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gour, that the prodigal child of nature can In the loftiness of the person who is amarise from the dust into which he has fal. ployed, we recognize the importance of len, and retrace the journey which bas se. the end he pursued. We tremble to think parated him from his Father.
of the dread responsibility we incur by - Upon this, and upon every con. the magnitude of this mercy; and the first gregation who are met in these solemn question our hearts suggest is that of the hours in the name of Jesus Christ, may apostle,- What manner of men ought we the spirit of genuine repentanee descend to be for, whom all this system of divine (withi healing upon its wings!'-May sea- tenderness has been prepared and emsons as they pass, tell us that they are ployed? passing;-and may we all so employ them, * The ascension of our Lord is, in anothat they may become to us 'the appoint- ther view, a perpetual proof to us of the ed time,'—that they may prove to us 'the certainty of our own immortality. It was day of salvation !"
not alone to confirm the faith of his fol. Even here our readers will antici- lowers, or to substantiate the truth of his pate us in remarking a very important be resisted, that the disappearance of our
mission, by an evidence which could not omission. Who shall reconcile man
Lord from earth was thus conducted. It to his offended Maker? Who shall was, far more, we may believe, intended sanctify his repentance ? Who shall to show them the actual possibility of this intercede for his pardon ? Mr. Alison mighty change ;-to demonstrate to them has not told us, but the Gospel has.
that there were bodies celestial,' as well
as "bodies terrestrial; - that it was the This omission is partially made up in weakness of man only which limited the the Sermon on Repentance before power of God;--and that when he willed, Heaven, which is an animated but the greatest and most astonishing events sornewhat too flowery a discourse. which the imagination of man could conThe Sermon which follows it, is a very
template, could yet be performed with the rhetorical but a very unsatisfactory occurrence.
ease and simplicity of the most ordinary
It was yet still farther incomposition : it savours strongly of tended, we may believe, to show them the the French school of theological elo- duration of their own existence. He had quence.
suffered death, as they were all to do; but The last, and by far the best Dis- he was again aliye. In finishing his human course in the volume, treats, upon and a more exalted one ; and, after having
course, he was beginning only a greater the Ascension of our Lord. This is fulfilled the will of his Father, he was now indeed a Christian sermon, and such to return into his bosom, and to be seated a one as should be heard by a Chris- at his right hand · for ever. They were tian congregation. The evidence of
to follow through the same path ;-in the event is well considered, the and, while they thus saw him triumphant
his history, they were to read their own; Scripture accounts are ably comment- over death, they were to see, as it were, ed upon, and the reflections arising the emblem of the great change which from it are forcibly drawn.
they were afterwards to experience, and
the opening of that greater state of being “ 2. There are other reflections of a into which that change was to conduct moral nature which the present season is them. To such a conclusion, to such an equally fitted to excite ;-and, in the con- evidence of the immortality of the mind of templation of this great event, there are man, no other religion that ever appeared sentiments which must arise in every upon earth has pretended; and the Christhoughtful mind, by which we may be tian who contemplates it, cannot but feel, made wiser and better. It is fitted, in with new delight, the greatness of that the first view, to remind us of the impor. dispensation into which he is admitted, tance of the human soul, and of the care and the foundation which it gives to the of Heaven for its recovery and salvation. first and profoundest hopes of the human When we commemorate the birth of our soul. Saviour, we are reminded of the Benevo- “ 3. In continuing this meditation, there lence of the system of the Gospel, by which is a third view of the subject which natu
the day-spring arose upon a dark and a rally opens upon our minds ;-it is of the wretched world.'-When we commemo- greatness of that state to which the hurate his sufferings and death, we are re- man soul is finally destined. It is the minded of that parental tenderness and command of the Apostle, that we should loving-kindness which spared not his own • look unto Jesus as the Author and Son' to redeem us from present and from Finisher of our faith ;' ard in thus looking future evil. When we commemorate his to him as having gone before us, we Resurrection and Ascension, we are re- best can understand and conceive the naminded of the greatness of this system. ture and character of those mansions
September, 1817.] Character of Cowper's Writings,
263 which he has prepared for those that cism is indebted for its sway. Let love him. At the hour of his ascension, them be proclaimed with all the comall that was humble, all that was painful, manding sobriety of truth, and the all that was degrading in his human life, was passed. We see him rising above disciples of enthusiasm will soon dwinthe darkness of time, and the dust of mortality ;---We see him entering into a state That these Sermons, when deliverof unmingled happiness and triumphant ed,
must have had a very considerable glory;--we see him clothed with infinite
effect authority, and the angel and the archangel
their auditors, we can
upon bending their grateful heads before him; readily believe. We should be really --we see him, still more, entering into concerned therefore, if any of the free * dominion' only to continue the system of remarks which we have thought it our mercy which he had begun,-inclining his duty to make, were to be construed eyes for ever upon that world which he
We esteem Mr. Alicame to save, breathing, through every age, the inspirations of that holy Spirit
son as a laborious and useful Minister which proceedeth from him,-interced. in a very important situation; we ing with the Father for all the penitent know the fascinations by which the and all the sorrowful,--and gathering, in young are surrounded, and the allure. progressive mercy, all that will come un
ments held forth to apostates from the to hiin, into the fold of eternal safety. Is it possible, my bretbren, that we can con
Gospel. We congratulate, therefore, template this subject without feeling our the rising youth in Edinburgh upon minds purified at the same time they are having such a minister as Mr. Alison; exalted !--without feeling ourselves born he is worthy of the brethren with for something greater and more perma, whom he is associated, and of the good nent than the scenes of time can unfold? --without letting the poor passions and Bishop under whose jurisdiction he the sordid cares of mortality fall from our is placed. It is our hearty wish, that remembrance !-without the prayer, 'that by the infusion of Christian vigour the same mind may be in us which was in into his future compositions, the sphere Christ Jesus ?-Without looking unto
of his utility may be extended, that him,' with the ardent desire of following his steps,' and of one day being found his exhortations may be armed with worthy to stand before the Throne, and strength, and his ministry blessed with before him, for ever?"
success. That Mr. Alison is a sincere Chris. tian, the last Sermon will leave us
CHARACTER of Cowper's WRITINGS. little reason to doubt; to what motive
From the British Review.) therefore we are to ascribe the omis
Cowper rose on the horizon of this lower sion of all the high and leading doc- world, " which he hardly seemed to tonch” at trines of Christianity in the preceding a very critical time, as well as under very peSermons, we are at a loss to say. Of culiar circumstances. The last finish seemed the reconciliation of man to God exquisite refinement of Aridison, the brilliant
to have been given to English literature by the through Christ, of his penal and vica- numbers of Pope, and the laborious but sucrious sacrifice, of the lost state of the cessful effusions of Thomson and Akenside.
Young hed exhausted all the efforts of an extworld without a Redeemer, of the or
beraut imagination, on every topic affecting by dinary power and means of grace, we its morality, or elevating by its devotion. Nor scarcely find a hint in discourses upon
had some less poets, less in bulk, but not in the
essential qualities of that name, failed in the subjects which are immediately con- mean time to look back with a wistful eye to nected with them. Mr. Alison does the simplicity of ancient days, which had been not surely think that these essential sach men us Collins and Goldsmith, all appear
too long forsaken: and in the productions of points of the Christian faith can be ed that could, it might be thought, safely ap. omitted without the most certain dan- pear of nature and feeling, where the taste of ger. He does not surely think, that the public had been previously formed to ela
borate refinement. even to the minds of children they At this crisis Cowper presented himself; may not be approximated with the ut- and, not daunted by the great intellectual at most facility. He does not surely ficial labours of others, ander the conduct of an
tainments of some, nor misguided by the artithink that any exhortation, any elo, entirely free and independent genius of his quence, any pathos, can be effectual own, struck into a new path, and a lopted for without them. It is from the omis. himself : plan of sentiment and of diction, na
less striking for its freshness and originality pion of these high themes, that fanati. than engaging by its simplicity and feeling
This cireumstance of complete but unaffect- cause he wrote the exploits of Achilles; or ed novelty, so remarkable at such a time, has Virgil pious from his praise of “pious Eneas; always appeared to us to be the exact mark by but every body will deem Cowper a Christian which the several compositions of Cowper are from having written the Task. each in their way to be characterized to the Nature and simplicity in the writings of English reader. He is surprised with some. Cowper were at a secure distance from coarsething entirely and eminently harmonizing with ness or carelessness. He does not, it is true, the plurest genius of his own tongue, and yet often aim at fine passages, He does not give differing from all he has ever seen in it before. reins to his imagination, or pretend at every After all the various delineations of Cowper's turn to hurry the reader and himself“ beyond style, attempted by the ablest as well as most the flaming bounds of time and space.” His congenial spirits, (and none in this respect more measures How casily and lightly with his subbonoured than Cowper,) the precise thing ject. They aspire only to the level of the seems no farther definable than the flavour of theme: and seldom either surpass or fall be. some new and exquisite fruit. It is neither low it. He is no lover of fine, high-sounding grape nor peach, nor pine-apple; nor is it com. words. He is not afraid of giving plain ideas pounded of all, or any thing, that we have be in a plain manner. Indeed one of the greatest fore tasted. We must taste the production to and most inimitable merits of Cowper is the know it. Cowper has certainly neither the use which he makes of common words, with a Jearned nervosity of Milton, nor the compres- perfect freedom from any thing low, inharmosed vivacity of Pope, nor the measured fulness
nious, or inelegant. His private communicaof Thomson, nor the soaring sublimity of Young, tions prove to us that this style of perfect nanor the descriptive energy of Dryden. Perhaps ture was not the effect of indolence or inattenle may be said to approach nearest to Dryden, tion, but was the result of much care, labour, im the easy flow of his thoughts and his versifi- and taste. Evidently a master in both kinds of cation in rhyme; and in blank vérse to Milton,
verse, we believe him to bare voluntarily rein the skilful arrangement of words and correct jected both the splendour of Pope in rhyme enunciation of ideas. His lighter pieces remind and the labours of Akenside in blank.* With us of the singular eas card felicitous conceptions much skilful variety, and & certain native of Prior: to the two last, it is evident from his strength which will never escape the eye of a works, he had paid attention; and Milton, in judicious critic, his versification and diction particular, of all others, a genius most in har
carry, notwithstanding, no appearance of ela. mony with his own “ better mind," has en. borate perfection. They seem not to be the ployed the pen of our interesting poet in trans- point on which either the poet dwelt himself lating some of his learned Latin compositions. or wished his reader to dwell. They seem
To a great scholar, as well as to a great gene- rather intended to act as a transparent mediuni ral, not only vast eapacities of mind, but also a through which the main object may be seen well-strung bodily constitution, is necessary. with greater clearness. They exhibit to our The exploits of Wellington bespeak as well mind ihe spirit of the gentleman, who wislies " the frame of adamant," as "the soul of fire." to attract more by his conversation than his Tbe varied attainments of Milton do no less.
dress, or of the judicious painter, who is more These are not to be considered all as “ the studious of the countenance than the drapery. pomp and prodigality of heaven;" if by this is
This felicity in Cowper's style gives the utmeant the spontancous effusions of a celestial
most variety and effect to his several composi. inspiration. The midnight lamp had no less in tions on all subjects. But our plan scarcely early life prepared our great epic poet for his allows a general glance even at his poetic works. work, than afterwards the “celestial light,
We cannot, however, help remarking the adshining inwards,” contributed to perfect it.
mirable adaptation of his style to his subject on Now of this preparatory, work Cowper was all occasions, and the interest in consequence from bodily constitution wholly incapable. Nor so universally excited in the breasts of his was he competent, as we shall soon see, to any readers. In him, humour and feeling were very laboured or continuous effort of mind. He
exquisitely combined: like Garrick, in the pieread, he wrote, he thought, he acted, he almost ture of him by Reynolds, he was equally dilived by fits and starts; and it was seldom, un- vided between the tragic and the comic Muse. tbrtunately, that the option was left to his ge- Of country scenery and the works of nature he nius, on the full sea afioat," to take the cur. was a devout admirer: and we are never more rent as it served, or “ lose his ventures. at home with him, than when he conducts us
But this, which has necessarily deprived bis works of that great fulness and variety with which they might have been otherwise enrich- * See two Letters to the Rev. W. Unwin dated ed, has served also to throw over them such
January 5, and January 17, 1782, strongly and curian air of unaffected nature and genuine sim
ously bearing upon this point. To make verse speak
the language of prose without being prosaic, to mar. plicity of feeling, as, perhaps, nothing else shal the words of it in such an order as they might could have done. He has embodied the feel. naturally take in falling from the lips of an extempo. ings of a most exquisite and refined sensibility rary speaker, yet without meanness; harmoniously, in the happiest and most appropriate lan
clegantly, and without seeming to displace a syllable
for the sake of the rlıyme, is one of the most arduous guage. He has etched, as it were, his own tasks of a poet.” In the other letter, lie distinctly premind upon paper. And whilst most other fers the style of Dryden to Pupe; though to the latter writers seem to draw from their imagination, ing his " laboured and mechanical exactness in making
