HotFreeBooks.com
The Works of John Bunyan
by John Bunyan
1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

THE WORKS OF JOHN BUNYAN

WITH AN

INTRODUCTION TO EACH TREATISE, NOTES,

AND A

SKETCH OF HIS LIFE, TIMES, AND CONTEMPORARIES.

VOLUME FIRST.

EXPERIMENTAL, DOCTRINAL, AND PRACTICAL.

EDITED BY

GEORGE OFFOR, ESQ.



MEMOIR OF JOHN BUNYAN

THE FIRST PERIOD.

THIS GREAT MAN DESCENDED FROM IGNOBLE PARENTS—BORN IN POVERTY—HIS EDUCATION AND EVIL HABITS—FOLLOWS HIS FATHER'S BUSINESS AS A BRAZIER—ENLISTS FOR A SOLDIER—RETURNS FROM THE WARS AND OBTAINS AN AMIABLE, RELIGIOUS WIFE—HER DOWER.

'We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.'—2 Cor 4:7

'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.'—Isaiah 55:8.

'Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.'—Psalm 68:13.

When the Philistine giant, Goliath, mocked the host of Israel, and challenged any of their stern warriors to single combat, what human being could have imagined that the gigantic heathen would be successfully met in the mortal struggle by a youth 'ruddy and of a fair countenance?' who unarmed, except with a sling and a stone, gave the carcases of the hosts of the Philistines to the fouls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth.'

Who, upon seeing an infant born in a stable, and laid in a manger, or beholding him when a youth working with his father as a carpenter, could have conceived that he was the manifestation of the Deity in human form, before whom every knee should bow, and every tongue confess Him to be THE ETERNAL?

Father Michael, a Franciscan friar, on a journey to Ancona, having lost his way, sought direction from a wretched lad keeping hogs—deserted, forlorn, his back smarting with severe stripes, and his eyes suffused with tears. The poor ragged boy not only went cheerfully with him to point out his road, but besought the monk to take him into his convent, volunteering to fulfill the most degrading services, in the hope of procuring a little learning, and escaping from 'those filthy hogs.' How incredulously would the friar have listened to anyone who could have suggested that this desolate, tattered, dirty boy, might and would fill a greater than an imperial throne! Yet, eventually that swine-herd was clothed in purple and fine linen, and, under the title of Pope Sixtus V., became one of those mighty magicians who are described in Rogers Italy, as

'Setting their feet upon the necks of kings, And through the worlds subduing, chaining down The free, immortal spirit—theirs a wondrous spell.' [1]

A woman that was 'a loose and ungodly wretch' hearing a tinker lad most awfully cursing and swearing, protested to him that 'he swore and cursed at that most fearful rate that it made her tremble to hear him,' 'that he was the ungodliest fellow for swearing that ever she heard in all her life,' and 'that he was able to spoil all the youth in a whole town, if they came in his company.' This blow at the young reprobate made that indelible impression which all the sermons yet he had heard had failed to make. Satan, by one of his own slaves, wounded a conscience which had resisted all the overtures of mercy. The youth pondered her words in his heart; they were good seed strangely sown, and their working formed one of those mysterious steps which led the foul-mouthed blasphemer to bitter repentance; who, when he had received mercy and pardon, felt impelled to bless and magnify the Divine grace with shining, burning thoughts and words. The poor profligate, swearing tinker became transformed into the most ardent preacher of the love of Christ—the well-trained author of The Jerusalem Sinner Saved, or Good News to the Vilest of Men.

How often have the Saints of God been made a most unexpected blessing to others. The good seed of Divine truth has been many times sown by those who did not go out to sow, but who were profitably engaged in cultivating their own graces, enjoying the communion of Saints, and advancing their own personal happiness! Think of a few poor, but pious happy women, sitting in the sun one beautiful summer's day, before one of their cottages, probably each one with her pillow on her lap, dexterously twisting the bobbins to make lace, the profits of which helped to maintain their children. While they are communing on the things of God, a traveling tinker draws near, and, over-hearing their talk, takes up a position where he might listen to their converse while he pursued his avocation. Their words distil into his soul; they speak the language of Canaan; they talk of holy enjoyments, the result of being born again, acknowledging their miserable state by nature, and how freely and undeservedly God had visited their hearts with pardoning mercy, and supported them while suffering the assaults and suggestions of Satan; how they had been borne up in every dark, cloudy, stormy day; and how they contemned, slighted, and abhorred their own righteousness as filthy and insufficient to do them any good. The learned discourses our tinker had heard at church had casually passed over his mind like evanescent clouds, and left little or no lasting impression. But these poor women, 'methought they spake as actually did make them speak; they speak with such pleasant as of Scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new world, as if they were people that dwelt alone, and were not to be reckoned among their neighbors' (Num 23:9).

O! how little did they imagine that their pious converse was to be the means employed by the Holy Spirit in the conversion of that poor tinker, and that, by their agency, he was to be transformed into one of the brightest luminaries of heaven; who, when he had entered into rest would leave his works to follow him as spiritual thunder to pierce the hearts of the impenitent, and as heavenly consolation to bind up the broken-hearted; liberating the prisoners of Giant Despair, and directing the pilgrims to the Celestial City. Thus were blessings in rich abundance showered down upon the church by the instrumentality, in the first instance, of a woman that was a sinner, but most eminently by the Christian converse of a few poor but pious women.

This poverty-stricken, ragged tinker was the son of a working mechanic at Elstow, near Bedford. So obscure was his origin that even the Christian name of his father is yet unknown:[2] he was born in 1628, a year memorable as that in which the Bill of Rights was passed. Then began the struggle against arbitrary power, which was overthrown in 1688, the year of Bunyan's death, by the accession of William III. Of Bunyan's parents, his infancy, and childhood, little is recorded. All that we know is from his own account, and that principally contained in his doctrine of the Law and Grace, and in his extraordinary development of his spiritual life, under the title of Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. His birth would have shed a luster on the wealthiest mansion, and have imparted additional grandeur to any lordly palace. Had royal or noble gossips, and a splendid entertainment attended his christening, it might have been pointed to with pride; but so obscure was his birth, that it has not been discovered that he was christened at all; while the fact of his new birth by the Holy Ghost is known over the whole world to the vast extent that his writings have been circulated. He entered this world in a labourer's cottage of the humblest class, at the village of Elstow, about a mile from Bedford.[3] His pedigree is thus narrated by himself:—'My descent was of a low and inconsiderable generation, my father's house being of that rank that is meanest and most despised of all the families in the land.'[4] Bunyan alludes to this very pointedly in the preface to A Few Sighs from Hell:—'I am thine, if thou be not ashamed to own me, because of my low and contemptible descent in the world.'[5] His poor and abject parentage was so notorious, that his pastor, John Burton, apologized for it in his recommendation to The Gospel Truths Opened:—'Be not offended because Christ holds forth the glorious treasure of the gospel to thee in a poor earthen vessel, by one who hath neither the greatness nor the wisdom of this world to commend him to thee.'[6] And in his most admirable treatise, on The Fear of God, Bunyan observes—'The poor Christian hath something to answer them that reproach him for his ignoble pedigree, and shortness of the glory of the wisdom of this world. True may that man say I am taken out of the dunghill. I was born in a base and low estate; but I fear God. This is the highest and most noble; he hath the honour, the life, and glory that is lasting.'[7] In his controversy with the Strict Baptists, he chides them for reviling his ignoble pedigree:—'You closely disdain my person because of my low descent among men, stigmatizing me as a person of THAT rank that need not be heeded or attended unto.'[8] He inquired of his father—'Whether we were of the Israelites or no? for, finding in the Scripture that they were once the peculiar people of God, thought I, if I were one of this race, my soul must needs be happy.'[9] This somewhat justifies the conclusion that his father was a Gipsy tinker, that occupation being then followed by the Gipsy tribe. In the life of Bunyan appended to the forged third part of the Pilgrim's Progress, his father is described as 'an honest poor labouring man, who, like Adam unparadised, had all the world before him to get his bread in; and was very careful and industrious to maintain his family.'[10]

Happily for Bunyan, he was born in a neighbourhood in which it was a disgrace to any parents not to have their children educated. With gratitude he records, that 'it pleased God to put it into their hearts to put me to school to learn both to read and to write.' In the neighbourhood of his birthplace, a noble charity diffused the blessings of lettered knowledge.[11] To this charity Bunyan was for a short period indebted for the rudiments of education; but, alas, evil associates made awful havoc of those slight unshapen literary impressions which had been made upon a mind boisterous and impatient of discipline. He says—'To my shame, I confess I did soon lose that little I learned, and that almost utterly.'[12] This fact will recur to the reader's recollection when he peruses Israel's Hope Encouraged, in which, speaking of the all-important doctrine of justification, he says—'It is with many that begin with this doctrine as it is with boys that go to the Latin school; they learn till they have learned the grounds of their grammar, and then go home and forget all.'[13]

As soon as his strength enabled him, he devoted his whole soul and body to licentiousness—'As for my own natural life, for the time that I was without God in the world, it was indeed according to the course of this world, and the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. It was my delight to be taken captive by the devil at his will: being filled with all unrighteousness; that from a child I had but few equals, both for cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming the holy name of God.'[14]

It has been supposed, that in delineating the early career of Badman, 'Bunyan drew the picture of his own boyhood.'[15] But the difference is broadly given. Badman is the child of pious parents, who gave him a 'good education' in every sense, both moral and secular;[16] the very reverse of Bunyan's training. His associates would enable him to draw the awful character and conduct of Badman, as a terrible example to deter others from the downward road to misery and perdition.

