John Fawcett was converted as a teenager listening to George Whitefield. He joined the Baptists and was ordained on July 31, 1765. He began pastoring a poor church in Wainsgate, finding time here and there for writing. His writings spread abroad, and the little church feared they would lose their pastor to a larger place. Fawcett wondered the same thing, lamenting in his diary that his family was growing faster than his income.
The call came from London’s famous Carter’s Lane Church. “Think of it!” Fawcett told his wife. “They want us in London to take the place of the late Dr. Gill at that great church! It’s almost unbelievable!” The following Sunday he broke the news to his church, then began packing. Books, dishes, pictures, and furniture were crated for the overland journey to the world’s largest city. When the day of departure came, church members assembled and bravely tried to hold their tears. Finally everything was loaded but one box, and Fawcett entered the house to retrieve it. There he found his wife deep in thought. “John,” she said, voice breaking, “do you think we’re doing the right thing? Will we ever find a congregation to love us and help us with the Lord’s work like this group here?”
“Do you think we’ve been too hasty in this?” John asked.
“Yes. I think we should stay right here and serve these people.”
John was silent a moment, for his heart, too, had been breaking. He nodded. “I was so overjoyed when the call came that I never really prayed about it like a minister should.”
They walked onto the porch, called the people together, revealed their change of heart, and amid joyous tears unloaded their wagons. Fawcett stayed at Wainsgate the rest of his life. But not in obscurity. Out of this experience, he wrote the world-famous hymn:
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love.
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above
I pray that your love will keep on growing and that you will fully know and understand how to make the right choices. Then you will still be pure and innocent when Christ returns. And until that day, Jesus Christ will keep you busy doing good deeds that bring glory and praise to God. (Philippians 1:9,10)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). July 31.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1986 – Death of Chiune Sugihara, Japanese diplomat who served as vice-consul for the Japanese Empire in Kaunas, Lithuania. During the Second World War, Sugihara helped thousands of Jews flee Europe by issuing transit visas to them so that they could travel through Japanese territory. The fleeing Jews were refugees from German-occupied Western Poland and Soviet-occupied Eastern Poland, as well as residents of Lithuania. In 1985, the State of Israel honored Sugihara as one of the Righteous Among the Nations (Hebrew: חסידי אומות העולם) for his actions. He is the only Japanese national to have been so honored.