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Entries in Biography (2)


Cowper speaks truth

I just began reading The Life of William Cowper, by Thomas Wright. It's an older book, originally published in 1892. 

In the chapter entitled, "The First Derangement," Wright uses Cowper's own words regarding his first major depressive episode. You can tell the book was written a long time ago. No one today would dream of referring to mental illness as a "derangement." 

Cowper describes his first bout with depression:

"In this state of mind, I continued near a twelvemonth, when, having experienced the inefficacy of all human means, I at length betook myself to God in prayer: such is the rank which our Redeemer holds in our esteem, never resorted to but in the last instance, when all creatures have failed to succour us. My hard heart was at length softened, and my stubborn knees brought to bow; I composed a set of prayers and made frequent use of them. Weak as my faith was, the Almighty, who will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, was gracious pleased to hear me."

Isn't that the truth? Isn't it all too often that we wait to bow the knee until we've exhausted all other avenues of help? Cowper recognized his own folly, and that is was a reflection of how he regarded his Redeemer.

He was also right that no matter how weak or faith, God hears us when we cry out to him.


The legacy of Jonathan Edwards

In his book Heroes, Iain Murray discusses the legacy of Jonathan Edwards.  He says that Edwards left a valuable witness to the nature of true Christian experience.  He talks at length about Edwards' legacy with regard to conversion.  Conversion to Edwards, meant a change in what he called one's "affections."  He did not mean the passing affections we may have for things, but rather those attachments which drive us.  In fact, Edwards wrote a famous book called A Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections in 1746.  Murray says:

'The affections of men,' he argues, 'are the springs of motion.'  The natural man is governed by what Edwards calls 'false affections'; he may think he has love for God but that is only because he thinks of God as profitable to him; self-interest is in control.  But the regenerate person loves God for his moral excellence, that is, his holiness.  It is holiness that appeals to the true believer, and attracts the believer, because that is his nature - he loves the way of salvation because it is a holy way; loves the commands of God because they are holy; loves heaven as world of holiness.  Holy love, as we have already noted, is the 'chief of affections' in the Christian, and this grace, Edwards shows, has one inseparable companion, namely, a humble spirit.  A person who is satisfied with his spiritual attainment, who has no longing for more grace, is not yet a Christian at all.

That person who is satisfied with his spiritual attainment is, sadly, often referred to as a "carnal Christian" in some circles.  And we assume that his desire for growth will come at some point.  We put more emphasis on our testimony of conversion than we do of the change it has wrought.  Unfortunately, my testimony can be clouded by self-deception.  That love of holiness and desire to grow seems to me to be most characteristic of a truly converted individual.