Remembering Isaac Watts

Oghenovo Obrimah, PhD
4 min readJun 2

Isaac Watts is best known, perhaps for composing some of the most beautiful Christian Hymns, Hymns such as, “When I survey the wondrous Cross”, or that Yuletide classic, “Joy to the World”, or “O God our Help in ages past?” But did you know that Isaac Watts’ writings on Logic were, in his time, adopted as the standard text for the teaching of logic at the following universities: Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale? At Oxford, Watts’ writings on logic were maintained as the standard text for well over 100 years.

But under what sorts of circumstances did Isaac Watts, who came into this life on July 17th 1674 end up writing about 600 hymns and all of his other works, such as his works on logic? Well, in 1702 — the year in the course of which he accepted his first pastorate — Watts fell ill for three weeks then needed eight to nine weeks to recover. In 1712, Watts was seized by such a violent fever, he was not able to resume public life until 1716, as such was ill for a total of four years. The year, 1729 also was marred by illness. In light of his frequent illnesses, to assist with his pastorate, an assistant was procured for him in 1703. In 1712, he was invited by the very wealthy Sir Thomas and Lady Abney to spend some time at their very beautiful and large estate, Theobalds. The wealth and importance of the Abneys is evident in the fact that, Theobalds their estate frequently had hosted Queen Elizabeth I. Healthwise, Theobalds so suited Watts, and his hosts were so pleased with his company that Watts never left Theobalds, would spend the rest of his life resident at Theobalds.

Isaac Watts dealt with significant challenges to his health most of his life. His achievements are, as such all the more remarkable.

What then was Issac Watt’s demeanor in the midst of all of the challenges to his health? It is one thing for a man to respond well to challenges, only because the alternative course of action — throwing the hands up in the air — is repugnant, but yet another matter in entirety for a man to, rather consciously impose the demand on the self, to wit, “to respond well to challenges is part essence of the life that is well lived.” Well consider the first stanza of Watt’s poem that is titled, ‘True Riches.

Oghenovo Obrimah, PhD

Educator and Researcher, Believer in Spirituality, Life is serious business, but we all are pilgrims so I write about important stuff with empathy and ethos