Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. (Psalms 91:9-10 KJV)
Words by Isaac Watts, (1674-1748) The Psalms of David, 1719.
Music: St. John’s Highlands, anonymous
He That Hath Made His Refuge God
He that hath made his refuge God
Shall find a most secure abode,
Shall walk all day beneath His shade,
And there at night shall rest his head.
Then will I say, My God, Thy power
Shall be my fortress and my tower;
I, that am formed of feeble dust,
Make Thine almighty arm my trust.
Thrice happy man! Thy Maker’s care
Shall keep thee from the fowler’s snare;
Satan, the fowler, who betrays
Unguarded souls a thousand ways.
Just as a hen protects her brood
From birds of prey that seek their blood,
Under her feathers, so the Lord
Makes His own arm His people’s guard.
If burning beams of noon conspire
To dart a pestilential fire,
God is their life; His wings are spread
To shield them with a healthful shade.
If vapors with malignant breath
Rise thick, and scatter midnight death,
Israel is safe; the poisoned air
Grows pure, if Israel’s God be there.
What though a thousand at thy side,
At thy right hand ten thousand died,
Thy God His chosen people saves
Amongst the dead, amidst the graves.
So when He sent His angel down
To make His wrath in Egypt known,
And slew their sons, His careful eye
Passed all the doors of Jacob by.
But if the fire, or plague, or sword,
Receive commission from the Lord
To strike His saints among the rest,
Their very pains and deaths are blest.
The sword, the pestilence, or fire,
Shall but fulfill their best desire;
From sins and sorrows set them free,
And bring Thy children, Lord, to Thee.
Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, (Psalms 17:8 KJV)
Isaac Watts – (1674-1748)
Watts’ father was Nonconformist imprisoned twice for his religious views. Isaac learned Greek, Latin, and Hebrew under Mr. Pinhorn, Rector of All Saints, and headmaster of the Grammar School in Southampton. Isaac’s taste for verse showed itself in early childhood, and his promise caused a local doctor and other friends to offer him a university education, assuming he would be ordained in the Church of England. However, Isaac declined and instead entered a Nonconformist Academy at Stoke Newington in 1690, under the care of Thomas Rowe, pastor of the Independent congregation at Girdlers’ Hall; Isaac joined this congregation in 1693.
Watts left the Academy at age 20 and spent two years at home; it was during this period that he wrote the bulk of his Hymns and Spiritual Songs. They were sung from manuscripts in the Southampton Chapel, and published 1707-1709.
The next six years of his life were again spent at Stoke Newington, working as tutor to the son of eminent Puritan John Hartopp. The intense study of these years is reflected in the theological and philosophical material he subsequently published.
Watts preached his first sermon at age 24. In the next three years, he preached frequently, and in 1702 was ordained as pastor of the Independent congregation in Mark Lane. At that time he moved into the house of a Mr. Hollis in the Minories. His health began to fail the next year, and Samuel Price was appointed as his assistant in the ministry. In 1712, a fever shattered his constitution, and Price became co-pastor of the congregation, which had moved to a new chapel in Bury Street. It was at this time that Isaac became the guest of Sir Thomas Abney. He lived with Abney (and later Abney’s widow) the rest of his life, mainly at Theobalds in Hertfordshire, then for 13 years at Stoke Newington.
In 1728, the University of Edinburgh awarded Watts a Doctor of Divinity degree.
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