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From page 95-96 “Who Stole My Church”


“Anyone know anything about Isaac Watts?” I asked. Yvonne spoke: “Wasn’t he a hymn writer? I think he wrote ‘When I survey the Wonderous Cross.” “Yep, he did. Know any of his other songs?” “I think he wrote one of the Christmas carols,” Ted , probably the most spoken advocate of old hymns, said. “Not sure which one?” I began humming the first line of “Joy to the World.” Yes, ‘Joy to the World,” Almost said ‘Silent Night.’ Silent Night’ is German, “I said. “Watts was English. So does anyone know anything more about him? Know when he lived?” No one knew. “Well, he was born in 1674; his father was a pastor. One day, the biographers say, he was walking home from church with his father, and he started complaining about the music they’d sung that morning. Sound familiar? He was bored, he told his father, with the psalmody that marked every worship service. “Psalmody refers to the singing of the psalms. Christian people had been singing the psalms for centuries in one form or another. And John Calvin had insisted that the psalms be exclusively hymnody of the church. If there was good news to this, it was that the highest biblical thoughts of worship were being sung regularly. But it also meant that no one ever sang anything that raised praise to Jesus. “When people sang the psalms, they sang in a more or less monotone form with no instrumental accompaniment, because instruments in a church were considered worldy. So in Watts time a man called the church clerk, or precentor, simply sang out a note and everyone began to sing. What I’ve read suggests that the noise was awful. “So here is Isaac Watts complaining about the church music to his father. And the old man must have been very wise, because rather than arguing with his son, he listened. I think you have to give him a lot of credit for not being defensive when others might have just told the young man to keep his opinions to himself and accept the status quo. “Isaac’s father’s reaction may be the most important thing we think about this evening.” That got everyone’s attention. “In fact,” I said, I think the way Isaac’s father responded to his son is one of the most significant things that happened in the Christian movement in that entire century. And I really wish you’d think about this very carefully. What we have in this little story is an example of the way an older generation needs to respond to the younger when it’s time for a change” Here was Isaac complaining about the music, and his father said- “I hesitiated for a second to build the suspense. And then I continued, “His father asked, “Son, why don’t you mend the matter?” Meaning –write some music of your own (MacDonald, page 95,96).

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