Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Stennetts

The Reformed Reader, a website which describes itself as "committed to historic Baptist beliefs," includes a very interesting online collection of historic Baptist books and documents. One of them is Baptist History from the Foundation of the Christian Church to the Close of the Eighteenth Century by J.M. Cramp, published in 1869. In it I found this informative and appreciative account of the English Seventh Day Baptist pastors from four generations of the Stennett family.
Edward Stennett
The Baptist denomination is under deep obligations to the STENNETT family. EDWARD STENNETT was some time pastor of the church at Pinner's Hall, London, where he was succeeded by his son Joseph, in the year 1690, who presided over the Church till his death, in 1713. Both were Sabbatarians. Distinguished among his brethren for the extent and variety of his literary acquirements, his earnestness of soul, his profound and practical wisdom, and his unswerving integrity, Mr. JOSEPH STENNETT was held in high esteem by all religious parties. If he would have conformed to the Church of England, he might have attained an exalted position; but he was proof against temptation, though liberal offers were made him. His influence was known to be powerful, and strenuous efforts were employed by the Court, in the latter end of Queen Anne's reign, to gain him over to the Tory policy, in the hope that other Dissenters might be induced to follow him. Mr. Stennett understood the principles of freedom too well to be caught in such a trap. His firmness had a happy effect on others. Numerous treatises on religious subjects, and a considerable number of poetical compositions, were published by Mr. Stennett. A collected edition of his works was issued after his death. He is most advantageously known among Baptists by his Answer to Russen, a learned and elaborate work on baptism, to which succeeding writers have been much indebted.

His son and grandson were also "shining lights." Dr. JOSEPH STENNETT, who died February 7th, 1758, was upwards of twenty years pastor of the Church in Little Wild Street, London. He distinguished himself for loyalty and patriotism during the rebellion in 1745. He enjoyed the esteem of the King George II, and was on terms of friendship with some of the great ones of the day. Adverting to an interview with the then Bishop of London, Dr. Gibson, he said, in a letter to a friend, "I told his Lordship that I more than ever saw the usefulness of the Book of Common Prayer; for, considering how little the Scriptures are read by the common people, and how little the Gospel preached by the clergy, if it were not for what is said of Christ in the Prayer Book, multitudes would forget there was any such Person. He heartily joined in my observation, and told me he had lately heard a sermon by an eminent preacher, who seemed to labour to keep the name of Christ out of it. 'For my part,' added he, 'my time is now short, and therefore my charge to all my clergy is short too.' I say to all of them that come to me: 'See to it that you preach Jesus Christ; don't preach Seneca, nor Plato, but preach Jesus Christ.'"

Samuel Stennett
DR. SAMUEL STENNETT, son of the above, succeeded his Father at Little Wild Street, and held the pastorate till his death. He had been assistant-pastor for ten years previously. Few men have risen so high in general estimation. His learning—his discretion—his benevolence—his earnest zeal—his holy and uniformly consistent conduct, secured for him an amount and power of influence rarely enjoyed. His pulpit labours were highly appreciated; his writings were acceptable and much valued. Besides two treatises on the baptismal controversy, he published three volumes of discourses On Personal Religion, On Domestic Duties, and On the Parable of the Sower.

The celebrated John Howard honored Dr. Stennett with his friendship, and was accustomed to attend his ministry when he visited London. In a letter addressed to him from Smyrna, dated August 11, 1786, he says: "With unabated pleasure I have attended your ministry; no man ever entered more into my religious sentiments, or more happily expressed them. It was some little disappointment when any one occupied your pulpit. Oh, sir, how many Sabbaths have I ardently longed to spend in Wild Street on those days I generally rest, or, if at sea, keep retired in my little cabin. It is you that preach, and I bless God I attend with renewed pleasure. God in Christ is my rock, the portion of my soul. I have little more to add—but accept my renewed thanks. I bless God for your ministry; I pray God reward you a thousand fold." Dr. Stennett died August 24th, 1795.
The Quiet Period, Chapter I

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