1674 - 1748 Author of "The True Messiah Now Appears" in The Cyber Hymnal Isaac Watts was the son of a schoolmaster, and was born in Southampton, July 17, 1674. He is said to have shown remarkable precocity in childhood, beginning the study of Latin, in his fourth year, and writing respectable verses at the age of seven. At the age of sixteen, he went to London to study in the Academy of the Rev. Thomas Rowe, an Independent minister. In 1698, he became assistant minister of the Independent Church, Berry St., London. In 1702, he became pastor. In 1712, he accepted an invitation to visit Sir Thomas Abney, at his residence of Abney Park, and at Sir Thomas' pressing request, made it his home for the remainder of his life. It was a residence most favourable for his health, and for the prosecution of his literary labours. He did not retire from ministerial duties, but preached as often as his delicate health would permit.
The number of Watts' publications is very large. His collected works, first published in 1720, embrace sermons, treatises, poems and hymns. His "Horae Lyricae" was published in December, 1705. His "Hymns" appeared in July, 1707. The first hymn he is said to have composed for religious worship, is "Behold the glories of the Lamb," written at the age of twenty. It is as a writer of psalms and hymns that he is everywhere known. Some of his hymns were written to be sung after his sermons, giving expression to the meaning of the text upon which he had preached. Montgomery calls Watts "the greatest name among hymn-writers," and the honour can hardly be disputed. His published hymns number more than eight hundred.
Watts died November 25, 1748, and was buried at Bunhill Fields. A monumental statue was erected in Southampton, his native place, and there is also a monument to his memory in the South Choir of Westminster Abbey. "Happy," says the great contemporary champion of Anglican orthodoxy, "will be that reader whose mind is disposed, by his verses or his prose, to imitate him in all but his non-conformity, to copy his benevolence to men, and his reverence to God." ("Memorials of Westminster Abbey," p. 325.)
--Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A., 1872.
Watts, Isaac, D.D. The father of Dr. Watts was a respected Nonconformist, and at the birth of the child, and during its infancy, twice suffered imprisonment for his religious convictions. In his later years he kept a flourishing boarding school at Southampton. Isaac, the eldest of his nine children, was born in that town July 17, 1674. His taste for verse showed itself in early childhood. He was taught Greek, Latin, and Hebrew by Mr. Pinhorn, rector of All Saints, and headmaster of the Grammar School, in Southampton. The splendid promise of the boy induced a physician of the town and other friends to offer him an education at one of the Universities for eventual ordination in the Church of England: but this he refused; and entered a Nonconformist Academy at Stoke Newington in 1690, under the care of Mr. Thomas Rowe, the pastor of the Independent congregation at Girdlers' Hall. Of this congregation he became a member in 1693.
Leaving the Academy at the age of twenty, he spent two years at home; and it was then that the bulk of the Hymns and Spiritual Songs (published 1707-9) were written, and sung from manuscripts in the Southampton Chapel. The hymn "Behold the glories of the Lamb" is said to have been the first he composed, and written as an attempt to raise the standard of praise. In answer to requests, others succeeded. The hymn "There is a land of pure delight" is said to have been suggested by the view across Southampton Water. The next six years of Watts's life were again spent at Stoke Newington, in the post of tutor to the son of an eminent Puritan, Sir John Hartopp; and to the intense study of these years must be traced the accumulation of the theological and philosophical materials which he published subsequently, and also the life-long enfeeblement of his constitution.
Watts preached his first sermon when he was twenty-four years old. In the next three years he preached frequently; and in 1702 was ordained pastor of the eminent Independent congregation in Mark Lane, over which Caryl and Dr. John Owen had presided, and which numbered Mrs. Bendish, Cromwell's granddaughter, Charles Fleetwood, Charles Desborough, Sir John Hartopp, Lady Haversham, and other distinguished Independents among its members. In this year he removed to the house of Mr. Hollis in the Minories. His health began to fail in the following year, and Mr. Samuel Price was appointed as his assistant in the ministry. In 1712 a fever shattered his constitution, and Mr. Price was then appointed co-pastor of the congregation which had in the meantime removed to a new chapel in Bury Street. It was at this period that he became the guest of Sir Thomas Abney, under whose roof, and after his death (1722) that of his widow, he remained for the rest of his suffering life; residing for the longer portion of these thirty-six years principally at the beautiful country seat of Theobalds in Herts, and for the last thirteen years at Stoke Newington. His degree of D.D. was bestowed on him in 1728, unsolicited, by the University of Edinburgh. His infirmities increased on him up to the peaceful close of his sufferings, Nov. 25, 1748. He was buried in the Puritan restingplace at Bunhill Fields, but a monument was erected to him in Westminster Abbey.
