How shall the young secure their hearts and guard their lives from sin?
Isaac Watts (1674-1748), the writer of this hymn, was a non-conformist preacher in England. Watts wrote 750 hymns, many of which are still used, including this one. The hymn is said to be a paraphrase of Psalm 119 which says, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word,” (Psalm 119:9).
In fact, the six verses in the immediate context of this passage show an excellent way for a young person to begin life: by living, thinking, and acting in accordance with God’s word. Libraries are filled with books written by philosophers and ethicists searching for the answer to the question: how do people understand what they ought to do? It is within the pages of the Bible the answer is given.
For those young people who are seriously concerned about keeping themselves pure and leading pure lives, there is no better advice than, “Thy word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against thee,” (Psalm 119:11). For it is God’s word taken into the heart that can protect from all of the calamity sin brings, isn’t it?
Years ago, Sunday school meant learning Bible verses. More and more, it means arts and crafts. My Sunday school teachers helped students learn to memorize scripture, so that we knew what John 3:16 meant, what Acts 2:38 taught. It is, indeed, sad that fewer and fewer teachers these days want to take the time to help students memorize Bible verses.
How shall the young secure their hearts if they don’t know what the word of God says? How can they guard their lives from sin if they don’t have any of God’s word inside their minds and hearts?
Don’t we want to educate children so that in the future they’ll be able to say, “I will delight in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word,” (Psalm 119:16)? For a Bible teacher, that would be a wonderful and worthy legacy.