Joseph Hart was a prodigal. Born of Christian parents in 1712, he learned early to fear God and follow His laws. But the world attracted him and his focus shifted to baser things. The early training seems to have been wasted and his life took a decidedly anti-Christian turn. He didn’t just leave his faith, he aggressively attacked it through the things he published.
God still pursued him and Joseph wrestled with God for years. Eventually he turned again to the God who loved him. This time the struggle was between “Earning his salvation”, and “Assuming on God’s grace”. Neither extreme was Biblically sound and eventually he came to a saving knowledge of the one who saves us not because of our merit, but because of His grace. He also bids us to follow him, by leaving our old ways behind. But here I will let him tell you in his own words.
“He hath plucked me from the lowest Hell. He hath plucked me as a brand out of the fire! He hath proved himself stronger than I, and his goodness superior to all my unworthiness. He gives me to know…that without Him I can do nothing…Though an enemy, He calls me his friend; though a traitor a child; though a beggared prodigal, He clothes me with the best robe; and has put a ring of endless love and mercy on my hand,…He secretly shows me His bleeding wounds; and softly and powerfully, whispers to my soul: ‘I am thy great salvation.’ His free distinguishing grace is the bottom on which is fixed the rest of my poor weary tempted soul…When my dry empty barren soul is parched with thirst, He kindly bids me come to Him, and drink my fill at the fountain head. In a word He empowers me to say with experimental evidence, ‘where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ Amen and Amen.”
He struggled with assurance of salvation until one Easter he was confronted again by the God who loved him. After being overwhelmed by the suffering Christ he wrote the following hymn. For God uses even our wanderings to Honor Him. He became a preacher in London about 1760. Think of Joseph Hart as you read the words. They are a powerful testimony.
(The chorus was added later by an unknown author. The original tune was also replaced.)
(Joseph Hart 1712-1768)
Come, ye sinners, poor and needy weak and wounded, sick and sore,
Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity love and power.
Chorus: I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms.
In the arms of my dear Savior, Oh, there are ten thousand charms.
Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome, God’s free bounty glorify
True belief and true repentance every grace that brings you nigh.
Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of him.
Come, ye weary, heavy laden lost and ruined by the fall.
If you tarry till you’re better, you will never come at all.
I will rise and go to Jesus! He will save me from my sin.
By the riches of his merit, there is joy and life in him.
View Him prostrate in the garden on the ground your Maker lies.
On the bloody tree behold Him sinner will not this suffice?
Lo the incarnate God ascended pleads the merit of His blood
Venture on Him, venture wholly. Let no other trust intrude.
For further study: C. H. Spurgeon often quoted from Hart in his sermons. The above hymn being his favorite. He applied it to Hebrews 7:25 “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
(Above information taken from “The Story of the Hymns and Tunes” by Theron Brown and Hezekiah Butterworth – copyright 1906 – American Tract Society. and “www.biblicalstudies.org.uk” – Joseph Hart and his hymns by Peter C. Rae Cowdenbeath. His source was “Hart’s hymns” – Palmer’s edition of 1863.)