Isaac Watts

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Were I so tall to reach the pole,
Or grasp the ocean with my span,
I must be measured by my soul;
The mind's the standard of the man.

Isaac Watts (17 July 167425 November 1748) was an English theologian, logician, and a prolific and popular hymnwriter. Known as the "Father of English Hymnody" he is credited with some 750 hymns, many of which remain in active use today.

Quotes[edit]

1700s[edit]

  • Were I so tall to reach the pole,
    Or grasp the ocean with my span,
    I must be measured by my soul;
    The mind's the standard of the man.
    • "False Greatness" in Horae Lyricae Book II (1706). Compare: "I do not distinguish by the eye, but by the mind, which is the proper judge of the man", Seneca, On a Happy Life (L'Estrange's Abstract), chap. i; "It is the mind that makes the man, and our vigour is in our immortal soul", Ovid, Metamorphoses, xiii.

1710s[edit]

Divine Songs Attempted in the Easy Language of Children (1715)[edit]

  • There's not a place where we can flee,
    But God is present there.
    • Song 2: "Praise for Creation and Providence".
  • Whene'er I take my walks abroad,
    How many poor I see!
    What shall I render to my God
    For all his gifts to me?
    • Song 4.
  • I would not change my native land
    For rich Peru with all her gold.
    A nobler prize lies in my hand
    Than East or Western Indies hold.
    • Song 5, "Praise for Birth and Education in a Christian Land", stanza 3. Cf. Psalms 119:72 (KJV): "The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver."
  • Lord, I ascribe it to thy grace,
    And not to chance as others do,
    That I was born of Christian race,
    And not a Heathen, or a Jew.
    • Song 6: "Praise for the Gospel".
  • Just as a tree cut down, that fell
    To north, or southward, there it lies:
    So man departs to heaven or hell,
    Fix'd in the state wherein he dies.
    • Song 10: "Solemn Thoughts of God and Death".
  • A flower, when offered in the bud,
    Is no vain sacrifice.
    • Song 12: "The Advantages of early Religion".
  • A flower may fade before 'tis noon,
    And I this day may lose my breath.
    • Song 13: "The Danger of Delay".
  • One stroke of his almighty rod
    Shall send young sinners quick to hell.
    • Song 13: "The Danger of Delay".
  • And he that does one fault at first
    And lies to hide it, makes it two.
    • Song 15. Compare: "Dare to be true: nothing can need a lie; A fault which needs it most, grows two thereby", George Herbert, The Church Porch.
  • ...but every lyar
    Must have his portion in the lake
    That burns with brimstone and with fire.
    • Song 15: "Against Lying".
  • Let dogs delight to bark and bite,
    For God hath made them so;
    Let bears and lions growl and fight,
    For 't is their nature too.
    • Song 16: "Against Quarrelling and Fighting".
  • But, children, you should never let
    Such angry passions rise;
    Your little hands were never made
    To tear each other's eyes.
    • Song 16: "Against Quarrelling and Fighting".
  • Birds in their little nests agree;
    And 'tis a shameful sight,
    When children of one family
    Fall out, and chide, and fight.
    • Song 17: "Love between Brothers and Sisters".
Let me be dressed fine as I will,
Flies, worms, and flowers, exceed me still.
  • The wise will make their anger cool
    At least before 'tis night
    • Song 17: "Love between Brothers and Sisters"
  • In works of labour or of skill
    I would be busy too:
    For Satan finds some mischief still
    For idle hands to do.
    • Song 20: "Against Idleness and Mischief".
  • In books, or work, or healthful play,
    Let my first years be past,
    That I may give for every day
    Some good account at last.
    • Song 20: "Against Idleness and Mischief".
  • Why should our garments, made to hide
    Our parents' shame, provoke our pride?
    The art of dress did ne'er begin,
    Till Eve our mother learn'd to sin.

    When first she put the covering on,
    Her robe of innocence was gone;
    And yet her children vainly boast
    In the sad marks of glory lost.

    • Song 22: "Against Pride in Clothes".
  • Let me be dressed fine as I will,
    Flies, worms, and flowers, exceed me still.
    • Song 22: "Against Pride in Clothes".
  • Then will I set my heart to find
    Inward adornings of the mind;
    Knowledge and virtue, truth and grace,
    These are the robes of richest dress.
    • Song 22: "Against Pride in Clothes".
  • I have been there, and still would go;
    'T is like a little heaven below.
    • Song 28: "For the Lord's Day Evening".
  • Hush! my dear, lie still and slumber,
    Holy angels guard thy bed!
    Heavenly blessings without number
    Gently falling on thy head.
    • Song 35: "A Cradle Hymn".

