He was a Congregationalist minister. He was a prolific and popular hymn writer and is credited with some 750 hymns. He is recognized as the "Godfather of English Hymnody"; many of his hymns remain in use today and have been translated into numerous languages.
Watts could not attend Oxford or Cambridge because he was a nonconformist and these universities were restricted to Anglicans. He went to the Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington, London in 1690. He spent most of the rest of his life at Stoke Newington.
He published The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament in 1719 – a paraphrase of all but twelve of the Psalms.
(Scroll down for more hymns)
A hymn written in 1709 by Isaac Watts.
The tune San Rocco was written in 1968 by Derek W Williams. It deserves to be better known.
Give me the wings of faith to rise
within the veil, and see
the saints above, how great their joys,
how bright their glories be.
Once they were mourning here below,
and wet their couch with tears:
they wrestled hard, as we do now,
with sins, and doubts, and fears.
I ask them whence their victory came:
they, with united breath,
ascribe their conquest to the Lamb,
their triumph to his death.
They marked the footsteps that he trod,
his zeal inspired their breast;
and following their incarnate God,
possess the promised rest.
Our glorious Leader claims our praise
for his own pattern given;
while the long cloud of witnesses
show the same path to heaven.
A hymn written in 1707 by Isaac Watts. The words were adapted by Revd William Cameron (1751-1811) in 1781.
The hymn is set to the tune Beatitudo by J B Dykes. The hymn first appeared set to this tune in the 1875 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern.
How bright these glorious spirits shine!
Whence all their white array?
How came they to the blissful seats
of everlasting day?
Lo! these are they from sufferings great
who came to realms of light,
and in the blood of Christ have washed
those robes that shine so bright.
Now with triumphal palms they stand
before the throne on high,
and serve the God they love amidst
the glories of the sky.
Hunger and thirst are felt no more,
nor sun with scorching ray:
God is their sun, whose cheering beams
diffuse eternal day.
The Lamb, who dwells amid the throne,
shall o’er them still preside,
feed them with nourishment divine,
and all their footsteps guide.
In pastures green he’ll lead his flock
where living streams appear;
and God the Lord from every eye
shall wipe off every tear.
This hymn by Watts was published in 1719. Based on Psalm 72, it originally had eight stanzas and was entitled Christ’s kingdom among the Gentiles.
The omitted stanzas are shown below.
The tune Galilee was composed by Philip Armes (1836-1908). He had been a chorister at Norwich Cathedral and later was organist of Durham Cathedral for 45 years.
 Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
 People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His name.
 Blessings abound where’er He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.
 Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!
 Behold the islands with their kings,
And Europe her best tribute brings;
From north to south the princes meet,
To pay their homage at His feet.
 There Persia, glorious to behold,
There India shines in eastern gold;
And barbarous nations at His word
Submit, and bow, and own their Lord.
 To Him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown His head;
His name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.
 Where He displays His healing power,
Death and the curse are known no more:
In Him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.
This hymn is Isaac Watts's version of Psalm 90. Six of the original nine verses are used, the missing verses are shown below.
The familiar tune St Anne was written by William Croft while he was organist at St Anne’s church, Soho.
 O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
 Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure.
 Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.
 A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.
 Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
 O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.
 Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
“Return, ye sons of men”:
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.
 The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in following years.
 Like flowery fields the nations stand
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
Lie withering ere ’tis night.
This hymn is Isaac Watts's version of Psalm 92. Five of the eight stanzas are used (the missing stanzas are shown below.)
Handel Parker (1857-1928) was a musician from Yorkshire. He was an organist and choirmaster at various churches in that county, and worked with a number of brass bands there. He spent a few years at Nassau Cathedral (Bahamas) before returning to Yorkshire. Deep Harmony is his best-known hymn tune.
 Sweet is the work, my God, my king,
To praise Thy name, give thanks and sing,
To show Thy love by morning light
And talk of all Thy truth at night.
 Sweet is the day of sacred rest,
No mortal cares shall seize my breast.
O may my heart in tune be found,
Like David’s harp of solemn sound!
 My heart shall triumph in my Lord
And bless His works, and bless His Word.
Thy works of grace, how bright they shine!
How deep Thy counsels, how divine!
 But I shall share a glorious part,
When grace has well refined my heart;
And fresh supplies of joy are shed,
Like holy oil, to cheer my head.
 Then shall I see, and hear, and know
All I desired and wished below;
And every power find sweet employ
In that eternal world of joy.
 Fools never raise their thoughts so high;
Like brutes they live, like brutes they die;
Like grass they flourish, till Thy breath
Blast them in everlasting death.
 Sin (my worst enemy before)
Shall vex my eyes and ears no more;
My inward foes shall all be slain,
Nor Satan break my peace again.
 And then what triumphs shall I raise
To Thy dear name through endless days,
For in the realms of joy I’ll see
Thy face in full felicity.
The hymn by Watts was published in Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1707. Earlier English hymns generally only used paraphrased biblical texts. Before publication Watts himself amended the second line of the hymn, which originally read “Where the young Prince of Glory dy’d”. This was to avoid any possible confusion with Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, the heir to the throne who died 30 July 1700 at the age of 11. His original verse 4 (shown below) is often omitted from hymnals these days. In the last verse, modern hymnals often substitute the word “offering” for the original “present”.
The tune Rockingham was composed (or adapted from an earlier melody) by Edward Miller (c1731-1807). He was the son of a stone paviour, but studied music and became a flautist in Handel’s orchestra. He was appointed organist of St George’s Minster, Doncaster in 1756 and held the post for 50 years.
Miller also wrote The History and Antiquities of Doncaster and its vicinity with anecdotes of Eminent Men, with a map, etc. as well as The Tears of Yorkshire on the death of the Most Noble the Marquis of Rockingham. This might give a clue about where the name of the hymn tune came from.
 When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
 Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
 See from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown!
 Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
 His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er his body on the tree:
Then am I dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.
For each hymn we have provided a set of verses together with an electronically generated sound-track. The sound track does not provide any words - just the tune.
The selection of hymns to be included was subject to certain limitations, notably the restrictions of copyright. This meant that many modern hymns were excluded, and the exclusion even applied to some updated versions of traditional hymns. Some publishers have made a few minor changes to make hymns more "inclusive" and have then claimed copyright over the revised text. So in most cases the ORIGINAL texts have been used, even though these may not be the versions that appear in modern hymnals.
In deciding what tunes to be used, this has largely been the Webmaster's personal choice. It is a mixture of familiar tunes and tunes that are not well-known, but deserve to be better known. The webmaster has included some personal favourites (and excluded some pet hates!). The soundtracks provided go with the words provided - if there are four verses, the tune is repeated four times. Where possible tunes have been provided with descants or alternative arrangements.
Wherever possible, there is an explanation of who wrote the words or tunes, the circumstances under which they were written, when (and sometimes why). Many hymns include references to verses appearing in the King James Version of the Bible; more modern translations were not then available! In some cases we have tried to explain these scriptural references or other instances where words have changed their meaning over time.
This selection of "Sing-along Songs of Praise" was originally a series of blog posts written during the COVID Lockdowns of 2020. It was intended to allow people to sing hymns in the safety and privacy of their own homes at a time when hymn-singing in church was not allowed (even if the church building was open!).
When hymns are sung as part of a church service, it is normally the case that the hymn books are set aside at the end of the hymn and the next part of the service continues. There is no time to sit and reflect on the meaning or the beauty of words and/or music. This collection allows you to take your time, to read, listen sing along, reflect, and to repeat a hymn again if you wish.
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