« 上一頁繼續 »
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN
tion of public instructors lay themselves open to public animadversion.
The charge of inconsistency is one to which they especially stand exposed; such a charge, I am sorry to say, I must bring against you. In your notice of Bedell's memoirs, last month, you gave expression to feelings in which I, for one, heartily concur. You denounced as dishonorable and unjustifiable, the custom of publishing communications made in the confidence of private friendship; or records of Christian experience kept for the individual's secret reference, and never by him intended for other eyes.
How comes it then, Madam, that in your number for September you mentioned with unqualified praise a book tarnished by as gross and palpable a breach of Christian delicacy as ever kindled the blush of shame on the cheek of an impartial observer, or extorted the sigh of regret from bis bosom?
I allude to the volumes containing the sermons of that truly good man Mr. Gauntlett, with a memoir prefixed by his daughter. You commend the sketch of his life; you do justice to his pastoral discourses ; and in both instances I agree with you: but how
could you, alluding as you do to the endeared name of William Cowper, overlook the cruel exposure of that afflicted Christian's mental aberration contained in the Appendix ?
I happen to know from unquestionable authority, that the most diligent search was made for those letters, with the avowed object of precluding the possibility of such publication ; and that with much trouble the originals were recovered by one who regarded Cowper with a kinsman's love, heightened and refined by a Christian's delicacy. I happen to know that the copies which the Editor assures us were taken“ verbatim, literatim, et punctuatim” from those originals, were surreptitiously retained, by what, to say the least of it, was a breach of good faith, and a violation of Christian candour. But on this private knowledge I will not ground my complaint against you. I appeal to the contents of the pages forming the appendix to Miss Gauntlett's otherwise commendable volumes; and I leave you to exonerate yourself as you may' from one or the other of these charges : either you have been guilty of glaring inconsistency, or of flagrant neglect. Either you have glossed over a proceeding directly opposed to your avowed principles, or you have reviewed and recommended a book without reading it.
In the first case you forfeit our respect for your character; in the latter our confidence in your judgment. On which horn of the dilemma will it please you to be impaled ?
I mean not to be harsh : but my indignation and disgust are incessantly called forth by the cruelly indecent return now made by the so-called religious world, for the valuable boon conferred on it in the writings of Cowper, pablished under his own sanetion, and containing the effasions of his sane, bis tranquil hours. Do not these soffice! Mest the ravings of his delirious moments be raked out from the letter books of trusted friends, to whom he occasionally disburdened his thoughts when pressed above measure! Must memoranda made to be destroyed, but secared for the private gratification of unhallowed curiosity, now be openly spread before the public eye? Is it a characteristic of brotherly love, or a sample of Christian refinement, thus to expose the occasional nakedness of a distempered mind? Rest not, I beseech you, madam, under the stigma of wilful participation in the mania of the day, which I would fain believe your better feelings most repudiate. Explain, in your own way, and at your own time, this lamentable discrepancy between your sayings and doings; or the measure of confidence already earned by your apparent straightforwardness of thought and expression, will be forfeited-deservedly forfeited, and for ever.
I am, madam,
[We hope, by inserting the foregoing letter, to show that we are disposed to take in good part whatever rebukes are given, by those who seem conscientiously to desire our well-doing. This Reprover uses strong expressions, but we are not surprised at his so doing : the subject is indeed a painful, and almost an irritating one, to those who, loving the
memory of the gentle and sensitive Cowper, would fain assist to draw closely the veil of delicacy.over what it is now the unseemly fashion to exhibit.
For ourselves, we plead guilty to a measure of neglect, though not, perhaps, so considerable as the Reprover seems to infer. We read the memoir, and remarked that such documents were referred to, as being appended to the volumes: but the fact stated by the biographer, that her father had frequently expressed an intention of publishing those papers, did really seem to hold out so satisfactory a guarantee for their character, that, with a multitude of other engagements pressing on us, it cannot be wondered at if, having perused the Memoir and the Sermons, we laid down the book, reserving the Appendix for a more convenient season. It is a fact that the leaves of the latter were never cut, until our Reprover had startled us by the foregoing charge. It is also a fact that we recoiled with horror and disgust from that most unadvised and unfeeling exposure of Cowper's mental malady : and though late, and under somewhat mortifying circumstances, we do now record our solemn protest against that exposure ; assuring our readers that, had it met our eye at the proper season, we would not have failed to notice it, in language expressive of our feelings.
There is at least one consideration that ought sufficiently to counterbalance any temptation of catering to the perverted taste which our Reprover justly designates the mania of the day. Were such documents to meet the eyes only of those who can estimate the beauty of Cowper's spirituality, we should still hold their publication as indefensible : but they take a wider range-the formalist, the un
believer, the scoffer, all partake in this unhallowed exhibition; and the inference that will be drawnor, at best, the representation made, will be, that whatsoever of spiritual thought and feeling shines forth in Cowper's writings must have been but the ravings of what may appear a monomania. His learning, his taste, his judgment, his sweetness of disposition will all be admitted, as forming the man's actual character in seasons of sanity—his religious breathings they will point out as betraying the mental aberration. Who can calculate the extent to which the advantage so very improperly given may be carried, in hindering the spiritual good that has hitherto abundantly resulted from the introduction of elegant compositions to the notice of young people altogether ignorant of gospel truth !
We regret exceedingly-beyond expression—the publication of these letters, written by Cowper under the influence of his grievous malady, in a book otherwise unexceptionable : but it is, unhappily, no singular case. There are many wellmeaning people who think they are doing God service, or at least consider it a harmless proceeding, to hand about similar productions. We were pained, sone ten or twelve years since, by seeing a memoir, the work of the afllicted individual himself, in print; being well assured that it never could have been intended to meet the world's gaze. We were somewhat more than pained, when a pious gentleman noticed it as being a very profitable book;' recommending it to the perusal of some young inquirers. Not to speak of the disastrous effects likely to result from placing such details within the reach of persons already in a state of nervous excitement, we