What a Fountain William Found!
Apr 15, 2014 1814
Soon after Williiam Cowper’s 21st birthday, the bouts of “temporary insanity” set in. Today he may have been diagnosed with clinical depression and worse. At that time, his father died; his stepmother died; his best friend drowned. Standing on the precipice of complete despair, Cowper faced an impending public examination prior to his taking a position as Clerk of the Journals of the House of Lords. The dread of this examination overtook him, and he tried several times to take his own life.
First he tried to take a vial of poison, and then he tried to plunge his pen-knife into his heart, but the blade broke. Then he tried to hang himself twice. The second time he almost succeeded; he awoke from unconsciousness on the floor to find that the garter that he had used had broken under his weight.
The failed suicide attempts heightened his sense of guilt and oppression, and Cowper found himself in darkness, overcome with feelings of being under God’s wrath.
Following William’s mental collapse, his brother entrusted him to the care of a private mental asylum in London for 18 months. During his stay at the asylum, Cowper began reading the Bible for comfort. On one such occasion, sitting down in a chair and picking up the Word, he read the first verses that the pages opened to Romans 4:25-26: “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; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
Upon reading these words, Cowper understood that Christ’s atoning sacrifice sufficiently covered his own sin. He recalled the moment—“I could only look up to heaven in silent fear, overwhelmed with love and wonder.”
Why am I telling you this story? Because in 1770, Cowper wrote a hymn based on of Zechariah 13:1 “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.” “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood” paints a vivid picture of Christ’s atoning blood and God’s forgiveness.
Three of the stanzas say as follows:
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.
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.
The flowing fountain that William Cowper found is still flowing for me and for you today.