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: www.donaldprout.com

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Samuel Rutherford Steers Scotland

Saintly Samuel Rutherford died, on March 30, 1661.  I know that Protestants do not usually use the word “Saint” for special folk, but if there is one who deserves it more than most others, let me suggest the godly Samuel Rutherford.

Spurgeon spoke of Rutherford’s letters as “the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in the writings of mere men” (Holy Men of God, by E. Cumming, page 69).

Born in Scotland in 1600, Rutherford was converted some 26 years later – and became a minister of the Gospel. He was a brilliant scholar such that people expected him to excel. Following his studies at the University of Edinburgh he, as a young man, was then made Professor of Philosophy there. He then took the post of minister at Anwoth in Galloway and was a most diligent man. He rose often at 3am then spent his time thoroughly, “reading, praying, writing, catechising, visiting, and other duties belonging to the ministerial profession and employment”.

In June 1630 – and again in 1636 – he was tried by an ecclesiastical court for erroneous doctrine and irregularity of church practice, based around his book, Exercitationes de Gratia.  His first wife died at about this time and in banishment at Aberdeen he wrote the letters that have become a blessing to so many. Rutherford also contracted tertian fever and was so ill for thirteen weeks that he could barely have the strength to preach.

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Rutherford returned to his congregation at Anwoth and was made Professor of Divinity at St Andrews.

The complexities of the history of the church at this time need not concern us here. Rutherford’s stand against Arminianism ired some. He was charged with non-conformity. His stand for the right for families to establish private worship in their homes also received opposition. He opposed the Anabaptists and other sects in his book, Lex Rex. He participated in the Westminster Assembly, from which came the Westminster Confession.

He opposed the flourishing independent groups of worship which sprang up under Oliver Cromwell, but when Charles II gained the throne Rutherford was accused of high treason and his book, Lex Rex was burned as a public condemnation. However Rutherford did not get to face his kingly accusers.

Suffice to say, the saintly Samuel Rutherford entered into rest on 30 March, 1661.

So it was that Rutherford presided over the Lord’s work in a very troubled Scotland, refusing to take appointments abroad because he felt it his duty to endure on behalf of the Lord. History records that his faithful spirit did prevail, against the host of opponents and challenges.

His letters are still in print – “I am pained, pained with the love of Christ,” he writes.  “He hath made me sick and wounded me.  Hunger for Christ outrunneth faith … Oh, if they knew His kindness to my soul …”  (Life and Letters of Samuel Rutherford, by A. Bowen, page 22).

The hymn, The Sands of Time are Sinking, by Mrs Cousins, is based on some of the best and sweetest parts of Rutherford’s letters.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

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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: www.donaldprout.com