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, [1] 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, [2] 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,' [3] and by a subsequent Act [4] 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. [5] 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 Precision 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.' [6] 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.' [7] 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.' [8]

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. [9]

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' [10] '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. [11] Public reproof from the lips of such a woman was an arrow that pierced his inmost soul; it effected a reformation marvellous 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 (Joshua: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.' [12]

Such a conversion, as he himself calls it, was 'from prodigious profaneness to something like moral life.' [13] '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.' [14] 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. [15] 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 (Numbers 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.' [16]

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 marvellous 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,' [17] 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 (Psalm 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 (Psalm 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.' [18] 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?' [19] 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.' [20]

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.' [21]

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, [22] 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 [23]—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,' [24]  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.' [25] 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.' [26] 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 Corinthians 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 (Matthew 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 Corinthians 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. [27] This he calls 'being in my plunge about faith, tossed betwixt the devil and my own ignorance.' [28] 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). [29]

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,' [30] 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; Matthew 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. [31]

'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."' [32]

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.' [33]

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' (Ecclesiastes 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. [34] 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.' [35] '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. [36] 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' (Leviticus 15:7, Leviticus15:10). [37]

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. [38] 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. [39] 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 [40] 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. [41] 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, [42] 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 non-sectarian 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.' [43] 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' (Psalm 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!' [44] '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. [45]

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.' [46]

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" (Matthew 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.' [47] 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.' [48] 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? [49]

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.' [50] 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.' [51] '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.' [52]

What makes those arrows more penetrating and distressing is, that Satan, with subtle art, tips them with sentences of Scripture. 'No place for repentance'; 'rejected'; 'hath never forgiveness,' and other passages which, by the malignant ingenuity of the fiend, are formed by his skill as the cutting and barbed points of his shafts. At one time Bunyan concluded that he was possessed of the devil; then he was tempted to speak and sin against the Holy Ghost. He thought himself alone in such a tempest, and that no one had ever felt such misery as he did. When in prayer, his mind was distracted with the thought that Satan was pulling his clothes; he was even tempted to fall down and worship him. Then he would cry after God, in awful fear that eventually Satan would overcome him. During all this time he was struggling against the tempter; and, at length, the dayspring visited him in these words, 'I am persuaded that nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.' Again he was cast down with a recollection of his former blasphemies. What reason can I have to hope for an inheritance in eternal life? The questions was answered with that portion of Scripture, 'If God be for us, who can be against us?' These were visits which, like Peter's sheet, of a sudden were caught up to heaven again. [53] At length the Sun of Righteousness arose, and shone upon him with healing influence. 'He hath made peace through the blood of his cross,' came with power to his mind, followed by the consoling words of the apostle, 'Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage' (Hebrews 2:14-15). This was the key that opened every lock in Doubting Castle. The prisoner escaped to breathe the air of hope, and joy, and peace. 'This,' said he, 'was a good day to me, I hope I shall not forget it.' 'I thought that the glory of those words was then so weighty on me, that I was, both once and twice, ready to swoon as I sat, not with grief and trouble, but with solid joy and peace.'

His mind was now in a fit state to seek for church fellowship, as a further means of advance in his knowledge of Divine love. To effect this object, he was naturally led to the Baptist church at Bedford, to which those pious women belonged whose Christian communion had been blessed to him. I sat under the ministry of holy Mr. Gifford, whose doctrine, by God's grace, was much for my stability. [54] Although his soul was led from truth to truth, his trials were not over—he passed through many severe exercises before he was received into communion with the church. [55]

At length he determined to become identified with a body of professed Christians, who were treated with great scorn by other sects because they denied infant baptism, and he became engaged in the religious controversies which were fashionable in those days. We have noticed his encounter with the Ranters, and he soon had to give battle to persons called Quakers. Before the Society of Friends was formed, and their rules of discipline were published, many Ranters and others, some of whom were bad characters and held the wildest opinions, passed under the name of Quakers. Some of these denied that the Bible was the Word of God; and asserted that the death of Christ was not a full atonement for sin—that there is no future resurrection, and other gross errors. The Quakers, who were afterwards united to form the Society of Friends, from the first denied all those errors. Their earliest apologist, Barclay, in his theses on the Scriptures, says, 'They are the doctrines of Christ, held forth in precious declarations, spoken and written by the movings of God's Spirit.' Whoever it was that asserted the heresies, to Bunyan the investigation of them, in the light of Divine truth, was attended with great advantages. It was through 'this narrow search of the Scriptures that he was not only enlightened, but greatly confirmed and comforted in the truth.' [56]

