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Isaac Watts

Watts, Isaac, 1674–1748, English clergyman and hymn writer, b. Southampton. He was one of the most eminent Dissenting divines of his day. As a pastor in London he was known for his sermons, but beginning in 1712 poor health caused him to live in semiretirement. His several hundred hymns embody a stern Calvinism assuaged with a gentleness and sympathy. The few hymns that are included in present-day hymnals are among the finest examples of English metrical hymnody. Those beginning "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun,""When I survey the wondrous cross,""Joy to the world," and "O God, our help in ages past," appeared in his Psalms of David Imitated (1719).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.