“Hymns of Glory” will be a recurring series. Its purpose is to reflect on beautiful, sound, and spiritual hymns, both old and modern, that have made a tremendous impact in the lives of those who write for The Reformed Alliance, and have glorified God through it’s all-around composition. May you be blessed by the series, and consider these hymns for personal, family, and corporate worship.
The year was 1773. A man wakes up in the middle of the night with great agony after having just dreamed a recurring nightly terror. For the past few nights, he has been having the same nightmare, and that nightmare is that he would die…only to find himself in the fires of hell. This man was confused as to why he would doubt his salvation. After all, he was William Cowper, a renowned poet and hymn writer. He went to a good, Bible-believing Presbyterian church. To Cowper, it seemed he did everything right.
For some reason, he felt empty. The same emptiness he felt when he was declared medically insane in 1763, was the same emptiness he felt almost ten years later. He had found religion, but it had done very little good. He still had doubts, he still neglected his family, and he still had lapses in depression. At one point in Cowper’s life, despite the fact that he thought there was a chance that he was a Christian, he wrote his poem Hatred and Vengeance, My Eternal Portion. One of the verses said this:
Man disavows, and Deity disowns me.
Hell might afford my miseries a shelter.
Therefore hell keeps her ever-hungry mouths all bolted against me.
Thus, life was confusing for him. For the next few years, it would’ve seemed that nothing would change. With no wife or children he felt alone, and with no spiritual security he knew himself to be damned. He would still compose hymns with emptiness, he would still tarry through the night with the bad dreams of eternal damnation, and he would wrestle with the question of whether or not it was worth it to just kill himself and escape his miserable life. One day, it all changed.
After listening through a sermon that was on Christ’s atoning work on the cross, Cowper rushed home to be alone. In the silence of his own home, he fell to the floor in prayer, and repented before God. He turned from his sin, his depression, and his pride. It was at this moment that Cowper then sat behind a piano, with pen and paper, and composed one of my most favorite hymns: There is a Fountain Filled With Blood, originally titled Praise for the Fountain Opened. He had the gospel, and it was as if he truly heard it for the first time.
A spring of thankfulness had flown out of his writing that had never been seen before in any of his earlier hymns. This one hymn would go down throughout all the ages and would be remembered for it’s beautiful melody (especially the Cleansing Fountain melody) and theologically rich lyrics. Though I had gotten into hymns shortly after conversion, I had not heard of this hymn up until this year at G3 Conference 2017. I was amazed by the lyrics that reminded me of the good news of Christ’s redeeming love, and I was amazed by all the voices in the auditorium that converged to deliver an resonate accapella that still lasts with me to this day.
Some people consider this a hymn strictly for funerals. Others have criticized the song for being too depressing or drab compared to the contemporary worship songs we have today. I don’t know what these people are talking about at all. The man who wrote this intended it to be a triumphant song of the hope that we have in Christ. William Cowper struggled with depression up until his conversion. He recognized the beauty of God’s effectual call and irresistible grace. His hymn was meant to speak on how amazing it is to come to Christ, live for Christ, and die with the assurance of Christ’s righteousness being within you.
I tear up with joy when I hear this hymn, and I will continue to “sing Thy power to save” for all the days of my life. I will always sing of the fountain filled with blood, that not only washed the sins of William Cowper and I, but people from all nations. The hymn lyrics are below; I hope you will be blessed and encouraged by this hymn of glory (to listen to it, you can click here).
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
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave
Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing Thy power to save
‘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
Soli Deo Gloria.