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tent; we only throw them out to our readers, with the hope that some writer will come forward and take them up, who is capable of doing them justice. Truth we know, God's truth, is the grand instrument in saving souls, and we know that this instrument is fitted to the end ; and that revivals and conversions can never take place except in the use of this instrument; and that it is the power of God which makes this instrument effectual. But still, there are forms of truth, and modes of presenting truth, which are adapted to the end in view, and which God is wont to bless for the conversion and salvation of men, rather than other forms of truth and other modes of presenting it to the sinner's mind. Now, how shall we know which are the best in given circumstances, and which to employ? We wish to bring an unawakened sinner, for example, to feel bis sinfulness, that he may be led to repentance, and to embrace the gospel. In what way shall we do it? Is it no matter what truths from God's word are proclaimed to him, or in what manner we proclaim them? Is one as likely as another to accomplish the object? The mind of the sinner has certain faculties and susceptibilities. Are these as likely to be usefully affected by one view of truth as another? Will conviction of sin and guilt as naturally result from perceptions of God's benevolence and mercy in the gospel, as from God's justice and holiness manifested in his law? Will the sinner's deathlike insensibility in sin be as likely to be broken up, by telling him that God is good and merciful, as by telling and making him to see that he has violated strong obligations, that he stands justly condemned and deeply guilty, and that the very goodness of God is not incompatible with his punishment ? Here is another sinner, trembling in view of his guilt, and well nigh despairing of mercy. And him you wish to lead to the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world. Is it of no consequence what truths you present to him, and in what manner it is done? There is, then, a discretion to be used in the selection of truths, and of the modes of presentation. And, with the bible in our hands, God has committed this matter to ourselves. This discretion he has made it our duty to exercise. It is a discretion of very solemn import and powerful influence. Issues of eternal moment are hanging upon it,—the salvation or perdition of souls! God grant that they who preach the gospel, may understand the nature of their trust in this matter, and use it accordingly. If there is an adaptation in truth, and in means and measures, to effect the object in view; if the blessing of God
may be expected in one course of procedure on this subject rather than another ; what a vast responsibility rests upon the ministry, and upon the church ! Will not some one, whose heart has been warmed with love to God and to souls, and who is competent to the task, take up this great subject, and spread it out in its diversified and interesting relations, before the christian community ? Such an effort we should hail with great joy. It would tend to compose to rest the spirit of strise; heal needless dissensions among brethren; and lay a foundation for purer and more powerful revivals of religion than have ever yet taken place. God, we cannot doubt, would bless it, and great good would result from it. Oh rise some other Leighton, or some other Edwards, in our times of trouble! Spirit of the meek and lowly Savior, shine upon our darkness, and guide us safely through!
ART. IV.-CHARACTER AND GENIUS OF Cowper.
Life of William Cowper, Esq. By Thomas TAYLOR. We have always dwelt with delight on the life of Cowper. His story has come to us in various forins and with different degrees of merit—in the lengthened volume and in the shorter periodical or preface; yet, with whatever pretensions, it has been the same thing, captivating, instructive, pathetic. This fact, doubtless, arises from the interest which essentially belongs to the poet's character ; aided, indeed, by the manner in which his life has been, almost necessarily, written, viz. by making him, in a great measure, his own biographer. We cannot say that we have never been pained, too, in perusing the record of this most religious of the British bards ; for who that values the comforts of piety but must grieve, that such a man should have lived for years in spiritual desertion, and finally died in apparent despair! Our grief, however, has joy in it, since we all along indulge for the poet that hope which he himself abjured; and we instinctively antedate the rewards of the blessed, in behalf of a spirit that was crushed and broken by the apprehension of losing them. It is not, therefore, from the attractions of novelty, that we have been recently engaged, with undiminished zest and sympathy, in looking over Mr. Taylor's memoir of the poet.
We recognize in it the same sources of interest as its predecessors pos. sessed, -the man with his surprising idiosyncrasies,-the vigor of his intellect,--the loveliness of his heart,—the touching incidents of his life,--his intense joys, and more intense sufferings. We find in it his letters, the charm of the whole, and the index of all that he was,—which, read over and over again, always strike us as alike
Although, as above intimated, we have not been drawn by novelty to review the particulars connected with the life and uri tings of Cowper ; yet we perceive in the book before us, something that is attractive, if not new, as to its arrangement, and orcasionally some article of information not communicated in the biographies heretofore published. The author, indeed, claims for
fresh and racy.
the work a merit of this kind, if it should be acknowledged to possess any ; while he wishes his readers distinctly to understand, that it is throughout rather a compilation than an original performance. Apprehending that no one life of the poet, out of the many that have been written, "gives a full, fair, and unbiassed view of bis character,” his object was to produce a volume which should contain such a view. He has accordingly endeavored to compress the substance of Hayley's four volumes of the Life of Cowper, and also of Johnson's two volumes of Private Correspondence, at the same time making free use of all the published records of the poet, into one volume, of a size that might render it accessible to readers in general ; thus presenting them with all that is really valuable respecting that gisted individual. Those who are acquainted with the history of Cowper, will recollect that Johnson, who was his kinsman, supplied the deficiencies of Hayley, by giving to the public those letters of a religious cast, which the latter did not choose to insert into his book. The necessity of Johnson's publication, for understanding fully the character of the poet, is obvious to every one who has read his poetry, and also his life by Hayley. We have, therefore, in the abridged work under review, all the most important particulars that have appeared in respect to its interesting subject, besides a small contribution of new matter, within a very moderate compass. Brevity, and a luminous order, seem to have been consulted. That the biographer has succeeded in bis attempt in general, we cheerfully acknowledge ; but it may admit of a doubt, whether he should not have given more prominence to those painful circumstances, in the earlier part of the poet's life, just previous to his conversion, connected with his endeavors to commit suicide, which have elsewhere appeared under Cowper's own hand, written with all the ingenuousness of a christian penitent. These circumstances he has slightly alluded to, and not described, having pursued this course, as he intimates, from the wish not to excite regret in the minds of any of the poet's surviving relatives; but at the same time, we must say, leaving the reader in ignorance of one of the most remarkable interpositions of Providence, which we recollect ever to have met with.