"Our God, our help in ages past" (1719)[edit]

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
  • Our God, our help in ages past,
    Our hope for years to come,
    Our shelter from the stormy blast,
    And our eternal home.
    • Psalm 90 st. 1
  • A thousand ages in Thy sight
    Are like an evening gone;
    Short as the watch that ends the night
    Before the rising sun.
    • Psalm 90 st. 4.
  • Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
    Bears all its sons away;
    They fly forgotten, as a dream
    Dies at the opening day.
    • Psalm 90 st. 5.
  • From all who dwell below the skies
    Let the Creator's praise arise;
    Let the Redeemer's name be sung
    Through every land, by every tongue.
    • Psalm 117.

Psalm 98 "Joy to the World!" (1719)[edit]

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King.
Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.
  • Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
    Let earth receive her King.
    Let ev'ry heart prepare Him room,
    And heav'n and nature sing,

    And heaven and nature sing,
    And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
    • Stanza 1.
  • Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
    Let men their songs employ;
    While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
    Repeat the sounding joy.
    • Stanza 2.
  • No more let sins and sorrows grow,
    Nor thorns infest the ground;
    He comes to make His blessings flow
    Far as the curse is found.
    • Stanza 3.
  • He rules the world with truth and grace,
    And makes the nations prove
    The glories of His righteousness,
    And wonders of His love
    ,
    And wonders of His love,
    And wonders, wonders, of His love.
    • Stanza 4.

1720s[edit]

The Improvement of the Mind (1727)[edit]

The Improvement of the Mind 1727, 1741, 1885 edition online

  • Do not hover always on the surface of things, nor take up suddenly with mere appearances; but penetrate into the depth of matters, as far as your time and circumstances allow, especially in those things which relate to your own profession. Do not indulge yourselves to judge of things by the first glimpse, or a short and superficial view of them; for this will fill the mind with errors and prejudices, and give it a wrong turn and ill habit of thinking, and make much work for retraction.
    • (1727), Ch. I, General Rules for the Improvement of Knowlege, Rule VII -
  • Maintain a constant watch at all times against a dogmatical spirit: fix not your assent to any proposition in a firm and unalterable manner, till you have some firm and unalterable ground for it, and till you have arrived at some clear and sure evidence.
    • (1741), Ch. I, General Rules for the Improvement of Knowlege, Rule X "Avoid a dogmatical spirit".

Attributed from postum publications[edit]

Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1773)[edit]

Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs: In Three Books. … By I. Watts, W. Strahan, J. and F. Rivington, J. Buckland, G. Keith, L. Hawes W. Clarke & B. Collins, London, 1773

  • Fly, like a youthful hart or roe,
    Over the hills where spices grow.
    • Hymn 79, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book I.
  • And while the lamp holds out to burn,
    The vilest sinner may return.
    • Hymn 88, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book I.
  • Strange that a harp of thousand strings
    Should keep in tune so long!
    • Hymn 19, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book II.
  • Hark! from the tombs a doleful sound.
    • Hymn 63, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book II.
  • The tall, the wise, the reverend head
    Must lie as low as ours.
    • Hymn 63, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book II.
  • When I can read my title clear
    To mansions in the skies,
    I'll bid farewell to every fear,
    And wipe my weeping eyes.
    • Hymn 65 Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book II.
  • There is a land of pure delight,
    Where saints immortal reign;
    Infinite day excludes the night,
    And pleasures banish pain.
    • Hymn 66, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book II.
  • So, when a raging fever burns,
    We shift from side to side by turns;
    And 't is a poor relief we gain
    To change the place, but keep the pain.
    • Hymn 146, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book II.
  • I write not for your farthing, but to try / How I your farthing writers, may outvie.
    • An early couplet,quoted in Christian Hymn Writers,(ed Elsie Houghton) Evangelical Press of Wales, Bridgend,Wales 1982 ISBN 0 900898 66 6.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • My faith would lay her hand
    On that dear head of Thine,
    While like a penitent I stand,
    And there confess my sin.
    • P. 72.
  • The compassion of Christ inclines Him to save sinners, —
    the power of Christ enables Him to save sinners, — and the
    promise of Christ binds Him to save sinners.
    A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
    On Thy kind arms I fall;
    Be Thou my Strength and Righteousness,
    My Saviour and my All.
    • P. 82.
  • I believe the promises of God enough to venture an eternity on them.
    • P. 261.
  • How divinely full of glory and pleasure shall that hour be when all the millions of mankind that have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God shall meet together and stand around Him, with every tongue and every heart full of joy and praise! How astonishing will be the glory and the joy of that day when all the saints shall join together in one common song of gratitude and love, and of everlasting thankfulness to this Redeemer! With what unknown delight, and inexpressible satisfaction, shall all that are saved from the ruins of sin and hell address the Lamb that was slain, and rejoice in His presence!
    • P. 520.

Unsourced[edit]

  • Lord, in the morning thou shalt hear
    My voice ascending high.
    • Psalm 5.
  • 'Tis the voice of the sluggard; I heard him complain,
    "You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again."
    • "The Sluggard".
  • To God the Father, God the Son,
    And God the Spirit, Three in One,
    Be honour, praise, and glory given
    By all on earth, and all in heaven.
    • Doxology.

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