Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy: A Story
The influence of the frontier revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries had added a custom on many evangelical constituencies within several denominations today to offer an altar call after worship. This practice gives an opportunity for those who are present to come forward to either make a profession of faith or to seek guidance and prayer.
“Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” is an invitation hymn that was first published in Joseph Hart’s "Hymns Composed on Various Subjects" in 1759. The original title of the hymn was “Come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.” Augustus Toplady, the 18th-century author of “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me,” changed the opening line “Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched.”
The anonymous refrain of the hymn that begins with “I will arise and go to Jesus” was referenced from the parable of the Prodigal Son. According to hymnologist Ellen Jane Lorenz, the refrain was found in Southern hymnbooks in 1811. Mr. William J. Reynolds, a baptist hymnologist, calls the refrain one of the “old-fashioned camp-meeting spirituals,” in which such short choruses “floated” from text to text.
Joseph Hart was born in 1712 in London. As he prefaced to his Hymns, Joseph lived his early life with a curious mixture of loose conduct, serious conviction of sin, and endeavors after the amendment of life. He changed and realized a permanent change not until in 1757 in Whitsuntide. He drifted from the faith of his family, and by his own confession became a “loose backslider, an audacious apostate, and a bold-faced rebel.” At the age of 45, Joseph experienced a spiritual revival and awakening after attending a service at a Moravian chapel in London. “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” may be partly an autobiographical commentary on Hart’s spiritual journey. He wrote many hymns with earnestness and love for Christ during the two years that followed his renewal.