Beddome, Benjamin


b Henley-in-Arden, Warwicks Jan 1716/17, d Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucs 1795. He was originally apprenticed to a surgeon, but moved first to London and after attending the Baptist Ch in Prescot(t) St, between Aldgate and the Tower, he was ordained in 1740. His first and only ministerial charge was as the Baptist pastor at Bourton-on-the-Water, where he remained from 1741 to the end of his life. While there he saw hundreds of conversions; among young members called to the ministry was John Ryland (qv), while Beddome declined several invitations to serve ‘more conspicuous churches’. He wrote his hymns not for publication, but (like Doddridge, qv) to summarise his morning sermon and to be sung at the end of the service. A model of ‘evangelical catholicity’, he co-operated with George Whitefield and other Anglican gospel preachers as well as sharing a vision for worldwide evangelism. Some hymns were printed in his lifetime in collections edited by John Ash and Caleb Evans (1769) and in John Rippon’s 1st edn of his Selection…(1787). His Scriptural Exposition also appeared while he lived, but his sermons and complete 830 hymns posthumously, not until 1817, with an Introduction by Robert Hall (1764–1831): Hymns adapted to Public Worship or Family Devotion.

At their best these bear comparison with Isaac Watts and Anne Steele (qv), including her ‘national’ hymns; did he have her in mind when writing ‘What is the world with all its store?/ ’Tis but a bitter sweet;/ when I attempt to pluck the rose,/ a pricking thorn I meet’? Montgomery said they were ‘calculated to be more useful than attractive’ but also called them agreeable, impressive, brief and pithy. Some are very moving: ‘So fair a face bedewed with tears!/ What beauty e’en in grief appears!/ He wept, he bled, he died for you;/ what more, ye saints, could Jesus do?’. Or, ‘Let the loud cannon cease to roar,/ the warlike trump no longer sound;/ the din of arms be heard no more,/ nor human blood pollute the ground’ (from On Britain, long a favoured isle). Few if any Baptists wrote more hymns than he did; the 1967 edn of the Baptist Hymn Book Companion comments that Beddome and Steele ‘were outstanding members of a notable group of Baptist hymn writers, including also Ryland, Fawcett, Stennett and Swain, such as no subsequent generation has produced…they served their own times and pointed the way for others’ (p241). Beddome was a keen admirer of the Baptist anti-slavery campaigner and missionary enthusiast Abraham Booth (1734–1806), now almost forgotten. Julian gives details of over 100 of BB’s texts, adding that they were far more popular in N America than in the UK; any featured in the 1793 General Baptist Hymn Book. The USA preference was confirmed by T B Hewitt in 1918 but seems now to have changed, as his appearances in current American hymnals are rare and he is absent from the 1992 Southern Baptist book. 8 hymns found a place in various 19th-c edns of John Stevens’ Selection of Hymns; 3 are in the 2004 CH. Rhode Island Coll (now Brown Univ) awarded his MA in 1770. No.547*.

Hymns and songs by Beddome, Benjamin

Number Hymn Name
547 God, in the Gospel of his Son