His learning and piety, gentleness and largeness of heart have earned him the title of the Melanchthon of his day. Among his friends, churchmen like Bishop Gibson are ranked with Nonconformists such as Doddridge. His theological as well as philosophical fame was considerable. His Speculations on the Human Nature of the Logos, as a contribution to the great controversy on the Holy Trinity, brought on him a charge of Arian opinions. His work on The Improvement of the Mind, published in 1741, is eulogised by Johnson. His Logic was still a valued textbook at Oxford within living memory. The World to Come, published in 1745, was once a favourite devotional work, parts of it being translated into several languages. His Catechisms, Scripture History (1732), as well as The Divine and Moral Songs (1715), were the most popular text-books for religious education fifty years ago. The Hymns and Spiritual Songs were published in 1707-9, though written earlier. The Horae Lyricae, which contains hymns interspersed among the poems, appeared in 1706-9. Some hymns were also appended at the close of the several Sermons preached in London, published in 1721-24. The Psalms were published in 1719. The earliest life of Watts is that by his friend Dr. Gibbons. Johnson has included him in his Lives of the Poets; and Southey has echoed Johnson's warm eulogy. The most interesting modern life is Isaac Watts: his Life and Writings, by E. Paxton Hood. [Rev. H. Leigh Bennett, M.A.]
A large mass of Dr. Watts's hymns and paraphrases of the Psalms have no personal history beyond the date of their publication. These we have grouped together here and shall preface the list with the books from which they are taken.
(l) Horae Lyricae. Poems chiefly of the Lyric kind. In Three Books Sacred: i.To Devotion and Piety; ii. To Virtue, Honour, and Friendship; iii. To the Memory of the Dead. By I. Watts, 1706. Second edition, 1709. (2) Hymns and Spiritual Songs. In Three Books: i. Collected from the Scriptures; ii. Composed on Divine Subjects; iii. Prepared for the Lord's Supper. By I. Watts, 1707. This contained in Bk i. 78 hymns; Bk. ii. 110; Bk. iii. 22, and 12 doxologies. In the 2nd edition published in 1709, Bk. i. was increased to 150; Bk. ii. to 170; Bk. iii. to 25 and 15 doxologies. (3) Divine and Moral Songs for the Use of Children. By I. Watts, London, 1715. (4) The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, And apply'd to the Christian State and Worship. By I. Watts. London: Printed by J. Clark, at the Bible and Crown in the Poultry, &c, 1719. (5) Sermons with hymns appended thereto, vol. i., 1721; ii., 1723; iii. 1727. In the 5th ed. of the Sermons the three volumes, in duodecimo, were reduced to two, in octavo. (6) Reliquiae Juveniles: Miscellaneous Thoughts in Prose and Verse, on Natural, Moral, and Divine Subjects; Written chiefly in Younger Years. By I. Watts, D.D., London, 1734. (7) Remnants of Time. London, 1736.
454 Hymns and Versions of the Psalms, in addition to the centos are all in common use at the present time.
--Excerpts from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Watts, I. , p. 1241, ii. Nearly 100 hymns, additional to those already annotated, are given in some minor hymn-books.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)
Watts, I. , p. 1236, i. At the time of the publication of this Dictionary in 1892, every copy of the 1707 edition of Watts's Hymns and Spiritual Songs was supposed to have perished, and all notes thereon were based upon references which were found in magazines and old collections of hymns and versions of the Psalms. Recently three copies have been recovered, and by a careful examination of one of these we have been able to give some of the results in the revision of pp. 1-1597, and the rest we now subjoin.
i. Hymns in the 1709 ed. of Hymns and Spiritual Songs which previously appeared in the 1707 edition of the same book, but are not so noted in the 1st ed. of this Dictionary:—
On pp. 1237, L-1239, ii., Nos. 18, 33, 42, 43, 47, 48, 60, 56, 58, 59, 63, 75, 82, 83, 84, 85, 93, 96, 99, 102, 104, 105, 113, 115, 116, 123, 124, 134, 137, 139, 146, 147, 148, 149, 162, 166, 174, 180, 181, 182, 188, 190, 192, 193, 194, 195, 197, 200, 202.
ii. Versions of the Psalms in his Psalms of David, 1719, which previously appeared in his Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1707:—
On pp. 1239, U.-1241, i., Nos. 241, 288, 304, 313, 314, 317, 410, 441.
iii. Additional not noted in the revision:—
1. My soul, how lovely is the place; p. 1240, ii. 332. This version of Ps. lxiv. first appeared in the 1707 edition of Hymns & Spiritual Songs, as "Ye saints, how lovely is the place."
2. Shine, mighty God, on Britain shine; p. 1055, ii. In the 1707 edition of Hymns & Spiritual Songs, Bk. i., No. 35, and again in his Psalms of David, 1719.
3. Sing to the Lord with [cheerful] joyful voice, p. 1059, ii. This version of Ps. c. is No. 43 in the Hymns & Spiritual Songs, 1707, Bk. i., from which it passed into the Ps. of David, 1719.
