The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts is the first book I have read in the “A Long Line of Godly Men Profiles” series, edited by Steven Lawson. Others in the series so far are books on Calvin, Edwards, Knox, Spurgeon and Luther and, if they are anything like this one, they will be a joy to read. The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts is part biography, part theology and part explanation of Watt’s lasting legacy as the “father of modern hymnology.” Most of Watts’ hymns were written to go with his sermons (p. 41); as a matter of fact his hymns have been called rhymed sermons (p. 46). Some have even credited Watts with bringing singing back to English-speaking churches (p. 57). Of course, when he introduced hymns to a Christian world in which many believed that singing anything but the Psalms was unbiblical he drew ample criticism. It was necessary, therefore, for Watts to defend his use of hymns aggressively and a summary of his defense is found on pages 103-106.
One theological criticism often heard was Watt’s position on the Trinity. Bond demonstrates that Watts’ logical mind (he wrote a famous book on logic) caused him to struggle for a time with this doctrine, but ultimately he chose to accept what he knew was taught in Scripture, even though his mind could not grasp it (pp. 71-75). He wrote the following lines to express his resolution:
Where reason fails
With all her powers,
Their faith prevails
And love adores (p. 58)
Watts brought to his poetry a rare combination of both emotion and knowledge. As a result he changed the church in the area of music and we still sing his hymns 300 years later.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel