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GLIMPSES OF COMFORT.
to him the light of His countenance. Cowper himself was for a season comforted by his earnest prayers, and was accustomed to tell him, as in a sort of diary, the spiritual terrors he was passing through.
But Southey treats these communications between the poet and his humble Christian friend with scorn, and endeavors to hold up the schoolmaster to utter derision, as a contemptible mixture of the fool and fanatic, who presumptuously dared to suppose that he could pray for a being so superior to him in intellect as Cowper, and that God would give him such answers as might comfort the suffering heart in prison, and unable to pray for itself. Southey derides this man's prayers, and Cowper's application for them, as if they and it were pitiable and ridiculous to the last degree. He seems indignant that Cowper should have been a party to such spiritual consultations and efforts. Yet it was to Mr. Teedon's affectionate arguments, persuasions, and encouragements that Cowper yielded so far as to resume his own interrupted approaches to the throne of grace; and when nothing on earth could minister to him one ray of comfort, he was enabled to glean some hope in the assured earnestness and constancy of this Christian friend's petitions for him at the mercy-seat. But Southey seems filled with anger at the very thought of comfort so administered; it seems as if he re
GLIMPSES OF LIGHT. `
garded it as the last possible humiliation of lunacy that Cowper should permit a poor, lowly schoolmaster at Olney, to pray for him and consult with him. In truth, the brightest gleams of comfort in this dark, declining period of his life, and the only intervals of hope, were enjoyed by Cowper through the instrumentality of this despised Christian.
These records of what Southey calls pitiable consultations, treating them with most unfeeling contempt, are among the most affecting demonstrations both of Cowper's sufferings and of his genuine piety. They are no proof of superstition, but of confidence in prayer, unbroken even to the last, and confidence in God as the hearer of prayer. They convey, too, such manifestations of the affectionate gratitude of Cowper to the humble individual whom he regarded as instrumental of any spiritual blessing to him, or any alleviation of his distress, that there is more of pleasure than of painfulness, in this view, in their perusal. Cowper's first letter from Hayley's house at Eartham, in this distressing year, was written to Mr. Teedon, (which Southey notes as in itself a great humiliation), and it contains the following sweet passage: "I had one glimpse at least I was willing to hope it was a glimpse of heavenly light by the way; an answer, I suppose, to many fervent prayers of yours. Continue to pray for us, and
PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER.
when any thing occurs worth communicating, let us know it. Mrs. Unwin is in charming spirits, to which the incomparable air and delightful scenes of Eartham have much contributed. But our thanks are always due to the Giver of all good for these and all His benefits; for without His blessing, Paradise itself would not cheer the soul that knows Him."
It is remarkable that the wanderings of Cowper's mind in the chaos of dreams, though continually pervaded by the same terror as by day, were mingled with intervals of celestial light and comfort. He was not always scared with visions, nor barred all access to the mercy-seat, but as if the soul had escaped for a season from its prison, and was soaring at liberty, he enjoyed heartfelt communion with God. And the following paragraphs in some of his notes to Mr. Teedon show that one beneficial effect was produced by Mr. Teedon's prayerful efforts and affectionate counsels and entreaties, which the whole world of the wise and the literary could not have effected; they persuaded Cowper to persevere in prayer:
"I have now persevered in the punctual performance of the duty of prayer. My purpose is to continue such prayer as I can make, although with all this reason to conclude that it is not accepted, and though I have been more than once forbidden, in my own apprehension, by Him to
whom it is addressed. never forbids any body to pray, but, on the contrary, encourages all to do it. I answer-No. Some he does not encourage, and some he even forbids; not by words, perhaps, but by a secret negative found only in their experience.
You will tell me that God
"Since I wrote last, my nights have been less infected with horrid dreams and wakings, and I would willingly hope that it is in answer to the prayers I offer; lifeless as they are, I shall not discontinue the practice, you may be sure, so long as I have even this encouragement to observe it.
"Two or three nights since I dreamed that I had God's presence largely, and seemed to pray with much liberty. I then proceeded dreaming about many other things, all vain and foolish; but at last I dreamed that recollecting my pleasant dream, I congratulated myself on the exact recollection that I had of my prayer, and of all that passed in it. But when I waked, not a single word could I remember; the single circumstance that my heart had been enlarged was all that remained with me."
To Newton he wrote as follows: "Prayer I know is made for me, and sometimes with great enlargement of heart by those who offer it; and in this circumstance consists the only evidence I can find that God is still favorably mindful of me, and has not cast me off forever." This
gleam of consolation was derived wholly from the freedom of his communications with Mr. Teedon, called by Southey a dangerous superstition, and regarded as a mortifying proof of his insanity.
It is singularly interesting to compare and contrast these records of Cowper's conflicts, and of a fellow-christian's sympathizing efforts for him in prayer, and his own earnest desires and hopes that God might answer such prayer, though he himself seemed by solitary edict excluded from all hopeful approach to God as his Heavenly Father, with the records of really pitiable and humiliating superstition in Dr. Johnson's Diary. These were remarked upon by Cowper himself in one of his letters to Newton in 1785, but Southey has not one word to utter in regard to the danger to be apprehended from such superstitions, while he sees in Cowper's anxiety for the prayers of a christian friend, and in that friend's belief that such prayers are answered, nothing but proof of egregious self-conceit and vanity on one side, and a mind half insane on the other. Cowper speaks of the publisher of Johnson's Diary as being "neither much a friend to the cause of religion, nor to the author's memory; for by the specimen of it that has reached us, it seems to contain only such stuff as has a direct tendency to expose both to ridicule. His prayers for the dead, and his minute account of the rigor with which he ob