

And cold my warmest thought

But when I see Thee as Thou art

I’ll praise Thee as I ought

Till then I would Thy love proclaim

With every fleeting breath

And may the music of Thy name

Refresh my soul in death.

Indeed, it was said that on his deathbed he uttered these immortal words: “I am a great sinner, but Christ is a great Saviour.”

I too wanted to step up to the pulpit following my conversion 50 years ago. But God had other ideas, believing I could influence more people through my pen. And so I have the awesome privilege of sharing this amazing story with you. Praise the Lord, for he knows best!



Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from; To the Jew FirstA Nation Reborn, and King of the Jews, all available from Christian Publications International.



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One response to “Amazing Grace”

  1. Disciple 1978 says:

    I received the Lord’s undeserved merit on my life aged 23 as a lost seafaring soul in the middle of the Indian ocean. Being spiritually blind I believed church membership made me a Christian. But now I see as God’s amazing grace delivered me from religion and relieved my fear that I could have a personal relationship with God. He has led me through the many snares that can trap you in a religion, and has helped me break through many a glass ceiling. He is leading me home. Already I look forward to the sweet fellowship of kindred minds to love the Lord that awaits me there. I must see his kingdom established here on earth inasmuch as I can before I go. It’s time for Israel to be restored and it’s a joy to see them believing it. Amen.

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