Tuesday, September 19, 2006

SDB History: Joseph Stennett

Joseph Stennett, 1663-1713

Joseph Stennett was born in 1663 at Abington, in England. He was well educated for one who, as a Dissenter, was excluded from schools like Oxford and Cambridge.

In 1690 Joseph was ordained as pastor of the Pinners’ Hall Seventh Day Baptist Church and served there until his death in 1713. His biographer wrote that even though he had a number of offers more to his temporal advantage, “he preferred the invitation of this small people by reason of his agreement with them in principle.”
Since the meetings of the congregation for worship were on the seventh day of the week, he was free to preach to other congregations on the Sunday, which he did very frequently, especially to the General Baptist Church in Barbican. Such was Stennett's repute for piety, learning and practical wisdom that his advice was very much sought by his Christian friends, and by the "great Whig Lords" of that day. He was occasionally consulted as to the feeling of the Dissenters concerning national affairs.

Source: Biography of Joseph Stennett, 1663-1713 (Spiritual Songsters)
When the Stennetts were writing their hymns, many Protestant dissenters were reluctant to sing hymns other than the Psalms as a protest against the liturgy of the established church, but the Psalms were pre-Christian and thus had little to express which was distinctively Christian. Thus Joseph Stennett wrote a number of hymns about Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, always being careful that their Scriptural authority was noted.

[Thanks to Rev. Don Sanford of the Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society for much of the information above.]
Hymns for the Lord’s Sup­per, 1697
My blessèd Savior, is Thy Love
So great, so full, so free?
Behold, I give my love, my heart,
My life, my all to Thee.

I love Thee for the glorious worth
In Thy great self I see:
I love Thee for that shameful cross
Thou hast endured for me.

No man of greater love can boast
Than for his friend to die:
But for Thy enemies Thou wast slain:
What love with Thine can vie!

O Lord, I’ll cherish in my soul
The memory of Thy love:
And Thy dear Name shall still to me
A priceless treasure prove.

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