Berean Bible Heritage Church
January 18, 2018; 11:44 pm
Jerusalem Time

Isaac Watts

by Faith Marie Macomber and Deborah Macomber

Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts was born on July 17, 1674, and died on November 25, 1748. He was the oldest of nine children, and carried his father’s name.

His father was a clothier and was a deacon in the Above Bar Congregational Church of Southampton. He was imprisoned several times because of his religious beliefs. In fact, he was in prison when Isaac was born.

His mother often brought Isaac as an infant to visit his father in prison.

Isaac Watts could make good rhymes and his father started whipping him when his rhyming persisted, he said this,

O father, do some pity take
And I will no more verses make.

When Isaac was seven he wrote a poem on his name which showed his theological training:

I am a vile polluted lump of earth
So I’ve continued ever since my birth
Although Jehovah grace does give me,
As sure this monster Satan will deceive me.
Come therefore, Lord, from Satan’s claws relieve me.

Isaac Watts was educated at Free School. Watts learned Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.

Because of Isaac’s nonconformity with the Church of England, no universities would accept him. When he was sixteen, he began studying with Reverend Thomas Rowe. He practiced his own method of study, but was overworked, and became weak and sickly for the rest of his life.

He wrote his first hymn when he was twenty and living at home. The Churches then only sang Psalms, and Isaac wished to do something to improve the music. First, he wanted the poetic quality of the psalms sung in church to be improved. Also, he believed that the hymns should contain some New Testament theology. His father challenged him to write something better, and so his career began. In 1707-1709 his hymns were published.

He spent the next six years of his life as a tutor for the sons of Puritan John Hartopp.

When he was twenty-four (1699), he became assistant pastor at Mark Lane Independent Chapel, of Southampton, London. Watts preached his first sermon when he was 24 years old on July 20, 1698. He became a pastor three years later.

A year after Watts moved into Hollis house his health started failing and Samuel Price became his assistant pastor. The chapel moved to a new place. Isaac got a serious illness that lasted four years.

In 1712, when he was suffering from a severe illness, he was invited to stay at Sir Thomas Abney at Theobald. After he got better he stayed there with them till he died. He acted as a tutor to the children and chaplain to the household.

During this time he devoted his time to writing, he wrote about sixty books dealing with a wide range of subjects.

Isaac was not a very nice looking person, he was frail and often-sickly Watts never married but he had two good friends for thirty years. There was a lady that ‘fell in love’ with him reading his poetry, but when she saw him face to face she did not like him anymore. He was disappointed when Miss Elizabeth Singer would not marry him because he was so ugly. She said she liked the jewel, but did not admire the case that held it.

Some of the songs Watt wrote are:

  • “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed,” words
  • “Am I a Soldier of the Cross,” words
  • “At the Cross,” words
  • I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” words
  • “Jesus Shall Reign,” words
  • “Joy to the World,” words
  • “O God, our Help in Ages Past,” words
  • “This Is the Day the Lord Hath Made,” words
  • “We're Marching to Zion,” words
  • “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” words


Some of the history of Watts can be found at:

William J. Reynolds, Baptist Hymnal (Boardman Press, 19760). Page 254 & 454

Forrest M. McCann, Hymns & History A.C.U Press, 1997. Page 345 & 546

Deborah's sources were not preserved.

Last updated Saturday, December 26, 2009 5:09 PM PST

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