Behind the Hymn Sunday: There Is A Fountain

Have you ever been under so much stress that it caused a mental breakdown?

That’s what happened to William Cowper {pronounced Cooper} while preparing for his bar exam. His breakdown was so complete

William Cowper

William Cowper

that he was admitted to an insane asylum until he recovered. During his time in the asylum his life was forever changed when he came to know Christ. In 1764, William was reading the Bible and stumbled upon Romans 3:25, which says “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood —to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” After reading this passage he gave his heart and life over the Christ.

Three years later in 1767, William Cowper met the Rev. John Newton. Rev. Newton is best known for writing the hymn, Amazing Grace {although the men met before the popular hymn was written.}

Together, Mr. Cowper and Rev. Newton produced the Olney Hymnal, which was published in 1779. These hymns were written for use in the rural parish where Rev. Newton was a minister. William Cowper wrote approximately sixty-seven of the 348 hymns, while John Newton wrote the remaining hymns.

Rev. John NewtonThere is a fountain is one of the hymns William Cowper wrote for the Olney Hymnal.

William had a difficult life. His mother died when he was six years old and he was bullied at boarding school. He suffered from what we {today} call depression for the majority of his life.

This popular hymn is based on the passage Zachariah 13:1, “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.”

The hymn was originally titled “Peace for the Fountain Opened.”