Bunyan's parents do not appear to have checked, or attempted to counteract, his unbridled career of wickedness. He gives no hint of the kind; but when he notices his wife's father, he adds that he 'was counted godly'; and in his beautiful nonsectarian catechism, there is a very touching conclusion to his instructions to children on their behaviour to their parents:—'The Lord, if it be his will, convert our poor parents, that they, with us, may be the children of God.'[17] These fervent expressions may refer to his own parents; and, connecting them with other evidence, it appears that he was not blessed with pious example. Upon one occasion, when severely reproved for swearing, he says—'I wished, with all my heart, that I might be a little child again, that my father might learn me to speak without this wicked way of swearing.'[18] In his numerous confessions, he never expresses pain at having, by his vicious conduct, occasioned grief to his father or mother. From this it may be inferred, that neither his father's example nor precept had checked this wretched propensity to swearing, and that he owed nothing to his parents for moral training; but, on the contrary, they had connived at, and encouraged him in, a course of life which made him a curse to the neighbourhood in which he lived.

In the midst of all this violent depravity, the Holy Spirit began the work of regeneration in his soul—a long, a solemn, yea, an awful work—which was to fit this poor debauched youth for purity of conduct—for communion with heaven—for wondrous usefulness as a minister of the gospel—for patient endurance of sufferings for righteousness' sake—for the writing of works which promise to be a blessing to the Church in all ages—for his support during his passage through the black river which has no bridge—to shine all bright and glorious, as a star in the firmament of heaven. 'Wonders of grace to God belong.'

During the period of his open profligacy, his conscience was ill at ease; at times the clanking of Satan's slavish chains in which he was hurrying to destruction, distracted him. The stern reality of a future state clouded and embittered many of those moments employed in gratifying his baser passions. The face of the eventful times in which he lived was rapidly changing; the trammels were loosened, which, with atrocious penalties, had fettered all free inquiry into religious truth. Puritanism began to walk upright; and as the restraints imposed upon Divine truths were taken off, in the same proportion restraints were imposed upon impiety, profaneness, and debauchery. A ringleader in all wickedness would not long continue without reproof, either personally, or as seen in the holy conduct of others. Bunyan very properly attributed to a gracious God, those checks of conscience which he so strongly felt even while he was apparently dead in trespasses and sins. 'The Lord, even in my childhood, did scare and affright me with fearful dreams, and did terrify me with dreadful visions.'[19] 'I often wished that there had been no hell, or that I had been a devil to torment others.' A common childish but demoniac idea. His mind was as 'the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.' 'A while after, these terrible dreams did leave me; and with more greediness, according to the strength of nature, I did let loose the reins of my lusts, and delighted in all transgression against the law of God.' 'I was the very ringleader of all the youth that kept me company, into ALL MANNER of vice and ungodliness.'[20]

Dr. Southey and others have attempted to whiten this blackamore, but the veil that they throw over him is so transparent that it cannot deceive those who are in the least degree spiritually enlightened. He alleges that Bunyan, in his mad career of vice and folly, 'was never so given over to a reprobate mind,'[21] as to be wholly free from compunctions of conscience. This is the case with every depraved character; but he goes further, when he asserts that 'Bunyan's heart never was hardened.'[22] This is directly opposed to his description of himself:—'I found within me a great desire to take my fill of sin, still studying what sin was yet to be committed; and I made as much haste as I could to fill my belly with its delicates, lest I should die before I had my desire.' He thus solemnly adds, 'In these things, I protest before God, I lie not, neither do I feign this sort of speech; these were really, strongly, and with all my heart, my desires; the good Lord, whose mercy is unsearchable, forgive me my transgressions.' The whole of his career, from childhood to manhood, was, 'According to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience' (Eph 2:2).

These reminiscences are alluded to in the prologue of the Holy War:—

'When Mansoul trampled upon things Divine, And wallowed in filth as doth a swine, Then I was there, and did rejoice to see Diabolus and Mansoul so agree.'

The Laureate had read this, and yet considers it the language of a heart that 'never was hardened.' He says that 'the wickedness of the tinker has been greatly overcharged, and it is taking the language of self-accusation too literally to pronounce of John Bunyan, that he was at any time depraved. The worst of what he was in his worst days is to be expressed in a single word, the full meaning of which no circumlocution can convey; and which, though it may hardly be deemed presentable in serious composition, I shall use, as Bunyan himself (no mealy-mouthed writer) would have used it, had it in his days borne the same acceptation in which it is now universally understood;—in that word then, he had been a blackguard.

The very head and front of his offending Hath this extent—no more.'[23]

The meaning of the epithet is admirably explained; but what could Dr. Southey imagine possible to render such a character more vile in the sight of God, or a greater pest to society? Is there any vicious propensity, the gratification of which is not included in that character? Bunyan's estimate of his immorality and profaneness prior to his conversion, was not made by comparing himself with the infinitely Holy One, but he measured his conduct by that of his more moral neighbours. In his Jerusalem Sinner Saved, he pleads with great sinners, the outwardly and violently profane and vicious, that if HE had received mercy, and had become regenerated, they surely ought not to despair, but to seek earnestly for the same grace. He thus describes himself:—'I speak by experience; I was one of those great sin-breeders; I infected all the youth of the town where I was born; the neighbours counted me so, my practice proved me so: wherefore, Christ Jesus took me first; and, taking me first, the contagion was much allayed all the town over. When God made me sigh, they would hearken, and inquiringly say, What's the matter with John? When I went out to seek the bread of life, some of them would follow, and the rest be put into a muse at home. Some of them, perceiving that God had mercy upon me, came crying to him for mercy too.'[24] Can any one, in the face of such language, doubt that he was most eminently 'a brand snatched from the fire'; a pitchy burning brand, known and seen as such by all who witnessed his conduct? He pointedly exemplified the character set forth by James, 'the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity, set on fire of hell' (James 3:6). This was as publicly known before his conversion, as the effects of the wondrous change were openly seen in his Christian career afterwards. He who, when convinced of sin, strained his eyes to see the distant shining light over the wicket-gate, after he had gazed upon

—'The wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died,'

became a luminous beacon, to attract the vilest characters to seek newness of life; and if there be hope for them, no one ought to despair. Far be it from us to cloud this light, or to tarnish so conspicuous an example. Like a Magdalene or a thief on the cross, his case may be exhibited to encourage hope in every returning prodigal. During this period of his childhood, while striving to harden his heart against God, many were the glimmerings of light which from time to time directed his unwilling eyes to a dread eternity. In the still hours of the night 'in a dream God opened' his ears[25]—the dreadful vision was that 'devils and wicked spirits laboured to draw me away with them.' These thoughts must have left a deep and alarming impression upon his mind; for he adds, 'of which I could never be rid.'[26]

The author of his life, published in 1692, who was one of his personal friends, gives the following account of Bunyan's profligacy, and his checks of conscience:—'He himself hath often, since his conversion, confessed with horror, that when he was but a child or stripling, he had but few equals for lying, swearing, and blaspheming God's holy name—living without God in the world; the thoughts of which, when he, by the light of Divine grace, came to understand his dangerous condition, drew many showers of tears from his sorrowful eyes, and sighs from his groaning heart. The first thing that sensibly touched him in this his unregenerate state, were fearful dreams, and visions of the night, which often made him cry out in his sleep, and alarm the house, as if somebody was about to murder him, and being waked, he would start, and stare about him with such a wildness, as if some real apparition had yet remained; and generally those dreams were about evil spirits, in monstrous shapes and forms, that presented themselves to him in threatening postures, as if they would have taken him away, or torn him in pieces. At some times they seemed to belch flame, at other times a continuous smoke, with horrible noises and roaring. Once he dreamed he saw the face of the heavens, as it were, all on fire; the firmament crackling and shivering with the noise of mighty thunders, and an archangel flew in the midst of heaven, sounding a trumpet, and a glorious throne was seated in the east, whereon sat one in brightness, like the morning star, upon which he, thinking it was the end of the world, fell upon his knees, and, with uplifted hands towards heaven, cried, O Lord God, have mercy upon me! What shall I do, the day of judgment is come, and I am not prepared! When immediately he heard a voice behind him, exceeding loud, saying, Repent. At another time he dreamed that he was in a pleasant place, jovial and rioting, banqueting and feasting his senses, when a mighty earthquake suddenly rent the earth, and made a wide gap, out of which came bloody flames, and the figures of men tossed up in globes of fire, and falling down again with horrible cries, shrieks, and execrations, whilst some devils that were mingled with them, laughed aloud at their torments; and whilst he stood trembling at this sight, he thought the earth sunk under him, and a circle of flame enclosed him; but when he fancied he was just at the point to perish, one in white shining raiment descended, and plucked him out of that dreadful place; whilst the devils cried after him, to leave him with them, to take the just punishment his sins had deserved, yet he escaped the danger, and leaped for joy when he awoke and found it was a dream.'

Such dreams as these fitted him in after life to be the glorious dreamer of the Pilgrim's Progress, in which a dream is told which doubtless embodies some of those which terrified him in the night visions of his youth.

