Monday, June 4, 2007

William Cowper

I just finished a mini biography on William Cowper (apparently pronounced "Cooper"). It was one of four in the little book Well With My Soul.

Cowper, who died in April 1800, was a hymn writer and poet. Probably one of his most well known hymns is "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood." It is obvious from the work of Cowper that not only was he gifted, but he was a man that loved the Lord.

What makes William Cowper's life and work so intriguing is that he was plagued with chronic depression most of his life. He suffered from what we know today as bi-polar disorder. Of course in the 1700's there was no medication or treatment. Cowper endured great fits of anxiety that lasted for weeks or months. As he processed the reasons for his depression he felt ultimately that he had been abandoned by God. Although he continued to pray, read and discuss the Bible, he did not attend church for an extended period of years at the end of his life. The author of "Amazing Grace," John Newton ,was one of Cowper's closest friends. Newton served as a spiritual mentor for the troubled hymn writer. Following the tragic death of a close friend Newton asked Cowper and the grieving family to move to Olney where he could minister to them. For the next several years the two men were neighbors and they formed a lasting friendship that was anchored in the love of Christ.

William Cowper's life and writings are a testimony to God's grace. However, there are many who would struggle to see God's hand in the life of a man who lived for over 60 years in a dark depression. In fact, there are some that would say if Cowper were truly in Christ his the reading and studying of God's Word could have led him out of his depression. "Maybe he just needed to pray more." "Maybe he was not actually converted."
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emanuel's veins; and sinner's plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.

E'er since by faith I saw that stream Thy flowing wounds supply, redeeming love has been my theme and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I'll sing Thy power to save; when this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
How are we to understand the hand of God in the lives of men? Some bold and vibrant for the Lord. Others struggling daily under a tremendous load.

All of Grace.

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