Hymns - Jewels From Anne Steele
April 18, 2024
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
Anne Steele (1717–1778) was a pioneering Baptist female hymn writer of the First Great Awakening era. Called “the female poet of the Sanctuary” and “the mother of the English hymn,” she published 144 hymns, 34 psalms versified, and 30 poems.

Yet we will see that Anne Steele’s hymns have dropped out of most Baptist hymnals since the turn of the 20th century.

Anne’s father and grandfather were pastors. The Steeles were from a long line of non-conformists that were persecuted for their faith. John Rede, founder of Anne’s church, was imprisoned in the Tower of London for a number of years in the early 1660s.

“Though, after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, Dissenters were granted relative freedom of worship, they still had not been given full equality of citizenship. Nonconformists were ‘still excluded from the universities and from civic and political life’” (Joseph Carmichael,
The Sung Theology of the English Particular Baptist Revival).

Anne’s maternal grandfather was a representative of the Baptist General Assembly of 1689 that published the Second London Baptist Confession. The leaders of this gathering were William Kiffin, Hanserd Knollys, and Benjamin Keach. (This Baptist confession was based on the Protestant Westminster Confession, but modifications included adding “hymns and spiritual songs” to the topic of “Religious Worship.” The Westminster only mentions psalms.)

Anne Steele was “a poet from a family of poets” and corresponded “with a circle of witty and gifted writers that included both men and women.” It was a godly, cheerful atmosphere. “Each member of her immediate family appears to have been skilled in various aspects of literature, particularly poetry, and for edification and entertainment they shared their writings within the family circle many a night around a peat fire. The evidence shows that Steele both inherited her gift of poetry and cultivated it through constant interaction with those whom she loved. She was also involved in a literary circle with friends and family in which constant mutual sharpening of literary talents was the norm” (Joseph Carmichael,
The Sung Theology of the English Particular Baptists).

Anne worked hard on perfecting her hymn poetry. She sent drafts to such people as James Fanch, Baptist minister, classical scholar, and poet. Before she began to publish, Fanch said, “Her poetical compositions, both of the serious and amusing kind are almost inimitable, much beyond anything I have yet seen since those of Dr. Watts. ... I have several of them in my hands which she desired me to review, all of which are truly delightful” (Carmichael,
The Sung Theology).

Anne was greatly influenced by Isaac Watts. “Steele grew up from childhood singing out of Watts’ hymnbook in the Particular Baptist congregation at Broughton. J.R. Broome says, ‘It is clear that Watts’
Psalms and Hymns ... was the primary influence in her hymns and paraphrases of the Psalms’” (Carmichael).

“Even though Steele displayed an affinity and fond­ness for poetry from a young age, her original intent for writing hymns was for her own private devotional use. Anne’s father was so pleased with her compositions that he introduced them as congregational songs at his pas­torate in Broughton. Because metrical psalm singing had been the traditional congregational practice during this era, the introduction of Anne’s hymns into cor­porate worship indicated a significant change. It was with great reluctance—and only at the suggestion and encouragement of family and friends—that she agreed to introduce them to the public” (Holly Farrow,
The Hymn, vol. 70, no. 4).

Anne was very close to her father, William, who was also her pastor; she called him “honored father,” and he called her “Nanny.” When some of Anne’s hymns were being prepared for print, her father wrote in his diary, “Today Nanny sent part of her composition to London to be printed. I entreat a gracious God, who enabled and stirred her up to such a work, to direct in it and bless it for the good of many. I pray God to make it useful, and keep her humble.”

We see that Anne’s father was a wise man who cared more for his children’s spiritual condition than any worldly acclaim.

Anne suffered much with recurring malaria, painful stomach issues, and other maladies.

She chose to remain single, declining multiple marriage proposals, including one from Baptist pastor and hymn writer Benjamin Beddome. After the death of her father in 1769, she lived with her brother and was “essentially house-bound” for the last six years of her life.

