Cennick, John (DNB01)

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CENNICK, JOHN (1718–1755), divine, was born in Reading on 12 Dec. 1718. His grandparents were imprisoned in Reading gaol as quakers, but his father, John Cennick, conformed to the church of England, and both he and his son were regular attendants at St. Lawrence's church in Reading. As a youth, Cennick suffered much from religious despondency. In 1738 he was greatly affected by the reading of Whitefield's 'Journal.' In the following year he went on a visit to Oxford, saw Wesley, and became a devout member of the early methodist band; the widespread indifference to the terrors of sin which had caused him so much anguish ceased to oppress him. He now went down to Bristol and began to preach under Wesley's guidance, but devoted the best of his time to teaching in Kingswood school for the children of colliers. After some months' combined work he had a serious difference with Wesley, and made a closer union with Whitefield. In 1745 he made a tour in Germany among the Moravian brethren. In 1747 he married Jane Bryant of Clack, Wiltshire, and two years later was ordained deacon in the Moravian church at London. He died in London on 4 July 1755, leaving a daughter, who married J. Swertner of Bristol.

A great number of Cennick's sermons, preached in Moorfields, Bristol, South Wales, Ireland, and elsewhere, were separately printed. Two volumes, of his sermons appeared in 1753-4. 'Twenty Discourses,' including many of these, followed in 1762. The 'Sermons' were collected on a larger scale in two volumes, London, 1770; were reprinted in 'Village Discourses,' under the supervision of Matthew Wilks, in 1819; and a selection of them was issued in one duo-decimo volume, Loudon, 1852. In addition to the sermons Cennick published four small collections of hymns:

  1. 'Sacred Hymns for the Children of God in the Day of their Pilgrimage,' London, n.d.; 2nd edit. 1741.
  2. 'Sacred Hymns for the use of Religious Societies,' Bristol, 1743.
  3. 'A Collection of Sacred Hymns,' Dublin, 3rd edit. 1749.
  4. 'Hymns for the Honour of Jesus Christ,' Dublin, 1754.

Several of these, such as 'Ere I [we] sleep, for every favour,' are widely known. The most popular, in a slightly abbreviated form, is 'Children of the Heavenly King.' A few of Cennick's hymns, left in manuscript, were printed in the 'Moravian Hymn Book' of 1789. All his hymns contain fine stanzas, but are very unequal.

A portrait, engraved by Atkinson 'after an original picture,' is prefixed to 'Village Discourses,' 1819.

[Bastard's A Monody to the Memory of John Cennick, Exeter, 1765; An Abstract of the Sufferings of the Quakers, 1738, ii. 13; Julian's Dict. of Hymnology; Darling's Bibl. Cyclop. i. 615 (with a detailed list of forty discourses); Rogers's Lyra Brit. 1867, p. 666; Tyerman's Life of Wesley, passim; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub.; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. S.