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no European language into which the Pilgrim's Progress has not been translated. The Holy War has been little less popular; and if the Life and Death of Mr. Badman has not been as generally read, it is because the subject is less agreeable, not that it has been treated with inferior ability." pp. xcvii—icix.
We have thought the above notices well worth the perusal of our readers. It were easy to add numerous other panegyrics by literary men upon Bunyan and his great work; but the Pilgrim's Progress needs not now the name of Swift, or Franklin, or Johnson, or Lord Kaimes, or Cowper, or Southey, to convince the world of the genius of the "glorious dreamer." It is however well if such suffrages invite a new class of readers, who, in search of amusement, shall find religious benefit. In this view the present typographically alluring edition will, we trust, be beneficial, and the memoir prefixed to it, though it is not what a life cf Bunyan ought to be, is so far a courtly presentation, that it may induce some to pay their respects to him who would not have admitted him to their acquaintanceship without the Laureate's card in his hand. The great majority of religious persons, of whatever body, need no such introduction; and when we reflect upon the extraordinary popularity of this work, and the spiritual edification of which, for nearly a century and a half, it has, by the blessing of God, been the instrument, we can readily echo Mr, Ivimey's admiration, that such benefits should, in the wisdom of God, have arisen from the labours of "an illiterate plebeian, a despised tinker, a prosecuted sectary, a proscribed felon, who wrote his book in a prison without any human assistance, while making tagged laces for the benefit of his family; and of which (the book, not the laces), when finished, some said, 'John, print it;' others said, 'Not so:' some said, 'It might do good,' others said, 'No.'" The fact is the more remarkable, when we look at the extraordinary state of Bunyan's own mind during many years; for though we have blamed Dr. Southey for confounding a sense of the burden of sin and the terrors of futurity with insanity, yet when we remember Bunyan's former ignorance and extravagance—as evinced for example in his expecting a miracle to confirm his faith, contrary to the direct teaching of Scripture— we should not have expected so much that is judicious, and comparatively so little that is otherwise in the Pilgrim's Progress.
To narrate at large the events of Bunyan's life, of which his long protracted imprisonment is a chief feature, would be only to transcribe what is well known or easily accessible. He tells us himself with what fear and trembling he entered upon the work of preaching.
"I first could not believe that God should speak by me to the heart of any man, still counting myself unworthy; yet those who were thus touched, would have a particular respect for me; and though I did put it from me, that they should be awakened by me, still they would affirm it before the saints of God: they would also bless God for me, (unworthy wretch that I am !) and count me God's instrument, that shewed to them the way of salvation."
He was gradually led through three successive stages of spiritual instruction. First, he says: "The Lord did lead me to begin where his word begins with sinners; that is, to condemn all flesh, and to open and allege, that the curse of God by the law doth belong to and lay hold on all men as they come into the world, because of sin. Now this part of my work I fulfilled with great sense; for the terrors of the law, and guilt for my transgressions, lay heavy on my conscience; I preached what I felt, what I smartingly did feel! even that under which my poor soul did groan and tremble to astonishment." Thus he went on for two years, "crying out against men's sins, and their fearful state, because of them." After which, he says: "The Lord came in upon my own soul, with some sure peace and comfort through Christ: wherefore now I altered in my preaching (for still I preached what I saw and felt); now therefore I did much labour to hold with Jesus Christ in all his offices, relations, and benefits unto the world, and did strive also to condemn, and remove those false supports and props on which the world doth lean, and by them fall and perish." Next came the third stage, for he adds: "After this, God led me into something of the mystery of the union of Christ; wherefore that I discovered and shewed to them also." In this way of exhortation he continued with astonishing zeal and energy, and with such an overwhelming feeling of the truth and infinite importance of what he preached, that he often said in his heart before God, that if his being hanged on a gibbet " would awaken the minds of careless sinners," he should be contented to undergo that penalty. When he was preaching " the doctrine of life by Christ," "it seemed to me at times," he says, "as if an angel of God had stood at my back to encourage me:" " it hath been with much power and heavenly evidence upon my own soul, while I have been labouring to unfold it, to demonstrate it, and to fasten it upon the consciences of others, that I was more than sure, if it be lawful so to express myself, that those things which I then asserted were true." He adds: "If any of those who were awakened by my ministry did after that fall back (as sometimes too many did), I can truly say, their loss hath been more to me than if my own children had been going to their grave: I think verily, I may speak it without any offence to the Lord, nothing has gone so near me as that; unless it was the fear of the loss of the salvation of my own soul. I have counted as if I had goodly buildings and lordships in those places where my children were born: my heart hath been so wrapped up in the glory of this excellent work, that I counted myself more blessed and honoured of God by this, than if he had made me the emperor of the Christian world, or the lord of all the glory of the earth without it!" We have quoted these passages to shew what, under the blessing of God, was one chief source of the powerful and impressive character of his preaching. We need but contrast the earnest effusions of such a man poured forth from his inmost soul, with those sleepy languid addresses which are often called sermons, to see ample cause, independently of all other reasons, for the overflowing and weeping audiences of the tinker of Elstow, while many a regular divine was preaching far more learned discourses to empty benches.
