« PreviousContinue »
BAXTER.-SAINTS' EVERLASTING REST. God does not move men like stones, but he endows them with life, not to enable them to move without Him, but in subordination to Himself, the first mover.
Have thy convictions been like those of a man that thirsts, and not merely a change in opinion, produced by reading or education? Has Christ the highest room in thy heart and affections, so that, though thou canst not love Him as thou wouldst, yet nothing else is loved so much ? If this be truly the case, thou art one of the people of God in my text; and as sure as the promise of God is true, this blessed rest remains for tbee.
God will not alter the course of justice to give you rest before you have laboured, nor the crown of glory till you have overcome.
Some degree of comfort follows every good action, as heat accompanies fire, and as beams and influence issue from the sun. A man that is cold should labour till heat be excited ; so he that wants assurance must not stand still, but exercise his graces till his doubts vanish. The want of consolation in the soul is also very commonly owing to bodily melancholy. It is no more wonder for a conscientious man, under melancholy, to doubt, and fear, and despair, than for a sick man to groan, or a child to cry when it is chastised. Without the physician in this case, the labours of the divine are usually in vain. You may silence, but you cannot comfort them. They cry out of sin, and the wrath of God, when the chief cause is in their bodily distemper.
Not only the open profane, the swearer, the drunkard, and the enemies of godliness, will prove hurtful companions to us, though these, indeed, are chiefly to be avoided ; but too frequent society with persons merely civil and moral, whose conversation is empty and unedifying, may much divert our thoughts from heaven. Nay, if thou has newly been warming thy heart in the contemplation of the blessed joys above, would not this discourse benumb thy affections, and quickly freeze thy heart again ? I appeal to the judgment of any man that hath tried it, and maketh observations on the frame of his spirit. Men cannot well talk of one thing, and mind another, especially things of such different natures. You, young men, who are most liable to this temptation, think seriously of what I say !
have your hearts in heaven among your roaring companions in an alehouse or tavern; or when you work in your shops with those whose common
language is oaths, filthiness, or foolish talking, or jesting ? Nay, let me tell you, if you choose such company when you might have better, and find most delight in such, you are so far from heavenly conversation, that as yet you have no title to heaven at all, and in that state shall never come there. treasure was there, your heart could not be on things so distant. In a word, our company will be a part of our bappiness in heaven, and it is a singular part of our furtherance to it, or hinderance from it. Avoid frequent disputes about lesser truths, and a religion that lies only in opinions. They are usually least acquainted with a heavenly life who are violent disputers about the circumstantials of religion. He is a rare and precious Christian, who is skilful to improve well-known truths. The least controverted points are most weighty, and of most necessary, frequent use to our souls. Therefore, study well such Scripture precepts as these :-“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations."— Rom. div. 1. “ Foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do engender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive.”—2 Timothy ii. 23, 24. 6 Avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law, for they are unprofitable and vain."--Titus iii. 9. Take heed of a proud and lofty spirit. There is such an antipathy between this sin and God, that thou wilt never get thy heart near Him, nor get Him near thy heart, as long as this prevaileth in it. Intercourse with God will keep men low, and that lowliness will promote their intercourse. O Christian, if thou wouldst live continually in the presence of the Lord, lie in the dust, and He will thence take thee up. “Learn of Him to be meek and lowly, and thou shalt find rest unto thy soul.”—Matthew xi. 29. Otherwise thy soul will “ be like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”—Isaiah lvii. 20. Reader, heaven is above thee, and dost thou think to travel this steep ascent without labour and resolution ? Be convinced that heaven is the only treasure and happiness ; and labour to know what a treasure and happiness it is. It is not the real excellence of a thing itself, but its known excellence, that es. cites desire. Come, then, renounce formality, custom, and applause, and kneel down in secret or public prayer, with hope to get thy heart nearer to God before thou risest up. I advise thee, as a farther help to his heavenly life, not to neglect the due care of thy bodily health. The body is a useful servant, if thou give it its due; but it is a most devouring tyrant, if
thou suffer it to have what it unreasonably desires; and it is as a blunted knife if thou unjustly deny it what is necessary to its support. There are a few, who much hinder their heavenly joy by denying the body its necessaries, and so make it unable to serve them. If such wronged their flesh only, it would be no great matter, but they wrong their souls also; as he that spoils the house injures the inhabitants. When the body is sick and the spirits languish, how heavily do we move in the thoughts and joys of heaven!
As the lark sweetly sings while she soars on high, but is suddenly silenced when she falls to the earth, so is the frame of the soul most delightful and divine, while it keeps in the views of God by contemplation.
Can I Gethsemane forget ?
Or there thy conflict see,
And not remember Thee ?
And thought and mem'ry flee,
COWPER. His mother (Anne, daughter of Roger Donne, Esq., of Ludham Hall, Norfolk), died in childbed, in 1737, of whom our poet appears to have cherished the most affectionate remembrance in after life: to this recollection we are indebted for one of his most beautiful compositions ; for we are told that, after a lapse of thirty-two years, upon receiving her portrait, his muse produced that exquisite burst of feeling—“Oh, that those lips had language!"-a train of thought, feeling, and sentiment scarcely ever equalled, and cortainly never surpassed, by any of our most esteemed poets.—Preface.
I DID actually live three years with Mr. Chapman, a solicitor ; that is to say, I spent my days in Southampton-row. There was I and the future Lord Chancellor (Thurlow), constantly employed from morning to night in giggling and making giggle, instead of studying the law.-Cowper.
From the age of twenty to thirty-three, I was occupied, or ought to have been, in the study of the law; from thirty-three to sixty, I have spent my time in the country, where my reading has been only an apology for idleness; and where I had not
either a magazine or a review. I was sometimes a carpenter, at others a bird-cage maker, or a gardener, or a drawer of landscapes. At fifty years of age I commenced an author; it is a whím that has served me longest and best, and will probably
last. The extraordinary and celebrated ballad of “ John Gilpin " was suggested by Lady Austen, the origin of which Mr. Haley thus writes :-" It happened one afternoon that Lady Austen observed him sinking into increasing dejection: it was her custom on these occasions to try all the resources of her sprightly powers for his immediate relief. She told him the story of John Gilpin (which had been treasured in ber memory from her childhood) to dissipate the gloom of the passing hour. Its effect on the fancy of Cowper had the air of enchantment. He in. formed her the next morning that convulsions of laughter, brought on by his recollection of her story, had kept him waking during the greatest part of the night, and that he had turned it into a ballad. Several of his other poems originated from the suggestion of this lady, to whom the public are unquestionably indebted for the finest of his compositions, namely, The Task. This beautiful poem was composed in 1783-4, and published in November ; immediately after he commenced the Tirocinium,' as well as his translation of Homer, which took him six years to finish.”
On Saturday, the 2nd of May, 1800, his mortal remains were buried in St. Edmund's chapel, in the Church of East Dereham, and a monument was erected to his memory, bearing the following epitaph by Mr. Haley :“In memory of William Cowper, Esq. Born in Hertfordshire,
1731. Buried in this church, 1800.
His virtues formed the magic of his song." Cowper's graphic touches are more close and minute than those of Thomson; not that Thomson was deficient or un. delightful in circumstantial traits of the beauties of nature ;
but he looked to her as a whole more than Cowper : his genius was more excursive and philosophical. The poet of Olney, on the contrary, regarded human philosophy with something of theological contempt. To his eye the great and little things of this world were levelled to an equality, by his recollection of the power and purpose of Him who made them. They are in his view only as toys spread on the lap and carpet of nature, for the childhood of immortal being. This religious indifference to the world is far indeed from blunting his sensibility to the genuine and simple beauties of creation; but it gives his taste a contentment and fellowship with humble things. It makes him careless of selecting and refining his views of nature beyond their casual appearance. He contemplated the face of plain rural English life in moments of leisure and sensibility, till its minutest features were impressed upon his fancy; and he sought not to embellish what he loved." Hence his landscapes have less of the ideally beautiful than Thomson's;
but they have an unrivalled charm of truth and reality. -Campbell. Specimens of the British Poets. Let laurels, drenched in pure Parnassian dews, Reward his mem'ry, dear to every muse, Who, with a courage of unshaken root, In honour's field advancing his firm foot, Plants it upon the line that Justice draws, And will prevail or perish in her cause. 'Tis to the virtues of such men man owes His portion in the good that Heaven bestows. And when recording history displays Feats of renown, though wrought in ancient days ; Tells of a few stout hearts that fought and died, Where duty plac'd them-at their country's side; The man that is not mov'd with what he reads, That takes not fire at their heroic deeds, Unworthy of the blessings of the brave, Is base in kind, and born to be a slave. But let eternal infamy pursue The wretch to nought but his ambition true; Who, for the sake of filling with one blast The post-horns of all Europe, lays her waste.... Oh! bright occasions of dispensing good, How seldom us’d, how little understood ! To pour in Virtue's lap her just reward; Keep Vice restrain'd behind a double guard ;