Isaac Watts, called the “Father of English Hymns,” wrote such classics as O God Our Help in Ages Past, Joy to the World, At the Cross, and 600 others. He was a small, odd man whose life was shaped by his father, Isaac, senior.
The elder Watts was repeatedly imprisoned for his Nonconformist beliefs. On May 21, 1685 he wrote this letter to his family from prison, addressing his comments especially to 11-year-old Isaac:
We must endeavor by patient waiting to submit to His will without murmuring; and not to think amiss of His chastening us, knowing that all His works are the products of infinite wisdom. Watts then gave several charges to his son:
• Frequently read the Holy Scriptures, and that not as a task but as a delight.
• Understand the sinful state and begin betimes to be a praying Christian, remembering that prayer is the best weapon of a saint’s defense.
• Remember the hope of salvation founded on Jesus Christ.
• Keep perpetually in mind that God is our Creator, and serve him with a willing mind.
• Worship God in God’s own way, that is, according to the rules in the Gospel and not according to the inventions or traditions of men.
• Do not entertain in your heart any popish doctrines, particularly that of praying to the saints or to the Virgin Mary or any other mere creature. Pray instead that God will give you knowledge of his truth, for it is a very dangerous time that you are like to live in.
• Do not entertain hard thoughts of God or of his ways because his people are persecuted, for Jesus Christ himself was persecuted to death by wicked men for preaching the truth and doing good.
• Be dutiful and obedient to all superiors—to your grandfather, both grandmothers, and in a special manner to your mother.
Watts was soon afterward released from prison and lived to be 85. It was he who planted the music of the gospel in his son’s heart, and who encouraged him to pursue it.
Shout praises to the Lord, everyone on this earth.
Be joyful and sing as you come in to worship the Lord!
You know the Lord is God!
He created us, and we belong to him.
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