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CONCLUDING NOTICES, AND REFLECTIONS.
DURING the many months that have elapsed since this volume was commenced, various facts have come incidentally before the notice of the Editor, tending to illustrate the character of his friend; and, in the course of repeated conversations on the subject, remarks have occurred which may prove beneficial to those, for whose immediate use the work has been undertaken. Not to lose, therefore, these gleanings of memory and thought, this concluding chapter is added; in which various reflections and several biographic traits are interspersed; while so much of order and connexion is attempted, as the nature of the topics adverted to would admit.
1. THE TOTAL ALIENATION OF THE HEART FROM GOD is that, which is primarily to be observed in the subject of this Memoir, during the many years of his early life.
This alienation of heart is so much the more
strongly marked, as it existed in connexion with the practice of many moral duties, and with a certain standard of moral taste, which had, in a measure, been formed agreeably to Scripturemodels. But while, on a superficial view, he exhibited much that would have been accounted not merely correct, but even elevated and serious, he was not himself deceived as to the real state of his own character. Whatever might externally be good, it was, as he knew, heart that was wanting. He appears to have groaned habitually under the burden of this conviction, that his heart was not right in the sight of God.
It appears that, about the age of fifteen or sixteen, he became deeply convinced of the danger of living without religion; but that, remaining under the bondage of the terrors of the law of God, and not discovering that peace of mind and strength of resolution which the Gospel is designed to communicate, he was permitted to follow the bent of the natural heart; resisting convictions, and living, although soberly, yet in the habitual neglect of secret, humble, fiducial prayer to our our Heavenly Father. Gradually, through deep distress of mind, and alienation from God, he seems to have been tempted by that Evil One, who knows how to press his opportunities; and who, had not One stronger been at hand, would have forced him down into the desperate condition of the infidel. Thus, for full thirteen years, he lived on in misery. When through God's mercy he "came to himself," so far from extenuating this judgment of his past
character, he constantly confirmed it. Nor was it merely in general terms that he did this: some minor points of circumstantial evidence occur in his history, from which a spiritual mind will apprehend with peculiar distinctness, how deep was the conviction which he had of his former sinful state. When asked, for example, in later times, how it was that, in that forlorn state of mind, he could nevertheless so diligently read the Scriptures, and so feelingly introduce religious sentiments into his poetical compositions, (witness his verses to his mother, on the death of his brother Benjamin: see p. 4,) he replied, "that he found the subject at intervals soothing to his spirits; it served to interpose a little ease'; it was a relief and diversion to troubled thoughts; and especially he felt that it pleased his mother, and some other relatives,"-a cautionary circumstance, this, to friends not to set an over-fond value on the seemingly-religious letters or other productions of their younger connexions. But all the while his heart was utterly alienated from the Father of spirits. Even Saul owned the soothing strains of the son of Jesse, who doubtless accompanied the notes of his harp with the most sublime and pathetic descriptions of the mercy of God. But the mind of the wilful king, elevated for a moment, and his heart, a little calmed, moved not from a state of obdurate rebellion against God. So would my friend have acknowledged of himself; and virtually, indeed, did acknowledge, by his anxious desire to remove from his sight every such record of his state in
his unconverted days. The view of his early poems, although they are perfectly free from every taint or blemish of a profane or immoral nature; the sight, probably most of all, of what might be called his religious poems, inflicted anguish upon his heart. Some may think that on this point his feelings had the better of his judgment; that he should have perceived that poetry may, in itself, be innocent, and even useful, whatever the state of heart in the writer. Of this, as an abstract truth, he could not be ignorant; and on this principle it will be deemed by his friends no injury offered to the memory of his consistent piety, to give, at the end of this volume, a miscellaneous exhibition of his poetical productions. But when he looked at his early verses, they were to him a memento of days which had passed away in sinful unprofitableness, such as, to his judgment and feelings, both alike sound and correct, was perfectly appalling. I regard his experience in this matter as a high model of religious sensibility, most worthy to be studied; rather than as a specimen of scrupulosity, captiously to be questioned.
The only two poems, in this volume, written by him after his conversion, are such as the mere critic would not have suffered to pass without some few touches. The one,
"And dost Thou still forgive?"
is rather a sacred hymn, admitting but little of the graces of imagery. The other, although the
circumstances under which it was written almost forbid a thought of criticism, consists of an image drawn out at full;
"When the bright sun looks from high," &c.
but would still bear some of those retouching alterations, without which no poem of any length attains perfection. To a spiritual mind, however, they are both of them deeply affecting.
What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? If this complaint was uttered with truth in reference to Israel of old, much more might it have been said of one so distinguished by Christian privileges! What early advantages in his parental training, and in the long-continued example, especially, of his mother! What abundant stores of Scripture knowledge! What warnings from the deaths of his nearest relatives; and what deeply-painful checks of conscience! If, indeed, any one should observe, that he may, probably, in his religious circle, have seen some of the faults and absurdities of individual pious characters, and so may have conceived a disgust against the profession of piety; it may justly be replied, Yet, had he not also some of the very brightest examples before him? And especially, did he not, from a child, know the Holy Scriptures; by which alone-and not by its professors, as he was well aware-religion is to be estimated? In fact, every thing here recorded of him, up to the thirtieth year of his life, shows the great and inexpressibly awful