This song expresses the incredulous wonder that God should be so merciful to us with His unequalled grace. With the proper use of facial expressions and ASL, this song can be a beautiful experience for the deaf. After all, God's grace is available to everyone who believes-hearing and deaf people alike (Romans 1:16, John 3:16)!
Remember that in ASL, people do not use the pronoun "I", but substitute "me". This word is a very common usage in ASL. Also we often leave out "to," especially before verbs. This principle is also very common in ASL. We reflect it in our song gloss.
"Amazing" is signed "surprise," though it would be legitimate to sign "wonderful" because the word implies both wonder and surprise at God's gracious gift. The word "how" in ASL is always a question, as in "how are you?" So it is better to change it to "true;" thus, "true sweet sound." (Leave out the article "the" as ASL does not use it.)
"Wretch" means a miserable person, but here in ASL it is better to change to "sinner." "Like" is signed "alike;" the "Y" hand swung back and forth. Swing your hand so the thumb points to yourself several times.
"Once" can be signed "once," but we feel that "past" is better for the ASL version. You should sign, "Me past lost" (let "past" stand for the two words "once was;" you can stretch the sign "past" to keep in time with the two words in the vocal song). And "am" should be changed to "finish," which in ASL will express the idea that you were lost in the past, but now you have been found. In the same way, "was" should be changed to "past." Thus "Past blind, but now me see."
The next line is slightly more difficult, because the word "'twas" does not exist in ASL, and not even in Signed English. The nearest equivalent would be to sign "it was," but in ASL, it is better to sign "past." And the word "that" should not be used with the usual "Y" hand landing on the other hand's palm. Instead the "Y" hand should go downward in front of your chest and stop in midair. Have a strong expression on your face. This sign and the accompanying strong expression will denote a stronger version of this word, giving emphasize to the previous word "grace." In a similar vein, sign "'tis" in the third stanza the same way (the sign "that" stopping in midair over your chest). Ask a deaf person to demonstrate this sign for you.
"Precious" can be signed by a variety of signs. It could be signed "important" or as in Signed English, have the 'p' hands coming together like in the sign "important." Or it may be signed "cherish," the hand grasping into a fist under the chin. Consult your local deaf to see what they prefer.
"Appear" is signed by the index finger of one hand "popping up" between the fingers of the other hand.
"Toils" is signed "work," and "snares" is signed "traps." While there is a sign for "trap" that denotes a mousetrap (the 'X' hand striking onto the index finger of the other hand), it might be better to sign "stuck" (the fingers of the 'V' hand landing onto the throat). "Already" is signed "finish," with the mouth forming the word "already." The deaf will understand perfectly. "Thus" should be signed "this," although the two words are different in meaning. But in ASL it will make perfect sense.
In the line "his word my hope secures," the word "secures" should be signed "connect". This is done by the same sign used for "join together"- using the index finger and thumb of each hand to clasp together. "Shield" may be signed by the index finger drawing the shape of an imaginary shield in the air over the forearm and then sign "protect." "Portion" means "share," so sign "share". "Be" should be changed to "become." Then you should have the whole line in excellent ASL. "Endures" of course is signed "continue."
"Mortal life" has no ASL equivalent, so change to "breath-life." You will make sense in ASL. "Shall" is signed "will." There is a Signed English sign that has the 'S' hand signing "will" and changing to a 'L' at the end of the sign, but remember we are trying to sign in ASL, so use the old-fashioned sign for "will" (the open hand moving out from the cheek). "Possess" is signed "have." "Within" should be signed "inside," for that is what it means. "Veil" is signed with the "4" hands moving downward, describing a curtain. And the "of" in "a life of joy and peace" should be signed "full."
Finally, when we sign "when we've been there..." change to "when we finish there..." There is a Signed English sign for "been," but remember this is an ASL song! Good luck as you try to practice interpreting this inspiring song.
Sign Gloss Surprise grace- true sweet sound- That save sinner alike me! I past lost, but now finish find- Past blind, but now me see.
That grace teach my heart fear, And grace my fear relief; True precious did that grace appear That hour me first believe!
Through many danger, work and trap, Me finish come; That grace finish bring me safe this far, And grace will lead me home.
Lord finish promise good to me; His word my hope connect; He will my shield and share become As long as life continue.
And when this flesh and heart will fail, And breath life will stop, Me will have inside veil Life full joy and peace.
When we finish there ten thousand year, Bright shine alike sun, We have no less days sing God's praise Than when we first start.