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seemed to give way under him, and he was impelled even to doubt the being of a God. It required the most strenuous efforts of mind, to shake off his doubts; the most earnest wrestlings of prayer, to keep the soul from making shipwreck of faith; and the most vigorous struggles of hope, to retain its standing upon a single point of consolatory truth. As this trial of our friend's faith and grace was so long and so sharp, and as the review may be profitable to young Christians, and especially to young ministers, I shall be forgiven for indulging in a few remarks, which the examination of Mr. Cooke's diary has suggested.
I have frequently observed, that persons who enter into the ministry soon after conversion, especially if that conversion has been accompanied with strong emotions, or high mental excitement, are very liable to suffer great distress, and to encounter severe temptations upon the question of personal religion, to which those have been strangers whose introduction to the ministry has not taken place till after some years of Christian experience. In most cases of sudden and rapid conversion there is effected so joyful a translation from darkness into light, and this is followed or accompanied with so vigorous an apprehension of the power and triumphant efficacy of Divine grace, that the soul seems to have already accomplished its victory. There is so palpable and overpowering a reality given to the things of God and the soul, that the darkness and unbelief, which are the sources of so many sins and falls, are scarce perceived. The mind is borne away from the low and sordid atmosphere of this base world, and lives in an element of pure and ardent devotion. The love of Christ is shed abroad so sensibly and vigorously that the whole soul is drawn forth in ardent longings and devout aspirations in return. Hence such persons, while in this state of mind, can neither sympathise with the experience of the less ecstatic Christian, nor comprehend what is meant by the conflict and the fight of faith. They are yet unaware of Satan's devices and of the possible extent of their operation upon their own hearts. They have seen the loveliness of the Saviour, but they have not yet felt, by painful experience, the importance of his supporting grace; they have felt the efficacy of atoning blood, and triumphed in the righteousness which makes the sinner just; but they have yet to feel the mighty working of God's power towards them that believe; and they have yet to learn, one by one, how many roots of bitterness and seeds of sin their nature contains, and how
hard and painful is the task of extracting these roots, in their minute fibres and endless ramifications, from the soul. The season of spiritual light and joy which succeeds a conversion of this sort is frequently of considerable length; and after the soul has been familiarised to it, the return of sin and Satan's power seems, by the very fact of contrast, to be more formidable than it really is. The violence with which sin sometimes revives, the unexpected assaults which the enemy watches to make, as well as the unsuspecting state of the soul, all contribute to give force to the assault, and to incapacitate the inexperienced believer for the conflict. At first he is astonished and confounded to find the power which sin still retains over him. He thought it all but dead, and never anticipated its revival or its fierce return to enslave him again; and he is driven by the reverting current of depravity upon the very borders of despair. The more sincere he has been, in his former experience, the more hopeless and desperate appears his present condition. He immediately begins to suspect his over-profession-deems his past experience mere delusion-while the yet raging power of sin he feels to be a reality which indeed inflicts the deepest grief, and convinces him that he is a slave sold under sin. In proportion to his former elevation, is now his depression; and as he had most unsuspectingly before felt assured of his title to glory, so now, by a very natural law of our constitution, his disappointment and anguish are the greater at the supposed discovery, that his conclusion was false, and his feeling delusive.
How much of sin remains in our nature after the grace of God has employed its renovating energy, and how secretly and subtilly it will enslave the soul and obscure the evidences of its acceptance, has to be discovered by slow degrees. There are few young Christians aware, in the first stage of their experience, how violently sin will revive and how fiercely their spiritual foes will re-assault them. It may be wisely ordered that they should not know;-it has the effect of preventing discouragement and allowing the soul to expatiate more fully and less timidly over the freeness of divine grace. Yet the fierce temptations which ensue have a most valuable influence upon their minds, in removing whatever may adhere to them of vain confidence in their own experience, and of dissipating at least that portion of their hope which was not solidly grounded on the simple testimony of Revelation. Christians who have been the subjects of that kind of conversion we are now noticing, are liable to attribute great import
ance to frames and feelings. In some such cases religion is rather a matter of mere feeling than of sober and grave conviction. There is less of thought and judgment, and more of emotion and imagination, than comports with stability--more of the effervescence of the human passions than of the durable workmanship of God. Hence these airy particles must be driven away, these visionary emotions must be dissipated, and the foundation for future advancement to maturity, and future stability amidst the conflicts of life, be laid more deeply and solidly. But the storms which shake and radicate the heart in this happy stability, are sometimes sharp and long, and, according to the peculiar character of the individual, admit of considerable modification. If he has been sanguine, his trial will be the sharper, but not so deep and grave; while individuals of a more meditative and intellectual character will be driven back beyond the mere doubts of their own experience, to question the reality and truth of religion itself. They will probably be tried with sceptical and infidel doubts, and for a length of time the uncertainties and suspicions of their own feelings, may cast a shade over the very principles of religion itself, and bring into doubt the inspiration of the word of God. This is even more likely to be the case with ministers than with private Christians. In proportion to the greater ardour of devout love which impelled their first and early self-dedication to the work of the Lord, will be the horror of soul they feel at the discovery of their own baseness; and, in the same degree will the shock of reviving sin and temptation, tend to weaken and impair the very foundations of their faith. Nor is it to be forgotten, that while such young ministers are among the most promising instruments for making inroads upon the kingdom of Satan, the malice of that enemy will be the more bitterly excited against them. In their fall, or even in the perplexity of their faith, he gains a triumph more essential and valuable to him, than when he shakes the faith of many an every-day professor. The nobler the object, the greater the achievement which carries it captive: and, as a wise · general will not waste his strength upon weak posts, but aim directly at the main body of his foe, so the adversary of the church, in weakening the hands, or discouraging the heart, or shaking the faith of a Christian minister, and that one a man of exemplary zeal and energy, accomplishes a distinguished triumph over the cause against which his subtlety and his malignity are unweariedly employed.
