Lyrics: WIlliam Cowper
Music: DUNDEE, Scottish Psalter, 1615. It’s also sung to several other alternate tunes.
I rather like this tune setting available at Sovereign Grace Ministries, where you can hear a sample verse.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Rebecca Writes: I have to include one of Cowperâ€™s hymns and this is the best of William Cowper. Cowper was a fine poet and it shows in this ode to Godâ€™s meticulous providence. This hymn reminds us that even trials work Godâ€™s good purposesâ€”that ‘behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.’ Isnâ€™t it ironic that a hymn teaching truth that brings me joy comes from a man who, in Godâ€™s providence, suffered from a debilitating mental illness that robbed him of joy for much of his life? Itâ€™s proof that God does indeed move in a mysterious way!
The hymn was first entitled Light Shining Out of Darkness.
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.
William Cowper did indeed have a difficult life. John Piper says of Cowper: “Struggle with despair came to be the theme of his life.” He struggled with depression before he became a Christian, and after his conversion, he still had periods o f deep despair in which he thought that God could and would save other but that he, Cowper, had committed the unforgiveable sin and was doomed to eternal damnation.
John Newton, the author of the hymns Glorious Things of THee Are Spoken and Amazing Grace, became Cowper’s pastor and friend. Newton encouraged Cowper to write hymn lyrics.
Cowper also wrote these lines from another favorite hymn:
There is a fountain fill’d with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plung’d beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
And here’s a link to another of Cowper’s Olney Hymns: O For a Closer Walk With God! The words are quite poignant in light of Cowper’s struggles with depression and his belief that God had rejected him.
I think God Moves in a Mysterious Way is the best poem of all the lyrics on the list so far. I particularly like the second and the last stanzas:
Deep in unfathomable mines/ Of never failing skill . . .
God is His own interpreter . . .
Surely, we can trust that God in His providence was able to keep Mr. Cowper’s soul secure in His grace in spite of Cowper’s inability to feel and have assurance of that grace.