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John Fawcett – Our Continual and Absolute Need of Christ
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John Fawcett (1740-1817) was a British theologian, pastor and hymn writer.
In 1765, John Fawcett became pastor of a small Baptist church at Wainsgate in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, England. He served faithfully for seven years, despite a small income and a growing family much too large to be supported by his meager wages. It seemed only practical that he move to a church that paid a larger salary. When he received a call in 1772 to the large and influential Carter’s Lane Baptist Church in London he planned to accept the call.
After pastor John Fawcett had preached his farewell sermon at Wainsgate he and his family loaded up all their belongings to move to his new church in London. But, his parishioners begged him to stay and because of his bond with these fellow believers, he unloaded the wagon and made the decision to continue to serve God there instead of moving to the larger church. To commemorate this event he later wrote the words to “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds”, possibly his most famous hymn.He at first joined the Methodists, but three years later united with the Baptist Church at Bradford. Having begun to preach he was, in 1765, ordained Baptist minister at Wainsgate near Hebden Bridge, Yorks. In 1772 he was invited to London to succeed the celebrated Dr. J.Gill as pastor of Carter’s Lane. The invitation had been formerly accepted, the farewell sermon at Whinsgate had been preached and the wagon loaded with his goods for removal, when the love and tears of his attached people prevailed and he decided to remain. Fawcett sacrificed a London appointment and remained where he was loved and respected. His salary was £25 pounds a year.
From the circumstances of this incident Fawcett wrote his well-known hymn, “Blest be (is) the tie that binds”, headed “Brotherly Love”. In 1777 a new chapel was built for him at Hebden Bridge, and about the same time he opened a school at Breasley Hall, his place of residence. In 1793 he was invited to become President of the Baptist Academy at Bristol, but declined. In 1811 he received from America the degree of D.D. and died in 1817 at the age of 78. Dr. Fawcett was the author of a number of prose works in Practical Religion, several of which attained a large circulation. His poetic publications are:
Poetic Essays, 1767. The Christian’s Humble Plea; a poem in answer to Dr. Priestly against the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1772. Three hymns in the Gospel Magazine, 1777. The Death of Euminio, A Divine Poem, 1779. Another Poem suggested by the decease of a friend, “The Reign of Death”, 1780 Hymns adapted to the circumstances of Public Worship and Private Devotion, Leeds, G. Wright and Son 1782. They are 166 in number and were mostly composed to be sung after sermons by the author. Whilst not attaining a high degree of excellence as poetry, they are ’eminently spiritual and practical’ and a number of them are found in all the Baptist and Congregational hymn books that have appeared during the last one hundred years. One of Fawcett’s hymns, “Humble souls who seek salvation” with the heading, “Invitation to follow the Lamb”, Matt 3:15) had the following note: “The author lays claim to this hymn, ‘tho it has appeared under another name: he hopes that the insertion of it, and the following, (Ye saints with one accord) will give no offence to those of his friends who are differently minded, as to the subject to which they refer. Obviously someone’s name had been wrongly given as the author of the hymn.
Fawcett’s hymn in ‘Spiritual Songs’ is no. 267, “All fulness resides in Jesus our Head”. The original text of this hymn is in Baptist Psalms and Hymns, 1858-80) The first line is “A Fulness resides in Jesus our Head” and is rendered in this way in G.V. Wigram’s 1856 Little Flock Hymnbook, and in J.N.D’s 1881 edition; also in W. Kelly’s 1894 edition. T.H. Reynolds and W.J. Hocking’s editions have “All fulness resides etc.”