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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

William Cowper's Struggles (Plus Some of His Poetry Set to Music)

I was looking for hymns by William Cowper yesterday, and I ended up by reading more about his life.
"There is a Fountain Filled with Blood" and "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" are some of the lyrics you may be familiar with of the hymns he wrote.

I had heard some about Cowper's life in the past, but I didn't remember a lot of it.
His mother reportedly died when he was 6.
He made it through schooling to be a lawyer, and he fell in love with his cousin whom he was not allowed to marry.

The stress of trying to get a clerkship position in the House of Lords broke him.
He made three attempts on his life. 
He ended up in a "Insanorum" where he reportedly converted to Evangelicalism (which means he became a Christian).

He had the influence of some good friends in his life, and he seemed to improve for awhile and be encouraged spiritually.
He also sat under the teaching of John Newton and collaborated with him in the writing of hymns.
One online biography tried to make it sound as though what they call Newton's "despondence" was a bad atmosphere for Cowper, but something else I read makes it pretty clear that claim on that biography was utter nonsense.
Some of the critics are likely anti-Calvinist (as though Newton's Calvinism caused Cowper to have further mental problems).
Cowper was reportedly Calvinistic before meeting Newton, and some things that he wrote make it sound like Newton was just the opposite of a bad influence on him.
He was really an encouragement.
I too believe in the Biblical doctrines which many label "Calvinism."

One site mentioned that William's brother died a year before he lapsed into another time of mental instability.
That bout seemed to have ended the idea of his marrying the widow (Mary Unwin) who nursed him.  He was living with her family before she was a widow and continued in her care until she needed care herself.

 He had fears that he was going to go to Hell and had nightmares and delusionally thought God had commanded him to kill himself.
He improved and was encouraged by Mary to write as well as another widow encouraged his writing.

Mary became ill and paralyzed (this is what I read anyway) and died, and Cowper became despondent again after that until he died of dropsy.
I read that his nephew reported that shortly before he passed on that his sad face took on " a look of wonder and inexpressible delight."  

I found a poem of William Cowper's set to music in my searching.
Perhaps some of the most encouraging people may be the ones who need the most comfort from God.

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