The Hymn “Jesus shall reign”

Text: Isaac Watts (1647-1748)
Meter: L.M 
Tune: Duke Street, Truro, Warrington,… 

“Jesus shall reign” is one of the really fine hymns rooted in the language of Psalm 72, and it reflects an 18th-century vision of the world church. The hymn was written by Isaac Watts, who was a real master of English hymnody. He has been called “the father of English hymnody.” He paraphrased this psalm (72) in ways that reflected his time and the geo-political position of England and the rise of the British Empire.





First published with eight stanzas, its title, "Christ's Kingdom among the Gentiles," and lyrics echoed the growing contemporary awareness of the non-western world. It also anticipated the missionary activity that followed in the wake of British imperial expansion. Acclaimed as an early missionary hymn, it gained popularity especially in the nineteenth century as western Christians carried their faith around the world. 

Though it is a paraphrase of Psalm 72, it uses the name of Jesus and stresses the universal reign of Jesus Christ; and, consequently, it was very, very popular amongst those who were promoting the cause of missions (that is, sending people around the world to tell people about the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ).

Watts (1647-1748), a Dissenting clergyman, contributed immeasurably to the form and corpus of English sacred song. As a youth in Southampton, England, he trained in rhetoric and classical prose. He shared with his father a taste for learning and poetry and an unusual facility with words. 

During this period, the church only sang the Psalms, plus perhaps the Lord's Prayer, the Magnificat, or the Benedictus, or the Te Deum, or a few other things. But basically the hymn book of the church, both Catholic and after the reformation, the Protestant Church, was the Psalms. 

Watts differed with many of his contemporaries in his insistence that the Psalms did not offer adequate expression of Christian worship and emotion. Since the reformation, they had constituted the principal corpus of English Christian song. In response, he produced several alternatives that made him a pivotal figure in the history of Christian song. Among these was his Psalms of David containing "imitations" of 138 of the 150 Psalms.

In Psalms of David, Watts set out to give what he termed "an evangelic turn to the Hebrew sense" and to "accommodate the book of Psalms to Christian worship." His Psalms of David offers precisely what the title indicates: not new versifications of the Psalms, but imitations. Literary critic J. R. Watson notes in The English Hymn that Watts "recast the Hebrew, as if the psalmist were writing in the Christian era." One motivation, which is a fascinating issue is that if you just sing the Psalms of David as they were written, they speak in prophetic terms about Christ, but they are still part of an Old Testament canon. So Isaac Watts “Christianizes” the Psalms; so instead of speaking in metaphor about the coming of Jesus, as in this Psalm, he said “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun,” but it's actually Psalm 72.

This hymn, “Jesus shall reign”, as said was first appeared in Watts’s important collection Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719) under the title “Christ’s Kingdom among the Gentiles.” The first line is unusual for hymn based on a psalm -“Jesus shall reign.”

When this stirring hymn was written in 1719, the evangelical missionary movement that we know had scarcely begun.  And in 1779 William Carey became one of the first to try to persuade Christians to carry the gospel message to heathen countries of the world.

The writer of this missionary hymn, Isaac Watts, was certainly quite prophetic when he paraphrased this text from Psalm 72. How could a paraphrase of an Old Testament psalm mention Jesus? Watts believed that the psalms should reflect Christian experience. Therefore it is common to find Christological references in Watts’s version of the psalms. 

Furthermore, unlike his predecessors who composed literal metrical versions of the psalms, Watts was not afraid to depart from the biblical text. Watts often anglicized or westernized as well as Christianized the Psalms. For example, his second stanza of "Jesus Shall Reign" read:

Behold the Islands with their Kings,
And Europe her best tribute brings;
From North to South the Princes meet
To pay their homage at his feet.

Some hymnals generally omit this as well as Watts' third and seventh stanzas:

There Persia glorious to behold
There India stands in Eastern Gold;
And barbarous nations at his word
Submit and bow and own their Lord.

Where he displays his healing power
Death and the curse are known no more;
In him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.

Neither Persia nor India is mentioned in Scripture. Psalm 72 vs 10. “The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts”.
 Rather than making a political statement, Watts was fulfilling a goal of this collection as stated in the preface, to make David and Asaph “always speak the Common Sense and Language of a Christian.” Watts accomplished this in several ways, including using mostly one- and two-syllable words and writing in clear poetical thoughts without the twisted and awkward verbiage of earlier metrical psalms. Since the Christian was the focus of collection.

Several tunes have been associated with Watts' majestic "imitation" of Psalm 72: GALILEE, written by Philip Armes, cathedral organist at Chichester and Durham (printed with the hymn in the definitive Hymns Ancient and Modern); WARRINGTON by a Presbyterian minister from Lancashire; TRURO, taken from Psalmodia Evangelica (1789); SAMSON, arranged from Handel's Oratorio; and DUKE STREET, by John Hatton.

DUKE STREET first appeared anonymously in a 1793 selection of tunes compiled by Henry Boyd, a teacher of psalmody. Boyd titled the tune "Addison's 19th Psalm" ("The Spacious Firmament on High"). In 1805, a collection of psalm and hymn tunes compiled by W. Dixon was published as EUPHONIA. Here the tune was reprinted as DUKE STREET and attributed to John Hatton. Hatton named it for a street in St. Helens, Merseyside, on which he once lived. American hymnals generally set "Jesus Shall Reign" to DUKE STREET. Several American hymnals have added refrains.

With its dual texts, this piece is ideal for Easter, Ascension, Christ the King, mission Sundays, or general festival use. Brass quintet and timpani parts are easy enough to be manageable by good high-school players, and Childs' SATB choral writing is attractive and singable by any mixed choir. Use this again and again!
Above and in all “Jesus shall reign” is still considered one of the finest missionary hymns ever written and has been sung in countless native tongues. 

The text is as follow and you can get original text in this link “Jesus shall reign original text”

1. Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
        Doth his successive journeys run;
        His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
       Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

2. For him shall endless prayer be made,
       And praises throng to crown his head;
       His name like sweet perfume shall rise
       With every morning sacrifice.

3. People and realms of every tongue
       Dwell on his love with sweetest song;
       And infant voices shall proclaim
      Their early blessings on his name.

4. Blessings abound where’er he reigns,
       The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
       The weary find eternal rest,
       And all the sons of want are blest.

5. Let every creature rise and bring
        Peculiar honours to our King;
        Angels descend with songs again,
        And earth repeat the long Amen.

Watch the video here:
The Hymn Jesus shall reign

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