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The Works of John Bunyan
by John Bunyan
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The employment of his time in earning a maintenance for his family, and his constant engagements to preach, interfered with the proper fulfillment of his duties as a deacon of the church. His resignation of this important office is thus recorded in the minutes of the church—'At a meeting held on the 27th of the 6th month, 1657, the deacon's office was transferred from John Bunyan to John Pernie, because he could no longer discharge its duties aright, in consequence of his being so much employed in preaching.'

We cannot wonder that his time was incessantly employed. His was no ordinary case. He had to recover and improve upon the little education he had received, and lost again by dissipated habits. He must have made every effort, by his diligent study of the Bible, to gain that spiritual knowledge which alone could enable him to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ, and that profound internal converse with the throne of God which appears in all his writings. In addition to all this, he was engaged in continual controversy with a variety of sects, which, in his sober judgment, opposed the simplicity of the gospel. Among these the Ranters, or Sweet Singers, were very conspicuous. It is difficult to discover what were their opinions, but they appear to have been nearly like the Dutch Adamites; they were severely persecuted, by public authority, under the Commonwealth, for blasphemy. George Fox found some of them in prison at Coventry in 1649, and held a short disputation with them. They claimed each one to be GOD, founding their notion on such passages as 1 Corinthians 14:25, 'God is in you of a truth.' Fox quaintly asked them whether it would rain the next day; and upon their answering that they could not tell, 'Then said I unto them, God can tell.'[179] Strange as it may appear, the Ranters had many followers, while numerous pious people were troubled by their impudence and perversion of Scripture, but more especially by their being a persecuted people. Taking advantage of the inquiries that were excited by these strange doctrines, Bunyan determined to become an author, that he might set forth more extensively than he could do by preaching, the truths of the gospel in their native purity, simplicity, and beauty, as an antidote to fanaticism. The learned and eloquent looked with contempt upon the follies of the Ranters, Familists, and some loose Quakers, 'and only deigned to abuse them with raillery, while the poor unlettered tinker wrote against them.' To indite a work would be to him a pleasant recreation, but writing a book must have been extremely difficult, and have required extraordinary patience. This will be better seen by a specimen of his handwriting, now in the Bedford Library, found in Fox's Book of Martyrs, the three volumes of which beguiled many of his tedious hours when in prison.

To write a volume, containing about twenty-five thousand words, must have been a serious task to such a scribe.

It is interesting to trace his improvement in calligraphy while recovering his lost education, and advancing in proficiency in an art so essential to his constantly extending usefulness. The next is a more useful running hand, however defective in orthography and grammar; it is from the first page of a copy of Bishop Andrews' sermons[180]—

The inscription in a copy of his Holy City, 1665, in Dr. Williams' or the Dissenter's Library, Red Cross Street, is in a still more useful hand, as good as that of most authors of that day—

The autograph in Powell's Concordance, in the library of the Baptist Academy, Bristol, is in a fair hand—

His autograph is in possession of the Society of Antiquaries. The document to which it is subscribed is written in a remarkably neat hand, addressed to the Lord Protector. The signatures appear to be written as if in the writer's best style.[181]

Signature to the deed of gift[182]—

In addition to the motives which have been noticed as inducing him to become an author, it appears, that in the course of his itinerating labours, he was much grieved with the general depravity which had overspread all classes of society. Evil communications had corrupted the great mass, and occasioned an aversion to hear the gospel, which plunged the people into carnal security. When roused by his preaching they too often found refuge in despair, or in vain attempts to impose upon God their unholy self-righteousness, endeavouring 'to earn heaven with their fingers' ends';[183] anything rather than submit to receive salvation as the free gift of God, and thus be led to consecrate all their powers to his glory and the comfort of society. A few who appeared to have thought on this solemn subject, without any change of conduct, are called by Bunyan 'light notionists, with here and there a legalist,'[184] or those who relied upon a creed without the fruits of righteousness, and some of these imbibed notions of the strangest kind—that the light within was all-sufficient, without any written revelation of the will of God—that the account of Christ's personal appearance on earth was a myth, to represent his residence in the persons of believers, in whom he suffers, is crucified, buried, and raised again to spiritual life—that such persons might do whatever their inclinations led them to, without incurring guilt or sin; in short, many sinned that grace might abound!! Some of them professed to be the Almighty God manifest in the flesh. All this took place in what was called a Christian country, upon which millions of treasure had been spent to teach religion by systems, which had persecuted the honest, pious professors of vital Christianity to bonds, imprisonment, and death. This had naturally involved the kingdom in impiety and gross immorality. The discovery of the awful state of his country, while he was engaged in preaching in the villages round Bedford induced him, in the humble hope of doing good, to become an author, and with trembling anxiety he issued to the world the first production of his pen, in 1656, under the title of Some Gospel Truths Opened According to the Scriptures; and, as we shall presently find, it met with a rough reception, plunging him into controversy, which in those days was conducted with bitter acrimony.

Before it was published, he sought the approbation and protection of Mr. John Burton, who had been united with Mr. Gifford in the pastoral charge of the church to which Bunyan belonged. The testimony that he gives is very interesting:—

'Here thou hast things certain and necessary to be believed, which thou canst not too much study. Therefore pray that thou mayest receive it, so it is according to the Scriptures, in faith and love, not as the word of man but as the word of God, and be not offended, because Christ holds forth the glorious treasure of the gospel to thee in a poor earthen vessel, by one who hath neither the greatness nor the wisdom of this world to commend him to thee; for as the Scriptures saith, Christ, who was low and contemptible in the world himself, ordinarily chooseth such for himself and for the doing of his work. "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world." This man [Bunyan] is not chosen out of an earthly, but out of the heavenly university, the church of Christ, furnished with the Spirit, gifts, and graces of Christ—out of which, to the end of the world, the word of the Lord and all true gospel ministers must proceed. And, though this man hath not the learning or wisdom of man; yet, through grace, he hath received the teaching of God, and the learning of the Spirit of Christ. He hath taken these three heavenly degrees—union with Christ, the anointing of the Spirit, and experience of the temptations of Satan—which do more fit a man for the mighty work of preaching the gospel, than all the university learning and degrees that can be had. I have had experience with many other saints of this man's [Bunyan's] soundness in the faith, his godly conversation, and his ability to preach the gospel, not by human art, but by the Spirit of Christ, and that with much success in the conversion of sinners. I thought it my duty to bear witness with my brother to these glorious truths of the Lord Jesus Christ.'[185]

Bunyan was twenty-eight years of age when he published this work, and as he attacked the follies of his times, and what he deemed to be heresies, were exposed to Scripture light and condemned without mercy, it very naturally involved him in controversy. This brought forth the remarkable resources of his mind, which was stored with the Scriptures—his fearlessness—ready wit and keen retort, much sanctified by an earnest desire for the salvation of his opponents. An extraordinary man, younger than himself, full of energy and enthusiasm, entered the lists with him; and in Edward Burrough, very properly called a son of thunder and of consolation, Bunyan found an able disputant. He was talented, pious, and fearless in his Master's work, and became eminently useful in laying the foundation of the Society of Friends. Soon after this he was numbered with the noble army of martyrs at the age of twenty-eight, being sacrificed in Newgate, at the shrine of religious intolerance.

At this time the Quakers were not united as a body, and consequently there was no test of character nor rules of discipline for those who assumed that name. They were very dissimilar men to their quiet and unobtrusive descendants. The markets, fairs, and every public concourse were attended by them, denouncing false weights and measures, drunkenness and villany, with the curses of the Almighty, calling upon the people, frequently with furious and fearful energy and powerful eloquence, to repent, and cry unto God, that his mercy might be extended to the salvation of their immortal souls. their zeal led them to many breaches of good manners. They would enter churches, and after the service, when the quiet folks were thinking of gratifying their bodies with a substantial dinner, they were arrested by the violent declamation of a man or woman, frequently denouncing the priest as being the blind leading the blind. This naturally led to a scene of riot and confusion, in which the Quakers were in many cases handled with great barbarity. among these disturbers were mingled persons of bad character. The violence of sectarian feeling in the churches thus disturbed, made no discrimination between bad and good; they were equally subjected to the roughest treatment. Bunyan attacked those who denied that Christ had appeared in the world as Emmanuel, God with us 'in fashion as a man,' that by the infinite merits of his life and death imputed to believers, they might be made holy. His attack was also directed against those who refused obedience to the written Word, or who relied upon inward light in contradistinction and preference to the Bible. The title to Burrough's answer is a strange contrast to the violence of his language—The Gospel of Peace Contended for in the Spirit of Meekness and Love. In this spirit of meekness he calls his opponents 'crafty fowlers preying upon the innocent'; and lovingly exclaims, 'How long shall the righteous be a prey to your teeth, ye subtle foxes; your dens are in darkness, and your mischief is hatched upon your beds of secret whoredoms.' The unhallowed spirit of the age mistook abuse for argument, and harsh epithets for faithful dealing.[186]

