« EdellinenJatka »
most happy results. His removal from the sight and influence of so unnatural a parent, could not but prove a blessing. His affections had been alienated by the total absence of every thing like paternal attention, and his feelings had often been wounded by his father's wanton cruelty and capricious severity. Many degrees nearer to decent humanity, as were his uncle and aunt, they seem to have felt for him no very large measure of tenderness, nor did their house afford a very flattering prospect, either for his health or his improvement. It was indeed an incomparably better asylum for the unprotected and neglected child, than his father's house; but it was lamentably deficient in that sort of attention, which maternal solicitude would have paid, and which the advancing years of the boy began to require. In all respects, therefore, his removal was likely to be advantageous, and we cannot but admire the providence of God, which brought it about at a juncture the most opportune and critical.
The individual who rented the farm to which John would be entitled when he came of age, was applied to by the uncle to receive the boy under his care, to educate, and afterwards bring him up to the business of his own farm. Knowing something of the wretched habits of the child's father, and pitying his tender age and forlorn situation, this person consented to the proposal, with a cheerful liberality, that did him infinite credit. The time of the child's departure for the country arrived, and on this occasion, the sensibility of his heart was excited, at the prospect of leaving the few relatives he possessed. Their cares had not been very lavishly bestowed upon him, but yet they were all the friends he had, and the thought of leaving them, though, as he was told, but for a time, gave him extreme pain. He describes his prospects at this period, as exceedingly distressing, and as producing an anguish not to be told. His situation was indeed forlorn and orphan-like, in a high degree. For, in the depth of winter, with a deep snow upon the ground, and at the age of only seven years, he was committed to the driver of a cart or waggon, to be conveyed a long and wearisome journey, to meet at the end of it, he knew not whom, and to be treated he knew not how. It was a sad and bitter day to the feelings and anticipations of the child; but it proved a deliverance from ruin, and the basis of his future respectability.
From this period, John Cooke may be looked upon as totally abandoned of his natural protectors, and as the peculiar nursling of a kind and watchful Providence. The friends
who had shewn him some degree of kindness, probably to save appearances, or for the sake of their own character, took little thought of him, from the time when they decently devolved the care of him to another; and never again resumed their anxieties, till the prospect of personal advantage, derivable from his property, presented itself as a bait to their selfishness. But the friendship which was lacking among his relatives, he found among strangers. The tenant who held his land, was an honest, tender-hearted man, who proved, under God, a father and friend to the forsaken and destitute child. When he arrived at Latchinden, according to his own expression, his "grief was inexpressible." He felt himself "a stranger in a strange land;" and though at an age the least remarkable for anything like reflection, yet he felt deeply the unhappy and forsaken condition to which he was now reduced. He had been induced to go into the country, under the delusive hope that he should return to his uncle and aunt in a fortnight; and by this promise he consoled himself for the few first days of his residence at Latchinden.
His affections, however, were soon weaned from London. Mr. Laver, his new guardian and master, behaved towards him with such "exquisite tenderness," that John Cooke soon felt towards him like his own son, and wished only to live and die with him. "Thus," says Mr. C., "when my father and mother forsook me, the Lord took me up.' Mr. Laver's affection grew with my growth, and strengthened with my strength; and he spared me, as a man spareth his own son, that serveth him.' I found in Mr. John Laver a father and mother, a friend that sticketh closer than a brother,' closer than a mother's sister (alluding to his aunt, who promised his dying mother that she would be a mother to her two boys), or even a father. The Lord gave me favour in the sight of this man, and in him, as God's agent, the fatherless John Cooke found mercy. May God reward his paternal kindness, by answering my prayers for him-the prayers of grateful anguish for his salvation. If I forget thee,' my best earthly friend, let my right hand forget her cunning.' When I walked out in the fields with Mr. Laver, I lifted up my childish heart to God in prayer, that I might live with him as many years as I trod (steps) in his footsteps, without missing one; and if I missed one, I began again, and numbered them till I was satisfied: for I loved him as I loved my own life. Come, old man,' he would say, taking me by the hand, let us go and see the sheep, or the ploughmen,' and my heart
leaped for joy at the sound. If, on any occasion, he left me a few yards, he would put his hands behind him as the signal, which I eagerly obeyed, to seize his hands again. Such actions and words were 'the cords of a man' by which I was drawn; these were the law of kindness' by which I was bound. To offend him, was to wound my own soul. I loved his commands; I loved him,' with all my heart and soul, and mind and strength.' God of my early life, this is thy due; help me, constrain me, to answer this claim."
Thus powerfully was the heart of the boy attracted to this excellent individual; and thus, at the important crisis, did God provide for him a home of peace and comfort, and an affectionate guardian, who, without any tie of consanguinity, or any sense of obligation, soon felt for him almost a father's concern. There is no doubt that Mr. Laver perceived at that early period many pleasing qualities in the child. It is highly probable that he was a boy of unusual gravity and thoughtfulness; and that the scenes of trouble he had already witnessed, and the destitution of friends and companions he had experienced, had given to his boyish heart a tender, if not a somewhat melancholy bias, which might make him unusually interesting to a man advanced in years, and who appears to have been a bachelor, and very recluse and regular in all his habits. It is certain, however, that the attachment was mutual, and that Mr. Laver derived as much pleasure from the company of the boy, as the boy did from the constant attention and kindness of his master.
