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I Sing the Mighty Power of God
July 12, 2020

I Sing the Mighty Power of God

Preacher:
Passage: Jeremiah 51:51
Service Type:

Bible Text: Jeremiah 51:51 | Preacher: Bev Wiens | Series: The Background to some of our most memorable hymns. | He has made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding. Jeremiah 51:51

 

“I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise;

That spread the flowing seas abroad and built the lofty skies.

I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day.

The moon shines full at His command, and all the stars obey.”

 

 

As Isaac Watts (July 17, 1674 – November 25, 1748) quietly pastored Mark Lane Chapel in London, the growing popularity of his hymns was causing a tempest. “Christian congregations have shut out divinely inspired Psalms,” one man complained, “and taken in Watts’ flights of fancy.” The issue of singing hymns versus Psalms split churches, including the one in Bedford, England, once pastored by John Bunyan.

 

The controversy jumped the Atlantic. In May 1789, Rev. Adam Rankin told the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, meeting in Philadelphia: “ I have ridden horseback all the way from my home in Kentucky to ask this body to refuse the great and pernicious error of adopting the use of Isaac Watts’ hymns in public worship in preference to the Psalms of David.”

 

We don’t know Isaac’s reactions. Dr. Samuel Johnson later reported that “by his natural temper Isaac was quick of resentment; but, by his established and habitual practice, he was gentle, modest and inoffensive. But in 1712, Isaac suffered a breakdown from which he never fully recovered. He asked the church to discontinue his salary, but they raised it and hired a co-pastor who assumed the bulk of the pastoral duties. Watts remained as pastor the rest of his life, preaching whenever he could.

A wealthy couple in the church, Sir Thomas and Lady Abney, invited him to spend a week at their estate. Isaac accepted – and lived with them until his death thirty-six years later. He enjoyed the children in the home, and in 1715, he published “Divine and Moral Songs for Children”. It sold 80,000 copies in a year and has been selling ever since. In his preface, he said “Children of high and low degree, of the Church of England Dissenters, baptized in infancy or not, may all join together, in these songs. And as I have endeavoured to sink the language to the level of a child’s understanding . . . . to profit all, if possible and offend none.”

One hymn in this volume, intended for children, became popular with adults. Entitled “Praise for Creation and Providence,” it said:

 

“I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise;

That spread the flowing seas abroad and built the lofty skies.

I sing the wisdom that ordained the Sun to rule the day.

The moon shines full at His command, and all the stars obey.”

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