Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts, who lived in England in the 17th and 18th centuries, penned hundreds (maybe more) poems and hymns (if Wikipedia is accurate, 750 credited hymns). He was also a theologian and logician. For instance, in his classic book Logic, Watts wrote,

"The power of reasoning was given us by our Maker, for this very end, to pursue truth; and we abuse one of His richest gifts if we basely yield up to be led astray by any of the meaner powers of nature or the perishing interests of this life. Reason itself, if honestly obeyed, will lead us to receive the divine revelation of the Gospel, where it is duly proposed, and this will show us the path to life everlasting.” 

Unknown to many Christians who sing the hymns of Watts on a regular basis is that he had some theological persuasions which would be considered heretical by many, such as the denial of the Trinity. In the June, 2015 issue of Focus on the Kingdom, a columnist wrote, 

"It is evident that there is a close connection between Isaac Watts’ study of logic and his rejection of the Trinity. After devoting 20 years to intense scriptural study on the nature of God, Watts wrote: 'But how can such weak creatures ever take in so strange, so difficult and so abstruse a doctrine as this [the Trinity], in the explication and defence whereof multitudes of men, even men of learning and piety, have lost themselves in infinite subtleties of dispute and endless mazes of darkness? And can this strange and perplexing notion of three real persons going to make up one true God be so necessary and so important a part of that Christian doctrine, which, in the Old Testament and the New, is represented as so plain and so easy, even to the meanest understandings?'”

I possess a book called, "The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts," and in this book is most of his work, including poetry written from the content of many of the Psalms. One of his well-known hymns is titled, "Jesus Shall Reign Where'er the Sun." I had not known it until reading through this book, but the hymn is from a two-part work on Psalm 72. The popular form of the hymn is from part 2 of that work, and does not contain all the original elements Watts had in it. Here in full, are parts 1 and 2 for your enjoyment. (For any interested in seeing this book, you can view and download a digital copy here).

Psalm 72, Part 1

The Kingdom of Christ

Great God, whose universal sway
The known and unknown worlds obey,
Now give the kingdom to thy Son,
Extend his power, exalt his throne.
Thy sceptre well becomes his hands,
All heav’n submits to his commands;
His justice shall avenge the poor,
And pride and rage prevail no more.
With power he vindicates the just,
And treads th’ oppressor in the dust;
His worship and his fear shall last,
Till hours, and years, and time be past.
As rain on meadows newly mown,
So shall he send his influence down;
His grace on fainting souls distils,
Like heav’nly dew on thirsty hills.
The heathen lands that lie beneath
The shades of overspreading death,
Revive at his first dawning light,
And deserts blossom at the sight.
The saints shall flourish in his days,
Dressed in the robes of joy and praise
Peace, like a river from his throne,
Shall flow to nations yet unknown.

Psalm 72, Part 2

Christ’s kingdom among the Gentiles.

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
[Behold the islands with their kings,
And Europe her best tribute brings;
From north to south the princes meet,
To pay their homage at his feet.
There Persia, glorious to behold,
There India shines in eastern gold;
And barb’rous nations at his word
Submit, and bow, and own their Lord.]
For him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown his head;
His name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.
People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on his love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on his name.
Blessings abound where’er he reigns,
The pris’ner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blest.
[Where he displays his healing power
Death and the curse are known no more;
In him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.
Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the long Amen.]

No comments: