"A Soul Prepared for Heaven": The Theological Foundation of Isaac Watts' Spirituality
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This dissertation’s thesis is that happiness and holiness (eternal life begun) establish the primary contours of Isaac Watts’ spirituality. His understanding of holiness and happiness is grounded in his formulation of key theological truths: (1) the depravity of man; (2) the beauty of Christ; (3) the excellency of heaven; and (4) the tri-unity of God. Furthermore, his practice of holiness and happiness is linked to two principle means: (1) the knowledge of God; and (2) the love of God. Chapters 1–2 highlight the main features of Watts’ spirituality. Holiness and happiness are “eternal life begun.” Watts explains this by way of their (1) principles and (2) ingredients. Holiness and happiness are principally spiritual matters (i.e., unseen aspects of the Christian life) and, therefore, grounded in the soul. The ingredients of holiness and happiness are more practical in nature. In sum, Watts explains how the expression of holiness and happiness is seen in the Christian’s life. Chapters 3–6 provide the theological framework for Watts’ spirituality. An examination of four key doctrines provides a better understanding of how he arrives at happiness and holiness as the basis for his spirituality. For Watts, doctrine leads to the experience of God. In other words, holiness and happiness are grounded in theology. Chapter 7 examines the two means of cultivating the spiritual life—the knowledge of God and love for God. Watts maintains that knowledge of God is the foundation of the Christian faith. The mind, therefore, is critical to the pursuit of holiness and happiness. Second, as the Christian grows in the knowledge of God, there is also growth in the appreciation of love of God. This love of God leads, in turn, to love for God. This chapter demonstrates how Watts employs practical approaches to engage the heart with God’s love. Chapter 8 provides a summary of the thesis and argument. Furthermore, the chapter details potential areas of research in Watts with respect to his spirituality. Finally, the chapter concludes with a brief assessment of Watts’ spiritual legacy and its implications for the church.