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William Cowper-Poet of Paradis

By George M. Ella (Author)
Our Price $ 42.49  
Retail Value $ 49.99  
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Item Number 96194  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   692
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.33" Width: 6.36" Height: 1.91"
Weight:   2.5 lbs.
Binding  Library Binding
Release Date   Dec 31, 1993
Publisher   Evangelical Press
ISBN  085234306X  
EAN  9780852343067  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
William Cowper-Poet of Paradis by George M. Ella

Buy William Cowper-Poet of Paradis by George M. Ella from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780852343067 & 085234306X

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A Tribute to a Mis-understood Poet  Apr 20, 2001
George Ella has written an interesting tome (700+ pages) in dedication to and in defense of the 18th century poet, hymnist, and close friend of John Newton - William Cowper (pronounced "COO-PER"). I say "in defense of" because apparently biographers and historians both inside as well as outside the confessing Church have grossly misunderstood and in some cases even slandered the man. William Cowper (author of such hymns as "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood") is notoriously known for his lifelong struggle with believing God had cast him out of his fold, as well as for his suicide attempt (which contrary to popular opinion was attempted prior to his conversion, not after). Sadly, most of his friends, such as John Newton, were unable to understand how a man of such deep faith and love for Christ could possess such violent inner turmoil. One result of so many people's inability to come to grips with such paradoxes in Cowper's heart and life has been for historians and biographers to place the blame on his Calvinist convictions. This is one of the many myths that Ella intended to correct.

One aspect of the book that I appreciated was that it made portrayed Cowper as a full and complex human being. Ella reproduces countless letters as well as quotes from Cowper's poems that, along with secondary sources and Ella's commentary, give the reader a solid sense of the poet's inner and outer life. I found that in this sense, the book was wonderful to read. So often, we assume that our heroes of faith are much different from us - that they are somehow immune to the barbs and arrows of the Fall, that they do not struggle with things like doubt, depression, and seasons when they do not experience the love of Christ in their hearts. Knowing that such a man as William Cowper was alive and was not immune to such throes in his life was definitely encouraging to read.

Ella's affection for Cowper is obvious. He seems to love and understand his subject so well, that at times I got the distinct impression that Ella felt every slanderous statement made against Cowper as though they were directed at himself! For such a sensitive and maligned man as Cowper, it is invaluable that his biographer be someone like Ella who writes more like a compassionate and forgiving friend than as a cold and detached scholar.

Another interesting part of the book had to do with Cowper's role in First Great Awakening. Cowper was, at the time that George Whitefield, John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards were preaching in America and England, becoming a popular poet in the English-speaking world. Cowper's passion in life was primarily to see Christ glorified in the world and for people to come to believe in Him. Though he was not a preacher, Cowper nevertheless longed to use his gifts and calling to contribute to the continual spread of the gospel. Ella argues, along with other historians, that Cowper's long poem "The Task" (a highly evangelistic poem) was so popular that it was more influential in the spreading of the gospel than any of the efforts by other prominent preachers of that time. Cowper preached the gospel to men and women who would have never dared set foot into a church.

Yet despite all this, there were some parts to the book that I found lacking. One of the main criticisms I had about the book was Ella's bad habit of becoming "preachy" when trying to apply Cowper's opinoins about culture to 20th century problems. For instance, when recounting Cowper's views on education, Ella tended to use Cowper's views as a platform to express his own frustration with our current educational system in the English-speaking world. Though I probably agreed with some of his criticisms themselves, I found his habit of interjecting his own opinions and criticisms somewhat annoying. It gave the impression that Cowper would've simply parroted his criticisms were he living amongst us today. So often, people claim to possess secret insight into how a previous thinker would feel on current problems. The PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) has been going through this recently with its discussion on what the Westminster Divines thought about the length of the six days of creation - whether they were normal 24-hour days or not. Removing men from their historical context and forcing them to have an opinion on our culture seems misguided, for it does not give them the opportunity of examining our problems, complete with a whole set of nuances and complexities, afresh. More than likely, the differences between two seemingly similar situations spanning history and culture are too great to simply compare in that way. This is not to say the dead cannot or should not comment on the present, but that we must also recognize the differences, and not just the similarities, between the two periods. Ella's habit of interrupting his discussion of Cowper with his opinions about 20th century culture was slightly annoying, but not so much as to devalue the book as a whole. All in all, I found the book incredibly interesting, and I recommend it to anyone.


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