He longed to compare his experience with that of some old and eminent convert, and 'God did cast into his hand' Luther On the Galatians, 'so old that it was ready to fall piece from piece, if I did but turn it over.' [57] The commentary of this enlightened man was a counterpart to his own feelings. 'I found,' says Bunyan, 'my condition, in his experience so largely and profoundly handled, as if his book had been written out of my own heart. I prefer the book before all others as most fit for a wounded conscience.' This was the 'voice of a man' that Christian 'heard as going before him in the Valley of the Shadow of Death,' and was glad that some who feared God were in this valley as well as himself, who could say, 'I will fear no evil for thou art with me.' [58] In many things Luther and Bunyan were men of similar temperament. Like Emmanuel's captains, in the Holy War, they were 'very stout rough-hewn men; men that were fit to break the ice, and to make their way by dint of sword.' [59] They were animated by the same principles, and fought with the same weapons; and although Luther resided in a castle protected by princes, was furnished with profound scholastic learning, and became a terror to Popery; yet the voice of the unlettered tinker, issuing from a dreary prison, bids fair to be far more extensively heard and blessed than that of this most illustrious reformer. [60]

Bunyan's happiness was now very great; his soul, with all its affections, clave unto Christ: but lest spiritual pride should exalt him beyond measure, and lest he should be scared to renounce his Saviour, by the threat of transportation and death, his heart was again wounded, and quickly after this his 'love was tried to purpose.'

The tempter came in upon him with a most grievous and dreadful temptation; it was to part with Christ, to exchange him for the things of this life; he was perpetually tormented with the words 'sell Christ.' At length, he thought that his spirit gave way to the temptation, and a dreadful and profound state of despair overpowered him for the dreary space of more than two years. [61] This is the most extraordinary part of this wonderful narrative, that he, without apparent cause, should thus be tempted, and feel the bitterness of a supposed parting with Christ. There was, doubtless, a cause for every pang; his heavenly Father afflicted him for his profit. We shall soon have to follow him through fiery trials. Before the justices, allured by their arguments, and particularly by the sophistry of their clerk, Mr. Cobb, and then dragged from a beloved wife and from children to whom he was most fondly attached—all these fiery trials might be avoided, if he would but 'sell Christ.' A cold damp dungeon was to incarcerate his body for twelve tedious years of the prime of his life, unless he would 'sell Christ.' His ministering brother and friend, John Child, a Bedford man, who had joined in recommending Bunyan's Vindication of Gospel Truths, [62] fell under this temptation, and fearing temporal ruin and imprisonment for life, conformed, and then fell into the most awful state of despair, suffering such agonies of conscience, that, to get rid of present trouble, he hurried himself into eternity. Probably Bunyan alludes to this awful instance of fell despair in his Publican and Pharisee: 'Sin, when appearing in its monstrous shape and hue, frighteth all mortals out of their wits, away from God; and if he stops them not, also out of the world.' [63] To arm Bunyan against being overcome by a fear of the lions in the way to the house Beautiful—

against giving way, under persecution—he was visited with terrors lest he should sell or part with Christ. During these sad years he was not wholly sunk in despair, but had at times some glimmerings of mercy. In comparing his supposed sin with that of Judas, he was constrained to find a difference between a deliberate intention to sell Christ and a sudden temptation. [64] Through all these searchings of heart and inquiries at the Word, he became fixed in the doctrine of the final perseverance of God's saints. 'O what love, what care, what kindness and mercy did I now see mixing itself with the most severe and dreadful of all God's ways to his people; he never let them fall into sin unpardonable.' 'But these thoughts added grief and horror to me; I thought that all things wrought for my eternal overthrow.' So ready is the tender heart to write bitter things against itself, and as ready is the tempter to whisper despairing thoughts. In the midst of this distress he 'saw a glory in walking with God,' although a dismal cloud enveloped him.

This misery was aggravated by reading the fearful estate of Francis Spira, who had been persuaded to return to a profession of Popery, and died in a state of awful despair. [65] 'This book' was to his troubled spirit like salt rubbed into a fresh wound.

