A Rebellious Youth Revolutionizes Congregational Singing


“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!

Sing to the Lord, all the earth.

   Sing to the Lord, bless His name;

Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.

   Declare His glory among the nations,

His wonders among all peoples.”

Psalm 96:1-3


A Rebellious Youth Revolutionizes Congregational Singing *

Line by line the clerk read a Psalm. Line by line the congregation sang after him. That is, everybody sang except young Isaac Watts.

After church services that Sunday in 1692, when his Puritan father called him to the carpet for not singing, Isaac said bluntly that there was no music in the Psalms. He said further that the Psalms did not rhyme and that there was no sense in having to sing them line by line.

When outraged Deacon Watts’ blood pressure subsided, he suggested that if his young upstart son were smarter than King David he might try his hand at writing something better. The result of that challenge was a revolution in church singing that has resounded for more than three centuries.

Staid old Deacon Enoch Watts must have spoken without thinking when he hurled his sarcastic remark at his teen-age son. For at his boarding school in Southampton, the deacon himself had taught Isaac five languages before the boy was fourteen years old. That is, the deacon taught when he wasn’t in jail for his acts against the Established Church.

For twelve years Mrs. Enoch Watts had tutored her oldest son in the writing of verse. At seven he had won a copper medal for writing rhymes. He waxed so poetical that when the elder Watts threatened to flail him for rhyming even his everyday conversation, the boy cried out, “O father do some pity take, and I will no more verses make.”

Accepting his father’s challenge, eighteen-year-old Isaac Watts set about “Christianizing” and “modernizing” the Psalms. The following Sunday the clerk read Isaac Watts’ hymn and the congregation was so pleased that for two years Watts had to bring one of his “modernized” Psalms every Sunday!

Eighteen-year-old Isaac had successfully broken an ancient tradition. From his prolific pen would come “Joy to the World! The Lord is Come,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Am I Soldier of the Cross” and many other notable hymns.

With his bold departure from Psalm singing, Isaac Watts gave to Christianity a popular and inspiring medium of worship and paved the way for Charles Wesley, John Newton, William Cowper, and hundreds to follow.

Here is a hymn, written by Isaac Watts in 1719, that was one of three selections sung by President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill during devotional services aboard the man-of-war H.M.S. Prince of Wales in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland in 1941. Four months later, the United States entered WWII.

O God our help in ages past,

   Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blat,

   And our eternal home.

* A Hymn is Born, by Clint Bonner (Broadman Press, 1959)

Contentment Amid Conflict



from The Valley Of Vision *


Thou art my protecting arm,

            fortress, refuge, shield, buckler.

Fight for me and my foes must flee;

Uphold me and I cannot fall;

Strengthen me and I stand unmoved, unmovable;

Equip me and I shall receive no wound;

Stand by me and Satan will depart

Anoint my lips with a song of salvation

            and I shall shout thy victory.

Blessed Lord Jesus, at thy cross,

            may I be taught the awful miseries from which I am saved,

                        ponder what the word ‘lost’ implies,

                        see the fires of eternal destruction;

Then may I cling more closely to thy broken self,

            adhere to thee with firmer faith,

            be devoted to thee with total being,

            detest sin as strongly as thy love to me is strong,

And may holiness be the atmosphere in which I live.


* From The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975

“The prayers in The Valley of Vision are steeped in Scripture, yet never succumb to mere formula. They are theologically fresh and vibrant, yet they are rooted in confessionalism. They range over a huge sweep of Christian experience and devotion… They brim with deep emotion and transparent passion, but they carefully avoid mere sentimentalism. This is a book that teaches readers to pray by example.” — D. A. Carson


Content with the Imminent Return of Christ

The Meaning of “Imminent”

from: Maranatha, Our Lord Come!, by Renald Showers

[Note: As Dr. Showers explains in this excerpt from his excellent book on the Rapture, the concept of imminence has in it an element of uncertainty. Uncertainty can make us nervous, impatient, discontented. Or, it can thrill us with joyous anticipation. Waiting for a loved one to arrive at the airport when their flight is delayed can make us excited. The airline assures us that the plane is circling overhead waiting for clearance to land. Yet we keep looking up in anticipation. Despite repeated assurances, we can’t seem to sit still. Brethren, we are waiting for our Lord to return at any moment! Now is not the time to be discouraged or unhappy with troubles around us. We wait with expectation for our Beloved to arrive!]

