Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748) was a minister, theologian, and logician born in Southampton, England. After studying at the Dissenting Academy at Stoke, in London, he served as a tutor, assistant to a minister, and, in 1702 a full pastor, a role in which he was known for his inspirational oratory. In 1712, due to a health matter, Watts went to stay with Sir Thomas Abney in Hertfordshire; he would remain with the Abney family for the remainder of his life.
Watts was a highly prolific hymn writer who is credited with authoring approximately 750 hymns. His works include “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”, “Joy to the World”, and “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”. Watts is widely regarded as the “Godfather of English Hymnody”. Many of his hymns are read today, having been translated into numerous languages.
Isaac Watts wrote the following about his mystical experience:
“Far in the Heavens my God retires:
My God, the mark of my desires,
And hides his lovely face;
When he descends within my view,
He charms my reason to pursue,
But leaves it tir’d and fainting in th’ unequal chase.
Or if I reach unusual height
Till near his presence brought,
There floods of glory check my flight,
Cramp the bold pinions of my wit,
And all untune my thought;
Plunged in a sea of light I roll,
Where wisdom, justice, mercy, shines;
Infinite rays in crossing lines
Beat thick confusion on my sight, and overwhelm my soul.
Great God! behold my reason lies
Adoring: yet my love would rise
On pinions not her own:
Faith shall direct her humble flight,
Through all the trackless seas of light,
To Thee, th’ Eternal Fair, the infinite Unknown.”
Quoted from “The Incomprehensible” by Isaac Watts.
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