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The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts

(A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  301 ratings  ·  50 reviews

In an age of simplistic and repetitive worship songs, the church must not forget Isaac Watts, “the Father of English Hymnody.” In this profile of the great hymn writer, Douglas Bond writes that Watts’ life and words can enrich the lives and worship of Christians today.

Kindle Edition, 194 pages
Published October 29th 2013 by Reformation Trust Publishing (first published October 28th 2013)
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May 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I've read from the Long Line of Godly Men profiles. It was also the first book I've read about Isaac Watts. I was familiar with a few of his hymns, but this book got me to dig in deeper and check out some less known hymns. I was fascinated to read about Watts, and the climate of the church in England during his life. One of my favorite parts of this book, was getting to read Isaac Watts first poem:

I am vile polluted lump of earth,
So I've continued since my birth
Although Je
Annie Kate
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gospel, history
I recommend The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond to any teen or adult who loves the hymns Watts wrote. It will also appeal to those interested in church music, poetry, British church history, and Christian biographies. I, myself, really appreciated learning how Watts saw Christ in all parts of the Bible and God in all parts of nature, and how he worked with words, rhymes, and rhythms to help others both see and feel the same.

For my complete review see: http://anniekateshomeschoolrev
Jill Odens
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best biographies I’ve ever read! Not only was it a well-written account of the life of Watts but it was also excellent application of Christ centered worship for today’s church. A must read for teachers, parents, pastors, young people, worship leaders . . .
Tracy Hackney
Jan 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
This biography of Isaac Watts makes me appreciate his wonderful hymns all the more. He was first a theologian but also a gifted poet who strove to express profound theological truths in verse for the church to be able to sing in worship to God. The author of this biography gives us insight into Watts’ influences and the surrounding culture of the time. He also challenges current day believers not to trade in these timeless and theologically rich hymns for more modern songs.
Ben Zornes
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
One of the things I am most grateful to my parents for is that they put Christian biographies in my hand from a young age. It has really made me much of the man I am, and given to me a love for history, and learning from men and women who have “gone before”. Thus, a regular part of my reading diet is biography. I recently went through Douglas Bond’s short biography of Isaac Watts (The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts), and wanted to share several of the gems I gleaned from it.
Ligonier has publishe
Mar 23, 2019 rated it liked it
I am telling my age when I say that I grew up singing hymns. And I still miss them. Watts is well-known for the standards "O God Our Help in Ages Past,"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross", and especially, "Joy to the World! The Lord is Come."

I appreciated how Bond set Watts in the context of his culture by listing contemporaries such as Samuel Johnson, Blaise Pascal, Jonathon Edwards, John Wesley, Alexander Pope, John Newton, etc. He tells of those who loved Watts hymns and those who hated them (G
Jeffrey Brannen
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
Douglas Bond's "The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts" is a very simple introduction to the pastor and poet, who exemplified godliness and giftedness in being a hymn writer.

The book borders on being simplistic and hagiographic. The sense from the author is that, of course someone would attempt to make the Psalms Christian without delving into why this is might not be a good idea. Also, if Watts had any significant flaws or mistakes in his life, they do not come under consideration.

The author adopts
Ryan Thomas
May 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: auto-biography
The concept for the series is decent, but I have found the content lacking. In this particular book, there were some good sections introducing one to Watts' "poetic wonder" in his hymns, as well as some of his other work and life story. However, there were annoying instances of Watts' hymns being broken up by commentary every four lines, which was just the author restating Watts' verse in prose with some different words. Perhaps intended to explain the language to a contemporary audience less fa ...more
Joy Wilson
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
A biography of the author of some of my most favorite hymns

Isaac Watts is known for the hymns he penned, such as, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Joy to the World, and many others. I knew nothing about him before reading this fairly short book, but I now desire to read more of his work because his poetry regarding our most amazing Savior is rich, deeply full of meaning, and thought provoking. He started by writing the Psalms for the modern worshippers, but in the process, wrote hymns for child
Jul 27, 2014 rated it liked it
I had no idea Isaac Watts had written so many hymns that we still sing some 250 years later. I was fascinated by this focus on his poetic wonder (and what a poetic wonder it is!)

That said, my hesitations fall within the realm of thinking you're getting something you're not. This book is a dense read, something along the lines of Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas, though not as long; it had me wondering at times if this was a dissertation modified for more classic consumption.

It also seemed that a la
Michael Cunningham
Even though I only rated this 3 stars, I do highly recommend this book. It's a great overview of Isaac Watts' life and music. He may be my favorite hymn writer, although Charles Wesley is pretty hard to beat. The only reason I didn't rate it higher is because of how Douglas Bond sometimes comes across a bit high-handed in his criticism of contemporary worship or anyone who messes with Watts' hymns. He also seemed overly defensive regarding some criticism C.S. Lewis gave regarding church music (o ...more
Tim VanderMeulen
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian
I reserve five stars for those books that really strike a chord, are wonderfully written, and deal in some way with redemptive values. In The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts, we learn about a poet who has greatly influenced the Christian Church with his hymns, which are not based solely on emotion or wacky spirit-filled passion. Watts writes from the head knowledge of the doctrines of the gospel, the true words of the Scriptures, and from that flows beautiful passion-filled poetry, devotion, and pr ...more
David Dunlap
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highly readable -- and enjoyable -- biography of the "Father of English Hymnody," with discussions of different aspects of Watts's work -- as a pastor, as an educator of children, as a poet. At first, I was troubled by author's propensity for breaking down the 'fourth wall,' in inviting readers, for example, to imagine what it might have been like to be Watts -- a short, geeky, rather ugly man. But I gradually realized that this was part of Bond's purpose: to make Watts real to contemporary read ...more
Jason Atkinson
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I grew up singing hymns, many of which were written by this amazing man. We have a need to get back to theological soundness in what we are singing at church. Douglas Bond (the author) mentions the lack of focus on God and his attributes in modern church music, dubbing it "nightclub liturgy" while giving an insight into the theologically deep hymns written by Watts.

