God Moves in a Mysterious Way

Album: Olney Hymns (1779)


  • One of the most popular poets of the late 18th century, William Cowper (1731-1800) was a major influence on the Romantic poetry movement with his poems about everyday life and scenes of the English countryside.
  • Cowper and Anglican cleric John Newton both lived in the Suffolk village of Olney and were great friends. Cowper helped Newton with his religious services and they also run a weekly prayer meeting, for which they were in the habit of writing a new hymn to sing, some of which were included in their Olney Hymns collection.
  • The hymn "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" was originally a poem written by William Cowper in 1773 titled "Light Shining out of Darkness." It was included six years later in their Olney Hymns collection. The first line and title phrase is now a well-known saying used to justify unfortunate or inexplicable events.
  • The words were inspired by an experience of sheltering from a thunderstorm under an oak tree on Yardley Chase near Cowper's Olney home.
  • Also published in the same Olney Hymns collection was John Newton's classic tribute to God's mercy, "Amazing Grace."
  • Amy Grant sang a version of the hymn for her 2005 Rock of Ages... Hymns and Faith album. Her recording was a melody coupling the tune of the hymn with William J. Kirkpatrick's 1900 interpretation of Habakkuk 2:20,"The Lord is in His Holy Temple."


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