The Christian Almanac tells us that Isaac Watts, the English pastor and hymn writer of “Joy to the World,” was born in Southampton, England, on July 17, 1674. He wrote over 750 hymns, including the versification of all the psalms.
Esther Crookshank says this of Watts, “Between 1707 and 1739 in Southampton the young British clergyman and scholar of logic and philology [the study of words]…produced four publications by which he hoped to achieve a systematic reform of congregational song in England’s dissenting churches of his day…Accomplishing far more and reaching beyond what he could have anticipated his achievement indelibly stamped Protestant worship on both sides of the Atlantic for more than the next two centuries.”
Here is just a small listing of his hymns stamped on the heart and mind of the church:
• We’re Marching to Zion or Come We That Love the Lord
• Alas and Did My Saviour Bleed
• Am I a Soldier of the Cross
• When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
• O God, Our Help in Ages Past
• Jesus Shall Reign Where’re the Sun
• How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds
Many more could be added, but this short list helps us see the great influence of his hymns in the life of the church. We live in what has been called a post-hymnody world.
So The Christian Almanac ends its brief article by reminding us that his hymns (We could add most hymns.) “have increasingly fallen out of use in the modern church, despite the glorious truth they declare.”
My aim here is not to start a battle over the use of hymns, spiritual songs, and choruses in congregational worship. My desire is that you would focus on and meditate on the great truths that the hymns of Isaac Watts and others declare. You can do that in a very simple way. Purchase a hymnal and use it in your devotional life. Maybe you could begin by once a week picking out a hymn and using it as the basis of your time with the Lord. Reflect on the hymn and the truth it is presenting.
One hymnal I have lists a passage of Scripture for each hymn. Maybe a different text will come to your mind so use that along with the hymn. The same hymnal has a Scripture Reference in the back that can be used to tie the hymn with a Bible text.
Another hymnal I have contains a Topical Index. So you can find the topic and put it together with a passage from the Bible dealing with that topic.
From my teenage years to the present, we have used hymns in all of the churches we have attended. Even though I can’t carry a tune in a bucket I have memorized from constant use many of these hymns. Their words have comforted,
challenged, and convicted me.
Reflecting on the truths of biblical hymns is an excellent way to exercise the mind and the soul. After all, this will be our great joy throughout eternity. “And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb”(Revelation 15:2-3).