This hymn by John Newton (1725-1807) must be one of the greatest autobiographical hymns ever to be penned, yet sadly it is not well known. It speaks both subjectively and objectively of the amazing grace Newton found in Christ.
In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.
I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.
Sure never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.
My conscience felt, and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did;
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.
A second look He gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I died, that thou may’st live.”
Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
(Such is the mystery of grace)
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I killed.
(Public domain. Reproduced from Classic Christian Hymn-writers by Elsie Houghton, 1982. Fort Washington, Penn.: Christian Literature Crusade)