There is a Fountain

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This is one of the first hymns Cow­per wrote af­ter his first at­tack of tem­po­ra­ry mad­ness. Cow­per had been prom­ised a post as Clerk of the Jour­nal to the House of Lords, but was dis­mayed up­on learn­ing he would have to un­der­go a pub­lic ex­am­in­a­tion in the House be­fore be­gin­ning his du­ties. The fol­low­ing ar­ti­cle from the North Amer­i­can Re­view, Jan­u­a­ry, 1834, de­scribes his di­lem­ma, and how God pre­vent­ed him from de­stroy­ing him­self:

As the time drew nigh, his agony became more and more in­tense; he hoped and be­lieved that mad­ness would come to relieve him; he attempted also to make up his mind to commit su­i­cide, though his conscience bore stern testimony against it; he could not by any argument per­suade himself that it was right, but this des­per­a­tion pre­vailed, and he pro­cured from an apothecary the means of self-destruction. On the day before his public appearance was to be made, he happened to notice a letter in the newspaper, which to his dis­or­dered mind seemed like a ma­lig­nant li­bel on himself. He im­med­i­ate­ly threw down the pa­per and rushed into the fields, de­ter­mined to die in a ditch, but the thought struck him that he might es­cape from the count­ry. With the same vi­o­lence he pro­ceed­ed to make hasty prep­ar­a­tions for his flight; but while he was en­gaged in pack­ing his port­man­teau his mind changed, and he threw him­self into a coach, or­der­ing the man to drive to the Tower wharf, in­tend­ing to throw him­self in­to the ri­ver, and not re­flect­ing that it would be im­poss­i­ble to ac­comp­lish his pur­pose in that pub­lic spot. On ap­proach­ing the wa­ter, he found a por­ter seated upon some goods: he then re­turned to the coach and was con­veyed to his lodg­ings at the Temple. On the way he at­tempt­ed to drink the laud­a­num, but as oft­en as he raised it, a con­vuls­ive agi­ta­tion of his frame pre­vent­ed it from reach­ing his lips; and thus, re­gret­ting the loss of the op­por­tun­i­ty, but un­a­ble to avail him­self of it, he ar­rived, half dead with an­guish, at his apart­ment. He then shut the doors and threw him­self upon the bed with the laud­a­num near him, try­ing to lash himself up to the deed; but a voice within seemed con­stant­ly to for­bid it, and as of­ten as he ex­tend­ed his hand to the poi­son, his fing­ers were con­tract­ed and held back by spasms.

At this time one of the in­mates of the place came in, but he con­cealed his ag­i­ta­tion, and as soon as he was left alone, a change came over him, and so de­test­a­ble did the deed ap­pear, that he threw away the laud­a­num and dashed the vial to pieces. The rest of the day was spent in heavy insensibility, and at night he slept as usual; but on waking at three in the morning, he took his penknife and lay with his weight upon it, the point toward his heart. It was brok­en and would not pen­e­trate. At day break he arose, and pas­sing a strong gar­ter around his neck, fast­ened it to the frame of his bed: this gave way with his weight, but on securing it to the door, he was more successful, and remained suspended till he had lost all consciousness of existence. After a time the garter broke and he fell to the floor, so that his life was saved.; but the conflict had been greater than his reason could endure. He felt for himself a contempt not to be expressed or imagined; whenever he went into the street, it seemed as if every eye flashed upon him with indignation and scorn; he felt as if he had offended God so deep­ly that his guilt could ne­ver be for­giv­en, and his whole heart was filled with tu­mult­u­ous pangs of despair. Mad­ness was not far off, or rather mad­ness was al­ready come.

Af­ter re­cov­er­ing, Cow­per came to real­ize how God can erase the stain of any sin.

I love this good old fashioned American hymn. The lyrics of this piece are especially meaningful.

Lyrics: William Cowper
Music: American melody

There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains,
lose all their guilty stains;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
that fountain in his day;
and there may I, though vile as he,
wash all my sins away.
Wash all my sins away,
wash all my sins away;
and there may I, though vile as he,
wash 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.
Be saved, to sin no more,
be saved, to sin no more;
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.
And shall be till I die,
and shall be till I die;
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,
I’ll sing thy power to save,
I’ll sing thy power to save,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing thy power to save.

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One Response to “There is a Fountain”

  1. Seth says:

    This is one of my favorites, too. Always reminds me of that sincere feeling of repentance and acceptance that comes with taking communion. Take care.

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