An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Watts, Isaac

(July 17, 1674-Nov. 25, 1748). Nonconformist clergyman. He was born in Southampton, England. He served from 1699 to 1702 as assistant and from 1702 until 1712 as pastor of an independent church in Mark Lane, London. Watts was never robust, and he went into semi-retirement in 1712 at the home of Sir Thomas Abney, where he lived until his death. There he devoted himself to writing theological and philosophical works, as well as hymns and metrical psalms. He is often considered “the father of English hymnody.” His Hymns and Spiritual Songs was published in 1707 and his metrical psalter in 1719. His metrical psalms are not strict paraphrases but Christianized versions of the psalms, as the title of his collection indicates, The Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (London, 1719). Seventeen of his hymns or metrical psalms are used in The Hymnal 1982, including “Joy to the world! the Lord is come” (Hymn 100), “Come, let us join our cheerful songs with angels round the throne” (Hymn 374), “When I survey the wondrous cross” (Hymn 474), “Jesus shall reign where'er the sun” (Hymn 544), and “O God, our help in ages past” (Hymn 680).

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.