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"Who Was Isaac Watts?" - by Rev. Weldon Bares

Updated: Sep 5

A young man in England in the 1700s had health struggles as a child. In fact, he struggled with illness for his entire life, both physically and emotionally. He served as a pastor in the church, but his health issues were so daunting that he was not able to serve his congregation the way that he wanted to. Instead, he spent much of his time writing letters to them that were filled with hope.

One day, he complained to his father about the hymn texts of the day. In his opinion, they were uncultured and somewhat harsh. His father then challenged him to write better ones. So that is exactly what he did. In fact, he wrote over 750 hymns during his lifetime.

His name? Isaac Watts. Perhaps his most famous hymn is sung at Christmas time: “Joy to the world! The Lord is come.” My personal favorites include: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”

I have visited his grave at Bunhill Fields in London, the same cemetery with the graves of John Bunyan and also Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley.

The influence of Isaac Watts certainly reached around the world. The famous American preacher Cotton Mather often wrote letters to him. Benjamin Franklin published his hymnal. John Wesley once said that Isaac Watts was a genius.

I just wonder, would Isaac Watts have written such amazing hymns if his life had been easy and free of struggle? Somehow, I just don’t think so.

Victor Hugo in his great novel, “Les Miserables,” wrote, “Adversity makes men.” So true.

PS After looking at the picture of Isaac Watts, I wish that powdered wigs would make a comeback. It would put all of us on a level playing field!

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