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COWPER'S CHRISTIAN GRACES BLOOMING IN MID-WINTER.-DEPTH AND REALITY OF HIS PIETY PROVED BY HIS GLOOM.-ASSAULT OF COWPER'S ADVERSARY.-INFERNAL CONFLICTS.-INVISIBLE GRACE.
COWPER'S GREAT ENJOYMENT IN POETICAL COMPOSITION.
It was a painfully vivid image with which Cowper conveyed his mental state, when he said that a thick fog enveloped the landscape, and at the same time it was freezing intensely. Again and again we find ourselves inquiring, how could his affections continue so warm, so ardent, so benevolent, his interest so unabated in every good thing, his sympathy for others' woes so tender, and his grateful appreciation of the kindness of others so constant, his sensibilities undiminished to the last, and his feelings of admiration and love, susceptible of new friendships with congenial natures late in life? His power of attraction over others was almost a fascination; and the frankness and cordial sincerity with which he took the new young friends to his heart, whom Providence ordained to meet and bless him on his lonely way were among the most delightful exhibitions of his nature. His own
misery never made him misanthropic, but right the contrary; for he was both grateful for his own blessings and joyful in the happiness of all around him.
"The principal pleasure, indeed," remarks Mr. Greatheed, "that Cowper appeared to be capable of receiving, was that which he derived from the happiness of others. Instead of being provoked to discontent and envy, by contrasting their comforts with his own afflictions, there evidently was not a benefit which he knew to be enjoyed by others which did not afford him sensible satisfaction; not a suffering they endured which did not add to his pain. To the happiness of those who were privileged with opportunities of showing their esteem for him, he was most tenderly alive. The advancement of the knowledge of Christ in the world at large was always near his heart, and whatever concerned the general welfare of mankind was interesting to him, secluded as he was from the public, and, in common, from religious society. In like manner, from his distant retreat he viewed with painful sensations the progress of infidelity and of sin in every shape. His love to God, though unassisted by a hope of Divine favor, was invariably manifested by an abhorrence of every thing he thought dishonorable to the Most High, and a delight in all that tended to His glory."
Unassisted by a hope of the Divine favor! This
BLOOMING IN WINTER.
makes the continued development of Cowper's Here was the bush burn
piety most wonderful. ing but not consumed. Here was the faith of submission, reverence, and love, glorifying God in the fires as truly, and with a martyr's endurance, as was ever manifested in the fiery furnace. And here was, not less manifestly, a form like unto the Son of God, though here His presence was known only in the patience and meekness of the sufferer, and not in the radiance of a visible shape. Yet it was Divine grace, nothing less and nothing else, that was shining. And if ever in one case more remarkably than in another, John Bunyan's beautiful imagery presented by his Interpreter was fulfilled, it was in Cowper's. "I saw in my dream that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a place where was a fire burning against a wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it to quench it; yet did the fire burn higher and hotter." On the side where the malignant devil is pouring the torrent on the soul, you can not see the Lord Jesus pouring in the oil of Divine grace; yet the invisible work is the strongest, and the Lord is the conqueror. "I will cool you yet," said Satan, "though I take seven years to do it; you are very hot after Mercy now, but you shall be cool enough by and by." So thought the infernal adversary, when permitted to set himself against this child of God, at the
very time when his combined piety and genius were beginning to put forth those precious blossoms and fruits that were to prove like leaves of the tree of life for the healing of the nations.
And the ingredient he was permitted to mingle in that torrent of temptation with which he would fain have overwhelmed Cowper, and utterly extinguished the bright fire that was burning, the ingredient with which he hoped to persuade him, as he once hoped in regard to Job, to curse God and die, was the terrible imagination that he was cut off forever from God's favor, that God had forgotten to be gracious, and that His mercy was clean gone for evermore. If he could persuade him to despair, he thought he was sure of his victim. For we are saved by hope, and the sanctifying power of faith acts always with victorious efficacy, only through the might of faith's watchword, by the earnest of the Spirit in the heart, looking unto Jesus, and exclaiming, "Who loved me, and gave Himself for me!" And though
The vital savor of His name
Restores our fainting breath,
yet if a personal distrust can be made to take the place of confidence in Jesus,
Such unbelief perverts the same
To guilt, despair, and death.
WORK OF THE TEMPTER.
Now this delusion of Cowper, that he was cut off forever from God's mercy, was certainly from below, not from above, the work of an Enemy, not of a Friend; yet even the practical power of that delusion, and the result on which Satan had relied, could be prevented by the omnipotence of God's invisible grace. And if Cowper could have been carried by the Interpreter to the other side of the emblem, to behold the Divine Redeemer secretly but continually pouring in the oil of Divine grace, to maintain the heavenly fire, then the secret of the mystery of God's dealings with him would have been known beforehand. He was bringing the blind by a way that they knew not. And if Cowper did not know, the angelic guardians-they that wait and watch ministering unto them who shall be heirs of salvation-must have known God's way, as they maintained for him this spiritual conflict, and must have heard the voice saying, "My grace is sufficient for thee; My strength shall be made perfect in thy weakness."
So, said the Interpreter, "by means of the oil of Christ's grace, notwithstanding what the devil can do, the souls of His people prove gracious still. And in that thou sawest that the man stood behind the wall to maintain the fire, this is to teach thee that it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of grace is maintained in the soul." And hard indeed it was for Cowper to see; yet still the