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On this day in 1834, slavery was abolished in the British Empire. In a remarkable turnaround England, the country with one of the worst records – responsible for transporting at least three million Africans to bondage in the Americas, became one of the first in the world to abolish the practice.
Although economic considerations played a part, it was nevertheless a triumph for compassionate humanitarianism and an example of how a long fought campaign can prevail when enough right minded people are prepared to take action. John Newton was a slave trader for much of his life but later had a dramatic spiritual awakening and became a clergyman and an abolitionist.
This is the famous hymn that he wrote in 1779:
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.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
And Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Today I ask for the Grace to keep striving to change for the better and never to give up.