Isaac Watts was an English Christian hymnwriter, theologian and logician. A prolific and popular hymn writer, his work was part of evangelization. He was recognized as the “Father of English Hymnody”, credited with some 750 hymns. Many of his hymns remain in use today and have been translated into numerous languages.
Watts’ father was Nonconformist imprisoned twice for his religious views. Isaac learned Greek, Latin, and Hebrew under Mr. Pinhorn, Rector of All Saints, and headmaster of the Grammar School in Southampton. Isaac’s taste for verse showed itself in early childhood, and his promise caused a local doctor and other friends to offer him a university education, assuming he would be ordained in the Church of England. However, Isaac declined and instead entered a Nonconformist Academy at Stoke Newington in 1690, under the care of Thomas Rowe, pastor of the Independent congregation at Girdlers’ Hall; Isaac joined this congregation in 1693.
Watts left the Academy at age 20 and spent two years at home; it was during this period that he wrote the bulk of his Hymns and Spiritual Songs. They were sung from manuscripts in the Southampton Chapel, and published 1707-1709.
The next six years of his life were again spent at Stoke Newington, working as tutor to the son of eminent Puritan John Hartopp. The intense study of these years is reflected in the theological and philosophical material he subsequently published.
Watts preached his first sermon at age 24. In the next three years, he preached frequently, and in 1702 was ordained as pastor of the Independent congregation in Mark Lane. At that time he moved into the house of a Mr. Hollis in the Minories. His health began to fail the next year, and Samuel Price was appointed as his assistant in the ministry. In 1712, a fever shattered his constitution, and Price became co-pastor of the congregation, which had moved to a new chapel in Bury Street. It was at this time that Isaac became the guest of Sir Thomas Abney. He lived with Abney (and later Abney’s widow) the rest of his life, mainly at Theobalds in Hertfordshire, then for 13 years at Stoke Newington.