Thursday Hymn Reflection: Afflicted Saint, to Christ Draw Near

John Fawcett was converted as a 16-year-old in 1755 under the min­is­try of George White­field.  He became the pastor of Wainsgate Baptist Church in Yorkshire in 1764.  In 1772, he initially accepted the invitation to succeed the formidable John Gill at London’s Carter’s Lane Baptist Church and that at a substantially higher salary.  This was no small honor for Fawcett who once wrote prior to 1764, To be brief, my dear friends, you may say what you will, I’ll ne’er be confined to read nothing but Gill.”

He preached his farewell sermon with packed wagon outside. But in the end he could not leave his beloved Wainsgate congregation. He immediately declined the invitation and served them until he died in 1817.  This would inspire his most famous hymn Blest Be the Tie That Binds that many a Baptist have held hands and sung at the end of their services.

In 1782, Fawcett published Hymns Adapted to the Circumstances of Public Worship and Private Devotion.  He prefaced the book humbly:  “I blush to think of these plain verses falling in­to the hands of per­sons of an elevated genius, and re­fined taste. To such, I know, they will appear flat, dull and unentertaining . . . If it may be conducive, under divine bless­ing to warm the heart or assist the devotion of any humble Christian in the closet, the family or the house of God, I shall there­in sincerely rejoice, whatever censure I may incur from the polite world.”

Fawcett remains a faithful example to ladder-climbing preachers and performance-driven worship pastors.  He refused a celebrity pulpit and its compensation to eke out a living in relative anonymity. He wrote “plain” hymns that might be “unentertaining” to the musical elite (and modern K-Love audience) but would serve “any humble Christian.” They still do.

Fawcett died July 25, 1817, and was appropriately buried in the graveyard of the church he served over fifty years.  He lived and died with his congregation.

May one of his “plain verses” warm your heart and assist your devotion as it has mine:

Afflicted saint, to Christ draw near—
Thy Savior’s gracious promise hear,
His faithful Word declares to thee,
That as thy days thy strength shall be.

Let not thy heart despond and say
“How shall I stand the trying day?”
He has engaged by firm decree,
That as thy days thy strength shall be.

Thy faith is weak, thy foes are strong,
And if the conflict should be long,
The Lord will make the tempter flee,
For as thy days thy strength shall be.

Should persecution rage and flame,
Still trust in thy Redeemer’s Name;
In fiery trials thou shalt see,
That as thy days thy strength shall be.

When called to bear thy weighty cross,
Or sore affliction, pain, or loss,
Or deep distress or poverty,
Still as thy days thy strength shall be.

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