The concept of the imminent coming of Christ is a significant inference for the Pretribulation Rapture of the church. To understand this concept, we must examine the meaning of the term “imminent.”

When an event is truly imminent, we never know exactly when it will happen. In line with this, A.T. Pierson stated, “Imminence is the combination of two conditions, viz.: certainty and uncertainty. By an imminent event we mean one which is certain to occur at some time, uncertain at what time.” Thus, “imminent” is not equal to “soon.”

In light of the meaning of the term “imminent” and the fact that the next coming of Christ has not happened yet, we can conclude that the concept of the imminent coming of Christ is that His next coming is always hanging overhead, is constantly ready to befall or overtake us, is always close at hand in the same sense that it could happen at any moment. Other things may happen before Christ’s coming, but nothing must happen before it takes place.

Because we do not know exactly when Christ will come, three things are true:

  • First, we cannot count on a certain amount of time transpiring before Christ’s coming; therefore we should always be prepared for the event to happen at any moment.

  • Second, we cannot legitimately set a date for Christ’s coming.

  • Third, we cannot legitimately say that Christ’s coming will happen soon. Again, it may happen soon, but it does not have to in order for it to be imminent.

Christians should have an expectant attitude toward Christ’s coming. Since it is imminent and therefore could happen at any moment, believers should constantly look forward to, look out for, or wait for that event.

“Looking for that blessed hope,

and the glorious appearing

of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;”

Titus 2:13

The Excellence of Contentment as Worship

“In contentment we come to give God the worship due to Him.”

Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646)

“I say it is a special part of divine worship that the creature owes to the infinite Creator, in that I tender the respect that is due from me to the Creator.

“You worship God more by contentment than when you come to hear a sermon or spend half an hour, or an hour, in prayer. These are the acts of God’s worship, but they are only external acts of worship: to hear and pray. This is the soul’s worship: to subject itself thus to God. You who often will worship God by hearing and praying, yet afterwards will be froward [contrary, perverse] and discontented—know that God does not regard such worship; He will have the soul’s worship, in this subjecting itself unto God.

“Oh! That I could do what pleases God! When we come to suffer any cross: Oh! That what God does might please me! I labour to do what pleases God, and I also labour that whatever God does shall please me: here is a Christian indeed, who shall endeavour both of these. It is but one side of a Christian to endeavour to do what pleases God; you must as well endeavor to be pleased with whatever God does, and so you will come to worship as a complete Christian when you can do both. And that is the excellence of contentment.”


Hymn: Lord With Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee

A Tribute to Christian Hymn Writer Francis Scott Key

In our tribute this weekend to the patriot who wrote the lyrics to our national anthem, this autobiographical hymn captures his love for the Lord and his praise for God saving him. The expressions exude heartfelt thanks to God in spite of his sinfulness (“wretched wand’rer far astray”) and human frailty (“my weak endeavor”). God sought him, graciously forgave his sins (‘pard’ning grace”), and saved him (“to that cross, new life to give”). The writer ends his hymn expressing the desire of every believer: “let my life show forth thy praise.”

Lord With Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee

by Francis Scott Key

Lord, with glowing heart I’d praise thee

for the bliss thy love bestows,

for the pard’ning grace that saves me,

and the peace that from it flows.

Help, O God, my weak endeavor;

this dull soul to rapture raise;

thou must light the flame, or never

can my love be warmed to praise.

Praise, my soul, the God that sought thee,

wretched wand’rer far astray;

found thee lost, and kindly brought thee

from the paths of death away.

Praise, with love’s devoutest feeling,

him who saw thy guilt-born fear,

and, the light of hope revealing,

bade the blood-stained cross appear.

Praise thy Savior God that drew thee

to that cross, new life to give,

held a blood sealed pardon to thee,

bade thee look to him and live.

Praise the grace whose threats alarmed thee,

roused thee from thy fatal ease;

praise the grace whose promise warmed thee,

praise the grace that whispered peace.