Bunyan now felt his body and mind shaking and tottering under the sense of the dreadful judgment of God; and he thought his sin—of a momentary and unwilling consent to give up Christ—was a greater sin than all the sins of David, Solomon, Manasseh, and even than all the sins that had been committed by all God's redeemed ones. Was there ever a man in the world so capable of describing the miseries of Doubting Castle, or of the Slough of Despond, as poor John Bunyan?

He would have run from God in utter desperation; 'but, blessed be his grace, that Scripture, in these flying sins, would call, as running after me, "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me, for I have redeemed thee"' (Isaiah 44:22). Still he was haunted by that scripture, 'You know how that afterwards, when he would have inherited the blessing, he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.' Thus was he tossed and buffeted, involved in cloudy darkness, with now and then a faint gleam of hope to save him from despair. 'In all these,' he says, 'I was but as those that justle against the rocks; more broken, scattered, and rent. Oh! the unthought of imaginations, frights, fears, and terrors, that are effected by a thorough application of guilt.' [66] 'Methought I saw as if the sun that shineth in the heavens did grudge to give light, and as if the very stones in the street, and tiles upon the houses, did bend themselves against me.' [67] Here we find him in that doleful valley, where Christian was surrounded by enemies that 'cared not for his sword,' he put it up, and places his dependence upon the more penetrating weapon, 'All Prayer.' Depending upon this last resource, he prayed, even when in this great darkness and distress. To whom could he go? his case was beyond the power of men or angels. His refuge, from a fear of having committed the unpardonable sin, was that he had never refused to be justified by the blood of Christ, but ardently wished it; this, in the midst of the storm, caused a temporary clam. At length, he was led to look prayerfully upon those scriptures that had tormented him, and to examine their scope and tendency, and then he 'found their visage changed, for they looked not so grimly on him as before he thought they did.' [68] Still, after such a tempest, the sea did not at once become a calm. Like one that had been scared with fire, every voice was fire, fire; every little touch hurt his tender conscience. [69]

All this instructive history is pictured by a few words in the Pilgrim's Progress. At the Interpreter's house the pilgrim is shown 'a fire burning against a wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it, to quench it; yet did the fire burn higher and hotter.' [70] As Esau beat him down, Christ raised him again. The threatening and the promise were like glittering swords clashing together, but the promise must prevail.

His entire relief at last was sudden, while meditating in the field upon the words, 'Thy righteousness is in heaven.' Hence he drew the conclusion, that his righteousness was in Christ, at God's right hand, ever before him, secure from all the powers of sin and Satan. Now his chains fell off; he was loosed from his affliction and irons; his temptation fled away. His present supply of grace he compared to the cracked groats and four-pence half-pennies, [71] which rich men carry in their pockets, while their treasure is safe in their trunks at home, as his was in the store-house of heaven.

This dreary night of awful conflict lasted more than two years; but when the day-spring from on high visited him, the promises spangled in his eyes, and he broke out into a song, 'Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.' [72]

Bunyan's opinion as to the cause of this bitter suffering, was his want of watchfulness, his not coming boldly to the throne of grace, and that he had tempted God. The advantages he considered that he had gained by it were, that it confirmed his knowledge of the existence of God, so that he lost all his temptations to unbelief, blasphemy, and hardness of heart, Doubts as to the truth of the Word, and certainty of the world to come, were gone for ever.

He found no difficulty as to the keys of the kingdom of heaven. 'Now I saw the apostles to be the elders of the city of refuge, those that they were to receive in, were received to life, but those that they were to shut out, were to be slain by the avenger of blood.' Those were to enter who, with Peter, confessed to Jesus, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God' (Matthew 16:16). This is simply an authority to proclaim salvation or condemnation to those who receive or reject the Saviour. It is upon his shoulder the key of the house is laid (Isaiah 22:22). Christ only has the key, no MAN openeth or shutteth (Revelation 1:18, Revelation 3:7). All that man can do, as to binding or loosening, is to warn the hardened and to invite the contrite.

By these trials, the promises, became more clear and invaluable than ever. He never saw those heights and depths in grace, and love, and mercy, as he saw them after this severe trial—'great sins drew out great grace'; and the more terrible and fierce guilt was, the more high and mighty did the mercy of God in Christ appear. These are Bunyan's own reflections; but may we not add to them, that while he was in God's school of trial, every groan, every bitter pang of anguish, and every gleam of hope, were intended to fit him for his future work as a preacher and writer? Weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, there was not a jot too little, or an iota too much. Every important subject which embarrasses the convert, was most minutely investigated, especially faith, the sin against the Holy Ghost, the divinity of Christ, and such essential truths. He well knew every dirty lane, and nook, and corner of Mansoul, in which the Diabolonians found shelter, and well he knew the frightful sound of Diabolus' drum. [73] Well did his pastor, John Burton, say of him, 'He hath through grace taken these three heavenly degrees, to wit, union with Christ, the anointing of the Spirit, and experience of the temptations of Satan, which do more fit a man for that mighty work of preaching the gospel, than all the university learning and degrees that can be had.' [74]

Preserved in Christ Jesus, and called—selected from his associates in sin, he was taken into this school, and underwent the strictest religious education. It was here alone that his rare talent could be cultivated, to enable him, in two immortal allegories, to narrate the internal discipline he underwent. It was here he attained that habitual access to the throne of grace, and that insight into the inspired volume, which filled his writings with those solemn realities of the world to come; while it enabled him to reveal the mysteries of communion with the Father of spirits, as he so wondrously does in his treatise on prayer. To use the language of Milton—'These are works that could not be composed by the invocation of Dame Memory and her Siren daughters, but by devout prayer to that eternal Spirit, who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and send out his seraphim, with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases, without reference to station, birth, or education.' The tent-maker and tinker, the fisherman and publican, and even a friar or monk, [75] became the honoured instruments of his choice.

Throughout all Bunyan's writings, he never murmurs at his want of education, although it is often a source of humble apology. He honoured the learned godly as Christians, but preferred the Bible before the library of the two universities. [76] He saw, what every pious man must see and lament, that there is much idolatry in human learning, and that it was frequently applied to confuse and impede the gospel. Thus he addresses the reader of his treatise on The Law and Grace—'If thou find this book empty of fantastical expressions, and without light, vain, whimsical, scholar-

like terms, it is because I never went to school, to Aristotle or Plato, but was brought up at my father's house, in a very mean condition, among a company of poor countrymen. But if thou do find a parcel of plain, yet sound, true, and home sayings, attribute that to the Lord Jesus his gifts and abilities, which he hath bestowed upon such a poor creature as I am and have been.' [77] His maxim was—'Words easy to be understood do often hit the mark, when high and learned ones do only pierce the air. He also that speaks to the weakest may make the learned understand him; when he that striveth to be high, is not only of the most part understood but of a sort, but also many times is neither understood by them nor by himself!' [78] This is one of Bunyan's maxims, well worthy the consideration of the most profoundly learned writers, and also of the most eloquent preachers and public speakers.

Bunyan was one of those pioneers who are far in advance of the age in which they live, and the narrative of his birth and education adds to the innumerable contradictions which the history of man opposes to the system of Mr. Owen and the Socialists, and to every scheme for making the offspring of the poor follow in leading-strings the course of their parents, or for rendering them blindly submissive to the dictates of the rich, the learned, or the influential. It incontestably proves the gospel doctrine of individuality, and, that native talent will rise superior to all impediments. Our forefathers struggled for the right of private judgment in matters of faith and worship—their descendants will insist upon it, as essential to salvation, personally to examine every doctrine relative to the sacred objects of religion, limited only by Holy Writ. This must be done with rigorous impartiality, throwing aside all the prejudices of education, and be followed by prompt obedience to Divine truth, at any risk of offending parents, or laws, or resisting institutions, or ceremonies which he discovers to be of human invention. All this, as we have seen in Bunyan, was attended with great mental sufferings, with painstaking labour, with a simple reliance upon the Word of God, and with earnest prayer. If man impiously dares to submit his conscience to his fellow-man, or to any body of men called a church, what perplexity must he experience ere he can make up his mind which to choose! Instead of relying upon the ONE standard which God has given him in his Word; should he build his hope upon a human system he could be certain only that man is fallible and subject to err. How striking an instance have we, in our day, of the result of education, when the mind does not implicitly follow the guidance of the revealed Word of God. Two brothers, named Newman, educated at the same school, trained in the same university, brought up under the same religious system—all human arts exhausted to mould their minds into strict uniformity, yet gradually receding from the same point in opposite directions, but in equally downward roads; one to embrace the most puerile legends of the middle ages, the other to open infidelity. Not so with those who follow the teachings of the Word of God, by which, and not by any church, they are to be individually judged at the great day: no pontiff, no priest, no minister, can intervene or mediate for them at the bar of God. There it will be said, 'I know you, by your prayers for Divine guidance and your submission to my revealed will'; or, 'I know you not,' for you preferred the guidance of frail, fallible men, to me, and to my Word—a solemn consideration, which, as it proved a source of solid happiness and extensive usefulness to Bunyan in his pilgrimage, so it insured to him, as it will to all who follow his course, a solid foundation on which to stand at the great and terrible day, and thus enable them to live as well as die in the sure and certain hope of a triumphant entry into the celestial city.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] This is a solemn consideration; many profess to serve God while they are bond-slaves to sin; and many are servants in his family who are not sons, nor heirs, of heaven. Blessed are those who are both servants and sons.

