Isaac Watts has often been called "the Father of English Hymnody." He is responsible for many of my favorite hymns:

  • Joy to the world (arranged by Lowell Mason to an older melody originating from Handel)
  • Come ye that love the Lord (often sung with the chorus [and titled] "We’re marching to Zion")
  • O God, Our Help in Ages Past
  • When I survey the wondrous cross
  • Alas! and did my Saviour bleed

and many, many others. I've seen his hymns in Baptist, Anglican, and Methodist hymnals, so I'm assuming he's Protestant in some fashion (although I'd love to know if he is in Catholic hymnals), but I don't know what tradition he himself was.

Does he he make a confession in a particular denomination?

2 Answers 2


Quoth Wikipedia:

Likewise, Isaac Watts held religious opinions that were more non-denominational or ecumenical than was at that time common for a Nonconformist; he had a greater interest in promoting education and scholarship than preaching for any particular ministry.

The general consensus is that Watts' father was a dissenter and that Watts followed suit. No denomination truly claim him as "one of their own". That said, his particular congregation was independent in 18th century UK. Now, while that does not necessarily mean that he was of Puritan stock, it means that he was far closer to that than, say, Presbyterian. And, FWIW, the Puritan church in the US predominantly became Congregationalists.

Realize that this edit is a bit old, but I can confirm O God Our Help and When I Survey are in at least one modern Catholic hymnal.

  • That link on Watts is great. I hadn't realized how learned Watts really was till reading that. Thanks! Feb 15, 2012 at 20:29
  • This means that he was technically Anglican, but on the fringe, correct? Aug 10, 2013 at 22:01
  • Definitely not Anglican; by his time Puritans had long been expelled from the official Church of England.
    – Leandro
    Feb 19, 2018 at 10:25

No, he was not an Anglican. "Dissenting" or "Independent" congregations and ministers were those whose faith and practice put them outside the bounds of the Church of England.

They often suffered for this -- Watts' father was imprisoned, and although Watts himself lived in a more tolerant time, he could not attend either Oxford of Cambridge Universities. On the other hand, the congregation he served, St Mark's Independent Chapel, was located in the financial center of London, and included many wealthy and well-connected members.

In Watts' own case, although his theology is said to have less stridently sectarian than than of some other Dissenting ministers, it does seem to have had a few irregularities. For example, I have read that he attempted to mediate between orthodox Trinitarian doctrine and Arianism, with a unique theory about the union of Christ's human soul to the Logos, and by treating the Holy Spirit as a figure of speech.

  • Welcome to the site! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites? May 28, 2014 at 2:13

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