John Newton and William Wilberforce have always amazed me for their part in the battle to end slavery. Newton was an example of authentic grace and transformation that can take place in the human heart – that is, from the “inside-out.” And, Wilberforce was tireless and persistent in his work to end slavery legislatively, that is from the “outside-in.” They made a good team in 18th century Great Britain and that two-pronged approach could be the key towards racial reconciliation and other problems in America today.
For John Newton, it took a change of heart to alter his life. We all know him as the author of one of the best-known and most loved hymns of the last two centuries, “Amazing Grace.” Estimates suggest that the song is played 10 million times each year and has appeared on over 11,000 albums. It had a surge of popularity during two of our nation’s greatest crises: the Civil War and the Vietnam War. Churches everywhere still sing it today. Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Elvis are among the many artists who recorded the song. Even former President Obama spontaneously sang it a few years ago during a memorial service for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a victim of a church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
It is amazing that this hymn has become closely associated with the African American community when you consider that the author, John Newton was a former slave trader until God’s ‘Amazing Grace’ changed his heart. It is a testament to the transformative work of Christ. Newton later became a pastor and preacher changing people’s attitudes about race and slavery by changing their heart, from the ‘inside-out.’
Wilberforce, on the other hand, was a politician and a wealthy philanthropist. He gave away one-quarter of his annual income to the poor. He fought on behalf of chimney sweeps, single mothers, orphans, and juvenile delinquents. When he was a child, Newton was his pastor. As he grew older, Wilberforce wanted to leave working in government for the ministry. Instead, Newton encouraged him to stay in politics, convincing him of the need to end slavery legally – from the “outside-in.”
The story of “Amazing Grace” offers a powerful lesson for us today: change the heart of the nation and its laws will follow. The work of churches today is similar to the work of John Newton as they preach the Gospel that transforms lives from the “inside-out.” And the work of Family Policy Alliance here in Rhode Island is, like the work of Wilberforce and countless other Christian policymakers, taking the policy and legislative approach and effecting change from the “outside-in.”
Our mission statement is very clear. We exist to make Rhode Island a state where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive, and life is cherished!
If you want to partner with us to bring change to policy (or find out how we can help you change hearts), here are three steps to consider:
- Join our “Rhode Island Informed Parents” group on Facebook. There you will find relevant information about what’s going on in the Ocean State and how you can take action to protect Rhode Island children!
- Want help changing the culture from the inside out? I welcome the opportunity to speak at your church or small group. You can contact me here.
- Please consider making a monthly donation so we can continue to make a difference in Rhode Island. We are grateful for your partnership!
Chairman, Board of Directors – Rhode Island