Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts was born in Southhampton, England on July 17, 1674. His father had spent quite a lot of time in prison because he would not conform to the mandates of the Church of England. Watts was pastor of a large Congregational church in London but poor health prevented him from devoting very much time to his ministerial duties. When he tried to resign because of his poor health, the congregation insisted that he remain as long as he lived.

Watts is credited with having written over 750 hymns, including setting most of the Psalms into English metre, many of them set in multiple metres. Benjamin Franklin first brought Watts psalms and hymns to the United States.Watts died in 1748.

A very good short sketch of Watts life is available at:

We will be posting most of Watts psalms here, as well as the words of many of his other hymns.

Watts Metrical Psalms

One version of Watts metrical psalms was titled "The Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament," which describes Watts approach to the Psalms quite well. Where most other psalm settings from Watts' time tried to be as literal to the original text as possible, Watts often put the Psalms into the language of a Christian. Thus, prophetic references to the Christ were translated to say Christ, etc. A good example is his Psalm 2.

Psalm 1      (S.M): The Man is Ever Blessed
Psalm 2      (C.M): Why Did the Nations Join to Slay?
Psalm 3      (C.M. & LM): My God, How Many Are My Fears
Psalm 8      (C.M.)
Psalm 19    (L.M) (Abridged paraphrase)
Psalm 32    (C.M) (paraphrase)
Psalm 33    (C.M and 888 888)
Psalm 34   (L.M and C.M.)
Psalm 35   (C.M.)
Psalm 36   (L.M, C.M., S.M)
Psalm 46  (L.M.)
Psalm 72   (L.M.)
Psalm 73   (CM, LM, SM)
Psalm 74   (C.M)
Psalm 76   (CM)
Psalm 81    (S.M.) (v1, 8-16)
Psalm 90    (C.M, L.M & S.M)
Psalm 101  (L.M. & C.M)
Psalm 103  (L.M.)
Psalm 107  (LM & CM)
Psalm 109  (LM)
Psalm 110  (LM & CM)
Psalm 111  (CM)
Psalm 112  (3 versions)
Psalm 113 (2 versions)
Psalm 114 (LM)
Psalm 115 (2 versions)
Psalm 127  (L.M & C.M.)
Psalm 128  (C.M.)
Psalm 146  (L.M. & 6-8's)

Other Scriptures in Metre

Watts, perhaps more than any other writer, set scriptures other than the Psalms into metre for singing. We will be trying to add to this section frequently.

Isaiah 26:1-6 (C.M.) 
How Filled With Honor is the Place, a song based on Isaac Watts paraphrase of Isa 26:1-6. Zion in this song is figuratative for the church, which was established at Pentecost when the first disciples were added following Peter's sermon.
1 Jn 3:1-3, Gal 4:6; Our Adoption (S.M.)
Behold What Wonderous Love, a song with words adapted from an Isaac Watts paraphrase of 1 Jn 3:1-3 and Gal 4:6. One of the important aspects of Pentacost is our adoption as the firstfruits of God's family, which is portrayed in this song.

Divine and Moral Songs for Children

Although he never married, and Watts loved children. He wrote a book of poems for children titled "Divine and Moral Songs for Children."   Many of the poems contain simple lessons about things like "going to heaven" or "going to hell", but there are several that do not include any such references. We have included a few of the better ones here. They are all in metre, so they can be sung.

Praise for Creation and Providence
Better known as "I Sing the Mighty Power of God." Interesting that this was written to be a song for childern while today it seems that many adults do not know Who created the earth.
Examples of Early Piety
Against Lying
You will have to decide for yourself if you want to send a copy of this to your "favorite" politician.
Against Quarrelling and Fighting
Change "children" to "Christians" in this song and it is an excellent lesson for the church today, especially those in leadership positons who seem to be having such a hard time getting along.  See also the next song.
Against Scoffing and Calling Names
We would especially commend this lesson to those lay-members who are so anxious to judge and loudly criticize our leaders for their perceived shortcomings.

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Page last modified on: 07/29/2004