Hymn Story: Hallelujah, O Messiah

Original Title: "Jesus, Whose Blood So Freely Streamed"

Written by William Cowper, 1779.

The Story:

William Cowper is regarded by many to be one of the finest English poets. Born in 1731, Cowper was raised by unbelieving parents, whose singular desire was that he become a lawyer.  When he was six years old his mother died, and his father shipped him off to boarding school.  In 1752, three years since beginning to practicing law as a cover for a life of leisure, Cowper was struck with paralyzing depression.  This was the beginning of a long struggle of melancholy and suicidal depression.

At the age of 32, after many attempts at suicide, Cowper was admitted to St. Alban's Insane Asylum, where he first picked up a Bible. While reading Romans 3:25, Cowper finally believed the truth of Jesus, and determined to follow Him.

Several years after his conversion and release from the asylum, Cowper moved to a community where he became friends with a well-known preacher in that day, John Newton.  Newton observed Cowper's bent toward melancholy and reclusiveness and invited Cowper to join him on long walks of visitation where they would pray and converse of God and the church between visits.  In 1769, Newton attempted to transform Cowper's bleak introspection into poetic expression, and the two began a collaboration on what is now called, "The Olney Hymns."

Many years pass, melancholy constantly plaguing him, and finally in 1800, Cowper dies in utter despair.  

Cowper's mental state, however, did not prevent him from composing such brilliant and articulate poetry as this hymn, "Jesus, Whose Blood So Freely Streamed."  The Gospel had become a reality to him, and was surely his last and final hope. 

Original Lyrics:

1. Jesus, whose blood so freely streamed
To satisfy the law’s demand;
By Thee from guilt and wrath redeemed,
Before the Father’s face I stand.

2. To reconcile offending man,
Make Justice drop her angry rod;
What creature could have formed the plan,
Or who fulfill it but a God?

3. No drop remains of all the curse,
For wretches who deserved the whole;
No arrows dipped in wrath to pierce
The guilty, but returning soul.

4. Peace by such means so dearly bought,
What rebel could have hoped to see?
Peace by his injured Sovereign wrought,
His Sovereign fastened to a tree.

5. Now, Lord, Thy feeble worm prepare!
For strife with earth and hell begins;
Conform and gird me for the war;
They hate the soul that hates his sins.

6. Let them in horrid league agree!
They may assault, they may distress;
But cannot quench Thy love to me,
Nor rob me of the Lord my Peace.

Original Melody:

Clolata by W. St. Claire Palmer

A Gospel Hymnal (Vol. 1)

This song was arranged by Taylor Reavely to be sung at New Life Church and recorded on A Gospel Hymnal (Vol. 1). This story originally appeared at www.taylorreavely.com/blog on 01/30/2014.

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