On “Thoughts in Sickness, and on Recovery,” she wrote, “Of what a feeble texture is this mortal tabernacle! and how much is the tenant mind (though of an immortal nature) pained and depressed by its weakness, and hurt by the storms which shake this tottering frame” (Carmichael,
The Sung Theology of the English Particular Baptist Revival). At age 45, she wrote, “I know that faintness and dejection of spirit often attends long-protracted pain and weakness, but while the Eternal God is our Refuge, and underneath are the Everlasting Arms, we can never be utterly cast down. It was a good saying of Dr. Watts in his sickness, ‘The Business of a Christian is to bear the will of God as well as to do it.’”

Her poems were published in 1760 as
Poems, On Subjects Chiefly Devotional.

She gave all of the profits of her hymns to charity.

Her last words were, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”

Inscribed on her tombstone are the words,
Silent the lyre, and dumb the tuneful tongue, That sung on earth her great Redeemer’s praise; But now in heaven she joins the angelic song, In more harmonious, more exalted lays.

She published her hymns under the pseudonym
Theodosia, which means “God’s Gift.”

Anne Steele was a prominent voice in Baptist hymnology. her hymn poems were sung widely in Baptist churches in England and America in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Bristol Collection (first published 1769) included 62 of her hymns.

Selection (first published 1787), the first influential Baptist hymnal, featured 52 of her hymns, Approximately 200,000 copies of Rippon’s were sold in England and over 100,000 in America. John Taylor and other prominent Baptist preachers in America spoke of Rippon’s Selections in their diaries.

The hymnal published by Trinity Church, Boston, in 1808, featured 59 of Steele’s hymns (out of a total of 152).

Gadsby Hymnal, 1814, featured 27 of her hymns.

Some of her hymns were published in the
Sacred Harp shape-note hymnals.

Baptist Hymnal of 1847, published by the Southern Baptist Convention, had 48 Steele hymns.

In 1888, Henry Burrage (
Hymn Writers and Their Hymns) said over 100 of her hymns could be found in hymnals of that day.

In the 20th century, Anne Steele’s hymns largely dropped out of Baptist hymnals. In England, the
Baptist Church Hymnal (British Baptist Union) of 1900 had five, and that was reduced to two in the editions of 1933 and 1962. In America, the Baptist Hymn and Praise Book, 1904 (Southern Baptist Convention) had 19 Steele hymns, but the Broadman Hymnal of 1940 had no Steele hymns. This was the hymnal that was used in the Southern Baptist church I grew up in. The Baptist Hymnal, 1956, also had no Steele hymns.

The hymnals used among most independent Baptist churches have no hymns by Anne Steele. This includes
Soul-Stirring Hymns, 1973, Great Hymns of the Faith, 1968, Bible Truth Hymns, 2008, Living Hymns, 1972, and Majesty Hymns, 1997.

Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Melody Publications, 2020 features 13 Anne Steele hymns. See the chapter “The Hymnal.” https://melodypublications.com

Psalms and Hymns of Reformed Worship (1991, Metropolitan Tabernacle, features nine of Steele’s hymns. This continues in the pattern set by Charles Spurgeon in Our Own Hymn Book of 1866. https://metropolitantabernacle.org/worship-publications/

The loss of Anne Steele hymns is no small thing. The first time I recall hearing an Anne Steele hymn was when I was about 69 years old and had been saved for 45 years. On a visit to the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, I was so amazed by the Steele hymn we sang that Sunday morning that I made a point of looking it up online.

Returning to the study on Anne Steele, it has been said that “No one has excelled Anne Steele in her tender, memorable, sensitive expression of the heart feelings of a tempted, exercised, tried Christian” (J.R. Broome,
A Bruised Reed: Anne Steele, Her Life and Times).

Many of the Steele hymns focused on various aspects of Christ’s ministry from His eternal Sonship to His eternal Kingship.

