Born in London in 1712 this remarkable hymn-writer and minister of Jewin Street Chapel, London, 1760, is given considerable prominence in Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology, and his hymns are referred to as “of great earnestness and passionate love of the Redeemer”; over thirty are given special mention including:
1. Descend from Heaven celestial Dove.
2. If ever it could come to pass.
3. Jesus while He dwelt below.
4. Mercy is welcome news indeed.
5. Now from the garden to the Cross.
6. The moon and stars shall lose their light.
7. Holy Ghost inspire our praises.
8. Oh for a glance of Heavenly Day.
9. Once more we come before our God.
10. Prayer was appointed to convey.
(All these hymns are in Gadsby’s collection.)
Joseph Hart’s parents were pious folk and prayed earnestly for their son and trained him up in the fear of the Lord. Nevertheless he became wild and his early youth was spent in evil ways. In 1733 he was the subject of the stirrings of the Spirit but he relapsed into unholy life and fell into gross sin. However at Whitsuntide 1757 in Fetter Lane Chapel, London he was soundly converted under a sermon on Revelation 3:10.
It was during this period that his most beautiful and impassioned hymns were penned.
In 1759 he published his first hymn book. Soon he became exercised as to the ministry and first preached in St. John’s Court, Bermondsey. He preached almost to the last and died on the 24th May, 1768 at the age of 56.
He was buried in Bunhill Fields where a fine monument was erected to his memory. An immense concourse of people attended the funeral, and the Rev. John Hughes preached on the occasion.
An extract from this remarkable oration is worth recording here:
“He gave proof of the soundness of his faith by the depth of his repentance; openly confessing his sins to all the world and forsaking them; his undaunted courage in stoutly defending with all his might the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel viz The Trinity in Unity; the electing love of God; the free justification of the sinner by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and salvation alone by His precious blood; the new birth and final perseverance of the saints; always insisting on a life and conversation becoming the Gospel; contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. And for this, Oh ye saints of God, he bath a right to be remembered of you all – a great man is fallen in Israel.”
The Rev. John Towers said of his hymns:
“The book of hymns so exactly describes the preaching of its author that it may be justly said, that, in them ‘he being dead yet speaketh’. Herein the doctrines of the Gospel are illustrated so practically, the precepts of the Word enforced so evangelically, and their effects stated so experimentally that with propriety it may be styled a treasury of doctrinal, practical and experimental divinity.”
The Rev. Hughes preaching Joseph Hart’s funeral sermon said to his sorrowing congregation:
“You are witnesses that he preached Christ to you with the arrows of death sticking in him.”
Little more is recorded of his last hours but we may with assurance believe that he was amongst those of whom John Newton sings:
Thus much (and this is all) we know
They are completely blest:
Have done with sin, and care, and woe,
And with their Saviour rest.
On harps of gold they praise His Name,
His face they always view;
Then let us followers be of them
That we may praise Him too.