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Old hymns – and new lyrics

by Nils von Kalm


In our Christian culture, with its emphasis on glitz and noise, it is important to look back at times on some of the great hymns that have come to us down through the ages. Some of the greatest hymns of history were written in the most unlikely of circumstances. Consider the most famous of all, Amazing Grace. Its author, John Newton, would later be a mentor to William Wilberforce in his fight against the evil of slavery. But in 1779, when this hymn was written, Newton was a slave trader and wrote Amazing Grace while waiting in a port for a shipment of slaves.

Another famous hymn, Abide with Me, was written by H.F. Lyte when he was suffering from severe ill-health. Mark Sayers recounts the story of the writing of this hymn in his recent book, The Vertical Self . Sayers says,


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