Good Friday—”Pleasing Grief and Mournful Joy”

You may recognize the name John Newton for his authorship of perhaps the world’s most famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.” He was prompted to pen those words after his conversion from a career as a slave ship captain. Newton wrote many other poems, some of which have since been put to music.

The following is one of my favorites. It’s a chilling yet beautiful account of seeing Jesus Christ on the cross. Appropriate for today, Good Friday.

“In Evil Long I Took Delight”

In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.

I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.

Sure, never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.

A second look He gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou mayst live.”

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.

With pleasing grief and mournful joy,
My spirit now is fill’d,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I kill’d.

-John Newton, 1779


Sovereign Grace ministries has since put these words to music:

2 thoughts on “Good Friday—”Pleasing Grief and Mournful Joy”

Add yours

  1. Great words Emily! I had never heard that poem before. It reminds me a scene from the movie, Amazing Grace––the story of William Wilberforce. John Newton’s character (now old, blind, barefoot and mopping the church floor) says a line to Wilberforce that is shocking when you realize you’re watching a major motion picture. He says, “I am a great sinner, but Christ is a great Savior.” I about fell out the recliner. I hope you have a blessed Easter.

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