Anne Ross Cousin Hymnwriter

Anne Ross Cousin was born on April 27, 1824, in Hull, England. Her father, Dr David Ross Cundell of Leith, who was a surgeon in the British Army and served at the Battle of Waterloo, died when she was only three years old.

Anne proved to be a highly gifted lady and became an expert pianist, and began writing poems and hymns. In 1847 she married Rev William Cousin, an honoured clergyman of the Free Church of Scotland. That marriage produced five children.

By the time Anne was 50 she had composed many devotional poems and in 1876, a volume was published called “Immanuel’s Land and other pieces” by Anne Ross Cousin. Critical review suggests that the title poem was by far the best of the collection of over 100 poems.

Among her contributions to hymnody is:
O Christ, what burdens bowed Thy head;
Our load was laid on Thee;
Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead;
Didst bear all ill for me …

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Known as Substitution, this hymn was included in the Sankey Hymnbook (No. 128), Sankey himself composing the melody. It is also of interest that William Barclay, in his Testament of Faith (page 52), quotes this hymn and denies the truths it contains.

Mrs Cousin’s other magnificent hymn was originally a 19 stanza (152 lines) poem based on the dying words of Rev Samuel Rutherford, “Glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land”. Rutherford was a saintly 17th century Scottish Covenanter; a Presbyterian who had been imprisoned during the reign of Charles II. From his prison cell there flowed letters so full of Christ that they have become classics of Christian literature.

And the hymn?

The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for,
The fair sweet morn awakes.
Dark, dark hath been the midnight;
but dayspring is at hand.
And glory, glory dwelleth
in Immanuel’s land.

Around 1856, Mrs. Cousin was meditating on Rutherford’s letters as she went about her daily chores. While sewing, she scribbled down lines of poetry, ultimately weaving together expressions from thirtysix of his letters and his final words to create a poetic tapestry.

Ann Ross Cousin continued to write poems, hymns and books, and died in Edinburgh at the age of 82, on December 6, 1906.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

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