This beautiful hymn was founded on Paul's word in Gal. 6: 14,”God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The author occupies one of the highest positions among all the hymn writers who ever lived. Wesley and Watts stand on the highest pedestal of fame together. Watts was the son of a schoolmaster, and was born at Southampton, 1674. He belonged to a family of nonconformists, who were very pious and godly people. He was educated by a clergyman in his home city, and later by an Independent minister in London. He became minister to an Independent congregation in London, where he continued to preach for fourteen years. In the year 1712 he paid a visit to some friends in Hertfordshire, for the purpose of regaining his health, which, on account of excessive study, had suffered. While here Sir Thomas and Lady Abney became so interested in him and took such a liking to him that they insisted upon his staying with them in their beautiful home. Ha accepted their kind offer, and for thirty-six years he lived in their house, being a constant source of joy and blessing to his benefactors. It was here he wrote many of the most useful and popular hymns now used by the Christian churches throughout the world. He died 1748. Just before passing away he said: ”If God has no more service for me to do through grace, I am ready; it is a great mercy to me that I have no manner of fear or dread of death. I could, if God please, lay my head back and die without alarm this afternoon or night. My chief supports are from my view of eternal things, and my sins are pardoned through the blood of Jesus Christ. ”In this happy frame of mind the great hymnist entered into his last rest.
At least a score of different melodies have been written to the words, but Lowell Mason's ”Hamburg” is no doubt the most popular.