Skip to main content

William Cowper's Blood Fountain (Part I)

I am currently working my way through the famous hymn "There is a fountain filled with blood" by William Cowper, as sung to the English tune which has grown on me ever since I learnt it at a local church:

There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains.

In plain english, the first verse says there is a natural spring filled with blood (not water) that is constantly flowing from the Messiah's veins. Any sinners that are bathed in this blood instantly lose their moral guilty before God, without fail. The fountain never stops flowing. It is so overwhelming that it has become a flood where your whole body can be totally immensed. Once the person is plunged totally beneath this flood all guilty stains are removed.

William Cowper's imagery draws inspiration from Prophet Zechariah who prophesied that, "On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness"The graphic imagery of this God ordained fountain has drawn criticism and praise in equal measure. To be sure it is better to see it as "inspired by" Zechariah rather than as necessary an attempt to suggest one can get from Zechariah directly to the allegorical (and true) imagery. It seems to me that there a number of truths Cowper wanted to portray in this poetry.

First, Cowper wants us to appreciate the violence of the cross. If we saw Cowper's allegorical imagery in real life we would certainly shudder! It is deeply inhumane. What we have here is a man from whom blood pours endlessly. The people bath themselves in it. The people dipping themselves happen to be the same people morally responsible for his death. It is physically and emotionally violent. And that is exactly what the death of Jesus is. It is not simply that a certain man suffered innocently in the worst form of execution invented by man. It is that God suffered and took on man's violence once and for all eternity.

We must pause and reflect on that thought here. There is a temptation to see Cowper's imagery of the never ending flow of blood as depicting Jesus as repeatedly being sacrificed. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that Christ suffered once and for all. What Cowper wants us to see is that the though the sacrifice is once and for all time, the violence inflicted on Christ is eternal. Even now in heaven, he bears the marks of his crucifixion in his resurrected body. And crucially by his nature Christ knows even now, without forgetting, the intimate pain of crucifixion for my sins. He has suffered eternal violence. As a result Jesus need not suffer violence repeatedly he has been crushed for all eternity. What a violent and mind boggling undertaking! What unmerited favour!

Secondly, we see the miracle of the cross. Cowper does not use the name of Yeshua or Messiah, instead he says Immanuel. This means 'God with Us'. The name not only tells us who this man is, God in the flesh, it also tells us what he has come to do. He has come to be with us, the guilty sinners! The name is immediate, but also prophetic because it points us to the violent death and the costly flowing fountain it provides. It also points us to that future union when God comes to live in us through his Holy Spirit when we repent. And beyond that ultimately for all eternity in the new heaven and new earth. The miracle of this blood fountain is that it not only God in our midst but also a God who never leaves us! The fountain is always there.

Finally, Cowper help us to see the demand of the fountain. Cowper is telling us that the world only consists of two sets of people. Those who have plunged in the fountain and those who are "sinking deep in sin" in the words of another hymn writer. These people are described as sinners with guilty stains. They are stained with guilt because they are not with God. They stand positionally apart from God, the only source of all goodness and moral perfection. Their only hope is turn to Immanuel's ceaseless, overwhelming and comprehensive blood cleansing spring.

Sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains! The key here is that plunging is pivitol to losing the guilty. This active step of faith, as it is made clear later in verse four, is the only thing that effects the removal. The blood therefore demands a response from us to enjoy its miraculous cleansing power. And when we take the plunge it truly cleanses us!

So when we sing the first verse we are making important confessions about Jesus and ourselves. We are acknowledging the violence of the cross; the miracle of the cross in redeeming us; and the demand it makes on us to plunge and be united with the crucified Saviour. We need to daily keep these elements in our minds because our propensity to embrace sin is due to the lack of appreciation of the blood filled fountain.

Have you taken the plunge? Are you resting in the plunge? And you drawing others to the plunge? These are important questions we must ask ourselves daily.

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Jesus Never Fails

Many a times in my life, the words of this childhood hymn has been a tremendous encouragement. I pray this may encourage you too. Keep looking to Jesus!
Jesus never fails, Jesus never fails The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails.
Your mother will let you down Your father will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails.
Your husband will let you down Your wife will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails
Your brothers will let you down Your sisters-will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails
Your church will let you down Your work will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails
Your friends will let you down Your country will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails
Your wealth will let you down Your health will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails
Copyri…

Pornography as Occultism

There is a kind of helplessness that a man engaged in pornography exhibits. He often speaks of it in terms of a “struggle” or an “addiction.” Now both of those terms are accurate, I believe, but they distance a person from his sin in a soul-decaying manner. Pornography is not just an addiction; it is occultism. The man who sits upstairs viewing pornography while his wife chauffeurs the kids to soccer practice is not some unusual “pervert”; he is (like his forefather Adam) seeking the mystery of the universe apart from Christ. That’s the reason the one picture, stored in his memory, of that naked woman will never be enough for him. He will never be able to be satisfied because he will never be able to get an image naked enough. I say pornography is occultism because I believe the draw toward it is more than biological (though that is strong). The satanic powers understand that “the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). They understand that the pornographic …

7 fascinating facts about Bexleyheath

I just finished reading Bexleyheath : A History by John Mercer as part of my effort to know a little about the history of our new local area. We have been living here for the last four months and it is a wonderful area indeed. Here are seven fascinating things about Bexleyheath mentioned in the book.

1. Two hundred years ago much of Bexley Heath was an area of wide-open land largely uncultivated. It was not until 1894, that the two words were put together.

2. On 5 June 1739, George Whitfield, a prominent preacher associated with John Wesley, came to the highway and preached by the pond opposite the Golden Lion. He was welcomed to the district by Henry Piers, Vicar of St Mary's (Bexley), who was a supporter of the new evangelical movement which was to become later known as the Methodist Church. Over 300 gathered to hear Whitfield preach from his horse: travellers, labourers, gypsies and villagers from Bexley village.
3. One of the early inhabitants of Bexlyheath was the polish emigre …