Слике страница
PDF
ePub

tions; that his fervour exceeded his knowledge ; and that his imagination exercised despotic power over bis bouy and mind.' When a yourg min, Bunyan served in the army of ibe Parliament. After bis first spiritual impulses had been awakened, he continued long hanging-to use his own figurative language-- as in a pair of scales, sometimes up and sometimes down; now in peace, and now again in terror.' By degrees his religious impressions acquired strength and . permanence; lill, after many doubts respecting his salvation, and the reality of his possession of faith, which last circumstance be was once on the eve of putting to the test by commanding some waterpuddles to be dry-he at length nitained a comfortable state of mind; and, having resolved to lead a moral and pious life, was, about the year 1655, baptised and admitted as a member of the Baptist congregation in Bedford. By the solicitation of the other members of that body, he was induced to become a preacher, though not without some modest reluctance on his part. After zealously preaching the gospel for five years, he was apprehended as a maintainer and up. holder of assemblies for religious purposes, which, soon after the Restoration, had been declared unlawful. His sentence of condemnation to perpetual banislıment was commuted 10 imprisonment in Bedford jail, where he remained for twelve years and a halt: Dur. ing that long period he employed himself partly in writing pious works, and parily in making tagged laces for the support of himself and his family. "His library while in prison consisted but of two books, the Bible and Fox's Book of Martyrs,' with both of which bis own productions shew him to have become familiar. Having been liberated through the benevolent endeavours of Dr. Barlow, bishop of Lincoln, he resumed his occupation of itinerant preacher, and continued to exercise it until the proclamatiou of liberty of conscience by James II. After that event, he was enabled, by the contributions of his friends, to erect a meeting-house in Bedford, where bis preaching attracted large congregations during the remainder of his life. He frequently visited and preached to the Noyconformists in London, and when there in 1688, was cut off by sever in the sixty-first year of

While in prison at Bedford, Bunyan, as we have said, composed several works; of these, · The Pilgrim's Progress from this World to that which is to come' is the one which has acquired the most extensive celebrity. Ten editions were published between 1678 and 1683. The second part (now always printed with the first) appeared in 1681. The popularity of the work is almost wrivalled; it has gone through innumerable editions, and been translated into most of the European languages. The object of this remarkable production, it is hardly necessary to say, is to give an allegorical view of the life of a Christian, bis difficulties, temptations, encouragements, and ultimate triumph; and this is done with such skill and graphic effect, that the book, though upon the most serious of subjects, is read by

his age.

children with nearly as mucli pleasure as fictions professedly written for their amusement. The work is, throughout, strongly imbued with the Calvinistic principles of the anthor. who, in relating the conteutions of his hero with the powers of darkness, and the terrible visions by which he was so frequently appalled, bas doubtless drawn Jargely from what he himselt experienced under the influence of his own fervid imagination. A vein of latent sarcasm and humour also runs through the work, as Bunyan depicts his balting and time-serving characters--the worldly personages that cumber and obstruct thic pilgrim on bis way. Or ile literary merits of The Pilgrim's Pro. gress,' Mr. Southey speaks in the following terms: “Ilis is at home. spun styl', nit a manufactureri one; and what a diff'rence is there between its homelini ss and the flipnant vulgariiy of the Roger L'Estrange and Tom Brown school! If it is not a well of Englis! undefiled to which the poet as weli as the philologist must repair, if they would drink of the living waters, it is a clear stream of current English, the vernacular speech of bis age, sometimes, indeed, in iis rusticity and coarseness, but always in its plairness and its strength. To this natural style Bunyan is in some degree beholden for his general popularity; his language is everywliere level to the most ignorant reader and to the meanest capacity: there is a homely reality about it; a nurs: ry tale is not more intelligible, in its manner of narration, to a child. Another cause of his popularity is, that lie taxes the imagination as little as the understanding. The vividness of his own, which, as his history shews, sometimes could not distinguish ideal impressions from actual ones, occasioned this. He saw the things of which he was writing as distinctly with his mind's eye as if they were indeed passing before him in a dre:im. And the reader perhaps sees them more satisfactorily to liimself, because the outline of the picture only is presented to him, and the author baving made no attempt to fill up the details, every reader supplies them according to the measure and scope of bis own intellectual and imaginative powers.'* By universal assent the inspired tinker is ranked with our English classics and great masters of allegory; yet, so late as 1732, Cowper dared not name him in his poetry, lest ihe name shoulil provoke a sneer! Another allegorical pioluction of Bunyan, which is still read, though less extensively, is.. The Holy War male liv King Shadai upon Diabolus, for the Regaining of the Metropolis of the World, or ile Losing and Retaking of Mansoul' (1682). The full of man is typified by the capture of the flourishing city of Mansoul ly Diabolus, ihe enemy of iis rightful sovereign, Shaddai, or Jehovali; whose son Immanuel recovers it after a tedious sirge. Bunyan's • Grace aboun ing to the Chief of Sinners '--of which the most remarkable portions are given below is an interesting thouglı highly coloured narrative of liis own life and roli: inus experience. Ilisother

