« ПретходнаНастави »
ness which religion brings, though this does not apply to the whole of his renewed life, it is the same as to ask, why he was subject to disease, and to mental aberration. As to any ultimate considerations, we cannot tell; but we seem to find a proximate cause, connected with the design of God in giving mankind delight and instruction, from the employment of the poetic talent. Such a mind as Cowper's, it may be, must have had such a body. Perhaps the capacity for emotions so fine, and conceptions so brilliant, could not exist except in a frame as sensitive and delicate as his, and, consequently, peculiarly liable to disorder. Besides, endowed as his mind was with superior attributes, it must have operated with an injurious effect, on a corporeal system constituted like his. And we venture to say, that great minds generally have had feeble tenements. We see their overpowering, prostrating action, as in precocious children, among whom they are not, according to the vulgar idea, the sign, but the cause of early deaths. The attempt to expand the intellect, when earnestly made, is often and necessarily at the expense of health. " Much study," and there must be much study to attain to superiority, “ is a weariness of the flesh.” If manual labor schools, and much good we wish they may do, will rear such mighty intellects as past ages have witnessed, in athletic frames, they will do more than we are inclined to believe. But if they fail in this respect, and it be still represented, as it sometimes has been, as a sort of crime in the scholar, to be weakly and diseased, there will then be sufficient intellect to nullify the allegation. Doubtless more health should be aimed at in students; the world may not hereafter need so extraordinary talents as have been witnessed in its pioneers, who have been preparing it for a better state. In the great work of converting the nations, by the simple process
of preaching the gospel, we want intellect and culture, indeed, but especially strong bodies; and if we cannot bave both in the highest degree, perhaps a predominance of the latter is to be desired. From athletic frames, and the intellectual mediocrity which would probably ensue, there will be less danger of that excessive desire of fame, which has corrupted many of the noblest minds, but which should have no place among those who labor in the sacred cause of the world's regeneration. Pre-eminent talents, should they be found, may indeed be sanctified as they were in Cowper, but that has been a comparatively rare occurrence in past ages.
The example of Cowper brings impressively to our view the fact that experimental religion is the same efficacious principle, under whatever circumstances, or in whatever age it may erist.
Its aspect, its outward manifestation, may vary, to accommodate it to the slighter peculiarities of fashion, age, or country ; but its essential properties are the same now as they ever were, and as certainly defined in the New Zealander, as in the inhabitant of Britain. It
had all its genuine characteristics in our poet, such as penitence, a cordial approbation of the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, supreme love to him, a child-like submission to God, a heavenly temper, and an obedient life. Still, it had more of a contemplative, monastic cast, than it assumes in general at the present time. It was then, that a person upon his hopeful conversion, inquired, perhaps, less what he should do for the salvation of others, than how he should enjoy his own mind in devotional exercises, and in separation from the world, -less how he should glorify Christ by active duty, than by cultivating personal purity and spirituality of mind. With this representation, so far as it applies to Cowper, agrees his ofien quoted account of himself,
"I was a strickeu dcer," particularly that part of it in which he speaks of the result of his spiritual healing,
"Since then with few associates, in remote
With few associates, and not wishing more." We, in these times, are almost ready to wonder, how, after his bright and surprising conversion, he could sit down and enjoy his religion, and not make soine special efforts to save his thoughtless and wicked associates. He votices their infidelity, laments it, and rightly ascribes the difference between bimself and them to divine grace; but for all that appears, he thinks it must be so, without any specific attempts on his part to reclaim them. Now this conclusion and this course too well coincide, we fear, with what was then widely thought to be sufficient for a christian to be or to do. We should be apt to look with a degree of distrust, on any who now profess to have experienced a spiritual change, unless they manifest a degree of activity, according to their stations, in endeavors to interest others in the things of religion. Cowper did not wholly omit such direct exertions as were necessary for that end, as was evinced by the solicitude which he manisested for the conversion of his brother; and it has been shown, that in his poetry he has indirectly done more for the spiritual welfare of his fellow men, than any in his profession before his day. Still, as to personal active labors in the cause of religion, there appears to have been comparatively little even in him. This circumstance all will allow must have been unfavorable to his enjoyment. Had he lived in an age of active benevolence and piety like ours, he would probably have been less affected with melancholy. His disease might have been much more alleviated, by an engagement in such spirit-stirring pursuits as now occupy christians, than it was by the sedentary occupation of making verses. But in this event he world would never have seen the Task. In no other sense, however, than as wanting in the peculiar habit of religious action in these days, was Cowper an idle man. He was diligent in his way. He was always, as he remarks, doing something. When the liberality of his friends furnished bim with the means, he was fond of going among the poor, and ministering to their wants. In his private religious duties he was frequent and exact; and in his literary labors, particularly his translation of Homer, persisted in, while under the most deplorable depression, he showed, according to his biographer, that “ few men were equal, and perhaps none superior to bin, in those essential qualities of a truly great mind,-industry and perseverance.” But though from ill health, seclusion, original disposition, or from whatever other cause, aided by the notions then prevalent, he may have been undistinguished in the active duties of the christian life, his poetry, nevertheless, is that of an active age. He seems to have anticipated such an age. In his imagination he beheld the working day of religion. Others wrote the poetry of the cloister. He wrote that of the family, the sanctuary, the wide and busy world. Much of that which was written before his day, and some afterwards, was the poetry of soliloquy and abstraction,—what a critic, speaking of Shelley's style of poetry, calls “a fever of the soul, tbirsting and craving after what it cannot have,-indulging its love of power and novelty at the expense of truth and nature.” Cowper's poetry was addressed to the common sympathies of our nature, and turned on the every day practical concerns of life and religion. He was, in fact, in advance of his age, if not in personal activity as to religion, yet in the true notion of christian engagedness for the salvation of men.
