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strike it the second time, a
ashamed, he wished himself a child again, voice did suddenly dart from
to be taught by his father how to speak heaven into my soul, which
without oaths and curses. The needed said, “Wilt thou leave thy sins
reformation was brought about by other and go to heaven, or have thy
means From this time, the tyrannous sins and go to hell?' At this
habit lost its power ; and though he conI was put to an exceeding
tinued to desecrate the Lord's day, he maze : wherefore, leaving my
ceased from taking his name in vain. cat upon the ground, I
Ultimately, he saw other things in a new looked up to heaven,
light, and was so conscience-stricken while and was as if I had,
standing in the belfry of the church, that with the eyes of my un
he relinquished even his favorite exercise derstanding, seen the
of assisting the ringers. Falling into the Lord Jesus looking
society of a prodown upon me,
fessor of religion, being very hotly dis
he was induced pleased with me, and
to betake him to as if he did severely
his Bible; but threaten me with some
he confined his grievous punishment."
attertion to the The immediate con
historical books, sequence of this check
avoiding studiwas a fit of despera
ously the Pauline tion ; in which, hastily
and other evangelical epistles. This readconcluding that, if he
ing-fit was accompanied with some increase must be lost, it might
of outward reformation, and an aim to gain as well be for many sins as
a title to heaven by keeping the commandfor few, he resumed his sus
ments; and, for a year, notwithstanding pended play: and we have
many fluctuations and failures, he thought his solemn assurance, that,
that he pleased God as well as any man in for some time afterward, his chief study England. So manifest a change could was, how soonest to fill himself with the not pass unobserved by the neighbors, delicacies of sin, lest, as he greatly feared, whose admiration of his goodness was now he should die before he had his desire. “ All these processes of thought,” says Dr. Cheever, “this play of conviction, remorse, and rebellion, passed perhaps more rapidly with Bunyan, in the midst of his playmates waiting for the game, than the time it takes to relate it. We should like to see the scene depicted by a master—the dreaming boy gazing up to heaven, the game standing still for a moment, and the companions of Bunyan's activity wondering what spell had come over him. But no pencil could draw the inward conflict, or the remorse and desperation of the mind, with the heavendefying position of the will that ended it."
One day, however, as he was cursing and swearing, and playing the madman, after his wonted manner, he was reprimanded by a woman, who, though herself a very loose and ungodly wretch, protested that it made her tremble to hear his imprecations, and that he was bad enough to spoil all the youth in the place. The rebuke was effectual. Silent and
as loud as their horror of his depravity had been extreme; but, that the change was merely external, requires no further proof than the gratification which he found in receiving the incense of applause.
The effect which the alteration in him had upon his fellow-villagers is stated in remarkable terms in “ The Jerusalem Sinner Saved ” — one of several small works which he published in the last year of his life. “I infected," says he, "all the youth of the town where I was born. Wherefore, Christ Jesus took me first, and the contagion was much allayed all Were other men's religious experience the town over. When God made me sigh, set down with equal minuteness, that of they would hearken, and say, What is the Bunyan would probably appear less sinmatter with John? When I went out to gular. The limits prescribed to this seek the bread of life, some of them would sketch forbid its being traced step by step. follow, and the rest be put into a muse at It must, therefore, suffice to say, that, by home. Yea, almost all the town, at first, reflection upon his conversations with the at times, would go to hear at the place good women at Bedford, by constant study where I found good; yea, young and old, of the Scriptures, and by incessant prayer, for a while, had some reformation in them; he was enabled to triumph over a series also some of them, perceiving that God of doubts, fears, and horrible temptations, had mercy on me, came crying to him for such as the records of Christian biography mercy too."
but rarely parallel. At one time, he is The next step in Bunyan's religious tempted to test the reality of his faith by progress was accomplished by the instru- striving to work a miracle. At another mentality of some women at Bedford, time, he questions whether he is among whose godly discourse, as they were sit- the elect, and whether the day of grace is ting in the sun, attracted his attention. not past. For a long season he is a prey Their talk was about the new-birth and to the imagination of having perpetrated kindred topics ; things which, although the unpardonable sin, which induced such not omitted from “ The Plain Man's Path- prostration of body, as well as of mind, way to Heaven," had not yet entered into that he trembled for days together, and his mind; and, when he left them, their labored under the worst symptoms of fepious converse pursued and haunted him. brile affection. But, over all his trials, Again and again he sought their company, resulting, as he was firmly persuaded, from his dissatisfaction with his own condition Satanic agency, entering into combination increasing at each new visit, accompanied, with the remains of sin in his own heart, however, with tenderness of heart, and a he was enabled, by the grace of God in continual propensity to religious medita- the powerful application of his own word, tion. The writings of St. Paul, formerly successively to triumph.
