Joseph Hart, 1712-1768

Julian's account of Joseph Hart:

Joseph Hart was born in London in 1712. His early life is hidden in obscurity. His education was fairly good; and from the testimony of his brother-in-law and successor in the ministry in Jewin Street, John Hughes, 'his civil calling was for some time that of a teacher of the learned languages'. His early life, according to his own experience which he prefaced to his hymns, was a curious mixture of loose conduct, serious conviction of sin, and endeavours after amendment of life, and not until Whitsuntide, 1757, did he realize a permanent change, which was brought about mainly through his attending the Moravian Chapel in Fetter Lane, London, and hearing a sermon on Rev. 3:10. During the next two years many of his most impassioned hymns were written. These appeared as "Hymns Composed on Various Subjects with the Author's Experience, London, 1759". During this year, he became the minister of the Independent Chapel, Jewin St., London. In 1762, he added a "Supplement" to his hymns and in 1765 an "Appendix". In modern editions of his hymns these three are embodied in one volume as:- "Hymns Composed on Various Subjects: With the Author's Experience, the Supplement and Appendix, by the Rev. Joseph Hart, Late Minister of the Gospel in Jewin St., London. Allot and Co. (No Date)".

Hart died on May 24th. 1768. At one time his hymns were widely used, especially by Calvinistic Nonconformists. Many of them are of great merit and are marked by great earnestness and passionate love of the Redeemer. One of the best known is "This God is the God we adore", a great favourite since 1856. It has retained its place, No. 23, in all the editions since 1856. It is often sung at the close of meetings, fellowship meetings, special occasions and in the homes of believers.

"How good is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend,
Whose love is as great as His power,
And knows neither measure nor end.

'Tis Jesus, the First and the Last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home,
We'll praise Him for all that is past!
And trust Him for all that's to come".

Julian has some interesting remarks about the history of the hymn as we know it:

"No Prophet, nor Dreamer of Dreams. J. Hart (Adoration), first published in his Hys. Composed on Various subjects, etc. 1756, in 7 stanzas of 8 lines, and based upon the words 'If there arise among you a prophet or dreamer of dreams, and giveth the sign or wonder, etc.' Deut. 13:1 etc. In its original form it is not in common use, but the following cantos have been compiled therefrom: 1). "This God is the God we adore". This is the last stanza of the hymn, and was given in M. Madan's Supplement to Psalms and Hymns, 1763, No. 182, broken into 2 stanzas of 4 lines. The same arrangement was repeated by A.M. Toplady in his Psalms and Hymns, 1776, No 127. From these collections it descended as an individual hymn to the modern hymnals. 2). Another rendering is, "This, this is the God we adore".

In the Enlarged London Hymn Book, 1873, the rendering is "How good is the God we adore." Mr. G.V. Wigram's hymn book of 1856 has the same. There is no evidence as to when this rendering was first used, but it is well known and loved amongst those called 'Brethren'.

The stories behind the writing of hymns are extremely interesting and one in the life of Joseph Hart is worth considering. Here is his story: "The week before Easter, 1757, I had such an amazing view of the agony of Christ in the garden, as I know not well how to describe. I was lost in wonder and adoration, and the impression it made was too deep, I believe, ever to be obliterated. I shall say no more of this, but only remark that notwithstanding all that is talked about the sufferings of Jesus, none can know anything of them but by the Holy Ghost; and I believe he that knows most knows very little. It was upon this I made the first part of hymn 1, 'On the Passion', which, however, I afterwards mutilated and altered." The hymn he wrote is "Come, all ye chosen saints of God". (Passion Week).

Hymns by Joseph Hart