In the interpreter's house he is 'led into a chamber where there was one rising out of bed, and as he put on his raiment he shook and trembled. Then said Christian, Why doth this man thus tremble? The Interpreter then bid him tell to Christian the reason of his so doing. So he began and said, This night, as I was in my sleep I dreamed, and behold the heavens grew exceeding black; also it thundered and lightened in most fearful wise, that it put me into an agony. So I looked up in my dream, and saw the clouds rack at an unusual rate, upon which I heard a great sound of a trumpet, and saw also a man sit upon a cloud, attended with the thousands of heaven—they were all in flaming fire; also the heavens were in a burning flame. I heard then a voice saying, "Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment;" and with that the rocks rent, the graves opened, and the dead that were therein came forth. Some of them were exceeding glad, and looked upward; and some sought to hide themselves under the mountains. Then I saw the man that sat upon the cloud open the book, and bid the world draw near. Yet there was, by reason of a fierce flame which issued out and came from before him, a convenient distance betwixt him and them, as betwixt the judge and prisoners at the bar. I heard it also proclaimed, "Gather together the tares, the chaff, and stubble, and cast them into the burning lake"; and with that the bottomless pit opened just whereabout I stood, out of the mouth of which there came, in an abundant manner, smoke and coals of fire, with hideous noises. It was also said, "Gather my wheat into the garner"; and with that I saw many catched up and carried away into the clouds, but I was left behind. I also sought to hide myself, but I could not, for the man that sat upon the cloud still kept his eye upon me; my sins also came into my mind, and my conscience did accuse me on every side. Upon that I awaked from my sleep.'

No laboured composition could have produced such a dream as this. It flows in such dream-like order as would lead us to infer, that the author who narrates it had, when a boy, heard the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew read at church, and the solemn impression following him at night assisted in producing a dream which stands, and perhaps will ever stand, unrivalled.

Awful as must have been these impressions upon his imagination, they were soon thrown off, and the mad youth rushed on in his desperate career of vice and folly. Is he then left to fill up the measure of his iniquities? No, the Lord has a great work for him to do. HIS hand is not shortened that he cannot save. Bunyan has to be prepared for his work; and if terrors will not stop him, manifested mercies in judgments are to be tried.

'God did not utterly leave me, but followed me still, not now with convictions, but judgments; yet such as were mixed with mercy. For once I fell into a creek of the sea, and hardly escaped drowning. Another time I fell out of a boat into Bedford river, but mercy yet preserved me alive. Besides, another time, being in the field with one of my companions, it chanced that an adder passed over the highway, so I, having a stick in my hand, struck her over the back; and having stunned her, I forced open her mouth with my stick, and plucked her sting out with my fingers; by which act, had not God been merciful unto me, I might by my desperateness have brought myself to my end.

'This also have I taken notice of, with thanksgiving. When I was a soldier, I, with others, were drawn out to go to such a place to besiege it; but when I was just ready to go, one of the company desired to go in my room, to which, when I had consented, he took my place; and coming to the siege, as he stood sentinel, he was shot into the head with a musket bullet, and died.'[27]

In addition to these mercies recorded by his own pen, one of his friends asserts that he acknowledged his deep obligations to Divine mercy for being saved when he fell into an exceeding deep pit, as he was traveling in the dark; for having been preserved in sickness; and also for providential goodness that such a sinner was sustained with food and raiment, even to his own admiration.

Bunyan adds, 'Here were judgments and mercy, but neither of them did awaken my soul to righteousness'; wherefore I sinned still, and grew more and more rebellious against God, and careless of mine own salvation.'[28]

That such a scape-grace should enter the army can occasion no surprise. His robust, hardy frame, used to exposure in all weathers—his daring courage, as displayed in his perilous dealing with the adder, bordering upon fool-hardiness—his mental depravity and immoral habits, fitted him for all the military glory of rapine and desolation. In his Grace Abounding he expressly states that this took place before his marriage, while his earliest biographer places this event some years after his marriage, and even argues upon it, as a reason why he became a soldier, that 'when the unnatural civil war came on, finding little or nothing to do to support himself and small family, he, as many thousands did, betook himself to arms.'[29] The same account states that, 'in June, 1645, being at the siege of Leicester, he was called out to be one who was to make a violent attack upon the town, vigorously defended by the King's forces against the Parliamentarians, but appearing to the officer who was to command them to be somewhat awkward in handling his arms, another voluntarily, and as it were thrust himself into his place, who, having the same post that was designed Mr. Bunyan, met his fate by a carbine-shot from the wall; but this little or nothing startled our too secure sinner at that time; for being now in an army where wickedness abounded, he was the more hardened.'

Thus we find Bunyan engaged in military affairs. There can be no doubt but that he was a soldier prior to his marriage, and that he was present at the siege of Leicester; but it is somewhat strange (if true) that he should have preferred the Parliamentary to the Royal army. Although this is a question that cannot be positively decided without further evidence than has yet been discovered, there are strong reasons for thinking that so loyal a man joined the Royal army, and not that of the Republicans.

The army into which Bunyan entered is described as being 'where wickedness abounded,' but, according to Hume, in this year the Republican troops were generally pious men.

Bunyan's loyalty was so remarkable as to appear to be natural to him; for even after he had so severely suffered from the abuse of kingly power, in interfering with the Divine prerogative of appointing modes of worship, he, who feared the face of no man—who never wrote a line to curry favour with any man or class of men—thus expresses his loyal feelings—'I do confess myself one of the old-fashioned professors, that covet to fear God, and honour the king. I also am for blessing of them that curse me, for doing good to them that hate me, and for praying for them that despitefully use me and persecute me; and have had more peace in the practice of these things than all the world are aware of.' 'Pray for the long life of the king.' 'Pray that God would discover all plots and conspiracies against his person and government.'[30] 'Will you rebel against the king? is a word that shakes the world.'[31] 'Pray for all that are in authority; reproach not the governor, he is set over thee; all his ways are God's, either for thy help or the trial of thy graces—this is duty, will render thee lovely to thy friends, terrible to thine enemies, serviceable as a Christian.'[32] 'Let kings have that fear, honour, reverence, worship that is due to their place, their office and dignity.' 'I speak it to show my loyalty to the king, and my love to my fellow-subjects.'[33] With such proofs of his peaceful submission to government in all things that touched not the prerogatives of God; it would have been marvelous indeed if he had taken up arms against his king. His infatuated delight in swearing, and roisterous habits, were ill suited to the religious restraints of the Parliamentarians, while they would render him a high prize to Rupert's dragoons. Add to this, the remarkable fact, that Leicester was besieged and stormed with terrible slaughter by the king, but not by the army of the Parliament. The taking of Leicester by the king in person was attended with great cruelties. The abbey was burnt by the cavaliers. Rupert's black flag was hoisted on the gate which had been treacherously given up. Every Scotchman found in the town was murdered. The mace and town seals were carried off as plunder; and, if the account given by Thoresby in his History of Leicester is correct, the scene of carnage was quite enough to sicken Bunyan of a military life. He knew the mode in which plunder taken from the bodies of the slain was divided by the conquerors:—

'Or as the soldiers give unto Each man the share and lot, Which they by dint of sword have won, From their most daring foe; While he lies by as still as stone, Not knowing what they do.'[34]

'The king's forces having made their batteries, stormed Leicester; those within made stout resistance, but some of them betrayed one of the gates; the women of the town laboured in making up the breaches, and in great danger. The king's forces having entered the town, had a hot encounter in the market-place; and many of them were slain by shot out of the windows, that they gave no quarter, but hanged some of the committee, and cut others to pieces. Some letters say that the kennels ran down with blood; Colonel Gray the governor, and Captain Hacker, were wounded and taken prisoners, and very many of the garrison were put to the sword, and the town miserably plundered. The king's forces killed divers who prayed quarter, and put divers women to the sword,[35] and other women and children they turned naked into the streets, and many they ravished. They hanged Mr. Reynor and Mr. Sawyer in cold blood; and at Wighton they smothered Mrs. Barlowes, a minister's wife, and her children.'[36]

Lord Clarendon admits the rapine and plunder, and that the king regretted that some of his friends suffered with the rest.[37] Humphrey Brown deposed that he was present when the garrison, having surrendered upon a promise of quarter, he saw the king's soldiers strip and wound the prisoners, and heard the king say—'cut them more, for they are mine enemies.' A national collection was made for the sufferers, by an ordinance bearing date the 28th October, 1645, which states that—'Whereas it is very well known what miseries befell the inhabitants of the town and county of Leicester, when the king's army took Leicester, by plundering the said inhabitants, not only of their wares in their shops, but also all their household goods, and their apparel from their backs, both of men, women, and children, not sparing, in that kind, infants in their cradles; and, by violent courses and tortures, compelled them to discover whatsoever they had concealed or hid, and after all they imprisoned their persons, to the undoing of the tradesmen, and the ruin of many of the country.'

Can we wonder that 'the king was abused as a barbarian and a murderer, for having put numbers to death in cold blood after the garrison had surrendered; and for hanging the Parliament's committee, and some Scots found in that town?' The cruelties practiced in the king's presence were signally punished. He lost 709 men on that occasion, and it infused new vigour into the Parliament's army. The battle of Naseby was fought a few days after; the numbers of the contending forces were nearly equal; the royal troops were veterans, commanded by experienced officers; but the God of armies avenged the innocent blood shed in Leicester, and the royal army was cut to pieces; carriages, cannon, the king's cabinet, full of treasonable correspondence, were taken, and from that day he made feeble fight, and soon lost his crown and his life. The conquerors marched to Leicester, which surrendered by capitulation. Heath, in his Chronicle, asserts that 'no life was lost at the retaking of Leicester.' Many of Bunyan's sayings and proverbs are strongly tinged with the spirit of Rupert's dragoons—'as we say, blood up to the ears.'[38] 'What can be the meaning of this (trumpeters), they neither sound boot and saddle, nor horse and away, nor a charge?'[39] In his allegories when he alludes to fighting, it is with the sword and not with the musket;[40] 'rub up man, put on thy harness.'[41] 'The father's sword in the hand of the sucking child is not able to conquer a foe.'[42]

Considering his singular loyalty, which, during the French Revolution, was exhibited as a pattern to Dissenters by an eminent Baptist minister; [43] considering also his profligate character and military sayings, it is very probable that Bunyan was in the king's army in 1645, being about seventeen years of age. It was a finishing school to the hardened sinner, which enabled him, in his account of the Holy War, so well to describe every filthy lane and dirty street in the town of Mansoul.

Whether Bunyan left the army when Charles was routed at the battle of Naseby, or was discharged, is not known. He returned to his native town full of military ideas, which he used to advantage in his Holy War. He was not reformed, but hardened in sin, and, although at times alarmed with convictions of the danger of his soul, yet in the end, the flesh pleading powerfully, it prevailed; and he made a resolution to indulge himself in such carnal delights and pleasures as he was accustomed to, or that fell in his way. 'His neglecting his business, and following gaming and sports, to put melancholy thoughts out of his mind, which he could not always do, had rendered him very poor and despicable.'[44]

In this forlorn and miserable state, he was induced, by the persuasion of friends, under the invisible guidance of God, to enter into the marriage state. Such a youth, then only twenty years of age, would naturally be expected to marry some young woman as hardened as himself, but he made a very different choice. His earliest biographer says, with singular simplicity, 'his poverty, and irregular course of life, made it very difficult for him to get a wife suitable to his inclination; and because none that were rich would yield to his allurements, he found himself constrained to marry one without any fortune, though very virtuous, loving, and conformably obedient and obliging, being born of good, honest, godly parents, who had instructed her, as well as they were able, in the ways of truth and saving knowledge.'[45] The idea of his seeking a rich wife is sufficiently droll; he must have been naturally a persuasive lover, to have gained so good a helpmate. They were not troubled with sending cards, cake, or gloves, nor with the ceremony of receiving the visits of their friends in state; for he says, that 'This woman and I came together as poor as poor might be, not having so much household stuff as a dish or spoon betwixt us both.'[46] His wife had two books, The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven, and The Practice of Piety; but what was of more importance than wealth or household stuff, she had that seed sown in her heart which no thief could steal.[47] She enticed and persuaded him to read those books. To do this he by application 'again recovered his reading, which he had almost lost.' His wife became an unspeakable blessing to him. She presents a pattern to any woman, who, having neglected the apostolic injunction not to be unequally yoked, finds herself under the dominion of a swearing dare devil. It affords a lovely proof of the insinuating benign favour of female influence. This was the more surprising, as he says, 'the thoughts of religion were very grievous to me,' and when 'books that concerned Christian piety were read in my hearing, it was as it were a prison to me.' In spite of all obstacles, his rugged heart was softened by her tenderness and obedience, he 'keeping on the old course,'[48] she upon every proper season teaching him how her father's piety secured his own and his family's happiness. Here was no upbraiding, no snubbing, no curtain lectures; all was affectionate, amiable mildness. At first, he became occasionally alarmed for his soul's salvation; then with the thought of having sinned away the day of grace, he plunged again into sin with greediness; anon a faint hope of mercy would fill him with fear and trembling. But this leads us to the wondrous narrative of his new birth.

THE SECOND PERIOD.

THE INTERNAL CONFLICT, OR BUNYAN'S CONVICTIONS AND CONVERSION.

All nature is progressive; if an infant was suddenly to arrive at manhood, how idiotic and dangerous he would be! A long training is essential to fit the human being for the important duties of life; and just so is it in the new birth to spiritual existence—first a babe, then the young man; at length the full stature, and at last the experienced Christian.

The narrative of Bunyan's progress in his conversion is, without exception, the most astonishing of any that has been published. It is well calculated to excite the profoundest investigation of the Christian philosopher. Whence came those sudden suggestions, those gloomy fears, those heavenly rays of joy? Much learning certainly did not make him mad. The Christian dares not attribute his intense feelings to a distempered brain. Whence came the invisible power that struck Paul from his horse? Who was it that scared Job with dreams, and terrified him with visions? What messenger of Satan buffeted Paul? Who put 'a new song' into the mouth of David? We have no space in this short memoir to attempt the drawing a line between convictions of sin and the terrors of a distempered brain. Bunyan's opinions upon this subject are deeply interesting, and are fully developed in his Holy War. The capabilities of the soul to entertain vast armies of thoughts, strong and feeble, represented as men, women, and children, are so great as almost to perplex the strongest understanding. All these multitudes of warriors are the innumerable thoughts—the strife—in ONE soul. Upon such a subject an interesting volume might be written. But we must fix our attention upon the poor tinker who was the subject of this wondrous war.

The tender and wise efforts of Mrs. Bunyan to reclaim her husband, were attended by the Divine blessing, and soon led to many resolutions, on his part, to curb his sinful propensities and to promote an outward reformation; his first effort was regularly to attend Divine worship.

He says, 'I fell in very eagerly with the religion of the times, to wit, to go to church twice a-day, and that too with the foremost; and there should very devoutly both say and sing as others did, yet retaining my wicked life; but withal, I was so overrun with a spirit of superstition, that I adored, and that with great devotion, even all things, both the high-place, priest, clerk, vestment, service, and what else belonging to the Church; counting all things holy that were therein contained, and especially, the priest and clerk most happy, and without doubt greatly blessed, because they were the servants, as I then thought,[49] of God, and were principal in the holy temple, to do his work therein. This conceit grew so strong in little time upon my spirit, that had I but seen a priest, though never so sordid and debauched in his life,[50] I should find my spirit fall under him, reverence him, and knit unto him; yea, I thought, for the love I did bear unto them, supposing they were the ministers of God, I could have lain down at their feet, and have been trampled upon by them; their name, their garb, and work did so intoxicate and bewitch me.'

All this took place at the time when The Book of Common Prayer, having been said to occasion 'manifold inconveniency,' was, by an Act of Parliament, 'abolished,'[51] and by a subsequent Act[52] prohibited, under severe penalties, from being publicly used. The 'manifold inconveniences' to which the Act refers, arose from differences of opinion as to the propriety of the form which had been enforced, heightened by the enormous cruelties practiced upon multitudes who refused to use it. Opposition to the English Liturgy as more combined in Scotland, by a covenant entered into, June 20, 1580, by the king, lords, nobles, and people, against Popery; and upon Archbishop Laud's attempt, in 1637, to impose the service-book upon our northern neighbours, tumults and bloodshed ensued; until, in 1643, a new and very solemn league and covenant was entered into, which, in 1645, extended its influence to England, being subscribed by thousands of our best citizens, with many of the nobility—'wherein we all subscribe, and each with his own hands lifted up to the Most High God, doe swear'; that being the mode of taking an oath, instead of kissing the cover of a book, as is now practiced. To the cruel and intemperate measures of Laud, and the zeal of Charles, for priestly domination over conscience, may be justly attributed the wars which desolated the country, while the solemn league and covenant brought an overwhelming force to aid the Parliament in redressing the grievances of the kingdom. During the Commonwealth there was substituted, in place of the Common Prayer, A directory for the Publique Worship of God, and the uniformity which was enjoined in it was like that of the Presbyterians and Dissenters of the present day. The people having assembled, and been exhorted to reverence and humility, joined the preacher in prayer. He then read portions of Scripture, with or without an exposition, as he judged it necessary, but not so as to render the service tedious. After singing a psalm, the minister prayed, leading the people to mourn under a sense of sin, and to hunger and thirst after the grace of God, in Jesus Christ; an outline or abstract is given of the subject of public prayer, and similar instructions are given as to the sermon or paraphrase. Immediately after the sermon, prayer was again offered up, and after the outline that is given of this devotional exercise, it is noted, 'And because the prayer which Christ taught his disciples, is not only a pattern of prayer, but itself a most comprehensive prayer, we recommend it also to be used in the prayers of the Church.' This being ended, a psalm was sung, and the minister dismissed the congregation with a solemn blessing.[53] Some of the clergy continued the use of prayers, contained in the liturgy, reciting, instead of reading them—a course that was not objected to. This was the form of service which struck Bunyan with such awe and reverence, leaving a very solemn impression upon his mind, which the old form of common prayer had never produced.

Bunyan was fond of athletic sports, bell-ringing, and dancing; and in these he had indulged, so far as his worldly calling allowed. Charles I, whether to promote Popery—to divert his subjects from political grievances—or to punish the Puritans, had endeavoured to drown their serious thoughts in a vortex of dissipation, by re-publishing the Book of Sports, to be used on Sundays. That 'after Divine service our good people be not disturbed, letted, or discouraged from dancing, either men or women; archery, leaping, vaulting, or any other such harmless recreations; May games, Whitsun-ales, Morris dances, May poles, and other sports.' But this was not all, for every 'Puritan and Precisian was to be constrained to conformity with these sports, or to leave their country.' The same severe penalty was enforced upon every clergyman who refused to read from his pulpit the Book of Sports, and to persuade the people thus to desecrate the Lord's-day. 'Many hundred godly ministers were suspended from their ministry, sequestered, driven from their livings, excommunicated, prosecuted in the high commission court, and forced to leave the kingdom for not publishing this declaration.'[54] A little gleam of heavenly light falls upon those dark and gloomy times, from the melancholy fact that nearly eight hundred conscientious clergymen were thus wickedly persecuted. This was one of the works of Laud, who out-bonnered Bonner himself in his dreadful career of cruelty, while making havoc of the church of Christ. Even transportation for refusing obedience to such diabolical laws was not the greatest penalty; in some cases it was followed by the death of the offender. The punishments inflicted for nonconformity were accompanied by the most refined and barbarous cruelties. Still many of the learned bowed their necks to this yoke with abject servility: thus, Robert Powell, speaking of the Book of Sports, says, 'Needless is it to argue or dispute for that which authority hath commanded, and most insufferable insolence to speak or write against it.'[55] These Sunday sports, published by Charles I, in 1633, had doubtless aided in fostering Bunyan's bad conduct in his youthful days. In 1644, when The Book of Common Prayer was abolished, an Act was passed for the better observance of the Lord's-day; all persons were prohibited on that day to use any wrestlings, shooting, bowing, ringing of bells for pastime, masques, wakes, church-ales, dancing, game, sports or pastime whatever; and that 'the Book of Sports shall be seized, and publicly burnt.' During the civil war this Act does not appear to have been strictly enforced; for, four years after it was passed, we find Bunyan and his dissolute companions worshipping the priest, clerk, and vestments on the Sunday morning, and assembling for their Sabbath-breaking sports in the afternoon. It was upon one of these occasions that a most extraordinary impression was fixed upon the spirit of Bunyan. A remarkable scene took place, worthy the pencil of the most eminent artist. This event cannot be better described than in his own words:—

'One day, amongst all the sermons our parson made, his subject was, to treat of the Sabbath-day, and of the evil of breaking that, either with labour, sports, or otherwise; now I was, notwithstanding my religion, one that took much delight in all manner of vice, and especially that was the day that I did solace myself therewith; wherefore I fell in my conscience under his sermons, thinking and believing that he made that sermon on purpose to show me my evil doing. And at that time I felt what guilt was, though never before, that I can remember; but then I was, for the present, greatly loaden therewith, and so went home, when the sermon was ended, with a great burthen upon my spirit.

'This, for that instant, did benumb the sinews of my best delights, and did imbitter my former pleasures to me; but behold it lasted not for before I had well dined, the trouble began to go off my mind, and my heart returned to its old course. But O! how glad was I, that this trouble was gone from me, and that the fire was put out, that I might sin again without control! Wherefore, when I had satisfied nature with my food, I shook the sermon out of my mind, and to my old custom of sports and gaming I returned with great delight.

'But the same day, as I was in the midst of a game at cat, and having struck it one blow from the hole, just as I was about to strike it the second time, a voice did suddenly dart from heaven into my soul, which said, "Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell?" At this I was put to an exceeding maze; wherefore leaving my cat upon the ground, I looked up to heaven, and was as if I had, with the eyes of my understanding, seen the Lord Jesus looking down upon me, as being very hotly displeased with me, and as if he did severely threaten me with some grievous punishment for these and other my ungodly practices.

'I had no sooner thus conceived in my mind, but, suddenly, this conclusion was fastened on my spirit, for the former hint did set my sins again before my face, that I had been a great and grievous sinner, and that it was now too late for me to look after heaven; for Christ would not forgive me, nor pardon my transgressions. Then I fell to musing upon this also; and while I was thinking on it, and fearing lest it should be so, I felt my heart sink in despair, concluding it was too late; and therefore I resolved in my mind I would go on in sin: for, thought I, if the case be thus, my state is surely miserable; miserable if I leave my sins, and but miserable if I follow them; I can but be damned, and if I must be so, I had as good be damned for many sins, as be damned for few.

'Thus I stood in the midst of my play, before all that then were present: but yet I told them nothing. But I say, I having made this conclusion, I returned desperately to my sport again; and I well remember, that presently this kind of despair did so possess my soul, that I was persuaded I could never attain to other comfort than what I should get in sin; for heaven was gone already; so that on that I must not think.'[56]

How difficult is it, when immorality has been encouraged by royal authority, to turn the tide or to stem the torrent. For at least four years, an Act of Parliament had prohibited these Sunday sports. Still the supinelness of the justices, and the connivance of the clergy, allowed the rabble youth to congregate on the Green at Elstow, summoned by the church bells to celebrate their sports and pastimes, as they had been in the habit of doing on the Lord's day.[57]

This solemn warning, received in the midst of his sport, was one of a series of convictions, by which he hardened sinner was to be fitted to receive the messages of mercy and love. In the midst of his companions and of the spectators, Bunyan was struck with a sense of guilt. How rapid were his thoughts—'Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell?' With the eye of his understanding he saw the Lord Jesus as 'hotly displeased.' The tempter suggests it is 'too, too late' to seek for pardon, and with a desperate resolution which must have cost his heart the severest pangs, he continued his game. Still the impression remained indelibly fixed upon his mind.

The next blow which fell upon his hardened spirit was still more deeply felt, because it was given by one from whom he could the least have expected it. He was standing at a neighbour's shop-window, 'belching out oaths like the madman that Solomon speaks of, who scatters abroad firebrands, arrows, and death'[58] 'after his wonted manner.' He exemplified the character drawn by the Psalmist. 'As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment: so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones.' Here was a disease that set all human skill at defiance, but the great, the Almighty Physician, cured it with strange physic. Had any professor reproved him, it might have been passed by as a matter of course; but it was so ordered that a woman who was notoriously 'a very loose and ungodly wretch,' protested that she trembled to hear him swear and curse at that most fearful rate; that he was the ungodliest fellow she had ever heard, and that he was able to spoil all the youth in a whole town.[59] Public reproof from the lips of such a woman was an arrow that pierced his inmost soul; it effected a reformation marvelous to all his companions, and bordering upon the miraculous. The walls of a fortified city were once thrown down by a shout and the tiny blast of rams'-horns (Josh 6:20); and in this instance, the foundations of Heart Castle, fortified by Satan, are shaken by the voice of one of his own emissaries. Mortified and convicted, the foul-mouthed blasphemer swore no more; an outward reformation in words and conduct took place, but without inward spiritual life. Thus was he making vows to God and breaking them, repenting and promising to do better next time; so, to use his own homely phrase, he was 'feeding God with chapters, and prayers, and promises, and vows, and a great many more such dainty dishes, and thinks that he serveth God as well as any man in England can, while he has only got into a cleaner way to hell than the rest of his neighbours are in.'[60]

Such a conversion, as he himself calls it, was 'from prodigious profaneness to something like moral life.'[61] 'Now I was, as they said, become godly, and their words pleased me well, though as yet I was nothing but a poor painted hypocrite.' These are hard words, but, in the most important sense, they were true. He was pointed out as a miracle of mercy—the great convert—a wonder to the world. He could now suffer opprobrium and cavils—play with errors—entangle himself and drink in flattery. No one can suppose that this outward reform was put on hypocritically, as a disguise to attain some sinister object; it was real, but it arose from a desire to shine before his neighbours, from shame and from the fear of future punishment, and not from that love to God which leads the Christian to the fear of offending him. It did not arise from a change of heart; the secret springs of action remained polluted; it was outside show, and therefore he called himself a painted hypocrite. He became less a despiser of religion, but more awfully a destroyer of his own soul.

A new source of uneasiness now presented itself in his practice of bell-ringing, an occupation requiring severe labour, usually performed on the Lord's-day; and, judging from the general character of bell-ringers, it has a most injurious effect, both with regard to morals and religion. A circumstance had recently taken place which was doubtless interpreted as an instance of Divine judgment upon Sabbath-breaking. Clark, in his Looking-Glass for Saints and Sinners, 1657, published the narrative:—'Not long since, in Bedfordshire, a match at football being appointed on the Sabbath, in the afternoon whilst two were in the belfry, tolling of a bell to call the company together, there was suddenly heard a clap of thunder, and a flash of lightning was seen by some that sat in the church-porch coming through a dark lane, and flashing in their faces, which must terrified them, and, passing through the porch into the belfry, it tripped up his heels that was tolling the bell, and struck him stark dead; and the other that was with him was so sorely blasted therewith, that shortly after he died also.'[62] Thus we find that the church bells ministered to the Book of Sports, to call the company to Sabbath-breaking. The bell-ringers might come within the same class as those upon whom the tower at Siloam fell, still it was a most solemn warning, and accounts for the timidity of so resolute a man as Bunyan. Although he thought it did not become his newly-assumed religious character, yet his old propensity drew him to the church tower. At first he ventured in, but took care to stand under a main beam, lest the bell should fall and crush him; afterwards he would stand in the door; then he feared the steeple might fall; and the terrors of an untimely death, and his newly-acquired garb of religion, eventually deterred him from this mode of Sabbath-breaking. His next sacrifice made at the shrine of self-righteousness was dancing: this took him one whole year to accomplish, and then he bade farewell to these sports for the rest of his life.[63] We are not to conclude from the example of a man who in after-life proved so great and excellent a character, that, under all circumstances, bell-ringing and dancing are immoral. In those days, such sports and pastimes usually took place on the Lord's-day; and however the Church of England might then sanction it, and proclaim by royal authority, in all her churches, the lawfulness of sports on that sacred day, yet it is now universally admitted that it was commanding a desecration of the Sabbath, and letting loose a flood of vice and profaneness. In themselves, on days proper for recreation, such sports may be innocent; but if they engender an unholy thought, or occupy time needed for self-examination and devotion, they ought to be avoided as sinful hindrances to a spiritual life.

Bunyan was now dressed in the garb of a religious professor, and had become a brisk talker in the matters of religion, when, by Divine mercy, he was stripped of all his good opinion of himself; his want of holiness, and his unchanged heart, were revealed to his surprise and wonder, by means simple and efficacious, but which no human forethought could have devised. Being engaged in his trade at Bedford, he overheard the conversation of some poor pious women, and it humbled and alarmed him. 'I heard, but I understood not; for they were far above, out of my reach. Their talk was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature; how God had visited their souls with his love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil. Moreover, they reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular; and told to each other by which they had been afflicted, and how they were borne up under his assaults. hey also discoursed of their own wretchedness of heart, of their unbelief; and did contemn, slight, and abhor their own righteousness, as filthy and insufficient to do them any good. And methought they spake as if joy did make them speak; they spake with such pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new world; as if they were people that dwelt alone, and were not to be reckoned among their neighbours (Num 23:9).

'At this I felt my own heart began to shake, as mistrusting my condition to be nought; for I saw that in all my thoughts about religion and salvation, the new birth did never enter into my mind; neither knew I the comfort of the Word and promise, nor the deceitfulness and treachery of my own wicked heart. As for secret thoughts, I took no notice of them; neither did I understand what Satan's temptations were, nor how they were to be withstood, and resisted.

'Thus, therefore, when I heard and considered what they said, I left them, and went about my employment again, but their talk and discourse went with me; also my heart would tarry with them, for I was greatly affected with their words, both because by them I was convinced that I wanted the true tokens of a truly godly man, and also because by them I was convinced of the happy and blessed condition of him that was such a one.'[64]

The brisk talker of 'talkative,' was confounded—he heard pious godly women mourning over their worthlessness instead of vaunting of their attainments. They exhibited, doubtless to his great surprise, that self-distrust and humility are the beginnings of wisdom.

These humble disciples could have had no conception that the Holy Spirit was blessing their Christian communion to the mind of the tinker, standing near them, pursuing his occupation. The recollection of the converse of these poor women led to solemn heart-searching and the most painful anxiety; again and again he sought their company, and his convictions became more deep, his solicitude more intense. This was the commencement of an internal struggle, the most remarkable of any upon record, excepting that of the psalmist David.

It was the work of the Holy Spirit in regenerating and preparing an ignorant and rebellious man for extraordinary submission to the sacred Scriptures, and for most extensive usefulness. To those who never experienced in any degree such feelings, they appear to indicate religious insanity. It was so marvelous and so mysterious, as to be mistaken by a poet laureate, who profanely calls it a being 'shaken continually by the hot and cold fits of a spiritual ague': 'reveries': or one of the 'frequent and contagious disorders of the human mind,'[65] instead of considering it as wholesome but bitter medicine for the soul, administered by the heavenly Physician. At times he felt, like David, 'a sword in his bones,' 'tears his meat.' God's waves and billows overwhelmed him (Psa 43). Then came glimmerings of hope—precious promises saving him from despair—followed by the shadow of death overspreading his soul, and involving him in midnight darkness. He could complain in the bitterness of his anguish, 'Thy fierce wrath goeth over me.' Bound in affliction and iron, his 'soul was melted because of trouble.' 'Now Satan assaults the soul with darkness, fears, frightful thoughts of apparitions; now they sweat, pant, and struggle for life. The angels now come (Psa 107) down to behold the sight, and rejoice to see a bit of dust and ashes to overcome principalities, and powers, and might, and dominion.'[66] His mind was fixed on eternity, and out of the abundance of his heart he spoke to one of his former companions; his language was that of reproof—'Harry, why do you swear and curse thus? what will become of you if you die in this condition?'[67] His sermon, probably the first he had preached, was like throwing pearls before swine—'He answered in a great chafe, what would the devil do for company, if it were not for such as I am.'[68]

By this time he had recovered the art of reading, and its use a little perplexed him, for he became much puzzled with the opinions of the Ranters, as set forth in their books. It is extremely difficult to delineate their sentiments; they were despised by all the sects which had been connected with the government, because, with the Quakers and Baptists, they denied any magisterial or state authority over conscience, and refused maintenance to ministers; but from the testimony of Bunyan, and that of the early Quakers, they appear to have been practical Antinomians, or at least very nearly allied to the new sect called Mormonites. Ross, who copied from Pagitt, describes them with much bitterness—'The Ranters are unclean beasts—their maxim is that there is nothing sin but what a man thinks to be so—they reject the Bible—they are the merriest of all devils—they deny all obedience to magistrates.'[69]

This temptation must have been severe. The Ranters were like the black man with the white robe, named Flatterer, who led the pilgrims into a net,[70] under the pretence of showing them the way to the celestial city; or like Adam the first, who offered Faithful his three daughters to wife[71]—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—if he would dwell with him in the town of Deceit. 'These temptations,' he says, 'were suitable to my flesh,'[72] I being but a young man, and my nature in its prime; and, with his characteristic humility, he adds, 'God, who had, as I hope, designed me for better things, kept me in the fear of his name, and did not suffer me to accept such cursed principles.' Prayer opened the door of escape; it led him to the fountain of truth. 'I began to look into the Bible with new eyes. Prayer preserved me from Ranting errors. The Bible was precious to me in those days.'[73] His study of the Holy Oracles now became a daily habit, and that with intense earnestness and prayer. In the mist of the multitude of sects with which he was on all sides surrounded, he felt the need of a standard for the opinions which were each of them eagerly followed by votaries, who proclaimed them to be THE TRUTH, the way, and the life. He was like a man, feeling that if he erred in the way, it would be attended with misery, and, but for Divine interference, with unutterable ruin—possessed of a correct map, but surrounded with those who, by flattery, or threats, or deceit, and armed with all human eloquence, strove to mislead him. With an enemy within to urge him to accept their wily guidance, that they might lead him to perdition—inspired by Divine grace, like Christian in his Pilgrim, he 'put his fingers in his ears, and ran on, crying Life, life, eternal life.' He felt utter dependence upon Divine guidance, leading him to most earnest prayer, and an implicit obedience to Holy Writ, which followed him all through the remainder of his pilgrimage. 'The Bible' he calls 'the scaffold, or stage, that God has builded for hope to play his part upon in this world.'[74] Hence the Word was precious in his eyes; and with so immense a loss, or so magnificent a gain, the throne of grace was all his hope, that he might be guided by that counsel that cannot err, and that should eventually insure his reception to eternal glory.

While in this inquiring state, he experienced much doubt and uncertainty arising from the apparent confidence of many professors. In his own esteem he appeared to be thoroughly humbled; and when he lighted on that passage—'To one is given by the spirit the word of wisdom, to another, knowledge, and to another, faith' (1 Cor 12:8,9), his solemn inquiry was, how it happened that he possessed so little of any of these gifts of wisdom, knowledge, or faith—more especially of faith, that being essential to the pleasing of God. He had read (Matt 21:21), 'If ye have faith and doubt not, ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done'; and (Luke 17:6), 'If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say to this sycamore tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea, and it shall obey you'; and (1 Cor 13:2), 'Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains.' The poor tinker, considering these passages in their literal import, imagined they were meant as tests to try whether the believer possessed faith or not. He was a stranger to the rules of Hebrew rhetoric; nor did he consider that they were addressed to the apostles, who had the power to work miracles. He had no idea that the removing a mountain, or planting a sycamore tree in the sea, were figures of speech conveying to us the fact that, aided by faith, mountainous difficulties might and would be overcome. Anxious for some ocular demonstration that he had faith, he almost determined to attempt to work a miracle—not to convert or confirm the faith of others, but to satisfy his own mind as to his possessing faith. He had no such magnificent idea as the removal of a mountain, for there were none in his neighbourhood, nor to plant a tree in the sea, for Bedfordshire is an inland county; but it was of the humblest kind—that some puddles on the road between Elstow and Bedford should change places with the dry ground. When he had thought of praying for ability, his natural good sense led him to abandon the experiment.[75] This he calls 'being in my plunge about faith, tossed betwixt the devil and my own ignorance.'[76] All this shows the intensity of his feelings and his earnest inquiries.

It may occasion surprise to some, that a young man of such extraordinary powers of mind, should have indulged the thought of working a miracle to settle or confirm his doubts; but we must take into account, that when a boy he had no opportunity of acquiring scriptural knowledge; no Sunday schools, no Bible class excited his inquiries as to the meaning of the sacred language. The Bible had been to him a sealed book until, in a state of mental agony, he cried, What must I do to be saved? The plain text was all his guide; and it would not have been surprising, had he been called to bottle a cask of new wine, if he had refused to use old wine bottles; or had he cast a loaf into the neighbouring river Ouse, expecting to find it after many days. The astonishing fact is, that one so unlettered should, by intense thought, by earnest prayer, and by comparing one passage with another, arrive eventually at so clear a view both of the external and internal meaning of the whole Bible. The results of his researches were more deeply impressed upon his mind by the mistakes which he had made; and his intense study, both of the Old and New Testaments, furnished him with an inexhaustible store of things new and old—those vivid images and burning thoughts, those bright and striking illustrations of Divine truth, which so shine and sparkle in all his works. What can be more clear than his illustration of saving faith which worketh by love, when in after-life he wrote the Pilgrim's Progress. Hopeful was in a similar state of inquiry whether he had faith. 'Then I said, But, Lord, what is believing?' And then I saw from that saying, He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth in me shall never thirst, that believing and coming was all one, and that he that came, that is, ran out in his heart and affections after salvation by Christ, he indeed believed in Christ (John 6:25).[77]

In addition to his want of scriptural education, it must be remembered that, when he thought of miraculous power being an evidence of faith, his mind was in a most excited state—doubts spread over him like a huge masses of thick black clouds, hiding the Sun of Righteousness from his sight. Not only is he to be pardoned for his error, but admired for the humility which prompted him to record so singular a trial, and his escape from 'this delusion of the tempter.' While 'thus he was tossed betwixt the devil and his own ignorance,'[78] the happiness of the poor women whose conversation he had heard at Bedford, was brought to his recollection by a remarkable reverie or day dream:—

'About this time, the state and happiness of these poor people at Bedford was thus, in a dream or vision, represented to me. I saw as if they were set on the sunny side of some high mountain, there refreshing themselves with the pleasant beams of the sun, while I was shivering and shrinking in the cold, afflicted with frost, snow, and dark clouds. Methought also, betwixt me and them, I saw a wall that did compass about this mountain; now through this wall my soul did greatly desire to pass, concluding that if I could, I would go even into the very midst of them, and there also comfort myself with the heat of their sun.

'About this wall I thought myself to go again and again, still prying, as I went, to see if I could find some way or passage, by which I might enter therein; but none could I find for some time. At the last I saw, as it were, a narrow gap, like a little doorway in the wall, through which I attempted to pass; but the passage being very strait and narrow, I made many efforts to get in, but all in vain, even until I was well nigh quite beat out, by striving to get in; at last, with great striving, methought I at first did get in my head, and after that, by a sidling striving, my shoulders, and my whole body; then I was exceeding glad, and went and sat down in the midst of them, and so was comforted with the light and heat of their sun.

'Now this mountain, and wall, was thus made out to me: The mountain signified the church of the living God; the sun that shone thereon, the comfortable shining of his merciful face on them that were therein; the wall I thought was the Word, that did make separation between the Christians and the world; and the gap which was in this wall, I thought, was Jesus Christ, who is the way to God the Father (John 14:6; Matt 7:14). But forasmuch as the passage was wonderful narrow, even so narrow that I could not, but with great difficulty, enter in thereat, it showed me, that none could enter into life, but those that were in downright earnest, and unless also they left this wicked world behind them; for here was only room for body and soul, but not for body and soul and sin.[79]

'This resemblance abode upon my spirit many days; all which time I saw myself in a forlorn and sad condition, but yet was provoked to a vehement hunger and desire to be one of that number that did sit in the sunshine. Now also I should pray wherever I was; whether at home or abroad, in house or field, and should also often, with lifting up of heart, sing that of the fifty-first Psalm, "O Lord, consider my distress."'[80]

In this striking reverie we discover the budding forth of that great genius which produced most beautiful flowers and delicious fruit, when it became fully developed in his allegories.

While this trial clouded his spirits, he was called to endure temptations which are common to most, if not all, inquiring souls, and which frequently produce much anxiety. He plunged into the university problems of predestination, before he had completed his lower grammar-school exercises on faith and repentance. Am I one of the elect? or has the day of grace been suffered to pass by never to return? 'Although he was in a flame to find the way to heaven and glory,' these questions afflicted and disquieted him, so that the very strength of his body was taken away by the force and power thereof. 'Lord, thought I, what if I should not be elected! It may be you are not, said the tempter; it may be so, indeed thought I. Why then, said Satan, you had as good leave off, and strive no farther; for if indeed you should not be elected and chosen of God, there is no talk of your being saved; "for it is neither of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."

'By these things I was driven to my wit's end, not knowing what to say, or how to answer these temptations. Indeed, I little thought that Satan had thus assaulted me, but that rather it was my own prudence thus to start the question: for that the elect only obtained eternal life; that I without scruple did heartily close withal; but that myself was one of them, there lay all the question.'[81]

Thus was he for many weeks oppressed and cast down, and near to 'giving up the ghost of all his hopes of ever attaining life,' when a sentence fell with weight upon his spirit—'Look at the generations of old and see; did ever any trust in the Lord and was confounded' (Ecclesiasticus 2:10). This encouraged him to a diligent search from Genesis to Revelation, which lasted for above a year, and although he could not find that sentence, yet he was amply rewarded for this diligent examination of the Holy Oracles, and thus he obtained 'yet more experience of the love and kindness of God.' At length he found it in the Apocrypha, and, although not the language of inspiration, yet as it contained the sum and substance of the promises, he took the comfort of it, and it shone before his face for years. The fear that the day of grace had passed pressed heavily upon him; he was humbled, and bemoaned the time that he had wasted. Now he was confronted with that 'grim-faced one, the Captain Past-hope, with his terrible standard,' carried by Ensign Despair, red colours, with a hot iron and a hard heart, and exhibited at Eye-gate.[82] At length these words broke in upon his mind, 'compel them to come in, that my house may be filled—and yet there is room.' This Scripture powerfully affected him with hope, that there was room in the bosom and in the house of Jesus for his afflicted soul.

His next temptation was to return to the world. This was that terrible battle with Apollyon, depicted in the Pilgrim's Progress, and it is also described at some length in the Jerusalem Sinner Saved. Among many very graphic and varied pictures of his own experience, he introduces the following dialogue with the tempter, probably alluding to the trials he was now passing through. Satan is loath to part with a great sinner. 'This day is usually attended with much evil towards them that are asking the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward. Now the devil has lost a sinner; there is a captive has broke prison, and one run away from his master. Now hell seems to be awakened from sleep, the devils are come out. They roar, and roaring they seek to recover their runaway. Now tempt him, threaten him, flatter him, stigmatize him, throw dust into his eyes, poison him with error, spoil him while he is upon the potter's wheel, anything to keep him from coming to Christ.'[83] 'What, my true servant,' quoth he, 'my old servant, wilt thou forsake me now? Having so often sold thyself to me to work wickedness, wilt thou forsake me now? Thou horrible wretch, dost not know, that thou hast sinned thyself beyond the reach of grace, and dost thou think to find mercy now? Art not thou a murderer, a thief, a harlot, a witch, a sinner of the greatest size, and dost thou look for mercy now? Dost thou think that Christ will foul his fingers with thee? It is enough to make angels blush, saith Satan, to see so vile a one knock at heaven-gates for mercy, and wilt thou be so abominably bold to do it?' Thus Satan dealt with me, says the great sinner, when at first I came to Jesus Christ. And what did you reply? saith the tempted. Why, I granted the whole charge to be true, says the other. And what, did you despair, or how? No, saith he, I said, I am Magdalene, I am Zaccheus, I am the thief, I am the harlot, I am the publican, I am the prodigal, and one of Christ's murderers; yea, worse than any of these; and yet God was so far off from rejecting of me, as I found afterwards, that there was music and dancing in his house for me, and for joy that I was come home unto him. O blessed be God for grace (says the other), for then I hope there is favour for me. Yea, as I told you, such a one is a continual spectacle in the church, for every one by to behold God's grace and wonder by.[84] These are the 'things the angels desire to look into' (1 Peter 1:12), or as Bunyan quaintly says, this is the music which causes 'them that dwell in the higher orbs to open their windows, put out their heads, and look down to see the cause of that glory' (Lev 15:7,10).[85]

As he became less agitated with fear, and drew consolation more frequently from the promises, with a timid hope of salvation, he began to exhibit singular powers of conception in spiritualizing temporal things. His first essay was to find the hidden meaning in the division of God's creatures into clean and unclean. Chewing the cud, and parting the hoof, he conceived to be emblematical of our feeding upon the Word of God, and parting, if we would be saved, with the ways of ungodly men.[86] It is not sufficient to chew the cud like the hare—nor to part the hoof like the wine—we must do both; that is, possess the word of faith, and that be evidenced by parting with our outward pollutions. This spiritual meaning of part of the Mosaic dispensation is admirably introduced into the Pilgrim's Progress, when Christian and Faithful analyse the character of Talkative.[87] This is the germ of that singular talent which flourished in after-life, of exhibiting a spiritual meaning drawn from every part of the Mosaic dispensation, and which leads one of our most admired writers[88] to suggest, that if Bunyan had lived and written during the early days of Christianity, he would have been the greatest of the fathers.

Although he had received that portion of comfort which enabled him to indulge in religious speculations, still his mind was unsettled, and full of fears. He now became alarmed lest he had not been effectually called to inherit the kingdom of heaven.[89] He felt still more humbled at the weakness of human nature, and at the poverty of wealth. Could this call have been gotten for money, and 'could I have given it; had I a whole world, it had all gone ten thousand times over for this.' In this he was sincere, and so he was when he said, I would not lose one promise, or have it struck out of the Bible, if in return I could have as much gold as would reach from London to York, piled up to the heavens. In proportion to his soul's salvation, honour was a worthless phantom, and gold but glittering dust. His earnest desire was to hear his Saviour's voice calling him to his service. Like many young disciples, he regretted not having been born when Christ was manifest in the flesh. 'Would I had been Peter or John!' their privations, sufferings, martyrdom, was nothing in comparison to their being with, and hearing the voice of the Son of God calling them to his service. Strange, but general delusion! as if Christ were not the same yesterday, to day, and for ever. Groaning for a sense of pardon, he was comforted by Joel—'I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed, for the Lord dwelleth in Zion' (Joel 3:21), and he was led to seek advice and assistance from a neighbouring minister, and from pious persons.

The poor women in Bedford, whose conversation had been blessed to his thorough awakening, were sought for, and to them he unfolded his sorrows. They were members of a Baptist church, under the pastoral care of John Gifford, a godly, painstaking, and most intelligent minister, whose history is very remarkable. In early life he had been, like Bunyan, a thoroughly depraved character; like him had entered the army, and had been promoted to the rank of a major in the royal forces. Having made an abortive attempt to raise a rebellion in his native county of Kent,[90] he and eleven others were made prisoners, tried by martial law, and condemned to the gallows. On the night previous to the day appointed for his execution, his sister found access to the prison. The guards were asleep, and his companions drowned in intoxication. She embraced the favourable moment, and set him at liberty. He lay concealed in a ditch for three days, till the heat of the search was over, and in disguise escaped to London, and thence to Bedford, where, aided by some great people who favoured the royal cause, he commenced business as a doctor. Here his evil habits followed him, notwithstanding his merciful deliverance. Swearing, drunkenness, gambling, and other immoral practices, rendered him a curse to others, especially to the Puritans, whom he bitterly persecuted. One night he lost fifteen pounds at play, and, becoming outrageous, he cast angry reproaches upon God. In this state he took up a book by R. Bolton—he read, and his conscience was terror-stricken. Distress, under conviction of sin, followed him. He searched his Bible, and found pardon and acceptance. He now sought acquaintance with those whom before he had persecuted, but, like Paul, when in similar circumstances, 'they were all afraid of him.' His sincerity soon became apparent; and, uniting with eleven others, they formed a church. These men had thrown off the fetters of education, and were, unbiased by any sectarian feeling, being guided solely by their prayerful researches into divine truth as revealed in the Bible. Their whole object was to enjoy Christian communion—to extend the reign of grace—to live to the honour of Christ—and they formed a new, and at that time unheard-of, community. Water-baptism was to be left to individual conviction; they were to love each other equally, whether they advocated baptism in infancy, or in riper years. The only thing essential to church-fellowship, in Mr. Gifford's opinion, was—'UNION WITH CHRIST; this is the foundation of all saints' communion, and not any judgment about externals.' To the honour of the Baptists, these peaceable principles appear to have commenced with two or three of their ministers, and for the last two centuries they have been, like heavenly leaven, extending their delightful influence over all bodies of Christians.

Such was the man to whom Bunyan was introduced for religious advice and consolation; and he assisted in forming those enlarged and nonsectarian principles which made his ministry blessed, and will render his Works equally acceptable to all evangelical Christians in every age of the church. Introduced to such a minister, and attending social meetings for prayer and Christian converse, he felt still more painfully his own ignorance, and the inward wretchedness of his own heart. 'His corruptions put themselves forth, and his desires for heaven seemed to fail.' In fact, while he compared himself with his former self, he was a religious giant; in comparison with these pious, long-standing Christians, he dwindled into a pigmy; and in the presence of Christ he became, in his own view, less than nothing, and vanity. He thus describes his feelings:—'I began to sink—my heart laid me low as hell. I was driven as with a tempest—my heart would be unclean—the Canaanites would dwell in the land.'[91] He was like the child which the father brought to Christ, who, while he was coming to Him, was thrown down by the devil, and so rent and torn that he lay and wallowed, foaming. His heart felt so hard, that with many a bitter sigh he cried, 'Good Lord! break it open. Lord, break these gates of brass, and cut these bars of iron asunder' (Psa 107:16). Little did he then think that his bitterness of spirit was a direct answer to such prayers. Breaking the heart was attended with anguish in proportion as it had been hardened. During this time he was tender and sensitive as to the least sin; 'now I durst not take a pin or a stick, my conscience would smart at every touch.' 'O, how gingerly did I then go in all I said or did!'[92] 'Still sin would as naturally bubble out of my heart as water would bubble out of a fountain.' He felt surprised when he saw professors much troubled at their losses, even at the death of the dearest relative. His whole concern was for his salvation. He imagined that he could bear these small afflictions with patience; but 'a wounded spirit who can bear?'

In the midst of all these miseries, and at times regretting that he had been endowed with an immortal spirit, liable to eternal ruin, he was jealous of receiving comfort, lest it might be based upon any false foundation. Still as his only hope he was constant in his attendance upon the means of grace, and 'when comforting time was come,' he heard one preach upon two words of a verse, which conveyed strong consolation to his weary spirit; the words were, 'my love' (Song 4:1). From these words the minister drew the following conclusions:—1. That the church, and so every saved soul, is Christ's love, even when loveless; 2. Christ's love is without a cause; 3. They are Christ's love when hated of the world; 4. Christ's love when under temptation and under desertion; 5. Christ's love from first to last.[93] Now was his heart filled with comfort and hope. 'I could believe that my sins should be forgiven me'; and, in a state of rapture, he thought that his trials were over, and that the savour of it would go with him through life. Alas! his enjoyment was but for a season—the preparation of his soul for future usefulness was not yet finished. In a short time the words of our Lord to Peter came powerfully into his mind—'Satan hath desired to have you'; and so strong was the impression they made, that he thought some man addressed them to him; he even turned his head to see who it was that thus spoke to him. This was the forerunner of a cloud and a storm that was coming upon him. It was the gathering up of Satan's mighty strength, to have, if possible, overwhelmed him. His narrative of this internal tempest in his soul—this last great struggle with the powers of darkness—is very striking.

'About the space of a month after, a very great storm came down upon me, which handled me twenty times worse than all I had met with before; it came stealing upon me, now by one piece, then by another. First, all my comfort was taken from me; then darkness seized upon me; after which, whole floods of blasphemies, both against God, Christ, and the Scriptures, were poured upon my spirit, to my great confusion and astonishment. These blasphemous thoughts were such as also stirred up questions in me against the very being of God, and of his only beloved Son. As, whether there were in truth a God or Christ, or no? And whether the Holy Scriptures were not rather a fable, and cunning story, than the holy and pure Word of God.

'These suggestions, with many others, which at this time I may not, dare not utter, neither by word nor pen, did make such a seizure upon my spirit, and did so overweigh my heart, both with their number, continuance, and fiery force, that I felt as if there were nothing else but these from morning to night within me, and as though indeed there could be room for nothing else; and also concluded, that God had, in very wrath to my soul, given me up unto them, to be carried away with them as with a mighty whirlwind.

'Only by the distaste that they gave unto my spirit, I felt there was something in me that refused to embrace them.'[94]

Here are the facts which are allegorized in the history of Christian, passing through the Valley of Humiliation, and fighting with the Prince of the power of the air. 'Then Apollyon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian's sword flew out of his hand.' This was the effect of his doubts of the inspiration of the Scriptures—the sword of the Spirit. 'I am sure of thee now, said Apollyon; and with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life; but as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching of his last blow, Christian nimbly stretched out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy, when I fall I shall arise" (Matt 7:8), and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back as one that had received his mortal wound. Christian perceiving that, made at him again, saying, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us"; and with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon wings, and sped him away.'[95] What an awful moment, when he fell unarmed before his ferocious enemy! 'Faith now has but little time to speak to the conscience—it is now struggling for life—it is now fighting with angels—with infernals—all it can do now is to cry, groan, sweat, fear, fight, and gasp for life.'[96] How desperate the conflict—the mouth of hell yawning to swallow him—man cannot aid the poor warrior, all his help is in God. Is it not a wonder to see a poor creature, who in himself is weaker than the moth, to stand against and overcome all devils—all the world—all his lusts and corruptions; or, if he fall, is it not a wonder to see him, when devils and guilt are upon him, to rise again, stand upon his legs, walk with God again, and persevere in faith and holiness?[97]

This severe conflict lasted for about a year. He describes his feelings at times as resembling the frightful pangs of one broken on the wheel. The sources of his misery were fears that he had sinned against the Holy Ghost; and that through his hardness of heart and impatience in prayer—he should not persevere to the end. During all this time, occasional visits of mercy kept him from despair; and at some intervals filled him with transports of joy. At one time so delightfully was his burden removed that he could not tell how to contain himself. 'I thought I could have spoken of his love and of his mercy to me, even to the very crows that sat upon the ploughed lands before me, had they been capable to have understood me.'[98] Thus his feelings were controlled by reason, very different to the poor madman who, in olden time, is represented as preaching to the fish. With Bunyan it was a hallowed joy—a gush of holy gladness, in which he wished all creation to participate. his heart was baptized in hope. 'I know that my Redeemer liveth'; and with holy Job, he wished to perpetuate his joy by a memorial not in rock, but in a book of resemblance. 'I would I had a pen and ink here to write it down.' This is the first desire that he expressed to proclaim or publish to others the great Saviour he had found: but he was not yet prepared; he must pass through deeper depths, and possess a living knowledge of Divine truth, burnt into his soul by satanic fires.

Very soon after this, he was harassed with fear lest he should part with Christ. The tempter, as he did with Christian in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, suggested blasphemies to him, which he thought had proceeded from his own mind. 'Satan troubled him with his stinking breath. How many strange, hideous, and amazing blasphemies have some that are coming to Christ had injected upon their spirits against him.'[99] 'The devil is indeed very busy at work during the darkness of a soul. He throws in his fiery darts to amazement, when we are encompassed with the terrors of a dismal night; he is bold and undaunted in his assaults, and injects with a quick and sudden malice a thousand monstrous and abominable thoughts of God, which seem to be the motions of our own minds, and terribly grieve and trouble us.'[100]

1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse