Piper, John. The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd. The Swans are not Silent. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001. 176pp. $17.99.

Introducing the Series

For an introduction to the series and Book One please click here.

Summary

This volume, as well as the other books in this series, is divided into an introduction, three chapters on the lives and theology of these individuals, and a conclusion.

The first chapter, focuses upon John Bunyan whom most know for writing The Pilgrims Progress; however, you may not know that he voluntarily spend twelve years in prison when simply agreeing not to preach the Gospel would have secured his release and reunion with his wife and six children. Nevertheless he chose to stay rather than abandon the Gospel to silence.

William Cowper, the depressed and at times suicidal companion of John Newton, is the subject of the second chapter. Cowper’s poetry was known internationally, even receiving good reviews from Benjamin Franklin, and yet he faced a life-long struggle with depression. At one point he was institutionalized for trying to kill himself three different ways due to a mental breakdown when he was promoted to Clerk of Journals in Parliament. Despite this Cowper wrote profound poetry and music that continues to proclaim the glories of Christ.

Chapter three delves into the amazing life of David Brainerd a sickly missionary to the Indians in the mid 1700’s. He lived less than thirty years, was a believer for eight of them, and served as a missionary for four and yet his life has had an incalculable impact upon the face of missions ever since.

Conclusion

I deeply appreciate Cowper’s poem “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” and I wish to leave you with its comforting prose about bittersweet sovereignty.

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.