Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
John 19:17 & 18

While preparing for the Lord's Supper in 1707, Isaac Watts wrote this deeply moving and very personal expression of gratitude for the amazing love that the death of Christ on the cross revealed. The hymn first appeared in print that same year in Watts' outstanding collection, Hymns and Spiritual Songs. The hymn was originally titled "Crucifixion to the World by the Cross of Christ". Noted theologian Matthew Arnold called this the greatest hymn in the English language.

In Watts' day, texts such as this, which were based on personal feelings and testimony, were termed "hymns of human composure" and were very controversial, since almost all congregational singing at this time consisted of repetitions of the psalms. The unique thoughts presented by Watts in these lines certainly must have pointed the 18th Century Christians to a view of the dying Saviour in a vivid and memorable way that led them to a deeper worship experience, even as it does today.

Young Watts showed unusual talent at an early age, learning Latin when he was 5, Greek at 9, French at 11, and Hebrew at 12. As he grew up, he became increasingly disturbed by the limitations to psalm singing in the English churches. He commented, "The singing of God's praise is the part of worship most closely related to Heaven; but its performance among us is the worst on Earth!" Throughout his life, Isaac Watts wrote over 600 hymns and is known today as the "father of English hymnody". His hymns were strong and triumphant statements of the Christian faith, yet none ever equaled the colorful imagery and genuine devotion of this emotionally stirring and magnificent hymn text.

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 eer such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads oer His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

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.

*For Today*: Matthew 26:28; Luke 7:47; Romans 5:6-11, 12:1; Galatians 6:14

Can you say with Isaac Watts: "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all"?

Music url: The Cyber Hymnal

Taken from Amazing Grace -- 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions Copyright 1990 by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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