Agonizomai: Sermon of the Week<br>Piper Plumbs Cowper's Depths

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sermon of the Week
Piper Plumbs Cowper's Depths

John Piper of "Desiring God" has done brief audio biographies of many men of the faith from times gone by - Newton, Owen, Gresham-Machen, Edwards and others. I have enjoyed listening to quite a few of them, but the one that most resonates with me is that of William Cowper (pronounced "Cooper"), poet and hymn writer.

Cowper's anguished soul, his almost overwhelming depression and his suicidal temptations served as the fount through which sweet praises of God and of His grace were distilled for the blessing of us all. Most of us would not wish to experience the great darkness of the soul that was Cowper's lot - but we would still like to have the insights into Christ that can only come through walking with Him through the maelstrom.

I know something of Cowper's journey, having spent the eternity of 2 long weeks locked up in ward for the insane in my younger years, and having endured 6 months of intensive treatment in later years at a hospital for people incapacitated by severe depression. Of course, I never produced the sweetness that came from Cowper's pen - but we shared the darkness to some degree, and we were preserved by the same gracious Savior.

Insanity and Spiritual Songs in the Soul of a Saint
Reflections on the Life of William Cowper

by John Piper


Blogger ndmb said...

"Of course, I never produced the sweetness that came from Cowper's pen"

I think you underestimate yourself, my friend. Acknowledging that you were saved by the Savior and telling that story to others, doesn't that produce fruit of the same sweetness?

9:19 pm  
Blogger underdogtheology said...

Let's not forget that Charles Spurgeon himself was a man of many woes and it could be said that one of his "thorns" was depression.

I myself am prone to bouts of melancholia. It is a daily business of "rolling over" our anxieties unto the Lord.

Under a Juniper Tree

4:11 am  
Blogger agonizomai said...


Thanks. In actuality, if there is any sweetness at all, it all comes from God. And He'll be the judge. My bad for expressing it the way I did.


Yes, I already read the post on your site about Elijah. Of course, there are, as you say, many causes of depression.

I have to say that in the midst of severe bouts the depressed sometimes simply cannot keep turning things over. But God is faithful even when we are not. A word of truth sown into a depressed heart may not bear fruit immediately, but God can revive the heart from the blackest depths in His time.

God never let Cowper go. What a gracious provision was made in the friendship of John Newton, who persisted in sowing the word of truth into the darkness of Cowper's soul.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.



8:32 am  
Blogger Brenda said...

Cowper's poems have been very dear to my heart since the Lord led me to them about 8 years ago. I also appreciated John Piper's written biography of Cowper, although I haven't yet listened to the audio message that you have posted.

It touched me to hear you expose your own history of depression, since I have also been in the paralyzing pit of despair several times in my life. I'm thankful that I haven't experienced a bout for a few years now. It's tragic that depression carries so much stigma in the Christian world, since many godly men have gone through its grip. Luther wrote quite extensively about his own depression and was very sympathetic to those who suffered with it. Thanks, Tony, for being "real".

4:45 pm  
Blogger agonizomai said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:45 pm  
Blogger agonizomai said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

I am learning to be "real". Sometimes I do better than at others. But it comforts me to see that when I come just a bit lower and show my weakness, then God is gracious in supplying people like you who through whom he can exhort and encourage.



5:46 pm  

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