Posted by: rcottrill | May 24, 2010

Today in 1768 – Joseph Hart Died

Joseph Hart was raised in a Christian home, but as a young man he abandoned his early training and became an atheist, or at least an agnostic. Or so he said. For a number of years he ran with the godless crowd and his life descended into debauchery. When he was confronted with the preaching of John Wesley, he dismissed it as fanatical nonsense. He then published his criticism of Wesley’s message under the title The Unreasonableness of Religion, thinking that settled the matter. But God had other ideas.

Hart’s immoral behaviour made him absolutely miserable. He felt what he was doing was wrong, but he seemed to have no power to change. He tried to reform several times, and failed. Then, in his hopeless state, he examined once again the gospel he had previously spurned. What had seemed so “unreasonable” began to make good sense. According to the Word of God his only hope was a work of God in his life. So, like the young man in the parable of the Prodigal Son he came back to those values he had been taught many years before.

At the age of 45 Joseph Hart was wonderfully converted, later entering the Christian ministry. His clear, simple preaching attracted large crowds, and when he died more than 20,000 people attended his funeral. At the risk of making a bad pun, could we not say that the man experienced a change of Hart? And the Christ he once rejected now began to move his pen to loving praise. He wrote a book entitled Hymns Composed on Various Subjects, with the Author’s Experience. In it a powerful hymn of invitation was first published, a song called, Come, and Welcome, to Jesus Christ. We know it now by the opening phrase, Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Wretched.

Many modern hymnals are loathe to retain the word “wretched,” preferring “poor and needy.” They seem convinced that the average person is not familiar with the original word, or will somehow be insulted by it. But Hart knew what he was talking about. “Wretched” is what he was–and what many sinners are. It means utterly miserable and deeply distressed. When the hymn is sung to the rousing Welsh tune Bryn Calfaria (Calvary Hill), there is a triple emphasis in the fifth line of each verse, impressing the truth upon us. (You can hear the tune on the Cyber Hymnal.)

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, joined with power:
He is able, He is able, He is able,
He is willing, doubt no more;
He is willing, doubt no more.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Bruised and broken by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all:
Not the righteous, not the righteous, not the righteous,
Sinners Jesus came to call;
Sinners Jesus came to call.

Here is a very nice rendering of the hymn by a small choir. It uses the hymn tune Restoration, and includes a refrain by an unknown author that expresses a response to the Lord’s invitation (“I will arise and go to Jesus…”).

(2) Today in 1865 -Emily Wilson Born
American Emily Divine married John G. Wilson, a Methodist clergyman. She and her husband frequently attended the camp meetings at Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Her husband also served as District Superintendent of the Philadelphia Conference of the Methodist Church, as well as ministering at a church in Philadelphia. Mrs. Wilson has given us the tune for Eliza Hewitt’s gospel song When We All Get to Heaven. She also wrote words and music for the beautiful song, I Will Pilot Thee.

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
Sing His mercy and His grace.
In the mansions bright and blessèd
He’ll prepare for us a place.

When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!


  1. […] (3) Another Song from Emily Wilson – I Will Pilot Thee I can recall, years ago, singing with the Ambassador Male Chorus, the beautiful hymn, I Will Pilot Thee. Emily Divine Wilson (1865-1942) wrote both words and music for it. The refrain is somwhat unusual, in that it quotes Christ speaking encouragement to the struggling saint. (For more about Emily Wilson, and another song for which she wrote the tune, see the second item under Today in 1768.) […]

  2. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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