[2] Vol. i., p. 7, 8.

[3] Jan. 3, 1644-5.

[4] Aug. 23, 1645.

[5] 4to Edit., 1644.

[6] Neale, 1822, vol. ii., p. 220.

[7] Life of Alfred, comparing him to Charles I. Preface. 8vo. 1634.

[8] Vol. i., p. 8, 9.

[9] The game of cat, tipcat, or "sly," so called by Wilson, in his life of Bunyan [Wilson's Edition of Works, vol. i., fol. 1736], is an ancient game well known in many parts of the kingdom. A number of holes are made in the ground, at equal distances, in a circular direction; a player is stationed at each hole; the opposite party stand around; one of them throws the cat to the batsman nearest to him; every time the cat is struck, the batsmen run from one hole to the next, and score as many as they change positions; but if the cat is thrown between them before reaching the hole, the batsman is out [Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, 8vo., p. 110]. Such was the childish game played by men on the Lord's-day.

[10] Life by C. Doe, 1698.

[11] Vol. i., p. 9.

[12] Saved by Grace, vol. i., p. 351.

[13] Vol. i., p. 9; No. 32.

[14] Folio edition, pp. 595-6.

[15] In the Engraving, p. 1, vol. i., is a view of part of the village green, Elstow, with the ancient building now used as a school-house, as seen from the church-yard. This building is older than the time of Bunyan, and was the scene of village meetings at the period in which he lived, and doubtless associated with his dancing and thoughtless amusements, as the green itself was the scene of the game of cat. A view looking towards the church is given in Vignette to vol. i. of the Works.

[16] Vol. i., p. 10.

[17] Southey's Life, pp. xxv., xxxii.

[18] Vol. i., p. 80.

[19] Vol. i., p. 11.

[20] Vol. iii., p. 607.

[21] Heresiography. 4tp. 1654. p. 143.

[22] Vol. iii., p. 151.

[23] Vol. iii., p. 118.

[24] Vol. i., p. 11.

[25] Vol. i., p. 11.

[26] Vol. i., p. 591.

[27] The Revelation H. J. Rose, in his Biographical Dictionary, distorts this singular affair into, 'he laid claim to a faith of such magnitude as to work miracles!'

[28] Vol. i., p. 12.

[29] Vol. iii., pp. 155, 156.

[30] Vol. i., p. 12.

[31] It is as easy for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, as for a man to pass through this door with the world on his back.

[32] Vol. i., p. 13.

[33] Vol. i., p. 13.

[34] Holy War, vol. iii., p. 342, 346.

[35] Bunyan on the Throne of Grace, vol. i., p. 677.

[36] Vol. i., p. 80.

[37] Holy War, vol. iii., p. 297.

[38] Vol. i., p. 14.

[39] Vol. iii., p. 123.

[40] Addison.

[41] Vol. i., p. 14.

[42] April 1645. About 300 discontented persons got together in Kent, and took Sir Percival Hart's house; Colonel Blunt attacked and dispersed them with horse and foot, regained the house, and made the chief of them prisoners. Whitelock, folio 137.

[43] Vol. i., p. 15.

[44] Vol. i., p. 15; No. 82.

[45] Vol. i., p. 16.

[46] Vol. i., p. 17, 18.

[47] Vol. iii., p. 113.

[48] Bunyan's Saints' Privilege and Profit, vol. i., p. 661.

