Joseph Swain was born in Birmingham in 1761, and after being apprentised to an engraver, removed to London. After a time he became a decided Christian, and being of an emotional poetic temperament, began to give expression to his new thoughts and feelings in hymns. In 1783 he was baptized by the Rev. Dr. Rippon and in 1791 became minister of a Baptist congregation in East Street, Walworth. After a short but popular and very useful ministry, he died April 14th 1796.
Swain published the following:
In Swain's Experimental Essays on Divine Subjects he has a note attached to two of his hymns. "The two following pieces were occasioned by the death of an only son". Sorrow has provided the experience for the writing of many hymns.
Swain's hymns in 'Spiritual Songs' are as follows: First lines only.
65 Oh how the thought that I shall know.
80 On earth the song begins.
202 What will it be to dwell above.
266 Christ the Lord will come again.
277 Christ's glory fills eternity.
Numbers 80, 202 and 266 seem to have been the most popular of Swain's hymns among those called "Brethren". They were included in the six editions of 1856, 1881, 1894, 1903, 1928 and 1978.