Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Joseph Hart

Joseph Hart
Joseph Hart is not so well known now as he had been in previous times and yet he is still an important part of our Church History.

Joseph Hart is best known as a Hymn writer, but that was not his only career, he was also a prominent preacher in his day, and was a teacher of literature. He also wrote a number of books.

During the course of this sermon, I will attempt to tell the story of Joseph Hart’s life. I hope you will enjoy it, and I hope that it may be profitable to someone here this day.

Joseph hart was born in London in the year 1712. Almost 300 years ago.

Hart’s parents were Christian and so from his youth he was taught to read the Bible and to pray. And so in his early days as a youth, he was kept from the worst of sins. But as we should all know, a good family and good upbringing is just not good enough.

And like everyone who has been brought up in a Christian household, and as yet not come to Jesus, Hart rebelled against his parents’ religion, and started to make worldly friends and to laugh at their rude jokes and to even go so far as to profane to most holy and worthy name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Which wickedness he, in a later date, confessed and was truly penitent of.

Soon after these events, Hart decided that he needed to become better. To do good things instead of bad things, in short he felt that he needed to do good things to get into Heaven. And I‘m sure you have all heard the preacher say that no matter how many good works you do you can never get you own way into Heaven. And I reckon that Joseph Hart had also heard similar things preached about when he was younger too. But I guess he never learned them, because here he is trying to reinvent the wheel by trying to buy his own way into Heaven.

Well, I’m just going to stop there for a minute, I am NOT saying that good works aren’t important, but if that is all you are placing your trust in, it is just not going to be good enough. We should trust completely in Christ for salvation, and then we will do good works because we know that God delights in good works, and thus we do it not as our ticket to glory, but because we love God and we want to do that which is pleasing to Him.

So, let’s get back to the story.

Joseph Hart soon realised that these good works weren’t doing him any good and he decided to go all hyper-Calvinistic. Sorry for using a long word, that just means that he decided that we didn’t need good works to get into Heaven so he figured that, he could give up good works altogether and do whatever he wanted to do, and just sin to his heart’s content.

And it was about this time that he wrote a rather nasty letter to John Wesley calling him a Legalist, and defending the doctrine of hyper-Calvinism. Later on, however, Joseph Hart apologized to Wesley.
The following is a segment that I wrote for Wikipedia a long long time ago:
“Hart later considered that there was a need both to do good works and to believe in God. But then came the uncertainty: Was he really and truly saved? He had no indication from God, no elaborate vision, telling him that he had been saved. This was a great worry to Joseph Hart. He began to pray to God that there would be some revelation granted him, or perhaps just a little sign. This tormented Hart for more than a year.
“Then, the week before Easter of the year 1757 Hart "had such an amazing view of the agony of Christ in the garden [of Gethsemane]" [2] showing to Hart that all Christ's sufferings were for him (along with the rest of the church).
“But soon after this, Hart again began to be afraid of the life to come- eternity, and feared exceedingly when reading about the condemned in passages in the Bible.
“But it was on Whitsunday that Hart's true conversion came. Hart was converted under the ministry of George Whitefield, and felt blessed in his soul.
“After these times Hart still had sufferings and uncertainties as to his conversion, but he could always look back to his conversion, and believe that God saved his soul.
“Hart's motto after this time was: "Pharisaic zeal and Antinomian security are the two engines of Satan, with which he grinds the church in all ages, as betwixt [between] the upper and the nether [lower] millstone. The space between them is much narrower and harder to find than most men imagine. It is a path which the vulture's eye hath not seen; and none can show it us but the Holy Ghost."[3]

I have been interested in Joseph Hart for many a year now, it was soon after my baptism, in the year 2005 that I began to study the life of Joseph Hart at the Angus Library in Oxford. The intent was to write full biography, but the idea was eventually abandoned as this had already been done in the year 1910, and I had no new evidence to add to that.

This is the Joseph Hart hymn that I have often named as my favourite, and is also the hymn that I chose for my baptism:

1 A Man there is, a real Man,
With wounds still gaping wide,
From which rich streams of blood once ran,
In hands, and feet, and side.

2 'Tis no wild fancy of our brains,
No metaphor we speak;
The same dear Man in heaven now reigns,
That suffered for our sake.

3 This wondrous Man of whom we tell,
Is true Almighty God;
He bought our souls from death and hell;
The price, His own heart's blood.

4 That human heart He still retains,
Though throned in highest bliss;
And feels each tempted member's pains;
For our affliction's His.

5 Come, then, repenting sinner, come;
Approach with humble faith;
Owe what thou wilt, the total sum
Is cancelled by His death!

6 His blood can cleanse the blackest soul,
And wash our guilt away;
He will present us sound and whole
In that tremendous day.

Anyway time is getting short, and I’m sure you want to know what happened after Hart’s conversion.

Hart soon became a preacher and started his own congregation at Jewin Street in London. The building is no longer there, but it is reported that he had well over 1000 people in his congregation, and his Church building had 4 balconies.

Hart became famous for compiling Hart’s Hymns, which the well-known William Gadsby added as a supplement to his hymn book “Gadsby’s Hymns” which is still used in a lot of UK Baptist churches to this very day.

Joseph Hart was not a Baptist, but I guess we cannot all be perfect. But he has been mostly associated with Baptist churches and I feel that we still owe him quite a lot.

I think I shall leave the sermon there, and I hope that it has been profitable.

May the Lord add His blessing!


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