Bunyan replied in A Vindication of Gospel Truths, to the great satisfaction of all his friends; and although Burrough answered this tract also, Bunyan very wisely allowed his railing opponent to have the last word, and applied his great powers to more important labours than caviling with one who in reality did not differ with him. The Quaker had been seriously misled by supposing that the Baptist was a hireling preacher; and we must be pleased that he was so falsely charged, because it elicited a crushing reply. Burrough, in reply to an imputation made by Bunyan, that the Quakers were the false prophets alluded to in Scripture, observed that 'in those days there was not a Quaker heard of.' 'Friend,' replied Bunyan, 'thou hast rightly said, there was not a Quaker heard of indeed, though there were many Christians heard of then. Again, to defend thyself thou throwest the dirt in my face, saying, If we should diligently trace thee, we should find thee in the steps of the false prophets, through fancied words, through covetousness, making merchandise of souls, loving the wages of unrighteousness.' To which Bunyan replied; 'Friend, dost thou speak this as from thy own knowledge, or did any other tell thee so? However, that spirit that led thee out this way, is a lying spirit; for though I be poor, and of no repute in the world as to outward things, yet through grace I have learned, by the example of the apostle, to preach the truth, and also to work with my hands, both for mine own living, and for those that are with me, when I have opportunity. And I trust that the Lord Jesus, who hath helped me to reject the wages of unrighteousness hitherto, will also help me still, so that I shall distribute that which God hath given me freely, and not for filthy lucre sake.'[187] Thus had he learned of the apostle to 'make the gospel of Christ without charge' (1 Cor 9:18); and upon this subject they strangely agreed. The same agreement existed between them upon the necessity of inward light from the Holy Spirit; without which they both considered the Bible to be a dead letter. The peculiar principle which separates the Quaker from every other Christian community, has nothing to do with the light within. Upon that subject all evangelical sects are agreed. The substantial difference is whether our Lord intended the work of the ministry to be exclusively a work of benevolence, charity, and love, binding all who are capable of using the talent intrusted to them, to do it without worldly reward. Surely every man may be satisfied in his own mind upon such a subject, without quarrelling with, or anathematizing each other. Bunyan and Burrough agreed, without knowing it, in the sentiments of their illustrious and learned cotemporary, John Milton, as to the ministry being without charge; and had they, when offended, followed their Master's rule, 'If thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him along' (Matt 18:15), had they met, and on their knees before the throne of grace, sought from heaven wisdom and charity in defending Divine truth, we can easily imagine that the approbation of God would have been manifested, by sending them on their important work in peaceful unity. They had been immersed in the same deep and solemn regeneration, and their ardent object was the same—to spread the influence of the kingdom of Christ.

When Christians of various denominations meet in prayer, how it melts down their sectarian bitterness. In this controversy, mention is made of a total abstinence movement in the time of the commonwealth, a germ which has put forth its mighty efforts in our more peaceful and happy times. A cloud now hovered over Bunyan, and threatened him with troubles of a very different kind to those of religious controversy. It will startle many of our readers to hear that, under the government of Cromwell, Bunyan was persecuted for his religious opinions and practices. Mr. Jukes, in his interesting History of Bunyan's Church, thus refers to it: 'Soon after he had resigned the office of deacon in 1657, the hand of persecution was raised against him; for at a meeting of the church, held on the 25th day of the twelfth month, in the same year (Feb. 1658), it was agreed that the 3d day of the next month be set apart to seek God in the behalf of our brother Wheeler, who hath been long ill in body, whereby his ministry hath been hindered; and also about the church affairs, and the affairs of the nation; and for our brother Whitbread, who has long been ill; and also for counsel what to do with respect to the indictment of brother Bunyan at the assizes, for preaching at Eaton.'[188]

