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Psalm 114

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Miracles Attending Israel’s Journey

When Isr’el, freed from Pharaoh’s hand,
Left the proud tyrant and his land,
The tribes with cheerful homage own
Their king; and Judah was his throne.

Across the deep their journey lay;
The deep divides to make them way.
Jordan beheld their march, and led,
With backward current, to his head.

The mountains shook like frighted sheep,
Like lambs the little hillocks leap;
Not Sinai on her base could stand,
Conscious of sov’reign pow’r at hand.

What pow’r could make the deep divide?
Make Jordan backward roll his tide?
Why did ye leap, ye little hills?
And whence the fright that Sinai feels?

Let ev’ry mountain, ev’ry flood,
Retire and know th’ approaching God,
The King of Isr’el: see him here!
Tremble, thou earth, adore and fear.

He thunders, and all nature mourns;
The rock to standing pools he turns,
Flints spring with fountains at his word,
And fires and seas confess the Lord.

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Psalm 114

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  • Isaac Watts was a scion of seventeenth-century Independent Dissent, a religious culture distinguished by its attention to local congregational authority, the education of preachers and people, and the cultivation of individual piety. The politics, pedagogy, and piety of Independency are all in evidence in Watts's early life and throughout his long career. He was at once a churchman, an educator, and an important minor poet. Watts's poetry is, however, more than an expression of this particular religious culture. His writing, poetry and prose, was widely read and used for at least 150 years by believers and educators of all convictions in both Britain and America. Indeed Watts's model of congregational song, the hymn, remains in current use throughout the English-speaking world. It is arguably the most lively vestige of the eighteenth-century understanding of what poetry can and ought to do.

    Born in Southampton on 17 July 1674, the...

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