"The Spirit Breathes Upon the Word": The Formative Use of Scripture in the Hymns of William Cowper

Schwanda, Tom
May 2012
Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care;Spring2012, Vol. 5 Issue 1, p78
Academic Journal
Recently evangelicals have been discovering the benefits of a formative reading of Scripture. However, eighteenth-century evangelicals consciously practiced both an informational and formational way of reading the Bible. This article raises the question how early evangelicals read Scripture and what was the role of the Holy Spirit in that reading. The hymns of William Cowper from the Olney Hymns (1779) serve as the primary text for this exploration. Cowper's experimental piety that was common among evangelicals assured that the Word would be read both with the head for knowledge as well as the heart for experience and transformation. This paper analyzes Cowper's varied use of Scripture in his hymns, as well as the formative nature of Scripture within those hymns. One prominent feature of Cowper's writing is the dynamic intersection between the Word and Spirit. This article concludes by asking the practical question of retrieval of how the contemporary church can learn to read Scripture more formatively through the themes of Cowper's hymns.


Related Articles

  • Religious Melancholy in the Romantic Period: William Cowper as Test Case. Darcy, Jane // Romanticism;2009, Vol. 15 Issue 2, p144 

    The article discusses the treatment of religious melancholy as a mental disorder during the Romantic period. The author examines the medical treatment of author William Cowper, who garnered considerable medical interest after several biographies detailed the extent of his mental illness. She...

  • THE CAPTAIN & the Castaway. Trafton, Jennifer M. // Christian History & Biography;Winter2004, Issue 81, p34 

    Focuses on the friendship between evangelical Christian preacher John Newton and poet William Cowper. Psychological problems that affected Cowper; Mental depression bouts suffered by Cowper; Efforts of Newton to help Cowper cope with his problems.

  • Discovering Cowper. Swaim, Burton // New Criterion;Oct2013, Vol. 32 Issue 2, p34 

    The author profiles the life and work of the poet William Cowper, arguing that his work is more valuable than his reputation might suggest as of October 2013. Topics include Cowper's hymns, his conversion to evangelical Christianity, his experiences with depression and marriage, and his poem...

  • VERSES. COWPER, WILLIAM // Poetical Works of William Cowper;1902, p1 

    An untitled poem by William Cowper is presented. First Line: FORTUNE! I thank thee: gentle Goddess, thanks! Last Line: Drags the dull load of disappointment on.

  • THE MORALIZER CORRECTED. COWPER, WILLIAM // Poetical Works of William Cowper;1902, p316 

    The tale "The Moralizer Corrected," by William Cowper is presented. First Line: A HERMIT (or if' chance you hold; Last Line: Either too early or too late.

  • THE NEEDLESS ALARM. COWPER, WILLIAM // Poetical Works of William Cowper;1902, p317 

    The tale "The Needless Alarm," by William Cowper is presented.

  • IN SEDITIONEM HORRENDAM. COWPER, WILLIAM // Poetical Works of William Cowper;1902, p335 

    No abstract available.

  • WRITTEN ON A PAGE OF "THE MONTHLY REVIEW.". COWPER, WILLIAM // Poetical Works of William Cowper;1902, p356 

    An untitled poem by William Cowper is presented. First Line: THESE critics, who to faith no quarter grant, Last Line: Than Christ's own servant, or that servant's Master.

  • A TALE. COWPER, WILLIAM // Poetical Works of William Cowper;1902, p392 

    An untitled tale by William Cowper is presented.


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics