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… Go to person page >
How honourable is the place. J. Watts. [Safety of the Church.] This hymn, which is based on Is. xxvi. 1-6, has a two¬fold history; the first English, and the second Scottish.
i. English History. It was first published in Watts's Hymns, &c, 1707 (1709, Book i., No. 8), in 7 stanzas of 4 lines, and entitled "The Safety and Protection of the Church." In this form it came into extensive use with some of the Nonconformist bodies, and maintained its position until recently.
ii. Scottish History.—In 1745 it was included in the Translations and Paraphrases, No. xxix. (see Scottish Translations and Paraphrases) with the single alteration of stanza iv. line 4 of "trust in" for "ventured on his Grace." The principal changes were made in 1781, when in the Draft, stanzas i., ii., and vii. were rewritten, and a word or two in the remaining stanzas altered. This text with, in stanza vii. line 2, "brave" for “prop," was given in the authorized Translations & Paraphrases of 1781, No. xx., as "How glorious Sion's courts appear." W. Cameron (q.v.) ascribes this recast of Watts in his list of authors and revisers of the Translations & Paraphrases to Dr. Hugh Blair. It has been in authorized use in the Church of Scotland for more than 100 years, and is also given in a few English and American collections. J. E. Leeson's Paraphrases and Hymns , 1853, No. xlvi., "In Judah's land let Zion's sons," is a cento by Miss Leeson from the Scottish Translations & Paraphrases with alterations and additions by herself. Stanzas i., iii. Miss Leeson; stanzas ii., iv. as above. In the American Presbyterian Psalms & Hymns , Richmond, 1867, No. 560, "How glorious is the sacred place," is an altered form of Watts, 1709.