There is another declaration of Bunyan's respecting his own preaching, which it may be well to notice in the present day of novelty and theological contention. "I never cared to meddle with things that were controverted and in dispute among the saints, especially things of the lowest nature; yet it pleased me much to contend with great earnestness for the word of faith, and the remission of sins by the death and sufferings of Jesus: but I say, as to other things, T would let them alone, because I saw they engendered strife; and because that they neither in doing nor in leaving undone did commend us to God to be his." He adds: " It pleased me nothing to see people drink in opinions, if they seemed ignorant of Jesus Christ, and the worth of their own salvation. Sound conviction for sin, especially unbelief, and a heart set on fire to be saved by Christ, with strong breathings after a truly sanctified soul: that it was that delighted me; those were the souls I counted blessed."
But he was not long left unmolested. He says: "When I first went to preach the word abroad, the doctors and priests of the country did open wide against me; but I was persuaded of this, not to render railing for railing; but to see how many of their carnal professors I could convince of their miserable state by the Law, and of the want and worth of Christ; for, thought I, 'That shall answer for me in time to come, when they shall be for my hire before their face.'" He had gone on thus for about five years, when in November 1660, a few months after the Restoration
Christ. Obsebv. No. 370. 4 S
of Charles II. he was committed to Bedford gaol, for going about preaching, and there he remained for upwards of twelve years; during which period he wrote the first part of the Pilgrim's Progress, his personal narrative, entitled, Grace Abounding, and many other works. Dr. Southey, we regret to say, relates this part of Bunyan's history in a manner not altogether honourable to his understanding or his feelings. His sympathies appear to be on the side of the oppressor, rather than the oppressed; he offers every possible excuse and extenuation for those who thus misused the strong arm of power; he represents the prison as almost a pleasant retreat; seems to see little hardship in Bunyan's lot; and though his family must have starved during his long imprisonment, had he not learned to make " tagged laces" to support them, (for he was as effectually called from his pots and kettles, to use Mr. Ivimey's expression, as the Apostles were from their nets; or, as the Laureate in mirthful guise and elegant witticism expresses it, -" his worldly occupation was gone, for there was an end of tinkering as well as of his ministerial itinerancy,") yet in all this Dr. Southey finds nothing to call forth much commiseration. "His family," he coolly says, "lost the comfort of his presence; but in other respects their condition was not worsened by his imprisonment." Thus, because, like an honest man and a tender husband and father, he learned to earn a pittance for his wife and children, in his prison, their condition was "not worsened," (how knows our Laureate that ?) except in the mere trifle of "the comfort of his presence." And what would Dr. Southey have had them lose? Would he have had them pinched, and flogged, and starved to death, in order to prove that they were wretched? Our Laureate has pathetically embalmed in his poems his own paternal feelings; for we have not forgotten the tender and beautiful domestic stanzas prefixed to his Battle of Waterloo. And had not Bunyan's family similar domestic sympathies? Let us hear the sufferer's own expression of his feelings, which Dr. Southey justly admits, "it would be wronging him to withhold." We shall commence our citation with the paragraph preceding that which Dr. Southey quotes, because it shews both his fears and the nature of his support under them.
