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merly: probably it might be attributed, in some degree at least, to his close intimacy with Mr. Newton, for they were seldom seven waking hours, apart from each other. The same vein of genuine and unaffected piety, however, runs through those letters which he did write, and they abound with remarks of uncommon excellence. To his cousin, Mrs. Cowper, he thus expresses his feelings:—" You live in the centre of a world, I know you do not delight in. Happy are you, my dear friend, in being able to discern the insufficiency of all it can afford, to fill and satisfy the desires of an immortal soul. That God, who created us for the enjoyment of himself, has determined in mercy that it shall fail us here, in order that the blessed result of all our inquiries after happiness in the creature, may be a warm pursuit, and a close attachment to our true interests, in fellowship with him, through the mediation of our dear Redeemer. I bless his goodness, and his grace, that I have any reason to hope I am a partaker with you in the desire after better things, than are to be found in a world polluted by sin, and therefore, devoted to destruction. May he enable us both to consider our present life in its only true light, as an opportunity put into our hands to glorify him amongst men, by a conduct suited to his word and will. I am miserably defective in this holy and blessed art, but I hope there is, at the bottom of all my sinful infirmities, a desire to live just so long as I may be enabled to answer, in some measure, at least, the end of my existence, in this respect; and then to obey the summons, and attend him in a world, where they who are his servants here, shall pay him an unsinful obedience for ever."
The lively interest which Cowper took, in the spiritual welfare of his correspondents, will appear in the following letter to his esteemed friend, Joseph Hill, Esq., dated 21st January, 1769 :—"Dear Joe: I rejoice with you in your recovery, and that you have escaped from the hands of one, from whose hands you will not always escape. Death is either the most formidable, or most comfortable thing, we have in prospect, on this side of eternity. To be brought near to him, and to discern neither of these features in his face, would argue a degree of insensibility, of which I will not suspect my friend, whom I know to be a thinking man. You have been brought down to the sides of the grave, and you have been raised up again by him, who has the keys of the invisible world; who opens, and none can shut, who shuts and none can open. I do not forget to return thanks to him on your behalf, and to pray that your life, which he has spared, may be devoted to his service. 'Behold! I stand at the door, and knock,' is the word of him, in whom both our mortal and immortal life depend, and blessed be his name; it is the word of one who wounds only that he may heal, and who waits to be gracious. The language of every such dispensation is, 'Prepare to meet thy God. It speaks with the voice of mercy and goodness, for without such notices, whatever preparation we might make for other events, we should make none for this. My dear friend, I desire and pray, that when this last enemy shall come to execute an unlimited commission on us, we may be found ready, being established and rooted in a well-grounded faith in his name who conquered death, and triumphed over him on the cross. If I am ever enabled to look forward to death with comfort, which I thank God is sometimes the case, I do not take my view of it from the top of my own works and deservings, though God is witness, that the labour of my life is to keep a conscience void of offence towards him. Death is always formidable to me, but when I see him disarmed of his sting by having it sheathed in the body of Christ Jesus."
To the same friend, on another occasion, he thus writes:— "I take a friend's share in all your concerns, so far as they come to my knowledge, and consequently, did not receive the news of your marriage with indifference. I wish you and your bride all the happiness that belongs to the state; and the still greater felicity of that state, which marriage is only a type of. All those connections shall be dissolved; but there is an indissoluble bond between Christ and his church, the subject of derision to an unthinking world, but the glory and happiness of all his people."
No one knew bitter how to administer consolation to those who were in distress, and certainly no one ever took a greater delight in doing it than Cowper. To his amiable cousin, Mrs. Cowper, who had been called to sustain a severe domestic affliction, he writes as follows:—" A letter from your brother, brought me yesterday, the most afflicting intelligence that has reached me these many years, I pray God to comfort you, and to enable you to sustain this heavy stroke with that resignation to his will, which none but himself can give, and which he gives to none but his own children. How blessed and happy is your lot, my dear friend, beyond the lot of the greater part of mankind: that you know what it is to draw near to God in prayer, and are acquainted with a throne of grace! You have resources in the infinite love of a dear Redeemer, which are withheld from millions : and the promises of God, which are, yea and amen in Christ Jesus, are sufficient to answer all your necessities, and to sweeten the bitterest cup which your Heavenly Father will ever put into your hand. May he now give you liberty to drink at these wells of salvation till you are rilled with consolation and peace, in the midst of trouble. He has said, When thou passest through the fire, I will be with thee, and when through the floods, they shall not overflow thee. You have need of such a word as this, and he knows your need of it; and the time of necessity is the time when he will be sure to appear in behalf of those who trust in him. I bear you and yours upon my heart before him, night and day. For I never expect to hoar of distress, which shall call upon me with a louder voice to pray for the sufferer. I know the Lord hears me for myself, vile and sinful as I am, and believe, and am sure, that he will hear me for you also. He is the friend of the widow, and the father of the fatherless, even God in his holy habitation; in all our afflictions he is afflicted; and when he chastens us, it is in mercy. Surely he will sanctify this dispensation to you, do you great and everlasting good by it, make the world appear like dust and vanity in your sight, as it truly is, and open to your view the glories of a better country, where there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor pain; but God shall wipe away all tears from your eyes for ever. O that comfortable word !' I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction ;' so that our very sorrows are evidences of our calling, and he chastens us because we are his children. My dear cousin, I commit you to the word of his grace, and to the comforts of his Holy Spirit. Your life is needful for your family; may God, in mercy to them, prolong it, and may he preserve you from the dangerous effects which a stroke like this might have upon a frame so tender as yours. I grieve for you, I pray for you, could I do more I would, but God must comfort you."
