Scripture Verse

The sleep of a laboring man is sweet. Ecclesiastes 5:12


Isaac Watts

Words: Is­aac Watts, The Psalms of Da­vid 1719. Au­thor of last the stan­za is un­known.

Music: John J. Mc­Clel­lan, in the Des­er­et Sun­day School Song Book, 1892 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Alternate Tunes:

David Playing the Harp
Before King Saul


A Prisoner Singing Himself into Liberty

This was the case with Dea­con Epa Nor­ris dur­ing the war be­tween Great Bri­tain and the Unit­ed States, in 1812. He lived in the North­ern Neck, Va. Be­ing cap­tured and ta­ken to a Brit­ish ves­sel, they in vain sought to ob­tain from him the po­si­tion and num­bers of the Am­er­ican Ar­my.

Dr. Belcher says: The com­man­dant of the ship gave a din­ner to the of­fi­cers of the fleet, and did Mr. Nor­ris the hon­or to se­lect him from the Am­er­ican pris­on­ers of war to be a guest. The dea­con, in his home­spun at­tire, took his seat at the ta­ble with the aris­toc­ra­cy of the Brit­ish na­vy.

The com­pa­ny sat long at the feast: they drank toasts, told stor­ies, laughed and sang songs. At length Mr. Nor­ris was called on for a song. He de­sired to ex­cuse himself, but in vain: he must sing. He pos­sessed a fine, strong, mu­sic­al voice.

In an ap­pro­pri­ate and beaut­i­ful air, he com­menced sing­ing:—

Sweet is the work, my God, my King,
To praise Thy name, give thanks, and sing.

Thoughts of home and of lost re­li­gious priv­i­leg­es, and of his cap­tiv­i­ty, im­part­ed an un­u­su­al path­os and pow­er to his sing­ing. One stan­za of the ex­cel­lent psalm must have seemed pe­cul­iar­ly per­ti­nent to the oc­ca­sion:—

Fools never raise their thoughts so high:
Like brutes they live, like brutes they die;
Like grass they flourish, till thy breath
Blast them in everlasting death.

When the sing­ing ceased, a sol­emn si­lence en­sued. At length the com­mand­ant broke it by say­ing: Mr. Nor­ris, you are a good man, and shall re­turn im­med­i­ate­ly to your fa­mi­ly.

The com­mo­dore kept his word; for in a few days Mr. Nor­ris was sent ashore in a barge, with a hand­some pre­sent of salt—then more val­ua­ble in the coun­try than gold.

Long, p. 155


Sweet is the work, my God, my king,
To praise Thy name, give thanks and sing,
To show Thy love by morning light,
And talk of all Thy truth at night.

Sweet is the day of sacred rest,
No mortal cares shall seize my breast;
O may my heart in tune be found
Like David’s harp of solemn sound!

My heart shall triumph in my Lord
And bless His works, and bless His Word.
Thy works of grace, how bright they shine!
How deep Thy counsels, how divine!

Fools ne­ver raise their thoughts so high;
Like brutes they live, like brutes they die;
Like grass they flourish, till Thy breath
Blast them in ev­er­last­ing death.

But I shall share a glo­ri­ous part,
When grace has well refined my heart;
And fresh supplies of joy are shed,
Like holy oil, to cheer my head.

Sin (my worst enemy before)
Shall vex my eyes and ears no more;
My inward foes shall all be slain,
Nor Satan break my peace again.

Then shall I see, and hear, and know
All I desired and wished below;
And every power find sweet employ
In that eter­nal world of joy.

And then what triumphs shall I raise
To Thy dear name through endless days,
For in the realms of joy I’ll see
Thy face in full felicity.