Soon after his removal from the miseries and vices to which he had been exposed in London, the providence of God was kindly displayed towards him through another individual, who had no connexion with the family. This individual was a Mr. Clark, of Maldon; who, having heard that there was a friendless child, heir to the small estate at Latchinden, whose title would inevitably fail, unless some one came forward to secure it, on the appointment of a third court, when it was essential that the requisite fines should be paid, this gentleman, with a benevolence the most pure and disinterested, came forward, and paid forty pounds on behalf of the child. By this means the title was renewed, and secured for the benefit of John Cooke. The interest manifested by Mr. Clark did not cease with this act of generosity. He soon discovered the unknown object of his kindness. He sent for him, and found him to be an interesting and promising boy. About this period John was sent to a grammar-school at Maldon, partly through
the considerate and wise benevolence of this gentleman, who continued, while the boy was at school, to send frequently for him upon a Sunday afternoon; and besides shewing him much kindness, and giving him good advice, he regularly paid ten pounds a-year towards his schooling, as long as John went to Maldon.
This was an act of liberality, so noble, so completely disinterested, and so important in its results, not only to the individual, who was its immediate object, but through him to thousands of others, that we cannot but place it in a prominent station among the incidents of Mr. C.'s childhood, and mark it with a peculiar emphasis-" This was the Lord's doing;" and, in Mr. C.'s history, it was one of those important links, which shews itself to be closely connected with all his future career.
At length, when it was supposed he had acquired knowledge enough for the business of farming, he was removed from school. His years passed away in the ordinary labours of that homely, but healthful occupation. Still he had no religious impressions, and was not in a situation likely to receive any. He enjoyed, however, several very merciful deliverances from danger; which, at the time, affected and impressed his mind." At twelve years of age," he says, "I went with a young man, who was eighteen years old, to a river to learn to swim. This was the first attempt. With a strong rope across my chest, and a two-gallon bottle at each end of the string, I walked out of my depth. Feeling the bouyancy of the water, I cried to the young man. He could not swim; and in attempting to reach me, found himself in danger of being lifted from his feet." In this situation, it appears, the youth could render him no assistance without greatly endangering his own life. Providentially for John Cooke, the bottles sustained him above water, until the wind, which was strong, by degrees blew the bottles towards the shore. Had not the wind been strong enough to overcome the current, so far at least as to make the bottles flow towards the side, he must have been borne away, and in all probability would have sunk to the bottom. Another very remarkable case of providential preservation, occurred when he was only thirteen years of age. Mr. Laver had left him, one Sabbath afternoon, in the house by himself. Wanting amusement, he thought he would take his master's gun, and go into a neighbouring field of oats, to fire at a large number of rooks there collected. The rooks swarmed over his head,
and so great was their noise, that when he had pulled the trigger of his gun, he thought it had discharged its contents; and in anticipation of his exploit, imagined that he had hit some of the rooks. He then rested his gun upon the ground, and blew into the barrel to clear it, as he had seen Mr. Laver often do, when he had discharged it. But the gun was not discharged, and the instant he removed his mouth from the barrel it went off. He says, in reference to this occurrence, "I was so surprised, alarmed and shocked, that I sat down on a bank extremely sick with the fright; but never thought of God, Providence, or eternity. God speaketh once, yea twice, and man perceiveth it not."" Another instance of an equally narrow escape from sudden death, occurred when he was about fifteen. He got upon a cart, loaded with wet manure. The cart suddenly fell backwards, and himself under it. The whole weight of the load fell upon him, and in a short time he must have been suffocated, had not two men, at a considerable distance, seen the cart tip backwards and the boy upon it. They ran to his relief, and happily succeeded in removing the pressure before he was smothered.
These were memorable deliverances, but they produced only a momentary impression; like most youths, he soon lost. sight of the hand that had saved him. These providences, however, in after life, were not forgotten; they were reviewed and recorded with a lively sense of the divine goodness, and with the cheerful consecration of a life, so preserved, to the glory of God.
It is not necessary to dilate the account of Mr. Cooke's boyish years, nor to dwell on the incidents which, whether striking or common, had no marked influence in the formation of his character, and no direct or obvious connexion with his future prospects in life. Our chief object, in this part of the narrative, is to trace the leading events of his course, and especially to exhibit the hand of Providence, which kept him from the dangers of boyhood, as well as from the perils of a neglected infancy. We therefore pass over the whole period of his continuance with Mr. Laver, for this obvious and adequate reason, that beyond the incidents already noticed, it supplies no materials that could either prove interesting to the general reader, or gratifying to Mr. Cooke's friends.
I therefore come at once to the first important step, which may be said to have affected his future course through life, or to have contributed to the formation of that rare combi