Christ from incarnation to eternal glory “Redeeming Love” Anne Steele Common Meter

This amazing 39-stanza hymn begins with man’s awful fallen condition, then describes Christ’s complete ministry of “salvation’s glorious plan”: His departure from heaven, His virgin birth and incarnation, His healing ministry and Messianic signs, His rejection by Israel, His unjust trial, His vicarious suffering on the cross, His resurrection, His victory over the devil, His ascension, His high priestly intercession, and His glorious eternal reign.

1 Come heavenly love, inspire my song With thy immortal flame, And teach my heart, and teach my tongue The Savior’s lovely name.
2 The Savior! O what endless charms Dwell in the blissful sound! Its influence every fear disarms, And spreads sweet comfort round.
3 Here pardon, life, and joys divine In rich effusion flow, For guilty rebels lost in sin, And doomed to endless woe.
4 In our first parent’s crime we fell; Our blood, our vital breath, Deep tinged with all the seeds of ill, Sad heirs to sin and death.
5 Black o’er our wrath-devoted heads Avenging justice frowned While hell disclosed her deepest shades And horrors rose around.
6 Wrapt in the gloom of dark despair, We helpless, hopeless lay: But sovereign mercy reached us there, And smiled despair away.
7 God’s only son, (stupendous grace!) Forsook his throne above; And swift to save our wretched race, He flew on wings of love.
8 Th’ Almighty former of the skies Stooped to our vile abode; While angels viewed with wondering eyes, And hailed the incarnate God.
9 The God in heavenly strains they sung, Arrayed in human clay: Mysterious love! what angel tongue Thy wonders can display?
10 Mysterious love, in every scene, Through all his life appears: His spotless life exposed to pain, And miseries and tears.
11 What blessings on a thankless race? His bounteous hand bestowed! And from his tongue what wondrous grace, What rich instruction flowed!
12 The dumb, the deaf, the lame, the blind Confessed his healing power; Disease and death their prey resigned, And grief complained no more.
13 Infernal legions trembling fled, Awed by his powerful word; And winds and seas his voice obeyed, And owned their sovereign Lord.
14 But man, vile man, his love abused Blind to the noblest good Blasphemed his power, his word refused, And sought his sacred blood.
15 Still his unwearied love pursued Salvation’s glorious plan; And firm the approaching horrors viewed Deserved by guilty man.
16 What pain, what soul-oppressing pain, The great Redeemer bore; While bloody sweat, like drops of rain, Distilled from every pore!
17 And ere the dreadful storm descends Full on his guiltless head, See him by his familiar friends Deserted and betrayed!
18 While ruffian bands the Lord surround, Relentless, murderous foes; Meek, as a lamb for slaughter bound, The patient sufferer goes
19 Arraigned at Pilate’s impious bar, (Unparalleled disgrace!) See spotless innocence appear In guilt’s detested place!
20 When perjury fails to stain his name, The mob’s envenomed breath Extorts his sentence, “Public shame And painful lingering death.”
21 Patient, the cruel scourge he bore; The innocent, the kind! Then to the rabble’s lawless power And rudest taunts consigned
22 With thorns they crown that awful brow, Whose frown can shake the globe; And on their king in scorn bestow The reed and purple robe.
23 Ah! see the fatal cross appears, Heart-wounding, dreadful scene His sacred flesh rude iron tears, With agonizing pain.
24 Exposed with thieves, to public view Could nature bear the sight? The blushing sun his beams withdrew, And wrapped the globe in night!
25 Then, Oh! what loads of wrath unknown The glorious sufferer felt; For crimes unnumbered to atone, To expiate mortal guilt!
26 The Father’s blissful smile withdrawn, In that tremendous hour; Yet still the God sustained the man With his almighty power,
27 ‘Tis finished,’ now aloud he cries, ‘No more the law requires’ And now, (amazing sacrifice!) The Lord of life expires.
28 Earth’s firm foundation felt the shock, With universal dread; Trembled the mountain, rent the rock, And waked the sleeping dead!
29 Now breathless in the silent tomb, His sacred body lies: Thither his loved disciples come, With sorrow-streaming eyes.
30 But see the promised morn appear Their joy revives again; The Savior lives; adieu to fear, To every anxious pain.
31 His kindest words their doubts remove, Confirm their wavering faith; He bids them teach the world his love, Salvation by his death.
32 Triumphant he ascends on high, The glorious work complete Sin, death, and hell, low vanquished lie Beneath his awful feet.
33 There, with eternal glory crowned, The Lord, the conqueror, reigns; His praise the heavenly choirs resound In their immortal strains.
34 Amid the splendors of his throne, Unchanging love appears; The names he purchased for his own, Still on his heart he bears
35 Still with prevailing power he pleads Their cause for whom he died; His Spirit’s sacred influence sheds, Their comforter and guide.
36 For them, reserves a radiant crown, Bought with his dying blood; And worlds of light, and joys unknown, For ever near their God.
37 O the rich depths of love divine! Of bliss, a boundless store: Dear Savior, let me call thee mine; I cannot wish for more.
38 I yield to thy dear conquering arms, I yield my captive soul: O let thy all-subduing charms My inmost powers control!
39 On thee alone my hope relies: Beneath thy cross I fall, My Lord, my life, my sacrifice, My Savior and my all

