Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Great Hymns

One of my new favorite hymns (sadly, having only recently come across it) is William Cowper's "God Moves in a Mysterious Way". I also found a great arrangement of it by musician Gary Brumley online, which I shared with my sweet friend & fellow musician, Stephanie. She then shared more of the incredible story of Cowper. See an excerpt from her email to me below:
Proverbs 19:21 reads “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” This is a song filled with reminders that God is always working His purposes in our lives, despite what we see from our perspective.

May you be encouraged by hearing a bit of the song’s background. The writer of the song is William Cowper, who lived in the 1700’s, and was a friend of John Newton (the author of “Amazing Grace”). William Cowper suffered with extreme depression his entire life. In his thirties, following an attempt at suicide, he embraced the gospel of Christ through the influence of a Christian doctor. Yet even after coming to faith, he continued to battle intense discouragement throughout the course of his long life. He did not understand why God did not lift the burden of his spirit, and even today, those who study his life do not fully understand what God’s purposes were in allowing his mental and emotional suffering to continue.

But, in the midst of, and no doubt influenced by, the intensity of his struggle with depression, William Cowper wrote hymns that brilliantly magnify the truth of God’s goodness in all circumstances. His most well-known words are “There is a Fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins/And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”, showing his fight to cling to the truth of the gospel in the midst of his miserable circumstances. And, as you will hear in this next hymn, William Cowper, despite his circumstances, also embraced the truth of God’s endless goodness in all that He ordains:

“With deepest wisdom, highest love,

And never failing skill

[God] masterminds His bright designs

And works His sovereign will.

His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.”

As far as we know, Cowper wasn’t able to see the purpose or taste the sweetness of God’s will until he reached heaven. But he left a legacy that encourages us to trust God for his grace regardless of our circumstances. We hope that as we sing, you will use his words to reflect on the wisdom and goodness of God’s work in your life.

Another great hymn written by William Cowper is "The Saints Should Never Be Dismayed"...
1. The saints should never be dismayed,
Nor sink in hopeless fear;
For when they least expect his aid,
The Saviour will appear.

2. This Abraham found, he raised the knife,
God saw, and said, Forbear;
Yon ram shall yield his meaner life,
Behold the victim there.

3. Once David seemed Saul's certain prey,
But hark! the foe's at hand;
Saul turns his arms another way,
To save th' invaded land.

4. When Jonah sunk beneath the wave
He thought to rise no more;
But God prepared a fish to save,
And bear him to the shore.

5. Blest proofs of pow'r and grace divine,
That meet us in his word!
May every deep-felt care of mine
Be trusted with the Lord.

6. Wait for his seasonable aid,
And though it tarry wait:
The promise may be long-delayed,
But cannot come too late.


Greg Breazeale said...

Gotta love some Cowper (Cooper)! I went to his home in Bedford a few years ago, it was awesome!

Gary Brumley said...

I'm thankful you've enjoyed my arrangement of "God Moves in a Mysterious Way." It too, is one of my favorite hymns. I have two comments:

First, in my arrangement of this hymn I kept almost all of Cowper's original words intact. However, I did slightly change a few words which just happened to be the same words you quoted in your post. For the sake of historical accuracy here are Cowper's words:

"Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will."

Secondly, there is an additional story to this text worth noting. Legend has it that one evening, in a deep state of discouragement and despair, Cowper hired a coach to take him to the Thames river that might jump from the bridge and end his life. However, a deep fog settled over London making it impossible for the driver to find the bridge. After hours of aimless pursuit the driver found his way back to Cowper's home. Struck with a deep sense of repentance and thankfulness to the Lord for foiling his wicked plans, Cowper retired to his room and penned what we now know as "God Moves in a Mysterious Way."

God Bless.
Gary Brumley