Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

222

HOPE

ECLIPSED.

light, in the prevalence of which the birds that sing in the day-time retire to their nests, but all the beasts of the forest begin to creep forth, and the young lions roar after their prey. In that dread eclipse as to his own personal hope of acceptance with God and of eternal mercy, that vailing of the light of the Sun of Righteousness, Cowper's reason (but not his affections) for the most part remained shrouded. Instead of his

path being, in respect to its brightness and serenity, in accordance with God's prescribed rule and promise, as the path of the just, shining more and more unto the perfect day, the perfect day had come first with Cowper, and from that point there was a reversal of the rule, so that the shadows deepened and the gloom thickened till we lose sight of the progress of the saint, in the darkest and most impenetrable depths of the valley of death-shadows. It was as if he had set out from the Celestial City, and taken all Bunyan's vivid delineations backward, from the Land Beulah to the Valley of Humiliation, and the conflict with Apollyon, and the smoke and darkness of that other dread valley, which proved to him the River of Death, the end of his pilgrimage, the last of his gloom and sufferings forever.

1

Ever since his attack in 1773, the settled type of his derangement had been the obstinate assurance that his own name was blotted from the

SUBMISSION.

223

Book of Life. During that attack, he was at first unwilling to enter Newton's door; but one day having been persuaded to make him a visit, he suddenly determined there to stay, and accordingly remained under Newton's care, in Newton's family, about eighteen months, when quite as suddenly he came to the determination to return. Newton has described his submissiveness to God's will in an early period of this attack, in strong and affecting language. "In the beginning of his disorder," says Newton, "when he was more capable of conversing than he was sometimes afterward, how often have I heard him adore and submit to the sovereignty of God, and declare, though in the most agonizing and inconceivable distress, that he was so perfectly satisfied of the wisdom and rectitude of the Lord's appointments, that if he was sure of relieving himself only by stretching out his hand, he would not do it, unless he was equally sure it was agreeable to His will that he should. do it." The same spirit of entire submission to God's will marked all the changes of his delirium. In October he attempted suicide, under the dreadful impression that this was the Divine will made known for his obedience. The turn which his malady thus took was entirely unexpected, and it rendered the most incessant watchfulness absolutely necessary. That was while Mr. and Mrs. Newton were absent in Warwickshire; but New

224

DREAD DELUSION.

ton has remarked that this very attempt at selfdestruction was but a new form and proof of his dear friend's submission to God's will, "since it was solely owing to the power the Enemy had of impressing upon his distorted imagination that it was the will of God that he should, after the example of Abraham, perform an expressive act of obedience, and offer not a son but himself."

That impression always remained by him, or rather the belief that he had forfeited God's mercy, and shut himself out from hope and heaven by not executing the will of Jehovah when it was made known to him, and the appointed opportunity had come. By letting that opportunity pass, he thought he had brought upon himself a perpetual exclusion from God's favor. For a long time he thought that even to implore mercy would be just opposing the determinate counsel of God. It was a state of mind that increased the anxiety of his friends in every recurrence of his disease, and tried their care and tenderness to the uttermost. In 1787, during the dreadful attack of several months' duration, he again attempted his own death, and would certainly have accomplished it, if Mrs. Unwin had not been providentially directed to the room where he had just suspended himself by the neck, and where he must have died in a few moments, had he not been instantly rescued. From this last attack he recovered sud

DREAD

DELUSION.

225

denly, without warning, like a man called at a word from death to life; and no similar access ever took place, but soon after the year 1790 the gloom and dejection of spirits deepened from month to month into a thicker darkness and more painful distress.

“Amid these dreadful temptations," says the Rev. Mr. Greatheed, who knew him intimately, and after his death published some account of his trials, with an interesting review of his life and character, "such was his unshaken submission to what he imagined to be the Divine pleasure, that he was accustomed to say, 'If holding up my finger would save me from endless torments, I would not do it against the will of God.' He never dared to enter a place of worship when invited to do so; he has said, 'Had I the universe, I would give it to go with you; but I dare not do it against the will of God !'"

Sad sufferer under a delusion that seemed to set -the very attributes and commandments of God against one another! We do not wonder that Newton and Mrs. Unwin, and his strongest-minded and most religious friends spoke of it and regarded it as the power of the enemy. With the New Testament before them, what could seem a more palpable and graphic renewal of those malignant, infernal possessions which drew the compassion of our Saviour, and required the exercise of His om

226

MERCY IN TRIAL.

nipotence. "Whom Satan hath bound, lo, these thirteen years!" Justly did they reason and believe that something more than a natural power was here at work, and that only a supernatural interposition could effect a cure. Sad sufferer! yet not so sad as happy, being under the care of God; for He was with thee though thou knewest it not. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then Thou knewest my path! Happy, since He who suffered thee to be thus tempted was able to save thee to the uttermost, was refining thee for greater usefulness, and was preparing for thee, out of this exceeding weight of trial, a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!

Now and then Cowper would utter in his letters to his friends some sweet impressive sentiments, speaking of the sufferings of others, which are applicable with peculiar power and beauty to his own case. How simple and touching the following words in regard to a lovely young person of unobtrusive, but genuine Christian grace and worth, that had just passed away! "The world has its objects of admiration, and God has objects of his love. Those make a noise and perish; and these weep silently for a short season, and then live for

ever."

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »