William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) was a man very familiar with desperation, discouragement and depression. However, his mental status did NOT hinder him from being used to bring honor and glory to the Lord, as well as, possibly causing some to trust Christ as their personal Saviour!
NO, I'm NOT suggesting we live a depressed life!
But we do need to remember that depression is a very REAL disease that people DO deal with on a daily basis. YES, even believers in Jesus Christ deal with this medical issue, myself included at times. But since I am not a physician, psychologist or therapist, this is where I'm putting a period on that subject!
Now, back to Mr. William Cowper (pronounced Cooper!). He was born in England on November 15, 1731. His father was an English clergyman and his mother came from a prominent family of English royalty.
Growing up, William Cowper was physically frail, as well as, extremely emotionally sensitive. His mother died when he was only six years old which had much to due with his emotional instability. He never recovered from losing his mother.
The grief remained with him his entire life.
In later years, Mr. Cowper became licensed as a lawyer, but just the thought of appearing before the bar for his final exam brought on so much fear and anxiety that it resulted in a breakdown.
Shortly after his breakdown, he experienced a "break up" with a very special lady in his life which was just enough to push him over the edge and resulted in an unsuccessful suicide attempt. He spent the next eighteen months in a treatment facility.
During those eighteen months of "confinement", William spent the majority of his time reading the Bible.
One day as he was contemplating his great concern for his own eternity, he found himself reading the following,
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;"
After reading this passage of Scripture, he came to realize his NEED of personal redemption and that it is found solely in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Being led by the Holy Spirit, William Cowper, at the age of thirty-three years old, prayed and received Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour!
"But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ."
After a partial recovery from his depression and breakdown, William Cowper moved into the home of a retired evangelical minister named Morley Unwin. Reverend Unwin and his wife, Mary, provided not only a home for him, but compassionate friendship and much-needed spiritual encouragement.
Five years later, Reverend Unwin passed away, and Mrs. Unwin and her family, along with Mr. Cowper, moved to Olney, England. There they all attended the Anglican Church pastored by none other than John Newton, the writer of the hymn, "Amazing Grace"!
NO such thing
as a coincidence
in the eyes
of the Lord!
Newton and Cowper became very close friends. John Newton became a spiritual father to Cowper and a source of encouragement in helping him overcome his spells of spiritual doubts, attacks of depression and emotional instability.
One day William Cowper found himself reading and rereading the following Scripture verse,
"In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness."
As he was sitting alone one day at his desk with the words of this verse still lingering in his heart and mind, William Cowper, through the power of the Holy Spirit, began to write the following words: (which just happens to be my most favorite hymn!)
filled with blood
their guilty stains
The dying thief
rejoiced to see
in his day;
my sins away
Dear dying Lamb,
thy precious blood
lose its power
church of God
and shall be
till I die
in the grave
William Cowper penned these words not long before his death on April 25,1800. Several years later, Lowell Mason, an American living in Boston set the words to music.
In spite of his depression, emotional instability and spiritual doubts, God used the experiences and life circumstances of William Cowper to write words that have been an inspiration to the church for over two hundred years. A hymn used by the Holy Spirit to greatly encourage many saints and call sinners to find peace with God which can only be found in that, "fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel's veins".
I'd like to share an account which I read in the book, "Be Still My Soul", which is a collection of stories behind some of the "most-loved" hymns.
Song leader Ira Sankey told a sweet story about the powerful effect of this hymn.
A boy was walking the streets of Glasgow singing, "There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood". A policeman, who happened to be a Christian, passed by and joined in the singing. When they finished, the policeman asked if the little boy understood what he was singing. "Oh, yes", came the reply. "I know it in my heart, and it is very precious."
A few nights later, as the policeman walked the same streets, someone approached him and said, "Do you know that a woman standing where we are was awakened and saved the other night by hearing, 'There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood', sung by a policeman and a boy?"
"Father, even though William Cowper may have been a downtrodden man who battled discouragement, despair and depression, You still used Him for Your honor and glory. Thank You that the words of his hymn are still touching lives today and leading people to know that Jesus is The One and Only Who can wash all their sins away! Lord, thank You, as well, for allowing us, where we currently are in our lives and in our life circumstances, to bring You honor and glory and encouragement to others.
In The Precious Name of Jesus, Amen"
Truth in History.org
Be Still My Soul
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