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 should the sons of Adam's race. I. Watts. [Divine Majesty.] First published in his Hymns, &c, 1709, Book i., No. 86, as a paraphrase of Job. ix. 2-10, in 6 stanzas of 4 lines, and entitled "God, Holy, Just, and Sovereign." Its use is limited.
In the Scottish Draft Translations & Paraphrases, of 1745, it was given as No. 18 in an unaltered form; but in the revised issue of 1751 it appeared in a recast form by Dr. H. Blair. It appears, slightly altered, as No. 7 in the authorised issue of 1781, and as such has been in use in the Church of Scotland for more than 100 years. In her list of authors and revisers of the 1781 issue, W. Cameron's daughter claims these alterations of 1781 for W. Cameron (q.v.). It is given in full in all modern editions of the Scottish Psalms.
In the American Prayer Book Collection, 1826, the Scottish version reappears as: "Ah, how shall fallen man," and this has been repeated in other hymnals, including the Protestant Episcopal Hymnal, 1871. It was rewritten for the Psalm Book Collection by Bishop Onderdonk (q.v.).
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)