Such was the distressful situation of our friend for a length of time, struggling against the power of sin and unbelief, dejected and discouraged by the discovery of his own subjection to earthly objects, and led by the darkness which these evils produced, first, to doubt the divinity of the Saviour; then to question the inspiration of the Scriptures. He describes himself at times as being obliged to pause and revert to first principles, and to compel his mind to go through long and laborious trains of thinking and reasoning, before he could believe that there was a God. The cause of these terrible convulsions I ascribe, in his case, to an ardent natural temperament, to his strong passions, to the immaturity of his knowledge, and the elevated station he had acquired, almost before experience and discrimination of judgment had fitted him to bear the shocks and storms, which blow alike from all quarters against the Christian minister, and with agitating violence against the most useful and faithful.
Many circumstances concurred to embitter the cup of which he was made to drink so largely, within the three first years of his ministerial career. The alienation of the man who first encouraged his public engagements; the temptation to various kinds of errors; the treachery of some of his first and warmest friends, with other evils, all seemed to conspire at once to plunge him into an abyss of wretchedness. What he endured from false friends may be in some degree imagined from the following brief, but affecting memorials contained in his diary.
"What an extreme folly it is to sin against God! He is the only unchangeable friend in the universe! What superlative folly, therefore, to incur his displeasure, by backsliding from him! The man in whom I placed the most firm confidence, behaves now as cool as an enemy. I have very often lately, felt the force of this exclamation- a faithful man, who can find?' I begin to despair of doing it. Happy those who find an interest in a faithful God. My present experience says, 'cease from man.' Hard lesson! to cease from the dearest man! yet a necessary one. Lord, 'tis thus 'thou teachest to profit, and leadest in the way I should go.'-This morning I have finished the prophet Jonah. I have heard of good done to souls. One brought from the fort of freeagency, and another from the broad road. If this is all the good done by it, I am thankful for the honour of being made useful. Many unfair remarks have been made upon my
discourses by a principal foe, and a few who adhere to him. But, I have noon-day evidence that my sermons are too close to his conscience, and besetting sin, to find his approbation. Be this as it may, that opposition and censure are to be my lot, yet the Lord lifts up my head, above my enemies round about. And why should I distrust him for the present and future? Lord be on my side and I will not fear! What can man do to me?""
Severe as were his trials from without, those from within were of a more fiery and excruciating nature. There is a force and a tenderness, a heart-melting intenseness in his delineations of his own mental anguish, which, were I to transcribe it into these pages, would but distress without edifying the reader. It is more desirable now to pass from these affecting details to view the results of the trial, in that holiness, spirituality, and consistency, to which he subsequently attained. For these throes and convulsive struggles of his energetic mind appear, in the issue, but as the birth-pains of that future eminence and stability of character, which blessed and comforted so many, and which remained unsullied and unshaken to the end of life.
Before I proceed, however, to this more pleasing part of my duty, it may not be unsuitable to introduce some circumstances connected with this early period of his public history.
About the time of his ordination, he became acquainted with that singular character, William Huntington. One of Mr. C.'s early friends introduced him to Maidenhead. He subsequently preached several times in Mr. C.'s pulpit. Although our friend was by no means satisfied with Mr. Huntington's style of preaching, nor with his religious sentiments, yet a slight acquaintance commenced, and Mr. Cooke was soon after invited to preach to Mr. H.'s congregation in Providence chapel, Titchfield-street, London. It appears from Mr. Cooke's diary, that he preached there in June 1785, being then but a young man, and Mr. Huntington rapidly rising to the very zenith of his popularity. It is, however, to be remarked in explanation of Mr. C.'s connexion with him, that Mr. H. at this period was very far from having reached that pitch of arrogance, and that extreme of doctrinal perversion to which he subsequently attained. Moreover, our friend Mr. Cooke, at that period, was in all probability, not aware of the tendency of some of Mr. H.'s errors; he was himself but a young divine, and though a powerful preacher, had as yet