Above: Statue of John Howard, Bedford, England, Between 1890 and 1900
Image Publisher = Detroit Publishing Company
Image Source = Library of Congress
Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-08007
SAMUEL STENNETT (JUNE 1, CIRCA 1727-AUGUST 24, 1795)
English Seventh-Day Baptist Minister and Hymn Writer
Friend and Pastor of
JOHN HOWARD (SEPTEMBER 2, CIRCA 1726-JANUARY 20, 1790)
I commence the Eta (2014; Zeta phase was 2013) phase of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days by adding two Seventh-Day Baptists to the honor roll of faith. One might wonder what they would have thought of that. But they have earned it, for, regardless of any and all doctrinal differences I have with them, they did follow Christ and use their influence to improve the lives of others.
Samuel Stennett (c. 1727-1795) came from a line of Seventh-Day Baptist ministers which went back at least as far back as his great-grandfather. His grandfather, Joseph Stennett (1663-July 11, 1713), son of the Reverend Edward Stennett, was not only a preacher but a hymn writer and a classical scholar. Grandfather Joseph knew French, Hebrew, and Italian. He abridged the works of Plato (in Volume I and Volume II) and published baptismal hymns. His complete works fill a five volume set: I, II, III, IV, and V. And one of his hymns, “Lord, At Thy Table We Behold,” found a place in Christian Worship, the 1941 hymnal of the American Baptist Churches and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Samuel’s father–Joseph’s son–was also named Joseph. Joseph (son of Joseph and father of Samuel) was also a minister. When Samuel was ten years old, father Joseph became pastor of the Baptist church at Little Wild Street, London, Lincoln’s Inn Field, London. In 1748 Samuel became his father’s assistant. Ten years later, Samuel, aged thirty years, succeeded his father as pastor there.
Samuel wrote much; his collected works fill a three volume set: I, II, and III. He, like his grandfather, wrote hymns. Thirty-eight of those hymns appeared in Dr. John Rippon’s A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, Intended as an Appendix to Dr. Watts’ Psalms and Hymns (1787). One of Samuel’s hymns, from A Collection of Hymns for Public, Social, and Domestic Worship (1847), the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, follows:
On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.
O the transporting, rapt’rous scene,
That rises to my sight!
Sweet fields arrayed in living green,
And rivers of delight!
There gen’rous fruits that never fail
On trees immortal grow:
There rocks, and hills, and brooks, and vales,
With milk and honey flow.
All o’er those wide-extended plains
Shrines one eternal day;
There God the Son for ever reigns,
And scatters night away.
No chilling winds nor pois’nous breath
Can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
Are felt and fear’d no more.
When shall I reach that happy place,
And be for ever blest?
When shall I see my Father’s face,
And in his bosom rest?
Fill’d with delight, my raptured soul
Would here no longer stay!
Though Jordan’s waves around me roll,
Fearless I’d launch away.
Another hymn, “How Charming is the Place,” is here.
Samuel, who received his Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Aberdeen in 1763, was a good friend of King George III. The pastor used his political influence to lobby for religious freedom.
Another good friend of the Reverend Samuel Stennett was a parishioner, John Howard (1726-1790). Howard, son of a wealthy merchant, received his inheritance in 1742 and started his travels in Europe. In 1756 he was en route to Lisbon, Portugal, to help with the disaster relief after the recent earthquake, fire, and tsunami when pirates seized the ship on which he was traveling. Howard, allowed to return home eventually, moved on with his life.
Howard’s main cause was penal reform. In 1773 he became the high sheriff of Bedordshire. The new high sheriff found jail conditions appalling. The jailers and guards were not on salary, so they depended on fees charged to prisoners. Thus many acquitted people were still incarcerated because they could not pay the fees. Also, the states of some of the buildings made them health hazards, and health care for prisoners was not always available. Howard was primarily responsible for two penal reform laws the House of Commons passed in 1774. The first freed people in open court and abolished the discharge fee. The second required health care for prisoners and maintenance of facilities. Howard even paid for the printing and distribution of these laws. Yet enforcement lagged in places.
Howard affirmed the rehabilitation of prisoners. Thus he published The State of Prisons in England and Wales, With Preliminary Observations, and an Account of Some Foreign Prisons (1777) and its 1780 Appendix after traveling to research the subject in 1775 and 1776. These works were related to the 1779 act of Parliament which provided for prisoner reform and rehabilitation via solitary confinement, regulated labor, and religious instruction.
Howard devoted his final years to public health. The control of contagious diseases mattered to him. Thus he traveled to conduct more research, publishing An Account of the Principal Lazarettos in Europe (1789). His death came at Kherson, Russia, during a visit to a military hospital. Howard contracted the camp fever there.
Samuel Stennett and John Howard understood that they had obligations to help others. They acted on that knowledge and helped “the least of these.”
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JANUARY 1, 2014 COMMON ERA
THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS: THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS
O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,
and to give his life for the life of the world.
Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.
Through us give hope to the hopeless,
love to the unloved,
peace to the troubled,
and rest to the weary,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
—Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60