Keeping the Hymns Close By

Jesus Shall Reign

Author – Isaac Watts, 1674 – 1748
Composer – John Hatton, c. 1710 – 1793
Scripture Reference – Psalm 72
Written  in 1719

Isaac Watts
Isaac Watts

His name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed.         Psalm 72:17

One of the earliest hymns written with a missionary emphasis, this is another of the more than 600 hymns by Isaac Watts.. While living on the Abney estate, Isaac devoted himself to a massive project, adapting the Book of Psalms for Christian worship.

In 1719, The Psalms of Dvid Imitated in the Language of the New Testament was published. IN it, Watts worked his way through most of the 150 Psalms, paraphrasing them, injecting them with New Testament truth, and framing them in singing form.

He explained his approach with these words: “Where the Psalmist describes religion by the fear of God, I have often joined faith and love to it. Where he speaks of pardon of sin through the mercies of God, I have added the merits of a Savior. Where he talks of sacrificing goats or bullocks, I rather choose to mention the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God. Where he promises abundance of wealth, honor, and long life, I have changed some of these typical blessings for grace, glory, and life eternal, which are brought to light by the gospel, and promised in the New Testament.”

Several of these have become favorites that have withstood the ages. His rendition of Psalm 72, for example, has been called the first missions hymn: “Jesus Shall Reign.” When this text was written the evangelical missionary movement had scarcely begun.

This hymn played a role in the life of Eric Liddel, Scottish Olympic hero of the 1924 games in Paris, who became a missionary to China with the London Missionary Society. His departure from Edinburgh was never-to-be-forgotten. His friends escorted him in a festooned carriage from Scottish Congregational Church to Waverly Station where multitudes had gathered. Before boarding the train, Eric spoke to the crowds, saying he was going abroad to endeavor to do his part in trying to unify the countries of the world under Christ. “Let our motto be ‘Christ for the World, for the World needs Christ,'” he shouted, He then led in two verses of “Jesus Shall Reign.”

Other hymns by Isaac Watts include “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (April 2014) “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” (July 2015 Hymn), and “O God Our Help In Ages Past” (October 2017). Isaac Watts also wrote ” Joy to the World.”

Taken from Then Sings My Soul Keepsake Edition by Robert J. Morgan Copyright © 2011 Robert J. Morgan. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson

Taken from 101 Hymn Stories Copyright © 1982, 2012 by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission. All rights reserved.