« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Jews and His own disciples, that the children of the kingdom, they that trusted in the Church and in their belonging to it, should be cast into outer darkness, where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The Pharisee, belonging to the kingdom, ridicules the prayer of the humble Publican, God be merciful to me a sinner!—and rejects with contempt the idea of the fanaticism that would ascribe immediate efficacy to such prayer. Poor Mr. Teedon, the schoolmaster! To think that Cowper should be reduced to such humiliation of mind as to beg an interest in such a Christian's prayers, and venture to hope for an answer to them!
It is an impressive and illustrative anecdote which is related of Archbishop Secker on his sick bed, when visited by Mr. Talbot, Vicar of St. Giles's, Reading, who had lived in great intimacy with him, and received his preferment from him. "You will pray with me, Talbot," said the archbishop, during their interview. Mr. Talbot rose up, and went to look for a prayer-book. "That is not what I want now," said the dying prelate; "kneel down by me, and pray for me in the way I know you are used to do." The man of God readily complied with this command, and kneeling down, prayed earnestly from his heart for his dying friend the archbishop, whom he saw no
PROOF OF SANITY.
We can see no reason why Mr. Teedon might not offer as earnest and acceptable prayer for Cowper as Mr. Talbot for Archbishop Secker. And if the archbishop needed such prayer when dying, and was not insane in asking for it, the poet also might have need of it living, and his seeking for it was not necessarily a proof of insanity, but the
IMPRESSIVE LESSONS FROM COWPER'S IMAGINARY DESPAIR.-GOD DOES NOT REQUIRE ANY TO BE WILLING TO BE DAMNED; BUT ETERNAL SEPARATION FROM GOD IS DAMNATION.-MISTAKE OF MYSTICISM AND POETRY.-COWPER SUBMISSIVE TO GOD'S WILL, BUT NOT WILLING TO BE SEPARATED FROM HIM.-COWPER'S GENTLENESS.-FALSE REMARK OF LEIGH HUNT IN REGARD TO ROMNEY'S PORTRAIT OF COWPER.
THE spectacle of Cowper's misery and helplessness beneath the despotism of an imaginary despair, conveys a most vivid and impressive lesson of the necessity of spiritual joy for active usefulness. Hope is not only the anchor, but the impulsive power of the soul. Hence we see the error even in Madame Guion, of a mysticism that seeks to rise to an unreal exaltation, an imaginary and impossible elevation, not only not enjoined in the Word of God, but forbidden by the principles of true piety. One of her pieces, translated by Cowper, contains the following stanza, supposed to be the language of a soul brought to such a point of absolute self-renunciation as to be willing that God should depart forever. And this is imagined
to be the ineffable point of acquiescence, to which God, in hiding His face, would bring the soul that loves Him. Translated from poetry into plain prose, it is the requisition that a man be willing to be damned; that is to say, it is submission to Satan's will, not God's, that is required of the sinner; for God's will is, that man should not only desire to be saved, but that every believing man shall be saved; while Satan's will is, that man should be willing to be lost, and should be lost.
"Be not angry; I resign,
Henceforth, all my will to Thine:
I consent that Thou depart
Though Thine absence breaks my heart:
All is right that Thou wilt do.
This was just what Love intended,
He was now no more offended:
Soon as I became a child,
Love returned to me and smiled."
Now this is exaggeration to the verge of impiety. God says, Woe unto them, when I depart from them. And in all the realm of true theology there is not the beginning of a requisition from God that any of His creatures should be willing to have Him depart from them forever. Accordingly, we see how different was the character of Cowper's experience; even in his madness, it was more consonant with God's Word. For he was
not willing that God should depart from him, and while a ray of reason remained, he could not be. And, in truth, the whole essence and acuteness of his misery was in just this, that he believed God had departed from him; and hence he suffered, as far perhaps as any creature not deserted of God, but only under a delusion, could suffer, something of the torture of eternal despair. If this belief had always prevailed, as in some exasperations of his malady it did prevail, he could never have put pen to paper, never could have occupied his exquisite genius, his transparent intellect, so admirably balanced in all other respects, on any subject of thought whatever, and not even on the subject of his despair. There would have ensued the blackness and confusion of an absolute chaos. Again, and again, under the influence of such despair, Cowper exclaimed, Oh, that I had never been born, or that I could cease to be, forever! How much truer to the truth, to the reality of things, in this matter, was Cowper's madness than Milton's poetry! For Milton has put into the mouth of one of his lost angels, in melancholy eloquence of language, a preference of continued existence, even in despair and pain, rather than the cure by annihilation.
"And that must end us; that must be our cure,