Hymn writer Joseph Stennett was born in 1663 in England. Son of a Baptist preacher, brother to another Baptist preacher, and father and grandfather to yet two more, the Stennett name is well regarded in England’s Baptist history. According to Burrage’s “Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns,” Joseph’s father, Edward Stennett, was “a dissenting minister, who enthusiastically espoused the cause of the Parliament and the Commonwealth. After the Revolution, with other Nonconformists who had been conspicuous in the important events that preceded, he suffered persecution and for a short time imprisonment. Removing at length to Wallingford, without abandoning the work of the ministry, he engaged in the practice of medicine in order to support his family. Of his three sons, two became ministers and one a physician.”
Raised under his father’s active and godly example, Joseph made a profession of faith in early life and became a member of his father’s church. He benefited from skilled instructors and was well versed in philosophy, theology, French, Italian, Hebrew, and other languages.
When he was 22, he moved to London and became a teacher, and in 1688 he married Susanna Guill, daughter of French refugee and mercantiler George Guill. In 1689 Joseph Stennett became pastor of the Seventh Day Baptist Church in London, where he served for the remainder of his life. Since this church met on Saturday, Stennett would preach at other churches on Sundays. Burrage says, “ his cultivated intellect, polished manners, and high Christian character gave him a commanding position, and he was greatly esteemed in all denominations. At the request of his brethren he prepared and presented to William III an address with reference to his deliverance from the “Assassination Plot.”
Stennett first began to publish poetic works in 1693 and, by 1700, had garnered significant praise for his command of verse.
Joseph Stennett passed from this life on July 11th, 1713, leaving a widow and four children behind. Some of his last words were, “I rejoice in the God of my salvation, who is my strength and God.” After his death, his complete works, poems, and prose were compiled and published in four volumes in 1732.
His son, Joseph, and his grandson Samuel became Baptist preachers, undoubtedly influenced by the godly men who came before them. Samuel Stennett followed further in his grandfather’s footsteps in full measure as a preacher, a man of education and influence in his day, a hymn writer, and an author of various theological materials. Among the songs credited to Samuel’s pen are the familiar “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand” and “Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned.”
Below, “Who Laughs at Sin” by Joseph Stennett Sr.
Welcomes approaching torments with his smiles,
For so absurd a fool there wants a name