Frank Harte once said, “Those in power write the history, while those who suffer write the songs.”
It is true that suffering and longing bring us to expression, and it is true that the power of rhyme and melody bring about a certain kind of life to human emotion and experience. We know, especially of hymns, that stories behind a song and its writer can enhance and heighten the emotion and message they already convey so well. “There is a fountain filled with blood” (first titled “Praise for the Fountain Opened”) serves as a prime example of this.
William Cowper, an 18th century hymnodist and poet, was one of the first few writers to find success both in secular and sacred venues. He wrote of the world around him, and most often, the pain he felt. Cowper struggled with depression his whole life, bringing him to spend time in an asylum and through several attempts at suicide. In 1767, he moved to Olney and began a deep lasting friendship with an Anglican cleric — John Newton. Even with such wonderful friendships and a hope to hold on to, life proved to be difficult and dark. Cowper and Newton went on to pen 348 hymns, together and separately, in a publication titled ‘Olney Hymns’. Among these were titles like “There is a fountain filled with blood” and “Amazing Grace”. According to Newton, these hymns were written and compiled with the specific intent to comfort believers by reminding them of lasting, eternal hope in the midst of temporary difficulty, brokenness, and seeming despair.
250 years later, these hymns and their purpose still stand. We are a people who live in a broken world, affected deeply by the pain it brings us, and we need to be reminded of the hope we have because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. So, let us be the kind of people who sing songs to comfort our hearts, to encourage each other, to hold fast to what we know to be true.
When the stain of sin from our own hearts and from the world we live in brings us to our knees, may we be reminded of the fountain, of the blood of Christ, where sin goes to die and where new life is brought about. So, while we suffer, we sing. When darkness seems overwhelming, redeeming love should be our theme. As we wait for that Day when we will sing freed from sin, may we continue offering our praise, believing in our hearts that He will come for us again.
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 have I, though 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.
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave.
Hallelujah, fountain full of love for us
Poured out on us
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