This fall I’m excited to return to a project that I began, and put on hold, last year. I’m working on a series of sculptures based on Amazing Grace!. Once complete, there will be a sculpture for each of the six verses of the 1779 hymn by John Newton, plus the verse from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is described below. Probably the most well-known and beloved hymn in all of Christendom, Amazing Grace! is about being salvaged or saved.
Amazing Grace! (Original words)
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 hath 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, 1779
The final verse of the modern version of the hymn was not written by Newton, but was first recorded in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The verse was originally one of between 50 and 70 verses of a song titled Jerusalem, My Happy Home, which was published in a 1790 book called A Collection of Sacred Ballads.
When we’ve been there
ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days
to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun.
There’s nothing like starting at the end. To me, that last verse has some of the most vivid imagery of the hymn, so I started there. The sculpture is pictured in progress here and, once it’s complete, will illustrate the final verse of the song as it is usually sung today.
Like all my sculptures, this piece is being created from salvaged wood that would have been tossed into the trash or used as kindling wood for a fire. As I work on these pieces, I realize that I’m much like this wood and the as I’ve saved it from the trash heap or the fire, I’m blessed to remember that God has saved me from a similar doom. I can sing with Newton, and the countless men and women of faith throughout the centuries, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see.“
As the rest of pieces progress, I’ll post some more studio pictures along the way. I don’t know yet how many sculptures I’ll make of each verse—I may only make one or two full collections. Stay tuned!
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