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#4 Amazing Grace Part 2

Posted by Barry Barrios on

“Amazing Grace”
by John Newton
The United Methodist Hymnal, 378
Faith’s Review and Expectation.—I Chron. xvii. 16, 17

Perhaps, most surprising, is the awareness of the oft-printed final stanza in hymnals in the United States, which was not part of the original hymn:

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’ve first begun.

Rarely, if ever, used in English language hymnals outside the United States, this stanza was located in A Collection of Sacred Ballads (1790), where it was appended to “Jerusalem, My Happy Home” (Anon., c. 1580). American gospel song composer, E. O. Excell (1851-1921) is credited with attaching this stanza to the end of Newton’s “Amazing Grace” in his Coronation Hymns for the Church Sunday School (Chicago, 1910). A common practice during the nineteenth-century revival collections was to freely borrow refrains and stanzas from other sources and integrate them into existing hymns, sometimes known as “wandering” or “floating” stanzas or refrains. Obviously, stanza 6 of the original hymn covers some of the same theological territory, that of eschatology or heaven, but it contains a possible Calvinist interpretation of election in the third line of this stanza — “God, who called me here below.” Since the revival movement was largely Armenian in theology or salvation open to all, this may have rendered the original stanza 6 unacceptable. Furthermore, the language of the borrowed stanza is more direct for American ears, though something is lost by omitting the compelling images in Newton’s original: “The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,/The sun forbear to shine.”

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