Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts 1674-1748

Hymn-writer, pastor, logician

(NB, these are notes from a handout used at a Bible Study at Salem in August 16; their style and prose will reflect this).


Born in Southampton to non-conformist parents.  Act of Uniformity- Rev Giles Say, Vicar of St Michael’s. £20 per month for absence from Church, £10 for each servant.

Ministers fined £100 for administering the Lord’s Supper; £20, then £40 for each occasion preaching to more than five persons outside the household. £1 in 1680= £225.64 in 2016 by some estimates.  Father a deacon- two spells in prison:

I'm not ashamed to own my Lord, or to defend his cause, maintain the glory of his cross, and honour all his laws.

Congregational Worship- lengthy, expository preaching and ‘free prayer’ and psalm singing.

Attended the dissenting academy in Stoke Newington, not Oxford or Cambridge. Became gravely sick in 1689- was converted.

Became a tutor, then a pastor, at Dr John Owen’s old church. Moved in with the Abney family for the rest of his life, having suffered severe ill health. Was criticised for ‘tampering with God’s Word’.


Introduced hymns – previously looked down upon in Calvinist, but not Lutheran. Consequently, few Christians in England sung about the cross until Watts.

After church one day, complained to his father about the quality of Sternold & Hopkins’ psalmody- ‘then produce something better’ was the reply; Credited with some 750 hymns.


‘I             am a vile polluted lump of earth,

S              o I’ve continued ever since by birth,

A             lthough Jehovah grace does daily give me,

A             s sure this monster Satan will deceive me,

C             come therefore, Lord, from Satan’s claws relieve me .

W            ash me in thy blood, O Christ,

A             nd grave divine impart,

T              hen search and try the corners of my heart,

T              hat I in all things may be fit to do,

S              ervice to thee, and sing thy praises too’.

Written aged 6.


  • When someone saw him in a coffee house and was disappointed with his appearance:

Were I so tall to reach the pole,

Or grasp the ocean with a span,

I must be measured by a my soul,

The mind’s the standard of the man

  • For Satan finds some mischief still For idle hands to do.
  • Learning to trust is one of life's most difficult tasks.
  • The tulip and the butterfly Appear in gayer coats than I: Let me be dressed fine as I will, Flies, worms, and flowers exceed me still.
  • ’Tis the voice of the sluggard; I heard him complain, “You have wak’d me too soon, I must slumber again.”
  • Acquaint yourself with your own ignorance.
  • Acquire a government over your ideas, that they may come down when they are called, and depart when they are bidden.
  • Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away; They fly forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day.
  • I would not change my blest estate for all the world calls good or great.
  • Our God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come; Be thou our guard while troubles last, And our eternal home
  • How doth the little busy bee Improve each shining hour, And gather honey all the day From every opening flower!
  • "I believe the promises of God enough to venture an eternity on them."
  • To be angry about trifles is mean and childish; to rage and be furious is brutish; and to maintain perpetual wrath is akin to the practice and temper of devils; but to prevent and suppress rising resentment is wise and glorious, is manly and divine."


What is worship? How should we Worship? Some sample verses for discussion:

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

Isaiah 12:5 “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.

Psalm 84:1-3 To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

Matthew 18:20 where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Revelation 19:10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy

Isaiah 29:13-16  And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

Psalm 96:9  Worship the Lord in the splendour of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

Revelation 4:11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”