Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun

Posted on 25th September 2020 under The Rectory Bulletin | Hymn Stories

Issac Watts (1674-1748) was surely one of our greatest hymn writers. Short in stature though he may have been, but he towers above others in his influence. At a time when many were suspicious of hymns, he pioneered their use and produced many which have endured to the present day.

His parents were non-conformists, worshipping outside of the Church of England, at a time when to do so brought persecution. At the time of his birth, Watt’s father was in prison for the third time for this ‘crime’ and a University education in England was not open to Watts so long as he refused to join the Church of England. Not that this hampered his abilities. His work on Logic was used at the Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge and the University of Aberdeen awarded him the degree of Doctor of Divinity.

Although he was well known as a scholar in his day, it is his hymns which have had the widest impact, to this day. As an example of their influence consider the Island of Tonga. It is Pentecost in 1862, some one hundred and twenty years after Watts’ death, and a great open air service is in play. Missionaries have brought the gospel to that island, and it now considers itself Christian. As the singing begins, those who can understand the local language would have been able to discern the words of Watts’ setting of Psalm 72 coming through:

Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
Doth its successive journeys run;
His Kingdoms stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

We shall return to Watts, but for what joy to see these words being so richly illustrated.

1 Jesus shall reign where'er the Sun
Does his successive Journey run;
His Kingdom stretch from Shore to Shore,
Till Moons shall wax, and wane no more.

2 Behold the Islands with her Kings,
And Europe her best Tribute brings;
From North to south the Princes meet,
To pay their Homage at his Feet.

3 There Persia glorious to behold,
There India shines in Eastern Gold;
And Barbarous Nations at his Word
Submit, and bow, and own their Lord.

4 For Him shall Endless Pray'r be made,
And Princes throng to crown his Head;
His Name like sweet Perfume shall rise
With every Morning Sacrifice.

5 People and Realms of every Tongue
Dwell on his Love with sweetest Song;
And Infant Voices shall proclaim
Their early Blessings on his Name.

6 Blessings abound where'er he reigns,
The Pris'ner leaps to lose his Chains;
The Weary find Eternal Rest,
And all the Sons of Want are blest.

7 Where he displays his healing Pow'r
Death and the Curse are known no more;
In Him the Tribes of Adam boast
More Blessings than their Father lost.

8 Let every Creature rise and bring
Peculiar Honours to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And Earth repeat a loud Amen.

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