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A Shepherd’s Love For His Sheep

This is one of my favorite hymn stories about the faithfulness of a pastor to care for His people.

John Fawcett was born of poor parents in Lidget Green, Yorkshire, England, in 1740.  He was converted to Christ at the age of sixteen through the ministry of George Whitefield.  At the age of 26, he was ordained as a Baptist minister.  He accepted a call to pastor a small and impoverished congregation at Wainsgate in Northern England.  After spending several years at Wainsgate where his salary was meager and his family growing, he received a call to the large and influential Carter’s Lane Baptist Church in London. 

As the day for the scheduled departure from Wainsgate arrived, with the saddened parishioners gathered around the wagons, Mrs. Fawcett finally broke down and said, “John, I cannot bear to leave.  I know not how to go”!  “Nor can I,” said the saddened pastor.   “We shall remain here with our people, and we will not go.”  The order was soon given to unpack the wagons. 

His people were filled with intense joy and gratitude at this decision.  Dr. Fawcett at once sent a letter to London explaining the case, and then resolutely returned to His work.  During one of the ensuing services, Fawcett shared a song with the congregation at Wainsgate. This hymn was written to commemorate the event.  It expresses sentiments so nearly universal that it is one of our favorite hymns of all time.  It is the hymn, “BLEST BE THE TIE THAT BINDS”. 

1 Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. 

2 Before our Father’s throne we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares. 

3 We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear. 

4 When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain;
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

5 This glorious hope revives our courage by the way;
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day. 

6 From sorrow, toil, and pain, and sin, we shall be free;
and perfect love and friendship reign through all eternity. 

Fawcett continued his faithful ministry to these humble people at Wainsgate for more than 50 years at a salary estimated at never more than $200 a year.  Soon he became well-known as an outstanding preacher and scholar.  In 1777 he opened a school for young preachers.  In 1793, he was invited to become principal of the Baptist Academy at Bristol, England, but he declined.  

He wrote a number of books on various aspects of practical Christianity, some of which had a very large circulation.  In recognition of his ministry and accomplishments, Brown University in the United States conferred the Doctor of Divinity Degree upon him in 1811.  Yet he remained with his beloved parishioners at Wainsgate until a paralytic stroke caused his death on July 25, 1817.  John Fawcett’s life can certainly be cited as an example of a spiritual leader who sacrificed ambition and personal gain for Christian devotion.  (This was taken from 101 HYMN STORIES, Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982, p.45-46).