John Bakewell was born in 1721 in Derbyshire, England, and died in 1819 at the age of 98. His tombstone in London says,
“He adorned the doctrine of God, our Saviour, eighty years,
and preached His glorious gospel about seventy years.”
So he lived to be ninety-eight—and was a Christian eighty years—and preached seventy years.
The eighteen years of Bakewell’s life unaccounted for in the eighty years mentioned on his tombstone were the first eighteen years of his life. He was converted at age eighteen as a result of reading Thomas Boston’s book, Human Nature in its Fourfold State—a notable Christian book of that era. That reminded me of the power of the written word to change people’s lives.
Bakewell began preaching shortly after his conversion. He encountered serious (and sometimes violent) opposition, but often converted his opponents and enlisted them in Christ’s service. Active in the Methodist movement, he was well acquainted with John and Charles Wesley.
A talented musician, Bakewell made Christian music an important part of his ministry. Not only did he perform personally, but he also wrote a number of hymns. He published two books of hymns that became quite popular. “Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus!” is the only one that is still commonly sung today.
The first verse celebrates the salvation work of Jesus on this Earth:
Hail, Thou once despisèd Jesus! Hail, Thou Galilean King!
Thou didst suffer to release us; Thou didst free salvation bring.
Hail, Thou universal Savior, who hast borne our sin and shame!
By Thy merits we find favor; life is given through Thy Name.
The second verse celebrates the exalted Jesus—seated in glory—working there to prepare a place of us:
Jesus, hail! enthroned in glory, there forever to abide;
All the heavenly hosts adore Thee, seated at Thy Father’s side.
There for sinners Thou art pleading; there Thou dost our place prepare;
Thou for saints art interceding till in glory they appear.
The third verse ascribes praise to Christ—and calls us to join in singing his praises:
Worship, honor, power and blessing Christ is worthy to receive;
Loudest praises, without ceasing, right it is for us to give.
Help, ye bright angelic spirits, bring your sweetest, noblest lays;
Help to sing of Jesus’ merits, help to chant Emmanuel’s praise!
Copyright 2014, Richard Niell Donovan