Archive for the Hymns Category

God Our Help in Ages Past and Years To Come

Posted in Heaven, Hymns, John Bunyan, Puritans, Suffering, The Pilgrim's Progress, Valley of Vision on January 29, 2015 by kevinwilkening

My younger brother’s thirteen year old daughter, Eilise, has been diagnosed with a pinealblastoma: an aggressive brain tumor. After hanging up the phone, having heard the news through my brother’s breaking voice, and our short but meaningful tear-filled conversation, I was reminded once again of The Pilgrim’s ProgressThe Pilgrim’s Progress is a Christian allegory that was written by John Bunyan, and published in February 1678.

I began thinking particularly of a couple sections. First, when night is falling, and Christian has entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Christian finds himself in the middle of the valley amidst gloom and terror, but then he hears the words of the Twenty-third Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Christian makes it through the night trusting that God is with him. Then, he leaves valley as the sun rises on a new day.

The second is when Christian and Hopeful, having just visited Vanity Fair, are traveling along a particularly rough section of road. They leave the highway to travel on the easier By-Path Meadow. However, there is a rainstorm that forces them to spend the night, and in the morning, they are captured by Giant Despair who takes them to his Doubting Castle where they are imprisoned, beaten and starved. The Giant Despair wants them to commit suicide, but they endure his misery until Christian realizes that he has a key called Promise, which will open all the doors and gates of Doubting Castle. Using the key, they escape. Eventually, Christian and Hopeful come upon some shepherds in the Delectable Mountains. And the shepherds show them some of the wonders of the place also known as “Immanuel’s Land.”

What a helpful allegory for the Christian life. I love The Pilgrim’s Progress for several reasons. However, the one I will highlight today is that this story reminds us that our lives are all pilgrimages, or journeys, or voyages. And all pilgrimages, journeys, or voyages have real danger, and put us in real peril. However, for the Christian, the peril is never experienced apart from God’s grace. Oh, for more grace!
valleyofvisionHere is a Puritan prayer entitled “Voyage.” I have posted this before. However, it is the prayer that I immediately think of when my friends or family find themselves in the midst of this life’s raging storms. So, today I pray this for my brother and his family, and to The Lord of the Oceans!

O Lord of the Oceans,

My little bark sails on a restless sea, grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely; suffer no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course; let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals; bring me to harbour with flying pennants, hull unbreached, cargo unspoiled.

I ask great things, expect great things, shall receive great things. I venture on thee wholly, fully, my wind, sunshine, anchor, defense.

The voyage is long, the waves high, the storms pitiless, but my helm is held steady, thy Word secures safe passage, they grace wafts me onward, my haven is guaranteed. This day will bring me nearer home, grant me holy consistency in every transaction, my peace flowing as a running tide, my righteousness as every chasing wave.

Help me to live circumspectly, with skill to convert every care into prayer, halo my path with gentleness and love, smooth every asperity (harshness) of temper; let me not forget how easy it is to occasion grief; may I strive to bind up every wound, and pour oil on all troubled waters. May the world this day be happier and better because I live.

Let my mast before me be the Saviour’s cross, and every oncoming wave the fountain in His side.  Help me, protect me in the moving sea until I reach the shore of unceasing praise.

In the words of the great hymn writer, Isaac Watts, “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.” ~ O God, Our Help in Ages Past ~ by Isaac Watts, 1719.

My brother, may our faithful God grace you on your pilgrimage, and shelter you in the midst of your current storm.


William Cowper’s Suffering Songs

Posted in Grace, Hymns, Music, Suffering, William Cowper, Worship on January 3, 2011 by kevinwilkening

As we begin 2011, some have already entered this year with suffering. It is for you that I record this entry.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once wrote, “We may be in heaviness through many trials at this present time, and we may be weeping as we go along … We are promised that the day will come when the ‘Lamb which is in the midst of the throne … shall lead us unto living fountains of water’ and that God Himself ‘shall wipe away all tears from our eyes …’ ‘Thank God we are in His hands. It is His way of salvation and not ours. Let us submit ourselves to God, let us be content to be in His hands, and let us say to Him: Send what Thou wilt, our only concern is that we may ever be well-pleasing in Thy sight” (Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones ~ page 232).

If you are suffering this New Year let me encourage you with a brief description of the life of William Cowper.

In November of 1731, William Cowper (said “Cooper”) was born in Hertfordshire, England. Three of his brothers and two sisters died in infancy, and two days before his sixth birthday his mother died in childbirth, leaving him one infant brother and a father.

In 1753 he fell in love with a woman named Theodora, but her father forced an end to the relationship, and would not allow them to marry. In large part, due to this event, and his natural disposition towards depression, he became exceedingly melancholy, and resolved to end his life. He tried to hang himself, but the weight of his body broke first an iron pin, and then a wooden spar. The third attempt was almost successful, but just as he went unconscious, the noose broke, and his body slumped to the floor.

In 1763 he had to be institutionalized in St. Alban’s Asylum for two years. However, it was during this time that the wonder of God’s grace began to radically affect him, and he became a lover of the gospel, and of Jesus Christ. For the rest of his life he would continually fight against the recurrence of these fits of depression.

However, it is because of William Cowper’s deep discoveries of grace that we have hymns like “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” and “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood.” Carefully read these words.

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea

And rides upon the storm.


Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never failing skill

He treasures up His bright designs

And works His sovereign will.


Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break

In blessings on your head.


Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.


His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.


Blind unbelief is sure to err

And scan His work in vain;

God is His own interpreter,

And He will make it plain.


There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;

And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;

And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty 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!

‘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. Amen.


Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning. And when it comes, it comes with a song. Not a cheap or juvenile song, but a deep and weighty song. It does not gloss over tragedy, or pain, or loss. When the sails of joy go up, the heartaches of life, which once threatened to capsize the boat, become ballast deep in the belly of the ship to make the keel cut deep through the waves and guide the ship through rougher seas ahead.


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