Scripture Verse

A fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. Zechariah 13:1

Introduction

portrait
William Cowper (1731–1800)

Words: Will­iam Cow­per, in Con­yer’s Col­lect­ion of Psalms and Hymns, 1772.

Music: Cleans­ing Foun­tain 19th Cen­tu­ry Am­eri­can camp meet­ing tune (🔊 pdf nwc).

Alternate Tunes:

Background

This is one of the first hymns Cow­per wrote af­ter his first at­tack of tem­po­ra­ry mad­ness. He had been pro­mised a post as Clerk of the Jour­nal to the House of Lords, but was dis­mayed up­on learn­ing he would have to un­der­go a pub­lic ex­am­in­ation in the House be­fore be­gin­ning his du­ties.

The fol­low­ing ar­ti­cle, from the North Am­eri­can Re­view, Jan­ua­ry, 1834, des­cribes his di­lem­ma, and how God pre­vent­ed him from de­stroy­ing him­self.


As the time drew nigh, his ago­ny be­came more and more in­tense; he hoped and be­lieved that mad­ness would come to re­lieve him; he at­tempt­ed al­so to make up his mind to com­mit sui­cide, though his con­science bore stern tes­ti­mo­ny against it; he could not by any ar­gu­ment per­suade him­self that it was right, but this des­pe­ra­tion pre­vailed, and he pro­cured from an apo­the­ca­ry the means of self-de­struc­tion.

On the day be­fore his pub­lic ap­pear­ance was to be made, he hap­pened to no­tice a let­ter in the news­pa­per, which to his di­sor­dered mind seemed like a ma­lig­nant li­bel on him­self. He im­me­di­ate­ly threw down the pa­per and rushed in­to the fields, de­ter­mined to die in a ditch, but the thought struck him that he might es­cape from the coun­try.

With the same vio­lence he pro­ceed­ed to make has­ty pre­pa­ra­tions for his flight; but while he was en­gaged in pack­ing his port­man­teau his mind changed, and he threw him­self in­to a coach, or­der­ing the man to drive to the Tow­er wharf, in­tend­ing to throw him­self in­to the river, and not re­flect­ing that it would be im­pos­si­ble to ac­comp­lish his pur­pose in that pub­lic spot.

On ap­proach­ing the wa­ter, he found a por­ter seat­ed upon some goods: he then re­turned to the coach and was con­veyed to his lodg­ings at the Tem­ple.

On the way he at­tempt­ed to drink the lau­da­num, but as oft­en as he raised it, a con­vul­sive agi­ta­tion of his frame pre­vent­ed it from reach­ing his lips; and thus, re­gret­ting the loss of the op­por­tu­ni­ty, but un­able to avail him­self of it, he ar­rived, half dead with ang­uish, at his apart­ment.

He then shut the doors and threw him­self up­on the bed with the lau­da­num near him, trying to lash him­self up to the deed; but a voice with­in seemed con­stant­ly to for­bid it, and as oft­en as he ex­tend­ed his hand to the poi­son, his fin­gers were con­tract­ed and held back by spasms.

At this time one of the in­mates of the place came in, but he con­cealed his agi­ta­tion, and as soon as he was left alone, a change came ov­er him, and so de­test­able did the deed ap­pear, that he threw away the lau­da­num and dashed the vi­al to piec­es.

The rest of the day was spent in heavy in­sen­si­bi­li­ty, and at night he slept as usu­al; but on wak­ing at three in the morn­ing, he took his pen­knife and lay with his weight up­on it, the point tow­ard his heart.

It was brok­en and would not pe­ne­trate. At day break he arose, and pass­ing a strong gar­ter around his neck, fast­ened it to the frame of his bed: this gave way with his weight, but on se­cur­ing it to the door, he was more suc­cess­ful, and re­mained sus­pend­ed till he had lost all con­scious­ness of ex­is­tence.

After a time the gar­ter broke and he fell to the floor, so that his life was saved; but the con­flict had been great­er than his rea­son could en­dure.

He felt for him­self a con­tempt not to be ex­pressed or im­ag­ined; when­ev­er he went in­to the street, it seemed as if ev­ery eye flashed up­on him with in­dig­na­tion and scorn.

He felt as if he had of­fend­ed God so deep­ly that his guilt could ne­ver be for­gi­ven, and his whole heart was filled with tu­mul­tu­ous pangs of des­pair. Mad­ness was not far off, or ra­ther mad­ness was al­rea­dy come.


After re­co­ver­ing, Cow­per came to real­ize how God can erase the stain of any sin.

Lyrics

There is a foun­tain filled with blood
Drawn from Em­ma­nu­el’s veins;
And sin­ners plunged be­neath that flood
Lose all their guil-ty stains.
Lose all their guil-ty stains,
Lose all their guil-ty stains;
And sin­ners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guil-ty 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.
Washed all my sins away,
Washed all my sins away;
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.
Be saved, to sin no more,
Be saved, to sin no more;
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.
And shall be till I die,
And shall be till I die;
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.
Lies silent in the grave,
Lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisp­ing, stam­mer­ing tongue
Lies si­lent in the grave.

Lord, I be­lieve Thou hast pre­pared,
Unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free re­ward,
A gold­en harp for me!
A gold­en harp for me,
A gold­en harp for me;
For me a blood bought free re­ward,
A gold­en harp for me!

’Tis strung and tuned for end­less years,
And formed by power di­vine,
To sound in God the Fa­ther’s ears
No oth­er name but Thine;
No oth­er name but Thine,
No other name but Thine;
To sound in God the Fa­ther’s ears
No oth­er name but Thine.