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** I was a stricken deer, that left the herd
On all affairs connected with religion, Cowper now delighted to think arid to converse, and his best letters were those in which he could freely introduce them to his correspondents. In the close of the letter from which we made the above extract, he thus writes :—" My dear cousin, how happy am I in having a friend to whom I can open my heart upon these subjects! I have many intimates in the world, and have had many more than I shall have hereafter, to whom a long letter upon those most important articles would appear tiresome at least, if not impertinent. But I am not afraid of meeting with that reception from you, who have never yet made it your interest that there should be no truth in the word of God. May this everlasting truth be your comfort while you live, and attend you with peace and joy in your last moments. I love you too well not to make this a part of my prayers; and when I remember my friends on these occasions, there is no likelihood that you can be forgotten."
In another letter to Lady Hesketh, dated 1st of August, 1765, he thus adverts to the character of his former associates, and feelingly expresses his anxiety for their spiritual welfare :—" I have great reason to be thankful I have lost none of my acquaintance but those whom I determined not to keep: I am sorry this class is so numerous. What would I not give, that every friend I have in the world were not almost, but altogether Christians? My dear cousin, I am half afraid to talk to you in this style, lest I should seem to indulge a censorious humour, instead of hoping, as I ought, the best of all men. But what can be said against ocular proof, and what is hope when built upon presumption? To use the most holy name in the universe for no purpose, or a bad one, contrary to his own express commandment, to pass the day and the succeeding days, weeks, and months, and years, without one act of private devotion, one confession of our sins, or one thanksgiving for the numberless blessings we enjoy; to hear the word of God in public with a distracted attention, or with none at all; to absent ourselves voluntarily from the blessed communion, and to live in the total neglect of it, are the common and ordinary liberties, which the generality of professors allow themselves: and what is this, but to live without God in the world. Many causes might be assigned for this anti-christian spirit so prevalent among professors, but one of the principal I take to be their utter forgetfulness, that the Bible which they have in their possession, is, in reality, the Word Of God. My friend, Sir William Russell, was distantly related to a very accomplished man, who, though he never believed the gospel, admired the scriptures as the sublimest compositions in the world, and read them often. I have myself been intimate with a man of fiue taste, who has confessed to me, that though he could not subscribe to the truth of Christianity itself, yet he never could read St. Luke's account of our Saviour's appearance to his two disciples going to Emmaus, without being wonderfully affected by it; and he thought, that if the stamp of divinity was anywhere to be found in scripture, it was strongly marked and visibly impressed upon that passage. If these men, whose hearts were chilled with the darkness of infidelity, could find such charms in the mere style of scripture, what must those find whose eyes could penetrate deeper than the letter, and who firmly believed themselves interested in all the invaluable privileges of the gospel? Had this mere man of taste searched a little further, he might have found other parts of the sacred history as strongly marked with the characters of Divinity as that he mentioned. The parable of the prodigal son, the most beautiful fiction that ever was invented ; our Saviour's speech to his disciples, with which he closes his earthly ministration, full of the sublimest dignity and tenderest affection, surpass every thing that I ever read, and, like the spirit with which they were dictated, fly directly to the heart. If the scripture did not disdain all affectation of ornament, one should call such as these its ornamental parts; but the matter of it is that upon which it principally stakes its credit with us, and the style, however excellent, is only one of the many external evidences by which it recommends itself to our belief."
The warmest expressions of his gratitude to God for hia distinguishing goodness to him, during his affliction, were frequently employed in his letters. In one, dated 4th September, 1765, he thus writes to his cousin :—"Two of my friends have been cut off during my illness, in the midst of such a life as it is frightful to reflect upon, and here am I, in better health and spirits, than I can ever remember to have enjoyed, after having spent months in the apprehension of instant death. How mysterious are the ways of Providence! Why did I receive grace and mercyl Why was I preserved, afflicted for my good, received, as I trust, into favour, and blessed with the greatest happiness I can ever know, or hope for in this life, while these were overtaken by the great arrest, unawakened, unrepenting, and every way unprepared for it? His infinite wisdom, to whose infinite mercy I owe it all, can solve these questions, and none else. A freethinker, as many a man miscals himself, would, without doubt, say, ' Sir, you were in great danger, and had, indeed, a most fortunate escape.' How excessively foolish, as well as shocking, is snch language! As if life depended upon luck, and all that we are, or can be, all that we have now, or can hope for hereafter, could possibly be referred to accident. To this freedom of thought it is owing, that he, who is thoroughly apprized of the death of the meanest of his creatures, is supposed to leave those whom he has made in his own image, to the mercy of chance ; and to this it is likewise owing, that the correction which our heavenly Father bestows upon us, that we may be fitted to receive his blessing, is so often disappointed of its benevolent intention. Fevers, and all diseases, are regarded as accidents; and long life, health, recovery from sickness, as the gift of the physician. No man can be a greater friend to the use of means upon these occasions than myself; for it were presumption and enthusiasm to neglect them. God has endued them with salutary properties on purpose that we might avail ourselves of them. But to impute our recovery to the medicine, and to carry our views no further, is to rob God of his honour. He trfat thinks thus, may as well fall upon his knees at once, and return thanks to the medicine that cured him, for it was certainly more immediately instrumental in his recovery than either the apothecary or the doctor."
