Blest Be the Tie That Binds
〝For this reason, ever since I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.〞 Eph 1:15-16.
As we begin the new series from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, it is good to remind ourselves that the church at Ephesus was characterized by their faith and love. As we shall see in our study together, the early church was far from perfect, but Paul still thanked God for their 〝love for all the saints.〞 Reflecting on this, I am reminded of a poem written by a country pastor John Fawcett (1740-1817) titled Brotherly Love. It is better known as a hymn Blest Be the Tie That Binds.
Growing up as a hymn-singing Christian, I remember being moved more than once by the simple sentiments of this hymn. Every line in this hymn evokes a longing for the reality of mutual love in action. It speaks so powerfully because the author practiced this love in his own life as a minister of the Gospel.
In 1766, John Fawcett accepted a call to pastor a small impoverished country church of simple folks at age 26, ten years after his conversion. He was a talented preacher and pastor. Soon he became known beyond his humble congregation at Wainsgate in Northern England. Not unexpectedly, he received a call to pastor a large and influential city church in London. He accepted the call partly because the stipend was much better and he had a practical need to provide for his growing family.
On the day of his scheduled departure, with their wagon fully loaded for the big move, almost every member of the little country church came out to bid them farewell. The pastor and his wife surveyed the faces of the deeply saddened parishioners surrounding the wagon. Mrs. Fawcett eventually broke down. 〝John, I cannot bear to leave. I know not how to go.〞 To which the pastor responded, 〝Nor can I.〞 With that they announced on the spot that they will stay, and stay they did for the rest of their lives.
John Fawcett’s ministry went beyond the country church through his writings. Though he subsequently declined an invitation to be principal of a Bible academy, he did found a school for young preachers and was conferred an honorary Doctor of Divinity by Brown University in the USA in recognition for his ministry. He died of a paralytic stroke after almost 50 years of uninterrupted ministry in one country church! It is a supreme example of a life-long relationship of one pastor to one church. The love of the congregation for the pastor moved him to sacrifice his natural ambition and devote himself unreservedly to the needs of that congregation. Take a listen to these powerful expressions of mutual love penned by a man who experienced the joy of receiving and giving Christian love:
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love!
The fellowship of kindred mind
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 our mutual woes,
Our mutual 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.