Concerning Cowper himself, we may be permitted to observe,
that, although much has been written in regard to his genius and fuer character, much more might be added. They constitute a topic
which cannot easily be exhausted. His rank as a poet has been
As a letter writer, also, he is not surpassed, if he first is equaled, in the whole range of English literature. The rela
tion, moreover, which he bears to the religious community, renders his name exceedingly dear to that great and daily increasing VOL. V.
body. He is, beyond all question, the purest poet of christianity, whether of her earlier or later days. These general facis concerning him will justify us, we doubt not, in an attempt to delineate his genius and character, as they are exhibited in his writings, and particularly in his poetry. The incidents of his life need not be brought into view, otherwise than by brief occasional allusions; and we shall not have much reference to what others have expressed on this subject, as it is our design to state, chiefly, the impressions made upon our minds by an acquaintance with his works.
Cowper has been considered by some, as standing at the head of a new school of poetry. We should, however, hesitate on some accounts, to place bim in any class, either at the head or elsewhere. He stands by himself more than almost any other poet whom we are able to name. As he imitated no one, so no one could well imitate him; his poetry being nothing more nor less than a transcript of his own feelings, or a copy of nature. It is said, nevertheless, by a critic, that Southey, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, who are styled " the adventurous revivers of modern poetry," in their blank verse, trode directly in the steps of Cowper, and in their early productions, at least, were each, in a measure, what he made them. Doubtless his poetry had a great influence on such minds, nor do we deny that they may have felt ambitious to succeed on his plan; yet, in one respect, they must be viewed as wholly unlike him. He read no poetry after which to take a pattern. "He observes to a correspondent, “I reckon it among my principal advantages as a composer of verses, that I have not read an English poet these thirteen years, and but one these twenty years. Imitation, even of the best models, is my aversion; it is a servile and mechanical trick, that has enabled many to usurp the name of author, who could not have written at all, if they had not written upon the pattern of some original." Now, as they read him, it seems, with a view to imitation, they are so far a different description of poets. He produces a copy of no one. They produce a copy, if it can be called such, of him. Perhaps we might here venture the assertion, that imitating the poetry of Cowper, is like attempting to acquire the prose style of Addison, which can be reached only by writing naturally, and not by confining one's self to a copy. Besides, these poets, as well as many of their cotemporaries, eminent as they are in some points of view, are yet, in our humble judgment, at a considerable remove from Cowper, and are even doubtful expectants of the lasting consideration of future times, unless Wordsworth, the living bard of Sheffield, and one or two others, may be exceptions. We have rather considered Cowper, in some sense, as hitherto the last of the immortals, majorum gentium dii, in English poetry, forming with himself, in their separate and diverse excellence, the double triumvirate of Spenser, Shakspeare,
Milton, Dryden, and Pope. Perhaps in respect to a school of poetry, Cowper, in point of fact, holds a middle place between the old and the new,-ihat of Pope's followers and the Lake school, partaking of the polish and accuracy of the one, and setting the example of nature and simplicity to the other, but unincumbered by the faults of either.
But, however it may be decided, as to the class to which he belongs, or whether he belongs to any one, it will be acknowledged that the force of his genius is peculiar. He is both an instructive and captivating poet. The characteristics of his verse, as they strike our minds, are of the highest order of excellence. To say little of his topics in original composition, (for he was a voluminous translator also,) as to their religious or secular nature, it is well known that whatever they might be, they were invariably made to answer the high end for which he wrote, viz. to improve the reader's heart, as well as gratify his taste. He sought to convey truth and instruction through the fascinations of song. His poems were often framed upon an indifferent or secular topic, yet at no time, even in the most humorous exhibition of his powers, did he lose sight of his readers' welfare. He seized on every opportunity of doing good, especially to the soul.
That I may catch a fire but rarely known,
Give useful light, though I should miss renown," seems to have been, most sincerely, his motto and his wish. In a letter on this subject, he remarks, with his characteristic sprightliness, “ My sole drift is to be useful; a point which, however, I knew I should aim at in vain, unless I should likewise be entertaining. I have therefore fixed these two strings to my bow, and by. the help of both, have done my best to send my arrow to the mark. My readers will hardly have begun to laugh, before they will be called upon to correct that levity, and peruse me with a more serious air. I cast a side-long glance at the good liking of the world, more for the sake of their advantage and instruction than their praise. They are children ; if we give them physic, we must sweeten the rim of the cup with honey.” With some poets it is an advantage to select serious topics, since by such a choice they are constrained to say or sing something useful,--at least are prevented from dissipating their own minds by the concoction of frivolous sentiment, and the minds of others by reading it. But with Cowper, it mattered little what the theme was, whether the Sofa, the Garden, Table Talk, or Alexander Selkirk: religion was the great aim ; the inculcation of truth and duty constituted the burden of the song. He had so often filled his urn at the skies, that as he went from “grave to gay,” he exemplified his own beautiful description
“ Tis e'en as if an angel shook his wings.”