Tuesday, November 16, 2010

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

Our Stories of the Hymns takes us this month to my personal favorite hymn. This hymn has been called the "finest song ever written on the theme of God's providence." What makes this statement even more amazing is that the author of this hymn actually lived a life of emotional distress.

The author of this hymn spent eighteen months in an asylum for the "insane." He, as ghastly and in congruent as it sounds, attempted suicide on a number of occasions. However, while in the asylum the author began reading the bible. At thirty-three years old he had a genuine conversion experience. Unfortunately, throughout his life he was plagued by deep depressions, voices, and the overwhelming thought that God had forsaken him and would dam him to hell.

Unbelievably, between the times of his mental distress, William Cowper (1731-1800) was an extremely gifted hymn writer. William Cowper wrote a number of "classic hymns" that we regularly sing in our evangelical churches. Cowper also spent some twenty years working with John Newton (1725-1807) in a small town called Olney, England. During this period of time Newton and Cowper wrote some three hundred and forty nine hymns and produced them in a hymnal called The Olney Hymns. Sixty seven of these hymns were written solely by William Cowper. Two of these, in addition to today's selection we sing regularly, O For A Closer Walk With God and another personal favorite of mine, There is A Fountain Filled With Blood

This hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious Way was originally called Conflict: Light Shining Out of Darkness. This seems to have been William Cowper's last hymn. It is a reflection of God's leading him throughout his lifetime. There is some speculation that this hymn was written after a failed suicide attempt by drowning. For all of the troubles of William Cowper this hymn has comforted God's people for nearly two hundred years. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Thank God that William Cowper is now at rest in the presence of the Lord he so loved and feared.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform
He plants His footsteps in the sea
and rides upon the storm

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take
the clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy
and shall break in blessings on your head

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
but trust Him for His grace
behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face

Blind unbelief is to sure to err
and scan His work in vain
God is His own interpreter
and He will make it plain

30 Days of Thanksgiving

I am taking my cue today from Kim at The Upward Call. I am joining with her in thanksgiving for book stores and especially bookstores that are on line. I thank God for cheapest book price.com. I ordered today The Life and Epistles of Paul, by Coneybeare and Howson. Last month I ordered 1, 2, 3 John by Stephen S Smalley. I try to order something a couple times each month.


Persis said...

This is one of my favorite hymns. Have you listened to John Piper's biographical talk on Cowper? It is quite interesting.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A wonderful hymn, good inspirational words.

Michelle said...

Very beautiful hymn...I love to know the history behind the writers and wish so many of the good hymns were not lost with time.

Thanks for such an informative blog!

JD Curtis said...

Thanks. I might make a special request on this one.

Allow me to share a "random act of culture" as 650 choir members and a Wanamaker pipe organ infiltrated the shoppers at Macy's in Philadelphia on October 30th to perform the Hallelujah chorus of Handel's Messiah to the suprise of the shoppers there. Link

Cathy M. said...

Thanks for this fascinating history behind the hymn. I wish we heard more about God's providence. I can't think of a time when I've ever heard anyone in my church teach on the subject. Great post!


Thanks Gregg, I always like to learn about the history of God's people and how He use broken vessels to bring glory to Himself.


LibbyLibbyLibbyLibbyLibby said...

I'm going to have to look him up. Very interesting! I hope when he died, that he died confident in God's grace and not fearful of those dark thoughts that plagued him. I hope he saw angels at his bedside and felt peace.