Belcher on Beddome
The prolific Baptist author Joseph Belcher (1794-1859), who spent the last 15 years of his life in America, wrote his last book in 1859. It was a book of Historical Sketches of Hymns, their writers and their influence. On Beddome he says
Most of our hymn-books contain a large number of compositions by the Rev Benjamin Beddome, a man of considerable talents and high attainments, but who spent the far greater portion of a long life in the seclusion of a small country village. He was the son of a Baptist minister, was called by divine grace at the age of 20, and baptised by the Rev Samuel Wilson, of London, about two years afterward. He visited Bourton-on-the-Water in 1743, and was prevailed on to accept a call to the pastorate, three years afterward. In 1749 he suffered a very severe illness, and on his recovery wrote a hymn which he afterward replaced by one commencing, — "If I must die, oh, let me die Trusting in Jesus' blood,— That blood which hath atonement made And reconciles to God."
Not long after his recovery he was earnestly entreated to succeed Mr Wilson, his pastor in London. So determined were this church to obtain him that, after sending call after call in vain, they deputed one of their number to urge the matter with him. This was discovered by a poor man, a member of his church, to whom the care of the gentleman's horse had been intrusted; and having, with excited feelings, brought the horse to Mr Beddome's door, the poor man said to the Londoner, "Robbers of churches are the worst of robbers," and at once set the horse free to take his own course. Mr Beddome's final reply was, "I would rather honour God in a station even much inferior to that in which he has placed me, than intrude myself into a higher without his direction," and remained in his pastorate at Bourton till his death. ...
Belcher then speaks of Beddome's attachment to Bourton and quotes from 'The wish'. He says that in 1749 he married 'an excellent young lady, daughter of one of his deacons, who was for 34 years his beloved companion.' He concludes
... Mr Beddome's ministrations retained to the very last all their liveliness and attractions, improved by the increased solemnity and wisdom of age. His earnest desire that he might not be long laid aside from his beloved employment was fully gratified; for, having during his infirmities been carried to the house of God, he preached sitting, and was only confined to his house one Lord's day. Only an hour before his death he was found composing a hymn, of which he wrote,
God of my life and of my choice,
Shall I no longer hear thy voice?
Oh, let the Source of joy divine
With rapture fill this heart of mine.
Thou openedst Jonah's prison-doors, —
Be pleased, O Lord, to open ours:
Then will we to the world proclaim
The various honours of thy name.
This excellent man fell asleep in Jesus, September 3, 1795, in the 79th year of his age, having laboured at Bourton 52 years. In the year 1818 a volume of his hymns was published, with a short but beautiful preface by the late eloquent Robert Hall, who says, "The man of taste will be gratified with the beautiful and original thoughts which many of them exhibit, while the experimental Christian will often perceive the most sweet movements of his soul strikingly delineated, and sentiments portrayed which will find their echo in every heart."