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test is refused. The very name of vital experimental religion excites contempt and scorn, and provokes resentment. The doctrines of regeneration by the powerful operation of the holy spirit, and the necessity of his continual agency and influence to advance the holiness and comforts of those, in whose hearts he has already begun a work of grace, are not only exploded and contradicted by many who profess a regard for the Bible, and by some who have subscribed to the articles and liturgy of our established church*, but they who avow an attachment to them, are upon that account, and that account alone, considered as hypocrites or visionaries, knaves or fools. The Editor fears, that many unstable persons are misled and perverted by the fine words and fair speeches of those who lie in wait to deceive. But he likewise hopes, that by the blessing of God, a candid perusal of what is here publishec', specting the character, sentiments, and happy death of the late Reverend John Cowper, may convince them, some of them at least, of their mistake, and break the snare in which they have been entangled.
A s soon as it had pleased. God, after a long and
sharp season of conviction, to visit me with the con- • - 4. solations of his grace, it became one of my chief
concerns, that my relations might be made partakers
of the same mercy. In the first letter I wrote to . my brother, I took occasion to declare what God had done for my soul, and am not conscious, that from that period down to his last illness I wilfully neglected an opportunity of engaging him, if it were possible, in conversation of a spiritual kind. When I left St. Alban's, and went to visit him at Cambridge, my heart being full of the subject, I poured it out before him without reserve; and in all my subse
* The Church of England, to which Mr. Newton belonged.
quent dealings with him, so far as I was enabled, took care to show that I had received, not merely a set of notions, but a real impression of the truths of the Gospel.
At first I found him ready enough to talk with me upon these subjects; sometimes he would dispute, but always without heat or animosity, and sometimes would endeavour to reconcile the difference of our sentiments, by supposing that, at the bottom, we were both of a mind, and meant the same thing. • He was a man of a most 'candid and ingenuous spirit; his temper remarkably sweet, and in his behaviour to me, he had always manifested an uncom-' mon affection. His outward conduct, so far as it fell under my notice, or I could learn it by the report of others, was perfectly decent and unblameable. There was nothing vicious in any part of his practice; but being of a studious thoughtful turn, he placed his chief delight in the acquisition of learning, and made such acquisitions in it, that he had but few rivals in that of a classical kind. He was critically skilled in the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages; was beginning to make himself master of the Syriac, and perfectly understood the French and Italian, the latter of which he could speak fluently. These attainments, however, and many others in the
literary way, he lived heartily to despise, not as useHe less when sanctified and employed in the service of
God, but when sought after for their own sake, and with a view to the praise of men. Learned, however, as he was, he was easy and cheerful in his conversation, and entirely free from the stiffness, which is generally contracted by men devoted to such pursuits. • Thus we spent about two years, conversing as occasion offered, and we generally visited each other once or twice a week, as long as I continued at Huntingdon, upon the leading truths of the Gospel. By
this time, however, he began to be more reserved; he would hear me patiently, but never reply; and this I found, upon his own confession afterward, was the effect of a resolution he had taken, in order to avoid disputes, and to secure the continuance of that peace which had always subsisted between us When our family removed to Olney, our intercourse became less frequent. We exchanged an annual visit, and whenever he came amongst us, he obseryed the same conduct, conforming to all our customs, attending family worship with us, and heard the preaching, received civilly whatever passed in conversation upon the subject, but adhered strictly to the rule he had prescribed to himself, never remarking upon or objecting to any thing he heard or saw. This, through the goodness of his natural temper, he was enabled to carry so far, that though some things unavoidably happened, which we feared would give him offence, he never took any; for it was not possible to offer him the pulpit, nor when Mr. N was with us once at the time of family prayer, could we ask my brother to officiate, though being himself a minister, and one of our own family for the time, the office seemed naturally to fall into his hands.
In September, 1769, I learned by letters from Cambridge, that he was dangerously ill. I set out for that place the day after I received them, and found him as ill as I expected. He had taken cold on his return from a journey into Wales, and, lest he should be laid up at a distance from home, had pushed forward as fast as he could from Bath with a fever upon him. Soon after his arrival at Cambridge he discharged, unknown to himself, such a prodigious quantity of blood, that the physician ascribed it only to the strength of his constitution that he was still alive; and assured me, that if the discharge should be repeated, he must inevitably die upon the spot. In this state of immi. nent danger, he seemed to have no more concern about his spiritual interests than when in perfect f+ health. His couch was strewed with volumes of plays, to which he had frequent recourse for amusement. I learned indeed afterwards, that even at this time, the thoughts of God and eternity, would often force themselves upon his mind; but not apprehending his life to be in danger, and trusting in the mo. rality of his past conduct, he found it no difficult matter to thrust them out again.
As it pleased God that he had no relapse, he presently began to recover strength, and in ten days time I left him so far restored, that he could ride many miles without fatigue, and had every symptom of returning health. It is probable, however, that though his recovery seemed perfect, this illness was the means which God had appointed to bring down his strength in the midst of his journey, and to hasten on the malady which proved his last.
On the 16th of February, 1770, I was again summoned to attend him, by letters which represented him as so ill, that the physician entertained but little hopes of his recovery. I found him afflicted with the asthina and dropsy, supposed to be the effect of an imposthume in his liver. He was however cheerful when I first arrived, expressed great joy at seeing me, thought himself much better than he had been, and seemed to flatter himself with hopes that he should be well again. My situation at this time, was truly distressful. I learned from the physician, that, in this instance as in the last, he was in much greater danger than he suspected. He did not seem to lay his illness at all to heart, nor could I find by his conversation that he had one serious thought. As often as a suitable occasion offered, when we were free from company and interruption, I endeavoured to give a spiritual turn to the discourse; and
thocareless ander his willingnewith pleasu
the day after my arrival, asked his permission to pray with him, to which he readily consented. I renewed my attempts in this way as often as I could, though without any apparent success : still he seemed as careless and unconcerned as ever; yet, I could not but consider his willingness in this instance as a token for good, and observed with pleasure, that though at other times he discovered no mark of seriousness, yet when I spoke to him of the Lord's dealings with myself, he received what I said with affection, would press my hand, and look kindly at me, and seemed to love me the better for it.
On the 21st of the same month, he had a violent fit of the asthma, which seized him when he rose, about an hour before noon, and lasted all the day. His agony was dreadful. Having never seen any person afflicted in the same way, I could not help fearing that he would be suffocated; nor was the physician himself without fears of the same kind. This day the Lord was very present with me, and enabled me, as I sat by the poor sufferer's side, to wrestle for a blessing upon him. I observed to him, that though it had pleased God to visit him with great afflictions, yet mercy was mingled with the dispensation. I said, “ You have many friends, who love you, and are willing to do all they can to serve you ; and so perhaps have others in the like circumstances; but it is not the lot of every sick man, how much soever he may be beloved, to have a friend that can pray for him.” He replied, “ That is true, and I hope God will have mercy upon me.” His love for me from this time became very remarkable; there was a tenderness in it more than was merely natural; and he generally expressed it by calling for blessings upon me in the most affectionate terms, and with a look and manner not to be described.
At night, when he was quite worn out with the fatigue of labouring for breath, and could get no rest,