Many of the ‘old-time’ hymns aren’t sung much anymore, but they still hold a fondness in our hearts. As a child going to church, I well remember this hymn being sung at the end of the service. I did not grasp the meaning of its words, and it may be that neither did many adults. Often times only the first stanza of the hymn was sung. But in this song’s case you need to hear all of it in order to understand its meaning and the author’s heart when he wrote it. May this author’s story bring a new light to this song, and an understanding of the love that ties Christian hearts together.
John Fawcett was born on January 6th, 1740, to a very poor family in Yorkshire, England. He was orphaned by the time he was 12 years old. He took a lengthy apprenticeship with a tailor, working 14 hour days in order to survive. At the age of 16 he heard George Whitfield preach, and John became a Christian.
While he was still an apprentice, John became active in the Baptist church, and he was asked quite often to speak. When John was 25 (and had just wed his wife, Mary) he was asked to serve as the pastor of a small church in Wainsgate. The people of the village were all farmers and shepherds, very poor, most of whom were unable to read or write. They were not able to pay much, and most of what John received as wages came in the form of wool, potatoes or other produce. When John and Mary began having children they found it difficult to make ends meet.
After serving at Wainsgate for 7 years, John received a call from Carter’s Lane Baptist Church – a very prestigious parish that would be able to provide him a much larger salary. John decided to accept the position.
The Fawcett family packed their household belongings and prepared to move. The day came and the congregation was in tears as John and Mary prepared to leave. Mary is quoted as saying, “I can’t stand it, John! I know not how to go.” John responded, “Lord help me Mary, nor can I stand it! We will unload the wagon!” And John is recorded to have said to the crowd gathered around them, “We’ve changed our minds! We are going to stay!” John and Mary unpacked the wagon and let the church in London know that they would not be accepting the position.
Fawcett then wrote this hymn to express his thoughts and those of his wife to the poor people they had chosen to live and serve with. The following Sunday, after their decision to remain at Wainsgate, John Fawcett preached from Luke 12:15, “A man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things he possesses.” He closed his sermon by reading his new song.
Blest Be The Tie That Binds
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts and our cares.
We share each other’s woes,
Each other’s burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
John and Mary continued their ministry at Wainsgate for 54 years. Their salary was estimated to never be more than approximately $200.00 per year.
Among John’s noteworthy writings was an essay titled, “Anger”. It became a favorite of King George III. It is said that the King offered John any gift or favor he desired. But John declined the offer with this statement: “I have lived among my own people, enjoying their love; God has blessed my labors among them, and I need nothing which even a king could supply.”
Such was the heart and soul of the man who wrote these loving words. John Fawcett passed from this life on July 25th, 1817, at the age of 77.
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