Joseph Stennett (1663–1713)
Baptist Minister & Hymn Writer
Dictionary of National Biography
Joseph Stennett, Seventh-day Baptist, second son of Edward Stennett (d. 1690?) by his wife Mary Quelch, was born at Abingdon, Berkshire, in 1663. His father, a Lincolnshire man, was a chaplain in the parliamentary army, and appears to have held a sequestered rectory at Wallingford, Berkshire, where, after the Restoration, he had a seventh-day Baptist congregation, and supported himself by the practice of medicine. He published ‘The Royal Law’ (1658, 4to) and ‘The Seventh Day’ (1664, 4to).
Joseph was educated at Wallingford grammar school, and by his father and elder brother, Jehudah, both of whom wrote Hebrew grammars. In 1685 he settled in London as a schoolmaster, and joined (28 Sept. 1686) in reviving a seventh-day Baptist congregation at Pinners' Hall, Old Broad Street, his father undertaking the pastorate. He was sometime evening lecturer to a seventh-day Baptist congregation at Devonshire Square, and on 4 March 1690–1 was ordained pastor at Pinners' Hall by Hanserd Knollys [q. v.] and others. He was also Sunday lecturer (before 1695) to the general Baptist congregation, Paul's Alley, Barbican, where his hearers in 1700 remonstrated against his preaching Calvinism. On several public occasions he was the trusted representative of the whole body of Baptists. The general Baptist association, in 1704, deputed him to write a history of baptism; he collected materials, but his health gave way. He was a fluent preacher with a silvery voice. One of his printed sermons gained him a mark of favour from Queen Anne. He is now best known as a hymn-writer, and is the earliest English Baptist whose hymns are still sung. Dr. Julian specifies eight of his hymns as now in common use. Stennett died at Knaphill, near Hughenden, Buckinghamshire, on 11 July 1713, and was buried in Hughenden churchyard. His tombstone bears a Latin inscription by John Ward (1679–1740) [q. v.] His portrait was engraved by Vertue. He married in 1688 Susanna, younger daughter of George Guill, a Huguenot refugee of distinction, and was thus the brother-in-law of Daniel Williams, D.D. [q. v.], founder of dissenting trusts. He left four children.
Stennett's works, consisting mainly of sermons (nine published separately), were collected, with a ‘Life’ (1732, 8vo, 4 vols.). The fourth volume contains his hymns (originally published 1697–1712) and his version of Solomon's Song (1700). Not included in his ‘Works’ are ‘An Answer to Mr. David Russen's … Picture of the Anabaptists,’ 1704, and several translations from the French. He printed anonymously political satires in verse; some are said to be in the ‘Poems on State Affairs.’
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 54, p. 150; via the Internet. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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