Isaac Watts was the author of this hymn, along with many other favorites such as “Joy to the World,” “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”
As a young man, Watts served as pastor of the Mark Lane Church in London. However, in 1712, at the age of 38, he suffered an emotional breakdown that limited his activities. However, he was blessed to have good friends to take care of him, in particular Sir Thomas and Lady Abney, with whom he lived for the last 36 years of his life.
Even though he never married, Watts enjoyed children and published the first hymnal designed expressly for children. This hymn, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” was one of the hymns that he wrote for that hymnal. He intended it to be sung by children.
While the words of this hymn sound nothing like the songs being written for children today, it speaks of God making mountains rise—and spreading the flowing seas abroad— and building the lofty skies. It tells of a sun that rules the day—and a moon that shines at God’s command—and stars that all obey. These are word images that children can, at some level, understand. Watts knew that, by singing words such as these over and over again, children would come to understand something of God’s creation, his providence, and his love.
What Watts could not have understood, is that his hymns would also be sung by adults—sung gladly— and sung in places of which he had never known—and for centuries after his death (Watts died in 1748).
— Copyright 2008, Richard Niell Donovan