On more than one occasion, he was brought face-to-face with the notion that he had been miraculously spared — from surviving a horseback riding accident to fortunately missing a boat that overturned and drowned all of its passengers. Yet, despite these wake-up calls, Newton continued to defy religion and dissuade others from their beliefs. It wasn’t until he became violently ill while on a trip in Africa that he adopted his spirituality. He continued to be active in the slave trade, however, until 1754 when he gave up seafaring altogether. Some 10 years later, Newton became a priest, despite his storied past as a sinner.
Newly ordained, Newton met the poet William Cowper, also a newly born Christian. Their friendship led to a spiritual collaboration culminating in "Amazing Grace." Some 60 years later in America, the text was set to the hymn tune "New Britain," to which it has been sung ever since.