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Divine Songs by Isaac Watts

To:

Mrs. SARAH

Mrs. MARY and ABNEY,

Mrs. ELIZABETH

Daughters of Sir THOMAS ABNEY, Kt. and Alderman of London.

My Dear Young Friends,

Whom I am constrained to love and honour by many Obligations. It was the generous and condescending Friendship of your Parents under my weak Circumstances of Health, that brought me to their Country-Seat for the Benefit of the Air; but it was an Instance of most uncommon Kindness, to supply me there so chearfully for two Years of Sickness with the richest Conveniences of Life. Such a Favour requires my most affectionate Returns of Service to themselves, and to all that is dear to them; and meer Gratitude demands some solemn and publick Acknowledgment.

But great Minds have the true Relish and Pleasure of doing Good, and are content to be unknown.

It is such a silent Satisfaction Sir Thomas Abney enjoys in the unspeakable Blessings of this Year, that brought our present King to the Throne: and he permits the World to forget that happy Turn that was given to the Affairs of the Kingdom by his wise Management in the Highest Office of the City, whereby the Settlement of the Crown was so much strengthen’d in the Illustrious Family which now possesses it. O may the Crown flourish many Years on the Head of our Soveraign, and may his House possess it to the End of Time, to secure all Religious and Civil Liberties to the Posterity of those who have been so zealous to establish this Succession!

The fair and lovely Character your Honoured Father hath acquired by passing thro’ all the chief Offices of the City, and leaving a Lustre upon them, seems imperfect in his own Esteem, without the Addition of this Title, A Succourer and a Friend of the Ministers of Christ. And in this part of his Honour the Lady your Mother is resolved to have an unborrow’d Share, and becomes his daily Rival.

It is to her unwearied Tenderness, and many kind Offices by Night and Day, in the more violent Seasons of my Indisposition, that (under God) I own my Life, and Power to write or think. And while I remember those Hours, I can’t forget the cheerful and ready Attendance of her worthy Sister, her dear Companion and Assistant in every good Work.

Under the Influence of two such Examples I have also enjoy’d the Pleasure and Conveniency of your younger Services, according to the Capacity of your Years; and that with such a Degree of sincere and hearty Zeal for my Welfare, that you are ready to vie with each other in the kind Imployment, and assist all you can toward my Recovery and Usefulness. So that whoever shall reap benefit by any of my Labours, it is but a reasonable Request, that you share with me in their Thanks and their Prayers.

But this is a small Part of your Praise.

If it would not be suspected of Flattery, I could tell the World what an Acquaintance with Scripture, what a Knowledge of Religion, what a Memory of Divine things both in Verse and Prose is found among you; and what a just and regular account is given of Sermons at your Age; to awaken all the Children that shall read these Songs, to furnish their memories and beautify their Souls like yours. The Honour you have done me in learning by heart so large a number of the Hymns I have publish’d, perhaps has been of some use towards these greater Improvements, and gives me rich Encouragement to offer you this little Present.

Since I have ventured to shew a Part of your early Character to the World, I perswade my self you will remember, that it must inlarge and brighten daily. Remember what the World will expect from the Daughters of Sir Thomas Abney’s Family, under such an Education, such Examples, and after such fair and promising Blossoms of Piety and Goodness. Remember what God himself will expect at your hands, from whose Grace you have received plentiful Distributions in the Beginning of your Days. May the Blessings of his Right Hand more enrich you daily, as your Capacities and your Years increase; and may he add bountifully of the Favours of his Left Hand, Riches and Honour. May his Grace make you so large a Return of all the Kindness I have received in your Family, as may prevail above the fondest Hopes of your Parents, and even exceed the warmest Prayers of

Your most Affectionate Monitor and obliged Servant in the daily Views of a future World,

Isaac Watts
June 18. 1715.

PREFACE

To all that are concerned in the Education of Children.

My Friends,

It is an awful and important charge that is committed to you. The wisdom and welfare of the succeeding generation are intrusted with you beforehand, and depend much on your conduct. The seeds of misery or happiness in this world, and that to come, are oftentimes sown very early, and therefore whatever may conduce to give the minds of children a relish for vertue and religion, ought in the first place to be proposed to you.

Verse was at first design’d for the service of God, tho’ it hath been wretchedly abused since. The ancients among the Jews and the Heathens taught their children and disciples the precepts of morality and worship in verse. The children of Israel were commanded to learn the words of the song of Moses, Deut. 31. 19,30. And we are directed in the New Testament, not only to sing with grace in the heart, but to teach and admonish one another by hymns and songs, Eph. 5. 19. and there are these four advantages in it:

  1. There is a greater delight in the very learning of truths and duties this way. There is something so amusing and entertaining in rhymes and metre, that will incline children to make this part of their business a diversion. And you may turn their very duty into a reward, by giving them the privilege of learning one of these songs every week, if they fulfil the business of the week well, and promising them the book itself when they have learned ten or twenty songs out of it.
  2. What is learnt in verse is longer retained in memory, and sooner recollected. The like sounds and the like number of syllables exceedingly assist the remembrance. And it may often happen, that the end of a song running in the mind may be an effectual means to keep off some temptation, or to incline to some duty, when a word of scripture is not upon the thoughts.
  3. This will be a constant furniture for the minds of children, that they may have something to think upon when alone, and sing over to themselves. This may sometimes give their thoughts a divine turn, and raise a young meditation. Thus, they will not be forced to seek relief for an emptiness of mind out of the loose and dangerous sonnets of the age.
  4. These Divine Songs may be a pleasant and proper matter for their daily or weekly worship, to sing one in the family at such time as the parents or governors shall appoint; and therefore, I have confin’d the verse to the most usual psalm tunes.

The greatest part of this little book was composed several years ago, at the request of a friend, who has been long engaged in the work of catechising a very great number of children of all kinds, and with abundant skill and success. So that you will find here nothing that savours of a party: the children of high and low degree, of the Church of England or Dissenters, baptized in infancy or not, may all join together in these songs. And as I have endeavoured to sink the language to the level of a child’s understanding, and yet to keep it (if possible) above contempt; so I have designed to profit all (if possible) and offend none. I hope the more general the sense is, these composures may be of the more universal use and service.

I have added at the end an attempt or two of Sonnets on Moral Subjects for children, with an air of pleasantry, to provoke some fitter pen to write a little book of them. My talent doth not lie that way, and a man on the borders of the grave has other work. Besides, if I had health or leisure to lay out this way, it should be employ’d in finishing the Psalms, which I have so long promised the world.

May the Almighty God make you faithful in this important work of education: may he succeed your cares with his abundant graces, that the rising generation of Great Britain may be a glory amongst the nations, a pattern to the Christian world, and a blessing to the earth.

Divine Songs for Children.

 

Song No. 8 – Praise to God for Learning to Read

The praises of my tongue
I offer to the Lord,
That I was taught, and learnt so young
To read his holy Word.

That I am taught to know
The danger I was in,
By nature and by practice too
A wretched slave to sin.

That I am led to see
I can do nothing well;
And whither shall a sinner flee,
To save himself from hell?

Dear Lord, this book of thine
Informs me where to go
For grace to pardon all my sin,
And make me holy too.

Here I can read and learn
How Christ the Son of God
Did undertake our great concern,
Our ransom cost his blood.

And now he reigns above,
He sends his Spirit down,
To show the wonders of his love,
And make his Gospel known.

O may that Spirit teach,
And make my heart receive
Those truths which all thy servants preach,
And all thy saints believe!

Then shall I praise the Lord
In a more chearful strain,
That I was taught to read his Word,
And have not learnt in vain.

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