A careful collation of the earliest editions of Watts's Horae Lyricae shows that Nos. 1, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, p. 1237, i., are in the 1706 ed., and that the rest were added in 1709. Of the remaining hymns, Nos. 91 appeared in his Sermons, vol. ii., 1723, and No. 196 in Sermons, vol. i., 1721. No. 199 was added after Watts's death. It must be noted also that the original title of what is usually known as Divine and Moral Songs was Divine Songs only.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)
See also in:
Hymn Writers of the Church
1707 - 1788 Author of "'Tis Finished! The Messiah Dies" in The United Methodist Hymnal Charles Wesley, M.A. was the great hymn-writer of the Wesley family, perhaps, taking quantity and quality into consideration, the great hymn-writer of all ages. Charles Wesley was the youngest son and 18th child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, and was born at Epworth Rectory, Dec. 18, 1707. In 1716 he went to Westminster School, being provided with a home and board by his elder brother Samuel, then usher at the school, until 1721, when he was elected King's Scholar, and as such received his board and education free. In 1726 Charles Wesley was elected to a Westminster studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1729, and became a college tutor. In the early part of the same year his religious impressions were much deepened, and he became one of the first band of "Oxford Methodists."
In 1735 he went with his brother John to Georgia, as secretary to General Oglethorpe, having before he set out received Deacon's and Priest's Orders on two successive Sundays. His stay in Georgia was very short; he returned to England in 1736, and in 1737 came under the influence of Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians, especially of that remarkable man who had so large a share in moulding John Wesley's career, Peter Bonier, and also of a Mr. Bray, a brazier in Little Britain. On Whitsunday, 1737, he "found rest to his soul," and in 1738 he became curate to his friend, Mr. Stonehouse, Vicar of Islington, but the opposition of the churchwardens was so great that the Vicar consented that he "should preach in his church no more." Henceforth his work was identified with that of his brother John, and he became an indefatigable itinerant and field preacher. On April 8, 1749, he married Miss Sarah Gwynne. His marriage, unlike that of his brother John, was a most happy one; his wife was accustomed to accompany him on his evangelistic journeys, which were as frequent as ever until the year 1756," when he ceased to itinerate, and mainly devoted himself to the care of the Societies in London and Bristol. Bristol was his headquarters until 1771, when he removed with his family to London, and, besides attending to the Societies, devoted himself much, as he had done in his youth, to the spiritual care of prisoners in Newgate. He had long been troubled about the relations of Methodism to the Church of England, and strongly disapproved of his brother John's "ordinations." Wesley-like, he expressed his disapproval in the most outspoken fashion, but, as in the case of Samuel at an earlier period, the differences between the brothers never led to a breach of friendship. He died in London, March 29, 1788, and was buried in Marylebone churchyard. His brother John was deeply grieved because he would not consent to be interred in the burial-ground of the City Road Chapel, where he had prepared a grave for himself, but Charles said, "I have lived, and I die, in the Communion of the Church of England, and I will be buried in the yard of my parish church." Eight clergymen of the Church of England bore his pall. He had a large family, four of whom survived him; three sons, who all became distinguished in the musical world, and one daughter, who inherited some of her father's poetical genius. The widow and orphans were treated with the greatest kindness and generosity by John Wesley.
As a hymn-writer Charles Wesley was unique. He is said to have written no less than 6500 hymns, and though, of course, in so vast a number some are of unequal merit, it is perfectly marvellous how many there are which rise to the highest degree of excellence. His feelings on every occasion of importance, whether private or public, found their best expression in a hymn. His own conversion, his own marriage, the earthquake panic, the rumours of an invasion from France, the defeat of Prince Charles Edward at Culloden, the Gordon riots, every Festival of the Christian Church, every doctrine of the Christian Faith, striking scenes in Scripture history, striking scenes which came within his own view, the deaths of friends as they passed away, one by one, before him, all furnished occasions for the exercise of his divine gift. Nor must we forget his hymns for little children, a branch of sacred poetry in which the mantle of Dr. Watts seems to have fallen upon him. It would be simply impossible within our space to enumerate even those of the hymns which have become really classical. The saying that a really good hymn is as rare an appearance as that of a comet is falsified by the work of Charles Wesley; for hymns, which are really good in every respect, flowed from his pen in quick succession, and death alone stopped the course of the perennial stream.
It has been the common practice, however for a hundred years or more to ascribe all translations from the German to John Wesley, as he only of the two brothers knew that language; and to assign to Charles Wesley all the original hymns except such as are traceable to John Wesley through his Journals and other works.
The list of 482 original hymns by John and Charles Wesley listed in this Dictionary of Hymnology have formed an important part of Methodist hymnody and show the enormous influence of the Wesleys on the English hymnody of the nineteenth century.
-- Excerpts from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Charles Wesley, the son of Samuel Wesley, was born at Epworth, Dec. 18, 1707. He was educated at Westminster School and afterwards at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated M.A. In 1735, he took Orders and immediately proceeded with his brother John to Georgia, both being employed as missionaries of the S.P.G. He returned to England in 1736. For many years he engaged with his brother in preaching the Gospel. He died March 29, 1788. To Charles Wesley has been justly assigned the appellation of the "Bard of Methodism." His prominence in hymn writing may be judged from the fact that in the "Wesleyan Hymn Book," 623 of the 770 hymns were written by him; and he published more than thirty poetical works, written either by himself alone, or in conjunction with his brother. The number of his separate hymns is at least five thousand.
--Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A., 1872.