Behind the Hymn: Bless Be the Ties that Bind
Blest Be the Tie that Binds was written by John Fawcett.
John Fawcett was born on January 6, 1740 in Yorkshire, England. By the age of twelve, he was an orphan and “bound out” to a tailor in Bradford. The hours were long and hard.
He learned to read and is said to have mastered the John Bunyan classic, Pilgrim’s Progress.
John Fawcett was converted to Christ at the age of sixteen, when he heard George Whitefield preaching in an open field. He felt called to preach and George Whitefield gave him his blessing.
His congregation at Wainsgate was small. Hymnologists Albert Bailey stated “The people were all farmers and shepherds, poor as Job’s turkey… a straggling group of houses on the top of a barren hill… an uncouth lot whose speech one could hardly understand, unable to read or write; most of them pagans cursed with vice and ignorance and wild tempers. The Established Church had never touched them; only the humble Baptists had sent an itinerant preacher there and he had made a good beginning.”
John and his wife, Mary, moved to Wainsgate in 1765. He engaged the people and built up in congregation.
With four children to care for the family decided to accept a larger pastorate, but when it came time to leave discovered they could not and decided to stay.
Bailey wrote “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.”
As many pastors of the day, hymns were often written to go along with the sermon. Fawcett wrote at least 160 hymns.
After unpacking, John Fawcett wrote Blest Be the Tie that Binds to express his love and appreciation of the people he chose to stay with. 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.
He remained at Wainsgate for 54 years.
In 1811, John Fawcett was awarded a Doctor of Divinity Degree from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. That same year he also published his Devotional Commentary on the Holy Scriptures.
John Fawcett passed to the next life on July 25, 1817. He was 77 years old.