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Thursday
Mar202008

Poetry of the Cross: Praise for the Fountain Opened

Let’s continue the poems with two by William Cowper himself, who was the subject of yesterday’s cross poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The first one is not a poem of the cross, but rather, one that sets the stage for the cross poem. But first, let me quote a bit from an earlier post on Cowper’s life.

After [Cowper’s] first suicide attempt, he became convinced of his own deep sinfulness and that he was under God’s wrath, but along with this he also became convinced that his sin, especially his suicide attempt, was so offensive to God that there was no way for him to be forgiven of it.

The conviction that he was beyond God’s forgiveness drove him even deeper into despair and he was sent to a mental asylum.
And that’s exactly what you’ll find in this first poem from Cowper—the conviction that he was beyond God’s forgiveness.
LINES WRITTEN DURING A PERIOD OF INSANITY

Hatred and vengence -my eternal portion
Scarce can endure delay of execution -
Wait with impatient readiness to seize my
Soul in a moment.

Damned below Judas; more abhorred than he was,
Who for a few pence sold his holy Master!
Twice betrayed, Jesus me, the last delinquent,
Deems the profanest.

Man disavows, and Deity disowns me:
Hell might afford my miseries a shelter;
Therefore Hell keeps her ever-hungry mouths all
Bolted against me.

Hard lot! encompassed with a thousand dangers;
Weary, faint, trembling with a thousand terrors,
I’m called, if vanquished, to receive a sentence
Worse than Abiram’s.

Him the vindictive rod of angry Justice
Sent quick and howling to the centre headlong;
I, fed with judgment, in a fleshy tomb am
Buried above ground.

What changed that for him? It was reading the scripture while in the asylum, especially one verse, 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.
Here’s what William Cowper says about his conversion experience.
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 completeness of His justification. In a moment I believed, and received the gospel ….
So now you know the background to one of Cowper’s best known Olney Hymns:
XV. PRAISE FOR THE FOUNTAIN OPENED. Zechariah xiii.1.

There is a fountain fill’d 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,
Wash’d all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransom’d 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.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing thy power to save;
When this poor lisping stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe thou hast prepared
(Unworthy though I be)
For me a blood-bought free reward,
A golden harp for me!

‘Tis strung, and tuned, for endless years,
And form’d by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears
No other name but thine.

You’ll find all of Cowper’s Olney Hymns, several of them cross-centered, here.

More Poetry of the Cross

You are welcome to join me in my celebration of Poetry of the Cross if you wish. Just post a cross-centered poem any day of this week (or every day of this week) and send me the link to your poem. I’ll link back to your poem in the next Poetry of the Cross post.

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Reader Comments (1)

I have a post for poetry of the cross. Have a wonderful Easter celebration!
http://happywonderer.wordpress.com/2008/03/21/poetry-of-the-cross/

March 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterellen b

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