Christ’s Atonement “A Dying Saviour” Anne Steele Meter: Long
1 Stretch'd on the cross the Saviour dies; Hark! his expiring groans arise! See, from his hands, his feet, his side, Runs down the sacred crime!
2 But life attends the deathful sound, And flows from every bleeding wound; The vital stream, how free it flows, To save and cleanse his rebel foes!
3 To suffer in the traitor’s place, To die for man, surprising grace! Yet pass rebellious angels by — O why for man, dear Saviour, why?
4 And didst thou bleed, for sinners bleed? And could the sun behold the deed? No, he withdrew his cheering ray, And darkness veil'd the mourning day.
5 Can I survey this scene of woe, Where mingling grief and wonder flow; And yet my heart unmov'd remain, Insensible to love or pain!
6 Come, dearest Lord, thy power impart, To warm this cold, this stupid heart; Till all powers and passions move, In melting grief and ardent love.

Music score

Christ’s Exaltation
“Now Let Us Raise Our Cheerful Strains” Anne Steele
1 Now let us raise our cheerful strains, And join the blissful choir above; There our exalted Savior reigns, And there they sing His wondrous love.
2 While seraphs tune th’ immortal song; O may we feel the sacred flame; And every heart and every tongue Adore the Savior’s glorious name.
3 Jesus, who once upon the tree In agonizing pains expired, Who died for rebels—yes, ’tis He! How bright! how lovely! how admired!
4 Jesus, who died that we might live, Died in the wretched traitor’s place— O what returns can mortals give, For such immeasurable grace?
5 Were universal nature ours, And art with all her boasted store, Nature and art with all their powers, Would still confess the offerer poor!
6 Yet tho’ for bounty so divine, We ne’er can equal honors raise, Jesus, may all our hearts be Thine, And all our tongues proclaim Thy praise.

Christ’s Intercession
“He Lives, the Great Redeemer Lives” Anne Steele
1 He lives! the great Redeemer lives! What joy the blest assurance gives! And now, before his Father, God, Pleads the full merits of his blood.
2 Repeated crimes awake our fears, And justice armed with frowns appears; But in the Saviour's lovely face Sweet mercy smiles, and all is peace.
3 In every dark, distressful hour, When sin and Satan join their power, Let this dear hope repel the dart, That Jesus bears us on his heart.
4 Great Advocate, almighty Friend! On him our humble hopes depend, Our cause can never, never fail, For Jesus pleads, and must prevail.

Music Score Midi BROOKFIELD

For the lyrics and music score to four of Steele’s hymns see “
A Treasure Chest of Little Known Hymns.” These are “Father of Mercies, in Thy Word,” “He Lives, the Great Redeemer Lives,” “Dear Father, to Thy Mercy Seat,” and “Redemption by Christ Alone.”

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