29 August 2022 by Published in: Jared Smith, Hymn Studies No comments yet

I Sing The Mighty Power Of God

Author: I Watts[1]

Theme: The Common Grace Of God Unto Creation[2]

Text: Psalm 148:1-14[3]

1 I sing the mighty power of God,
That made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad,
And built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained,
The sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command,
And all the stars obey.

2 I sing the goodness of the Lord,
Who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word,
And then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed,
Where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread,
Or gaze upon the sky.

3 There’s not a plant or flower below,
But makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow,
By order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee,
Is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that we can be,
Thou, God art present there.

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[1] “Watts (Isaac) was born at Southampton, July 17th, 1074. He was the eldest son, there being four sons and five daughters, of Mr. Isaac Watts, the master of a very nourishing boarding-school in that town, which was in such reputation that gentlemen’s sons were sent to it from America and the West Indies. His parents, being conscientious Nonconformists, had suffered much from the persecuting measures of Charles II, his father having been imprisoned more than once because he would not attend the church. During his imprisonment, his wife sometimes sat near the prison-door, suckling her son Isaac. When about 7 years old, Isaac was desired by his mother to write her some lines, as was the custom with the other boys after the school hours were over, for which she used to reward them with a farthing. Isaac obeyed, and wrote the following:
“I write not for a farthing, but to try
How I your farthing writers can outvie.”
The precise time when effectual grace laid hold of his heart, I have not been able to learn. Dr. Jennings says, “Through the power of divine grace, he was not only preserved from criminal follies, but had a deep sense of religion on his heart betimes.” Some gentlemen at Southampton offered to defray the expenses of his edu- cation at one of the Universities, but he declined it, saying he was determined to take his lot amongst the Dissenters. Accordingly, in the year 1690, he was sent to London, for academical education under Mr. Thomas Rowe, and in 1693, in his 19th year, he joined in communion with the church under the pastoral care of his tutor. While at this academy, he wrote two volumes of Latin dissertations, and two English dissertations. One of the latter was on the subject of justification through the imputed righteousness of Christ; in which he says, “The devil has used many artifices to subvert us, among which this is a principal one, namely, filling men’s minds with wrong opinions concerning it, by representing it as an unholy doctrine; and this is the common prejudice against justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ received by faith alone, that it gives liberty to men to live loosely and sinfully, as though there was no room for good works in our religion, if they be not brought into our justification. But constant experience shows that this is a mistake; for they who embrace this doctrine are for good works as much as any, and dare not oppose the authority of that Spirit who, by the apostle James, pronounces that faith which is without good works to be dead. What we contend for is the right place, use, and end of good works in the matters of religion, that they may not be substituted in the stead of Christ, and the glory of our salvation be attributed to ourselves, against which the Scriptures so often caution us.” After he had finished his academical studies, being 20 years of age, he returned to his parents, where he remained two years. He was then invited by Sir John Hartopp to reside in his family, at Stoke Newington, near London, as tutor to his son, where he remained five years. He preached his first sermon on his birthday, 1698, and was the same year chosen assistant to Dr. Chauncey, pastor of the church then meeting in Mark Lane, London. In January, 1701-2, he received a call from the church to succeed Dr. Chauncey in the pastoral office, which he accepted the very day King William died, March 8th, 1701-2. Shortly afterwards, however, he was seized with an alarming illness, which rendered it necessary for the church to provide an assistant for him. As his health improved, he renewed his ministrations, but, in 1712, a violent fever so shook his constitution and nerves that debility attended him to his dying day. The distressing state into which he was reduced roused in his friends a tender sympathy. Sir T. Abney took him into his house, at Abney Park, Stoke Newington, and supplied him with every comfort he could need or friendship could suggest. Sir Thomas died in 1722, but the same benevolent spirit actuated Lady Abney, who survived Watts above a year. He was once favored with a visit, at Lady Abney’s, from the Countess of Huntingdon, when he thus addressed her: “Madam, your ladyship is come to see me on a very remarkable day.” ”Why is this day,” said she, “so remarkable?” “This day 30 years,” replied the doctor, “I came hither, to the house of my good friend, Sir Thomas Abney, intending to spend but one single week under his friendly roof; and I have extended my visit to exactly 30 years.” Lady