As a great man once said, it is just as big a sin to SING a lie as it is to speak one. Watts wrote music that worshiped his creator
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is by no means neutral when it comes to his writing about Isaac Watts. While it was interesting to read how Watts' faith and experience shaped his writing, it seemed as though Mr. Bond doth cheer too much. I find many of Isaac Watts' hymns inspiring, but not all. It was an interesting, but a bit dry, read. I also got the feeling that the author felt it was his duty to come to the hymn writer's defense a little too often. I am glad I read it, though, as it gave me insight into Watt's h ...more
Matt Pitts
This book was the perfect length (for me) on the life and work of Watts - not too long, and not too short. Plus it was written by someone who clearly loves Watts' hymns and is convinced the church's worship would be enriched by them.

Perhaps best of all this book renewed my love of Watts' hymns and introduced me to one I hadn't heard before but now love: "There is a Land of Pure Delight." A worthy read.
Dec 12, 2014 rated it liked it
A fine introduction to the life and hymnody of Isaac Watts. My one concern is the notion that if the church were to get back to robust hymn singing most of its ails would be taken care of, as Bond says in the last chapter, if we sing more of Watts we will become more like Watts (my paraphrase). If this argument were true, I would suggest (in fact I do suggest) that churches sing the Psalms. What better word to sing than the Word of Scripture?
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heavy handed comments from the author in the first few chapters were an unnecessary turn-off with this book. However, as the book progressed the information on Watts was enjoyable to learn. The Author's added opinions distracted from what could have been obvious to anyone just by reading what Watts so clearly believed himself- Watts life and work said it much kinder i.e. with poetic eloquence... ...more
May 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biblical
A very interesting study in the life and work of Isaac Watts. The author may over emphasize Watt's hymns for English believers (and at times almost elevated them to a realm associated with Scripture) but otherwise explains what makes Watt's poetry so unique. I gained a much better appreciation for Watt's work. Recommended. ...more
May 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Douglas Bond in this book surveys the life of Watts. He also notes Watts' influence in history as well as points out the need of Watts' Theologically Rooted Poetic Wonder and the need for it in the life of churches today. I enjoyed learning more about this beloved saint and hymn writer as there are many of Watts hymns which I cherish. An easy read for both pastors/elders as well as laypeople. ...more
Peter Bringe
Jul 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A good short biography of Isaac Watts, the father of English hymnody. I have very much appreciated Watts's hymns, and this book was helpful for getting a better idea of Watts's life, context, and person. The book is not able to go in-depth about its subject, but it does explore Watts relevance for today. ...more
James B
Aug 25, 2014 rated it liked it
why does theological sound always relate to emotionless dullness? Issac Watts as the book written introduced a poetic world that is rich in creative imagination that focus on the timeless truth of the scripture. The book certainly did a good job in introducing the life and work of Issac Watts, but it leave some unanswered questions.
PJ Wenzel
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-read
I really enjoyed this little biography. Unlike others in this series (which I've been critical of), this one was very well written. Bond is not only a good writer, he's a writer with a writer's opinions about writing! This overflowed onto the page, and permeated his topic - which was well, considering he was discussing one of the best poets of the last few hundred years.

Brandon Wilkins
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Good intro to Isaac Watts, the poet and hymn writer. Not especially deep, but that's fine, it only aims at being an introduction.

To be applauded is Bond's attempt to point out some flaws in Watts. This is appreciated as some of the books in the series are too hagiographic.

However, one also gets Bond's view of worship in this book in Watts. For better or worse.
A great starting place for someone new to Watts, or who is rediscovering hymns. I really wanted the book to be longer, and more in-depth; thankfully there are some works on Watts like that out there too. Longer review on its way.
May 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Isaac Watts the reformed poet theologian

I found this book interesting as an introduction to Isaac Watts' life, theology, and works. I cannot criticize the author, but my own preference is to read a biography that reads more like a story.
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Watts is a great model of a man determined to preaching the gospel at all times using words. His vast collection of hymns and writing are the result of devotion and a Christ exalting heart. It is great to understand more of his story and reflect on how his words are relevant to our time.
Michael L Gowens
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Bond does a good job of presenting Watts as an antidote to superficial worship today, as well as a model for authentic Christian discipleship. The relationship between sound theology and a life of devotion toward Christ is a welcome note in this helpful volume.
Sep 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended biography of one of our greatest hymn writers. It's obvious Bond thinks highly of Watts, but he also acknowledges Watts' shortcomings. I especially appreciated Bond's addressing the accusation that Watts did not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. ...more
Renee Martin
Almost good

This could have been better. The information about Watts was nice, but this isn't just a biography. The author gives his opinion on why hymns are superior to worship songs. Some things sound good, but he can be quite condescending trying to make his point.
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Douglas Bond, author of fifteen books, lives with his wife and six children in Washington State. He is a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), teaches English and history at Covenant High School, and was awarded the regional Teacher Award for teaching young people how to write. He lectures on literature and Church history and leads study tours in Europe.

Other books in the series

A Long Line of Godly Men Profile (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • The Expository Genius of John Calvin
  • The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards
  • The Mighty Weakness of John Knox
  • The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
  • The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther
  • The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield
  • The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen
  • The Daring Mission of William Tyndale
  • The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
  • The Missionary Fellowship of William Carey (Long Line of Godly Men Profile)

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