he allows the credit of first-rate genius, notwithstandor their memory, to depend on their inventive
verses." Perhaps the following specimen, extracted or their accumulative powers, be seems uni. from Cowper's translations of Madame Guyon, may formly to draw from his heart alone.. Others show that he might have been an adept, if he had clio have produced what they thought; Cowper
sen, in the mechanism of Pope, what he felt. In the herd of poets we generally Rocks, tofty mountains, caverns dark and deep, see only what they conceived ; in him, what he
And torrents raving down the ragged steep, was. We believe few think Homer a hero, be
The fruitful vineyard, and the furrow'd plain,
September, 1817.] Eternal Life the Gift of God in his Son. 265 along his “ winter morning's walk,” or we are Master's words: “ My yoke is casy, and my engaged with him in gathering flowers in his burden is light;" when in more than words we “garden” and his “green-house too.” Of the learn from Cowper's page, that moral nature of man he was a most skilful ana
" Peace may be the lot of the mind tomist; which is the more wonderful, consider- Which seeks it in meekness and love;" ing the invincible impediments which withheld when, as we read, we are by turns animated him tromi a free and unrestrained intercourse in virtue and soothed in suffering, taught to with mankind. His habits were more adapted combine the social with the Christian feelings, to discoveries of the nature of birds and beasts, and domestic bliss with the joys of the sanctuwhose dispositions he sometimes conceives and ary; when vice is made chiefly ocious by its pourtrays with admirable dexterity. But of his native deformity, and virtue rather suspended higher power of delineation, who can doubt, on its proper claims to our regard than on the who has run over the series of portraits in his will and command of a Supreme Ruler; when admirable verses on Conversation?
that Ruler himself uniformly appears in the It is obvious how much we might, if at liberty poet's page, clothed in the radiance of pure beto do so, enlarge on this point, and accumulate neficence and paternal pity, and is malle, even instances io illustrate it. We cannot, however, " When sin hath moved him and luis wrath is hot," help observing, that to no department does the
to style in question appear more pre-eminently " Visit earth in mercy, and descend adapled than to the expression of ideas moral, Propitious, in his chariot paved with love;" sentimental, and religious. That Watts had it is with emotions of surprise and affliction, etfected much in lyrical compositions ou devo- that we turn to the reverse of the picture, and tional subjects; and that Milton and Young in from judging of the principles of Cowper by the ligher walks of poetry had devoted great his writings, direct our view to his unbappy powers to the express cause of morality and inability to apply them to his own comfort, for religion, may easily be allowed. But, towering the greater part of his eventful life. as the efforts of these last have beet, perhaps, far beyond the height aimed at by Cowper, we are not disposed to yield them the palm of ac- Much injustice, we conceive, has been tual success over their amiable competitor. In done to Dr. Mart, a distinguished divine differing essentially from both, he has, in fact, of the Church of England, in several po. by an easier process to our minds, stretched pular publications, some of which have beyond them. By an admirably chastened dictioil, and by laying a most active imagination, he advocates the doctrine of baptismal re
been re-printed in this country. Because (for this purpose at least) under the restraint of a strong and reflective judgment, Cowper generation, he has been represented as seems to us to have compassed the exact point unfriendly to the distinguishing truths of of highest interest on the most touching of all the Gospel. Of the justice of this charge, subjects. He has represented truths of the first our readers may judge by the following importance in a just and genuine light: like a extracts from his Sermons, in which he man strenuously feeling himself, and eagerly. maintains, with clearness and force, the desiring the participation of others; acting on evangelical doctrines of salvation through his own doctrines, and thoroughly possessed of faith in Christ, and of the renovation and his own principles. Hence his inorality is pure, sanctification of the soul by the Divine but not impracticable; his sentiment refined Spirit, as distinct from the regeneration but not affected; his religion grand, but not imaginary. The heights to which he points
of baptism. are those which he has himself explored; the
ETERNAL LIFE THE GIFT OF GOD IN UIS SON ascent easy, and the summit fullin view. With a sort of natural discrimination, he has selected (An Extract from Mant's Sermons for Parochial and
Domestic Ust.) every thing sweetly attractive on divine subjects, and rejected every thing sablimely re- Would we then enjoy everlasting pulsive. He is at all times the instructor; Flet life, we must seek it where it is to the friend; and at once the director, and the be found: we must seek it through companion of our path. He willingly stoops from his greatest flights to take us by the hand: the blood of Christ, in a lively and mounts without effort, and descends without active faith in his name.