“ Such was the so distasteful, now became his special conflict,” says Dr. Cheever, “and comdelight; his resolution acquired fresh bination between error and truth, fear, vigor by shaking off one of the dearest of anxiety, distrust, presumption, good sense, his bad companions; and his steadfastness and faith, the suggestions of the tempter in the evangelical faith was strengthened and the Word of God, the blinding of by the firmness with which his acquaint- Satan and the enlightening of the Holy ance with Scripture enabled him to reject Spirit. The result of these conflicts was the licentious doctrines of a fanatical set always an advancement from the darkness of Antinomians, then called “Ranters,” | to the day. God sometimes made Bunyan although the most intimate of his religious wait at a passage of Scripture for many friends had fallen headlong into the snare. I months together, studying it on all sides, as an army would beleaguer a fortress to served free from such examples of deep take it, yet showing him nothing; but distress as, in the absence of a due counterthen, after all this waiting, and praying, poise, are adapted to engender feelings of and laboring, and longing, when the dis- despair. Yet it is well to glance at this covery came, when the light broke, how phase of Bunyan's history. “ The first glorious, how beautiful, how refreshing !" effect,” says Dr. Cheever, “ of Mr. Gif
While harassed with the fire of these ford's instructions was an unexpected temptations, he opened his mind to the revelation to Bunyan of the depths of corgood women at Bedford, through whom ruption in his own heart. He had such
sore and terrible experience of its evils, that he was almost overwhelmed; for he saw that none of his wicked desires were dead within him ; but he had a heart that would sin, under a law that must condemn, and he was driven as with a tempest by his corruptions ; and though all the while endeavoring to seek after Christ, and praying that he would open the door of his heart and take possession, yet he found unbelief rising up in great strength, and setting the shoulder against the door to keep the Saviour out. His conscience all
the while was so exceedingly scrupulous COMFORTED BY THE WOMEN.
and tender, that he hardly dared to speak
for fear of sinning; and as to his corruphe became acquainted with the Rev. John tions, he found himself as in a miry bog, Gifford, their pastor. This gentleman that shook if he did but stir ; and there he had entered the town a roistering cavalier. seemed to be left alone and abandoned of A major in the royal army, he was made God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and all good prisoner to the parliament; and, with the things. From the sight he had of his own aid of his sister, narrowly escaped the sins, and of the desperate wickedness of gallows. Driven to desperation by losses his heart, his descriptions of which remind at the gaming-table, he was meditating us of one of Cowper's simple hymns, self-destruction, when a book by Bolton beginningarrested his attention, and diverted the
*My God, how perfect are thy ways, current of his thoughts into a religious
But mine polluted are,' channel ; and he ultimately became the chosen pastor of a Baptist Church formed he fell deeply into despair, concluding in Bedford. From the counsels of an that such vigorous and hateful evils as he adviser whose early Christian experience found within himself could not possibly so closely resembled his own, Bunyan consist with a state of grace. He thought naturally derived relief and encourage- now it was impossible that he ever should ment. But he seems to have obtained get so far as to thank God that he had still greater support and consolation from made him a man. The condition of the a tattered copy of Luther on the Galations, fishes in the sea, he thought, was to be which Divine Providence threw in his way, desired rather than his, which for years and which appeared to him as though it together was but a protracted experience “had been written out of his own heart." of all that is contained in that outcry in The Bible excepted, he gave this book the the seventh of Romans —-0 wretched preference over all the books that he had man that I am! who shall deliver me from ever seen, as most fit for a wounded con- the body of this death ?' In this very science. Severe as was the ordeal through state, we say, he continued, with brief which he was put, his case was by no alternations, for several years. But let no means singular. Most persons of an ex-man think that this state, though bordering citable temperament are, in the first stages on despair, was with him a mere gloomy, of their religious life, a prey to tempta- brooding inactivity. Very far from that, tions; and it is, therefore, of importance for he was working all the while with all that religious biography should be pre- the intensity of his soul, flying from text to text, conflicting now with one element, now with another, of inward unbelief and external temptation, as a bewildered man wandering in black midnight over craggy mountains in a thunder-storm. All this while, and, indeed, ever through his whole life, and without any interval, he had the most
BUXYAN AT MR. GIFFORD'S MEETING. powerful conviction of an eternal retribution, and such a vivid, from his observance of others, as well as overmastering sense of it, that whatever by a keen watching of his own experience, seductions or temptations might be placed that . unless guilt of conscience was taken before him, the thought of one hour in hell off the right way, that is, by the blood of would be sufficient to calcine them all. So, Christ, a man grew rather worse for the in conjunction with this, there were two loss of his trouble of mind than better.' things during these years of conflict, that, And here it is a marvelous thing to see in his observance of the world around him, the vigilance of Bunyan's mind as to the filled him with wonder. One of these workings of conviction in others; to see was, when he saw old people, on the verge the unerring sagacity, the almost fearful of eternity, hunting after the things of this distinctness with which he beheld souls life, as if they should live here always; going in a wrong direction, and made their and the other was, when he saw professed errors a caution against his own. We can Christians much distressed and cast down almost see him, in Mr. Gifford's appointed by outward losses, as of