Story for the Week

17 December 1836 • John Rippon, Reconciler

John Rippon was an extraordinary faith-filled young man. In 1771, when he was just twenty, Carter Lane Baptist Church invited him to try out for their pulpit. Rippon had been a Christian just four years. He trembled at the offer because famed theologian John Gill had been the church’s pastor. It would be hard for one so young to follow so eminent a preacher. Nonetheless, he accepted the challenge and the majority of the congregation voted to call him. Forty members withdrew, however, saying he was too young to be their pastor. They proceeded to build a new place of worship.

John Rippon
John Rippon.

In the face of this rejection, Rippon showed wisdom beyond his years. He said he was surprised only forty had withdrawn and urged his remaining congregation to help finance the new building. What is more, he participated in the consecration of the rival pastor—who, ironically, was only nineteen! Because of Rippon’s good-humored response, the split did not become notorious, and the two churches became allies in the kingdom of Christ.

But ironically, instead of hearing of this extraordinary act of reconciliation and the revival that broke out on his watch, you are most likely to hear of his publications. The most important of these was his Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, Intended to Be an Appendix to Dr. Watts’ Psalms and Hymns. This hymnal sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Among the songs he added to modern hymnals were “Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned upon the Savior’s Brow” and “How Firm a Foundation.”

The Carter Lane Baptist Church represented much wealth and Rippon encouraged its members to support Baptist world missions. After several years in which illness robbed him of usefulness, he died on this day, 17 December 1836, having preached at Carter Lane for sixty years and edited the Baptist Annual for twelve. His pulpit would later be occupied by another famous Baptist—the youthful Charles Spurgeon.

References:

  1. Burrage, Henry S. Baptist Hymnwriters and Their Hymns. Portland, ME: Brown, Thurston & Company, 1888.
  2. Dr. Watts’ Psalms and Hymns with Dr. Rippon’s Selections. London: William Whittemore, and Houlston and Stoneman.
  3. Drummond, Lewis A. Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers. Kregel
  4. “John Rippon, D.D.” Cathcart’s Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881.
  5. Spurgeon, Charles H. The Spurgeon Series 1859 & 1860: Unabridged Sermons In Modern Language.
  6. Thomas, David. The Homilist. Vol III. London: Ward and Co., n.d.

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