The means by which black individuals came to America was as slaves. This was the result of a highly organized business to treat human beings as chattel. It involved England, Spain, the United States, and other nations. White sea captains brought their ships to the shores of Africa. Certain African tribes captured black people from other tribes to put them on the ships so they could become slaves in America and elsewhere.
Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean was most horrendous. Those who died were simply thrown overboard. Many, however, were ill with such things as dysentery. Their sleeping quarters was a rack shelf smaller than a casket. Their transport can be described as nothing less than horrible and cruel.
When they got to their destination, they were still seen as no more than a “thing.” It would not be unusual for them to be stripped naked so they could be examined in public by potential buyers. They were purchased for a variety of reasons. Some worked in the field. Some worked in the barn. some worked as housekeepers and cooks. It was possible that slaves faced a life of brutality by their owners (even though not all plantation owners were cruel to them.)
It must be kept in mind that in that period of history slavery was a social norm. The thinking was for the Blacks to be exposed to white culture and the Christian religion. Particularly in the Caribbean slaves combined voodoo with Christianity and created her own cult form of religion. Most owners saw slavery as a means to an end for themselves. The sea captains had little desire to assist their captives or provide for their needs beyond food and water.
One such sea captain was influenced in his youth by his mother with readings from the Bible. When he was eleven years old, he forsook those teachings and sailed the seas with his father who enmeshed him in debauchery and every form of sin and drunkenness. For twelve years John Newton worked on his father’s ship and assisted in the transportation of slaves.
Then one day in March of 1748, Newton found himself with the rest of the crew in a terrible storm while waves were splashing over the ship. At age 23 he recalled the teachings of his mother. He offered a prayer to God for safety and deliverance.
As a result of his experiences and recollections, Newton wrote one of the most famous hymns sung in churches around the world. Notice the words of “Amazing Grace.” This is his testimony of how he saw himself and how God welcomed him into the divine family. Eventually John Newton became a minister and preached at various churches being recognized as a great evangelist and one who was opposed to slavery.
The deepest and darkest sinner can look up to God for salvation. Anyone and everyone who will see what Christ did on the cross and accept him as Lord and Savior can appreciate the words that John Newton wrote. Read the words keeping in mind what Newton said of himself and what he expressed as a sailor coming to Christ.
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.
‘Twas 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 hath 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.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
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.
–John Newton, 1725-1807.