Although persecution for religious opinions assumed a milder form under the Commonwealth, the great principles of religious freedom and equality were neither known nor practiced. The savage barbarities perpetrated upon Prynne, Bastwick, Burton, Leighton, and others, by Charles I and his archbishop, Laud, were calculated to open the eyes of the nation to the wickedness and inutility of sanguinary or even any laws to govern the conscience, or interfere with Divine worship. Alas! even those who suffered and survived became, in their turn, persecutors. The great object of persecution was the book of Common Prayer, the use of which was rigorously prohibited. The clergy were placed in an extremely awkward predicament. No sooner was the Act of Parliament passed ordering the Directory to be used and the Prayer-book to be laid aside, than the king, by his royal proclamation, issued from Oxford, November 13, 1645, ordered the Directory to be set aside, and the Common Prayer to be used in all the churches and chapels. Both these orders were under very severe penalties.

The Act against atheistical opinions, which passed August 9, 1650, illustrates the extraordinary state of the times. The preamble states that, 'Divers men and women have lately discovered themselves to be most monstrous in their opinions, and loose in all wicked and abominable practices.' It then enacts that—'Any one, not being mad, who pretends to be God Almighty, or who declares that unrighteousness, uncleanness, swearing, drunkenness, and the like filthiness and brutishness, or denying the existence of God, or who shall profess that murder, adultery, incest, fornication, uncleanness, filthy or lascivious speaking, are not wicked, sinful, impious, abominable, and detestable, shall be imprisoned, and, for a second offence, be transported.'[189]

One of the Acts that affected Bunyan was passed April 26, 1645, cap. 52—'None may preach but ordained ministers, except such as, intending the ministry, shall, for trial of their gifts, be allowed by such as be appointed by both houses of Parliament.' This was amended by 'an ordinance appointing commissioners for approbation of public preachers,' March, 1653. In this Dr. Owen, Goodwin, Caryl, and many others are named, who were to judge of the candidate's fitness to preach.[190] The Act which more seriously touched Bunyan was that of May 2, 1648, which enacts that any person saying, 'that man is bound to believe no more than by his reason he can comprehend, or that the baptizing of infants is unlawful, or such baptism is void, and that such persons ought to be baptized again, and, in pursuance thereof, shall baptize any person formerly baptized, shall be imprisoned until he gives security that he will not publish or maintain the said error any more.'[191] It was these intolerant proceedings that led Milton to publish a poem On the New Forcers of Conscience, beginning with these lines—

'Dare ye, for this, adjure the civil sword, To force our consciences that Christ set free.'

This last-mentioned ungracious and uncalled-for Act against the Baptists, led some violent spirits to print a paper, entitled, 'The Second Part of England's new Chains Discovered,' this was read in many Baptist meeting-houses, and the congregations called upon to subscribe it: fortunately, they were peaceably disposed, and denounced it to the House of Commons in a petition, dated April 2, 1649. Mr. Kiffin and the others were called in, when the Speaker returned them this answer—'The House doth take notice of the good affection to the Parliament and public you have expressed, both in this petition and otherways. They have received satisfaction thereby, concerning your disclaiming that pamphlet, which gave such just offence to the Parliament, and also concerning your disposition to live peaceably, and in submission to the civil magistracy; your expressions whereof they account very Christian and seasonable. That for yourselves and other Christians, walking answerable to such professions as in this petition you make, they do assure you of liberty and protection, so far as God shall enable them, in all things consistent with godliness, honesty, and civil peace.'[192] Whether it was in consequence of this good understanding having remained between the Baptists and the Parliament, or from some application to the Protector, or from some unknown cause, the persecution was stayed;[193] for the indictment does not appear to have been tried, and Bunyan is found to have been present, and to have taken a part in the affairs of the church, until the 25th day of the 2d Month, 1660 (April), when 'it was ordered, according to our agreement, that our brother, John Bunyan, do prepare to speak a word at the next church meeting and that our brother Whiteman fail not to speak to him of it.'[194]

This invitation was very probably intended to introduce him to the congregation, with a view to his becoming an assistant pastor, but before it took place, he again appeared before the public as an author. The second production of his pen is a solemn and most searching work, founded upon the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, under the title of A Few Sighs from Hell, or the Groans of a Damned Soul; by that poor and contemptible Servant of Jesus Christ, John Bunyan, 1658. His humility led him to seek the patronage of his pastor; and Mr. Gifford, under the initials of J. G., wrote a preface of thirty-eight pages, but he dying before it reached the second edition, that preface was discontinued, and the title somewhat altered. The only copy of this first edition yet discovered is in the royal library at the British Museum. It appears to have belonged to Charles II, who, with more wit than decorum, has bound it up, as a supplement, to an extremely licentious book, as if it was intended to say, 'Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chamber of death'; or that a licentious life endeth in 'sighs from hell.'

Mr. Gifford, in this preface, after strongly recommending the work, speaks of the author in the most respectful and affectionate terms, showing that his zeal, and energy, and great usefulness had excited the envy of many who ought to have encouraged him as one taught by the Spirit, and used in his hand to do souls good—'divers have felt the power of the Word delivered by him; and I doubt not but that many more may, if the Lord continues him in his work'; and he gives this as a reason 'why the archers have shot so sorely at him'; and then scripturally proves that no objection should be made to his valuable services from his want of human learning. As the whole of this interesting preface is accurately reprinted with the book, the reader is referred to it without further extracts.[195] The Editor's introduction to these Sighs was written under very solemn feelings, produced by reading this searching treatise. The rich man is intended to personify those who, neglecting salvation, die in their sins, while Lazarus personates all those who humbly receive salvation as the gift of God; who, however they may suffer in this world, retain their integrity to death. In this parable, a voice is heard from the place of torment—the cry is a 'drop of water,' the slightest relief to unutterable woes; and that a messenger may be sent to warn his relatives, lest they should be plunged into the same torment. The impassable gulf defies the vain request, while the despised Christian reposes in everlasting and indescribable enjoyment. This little volume was very popular; nine editions were printed and sold in the author's lifetime, besides pirated copies. Bunyan's feelings and mode of preaching are well described in the Grace Abounding,[196] and will be felt by every attentive reader of his Sighs from Hell:—'When I have been preaching, I thank God, my heart hath often, with great earnestness, cried to God that he would make the Word effectual to the salvation of the soul. Wherefore I did labour so to speak the Word, as that thereby, if it were possible, the sin and person guilty might be particularized by it.'

'And when I have done the exercise, it hath gone to my heart, to think the Word should now fall as rain on stony places; still wishing from my heart, O! that they who have heard me speak this day, did but see as I do, what sin, death, hell, and the curse of God is; and also what the grace, and love, and mercy of God is, through Christ, to men in such a case as they are who are yet estranged from him.

'For I have been in my preaching, especially when I have been engaged in the doctrine of life by Christ, without works, as if an angel of God had stood by at my back to encourage me.'

Such feelings are not limited to Bunyan, but are most anxiously felt by all our pious ministers. How fervently ought their hearers to unite in approaches to the mercy-seat, that the Divine blessing may make the Word fruitful.

In those days it was not an uncommon thing for the hearers, at the close of the sermon, to put questions to the preacher, sometimes to elicit truth, or to express a cordial union of sentiments, or to contradict what the minister had said. Upon one occasion, Mr. Bunyan, after his sermon, had a singular dispute with a scholar. It is narrated by Mr. C. Doe, who was a personal friend and great admirer of our author, and who probably heard it from his own mouth, and will be found in the Struggler, inserted vol. iii., p. 767.

It is the common taunt of the scorner, and sometimes a stone of stumbling to the inquirer, that, while the Christian believes in the intensity of the Saviour's sufferings, and that God was made flesh that he might offer himself as an atonement to redeem mankind, yet few are saved, in comparison with those who are lost—broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many walk therein, while few attempt the narrow way to life; that four sorts of hearers are described by the Saviour, only one receiving the truth; as if the doleful realms of darkness and misery would be more thickly peopled than those of light and happiness, and Satan prove stronger than Christ. Such cavilers forget that the far greater portion of mankind die in infancy, purified by the Saviour's sufferings, and enter heaven in the perfection of manhood. As Mr. Toplady justly observes, what a vista does this open to the believer through the dreary gloom of the infidel! They forget, also, that all those who gain the narrow path, once helped to throng the road to destruction; and that the hearers, whose hardened deceitful hearts rejected the gospel under one sermon, may, by mercy, have them opened to receive it under another. And who dares to limit the Almighty? The power that prepared the spirit of the thief, when upon the cross, even in his last moments, for the pure enjoyments of heaven, still exists. Is the arm of the Lord shortened that he cannot save? The myriads of heaven will be found countless as are the sands upon the sea-shore, and the harmony of their worship shall swell like the voice of many waters and mighty thunderings, saying, 'Alleluja, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.' What! Satan stronger than the Almighty Redeemer? Perish the thought. Still how common is the question, which one of the disciples put to his master, 'Lord, are there few that be saved?' How striking the answer! 'Strive to enter in at the strait gate' (Luke 13:23). Encumber not thy mind with such needless inquiries, but look to thine own salvation.

Another very singular anecdote is related, which proves that the use of the churches was not then limited to any one sect. 'Being to preach in a church in a country village (before the restoration of king Charles) in Cambridgeshire, and the people being gathered together in the church-yard, a Cambridge scholar, and none of the soberest of 'em neither, enquired what the meaning of that concourse of people was, it being upon the week day, and being told, That one Bunyan, a tinker, was to preach there, he gave a boy twopence to hold his horse, saying, He was resolved to hear the tinker prate; and so went into the church to hear him. But God met with him there by his ministry, so that he came out much changed, and would, by his good will, hear none but the tinker for a long time after, he himself becoming a very eminent preacher in that county afterwards. This story I know to be true, having many a time discoursed with the man, and, therefore, I could not but set it down as a singular instance of the power of God that accompanied his ministry.'[197]

Bunyan's veneration for the Scriptures, as the only source and standard of religious knowledge, led him into frequent controversies. In common with the Christian world, he wholly depended upon the enlightening influence of the Holy Spirit to impress the Divine truths of revelation upon the mind, and also to illustrate, open, and apply the sacred writings to the heart of man. Unable to read the Bible in the original languages in which it was written, he wisely made use of every aid that might enable him to study its contents with the greatest advantage. It was his habit to examine the two translations then in common use. The present authorized version, first published in 1611, is that to which he usually refers; comparing it with the favourite Puritan version made by the refugees at Geneva, and first printed in 1560. He sometimes quotes the Genevan, and so familiar were the two translations, that in several instances he mixes them in referring from memory to passages of holy writ.

Upon one of his journeys, being upon the road near Cambridge, he was overtaken by a scholar, who concluded that he was an itinerant preacher, whether from having heard him, or observing his serious deportment, or his Bible reading, does not appear, although the latter was probably the reason. But the student determined to have a brush with him, and said, 'How dare you preach from the Bible, seeing you have not the original, being not a scholar?' Then said Mr. Bunyan, 'Have you the original?' 'Yes, said the scholar.' 'Nay, but,' said Mr. Bunyan, 'have you the very self-same original copies that were written by the penmen of the Scriptures, prophets and apostles?' 'No,' said the scholar, 'but we have the true copies of these originals.' 'How do you know that?' said Mr. Bunyan. 'How?' said the scholar. 'Why, we believe what we have is a true copy of the original.' 'Then,' said Mr. Bunyan, 'so do I believe our English Bible is a true copy of the original.' Then away rid the scholar.[198] As neither persecution nor railing, nor temptations, nor the assaults of Satan, produced any effect upon Bunyan to prevent his preaching, but rather excited his zeal and energy, means of a more deadly nature were resorted to, to injure or prevent his usefulness. As Mr. Gifford said, 'The archers shot sorely at him' by the most infamous and unfounded slanders, which he thus narrates:—

'When Satan perceived that his thus tempting and assaulting of me would not answer his design, to wit, to overthrow my ministry, and make it ineffectual, as to the ends thereof: then he tried another way, which was to stir up the minds of the ignorant and malicious to load me with slanders and reproaches. Now, therefore, I may say, that what the devil could devise, and his instruments invent, was whirled up and down the country against me, thinking, as I said, that by that means they should make my ministry to be abandoned. It began, therefore, to be rumoured up and down among the people, that I was a witch, a Jesuit, a highwayman, and the like. To all which, I shall only say, God knows that I am innocent. But as for mine accusers, let them provide themselves to meet me before the tribunal of the Son of God, there to answer for all these things, with all the rest of their iniquities, unless God shall give them repentance for them, for the which I pray with all my heart.

'But that which was reported with the boldest confidence, was, that I had my misses, yea, two wives at once, and the like. Now these slanders, with the others, I glory in, because but slanders, foolish, or knavish lies, and falsehoods cast upon me by the devil and his seed; and should I not be dealt with thus wickedly by the world, I should want one sign of a saint, and a child of God. "Blessed are ye (said the Lord Jesus) when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake; rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."

