Isaac Watts, called the “Father of English Hymns,” wrote such classics as O God Our Help in Ages Past, Joy to the World, At the Cross, and 600 others. He was a small, odd man whose life was shaped by his father, Isaac, senior. The elder Watts was repeatedly imprisoned for his Nonconformist beliefs. On May 21, 1685, he wrote this letter to his family from prison, addressing his comments, especially to 11-year-old Isaac: We must endeavor by patient waiting to submit to His will without murmuring; and not to think amiss of His chastening us, knowing that all His works are the products of infinite wisdom. Watts then gave several charges to his son:

•     Frequently read the Holy Scriptures, and that not as a task but as a delight.•     Understand the sinful state and begin betimes to be a praying Christian, remembering that prayer is the best weapon of a saint’s defense.

•     Remember the hope of salvation founded on Jesus Christ.

•     Keep perpetually in mind that God is our Creator, and serve him with a willing mind.

•     Worship God in God’s own way, that is, according to the rules in the Gospel and not according to the inventions or traditions of men.

•     Do not entertain in your heart any popish doctrines, particularly that of praying to the saints or to the Virgin Mary or any other mere creature. Pray instead that God will give you knowledge of his truth, for it is a very dangerous time that you are like to live in.

•     Do not entertain hard thoughts of God or of his ways because his people are persecuted, for Jesus Christ himself was persecuted to death by wicked men for preaching the truth and doing good.

•     Be dutiful and obedient to all superiors—to your grandfather, both grandmothers, and in a special manner to your mother.

Watts was soon afterward released from prison and lived to be 85. It was he who planted the music of the gospel in his son’s heart, and who encouraged him to pursue it.

Shout praises to the Lord, everyone on this earth.
Be joyful and sing as you come in to worship the Lord! You know the Lord is God!
He created us, and we belong to him
. (Psalm 100:1-3a)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day: 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). May 20.


1382 – A great earthquake in England destroys some churches in Kent and damages Canterbury Cathedral.

1536William Farel preaches so effectively in Geneva that its people swear an oath with lifted hands “to live in the holy evangelical law and the word of God as it has been announced to us desiring to abandon all masses, images, idols and all which may pertain thereto to live in union and obedience to justice.” They also vow to set up a school for poor children and to educate their children.

1891George Louis Williams was ordained as a Congregational minister at Oberlin College, Ohio. He became a missionary to China where he and his wife will work among opium addicts. Williams was murdered in the Boxer Rebellion but his wife heroically continued the mission work.

1921 – Baptism of Jeremiah Mahalu Kisula. He became the first bishop in Tanzania for the Africa Inland Mission, recognized as a prayer-warrior, church planter, and author.

Accessed 20 May 2022.

**Header: By Northernhenge – Own work, CC0,

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