Like the Pilgrims who left England, our song writer followed an unpopular path of faith in God — a path that exposed him to harm from the government and society. In this hymn he tells what is the source of real strength, ability, and power in this life and in the life to come. Give the song a listen, then come back for more.
The Church of England didn’t like their kind
The year is 1620. The Pilgrims step foot onto a cold, inhospitable new land. By any measure, it is FAR from an easy move for them. Many will die in the first year.
For us living in the USA today, it is hard to relate to the Pilgrim’s urgency to gain religious freedom.
Only eight years BEFORE the Pilgrim’s dramatic move, Edward Wightman was executed in England. Burned the stake. The charge? England judged him to be a religious heretic.
It was not until fifty-seven years AFTER the Pilgrims sailed that England finally stopped executing people they charged as being religious heretics.
I seriously doubt the Pilgrims were such bad citizens that they deserved to be burned at the stake. But the Church of England did not like their kind. If we lived under such tyranny, I think we, too, might cry, “YES, LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!”
We all — but ESPECIALLY those of us who live in the USA and who cherish the liberty to love and serve God and His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ — can, should, and DO count our blessings!
Nonconformist song writer
Our song writer, Isaac Watts, was born in England less than sixty years after the Pilgrims sailed —and just three years before England — for the last time — executed someone convicted as a “religious heretic”.
Isaac Watts was the son of a “nonconformist” minister, and followed in his father’s “nonconformist” footsteps. Though executions for heresy had just ended, there was still a price to pay for pursuing a faith in God outside the confines of the state church. Look at this note in Wikipedia:
“…in English church history, a Nonconformist was a Protestant who did not “conform” to the governance and usages of the established Church of England. By law and social custom, Nonconformists were restricted from many spheres of public life—not least, from access to public office, civil service careers, or degrees at university—and were referred to as suffering from civil disabilities.“
Persecution is bad, but it HAS helped forge great believers like the Pilgrims and like Isaac Watts. Despite these hardships, Watts blossomed as a brilliant writer of prose and music. He has been called the “father of hymnody”. He wrote over 700 hymns including the well-known “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” and other hymns which are still sung to this day.
Watts’s example as a Christian man and leader won him this high praise, in a eulogy written in an official publication of the Church of England:
“Happy will be that reader whose mind is disposed, by his verses or his prose, to imitate him in all but his non-conformity, to copy his benevolence to men, and his reverence to God.”
Here is a man who “did church” different from the official state church, but was so admired that someone — writing on behalf of the official state church — encourages all to learn from his writings and to copy his generosity and love to people, and his respect for God. High praise indeed!
When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.
( Proverbs 16:7 )
♪♫Our God, Our Help In Ages Past ♪♫
Read this song’s lyrics and think about the world Isaac Watts lived and ministered in. He delighted in God, both in this life and in the promise of the life to come. And he not only won admiration from enemies in his own day, but gave the world songs that are still blessing and inspiring people to this day. God takes care of His people. Beautiful!
God bless you lots!
LYRICS: Our God, Our Help In Ages Past
Words by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
1) Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
Our everlasting home.
2) Within the shadow of Your throne
Your saints do live secure;
Sufficient is Your arm alone,
Your faithfulness endures.
3) Before the hills in order stood,
Or Earth received her frame,
From everlasting You are God,
For endless years the same.
4) A thousand ages in Your sight
Are like an evening gone,
They pass more quickly than the night
When it sees light of dawn.
5) Time, like an ever-rushing stream,
Would take us all away;
To be forgotten, like our dreams
That fade at start of day.
6) O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be now our guard while this life lasts,
And our forever home.
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