17 novembra, 2009

William Cowper

Another person Piper writes in his book The Hidden Smile of God is William Cowper [pronounced “Cooper”]. He was a man who wrote many hymns that are being sung in churches even today. But not everybody knows what's hidden behind those verses.

In 1752 he sank into his first paralyzing depression—the first of four major battles with mental breakdown so severe as to set him to staring out of windows for weeks at a time. Struggle with despair came to be the theme of his life. He was twenty-one years old and not yet a believer.

In December 1763 he was committed to St. Albans Insane Asylum, where the fifty-eight-year-old Dr. Nathaniel Cotton tended the patients. Cotton was somewhat of a poet, but most of all, by God’s wonderful design, an evangelical believer and a lover of God and the Gospel. He loved Cowper and held out hope to him repeatedly in spite of his insistence that he was damned and beyond hope. Six months into his stay, Cowper found a Bible lying (not by accident) on a bench. And this is what Cowper says:

Having found a Bible on the bench in the garden, I opened upon the 11th of St. John, where Lazarus is raised from the dead; and saw so much benevolence, mercy, goodness, and sympathy with miserable men, in our Saviour’s conduct, that I almost shed tears upon the revelation; little think- ing that it was an exact type of the mercy which Jesus was on the point of extending towards myself. I sighed, and said, “Oh, that I had not rejected so good a Redeemer, that I had not forfeited all his favours.” Thus was my heart softened, though not yet enlightened. 

Increasingly, he felt he was not utterly forsaken. Again he felt led to turn to the Bible. The first verse he saw was Romans 3:25: “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” (KJV). And William continues:

Immediately I received the strength to believe it, and the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency of the atonement He had made, my pardon sealed in His blood, and all the fullness and com- pleteness of His justification. In a moment I believed, and received the gospel... Whatever my friend Madan had said to me, long before, revived in all its clearness, with demonstration of the spirit and with power. Unless the Almighty arm had been under me, I think I should have died with gratitude and joy. My eyes filled with tears, and my voice choked with transport; I could only look up to heaven in silent fear, overwhelmed with love and wonder.

Cower was a man so depressed that he tried to commit a suicide so many times that one might wonder what was so hard to kill himself. The answer is easy. As Piper puts it: each time God providentially prevented him. God used the sorrows and hardships of his life to bring about fruit that now (after all those afflictions) tastes much sweeter.

This is what John Piper writes as a conclusion:

Cowper was sick. But in his sickness he saw things that we so desperately need to see. He saw hell. And sometimes he saw heaven. He knew terror. And sometimes he knew ecstasy. When I stand to welcome the people to worship on Sunday morning, I know that there are William Cowpers in the congregation. There are spouses who can barely talk. There are sullen teenagers living double lives at home and school. There are widows who still feel the amputation of a fifty-year partner. There are single people who have not been hugged for twenty years. There are men in the prime of their lives with cancer. There are moms who have car- ried two tiny caskets. There are soldiers of the cross who have risked all for Jesus and bear the scars. There are tired and dis- couraged and lonely strugglers. Shall we come to them with a joke?
They can read the comics every day. What they need from me is not more bouncy, frisky smiles and stories. What they need is a kind of joyful earnestness that makes the broken heart feel hopeful and helps the ones who are drunk with trifles sober up for greater joys.

In Cowper’s most famous hymn, this is what he sings—the preciousness of the blood of Christ to the worst of sinners. 

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, as 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.

Žiadne komentáre: