Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (Romans 3:25)
William Cowper is one of God's gracious gifts to those suffering from depression. Like the Psalmist who cried, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul?" (Psalm 42:5), Cowper shows us that our emotional struggles often give us heightened sensitivity to the heart of God and to the need of others.
Cowper (pronounced Cooper), born in 1731, was the forth child 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. Years later, when someone sent him a picture of her, he wrote:
My mother? When I learn'd that thou wast dead,
Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed?
Hover'd thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son,
Wretch even then, life's journey just begun?...
I heard the bell toll'd on thy burial day,
I saw the hearse that nor thee slow away,
And, turning from my nurs'ry window, drew
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu!
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 experienced runaway anxiety. Concluding himself dammed, he threw away his Bible and attempted suicide.
Friends recommend an asylum run by Dr. Nathaniel Cotton, a lover of poetry and a committed Christian. Under Dr. Cotton's care, William recovered. In the asylum in 1764, he found the Lord while reading Romans 3:25: His life was still to hold many dark days of intense depression, but at least he now had a spiritual foundation. As he later put it: there is a fountain....