« PreviousContinue »
Perhaps, they who know human nature will hardly think that it is fitted for the exigencies of common life, except where there is a predisposition to unimpassioned regularity. The necessity of a more ardent religion for minds of a higher character, so as to furnish an adequate object for the affections and the imagination, as well as for the reason and conscience, is, in my mind, sufficient to account for Cowper's becoming a Methodist. At a period of peculiar sensibility, he fell in with some connexions of his own, who, though possessed of questionable opinions, were sincerely and ardently devout; and, in the exalted happiness which he thought he saw in them, he felt an attraction operating on his own heart, which he was not desirous, and, perhaps, in a sense, not able, to resist. Sentiment, therefore, of the strongest and most insinuating kind, made Cowper a Methodist.
His view seems to me to have been precisely that of the eloquent Saurin. “ Heureux le fidèle, qui, dans les combats que lui livrent les ennemis de son salut, peut opposer plaisirs à plaisirs, délices à délices; les plaisirs de la prière et de la méditation aux plaisirs du monde ; les délices du silence et de la retraite à celles des cercles, des dissipations, des spectacles. Un tel homme est ferme dans ses devoirs, même parce qu'il est homme, et qu'il ne depend pas d'un homme de ne pas aimer ce qui lui ouvre des sources de joye ; un tel homme ne peut jamais succomber entièrement sous les tentations, parce que, selon l'energique expression d'un apôtre, * La paix de Dieu, qui est au dessûs de tout entendement, garde :' c'est-à-dire, preserve les sens, et
empêche, par les delectations dont elle l'inonde, qu'ils ne l'entraînent dans le crime.” The only difference was, that Cowper needed balm for a wounded spirit, rather than support against dangerous attractions, but the matter of aid was one and the same: and it seems, that for about seven years after the first enkindling of this elevated devotion, even his constitutional malady was overborne by the unabating spring-tide of his happiness. The delights of this period lived ever after in his memory, his imagination, and his heart, even when his hopes of his own future happiness became so unhappily shaken by his melancholy. To this affection, perhaps, we owe it, that he made poetry his occupation, and it seems as if this exercise had the power of suspending his complaints, of scattering, for the time, the clouds which enveloped him, and of restoring to him, at least transiently, the sunshine of the breast. But even from these gleams a light has streamed forth upon his verse, which makes the common objects of earth appear to us, in his description, as if they were already illumined with the dawn of an eternal day. How much they so appeared to himself, none but his own delightful expressions can give an idea. To them, therefore, I finally appeal, in support of the substance of the above observations :
“ Acquaint thyself with God, if thou would'st taste
His works. Admitted once to his embrace,
The soul that sees him, or receives, sublim'd,
Love kindles as I gaze.
I feel desires
See, my dear sir, I began on the 19th of January, as you have perceived, to write a letter, and on this 11th of April I finish an essay. I only fear it may combine some of the worst qualities of both, without having the requisites of either. On various grounds it might need an apology, but that would not mend it. I can only say, that I submit it to you for transmission to your friend, or not, as you judge best; and if transmitted, I commit it to him, to use it or overlook it as he thinks proper. It is, probably, too late to be of use to him ; and perhaps it pursues so peculiar a path, as to be entirely wide of all he could wish to tell the public. It claims no merit but having been suggested by an unfettered love of truth, and by veneration for a singular example of excellence, moral and intellectual.
I am, dear SIR,
Your faithful Servant,
REFLECTIONS ON 2 TIMOTHY, III. 15.
" And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scrip
tures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
St. Paul had been just before predicting the evils which were likely to arise to the Church from the multiplying of false teachers; and being deeply impressed with the dangers to which Christians would be exposed from the contagion of their doctrine and example, he exhorts his beloved Timothy to be vigilantly on his guard. But he conveys his advice rather by stating facts than by direct admonition. He reminds Timothy of the benefit he might derive from having had so near a view of St. Paul's own doctrine and conduct, but he lays a still deeper stress on the advantages of his early education, it being from this that he infers his capacity of profiting by St. Paul's example. “ Evil men and seducers,” says he, “shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But continue thou in the things thou hast learned and been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them, and that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus."