William Cowper is one of my favorite 18th English poets. He wrote with a passion that could only proceed from a heart acquainted with personal brokenness and the grace of God. Upon the death of George Whitefield, Cowper penned the following poem. Whitefield, the great contemporary evangelist and friend of Cowper, was often maligned for his unfailing conviction of the sufficiency of Scripture, his steadfast determination to never compromise on the great doctrines of Scripture, and his willingness to reach the lost by preaching the gospel in places, and with methods, that the established church disdained. The poem is entitled "God's Criminal in the Dock" and should be of great comfort for any person who has suffered for staying true to Scripture and the gospel message.
Leuconomus (beneath well-sounding Greek
I slur a name a poet must not speak)
Stood pilloried on infamy's high stage,
And bore the pelting scorn of half an age;
The very butt of slander, and the blot
For ev'ry dart that malice ever shot.
The man that mention'd him at once dismiss'd
All mercy from his lips, and sneer'd and hiss'd;
His crimes were such as Sodom never knew,
And perjury stood up to swear all true;
His aim was mischief, and his zeal presence,
His speech rebellion against common sense;
A knave, when tried on honesty's plain rule,
And, when by that of reason, a mere fool;
The world's best comfort was, his doom was pass'd
Die when he might, he must be damn'd at last.
Now, truth, perform thine office;waft aside
The curtain drawn by prejudice and pride,
Reveal (the man is dead) to wond'ring eyes
This more than monster in his proper guise.
He lov'd the world that hated him the tear
That dropp'd upon his Bible was sincere:
Assailtd by scandal and the tongue of strife,
His only answer was, a blameless life;
And he that forg'd, and he that threw, the dart,
Had each a brother's int'rest in his heart!
Paul's love of Christ, and steadiness unbrib'd,
Were copied close in him, and well transcrib'd.
He follow 'd Paul-his zeal a kindred flame,
His apostolic charity the same.
Like him, cross'd cheerfully tempestuous seas,
Forsaking country, kindred, friends, and ease;
Like him he labour'd, and, like him, content
To bear it, suffer'd shame where'er he went.
Blush, calumny! and write upon his tomb,
If honest eulogy can spare thee room,
Thy deep repentance of thy thousand lies,
Which, aim'd at him, have pierc'd th' offended skies;
And say, Blot out my sin, confess'd, deplor'd,
Against thine image in thy saint, oh Lord!
No blinder bigot, I maintain it still,
Than he who must have pleasure, come what will:
He laughs, whatever weapon truth may draw,
And deems her sharp artillery mere straw.
Scripture, indeed, is plain; but God and he,
On Scripture-ground, are sure to disagree;
Some wiser rule must teach him how to live,
Than this his Maker has seen fit to give;
Supple and flexible as Indian cane,
To take the bend his appetites ordain;
Contriv'd to suit frail nature's crazy case,
And reconcile his lusts with saving grace.
By this, with nice precision of design,
He draws upon life's map a zig-zag line,
That shows how far 'tis safe to follow sin,
And where his danger and God's wrath begin.
By this he forms, as pleas'd he sports along,
His well-pois'd estimate of right and wrong;
And finds the modish manners of the day,
Though loose, as harmless as an infant's play.
Build by whatever plan caprice decrees,
With what materials, on what ground, you please;
Your hope shall stand unblam'd, perhaps admir'd,
If not that hope the Scripture has requir'd.
The strange conceits, vain projects, and wild dreams,
With which hypocrisy for ever teems,
(Though other follies strike the public eye,
And raise a laugh) pass unmolested by;
But if, unblameable in word and thought,
A man arise-a man whom God has taught,
With all Elijah's dignity of tone,
And all the love of the beloved John-
To storm the citadels they build in air,
And smite th' untemper'd wall, 'tis death to spare;
To sweep away all refuges of lies,
And place, instead of quirks themselves devise,
Lama sabacthani before their eyes;
To prove that without Christ all gain is loss,
All hope despair, that stands not on his cross;
Except the few his God may have impress'd,
A tenfold frenzy seizes all the rest.
May God give us more such criminals.
In His Grace,