Our church recently sang a Joseph Hart hymn and it reminded me of that impactful day when I stood over his grave in Bunhill Fields Cemetery just outside the city of London. This cemetery is just outside the city limits because these graves are marked as dissenters (NonConformists), those who would not submit to the corrupt religious authority of their day.
Yet, in this cemetery you will find some of the most faithful pastors who proclaimed the gospel amidst trying days. Men like: John Bunyan, John Owen, and the great hymn writer Issac Watts, all have graves marked in this legendary resting place. Seeing there famous graves is not what impacted me the most. It was seeing the grave of the lesser known pastor–Joseph Hart. I was so deeply impacted by the inscription of his grave as uniquely different from so many others. Joseph Hart’s grave stone reads as follows:
Joseph Hart was by the free and sovereign Grace and Spirit of God raised up from the depths of sin, and delivered from the bonds of mere profession and self-righteousness, and led to rest entirely for salvation in the finished atonement and perfect obedience of Christ.
Joseph Hart’s grave captures the essence of who we are in Christ and why we as pastors have given ourselves to pastoral ministry. It is not for the praise of men, the earthly rewards we might receive, nor the fame and notoriety many a popular preacher gets, especially in our culture today. We labor, die a little every day, and give ourselves to this labor of love because we,
by the free and sovereign grace and Spirit of God were raised up from the depths of sin and led to rest entirely for salvation in the finished atonement and perfect obedience of Christ.
Dear brothers and fellow pastors, do not lost sight of for whom and what we labor to preach Christ and shepherd his people. Begin now to consider how you wish to be remembered. Will you want a tombstone like John Wesley (just outside Bunhill Fields) and so many others with monuments and flowery words that articulate all you accomplished for Christ? Or, will you wish to be forgotten if it meant that Christ would not be forgotten to future generations?