Lord, this bosom’s ardent feeling

vainly would my lips express:

low before thy footstool kneeling,

deign thy suppliant’s pray’r to bless.

Let thy love, my soul’s chief treasure,

love’s pure flame within me raise;

and, since words can never measure,

let my life show forth thy praise.

Hymn: Before the Lord We Bow

A Tribute to Christian Hymn Writer Francis Scott Key

This hymn was composed by Key for a July 4th, 1832 Independence Day celebration. The “We” in the title are American Christians bowing in subjection to “heaven’s high King” from whom all blessings flow. The nation had survived years of war with Great Britain, seen Washington D.C. ransacked and burned by enemy troops (only miles from Key’s home in Baltimore), fought bloody battles against Indians and Canada allied with Britain, experienced an economic depression, and watched most of Europe conquered by Napoleon. The years after the War of 1812 were a reminder that the United States had escaped annihilation by a powerful enemy and that it was God who had spared the nation.

In 2021, thanks to a gracious, omnipotent, sovereign God, the United States has rich resources, protection from enemies, and abundant blessings. Key’s vision in the last verse of the hymn is that America be represented by a “glorious band” resurrected at the Lord’s Coming. On this holiday let us bow before the Lord and thank Him for all that we have as Americans.


Before the Lord We Bow

by Francis Scott Key

Before the Lord we bow,

The God who reigns above,

And rules the world below,

Boundless in power and love;

Our thanks we bring

In joy and praise,

Our hearts we raise

To heaven’s high King.

The nation Thou hast blest

May well Thy love declare,

From foes and fears at rest,

Protected by Thy care.

For this fair land,

For this bright day,

Our thanks we pay–

Gifts of Thy hand.

May every mountain height,

Each vale and forest green,

Shine in Thy word’s pure light,

And its rich fruits be seen!

May every tongue

Be tuned to praise,

And join to raise

A grateful song.

Earth! hear thy maker’s voice,

The great Redeemer own,

Believe, obey, rejoice,

And worship Him alone;

Cast down thy pride,

Thy sin deplore,

And bow before

The Crucified.

And when in power He comes,

O may our native land,

From all its rending tombs,

Send forth a glorious band;

A countless throng

Ever to sing

To heaven’s high King

Salvation’s song.

Francis Scott Key

A Tribute to Christian Hymn Writer Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) was a devout and prominent Christian as well as an influential lawyer. In his youth, he almost became an Episcopal priest rather than a lawyer. Throughout his life he sprinkled biblical references in his correspondence. From 1818 until his death in 1843, Key was associated with the American Bible Society. Much to his dishonor later, he successfully opposed an abolitionist resolution presented to that group around 1838. Key also helped found two Episcopal seminaries, one in Baltimore and the other across the Potomac River in Alexandria (the Virginia Theological Seminary). Not only did he teach a Sunday school class at his church, Key also served as manager and vice president of the American Sunday School Union from its inception in 1824 until his death in 1843. The American Sunday School Union was responsible for establishing thousands of churches across America.

Francis Scott Key composed and published a poem entitled “Defence of Fort M’Henry“. In the fourth verse of the poem, Key’s published version of the poem includes the line, “And this be our motto—‘In God is our trust!’” Key’s poem would later be adopted as the national anthem of the United States under the name “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

When ‘In God We Trust‘ was under consideration to be adopted as the national motto of the United States by the US Congress, the words of the fourth verse of Key’s poem were brought up in arguments supporting adoption of the motto.

A monument to Francis Scott Key was commissioned by San Francisco businessman James Lick, who donated some $60,000 for a sculpture of Key to be raised in Golden Gate Park. The travertine monument was executed by sculptor William W. Story in 1885–87. The city of San Francisco allocated some $140,000 to renovate the Key monument, which was about to be lost to environmental degradation if repairs were not made. Repairs were finished on the monument in 2019.

Because of Key’s anti-abolitionist stand, his statue was toppled and destroyed by protesters on June 19, 2020. Sadly, our national anthem is in jeopardy today because this godly man, with all his human faults and shortcomings, did not take a position against slavery two centuries ago.