Abney, who was present, immediately addressed the doctor: “Sir, what you term a long 30 years’ visit, I consider as the shortest visit my family ever received.” During the whole of Watts’s sickness, the church insisted upon his receiving his salary, notwithstanding that he protested against it, as having no title to it, seeing that he never preached. How different was that to the conduct of some people, according to whose treatment, as a dear man, now in glory, once said, “God’s ministers ought to be either angels or asses; for if they were the former, when they had done preaching they could fly to their better country; and if the latter, the people could give them a kick, and turn them into the lane!” During Watts’s residence at his father’s, after he left the academy, as already mentioned, he composed the greater part of his hymns. These were not published until 1707. He sold the copyright to a bookseller for .£10 only. A second edition was printed in 1709, corrected and much enlarged. His psalms were not printed till 1719. In 1728, the Universities both of Aberdeen and Edinburgh conferred upon him the degree of D.D. I have mentioned that, through a fever in 1712, Watts’s nerves were greatly shaken. Many strange stories are told respecting his nervousness and imagination, which, if true, would imply that he was really, at times, out of his mind; such as, for instance, his imagining that, though he was really only five feet high, he was too big to enter the pulpit or go through a doorway. Dr. Gibbons, however, positively denies these stories, from his own personal knowledge. Watts’s life was a life of study, and, consequently, very few interesting circumstances are connected with it. He was once in the coffee-room of an hotel, when he overheard one person ask another, “Is that the great Dr. Watts?” Upon which Dr. Watts turned suddenly round and repeated the following from his Lyric Poems:
“Were I so tall to reach the pole,
Or mete the ocean with my span,
I must be measured by my soul,
The mind’s the standard of the man.”
The following is recorded upon such unquestionable authority that its authenticity cannot reasonably be doubted. A person in Southampton, who was a stone-mason, and who had purchased an old building for the materials, previous to his pulling it down came to Mr. Watts, under some uneasiness, in consequence of a dream, viz., that a large stone in the centre of an arch fell upon him, and killed him. Upon asking Mr. Watts his opinion, he answered him to this effect: “I am not for paying any great regard to dreams, nor yet for utterly slighting them. If there is such a stone in the building as you saw in your dream (which he told him there really was), my advice to you is, that you take great care, in taking down the building, to keep far enough off from it.” The mason resolved that he would; but in an unfortunate moment he forgot his dream, went too near this stone, and it actually fell upon him, and crushed him to death. Watts was several years distressed with continual wakefulness, so that sometimes even opiates lost their effect upon him. Very little is said of his last days. About half an hour before he died, Whitefield called upon him and, asking him how he was, he replied, “Here I am, one of Christs waiting servants.” Some medicine was just then brought in, and Whitefield helped him up until he took it; upon which Dr. W. apologised for the trouble he gave him. “Why, surely, my dear brother,” said Whitefield, “I am not too good to wait upon one of Christ’s waiting servants!” [Dr. Gibbons, in his Life of Watts, says this is not true. As others say it is true, I must leave it.] Watts often expressed that he had not the shadow of a doubt as to his future happiness, and said, “I bless God I can lie clown with comfort, not being solicitous whether I awake in this world or another.” Again,”I should be glad to read more, yet not in order to be confirmed more in the truth of the Christian religion, or in the truth of its promises, for I believe them enough to venture an eternity on them” When he was almost worn out and broken down by his infirmities, he observed in conversation with a friend, that he remembered an aged minister used to say, that the most learned and knowing Christians, when they come to die, have only the same plain promises of the gospel for their support, as the common and unlearned” and so,”said he, “I find it.” He told a friend, in answer to his inquiry if he felt any pain, that he did not, and said it was “a great mercy;” and he gave the like answer when asked about his soul, and said he experienced the comfort of those words, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” He expired the next day, Nov. 25th, 1748, and was buried in Bunhill Fields. Whitefield said of him, that for years together he might be said rather to gasp than to live.”—John Gadsby, “Memoirs Of The Principal Hymn-Writers & Compilers Of The 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries”
[2] See Jared Smith’s video teaching on the hymn, a devotional exposition according to the Framework of Sovereign Grace.
[3] Psalm 148:1-14: “Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights. Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass. Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word: mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars: beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven. He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.”



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