Finding Jesus In an Asylum

Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. (Romans 3:24-25)

It’s important to remember that every song in our hymnal is simply “someone’s story put to music.” The following story is from Robert J. Morgan’s, “Then Sings My Soul.”

William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”) is one of God’s gracious gifts to those suffering from depression. Like the Psalmist who cried, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” (Ps. 42:5), Cowper shows us that our emotional struggles often give us heightened sensitivity to the heart of God and to the needs of others.

Cowper, born in 1731, was the fourth child of a British clergyman and his wife. William’s three siblings died, then his mother died while giving birth to the fifth child. William was six when he lost his mother, and it was a blow from which he never recovered.

William, emotionally frail, was sent to a boarding school where for two years he was terrorized by a bully which further shattered his nerves. From ages 10 to 18, he had a better experience at Westminster School, developing a love for literature and poetry. His father wanted him to be an attorney, but, preparing for his bar exam, he succumbed to severe anxiety. Concluding himself hopeless, he threw away his Bible and attempted suicide.

Friends recommended an asylum run by Dr. Nathaniel Cotton, a lover of poetry and a committed Christian. Under Dr. Cotton’s care, William slowly recovered. In the asylum in 1764, he found the Lord while reading Romans 3:25: “….whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith….” (cited at the top)

Eight years later, Cowper would pen the following words which, today, are found in almost any hymn book:

There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’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 may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.

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.

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