We must danger. In his severest moments he easily believe in Christ as “ the author and (some perhaps have thought too easily) relaxes into a smile, and is tender in his utmost seri- finisher of our faith”-as perfect God, ousness
. The happy alternations of an ever and perfect man-as suffering tor our various, but not unsteady, Muse, we place amongst the greatest beauties of his style; they salvation, and niaking atonement and fancifully renlind us of the beamy corruscations satisfaction for our sins.
We must of the north, which, always streaming from one
renounce all pretensions to the divine point, assume every possible shape, and fiow in every direction. Nothing can be m
favour upon account of any righteousplete or manifest than the polarity of Cowper's ness of our own, and must plead in productions, or their constant dependency on the one point of genuine Christianity And Christ: we must disclaim all fancied
our justification the righteousness of when we consider the great variety of attractive lights in which he has placed his favourite merits of our own, and throw oursubject; when we feel all the poet has described selves upon the merits of Christ.of the bright but mild and healing effulgence of the Sun of righteousness; when we perceive Further: as we look to him for sale under his skilful tuition the truth of his great vation, we must also be obedient to
his laws; as we trust in him for our Shall we be told that life, eternal Saviour, we must also submit to him life, may be procured by other ways as our Lord; as we believe in him, than these ; that these are not neceswe must keep his commandments. sary to its attainment ? « To the law Moreover, we must habitually live then, and to the testiinony;" to " the in communion with him—in external record, which God hath given us by and internal communion. We must his Son." By them let us be instructobserve those outward means of grace ed, which of the ways, that have been which he hath provided for our growth specified, is not necessary to salvation. in holiness : we must be careful in 1. Is it not necessary that we be. the reading and hearing of his word; lieve in Christ? I speak not of those we must be diligent in frequenting to whom Christ hath never been his house of prayer; we must be at preached; nor of those, (if any such tentive to his ministers; we must there be,) who are unavoidably presanctify his day of rest; we must be vented from believing. But of us, of partakers of his sacraments. And all men to whom he is preached, and these things we must observe, not who lie under no insuperable obstacle, only because they are ordained by is it not necessary that he be believed? Christ, but specially for the sake of If not, wherefore is he preached at that spiritual grace which they are all? Wherefore did God send hie Son ordained for the purpose of convey into the world, as an object of faith to ing. Regenerated in the waters of all mankind, and with such a stupenbaptism by that Holy Spirit, who dous apparatus of prophecies and misupplies the place of Christ in the racles to bear witness to his mission; hearts of his followers, we are con- if men might receive or reject him, tinually to seek his sanctifying graces might believe or disown him, as they in the communion of Christ's body pleased ? Surely when almighty God and blood, and in all other appoint- condescends to speak to man, it is ed means.
By him we must hold man's duty and interest to hear and spiritual intercourse with Christ. By attend ; not to “ hide himself from him we must be s renewed day by the voice of the Lord God," as did his day." By him we must be “strength- sinful progenitor among the trees of ened with might in the inner man.” the garden of Eden; but to listen By him our "hearts must be opened," with a willing ear, and an humble and and “the eyes of our understanding obedient heart. It is a prevailing ermust be enlightened." By him we ror of the present time to raise momust be comforted with divine con- rality to a high degree of eminence. solation. By him we must be "re- God forbid I should pretend to speak newed in the spirit of our minds;" lightly of morality; of Christian mowe must “ put off the old man," our rality, the fruit of Christian faith! natural corruption, and must "put But of morality, as distinguished from, on the new man, which is created in and independent of, faith in Christ, righteousness and true holiness after the Gospel knows nothing, as a conthe image of him that made us." dition or qualification for eternal life.
These are among the principal The error, prevalent as it at present ways, (I speak summarily as the pre- is, is not however of modern birth: it sent time will allow,) wherein we hath at all times had its advocates ; may be said to have the Son of especially at the period of the ReformaGod :" namely, by believing in him; tion, when our evangelical Reformers by obeying hiin; by practising the condemned it with marked severity. outward means of grace, which he “ They are to be had accursed” (athath ordained; by holding internal firms our 18th Article)" that presume communion with him by his Spirit. to say, that every rnan shall be saved He who thus hath the Son," hath a by the law or sect which he professeth, foretaste and a promise of eternal life; so that he be diligent to frame his life but he that in these ways “ hath not according to that law, and the light of the Son of God, hath not life.” nature. For holy Scripture doth set