Monday, March 12, 2007

...plunged beneath that flood...

If ever a man knew what it was like to live in the belly of the whale this man did. Born into a family of four children his father was a minister and mother a loving soul who died during the birth of William’s youngest brother when he was just six years old.

As a child he was sent away to boarding school where he endured years of bullying. I can only imagine the sadness in that little boys eyes as he must have dearly longed for a mommy to wipe his tears away.

William grew up in these institutions and finally graduated as a lawyer. He passed the bar and was up for a prestigious job with the government when his first bout of depression and insanity hit. He was terrified to stand before his prospective employers, and, in his manic state he attempted suicide. A letter written after that time describes the traumatic events that unfolded. His plan began with the purchase of drugs that make his death simple and quick but every time he would try to take it an incredible shaking began that would not allow him to get he liquid to his mouth. Distraught, he tried to lay on a knife that broke before it entered his body. In agony and despair he lay there blind to everything but his own pain until the guilt of what he had tried overwhelmed him. It was shortly after this event that he penned the words so familiar to churchgoers. Written not as brilliant poetry, but rather from a place of brokenness.
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
E’er since, by faith, I saw the 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.
Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!’
Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

Olney Hymns (1779)--'Praise for the Fountain Opened'

In the future there will be a fountain, where David's descendants and the people of Jerusalem can wash away their sin and guilt.

Zechariah 13:1

As a young man William met a friend who invited him home for a short visit. This visit lasted the rest of his life, as he was taken into the family as a cherished member. The Rev. Morley and his wife Mary were evangelical ministers who surely took this lost young man under their wing providing him with a loving father and mother that he had never had before. While 18 months after moving in Morley Unwin died his wife Mary, William’s second mother, continued to care for him throughout her life.

The family relocated to Olney, Buckinghamshire at the request of a Rev. John Newton (famous for writing Amazing Grace). Here William finally found his life’s work. Not as a lawyer as he had intended but rather a Missionary and Hymn writer. Olney was a poor village where most made their living making lace. Together with Newton they ministered to the people of this village and opened a church.

William Cowper’s story did not play out as he had imagined. I’m sure he would have wished for his mother to have lived longer. That he would be free from the depression that plagued him. That he would practice law and attain great wealth and notoriety. That he would be immune to poverty and loss.

But God had different plans for him.

What William considered a weak and shameful state birthed words of great value. Their timeless truths ring out over centuries of change and still resonate in our hearts today. He was not known for his vast wealth, his great discoveries or even a dynamic ministry but rather for his vulnerability, as he laid out his weakness for all to see. It was in that place He discovered the power of God’s love to redeem us all.

GOD moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Olney Hymns (1779)--'Light Shining out of Darkness'

1 comment:

Judith said...

I am not completely wordless, but almost. Please know that with this post, you have clarified direction in my life. today.

Oh, the wonder and the power you have given me through God's Word about choices I should make.

From across these valleys and mountains, I thank you! I thank you.