Saturday, 28 March 2015

History Behind "When I survey the wondrous cross" Author : Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

MATTHEW ARNOLD declared the greatest Christian hymn in the English language to be "When I survey the wondrous cross." At least it is admittedly the greatest hymn of a great hymn-writer, Isaac Watts, the father of modern English hymnody. He was the son of a deacon in the Independent Church, who had no sympathy with young Watts's custom of making rhymes and verses when a boy. At the age of eighteen Watts was one day ridiculing some of the poor hymns then sung in the churches, when his father said to him, sarcastically, "Make some yourself, then." Accordingly, Watts set himself to writing a hymn, and produced the lines beginning: "Behold the glories of the Lamb." That was the start of his eminent career as a hymn-writer. 

He became a clergyman, but illness compelled him to give up the pastorate, and for thirty-six years he remained at the home of Sir Thomas Abbey at Theobaldo, continuing his hymn-writing, which had reached its highest expression in this hymn, based on Paul s words, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." 

Once, after this hymn had been sung in the Church of Saint Edmund, London, Father Ignatius repeated to his congregation the last two lines of the hymn impressively 

"Love so amazing, so divine, 
Demands my soul, my life, my all." 

And he added: "Well, I am surprised to hear you sing that. Do you know that altogether you put only fifteen shillings in the collection bag this morning?"





0 comments:

Post a Comment