WATTS, Dr. Isaac

CHAPTER III – DR. WATTS’ PERSONALITY

It has been said, and truly so, that
Dr. Watts was the embodiment of all that was refined and cultured. He
was a very exemplary Christian gentleman, and a “good soldier of the
cross”; a true “minister of the Lord Jesus,” whose min istry lived in
an age when the cynic scoffer and leering jest of the infidel was so
much in evi dence. The great infidel Voltaire was contem porary with
Dr. Watts and visited Bevois Mount, the residence of Lord Peterborough,
his visit left anything other than a helpful influence for the
Christians of the town and vicinity, gifted man though he was and very
able, Voltaire did incalculable damage to the moral and spiritual
uplift of the community. He enjoyed the bene fit of a scholastic
training that should have been devoted to more worthy uses than the
belittling of the gospel of salvation. Voltaire, both with pen and
voice, arrayed himself with the forces that were disappointing for
good. Possibly no man of his age wielded so much influence, in his own
country, France, with his pen as Voltaire Now this gifted and scholarly
man visited South ampton and was lionized by the so-called “Social
Set.” He had an entree to the highest circle be cause of the superior
social position of his host Lord Peterborough. The “Quality” was much
charmed with Voltaire’s thrusts at religion, and all religious beliefs
in a personal God, where in keeping with his theory of morality, which
he so strenuously advanced, which on close examina tion is nothing more
or less than “Bumpology” pure and simple, which its final analysis
proved. His claim to recognition of his so-called explana tion of the
preponderance of selfishness over the sympathetic affection is not
man’s fault. It is only his misfortune, for it is due solely to the
preponderant influence of the external over the internal mind, etc.
Repentance therefore is folly and obligation a mere prejudice. Such was
the teaching advanced by Voltaire and one can read ily see the trojan
efforts it required at the hands of Dr. Isaac Watts to combat such God
dishon oring theories from taking permanent root in the town. Dr. Watts
could see and taught the impera tive necessity for stating the gospel
truths under poetical formula. Voltaire had pooh poohed what he boldly
asserted to be as foolishness the non sensical dogma of the freedom of
the will, that it was only invented to vindicate the equally non
sensical dogma of a Divine Providence. Man is only a part he taught,
determined in all his move ments as a great world machine ; a blind
instru ment in the hand of necessity to all of this sort of man-made
and man-evolved subtle sophistry and rationalistic philosophv. Dr.
Watts met him with that calm Christian confidence so character istic of
the man, hence he wrote:

<div
style=”text-align: center; font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;”>
Forbid it Lord that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ my God,

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice to his blood.”

Dr. Watts knew only too well how
painfully true it was that sin was of man, redemption is of God, and
further, the moral life in its regenera tion by redemption, reposes
entirely upon the act of God, by whom redemption was in his first in
stance conceived, and from whom it received its initiation and
accomplishment. Dr. Watts fur ther knew by his training and experience
that the awful consequence of sin which reaches man in his social
relationship, violates his social in stincts also, and makes him a
social victim, mak ing and being made unhappy hence, Dr. Watts taught
“joy in believing,” and gave the well known verse as the result of his
close mental and experimental observation of this blessed
truth; 

“<span
style=”font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;”>Stand up my
soul, shake off thy fears,

And
gird thy gospel armour on

March
to the gates of endless joy,

Where
Jesus thy great captain’s gone
.”

 It was contact with sin and sinning men
that made the strong personality of Dr. Watts appear to advantage in
his ministry. He was a man of fine parts ; gracious in his bearing and
of a very retiring disposition. But when the occasion de manded it,
few, if any, were more ready to re spond to the cause in defence of the
gospel, and, like Paul, the Apostle, he felt ”He was set for the
defence of the gospel, strong as a lion, gentle as a lamb.” He knew
this was a sinful world and its moral life with its problems was to be
wrought out under harsher and sterner conditions. To his mind it was a
far nobler spectacle, a serious but a sublimer drama. This revival of a
purer and spiritual morality and spiritual struggle right in this
world, this the very home of sin and pollution, hence Dr. Watts further
knew that the preaching of the gospel by a clean and saved upright man
was essential to making known salvation to lost sinners successfully.
He believed in appealing to the poetical, spiritual songs as a means to
the end. It was educating the race through a devotional faculty the
method of preparedness for redemp tion. In the old town of Southampton
and the gay world of fashionable London, the metropolis, this truth was
brought to his attention with forcible significance. His association
with social and moral conditions and its imperative need for a higher
power than that which was native in man. Be cause “The natural man
knoweth not the things of God, for they are contrary unto him.” The
Pauline teaching was familiar to Dr. Watts. This was no secret to him.
He beheld on all sides the sin-embruted poor sinner suffering from the
be numbing effects of this moral paralysis from which the race has
suffered from time immemo rial. The conscious guilt and awful
degredation of the “masses and the classes” was a live ques tion to his
soul, trained in the common school of observation he was only too
painfully aware of the fact that the history of the race divided itself
against the pure and the impure, the good and the bad; he beheld the
sinner in his wicked ness on the one side and the “children of God” on
the other. His theological training brought to his attention the gospel
discovery that in the sin ner sin discovers itself, its nature and
final issue, in the other “grace” recovers its restorative reme dial
character and its adaptation to the necessity which sin had evoked. Sin
teaches misery in its final analysis. Sin is suffering ; the gospel
points to the remedy for a sin-stricken soul and gives the sinner, who
embraces it, the blessed incitative to seek a full spiritual recovery.
Knowing this truth Dr. Watts’ gentle and sympathetic heart was much
exercised during his ministerial career. He was gentle in his bearing
toward others, hence, it was the keynote of his great personality. He
was possessed of a very happy cheerful disposi tion, though never
physically robust. His coun tenance bespoke a calm spirit within; his
kindly smile and winsome manners made for him a very charming
personality, and he was conscious of its effect on his hearers while
engaged in preaching and his pastoral labors. His was a whole soul,
frank hearted love that went to the hearts of men and made them realize
something of the passion and fire with which his own life was aglow
with, that made his hymns reach not only the hearts of the Christians
but every soul that used them. Dr. Watts had a very distinctive
personality that was imparted through his poetry and made for him the
reputation of the human poet. He was seen at his best when en gaged in
trying to win. the “baser sort” to em brace the gospel. It was thought
by the admirers of his day that this phase in his ministry was never
surpassed in all the non-conformist min istry. Dr. Watts’ personality
and his gentle en deavor to reach the unsaved was a great factor in his
life, in drawing men to acknowledge “Jesus’ power to save.” He could
attract the coarse and vulgar and win an entrance into their confidence
and esteem by his sweet-spirited fragrant life to the “gospel of the
grace of God.” His was a ministry of sunshine; his life an inspiration
and his devotional spirit seem to have caught the “lilt” of the
heavenly country, giving to the world true poetry, because he lived a
life consecrated to the service of his divine Lord. Dr. Watts’ per
sonality and charming cultured mind might well be studied by the modern
ministry for more ef fective results in the service of the King.