• Life of Bunyan prefixed to The Pilgrim's Progress, 1931.

works are numerous, but inferior, and collected editions of the whole have often been reprinted. One of the best is that of 1853, in three volumes, edited by George Offor.

Extracts from Bunyan's Autobiography. In this my relation of the merciful working of God upon my soul, it will not be amisz, is, in the first place, I do, in a few words, give you a hint of my pedigree and mauner of bringing up, that thereby the goodness and beauty of God towards me may be the more advanced and magnified before the sons of men.

Por my descent, then, it was, as is well known by many, of a low and inconsidable generation, my father's house being of that rauk that is meanest and most despised of all the families of the land. Wherefore I have not here, as others, to boast of noble blood, and of any high-horn state, according to the flesh, though, all things considered, I magnify the heavenly inajesty, for that by this door he brongst me into the world, to partake of the grace and life that is in Christ by the gospel. But, notwithstanding the meanness and inconsiderableness of my parents, it pleased God to put it into their hearts to put me to school, to learn me both to read and write; the which I also attained, according to the rate of other poor men's children, though to my shame, I confess I did soon lose that I had learned, even almost utterly, and that long before the Lord d d work his gracious work of conversion upon my soul. As for my own natural life, for the time that I was without God in ihe world, it was, indeed, according to the course of this world, and the spirit that now worketh in the children of disoba lience, Eph. ii. 2, 3. It was my delight to be taken captive by the devil at his will, 2 Tim. il. 26, being filled with all unrighteousness; the which did also so strongly work, both in my heart and life, that I had but few equals, both for cursiug, swearing, Ising, and blaspheming the holy name of God. Yea, so settled and rooted was I in these things, that th y became as a second nature to me; the which, as I have also with soberness con idered since, did so offend the Lord, that even in my childhood he did scars and terrify me with fearful dreams and visions. For often, after I had spent this and the other day in sin, I have been greatly afflicted while asleep with the apprehensions of devils and wicked spirits, who, :19 I then thought, laboured to draw me away with them, of which I could never be rid. Also I should, at thos: years, be greatly troubled with the thoughts of the fearful torments of hell-fire, still fearing that it would be my lot to be found at last among those devils aud bellish fiends, who are there bound down with the chains and bonds of darkness unto the jndgment of the great day.

These things, say, when I was but a child but nine or ten years old, did so distress my soul, that then, in the midst of my inany sports, and childish vanities, amidst my vain companiorrs, I was often much cast down and allicted in my mind therewith, yet could I not let go my sins. Yea, I was also then so overcome with despair of ID and haven, but I should often wish either that there had been no hell, or ibat I had ben a devil, supposing they were only tormentors, that if it must needs be that I went thither. I inight be rather a tormentor th:an be tormented myself.

A while after, theatrrible drenms did leave me, which also I boon forgot; for my pleasures did quickly cut off the remembrance of them, as if they had never buen ; wherefore, with more grediness, according to the strength of nature, I did still let loose the reins cf my lusts, aud delighted in all transgressions against the law of God; so that, until I came to the state of marringe, I was the very ringleader in all manner of vice and ungodliness. Yea, snch prevalency h:d the lists of the flesh on my poor soul, that, had not a miracle of precions grace prevented, I had not only perished by the stri ko of eternal justice, but also laid myself open to the stroke of ibose days which bring some to disgrace and shame before the face of the world.

In these days the thonghts of religion were very grievous to me; I could neither endure it myself, nor that any other should; so that when I have seen some read in those books that concernel Christian piety, it would be as it were a prison to me. Then I said unto God: “Dipart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways,' Job, xxi. 14, 15. I was now void of all good consideration; heaven and bell were both ont of sight and mind; and as for saving and dimning, they were least in my thonghts. O'Lord, thon knowest my life, and my ways are not hid from thee.

But this I well remember, that, though I could myself sin with the greatest de

light and ease, yet even then, if I had at any time seen wicked things, by those who professed goodness, it would make my spirit treinble. As once, above all the rest, when I was in the height of vanity, yet hearing one to swear that was reckoned for a religious man, it had so great a stroke 1 on my spirit, that it made my heart ache. But God did not utterly leave me, bui followed me still, not with convictions, but judgments mixed with merey. For once I fell into a creek of the sea, and hardly escaped drowning. Arother time I fell out of a bont into Bedford river, but merci yet preserved m; besides, another time being in the field with my companions, it chaced that an adder passed over the highway, so I, having a stick, struck hier over the back, and having stuued 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 to me, I migbt, by my desperateness, have brought myself to my end. This, also, I have 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 bad consented, he took my place, and coming to the siege, as he stood mentinel, he was shot in the head with a inusket-ball it, and died. Here, as I said, were judgments and mercy, but neither of them did awaken my soul to righteousness : wherefore I sinned still, aud grew more and more rebellious against God, and careless of my own salvation,

Presently after this I changed my condition into a married state, and niy mercy was to light upon a wife whose father and mother were counteż godly; this woman and I, though we caine together as poor as poor might be-not having so mucha household stuff as a dish or spoon betwixt us both-yet this she had for her part, • The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven,' and “The Practice of Piety,' which her father had left her when he died. In these two books I sometimes read, wherein I found some things that were somewhat pleasant to me--but all this while I met with no conviction. She also often would tell me what a godly man her father was, and how he would reprove and correct vice, both in his house and among his neighbours, and what a strict and holy life he lived in his days, both in word and deed. Wherefore these books, though they did not reach my heart to awakeu it about my sad and sinful sunt?, yet they did bget within me ronie desires to reform my vicious Jife, and full in vry eagerly with the religion of the times; to wit, 10 go to chnrch twice a day, and there very dvoutly both say and eing as others did, yet retaining my wicked life; but withal was so overruu with the spirit of superstition, that adored, and that with great devotion, even all things-both the bigh-place, priest. clerk, vestmeat, 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, of God, and wer: principal in the holy temple, to do his work therein. This conceit grow so strong pon my spirit, that had I but seen a priest, thongh never so sordid and debauched in his life, 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 ministors of God-1 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. ...

But all this while I was not sensible of the danger and evil of sin; I was kept from considering that sin would damn me, what religion soever I followed, unless I was found in Christ. Nay, never thought whether there was such a one or no. Thus inan, while blind, doth wunder, for he knoweth not the way to the city of God, Eccles, X. 15.

But one day, amongst all the sermons our pareon made, his subject was to treat of the Sabbath-day, and of the evil of breaking that, either with labour, sports, or otherwise; wherefore I fell in my conscience under bis sermon, thinking and believjug that he madthat surmon où purpose to shew 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 prescut greatly loaded therewith, and so weut home, when the sermon was ended, with a great burden upon my spirit. This, for that instant, did embitter my former pleasures to me; but holl, 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 oh, how glad was I that this trouble was gone from me, and that the fire was put ont, 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 gaining I returned with great delight.

Biit the same day, as I was in the midst of a mame of cat, and having struck it one blow froin the liole, just as I was about to strike it the cond time, a voic: did sudd:uly dart from heavcu into nay soul, which sail : it toulletiy sins and go io heaven, or have thruins and go to 111 ?' At this! Vis put to an ording inaz2; wherefore, leaving my cat upon the ground, I look d up to harn, and was as if i hed, wiih the eyes of my understanding, seen the Lord Jesus louk clown upon me, as being very botly disple:scd with me, and as if he did severly threaten me with some grievous pau'slument for those and other wrodiy practic .

But quickly after this, I fell into company withi on poorraan that made profession of religion, who, as I then thought, did talk pleasantly of the Scriptures and of religion; whercíore, liking wbat he said, I betook me to my Bible, and bean to take great pleasure in reading: Wherefore I ful to some outward reformation both in my words and life, and did set the commandments before me for my kuy to heaven; which commandments I also did strive to keep, and, as I thought, did keep them pretty well sometimes, and then I should have confort; yet now and iben should break one, and so afllict my conscience; but then I should repent, and say I was sorry for it, and promise Gol to do better best time, and there gut lelp again; for thon I thought I pleased God as well as any man in England.

This I continued about a year, all which time our neighbours did take me to be a Fery go‘lly and religious man, and did marvel much to me fuch great alteration in my life and manners; and, indeed, so it was, though I knew not Christ, lor grace, nor faith, nor hope; for, as I have since scen, had I thn di d, my state had been most fearful. But, I way, my neighbours wer: amazed at this my great conversion

from prodigious profzueness to something like a moral life and sober man. Now, therefore, they began to praise, to comment, and to speak well of me, both to my face and behind niy back. Now I was, as they said, become gudly; now I was become a right honest mnan. But ol! when I und:rstood these were their words and opinions of me, it pleased me mighty well; for thonghi ag yet I was nothing but a poor painted hypocrite. yet I love to be taked cf as one that was truly godly. I sus prond of any godliness, and, indeell, I did all I did either to bis ei of or well spoken of by men; and thus I coution for about a twelvemonth or more

Noir yon must know, that before thi. I bad taken much delight in ridging, but my conscience beginning to be tender, I thought such practic: was but vun, and therefore forced mysli to bare it; ytmy mind banker d; wh rotor: I wonll go to the steeple-hons and look o!), t1001th Idirst not ring; but I thought this da not becomo religion neither; yt llorccd insself, and would look on still. But quickly aller, I began to think, How, if one of the bells should fall? Then I chose to stand under a maid bram that lay ovorthwert the steeple, from side to side, thinking here I might stand sure; but then I thought again, fliould the bell fall with a swing, it inight first hit the wall, and then rebonding upon me, might kill me for all this bean. This made me stand in the streple-coor; and now, thought I, I am safo enough; for if the bell should then 1all, I can slip out bhind these thick walls, and so be preserved notwithstanding. So after this I would you go to see them ring, but vould not go any further than the steep's-vor; but then it came into my herd. • How. if the steeple itself shonld fall?' And this thought-it may, for aught I know, when I stood and looked 011-lid continually yo shake my mind, that I durst vot stand at the step! -door any longer, but was forced to 1127, 1or fear the stucple should fall upon my head.

Another thing was my dancing; I was a full year before I could quite leave that. But all this whic, when I thought I kept that or this commandment, or alia by word or dad anything I thought wa Food, I had gr. at pace in my conscience, and would thigk with myself. Go:lcunot choos. but be pospel wil me; Via, to relate it in iny own way. I thonght no maniu Enzand conllp!:98: God betier than I. But, poor wretch as I was. I was all this while imporant oi Jesus Chri t, and going about to establish my own righteousness; and bad perished therein, had not God in his mercy. shewed me more of my state by nature.

The Golden City.- From «The Pilgrim's Progress' Nov I saw in my dream that by this time the pilgrims werd got over the Enchanted Ground, and entering into the country of Dealul, whos. air was very sweet and

v. iii.

« ПретходнаНастави »