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a worm in the bud of all my friendships and affections, this very thought would eat out the heart of them all, had I a thousand; and were their date to terminate in this life, I think I should have no inclination to cultivate and improve such a fugitive business. Yet friendship is necessary to our happiness here, and built upon Christian principles, upon which only it can stand, is a thing even of religious sanction-for what is that love, which the Holy Spirit, speaking by St. John, so much inculcates, but friendship? The only love which deserves the name, is a love which can enable the Christian to toil, and watch, and deny himself, and risk even exposure to death, for his brother. Worldly friendships are a poor weed compared with this; and even this union of the spirit in the bond of peace, would suffer, in my mind at least, could I think it were only coeval with our earthly mansions. It may possibly argue great weakness in me, in this instance, to stand so much in need of future hopes, to support me in the discharge of present duty: but so it is. I am far, I know, very far, from being perfect in Christian love, or any other divine attainment, and am, therefore, unwilling to forego whatever may help me on my progress."
The anxiety of his mind respecting religion, and the progress he had made, and was still making in it, will appear from the following extract:-“You are so kind as to inquire after my health, for which reason I must tell you what otherwise would not be worth mentioning, that I have lately been just enough indisposed to convince me, that not only human life in general, but mine in particular, hangs by a slender thread. I am stout enough in appearance, yet a little illness demolishes me. I have had a serious shake, and the building is not so firm as it was. But I bless God for it, with all my heart. If the inner man be but strengthened day by day, as I hope, under the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit, it will be, no matter how soon the outward is dissolved. He who has, in a manner, raised me from the dead, in a literal sense, has given me the grace, I trust, to be ready, at the shortest notice, to surrender up to him that life which I have twice received from him. Whether I live or die, I desire it may be to his glory, and then it must be to my happiness. I thank God, that I have those amongst my kindred, to whom I can write, without reserve, my sentiments on this subject A letter upon any other subject is more insipid to me than ever my task was, when a school-boy. 1 say not this in vainglory, God forbid! but to show what the Almighty, whose
náme I am unworthy to mention, has done for me, the chief of sinners. Once he was a terror to ine; and his service, ob, what a weariness it was! Now I can say, I love hiin, and his Holy name, and am never so happy as when I speak of his mercies to me."
To the same correspondent he again writes. “To find those whom I love, clearly and strongly persuaded of evangelical truth, gives me a pleasure superior to any this world can afford. Judge, then, whether your letter, in which the body and substance of saving faith is so evidently set forth, could meet with a lukewarm reception at my hands, or be entertained with indifference! Do not imagine that I shall ever hear from you upon this delightful theme, without real joy, or without prayer to God to prosper you in the way of his truth. The book you mention, lies now upon my table; Marshall is an old acquaintance of mine; I have both read him, and heard him read with pleasure and edification. The doctrines he maintains are, under the influence of the spirit of Christ, the very life of my soul, and the soul of all my happiness. That Jesus is a present Saviour from the guilt of sin, by his most precious blood, and from the power of it by his Spirit; that, corrupt and wretched in ourselves, in Him, and in Him only, we are complete; that being united to Jesus by a lively faith, we have a solid and eternal interest in his obedience and sufferings, to justify us before the face of our Heavenly Father; and that all this inestimable treasure, the earnest of which is in grace, and its consummation in glory, is given, freely given to us by God; in short, that he hath freely opened the kingdom of Heaven to all believers; are truths which cannot be disproved, though they have been disputed. These are the truths, which, by the grace of God, shall ever be dearer to me than life itself; shall ever be placed next my heart, as the throne, whereon the Saviour himself shall sit, to sway all its motions, and reduce that world of iniquity and rebellion to a state of filial and affectionate obedience to the will of the most Holy."
“ These, my dear cousin, are the truths to which, by nature, we are enemies; they debase the sinner, and exalt the Saviour, to a degree, which the pride of our hearts, while unsubdued by grace, is determined never to allow. May the Almighty reveal his Son in our hearts, continually more and more, and teach us ever to increase in love towards him for having given us the unspeakable riches of Christ.”
In the following letter to the same lady, he again writes:“I think Marshall one of the best writers, and the most spi
ritual expositors of Scripture, I ever read. I admire the strength of his argument, and the clearness of his reasonings, upon those points of our most holy religion which are generally least understood (even by real Christians) as masterpieces of the kind. His section upon the union of the soul with Christ is an instance of what I mean; in which he has spoken of a most mysterious truth, with admirable perspicuity, and with great good sense, making it all the while subservient to his main purport, of proving holiness to be the fruit and effect of faith. I never met with an author who under. stood the plan of salvation better, or was more happy in explaining it.”
That Cowper inspected very closely, and watched very, narrowly his own heart, will appear by the following extract from a letter to the same lady :-“Oh pride! pride! it deceives with the subtlety of a serpent, and seems to walk erect, though it crawls upon the earth. How will it twist and twine itself about to get from under the cross, which it is the glory of our Christian calling to be able to bear with patience and good will. Those who can guess at the heart of a stranger, and you especially, who are of a compassionate temper, will be more ready to excuse me than I can be to excuse myself. But, in good truth, I am too frequently guilty of the abominable vice. How should such a creature be admitted into those pure and sinless mansions where nothing shall enter that defileth ; did not the blood of Christ, applied by faith, take away the guilt of sin, and leave no spot or stain behind it! O what continual need have I of an almighty, all-sufficient Saviour! I am glad you are acquainted so particularly with all the circumstances of my story, for I know that your secrecy and discretion may be trusted with anything. A thread of mercy ran through all the intricate maze of those afflictive providences, so mysterious to myself at the time, and which must ever remain so to all who will not see what was the great design of them; at the judgmentseat of Christ the whole shall be laid open. How is the rod of iron changed into a sceptre of love!"
“I have so much cause for humility, and so much need of it too, and every little sneaking resentment is such an enemy to it, that I hope I shall never give quarter to anything that appears in the shape of sullenness or self-consequence hereafter. Alas! if my best friend, who laid down his life for me, were to remember all the instances in which I have neglected him, and to plead them against me in judgment, where should I hide my guilty head in the day of recom
pense? I will pray therefore for blessings upon my friends though they cease to be so, and upon my enemies, though they continue such.”
Cowper had now been an inmate with the Unwin family a little more than eighteen months; and the above extracts, taken from his confidential letters, describe the happy frame of his mind, and the great progress he had made in divine knowledge, during this period. Living in the enjoyment of the divine presence himself, and associated with those who experienced the same invaluable privilege, he tranquilly pursued the even tenor of his Christian course with undiverted attention, and with holy zeal; nor did there appear the slightest reason to suppose that any alteration was likely to take place in his circumstances, or in the circumstances of the family. He might fairly have calculated upon the uninterrupted continuance, for many years, of the same distinguished privileges; but the dispensations of Divine Providence are sometimes awfully mysterious. Events unforeseen, and unexpected, are often occurring, which give a bias to our affairs quite different to any that we had ever conceived. Such was the melancholy occurrence which happened in this family, about this time, and which, at no distant period, led to Cowper's removal from Huntingdon.
Mr. Unwin, proceeding to his church, one Sunday morning in July, 1767, was flung from his horse, and received a dreadful fracture on the back part of his skull, under which he languished till the following Thursday, and then died. Cowper, in relating this melancholy event to his cousin, remarks: This awful dispensation has left an impression upon our spirits which will not presently be worn off. May it be a lesson to us to watch, since we know not the day, nor the hour, when our Lord cometh! At nine o'clock last Sunday morning, Mr. Unwin was in perfect health, and as likely to live twenty years as either of us, and by the following Thursday he was a corpse. The few short intervals of sense that were indulged him, he spent in earnest prayer, and in expressions of a firm trust and confidence in the only Saviour. To that strong-hold we must resort at last, if we would have hope in death; when every other refuge fails, we are glad to fly to the only shelter to which we can repair to any purpose; and happy is it for us, when the false ground we have chosen for ourselves, breaks under us, and we find ourselves obliged to have recourse to that Rock which can never be shaken: when this is our lot, we receive great and undeserved mercy.”
“ The effect of this very distressing event will only be a change of my abode; for I shall still
, by God's leave, continue with Mrs. Unwin, whose behaviour to me has always been that of a mother to a son. We know not yet where we shall settle, but we trust that the Lord, whom we seek, wili go before us, and prepare a rest for us. We have employed our friends, Mr. Hawes, Dr. Conyers, and Mr. Newton, 10 look out a place for us, but at present are entirely ignorant under which of the three we shall settle, or whether under any one of thein."
Just after this melancholy event had occurred, and while the family were in the midst of their distress, Mr. Newton, then curate of Olney, while on his way home from Cambridge, providentially called upon Mrs. Unwin. The late Dr. Conyers had learned from Mrs. Unwin's son, the change that had taken place in her mind, on the subject of religion ; and he accordingly requested Mr. Newton to embrace the earliest opportunity of having some conversation with her on the subject. His visits could not possibly have been made at a more seasonable juncture. Mrs. Unwin was now almost overwhelmed with sorrow; and though the strength of her Christian principles preserved her from losing that confidence in the Almighty, which can alone support the mind under such distressing circumstances, yet, both she and Mr. Cowper stood in need of some judicious Christian friend, lo administer to them the consolations of the gospel. Their Heavenly Father could not have sent them one more capable of binding up their wounds, and soothing their sorrow, than Mr. Newton. He knew when, instrumentally, to pour the oil of consolation into their wounded spirits; and his providential visit proved as useful as it was seasonable. He invited them to fix their future abode at Olney, whither they repaired, in the following October, to a house he had provided for them, so near the vicarage in which he lived, that by opening a door in the garden wall, they could exchange mutual visits, without entering the street. Mrs. Unwin kept the house, and Cowper continued to board with her, as he had done during her husband's life.