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 agonies and blood;
Who fixed his languid eyes on me,
As near his cross I stood.
Sure, never till 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.
Alas! I knew not what I did,
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the LORD have slain.
A second look he gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid,
I die, that thou may’st 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 filled;
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by him I killed.
–John Newton, “Hymn 57 – Looking at the Cross,” in Olney Hymns. (London: W. Oliver, 1779), pp. 250-251.