[49] Bunyan's Saved by Grace, vol. i., p. 340.

[50] Vol. i., p. 17.

[51] Bunyan's Christ a Complete Saviour, vol. i., p. 210.

[52] Rogers on Trouble of Mind. Preface. Thus temptations are suited to the state of the inquiring soul; the learned man who studies Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas, is filled with doubts arising from 'philosophy and vain deceit, profane and vain babblings'; the unlettered mechanic is tried not by logic, but by infernal artillery; the threatenings of God's Word are made to obscure the promises. It is a struggle which, to one possessing a vivid imagination, is attended with almost intolerable agonies—unbelief seals up the door of mercy.

Bunyan agreed with his learned contemporary, Milton, in the invisible agency of good and bad spirits.

'Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep!'

The malignant demons watch their opportunity to harass the pilgrim with evil thoughts, injected when least expected.

[53] Vol. i., p. 19.

[54] Vol. i., p. 20.

[55] The anxiety of this pious teacher was to press upon his hearers to take special heed, not to receive any truth upon trust from any man, but to pray over it and search 'the Holy Word.' This, Mr. Southey designates, 'doctrine of a most perilous kind.' How happy would it be for society if every religious teacher pressed this perilous doctrine upon their hearers, that it might bring forth the same fruit universally, as it did specially in Bunyan. Compare Grace Abounding, No. 117, and Southey's Life, p. 27, 28.

[56] Vol. i., p. 21.

[57] Vol. i., p. 22.

[58] Vol. iii., p. 115.

[59] Vol. iii., p. 270.

[60] Luther fell into the same mistake as to the Baptists, that Bunyan did as to the Quakers. Both were keenly alive to the honour of Christianity, and were equally misled by the loose conduct of some unworthy professors. Luther charges the Baptists as being 'devils possessed with worse devils' [Preface to Galatians]. 'It is all one whether he be called a Frank, a Turk, a Jew, or an Anabaptist' [Com. Galatians 4:8-9]. 'Possessed with the devil, seditious, and bloody men' [Galatians 5:19]. Even a few days before his death, he wrote to his wife, 'Dearest Kate, we reached Halle at eight o'clock, but could not get on to Eisleben, for there met us a great Anabaptist, with waves and lumps of ice, which threatened us with a second baptism.' Bunyan, in the same spirit, calls the Quakers 'a company of loose ranters, light notionists, shaking in their principles!' [Vol. ii., p. 133, 9, 21]. Denying the Scriptures and the resurrection [Com. Galatians 4:29]. These two great men went through the same furnace of the regeneration; and Bunyan, notwithstanding Luther's prejudices against the Baptists, most affectionately recommended his Comment on the Galatians, as an invaluable work for binding up the broken-hearted.

[61] Vol. i., p. 23.

[62] Vol. ii., p. 181.

[63] Vol. ii., p. 260.

[64] Vol. i., p. 25; No. 158.

[65] See note in vol. i., p. 26.

[66] Vol. i., p. 29.

[67] Vol. i., p. 30

[68] The study of those scriptures, in order that the solemn question might be safely resolved, 'Can such a fallen sinner rise again?' was like the investigation of the title to an estate upon which a whole livelihood depended. Every apparent flaw must be critically examined. Tremblingly alive to the importance of a right decision, his prayers were most earnest; and at length, to his unspeakable delight, the word of the law and wrath gave place to that of life and grace.

[69] Vol. i., p. 35.

[70] Vol. iii., p. 100.

[71] Irish sixpences, which passed for fourpence-halfpenny. See the note on vol. i., p. 36. Since writing that note I have discovered another proof of the contempt with which that coin was treated:—'Christian, the wife of Robert Green, of Brexham, Somersetshire, in 1663, is said to have made a covenant with the devil; he pricked the fourth finger of her right hand, between the middle and upper joints, and took two drops of her blood on his finger, giving her a four-pence-halfpenny. Then he spake in private with Catharine her sister, and vanished, leaving a smell of brimstone behind!'—Turner's Remarkable Providences, folio, 1667, p. 28.

[72] Vol. i., p. 36.

[73] Holy War.

[74] Vol. ii., p. 141.

[75] Luther and Tyndale.

[76] Vol. iii., p. 398.

[77] Vol. i., p. 495.

[78] Vol. iii., p. 398.

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