Cowper had scarcely forwarded this consolatory and truly Christian letter, when he was himself visited with a trial so severe as to call into exercise all that confidence in the Almighty which he-had endeavoured to excite in the mind of his amiable relative. He received a letter from his brother, then residing as a Fellow in Bene't College, Cambridge, between whom and himself there had always existed an affection truly fraternal, stating that he was seriously indisposed. No brothers were ever more warmly interested in each other's welfare. At the commencement of Cowper's affliction, which led to his removal to St. Albans, his brother had watched over him with the tenderest solicitude; and it was doubtless owing, in a great degree, to this tenderness, that Cowper was placed under the care of Dr. Cotton. While he remained at St. Albans, his brother visited him, and, as has been related above, became the means of contributing materially to his recovery. On Cowper's removal to Huntingdon, these affectionate brothers adopted a plan for a frequent and regular interchange of visits, so that they were seldom many days without seeing each other, though the distance between their places of abode was fifteen miles; and, even after Cowper's removal to Olney, his brother, during the first two years, paid him several visits; they seemed, indeed, mutually delighted with an opportunity of being in each other's company.
Cowper, on hearing of his brother's illness, immediately repaired to Cambridge. To his inexpressible grief he found him in a condition that left little or no hopes of his recovery. In a letter to Mrs. Cowper, he thus describes his case:-— "My brother continues much as he was. His case is a very dangerous one—an imposthume of the liver, attended by an asthma, and dropsy. The physician has little hopes of his recovery; indeed, I might say none at all, only, being a friend, he does not formally give him over by ceasing to visit him, lest it should sink his spirits. For my own part, I have no expectation of it, except by a signal interposition of Providence in answer to prayer. His case is clearly out of the reach of medicine, but I have seen many a sickness healed, where the danger has been equally threatening, by the only Physician of value. I doubt not he will have an interest in your prayers, as he has in the prayers of many. May the Lord incline his ear, and give an answer of peace. I know it is good to be afihcted; I trust you have foand it so, and that under the teaching of the Spirit of God, we shall both be purified. It is the desire of my soul to seek a better country, where God shall wipe away all tears from the eyes of his people, and where, looking back upon the ways by which he has led us, we shall be filled with everlasting wonder, love, and praise."
Finding his brother on the verge of the grave, Cowper discovered the greatest anxiety respecting his everlasting welfare. He knew that his sentiments on some of the most important truths of religion had been long unsettled ; and fully aware that while such was the case, he could experience no solid enjoyment in the present life, whatever might be his condition in future, he laboured diligently to give him those views of the gospel, which he had himself found, so singularly beneficial; nor did he labour in vain. He had the unspeakable gratification to witness the complete triumph of the truth, and its consolatory influence upon the mind of his beloved brother, in his dying moments. Writing to Mr. Hill, he says:—" It pleased God to cut short my brother's connections and expectations here, yet, not without giving him lively and glorious views, of a better happiness, than any he could propose to himself in such a world as this. Notwithstanding his great learning, (for he was one of the chief men in the university in that respect,) he was candid and sincere in his inquiries after truth. Though he could not agree to my sentiments when I first acquainted him with them, nor in many conversations, which I afterwards had with him upon the subject, could he be brought to acquiesce in them as scriptural and true, yet I had no sooner left St. Albans, than he began to study with the deepest attention those points on which we differed, and to furnish himself with the best writers upon them. His mind was kept open to conviction for five years, during all which time he laboured in this pursuit with unwearied diligence, whilst leisure and opportunity were afforded. Amongst his dying words were these :—' Brother, I thought you wrong, yet wanted to believe as you did. I found myself not able to believe, yet always thought I should be one day brought to do so.' From the study of books he was brought, upon his deathbed, to the study of himself, and there learnt to renounce his righteousness, and his own most amiable character, and to submit himself to the righteousness which is of God by faith. With these views, he was desirous of death: satisfied of his interest in the blessing purchased by the blood of Christ, he prayed for death with earnestness, felt the approaches of it with joy, and died in peace."
It afforded Cowper inexpressible delight, to witness, in his brother's case, the consoling and animating power of those principles, which he had himself found to be so highly beneficial. This had been the object of his most anxious solicitude, from the period that God was pleased to visit him with the consolations of his grace. Prom that time he took occasion to declare to his brother what God had done for his soul; and neglected no opportunity of attempting to engage him in conversation of a spiritual kind. On his first visit to him at Cambridge, after he left St. Albans, his heart being then full of the subject, he poured it out to his brother without reserve, taking care to show him, that what he had