Dependence by William Cowper

William Cowper
Poet, Hymnodist

(Portrait of Cowper, attributed to Romney)

Most believers know the story of William Cowper who was author of many hymns including “There is a Fountain filled with Blood.” Cowper was a man given to debilitating depression and even despaired of not being chosen by God. He spent years living with John Newton who ministered faithfully and kindly to him. Newton engaged Cowper in writing hymns for the Olney Hymnal along with him. The following hymn is written by Cowper and found in the Olney Hymnal. Cowper must have preached truth to himself through these hymns. He had a deep understanding of who God is and of grace and yet struggled so much. I can not say whether he lives with God in heaven now. John Piper preached a biographical sermon on Cowper and believes that Cowper said some things that offered hope that he was a believer, though the vast majority of his depression was centered on being outside of the grace of God.

Here is a wonderful writing of Cowper’s called Dependence.

To keep the lamp alive,
With oil we fill the bowl;
‘Tis water makes the willow thrive,
And grace that feeds the soul.

The Lord’s unsparing hand
Supplies the living stream;
It is not at our own command,
but still derived from Him.

Beware of Peter’s word,
Nor confidently say,
“I never will deny Thee, Lord,”-
But,-“Grant I never may.”

Man’s wisdom is to seek
His strength in God alone;
And e’en an angel would be weak,
Who trusted in his own.

Retreat beneath His wings,
And in His grace confide!
This more exalts the King of kings,
Than all your works beside.