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Hymn Writers of the Church
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Watts, Isaac, may be considered the father of English hymnody. The beginning of the eighteenth century marks a distinct period in the history of hymnology. The apostle of the new departure was Dr. Isaac Watts. He was the first to see the real need, and in large measure he succeeded in supplying it. (See note under No. 167.) He was born at Southampton July 17, 1674. He was a precocious child; learned to read almost as soon as he could articulate, and wrote verses when a little boy. He was firmly attached to the principles of the Nonconformists, for which his father had suffered imprisonment, and was therefore compelled to decline the advantages of the great English universities, which at that time received only Church of England students. He availed himself, however, of the privilege of attending a Dissenting academy in London, taught by Mr. Thomas Rowe, where he applied himself to study with uncommon diligence and success. During his school days it was his habit frequently to attempt poetry both in English and in Latin, according to the custom of the time. In this manner he was unconsciously preparing himself for a long, brilliant, and useful career. In 1705 he published his first volume of poems, Horae Lyricae, which was received with approbation in Great Britain and America, and gave the author, in the opinion of the learned Dr. Johnson, an honorable place among English poets. His Hymns and Spiritual Songs appeared in 1707; Psalms, in 1719; and Divine Songs for Children, in 1720. One characteristic of Watts's hymns is majesty. He is bold, massive, tremendous. This was not his only style of writing; some of his hymns are very pathetic. For example, "When I survey the wondrous cross" and "Alas! and did my Saviour bleed." Grandeur was his forte, but he could be as simple as a child and as tender as a mother. The same hand that wrote

Wide as the world is thy command,

Vast as eternity thy love,

also wrote the familiar little cradle song,

Hush, my dear, lie still and slumber;

Holy angels guard thy bed.

He became pastor of an Independent Church in London in 1702. He was so feeble that much of the time the work of the parish was done by an assistant, but he held the place nominally until his death. Dr. Watts never married. In 1713 he was invited to the elegant and hospitable home of Sir Thomas Abney. Years later he wrote to Lady Huntingdon: "This day thirty years I came hither to the house of my good friend, Sir Thomas Abney, intending to spend but one single week under his friendly roof; and I have extended my visit to exactly the length of thirty years." He wrote many works in prose as well as in poetry, amounting altogether to fifty-two publications. He lived to be seventy-five years of age, and was for many years before his death recognized as a patriarch among the Dissenting clergy. He died November 25, 1748. Westminster Abbey, that vast inausoleum of England's heroes, statesmen, poets, and saints, has been honored with a memorial of this great, good man. Underneath a bust of the poet the artist has sculptured Watts sitting at a table writing, while behind and above him an angel is whispering heavenly thoughts. The design is artistic and very appropriate. This Hymnal contains fifty-three hymns by Dr. Watts.

A broken heart, my God, my King 266
Alas! and did my Saviour bleed 146
Am I a soldier of the cross 393
Awake, our souls! away our fears 405
Before Jehovah's awful throne 6
Begin, my tongue, some heavenly 89
Behold the glories of the Lamb 167
Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove 183
Come, let us join our cheerful songs 24
Come, sound his praise abroad 3
Come, ye that love the Lord 22
Eternal Power, whose high abode 17
Father, how wide thy glory shines 79
From all that dwell below the skies 5
Give me the wings of faith to rise 606
God is the name my soul adores 80
God is the refuge of his saints 218
Great God! attend, while Zion sings 213
Hear what the voice from heaven 588
He dies, the Friend of sinners dies 165
How pleasant, how divinely fair 215
How sad our state by nature is 268
How shall the young secure their 204
I'll praise my Maker while I've 534
I'm not ashamed to own my Lord 441
Jesus shall reign where'er the sun 631
Jesus, thou everlasting King 7
Joy to the world! the Lord is come 107
Let all on earth their voices raise 9
Long have I sat beneath the sound 281
Lord, how secure and blest are they 439
Lord, in the morning thou shalt hear 41
My dear Redeemer and my Lord 140
My God, the spring of all my joys 535
My soul, repeat his praise 94
Now let the Father and the Son 719
O God, our help in ages past 577
Plunged in a gulf of dark despair 242
Salvation! O the joyful sound 287
Show pity, Lord, O Lord forgive 270
Sweet is the work, my God, my King 71
The God of mercy be adored 721
The heavens declare thy glory, Lord 202
The Lord Jehovah reigns 81
There is a land of pure delight 604
Thus far the Lord hath led me on 51
Unveil thy bosom, faithful tomb 586
Welcome, sweet day of rest 64
When I can read my title clear 440
When I survey the wondrous cross 141
Why do we mourn departing friends 595
Why should the children of a King 299
Why should we start and fear to die 581
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