Our God, Our Help in Ages Past -Isaac Watts

The celebration of the new year is a time of mixed emotions for many people. Memories of the past year, both good and bad, are reflected upon, and for the believer, the new year holds the promise of God’s blessings. The Christian knows that God will be in control even through uncertain times.

Isaac Watts wrote the text of “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” in 1714 during a time of much anxiety and uncertainty in England. Queen Anne was on her deathbed, and there were no living children to succeed her. As a child, Watts had seen his father jailed for his dissenting, non-conformist beliefs, but the queen had been tolerant and had granted freedom to the dissenters. There was no way to know that the next person to lead would also be tolerant.

Watts responded by writing a paraphrase of the first seven verses of Psalm 90. He pointed out to the English people that the God Who had helped them in the past would also help them in the future. “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” was widely circulated in leaflet form and helped to calm the fears of his countrymen. This hymn is considered to be one of the finest of Watt’s hymns, which numbered more than 600.

The hymn was first published by Watts in 1719 in “The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament.” Charles and John Wesley helped to popularize Isaac Watts’ hymns by adding them to their own hymnals. In 1738, John included this hymn in his “Psalms and Hymns,” changing the first line from “Our God” to “O God.”

Most hymnals include only five or six of the original nine stanzas. The tune, “St Anne,” usually used for the hymn, is named for St. Anne’s Church in Soho, London, where organist William Croft most likely wrote it in 1708. As this hymn is sung or read, Watts’ rhyming words remind the believer to have confidence in God, Who is unchanging and faithful from generation to generation.  Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God (Psalm 90:1-2).


Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God,
To endless years the same.

Thy word commands our flesh to dust,
Return, ye sons of men:
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

A thousand ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.
The busy tribes of flesh and blood
With all their lives and cares
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in foll’wing years.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten as a dream
Dies at the op’ning day.

Like flow’ry fields the nations stand
Pleased with the morning-light;
The flow’rs beneath the mower's hand
Lie with’ring ere 'tis night.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.


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