The Metropolitan Tabernacle is best known as the site of C.H. Spurgeon’s ministry, but he did not start that church. Several important men pastored there before him. Benjamin Keach was ordained and began his pastorate there in 1668. John Gill was an elder in that congregation for fifty-one years until his death in 1771. Following Gill, John Rippon was asked to become their under-shepherd.
On this day in 1773 Rippon wrote to the church. “Various have been the workings of my mind upon this weighty subject since I left you [after candidating]. Often and daily have I laid it before the Divine throne, impartially sought counsel of the All-wise and infallible Counselor.” He goes on to ask more time to pray about accepting their offer of the pulpit, “before I return an absolute and decisive answer to the call you have given me; which am rather inclined to…” After several months Rippon agreed to become their pastor.
Rippon’s predecessor, Benjamin Keach, has become known for introducing congregational singing to his congregation and to Baptists in general. John Gill is known for theology and his commentary on the Bible. Spurgeon is known for his sovereign grace evangelism. John Rippon is also well known, but slightly less so than his fellow elders.
Rippon was an admirer of Isaac Watts and scriptural hymns. He made sure that the Metropolitan Tabernacle continued to sing quality hymns by publishing one of our great early hymnals. It included material from several authors – including himself. For example, the arrangement of the hymn “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” which is best known to us, came from an adaptation made by Rippon. But his most famous work is his own “How Firm a Foundation.”
In one of my history books, it is said that originally there were seven stanza’s to “How Firm a Foundation,” but hymnal which our church currently uses gives us only five. That sent me on a search. I found that our first song book, “Inspiring Hymns” had only four verses fo this song, and the “All American” has five – but they are not the same five verses our current book has. I went through all the hymnals in my collection (about two dozen) and found only two which listed six verses – none had all seven.
I ask the people of Calvary Baptist to turn to 380 in our “Bible Truth Hymns.” Notice the first words in each stanza – “How firm a foundation,” “Fear not I am with thee,” “When through the deep waters,” “When through fiery trials,” and “The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose.” Our old hymnal, as many of you will remember, has another verse which says, “In every condition, in sickness, in heath, in poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth; at home and abroad, on the land on the sea, as your days may demand, shall your strength ever be.” It wasn’t until I checked my twelfth or fourteenth song book that I found the seventh verse, and it was as familiar to my soul as all the rest. “Ev’n down to old age, all my people shall prove, my sovereign eternal, unchangeable love, and when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn, like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.”
Why is it that we can’t sing all the verses of these great old hymns? Why can’t the editors of our current hymnals at least give us the opportunity to sing them all? Is the problem with us and our lack of patient worshipful hearts? Would we sing them if we had them all before us?