husband, wife, meeting for religious inquirers, sitting child, or other trials. Lord, thought gloomy and despairing in the corner, like Bunyan, what ado is here about such a condemned spirit, yet thrillingly alive to little things as these! And this state of the import of all that was going on, and mind was most impressive truth ; it had knowing, with almost intuitive certainty, an undeniable congruity, a stern and sol- the case of those who were gradually emn consistency with the personal anxie- losing their burden, (that weight of guilt ties of an immortal soul in peril of eternal that lay so hard upon his own soul,) withruin ; it was in exact correspondence with out Christ taking it off from them. He our Saviour's own question, “What shall dreaded losing the sense of his sinfulness, it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, unless it were removed in the right way; and lose his own soul ?' This state of and he earnestly prayed to God that it mind was to Bunyan a source of great might not go off, except by the application power, and of great clearness of vision. of God's mercy, through Christ, to his He saw men walking in a vain show upon soul. And that,' says he, which made a thin sulphurous crust over a bottomless me the more afraid of this was, because I volcano; he saw and felt the sharp im- had seen some, who, though they were pressive contrasts between the worthless- under the wounds of conscience, and would ness of all mere earthly objects of pursuit, cry and pray, yet feeling rather present with the mad absorbedness of men in them, ease for their trouble than pardon for and the worth of heaven, and the terrible- their sin, cared not how they lost their ness of hell, with the indifference of men guilt, so they got it out of their mind; but to both. And amid all this terror of spirit, having got it off the wrong way, it was this energy of personal despair on account not sanctified unto them; but they grew of his own wickedness, Bunyan would not harder, and blinder, and more wicked after for the world have had his sense of sin their trouble. This made me afraid, and diminished, except by a sure finding of made me cry unto God the more, that it Christ. That sense of sin was the source might not be so with me.' All this conof his anguish and despondency, and yet | tinued for years. And the very first he was fearful of losing it; for he found, I brief interval of comfort and
Bunyan's soul came from Christ, and from him only. Truly it is a most wonderful exhibition. And we see in all this introduction of Bunyan's soul to the point of arrival at the Wicket Gate, (for only thus far has he yet come,) the source of that exquisite wisdom and beauty in his own delineation of the course of his own pilgrim, not only through all his adventures in the Slough of Despond, but in the meeting with Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, and the counsels of Carnal Policy, and Legality, and the terrors of the overhanging, fieryflashing Hill. It was a long, weary, painful, yet most instructive discipline.
“ The temptations endured by Bunyan at this time were surprisingly similar to unpardonable, and his having no right to some recounted by Luther in that Com- pray; and this was an unutterable relief mentary on Galatians with which Bunyan and shelter to him, to think that he had as was already familiar. And there is one good right to the promises and to prayer passage in that book, from which, or by as any other sinners. And though shortly means of which, the tempter himself may again his faith was losing hold of that have succeeded in shooting into Bunyan's support, yet still he went earnestly to conscience, as from a catapult, the morbid prayer, and found new comfort and relief imagination under which he had fallen of in the sentence, 'I have loved thee with an selling Christ. For Luther relates how everlasting love.' He strove to hold by such a thing happened to one Dr. Krause that promise, which he did, by God's help, of Halle, who said, 'I have denied Christ, for several days, although such was the and therefore he standeth now before his conflict and anxiety in his soul, that still Father, and accuseth me.' And, by the the passage about Esau would be flying illusion of the devil, he had so strongly in his face like lightning twenty times in conceived in his mind this imagination, an hour. Then, again, that sweet passage that never, by any exhortation, or con- from the Psalms was of great comfort to solation, or promises of God, he could be him ; 'If thou, Lord, shouldst mark inbrought from it. And it had like to have iquity, O Lord, who should stand? But been so with Bunyan himself, after the there is forgiveness with thee, that thou tempter had succeeded in fastening the mayest be feared.' A most gracious and same morbid imagination upon Bunyan's encouraging passage. But still the graces sensitive and trembling heart. But God of Bunyan's hope and faith were to go would not permit Bunyan to be tempted through other trials; they were not yet, above that he was able to bear, and would as fixtures of his character, ready for make the temptation itself a source of God's purposes. glorious victory and lasting strength. “ It was a conflict now between faith and
“The relief from it came gradually and unbelief, and Bunyan's description of it is at intervals. One day, as Bunyan was one of the most instructive and interesting absent in a neighboring town, and sitting portions of the Grace Abounding. He to rest himself upon a bench in the street, still pleaded with God that he would give always thinking upon his spiritual difficul- him the whole of that great scripture about ties, and exclaiming to himself, 'How can the sufficiency of Christ's grace, that he God comfort such a wretch as I am ?' the would let him have the words for thee, words, ' This sin is not unto death,' came and enable him to apply them to himself, into his mind with such amazing light and as well as the abstract sufficiency of grace. power, thai it was as if he had been raised For as yet Bunyan could not apply the by them from the grave. The unexpected- whole sentence, but, as he says, could ness and fitness, the sweetness and glory only gather what God gave, the words of this sentence, were so marvelous to for thee being still left out, and he being him, that they took away for the time all not able to rise to that appropriating faith his doubts and fears about his sin being | in Christ, as addressing himself, My grace