Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Enlightenment, Chirldren literature, Religion


In "Praise for Creation and Providence" eighteenth-century Dissenting cleric Isaac Watts conveys God's encompassing presence-not only is he in heaven and hell, but he also inhabits (and owns) Earth and everything in it. This poem was reprinted for more than 150 years in Watts's Divine Songs: Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children (1775). A child reciting this poem is made keenly aware of how much he or she owes to God-soul, planet, and life. Watts emphasizes how one senses God's physical presence ("Beams of love:' "His Hand;' and "his Eye") with the body ("I stand or move" and "I breathe") in order to understand his transcendence and judgment. Watts continues this theme in his "Discourse on the Education of Children and Youth" (1753), advising parents and teachers to expose children to nature and encouraging them to instruct their charges "that the Great God made all these Things" and that "his Providence governs them all." Watts argues that experiential learning demonstrates both God's existence and magnificence- it allows children to see God in nature. Importantly, to grasp the role of providence, both the child in the hymn and the reader suffer in order to gain experience that ultimately constitutes the self.