"The second consideration was to live upon God that is invisible, as Paul said in another place; the way not to faint, is, ' To look not on the things that are seen, but at the things that arc not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal.' And thus I reasoned with myself, If I provide only for a prison, then the whip comes unawares, and so doth also the pillory. Again, If I only provide for these, then I am not tit for banishment: further, If I conclude that banishment is the worst, then if death comes, I am surprised: so that I see, the best way to go through sufferings, is to trust in God, through Christ, as touching the world to come; and as touching this world, ' to count the grave my house, to make my bed in darkness; to say to corruption, Thou art my father, and to the worm, Thou art my mother and sister :' that is, to familiarize these things to me."
He then proceeds as quoted by Dr. Southey; and a most affecting passage it is.
"But notwithstanding these helps, I found myself a man encompassed with infirmities; the parting with my wife and poor children, bath often been to me in this place, as the pulling the flesh from the bones; and also it brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries, and wants, that my poor family was like to meet with, should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all beside: Oh! the thoughts of the hardships I thought my poor blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces. Poor child! thought I, what sorrow art thou like to have for thy portion in this world! thou must be beaten, must beg, suffer hunger, cold, nakedness, and a thousand calamities, though I cannot now endure the wind should blow upon thee. But yet, thought I, I must venture you all with God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you: Oh! I saw I was as a man who was pulling down his house upon the heads of his wife and children . yet 1 thought on those 'two milch kine that were to carry the ark of God into another country, and to leave their calves behind them.'"
Under this heart-rending affliction, "being but a young prisoner not acquainted with the laws," and therefore fearing that, besides " whip" and "pillory," " my imprisonment might end at the gallows for aught that I could tell," his consolation was in the promises of God.
"But that which helped me in this temptation was divers considerations: the first was, the consideration of those two Scriptures, 'Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me :' and again,' The Lord said, Verily it shall go well with thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat them well in the time of evil.' I had also this consideration: that if I should venture all for God, I engaged God to take care of my concernments; hut if I forsook him in his ways, for fear of any trouble that should come to me or mine, then I should not only falsify my profession, but should count also that my concernments were not so sure, if left at God's feet, as they woidd be if they were under my own care."
There is not much said in Bunyan's Grace Abounding, of the circumstances attending his examinations before the justices, and his imprisonment; but he drew up a detailed account of the matter, which the temper of the times, we may presume, did not allow him to publish; and it did not appear in print till upwards of seventy years after his death, being witheld, it has been conjectured, in tenderness to the families of his persecutors, whose names do not figure in any very enviable light. The Grace Abounding has passed through more than fifty editions; but the account of his imprisonment was extremely scarce till Mr. Ivimey re-printed it; and Dr. Southey ought here again to have explicitly acknowledged his obligations to his biographical predecessor. The Laureate and the Baptist minister, however, differ strangely in their inferences from Bunyan's statement. Mr. Ivimey says: "In the account of his imprisonment, which includes several conversations between him and the justices, the reader will find a fine display of his character, considered either as the pious Christian, the zealous minister, or the intrepid Englishman, resisting the lawless encroachments of arbitrary power." Dr. Southey on the other hand says:
"In none of Bunyan's writings does he appear so little reasonable, or so little tolerant, as upon these occasions; he was a brave man, a bold one, and believed himself to be an injured one, standing up against persecution; for he knew that by his preaching evident and certain good was done, but that there was any evil in his way of doing it, or likely to arise from it, was a thought, which if it had arisen in his own mind, he would immediately have ascribed to the suggestion of Satan." p. lxi.
The fairest way to decide between these opposite statements, would be to exhibit the facts of the case at large, which we would do if our limits allowed. But even in Dr. Southey's own interesting account, as abridged from Bunyan's narrative, there is ample proof of the good conduct of the sufferer, and of the folly and persecuting spirit of the laws under which he suffered ;—laws which so far from really supporting the Established Church of England, only tended to render it odious to the people. The best apology is, that the nature of religious liberty was not at that time fully understood by any party; and that men thought they did God service by restraining those who did not worship with them. It should be remembered also, that there was at that time great alarm in the minds of the public authorities, who from the disturbances which were often occurring, were suspicious of all public assemblages of the people, and not least where religion professed to be the object of the meeting. We admit further, that humane efforts were made by the magistrates to turn Bunyan from his decision, rather than put the law into execution, and that provided he would have engaged to give over preaching he might probably at any time have procured his liberty But this he could not conscientiously do; and as he caused no civil disturbance by his ministrations, the law that enjoined him to be silent, we scruple not to say, was unjust and tyrannical. But let us hear Dr. Southey's own account of the matter; which we shall interject with a few notes as we pass along.
