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lost a much loved parent, his spirits were always very tender, and often greatly dejected.”*
He was sent to Westminster school preparatory to that course of study which it was de
* Mr. Cowper appears to have long retained a very tender sense of this dispensation of Providence. We cannot refrain quoting part of a beautiful poem, written by him on receiving his mother's picture out of Norfolk. It exhibits a most amiable pattern of filial affection. My mother! when I learn'd that thou wast dead, Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed? Hover'd thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son, Wretch even then, life's journey just begun ? I heard the bell toll’d on thy burial-day, . I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away, And, turning from my nursery window, drew A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu. But was it such? It was !-- Where thou art gone, Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown. May I but meet thee on that peaceful shore, The parting sound shall pass my lips no more. Thy maidens griev'd themselves at my concern, Oft gave me promise of a quick return. What ardently I wish'd I long believ'd, And, disappointed still, was still deceiv'd. By disappointment every day beguild, Dupe of to-morrow, even from a child. Thus many a sad to-morrow came and went, Til), all my stock of infant sorrows spent, I learn'd, at last, submission to my lot, And though I less deplor'd thee, De'er forgot.
signed he should complete at the university.-Here, however, the natural timidity of his temper so much depressed him, that his friends saw the impropriety of attempting to transport him to scenes of augmented turbulence and anxiety ; and they entirely relinquished the plan of sending him to Oxford; he was, therefore, entered at the Temple in order to prosecute those wishes and hopes which were still indulged by his connexions.
By a certain mode of arrangement, the patent place of clerk of the House of Lords had been reserved for Mr. Cowper ; and to this appointment he was directed to look forward, as a station highly advantageous to himself, and honorable to his family. He had, while at Westminster, become intimate with Edward Thurlow, who was afterwards promoted to the Woolsack ; and, in addition to this, contracted several attachments with characters whose influence might have greatly accelerated his future advancement in the world. It was, therefore, natural that the hopes of his friends should be elevated to a high degree, nor is it surprising that they should suffer themselves to be blinded to those impediments which were likely to disappoint their expectations. Their delusion was not, however, of long duration.
No reasonings, no entreaties, could overcome the aversion of Mr. Cowper, for what he denominated public life ; he even solicited madness, as a relief from the importunities of his friends, who, convinced of the folly of any longer persisting against nature and inclination, at length relin
quished their entreaties, and permitted him to retire into that seclusion, the desire of which was the ruling passion of his breast.
At this crisis appears to have commenced Mr. Cowper's serious attention to the ways of God. Having been educated in the knowledge of the holy scriptures, and preserved from that foolhardy arrogance which urges unhappy youths to infidelity, he had uniformly retained a reverence for the word of God. His manners were in general decent and amiable ; and the course of pleasure, in which he indulged himself, being customary with persons in similar circumstances, he had remained insensible of his state as a sinner in the sight of God. His mind was now, for the first time, convinced of the evil of sin, as a transgression of the law of God. Instead of finding relief from reading, every book he opened, of whatever kind, seemed to him adapted to increase his distress ; which became so pungent as to deprive him of his usual rest, and to render his broken slumbers equally miserable with his waking hours. While in this state, he was visited by the late Rev. Martin Madan, who was related to him. By explaining from the scriptures the doctrine of original sin, Mr. Madan convinced him, that all mankind were on the same level with himself before God; the atonement and righteousness of Christ were set forth to him, as the remedy which his case required; and the necessity of faith in Christ, in order to experience the blessings of this salvation, excited his earnest desire for the attainment. These important truths were a temporary source of consolation ; but the next day he sunk into melancholy and despair.
Growing at length, however, familiar with his situation, he suffered it to be alleviated by conversation with Dr. Cotton, a pious and humane physician at St. Alban's, under whose care he had been happily placed. He begin to take some pleasure in sharing daily the domestic worship which was laudably practised by the Doctor; and he found relief fro:n his despair, by reading in the scriptures that “ God hath set forth Jesus Christ as a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the förbearance of God.” Rom. iii, 25. While meditating upon this passage, he obtained, in a few minutes, a clear view of the gospel, which was attended with unspeakable joy. Many of his subsequent days were occupied with praise and prayer, and his heart overflowed with love to his crucified Redeemer. A hymn, which he wrote under these delightful impressions, will best describe the comfort he enjoyed. (See No. 43, in Vol. III.)
The first transports of his joy, which almost prevented his necessary sleep, having subsided, were followed by a sweet serenity of spirit, which he was enabled to retain, notwithstanding reviving struggles of corruption. The comfort he enjoyed in the profitable conversation of his beloved physician, induced him to prolong his stay at St. Alban's for twelve months after his recovery. Having determined upon renouncing his profession of the law, he retired to Huntingdɔn, where he lived in the most intimate friendship with the Rev. Mr. Unwin, to whom he dedicated his Tirocinium ; and, two or three years afterwards, on the death of Mr.
Unwin, he removed to Olney, in Buckinghamshire, accompanied by that gentleman's widow. Here he contracted a friendship with the Rev. Mr. Newton, (now Rector of St. Mary Woolnorth, London) and indulged, amidst rural scenes, those religious pleasures and occupations which experience had taught him to value far above all that the polite or the busy world could afford. Another of his hymns expresses what he felt when entering on his retirement. (See No. 44, in Vol. III.)
Mr. Cowper's walk with God in private was consistent with the solemnity and fervour of his social engagements. Like the prophet Daniel, and the royal psalmist, he “kneeled three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God” in retirement, beside the regular practice of domestic worship. His mind was stayed upon God; and, for an unusual course of years, it was kept in perfect peace. The corrupt dispositions, which have so strong a hold upon the human heart, appeared to be peculiarly suppressed in him ; and, when in any degree felt, they were lamented and resisted by him. His Hymns, mostly written during this part of his life, describe both the general tenor of his thoughts and their occasional wanderings, with a force of expression dictated by the liveliness of his feelings. While his attainments in the love of God were thus eminent, his christian love to fel. low-believers, and to all around him, was highly exemplary. To a conduct void of offence to a ny individual, and marked with peculiar kindness to all who feared God, was added a beneficence fully proportioned to his ability, and exercised with the greatest modesty and discre