Hymn Story

Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy

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Joseph Hart (1712-1768) was a good example of the truth from Proverbs,

“Train up a child in the way he should go,

and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

(Proverbs 22:6)

Hart was raised in a Christian home, but drifted far from the faith as a young man, living a thoroughly dissolute life.  Finally, at the age of 45, he heard a sermon on Revelation 3:10 that brought him back into the faith.

Hearing that story, I looked up Revelation 3:10.  Here it is.  Jesus said to the church at Philadelphia:

“Because you kept my command to endure,

I also will keep you from the hour of testing,

which is to come on the whole world,

to test those who dwell on the earth.”

I have no idea what the preacher said that day, but it had to be the work of the Holy Spirit rather than that of the preacher that made it possible for that word to find lodgment in Joseph Hart’s heart.  What we know for sure is that it changed his life.

Hart became as enthusiastic about his new-found faith as he had been about his earlier dissolute living.  He began to write hymns, and two years after his conversion published them in a collection called Hymns Composed on Various Subjects.  “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” was one of the songs in that collection.

Three years later, encouraged by those who found his hymns helpful, Hart entered the ministry. He had a powerful ministry in a London church for half a dozen years, where he served until his death in 1768.  Twenty-thousand people came to honor him at his funeral.

“Come, Ye Sinners” invites all manner of needy people to come to Christ, who “stands to save you” (v. 1).  Hart assures them, “He is able, He is able, He is willing; doubt no more” (v. 1).

I particularly like the second verse, which emphasizes grace.  Hart says, “Without money, without money, Come to Jesus Christ and buy.”  The point, of course, is that Christ doesn’t require payment from us.  All that is needed is that we come to him.  As Hart says in verse 3:

“All the fitness He requireth

Is to feel your need of Him.”

Exactly right!  That’s why we call it Gospel—Good News.  It is, indeed, Good News.

Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.

Copyright 2014, Richard Niell Donovan