THERE IS A FOUNTAIN
William Cowper, 1731–1800
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)
William Cowper is viewed by some as one of the finest of all English writers. But Cowper’s emotional life was one of great turmoil. At an early age he was directed by his father to study law. Upon completion of his studies, however, the prospect of appearing for his final examination before the bar so frightened him that it caused a mental breakdown and even an attempted suicide. Later he was placed in an insane asylum for 18 months. During this detention, he one day read from the Scriptures the passage in Romans 3:25 that Jesus Christ is “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.” Through his reading of the Bible, Cowper soon developed a personal relationship with Christ and a sense of forgiveness of sin. This was in 1764, when he was 33 years old.
Three years later, Cowper was invited to move to Olney, England, where John Newton pastored the parish Anglican Church. It was here for nearly two decades that Newton and Cowper had a close personal friendship. In 1799 their combined talents produced the famous Olney Hymns hymnal, one of the most important single contributions made to the field of evangelical hymnody. In this ambitious collection of 349 hymns, sixty-seven were written by Cowper with the remainder by Newton.
Osbeck, K. W. (1990). Amazing grace : 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions. Includes indexes. (Page 115). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.