No one ever watched more carefully the providence of God than Cowper. His views of it were just and scriptural, as is abundantly evident by the above remarks, and, if possible, more clearly evinced by the following extracts from the same excellent letter:—" My dear cousin, a firm persuasion of the superintendence of Providence over all our concerns, is absolutely necessary to our happiness. Without it we cannot be said to believe in the scripture, or practise any thing like resignation to his will. If I am convinced that no affliction can befall me without the permission of God, I am convinced likewise that he sees, and knows, that I am afflicted; believing this, I must, in the same degree, believe that, if I firay to him for deliverance, he hears me; I must needs know ikewise, with equal assurance, that if he hears, he will deliver me, I may rest well assured that he has none but the most benevolent intention in declining it. He made us, not because we could add to his happiness, which was always perfect, but that we might be happy ourselves; and will he not in all his dispensations towards us, even in the minutest, consult that end for which he made us? To suppose the contrary, is to affront every one of his attributes, and to renounce utterly our dependence upon him. In this view it will appear plainly, that the line of duty is not stretched too tight, when we are told that we ought to accept everything at his hands as a blessing, and to be thankful even when we smart under the rod of iron with which he sometimes rules us. Without this persuasion, every blessing, however we may think ourselves happy in the possession of it, loses its greatest recommendation, and every affliction is intolerable. Death itself must be welcome to him who has this faith; and he who has it not must aim at it, if he is not a madman." The excellence of these extracts from Cowper's correspondence will, it is hoped, be admitted by every reader as a sufficient apology for the interruption they may occasion to our narrative. They might be greatly enlarged; but it is not intended to admit any, except such as will, in some degree at least, serve to describe his character.
It was not to be expected that a person like Cowper could remain long unnoticed, how reserved soever was his conduct. Accordingly, he had been at Huntingdon only a short time before he was visited by several persons, and introduced into several families, all eminently distinguished for their respectability, and general consistency of conduct. This soon endeared him to the place, and he thus communicated his sentiments respecting it to his correspondents;—" The longer I live here the better I like the place, and the people who belong to it. I am upon very good terms with five families, all of whom receive me with the utmost cordiality. You may recollect that I had but very uncomfortable expectations of the accommodations I should meet with in Huntingdon. How much better is it to take our lot, where it shall please Providence to cast it, without anxiety! Had I chosen for myself, it is impossible I could have fixed upon a place so agreeable to me in all respects. I so much dreaded the thought of having a new acquaintance to make with no other recommendation than that of being a perfect stranger, that I heartily wished no creature here might take the least notice of me. Instead of which, in about two months after my arrival, I became known to all the visitable people here, and do verily think it the most agreeable neighbourhood I ever saw. My brother and I meet every week by an alternate reciprocation of intercourse, as Sam Johnson would express it. As to my own personal condition, I am much happier than the day is long; and sunshine and candle-light alike, see me perfectly contented. I get books in abundance, as much company as I choose, a deal of comfortable leisure, and enjoy better health, I think, than for many years past. What is there wanting to make me happy 1 Nothing, if I can but be as thankful as I ought; and I trust that He, who has bestowed so many blessings on me, will give me gratitude to crown them all. I thank God for all the pleasing circumstances here, for my health of body, and perfect serenity of mind. To recollect the past, and compare it with the present, is all that I need to fill me with gratitude; and to be grateful is to be happy. I am far from thinking myself sufficiently grateful, or from indulging the hope that I shall ever be so in the present life. The warmest heart, perhaps, only feels by fits, and is often as insensible as the coldest. This, at least, is frequently the case with mine, and much oftener than it should be."
Among the families with whom Cowper was on terms of intimacy, there were none so entirely congenial to his taste as that of the Reverend Mr. Unwin. This worthy divine, who was now far advanced in years, had formerly been master of a free school in Huntingdon. On obtaining, however, from his college at Cambridge, the living of Grimston, he married Miss Cawthorne, the daughter of a very respectable draper in Ely, by whom he had two children, a son and a' daughter. Disliking their residence at Grimston, they removed to Huntingdon, where they had now resided for many years.
Cowper became acquainted with this interesting family,
which was afterwards, almost to the close of his life, a source
of comfort to him, in the following rather singular manner.
The Unwins frequently noticed Mr. C. and remarked the de