The example of Cowper presents strikingly the thought, that God so orders the circumstances of his people, that they shall all do something for his kingdom and glory. There is abundance of work for piety, and especially for piety and genius, at all times. The providential condition in which they exist is immaterial, as to the wish and endeavor to be useful. He who does, not what he would, but what he can, does at least his duty. Some christians live only to pray. We say only to pray, according to the common but perhaps very erroneous ideas of men, who speak as if that were the least and last thing that could be done, when possibly no other exertion of human instrumentality ever accomplished so much. Some live chiefly to bestow their charities, since by their constitution, or their condition in the world, God has assigned them scarcely any other talent than the means of giving. Some live to write poetry, inasmuch as, through inclination and providential causes, they are shut up, as Cowper was, to this employment. Then,
"in artful measures, in the chime And idle tinkling of a minstrel's lyre,”
while they may seek to expel sad thoughts, they do much, by the divine blessing, to woo a listening world to virtue and to truth. That art wbich has done the work of corruption and death in so many instances, in the strains of Sappho, Lucretius, Ovid, Dryden, Byron, Moore, and a host of others, has elevated and purified the the soul in the anthems of David, the elegies of Jeremiah, the heroics of Milton, and the didactic verse of Cowper. Cowper, with causes of depression, which, to the eye of the world, might seem to have excused him from doing any thing, has surpassed, in some points, all that uninspired genius and piety had achieved before him.
It can only be added, that, as England's most moral and religious poet, as also one of her greatest, he may well be her boast and her glory. As a christian people, they will cherish his memory with the liveliest gratitude and affection. Her patriots, philanthropists, and men of piety, will identify their efforts in the cause of humanity and religion, with his strains. His example will reach, and as it reaches will illuminate and bless, the most distant times. The sweetness and purity of his verse will charm
** The dwellers in the vales, and on the rocks;"
and as they “shout to each other,” they will mingle it with the song of salvation,
“Worthy the Lamb, for he was slain for us.”
With such a memorial in the bosom of piety, and through the long succession of ages, Cowper, had he anticipated the event, would have been amply compensated for the years of darkness and sorrow which he passed in this world of trial. So far as he did anticipate it, although it could not remove his regret for the withdrawment of the light of God's countenance in life, it must have soothed his dying agony, for his spirit departed most gently from his body; and probably this it was, connected with his habitual spirituality, which left on his countenance that expression of ** calmness and composure, mingled as it were with holy surprise," which bis kinsman fondly supposed might be “an index of the last thoughts and employments of his soul, in its gradual escape from the depths of despondency."
ART. V.-GUTZLAFF'S JOURNAL.
The Journal of two Voyages along the coast of China, in 1831, and 1832; the first
in a Chinese Junk ; The second in the British ship Lord Amherst ; with notices of Siam, Corca, and the Loo-choo Islands : and remarks on the Policy, Religion, etc., of China. By CHARLES Gutzlaff. New York: 1833.
AMONG the indications of an approaching moral revolution in our world, one of the most interesting is the access which is grad
ally opening into the vast empire of China. This singular people, as well as their neighbors of Japan, have been comparatively shut out from the knowledge of other nations. It has bithertó been almost impossible to lay our hands upon documents on which any great reliance could be placed, respecting the internal situation of the, so called, celestial empire. Travelers have, indeed, sought to obtain information ; but their accounts, after all, must be received with no little reduction and allowance for the impositions practiced upon them. Lying is one of the most common vices in China; and the utmost caution is required to guard against the false communications of such a people. An account of that country, or materials for such an account, furnished by a conscientious, well informed eye witness, has long been a desideratum. Nearly all the descriptions of later date, have been given by persons connected with European embassies; and although this fact may at first sight appear to add weight to their testimony, yet the very nature of their mission may perhaps have led to their being deceived. With all their other characteristics, the Chinese are a cunning people, and their anxiety to exclude foreigners from the true knowledge of their empire, is well known. Hence they were not likely to suffer themselves to be seen as they are, by those who came among them as delegates from the European powers. Lord Mc Cartney, it is well known, was grossly misled on many important subjects, by the cunning mandarins who attended him.
Our readers will doubtless recollect an article on the subject of China, in our number for June, 1830. That article was written by a gentleman well qualified to avail himself of the varied sources of information which circumstances placed at his command. Many important facts were obtained from Ainericans who had resided long in China; and every statement was examined with great care and diligence, to ascertain the exact truth. It may, therefore, be considered as entitled to more than ordinary reliance. Since that period, however, more light has been thrown upon the condition and prospects of the Chinese empire, by the publication of a work in monthly numbers, at Canton, bearing the title of the Chinese Repository, and more recently still, by the volume now