"A warrant was issued against Bunyan as if he had been a dangerous person, be
cause he went about preaching; this office was deemed, (and well it might be) incompatible with his calling; he was known to be hostile to the restored church, and probably it might be remembered that he had served in the Parliament's army." p. Ux.
Here are three arguments: First, that preaching and tinkering were incompatible ; but was that any reason for keeping a man twelve years in prison and threatening him with transportation, or being "stretched by the neck?" Secondly, that Bunyan was hostile to the restored church; which hostility, however, was not likely to be diminished by the use of whips and stocks and prisons and gibbets. Thirdly, that "it might be remembered that he had served (at the age of seventeen!) in the Parliament's army," which remembrance is a mere gratuitous guess of Dr. Southey's, in raking together all possible or conceivable apologies for a bad deed. If every man was to be imprisoned at the Restoration, who happened many years before, willing or unwilling, when a mere boy, to have been a Commonwealth soldier, truly prison room had been scant in merry England. And to suppose that any judge or magistrate could in common feeling or justice have " remembered" such an old offence as an aggravation of Bunyan's sin of non-conformity, would have been very like hurling the most worthy of all Laureates from the summit of his own Skiddaw, and pleading in excuse that we remembered he once wrote Wat Tyler. But we proceed:
"Accordingly he was arrested at a place called Samsell in Bedfordshire, at a meeting in a private house. He was aware of this intention, but neither chose to put off the meeting, nor to escape, lest such conduct on his part should make 'an ill savour in the country ;' and because he was resolved ' to see the utmost of what they conld say or do to him ;' so he was taken before the justice, Wingate by name, who had issued the warrant." f. lix.
Dr. Southey here most unfairly represents Bunyan very much in the light of an obstinate hot-headed man, who would not act with common prudence; whereas the original narration from which he gleans his facts, bears quite a different aspect. Bunyan tells us that he seriously deliberated whether he ought to make his escape, or, at least, whether he ought not to decline holding the meeting; but he was decided by such considerations as, that "to preach God's word is so good a work that we need not be ashamed of it;" that "we shall be well rewarded if we suffer for it;" that if he who had encouraged others in the ways of godliness were to fear personal inconvenience in discharging what he considered a bounden duty, "what will the weak and newly converted brethren think of it;" how would they be staggered, and "how would the world have taken occasion by his cowardliness to blame the Gospel," and to suspect its professors of hypocrisy. Surely this was not mere bravado, or fool-hardiness. Speaking of the meeting, he says: "Blessed be the Lord, I knew of no evil I had said or done :" and he adds, that so far from there being any necessity for the justices "setting a strong watch about the house, as tf we did intend to do some fearful business to the destruction of the country "—some Cato-street conspiracy at the very least—" alas! the constable, when he came in, found us only with our Bibles in our hands ready to speak and hear the word of God; for we were just about to begin our exercise; nay, we had begun in prayer for the blessing of God upon our opportunity, I intending to have preached the word of the Lord unto them that were present; but the constable coming in, prevented us, so that I was taken and forced to depart the room." Dr. Southey goes on:
"Wingate asked him why he did not content himself with following his calling, instead of breaking the law; and Bunyan replied that he could both follow his calling, an:l
Ereach the word too. He was then required to find sureties; they were ready, and eing called in were told they were bound to keep him from preaching, otherwise their bonds would be forfeited. Upon this Bunyan declared tliat he would not desist from speaking the word of God. While his mittimus was making in consequence of this determination, one whom he calls an old enemy of the truth, entered into discourse with him, and said he had read of one Alexander the coppersmith who troubled the