Tuesday Hymns: “How Sweet and Awesome is the Place”

Isaac Watts was born the eldest of nine children in Southampton, England to a family of Nonconformists in 1674. His father was familiar with jail cells because of his Dissenting views, and taught his son the truths of Scripture from an early age. Watts had a propensity for languages (he began learning Latin at the age of four) and purportedly was disciplined for laughing during family worship as a child, and explained that he was watching a mouse run up a rope and quipped, “A mouse for want of better stairs, ran up a rope to say his prayers.” From that humble beginning he went on to write over 700 hymns. Known as the “father of English hymnody,” one of his most acclaimed achievements was the rewriting of Psalms for singing in rhyming English verse. His desire, he said, was to give “an evangelical turn to the Hebrew sense” of the Psalms.

He wrote such beloved hymns as, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Not All the Blood of Beasts, Before Jehovah’s Awful Throne, Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed, Joy to the World, Come Ye that Love the Lord, O God, Our Help in Ages Past, and many, many more. The Trinity Hymnal, one of the hymnals from which we sing at Reformed Presbyterian Church, contains thirty-six of his compositions, one of which is a hymn about the sovereign grace of God entitled, How Sweet and Awesome is the Place, which is our Tuesday Hymn. 

How sweet and awesome is the place with Christ within the doors, while everlasting love displays the choicest of her stores.

While all our hearts and all our songs join to admire the feast, each of us cries, with thankful tongue, “Lord, why was I a guest?”

“Why was I made to hear your voice, and enter while there’s room, when thousands make a wretched choice, and rather starve than come?”

’Twas the same love that spread the feast and sweetly drew us in; else we had still refused to taste, and perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God, constrain the earth to come; send your victorious Word abroad, and bring the strangers home.

We long to see your churches full, that all the chosen race may, with one voice and heart and soul, sing your redeeming grace.

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