Stevens, John


b Aldwincle, nr Kettering, Northants 1776, d ?London 1847. After a Northants boyhood, he travelled to London when he was about 16, joining the Baptist Ch at Grafton St, Soho. The pastor there was Richard Burnham, whose hymns are well-represented in Wm Gadsby’s hymn-books. Stevens also began to preach and to write; he ministered at Oundle, St Neots, and Boston. When Burnham died in 1811, Stevens was called to succeed him, and as his vigorous Reformed preaching drew large congregations, a new building (Salem Chapel) was established in nearby Meard’s Court. He stayed as pastor there for the remainder of his life and with Gadsby became a patriarch of the new Strict Baptist movement. Among several doctrinal and polemic writings were A Scriptural Display of the Triune God and the early existence of Jesus’ human soul (1812). His hymns appeared in an 1809 book totalling 465 items (A New Selection…), which ran to several more edns until the final one with 970 hymns, edited in 1881 by J S Anderson of Zion Chapel, New Cross Rd. This features nearly 200 texts from Watts (the main source), and at least 35 from Stevens himself, including 11 on Baptism and 4 on the Lord’s Supper. They claimed to be ‘Arminian-free’, and rely less on experience and more on objective doctrine than Gadsby’s; Julian calls them ‘High Calvinistic, strongly expressed’, but adds that his Communion hymns ‘would be accepted by most Christians’. The book was used most widely in London, Kent and E Anglia. JS’s 24 lines of Clothed in flesh Jehovah see incorporates at least 6 lines lifted, more or less, from C Wesley. As an editor, while giving pride of place to Watts and generous room to fellow-Baptists, he found space for hymns by Anglicans such as Toplady, Newton, Lyte and even Keble (not to mention Alexander Pope!). See also notes to Andrew King. No.795*.

Hymns and songs by Stevens, John

Number Hymn Name
795 Great Father of glory, how rich is your grace