« EdellinenJatka »
ing; yet it after expressed strong affection, and when moved by tenderness, or illuminated into joy, it softened and mellowed the deep lines of his extraordinary forehead. It is, however, impossible to describe a countenance as peculiar as was the whole man. It may be said, that there was not a feature, and scarce a line in it which met a counterpart in any other mortal. It was a face which you could not have passed even casually, without feeling that it had a powerful fascination for your eye; but if you met the beam of his eye, it smote you with a sort of basilisk-power, that drew an involuntary homage, and made you say" that's a character-and one of a rare class too." It was not necessary to hear John Cooke speak, to discover that he was no every-day-man.
His manners were pleasing and dignified. Persons of great independence of mind are frequently uncourteous; and great courage combined, as it generally is, with great integrity, too frequently generates a careless roughness of manner, which is not counteracted by studious habits. This defect is even more common among men of education than among men of the world. A sedentary life fosters the evil. But though there was a certain degree of bluntness, or more properly unceremoniousness, about our friend, yet I am not aware, that it ever degenerated into rudeness, or was incompatible with that christian politeness, which is in perfect accordance with sincerity. While his behaviour was, strictly speaking, gentlemanly, yet he was frank, and used, at times, " great plainness of speech." He was not studious of that politeness which consists in insincere professions-idle words—and flattery. Some men are officious with their friendship-ultra in their politeness, and would make every casual visitor who approached them believe, that he is a most dear friend. They seize you with both hands-protest that their joy is excessive at the sight of you- and leave you with emphatic expressions of their esteem. But they will treat the next acquaintance they meet in the same way. Perhaps you are scarce out of sight, or out of hearing, before you are out of their memory, or are recollected only to be slighted and slandered. This is the world's politeness, but though utterly inconsistent with christian sincerity and faithfulness, it is not abjured by all that rank high in the christian church. Our friend, Cooke, most felicitously exemplified the politeness of the christian gentleman, combined with the frankness and the fidelity of the true friend, who would rather risk the success of a reproof, than cherish a wound-or propagate a whisper.
His conversation was singularly fascinating. Without being either eloquent or loquacious, he had the invaluable art of winning and of fixing attention. Whatever he said was impressed with great force upon the listener. He was happily exempt from the vice of levity, into which those are apt to fall who have a large measure of the talent for conversation. Retailers of anecdotes almost unconsciously become triflers, and frequently put such a colouring upon facts, as turns them into fictions. Mr. Cooke told many anecdotes, sometimes too many in his discourses, but whether in conversation or in the pulpit, they were never told for mere mirth. There was a weight of moral sentiment, and an excellence of aim in all his narratives, which made his society as profitable as it was pleasing. He never sunk the character of the christian minister in the mere jovial companion; nor undid by levity in the parlour the effect he had produced in the pulpit. Neither was he disposed to spin out pointless tales; or dole out wonders by the hour, to keep the ear or the admiration of the company. His facts illustrated truths of the highest interest. Every thing tended to convince and enlighten the understanding, and to embody his own powerful conceptions of the importance and dignity of the doctrines, which he believed to be the "power of God to salvation." They were diagrams or pictures, by which the moral teacher made obvious to sense, what he wished to make palpable to the intellect, and powerful to the heart. Hence, by his conversation, he generally administered "grace unto the hearers." Mr. C. was eminently successful in the appropriateness of his anecdotes. They always fitted, and were told with point. Yet it cannot be said that he was ever brilliant in conversation. He dealt with facts and persons. He was never subtle, never witty; but he was always interesting, generally impressive, and to christian friends especially, edifying and animating to a high degree. His style was always unadorned, condensed and sententious. He looked at deeds as the true interpreters of men's hearts, and he, therefore, habituated himself to connect facts with principles, and to judge of all men by their fruits. Few men living, with so little imagination, and so much gravity; with so little propensity to humour or wit, and so great a love of mere matter of fact, ever made such deep impressions, or exerted so much fascination in company. It is difficult to state, precisely, in what this power consisted. I have sometimes imagined it to result, in a great degree, from the manly simplicity, force and brevity of his style; but, perhaps, it
owed still more to the weighty sentiments, and interesting truths, which were uppermost in his mind. Much, also, is doubtless to be ascribed to a manner all emphasis, feeling, and reality. He was always in earnest. He spoke to you in the parlour, like a man that had upon his tongue, something of great interest to yourself. There was, moreover, a dignified consciousness of power, which seemed to say I will have attention: and it acted like enchantment. When he opened his lips, all seemed disposed to listen. There was command in his very voice. When he spoke of men and the worldhe spoke like one that had looked human nature through; and could take you into the interior of every character he described.
But who shall analyse individuality, and tell what it is that gives the character its peculiarity and its charm-its distinctive impression? We may name the ingredients thrown into a compound; but the result is a quality of itself, and is something that did not exist in any of the parts. There is a unity of impression and effect in every genuine character, which is, after all, but very inadequately explained by the most careful enumeration of all the distinct and peculiar qualities which it displays.
