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received was not merely a new set of notions, but a real impression of the truths of the gospel. His brother listened to his statements at first with some attention, and often laboured to convince him, that the difference in their sentiments was much less real than verbal. Subsequently, however, he became more reserved ; and though he heard patiently, he never replied, nor ever discovered a desire to converse on the subject. At the commencement of his affliction, little as was the concern he then felt for his spiritual interests, the thoughts of God, and of eternity, would sometimes force themselves upon his mind; at every little prospect of recovery, however, he found it no difficult matter to thrust them out again. It w,as.evident that his mind was very far from being set on things spiritual and heavenly, as on almost every subject, but that of religion, he could converse fluently. At every suitable opportunity Cowper endeavoured to give a serious turn to the discourse, but without any apparent success. Having obtained his permission, he prayed with him frequently; still, however, he seemed as careless and unconcerned as ever.
On one occasion, after his brother had, with much difficulty, survived a severe paroxysm of his disorder, he observed to him as he sat by his bed-side, "that, though it had pleased God to visit him with great afflictions, yet mercy was mingled with the dispensation. You have many friends that love you, and are willing to do all they can to serve you, and so, perhaps, have many others in the like circumstances; but it is not the lot of every sick man, how much soever he may be beloved, to have a friend that can pray for him." He replied, "That is true; and I hope God will have mercy upon me." His love to Cowper, from that time, became very remarkable; there was a tenderness in it more than was merely natural; and he generally expressed it by calling for blessings upon him in the most affectionate terms, and with a look and manner not to be described. One afternoon, a few days before he died, he suddenly burst into tears, and said, with a loud cry, " O forsake me not!" Cowper went to the bed-side, grasped his hand, and tenderly inquired why he wished him to remain. "O, brother," said he, "I am full of what I could say to you; if I live, you and I shall be more like one another than we have been; but, whether I live, or not, all is well, and will be so; I know it will; I have felt that which I never felt before; and am sure that God has visited me with this sickness, to teach me that I was too proud to learn in health. I never had satisfaction
till now, having no ground to rest my hopes upon ;- but now I have a foundation which nothing can shake. I have peace in myself; and if I live, I hope it will be that I might be a messenger of peace to others. I have learned that in a moment, which I could not have learned by reading many books for many years. The light I have received comes late, but not too late, and it is a comfort to me that I never made the gospel-truths a subject of ridicule. This bed would be to me a bed of misery, and it is so; but it is likewise a bed of joy, and a bed of discipline. Was I to die this night, I know I should be happy. This assurance, I hope, is quite consistent with the word of God. It is built upon a sense of my own utter insufficiency, and all-sufficiency of Christ. There is but one key to the New Testament; there is but one interpreter. I cannot describe to you, nor shall I ever be able to describe to you, what I felt when this was given to me.. May I make a good use of it! How I shudder when I think of the danger I have just escaped! How wonderful is it that God should look upon me! Yet he sees me, and takes notice of all that I suffer. I see him too, and can hear him say, Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you peace." He survived this change only a few days, and died happily, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.
An event like this, could not fail to make a deep impression upon the tender spirit of Cowper, and his feelings on the occasion, were such as are not experienced by ordinary minds. The following letter to his amiable cousin shows clearly the state of his mind:—"You judge rightly of the manner in which I have been affected by the Lord's late dispensation towards my brother. I found it a cause of sorrow that I lost so near a relation, and one so deservedly dearto me, and that he left me just when our sentiments upon the most interesting subject became the same. But it was also a cause of joy, that it pleased God to give me a clear and evident proof that he had changed his heart, and adopted him into the number of his children. For this I hold myself peculiarly bound to thank him, because he might have done all that he was pleased to do for him, and yet have afforded him neither strength nor opportunity to declare it. He told me, that from the time he was first ordained, he began to be dissatisfied with his religious opinions, and to suspect that there were greater things revealed in the Bible, than were generally believed or allowed to be there. From the time when I first visited him, after my release from St. Albans, he began
to read upon the subject. It was at that time I informed him of the views of divine truth, which I had received in that school of affliction. He laid what I said to heart, and began to furnish himself with the best writers on the controverted points, whose works he read with great diligence and attention, carefully comparing them with the Scriptures. None ever truly and ingenuously sought the truth, but they found it. A spirit of earnest inquiry is the gift of God, who never says to any, Seek ye my face, in vain. Accordingly, about ten days before his death, it pleased the Lord to dispel all his doubts, to reveal in his heart the knowledge of the Saviour, and to give him that firm and unshaken confidence in the ability and willingness of Christ to save sinners, which is invariably followed by a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory." . .
