[Today’s post is by John H.Parker, co-author of the newly released book, Abide With Me, published by New Leaf Press. This account is from the travels of John and his co-author/photographer, Paul Seawright.]

“O God, Our Help in Ages Past” receives a 39 on our ranking of hymns. It is written by Isaac Watts, along with Charles Wesley, the greatest of the English hymn writers. Four times a day the chimes from a tower in the center of Southampton, Watts’ home city, ring out the tune of this great hymn. Even a cursory glance at the lyrics reveals why it is successful.

First, they are stately and dignified. Second, they are composed of simple words: most are one or two syllables. Third, the lyrics follow a logical order: they begin with praise (verses 1-2) and then proceed in the following verses to an account of the order of God’s creation. Finally, there is a return to praise for God’s care of his saints.

The rhythm of the hymn is also simple and easy to follow. Each verse consists of four parts, each part beginning and ending in an obvious and clear fashion. Further, the final word of parts one and three of each verse always rhyme, as do the final words of parts two and four of each verse.

So one of the two most-often-printed hymns of the decade covered is one of the simplest, but one of the grandest and most profound. Often it takes genius to produce that which is simple and profound.