The mental faculties of Mr. Cooke, were naturally strong. Circumstances had imparted to them some special advantages. His mind had not enjoyed high culture in early life; nor had it subsequently undergone that discipline, which would have brought out all its strength. He had been mostly indebted for his attainments, in theological science, to his own persevering industry. Endowed with a more than ordinary portion of understanding and discrimination, he had gathered wisdom from passing events; and, by a propensity to frequent and laborious reflection, had obtained an eminence in spiritual knowledge and usefulness, attained by few who have even enjoyed the special advantages of an appropriate training.
Mr. Cooke resembled, both in the style of his preaching and in his personal character, the admirable Cecil. In the emphatic, condensed, and impressive manner of his sentences, he constantly reminded one of Cecil. His observations on living characters, and his use of facts and anecdotes, were generally in the style of that truly great man. Nor was he unlike him in his theological system, and in his clear and bold statement of the distinguishing doctrines of grace. Cecil, however, enjoyed one advantage which our friend lacked. His faculties had been well disciplined, and had received the polish and the vigour which classical and philo
sophical studies generally impart to minds of great native vigour. Had our friend enjoyed such advantages, there is reason to believe he would have sunk in no point of comparison with the distinguished individual to whom I have compared him. He is well known to have been on terms of friendship with that eminent minister of Christ. He usually heard him during his visits to London, and Mr. Cecil frequently attended at Maidenhead, when he could make his journeys on the day of Mr. Cooke's lecturing. On one of these occasions he said, after hearing Mr. Cooke, as he passed out of the chapel, "I love a man of principle, whether in the Established Church or out of it. I don't like your trimmers." Cooke and Cecil were, indeed, men of like minds-they were kindred spirits-and, in many respects, were similar in their style and manner as preachers.
Mr. Cooke enjoyed through life a very considerable degree of popularity, which he was always willing to turn to a good account. His mode of preparation for the pulpit was, perhaps, the best that can be chosen for present impression, though not the best for the production of sermons of the most finished excellence and permanent fame. He wrote out a plan, which, to himself, formed a sort of map of the course of argument and illustration he intended to pursue. This plan was never long or full, but consisted mainly of catch-words, which, in his own mind, were connected with a train of thought previously arranged. His proofs and illustrations were mostly scriptural. He bottomed every proposition, every sentiment, upon Divine authority, and that in the most direct and simple manner, and with a dignity that seemed to say, "I deliver the holy oracle of Heaven""hear the word of the Lord."
An anecdote of himself, which his friends have heard him relate, and which he sometimes told to young ministers, will illustrate the assiduous and thoughtful manner in which he prepared his discourses. He used to relate the anecdote thus: "Very soon after I was settled at Maidenhead, three texts struck me in succession, after the duties of the Sabbath were over. I said to myself, "Ah, that will do for next Lord's day morning; and that for the afternoon; and that for the evening." I was much engaged with preaching and visiting for several days, and not till Saturday did I sit down to arrange my matter for the Sabbath. The three texts were quite gone from me: all Saturday, till very late at night, I laboured to recover any one of them, but in vain. Sabbath
morning came, and I could think of nothing.
Time of service drew on-and, in fact, I went to meeting, unable to fix my mind on any text. I went into the pulpit-they sang-I prayed-still as unable to say what I should preach from as any of my hearers. During the second singing I opened the Bible almost in despair: a passage struck me-I was carried through."
"On reaching my room, I threw myself on my knees, covered with shame and confusion. From that day I resolved to "grind when the wind blew." Since that time, whenever a text opens itself to my mind, I note it down; and I have, perhaps, hundreds of sketches I never used, and never may. Preaching I consider to be my special business; and having been enabled to keep this in view, every thing turns to sermons. Whether in company, travelling, walking, or the fields, or whatever incidents arise, I find all bring the word of God to my mind, and turn to some account in reference to my work."
He usually left the wording and filling up of his outline to the impression and feeling of the moment. It was in bringing out the force and beauty of scriptural sentiment that he chiefly excelled, while, in showing its application to all the varieties of human character, and all the vicissitudes of human life, he displayed an adroitness and skill, a simplicity of intention, and force of truth, which made him as acceptable to the educated as to the rustic hearer. He had no imagination, few metaphors, and little of what is called genius, yet there was a character of impressive originality about most of his discourses. Without paying any very scrupulous regard to mere words, or the form and beauty of sentences, he displayed the constituent principles of good taste-he followed natureimitated no man-but always kept his aim simple and pure. He was more intent upon thoughts than expressions, and laboured rather to convey ideas to the understanding, than to awaken feeling and emotion. He rarely failed to make his hearers feel that he had an end in view far higher than their mere gratification. Sometimes he was touching and pathetic to a high degree; but this was not his common style-it was only when he was himself moved or excited by some affliction, or other stirring occurrence. The ordinary style of his preaching was rather intellectual and didactic frequently argumentative, but mostly expository. It was in general a happy mixture of doctrine, practice, and experience; but in his latter years it partook rather more of experience, and was