Devotion for the Week of November 5, 2017 - Theology Behind The Classic Hymn “THERE IS A FOUNTAIN.”

Theology Behind The Classic Hymn “THERE IS A FOUNTAIN.”

 
Exodus 12:13 (KJV), And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.”

This hymn was written by William Cowper in the 1772.   Cowper experienced a period of temporary insanity. During this time, he felt that he had offended God so deeply with his sins that he could not continue living and tried repeatedly to commit suicide but failed each time.  In one case, he tried to hang himself, but the garter broke and he fell to the floor- this happened twice.   Eventually, Cowper came to his senses and after recovering, wrote the hymn “There Is a Fountain.”  
 
Here’s the first verse:
 

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.

 
This passage brings to mind the questions- “why do sinners have to plunge beneath the flood?  How in the world does Emmanuel’s blood clean them?”  That’s just gross!  This, however, is an excellent question and one with which every believer should wrestle.  The answer in found in Hebrews.  Now, the book of Hebrews was written specifically for the purpose of showing Old Testament believers- the Hebrews!- how Christ is the consummation of shadows seen in the Old Testament.  The passage relating to Cowper’s hymn is:
 
Hebrews 9:19-22 (KJV), “For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20  Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.  21  Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.  22  And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.”
 
In these verses we see that even Moses purified the book of the law with blood.  The first covenant was sealed with the blood of calves and goats, as per the law laid down by God.  All of this goes back to Genesis where God told Adam that if he broke the law and ate from the tree, he would die.  Therefore, transgression or breaking of the law, requires a death.  In the case of the Hebrews, an animal sacrifice stood in for their own lives.  Verse 22 states plainly “…without shedding of blood there is no remission” (where “remission” is referring to “remission of sins.”)  
 
We also see a foreshadowing of Christ in the Hebrew Passover.  In this event, God was going to kill all the first born in Egypt and he gave the Hebrews instructions to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and put the blood on their doors.  When the angel of God saw the blood, he would pass over that household and thus spare them.  Again, it was sacrificial blood which saved the people.  This theme is echoed in several places in the Bible, including:
 
1 Peter 1:18-19 (KJV), “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19  But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:”
 
 1 John 1:7 (KJV), “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
 
Revelation 1:5-6 (KJV), “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6  And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
 
There are 3 passages which clearly state that it was the unblemished sacrifice of Jesus that provided the blood which we, ourselves, should have paid, according to God’s law.  This is exactly what Cowper is driving at when he says “sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”  When Christ’s sacrifice is applied to your account, your sins, though they be like scarlet, shall become as white as snow, as Isaiah says in 1:18.
 
The next verse of “There is a Fountain” says:
 

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.

 
We can find this in the Bible in:
 
Luke 23:39-43 (KJV), “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.  40  But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?  41  And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.  42  And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.  43  And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Cowper’s next line says “…there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.”  If you look at Fanny Crosby’s hymn “Pass Me Not” you see the kind of contrite and sorrowful heart that God desires, and we see that theme again here.  Cowper says he, himself, is as vile as this thief on the cross.  None less than Paul called himself “the chief of sinners” in 1 Timothy 1:15 (KJV), “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.  We, too, should have this attitude.  Our sins are horrible things against God’s Righteousness.
 
In the 3rd verse, Cowper writes:
 

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.

 
Jesus tells Peter:
 
Matthew 16:18 (KJV), “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
 
The battle may be long and hard, but the blood of Christ will never lose it’s power and not even Hell itself can defeat it.  Christ is victorious over evil and there will be a day, as seen in Revelation 21 when sin is defeated once and for all:
 
Revelation 21:4 (KJV), And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
 
Also very important in this verse is the word “ransomed.”  When someone is ransomed, it is bought back from someone else who holds it captive.  If we dig around in Romans, we find this passage:
 
Romans 6:17-18 (KJV), “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  18  Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”
 
Christians are ransomed from the grips of sin.  Christ paid the price for the ransom and set us free from the dominion of sin.  Yes, Christians still fall short of the glory of God and still sin, but that price has been paid.  And the day is coming, as we saw in Revelation, when the ransomed church of God will sin no more.  The curse will be removed and can live in sinless peace, marveling at the glory of God.  This is the hope of all who are in Christ.
 
Moving to the 4th verse, we see Cowper expand on this theme:
 

Ever 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.

 
Here he clearly states that it is by faith that he was able to see this truth.    The apostle Paul says:
 
1 Corinthians 2:14 (KJV), “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
 
And the author of Hebrews says:
 
Hebrews 11:6 (KJV), “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
 
Both of these passages tell us what Cowper’s hymn says- we must have faith to accept the things of God and in particular the atoning sacrifice of Christ. 
 
The last verse in “There is a Fountain” is a favorite of mine:  “Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.”  I’ve heard people say “The trouble with gospel music is that it is all about the same thing, over and over!” or they’ll ask me “Don’t you ever get tired of preaching about Jesus all the time?”  My response is the same as Cowper’s, the same as John Newton’s, and the same as Fanny Crosby’s.  When you get even just a little inkling of God’s grace and mercy, it’s an amazing thing.  Another song says “I Stand Amazed” and that about sums it up.  Yet another hymn, from the pen of Charles Wesley is called “Depths of Mercy”.  God’s grace is infinitely amazing. 
 
The words “redeeming love” go to back to what I was saying earlier regarding the word “ransom.”   To “redeem” means “to buy back”.  It doesn’t mean to “buy for the first time”, but it means to buy back what was formerly ones.   In the Garden of Eden, mankind belonged to God but Adam chose to sell himself to sin and thus become of a slave of sin.  When we are redeemed, we are bought back for God’s purpose again.  However, the payment is not made to the devil.  The payment is made to God Himself.  
 
The payment is made by Christ to satisfy God’s sense of justice.  Our sins demand justice and God, in His holy nature, cannot simply overlook these sins.  Payment must be made and we can’t make that payment ourselves.  We cannot satisfy the wrath of an infinite God.  But Christ, as an unblemished lamb of God, can and did.  When we put the blood of Christ on ourselves it is just like the Hebrews putting the blood of the lamb on the doorposts.  The wrath of God passes over us.  We claim the blood of the lamb as our protection from the wrath of God.    
 
That God would love us enough to send His only begotten son to die in our place and to take that wrath upon Himself is an amazing thing.  Because of this, “redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die!”   Note that redemption is a key element of the “new song” sung by the elders in Revelation:
 
Revelation 5:8-10 (KJV), And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.  9  And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10  And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. “
 
Cowper’s 4th verse suggests this new song and goes like this:
 

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.

 
I’ve tried to show how solid hymns like these reflect Biblical truth.  Consider these hymns and consider the message they bring us.  If you do not have the blood of Christ on your personal doorstep, I urge you put it there today.  Accept that Christ died in your place, to save you from the wrath of God.  Accept that his atonement has redeemed you to God.  If you can accept that, I think you’ll sing “There is a Fountain” with sheer joy in your heart.

 

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