Sunday, February 25, 2018

What think you of the preaching of John: a baptismal hymn

Below is hymn on baptism by a Baptist hymnwriter, written before or by 1791. It demonstrates the Baptist theology of baptism of time. It has appeared in several publications. The hymn is in found in A Collection of Hymns, for the Use of Christians by Smith and Jones, and The Latest Collection of Original and Select Hymns and Spiritual Songs, by Elliott and Stevens. (It is reported to be in the 1810 printing of Mercer’s Cluster, but I did not find it in the 1823, 3rd edition.) What I post below is somewhat of a composite, with some adjustment to keep the meter 11s throughout. It could be sung to a tune like Bellevue/Firm Foundation. It’s only 16 stanzas! Take a look.

Hymn XCVII (p. 74-75) in Divine Hymns: Or Spiritual Songs; for the Use of Religious Assemblies and Private Christians, by Joshua Smith and Samuel Sleeper, Portland: Printed for Thomas Clark, 1803; “A Hymn on Baptism, by Anna Beaman of Warren in Connecticut, composed about the time she was baptised.” (According to David Music in I Will Sing the Wondrous Story (p. 138), it appeared in Smith's first Divine Hymns in 1791.)

1. What think you, my friends, of the preaching of John?
Say, was it from heaven or was it of men? 
We hear him declaring glad tidings of peace, 
Proclaiming a jubilee year of release.

2. The Law and the Prophets continued till John,
Our Saviour hath told us when gospel began;
And since that, God’s kingdom is preached faith the word
And all men press in who have faith in the Lord.

3. The first of the gospel, the dawn of the day,
The voice of one crying prepare ye the way;
Bring forth your repentance, ye viperous breed,
And think not to say ye are Abraham’s seed.

4. A new dispensation to them he declares,
And preaches repentance to Abraham’s heirs;
The children of Abraham’s natural seed,
Found they had no right his baptism to plead.

5. But when he perceived that repentance was theirs,
Then he gave baptism to Abraham’s heirs;
For those who had been sealed to covenant things 
We find John baptising – confessing their sins.

6. He tells them their Saviour is already here,
And while he’s baptising our Lord doth appear
For to be baptised; and John shrinks at the thing,
And owns he has need to receive it from him.

7. But when he informed him it was his request,
He freely baptised him as he did the rest;
And this institution was owned from above:
The Spirit of God was sent down as a dove.

8. And his sweet example is left on record,
Whoever steps in, they will find a reward;
They’ll find peace of conscience and joy of the same,
When they are baptised in Jesus’s own name.

9. The Eunuch we find was in haste to receive,
His water baptism, when he did believe;
He went on his way full rejoicing in God,
While those who rebel must be tasting his rod.

10. The friends of Cornelius who heard Peter’s word,
Believed and received soon the seal of the Lord;
The Holy Ghost fell, then their joys did arise,
And Peter commands that they should be baptised.

11. Saint Paul’s great conversion he found in the way,
The light which shone round him exceeded the day;
Then he was three days, neither drank nor did eat,
Yet he was baptised e’en before he took meat.

12. We read where three thousand believed in a day,
And that they were baptised without a delay.
The house of the jailer believed in the night,
And they were then baptised before it was light.

13. Forbear then to censure by being in haste,
Or show me an instance where it was the case,
That primitive Christians e’er deferred the thing—
I answer my conscience to Jesus my King.

14. I’ll tell you how gospel appears unto me,
And pray to kind heaven that you all may see;
The wise and the prudent, ‘tis hid from their eyes,
While babes of the kingdom rejoice in the prize.

15. Some call it baptism and think it will stand,
A few drops of water dropped from a man’s hand,
In the face of the infant under the curse—
But we find no scripture which proves such to us.

16. There’s no being “buried with Christ” in this case—
And Jordan or Enon was John’s chosen place;
Our Lord in a river, John did him baptise,
And Christ’s sweet example we honour and prize.

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