Of the character of his much beloved brother, whose death, filled him with mingled emotions of joy and grief, Cowper has given the following interesting description:—"He was a man of a most candid and ingenuous spirit; his temper remarkably sweet, and in his behaviour to me he had always manifested an uncommon affection. His outward conduct, so far as it fell under my notice, or I could learn it by the report of others, was perfectly decent and unblamable. There was nothing vicious in any part of his practice, but being of a studious, thoughtful turn, he placed his chief delight in the acquisition of learning, and made such progress in it, that he had but few rivals. He was critically skilled in the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages; was beginning to make himself master of the Syriac, and perfectly understood the French and Italian, the latter of which he could speak fluently. Learned, however, as he was, he was easy and eheerful in his conversation, and entirely free from the stiffness which is generally contracted by men devoted to such pursuits."
. . ., "I had a brother once;
Notwithstanding the cheerfulness with which Cowper bore up under this painful bereavement, when it first occurred, owing to the happy circumstances related above, with which it was attended, yet there is reason to believe that it made an impression upon his peculiarly sensitive mind, more deep than visible; and that was not soon to be effaced. It unquestionably diminished his attachment to the world, and made him less unwilling to leave it. Writing to his friend, Mr. Hill, at this time, he says:—"I have not done conversing with terrestrial objects, though I should be happy were I able to hold more continual converse with a friend above the skies. He has my heart, but he allows a corner of it for all who show me kindness, and therefore one for you. The storm of 1763, made a wreck of the friendships I had contracted, in the course of many years, yours only excepted, which has survived the tempest."
It appears not improbable that his friend, Mr. Newton, might have witnessed, in the morbid tendency of his mind to melancholy, of which he then discovered symptoms, some traces of the deep and extensive wound which his mind hacl received by this event, though his efforts to conceal it were' incessant. Hence, he wisely engaged him in a literary undertaking, congenial to his taste, suited to his admirable talents, and, perhaps, more adapted to alleviate his distress than any other'that could have been selected. Mr. Newton had felt the want of a volume of evangelical hymns, on experimental subjects, suited for public and private worship; he mentioned the subject to Cowper, and pressed him to undertake it, and the result was, a friendly compact to supply the volume between them, with an understanding that Cowper was to be the principal composer. He entered upon this work with great pleasure; and though he does not appear previous to this, to have employed his poetical talents for a considerable time, yet the admirable hymns he composed, show with what ease he could write -upon th» doctrinal, experimental, or practical parts of Christianity. One of our best living poets, whose writings more frequently remind us of Cowper's than any we have ever read, in an essay on the poet's productions, remarks:—" Of these hymns, it must suffice to say, that, like all his best compositions, they are principally communings with his own heart, or avowals of personal Christian experience. As such they are frequently applicable to every believer's feelings, and touch, unexpectedly, the most secret springs of joy and sorrow, faith, fear, hope, love, trial, despondency, and triumph. Some allude to infirmities, the most difficult to be described, but often the source of excruciating anguish to the tender conscience. The
72d hymn, Book I. is written with the confidence of inspiration, and the authority of a prophet. The 96th hymn, of the same book, is a perfect allegory in miniature, without a failing point, or confusion of metaphor, from beginning to end. Hymn 51, Book III. presents a transformation, which, if found in Ovid, might have been extolled as the happiest of his fictions. Hymn 12, Book II. closes with one of the hardiest figures to be met with out of the Hebrew Scriptures. None but a poet of the highest order could have written it; verses cannot go beyond it, and painting cannot approach it. Hymn 38, Book II. is a strain of noble simplicity, expressive of confidence the most remote from presumption, and such as a heart at peace with God alone could enjoy and utter. Who can read the 55th hymn, Book II. without feeling as if he could, at that moment, forsake all* take up his cross, and follow his Saviour? The 19th Hymn, Book III. is a model of tender pleading, of believing, persevering prayer in trouble; and the following one is a brief parody of Bunyan's finest passage, and is admirable of its kind. The reader might almost imagine himself Christian on his pilgrimage, the triumph and the trance are brought so home to his bosom. Hymn 15, of the same book, is a lyric of high tone and charracter, and rendered awfully interesting, by the circumstances under which it was written—in the twilight of departing reason."*
The benevolent heart of Cowper was delighted in a high degree to co-operate with a man of Mr. Newton's talents and piety, in promoting the advancement of religion in his neighbourhood. It is deeply to be regretted, that when he had only composed sixty-eight hymns, all of which were uncommonly excellent, and were afterwards published by Mr. Newton in the Olney Collection, he was laid aside from the interesting employment by serious indisposition. It pleased God, for reasons inscrutable to us, and which it would be impious to arraign, to visit the afflicted poet, with a renewed attack of his former hypochondriacal complaint, more protracted, and not less violent, than the one he had before experienced. Just on the eve of the attack he commenced the following sublime hymn:—
"God moves in a mysterious way,
• Essay on Cowper's Productions, by James Montgomery.