'These things therefore, upon mine own account, trouble me not. No, though they were twenty times more than they are, I have a good conscience; and whereas they speak evil of me, they shall be ashamed that falsely accuse my good conversation in Christ. Therefore I bind these lies and slanders to me as an ornament, it belongs to my Christian profession to be vilified, slandered, reproached, and reviled. I rejoice in reproaches for Christ's sake. My foes have missed their mark in this their shooting at me. I am not the man. If all the fornicators and adulterers in England were hanged by the neck till they be dead, John Bunyan, the object of their envy, would be still alive and well. I know not whether there be such a thing as a woman breathing under the copes of the whole heaven, but by their apparel, their children, or by common fame, except my wife.

'And in this I admire the wisdom of God, that he made me shy of women from my first conversion until now. When I have seen good men salute those women that they have visited, I have made my objection against it; and when they have answered, that it was but a piece of civility, I have told them, it is not a comely sight. Some indeed have urged the holy kiss; but then I have asked why they made baulks, why they did salute the most handsome, and let the ill-favoured go. Not that I have been thus kept, because of any goodness in me, more than any other, but God has been merciful to me, and has kept me, to whom I pray that he will keep me still, not only from this, but every evil way and work, and preserve me to his heavenly kingdom. Amen.'[199]

Notwithstanding all Mr. Bunyan's care to avoid the slightest appearance of evil, yet being over-persuaded to an act of humanity and civility to one of his female members, he was most unjustly calumniated. The circumstances which gave rise to this slander are narrated in James's Abstract of God's dealings with Mrs. Agnes Beaumont, of which an abridged account will be found in a note to the Grace Abounding.[200] It exhibits in a remarkable manner how easily such reports are raised against the holiest men.

Another still more extraordinary and unnatural charge was made against Bunyan. He lived at a period when witchcraft, witches, and wizards were in the height of fashion. Any poor woman who had outlived or had become a burden to her natural protectors, and whose temper was soured by infirmities, especially if her language was vulgar and her appearance repulsive, ran the risk of being defamed as a witch. If in her neighbourhood a murrain seized the cattle, or a disease entered a family which baffled the little knowledge of the country practitioners—such as epilepsy, St. Vitus' dance, or St. Anthony's fire—it was ascribed to witchcraft, and vengeance was wreaked upon any reputed witch. In many parts of England she was tried by a kind of Lynch law, in a very summary manner. Her hands and feet being bound together, she was thrown into deep water; if she sank, and was drowned, she was declared innocent; if she swam, it was a proof of guilt, and a little form of law condemned her to the stake or halter. In Scotland, they were treated with greater barbarity; they were awfully tortured—thumb-screws, the boots to crush their knees, pricking them with needles or awls night and day, to prevent a moment's rest, were persevered in—until a confession was extorted, to be followed by a frightful death. The ignorance that prevailed may account for the faith of the vulgar in witchcraft; but that learned divines, and even the enlightened Judge Hale, should fall into the delusion, is most surprising. The charge against Bunyan was, that he had circulated some paper libeling a most respectable widow, a Quakeress, as a witch. This paper cannot now be discovered; but the story is so perfectly ridiculous as to render it quite improbable that Bunyan had any knowledge of it. The account is contained in a rare pamphlet of four leaves, preserved in the very curious library of the Society of Friends at Devonshire House, Bishopsgate. It is entitled, 'A lying wonder discovered, and the strange and terrible news from Cambridge proved false; which false news is published in a libel, concerning a wicked slander cast upon a Quaker; but the author of the said libel was ashamed to subscribe his name to it. Also, this contains an answer to John Bunion's paper, touching the said imagined witchcraft, which he hath given forth to your wonderment, as he saith; but it is also proved a lie and a slander by many credible witnesses hereafter mentioned.'[201] It narrates that Margaret Pryor, of Long Stanton, indicted, on the 28th July, 1659, the widow Morlin, a Quaker lady, for having, on the 29th November, 1657, took her out of bed from her husband in the night, put a bridle in her mouth, and transformed her into a bay mare, and with a Quaker, William Allen, rode upon her to Maddenly House, a distance of four miles; that they made her fast to the latch of the door, while she saw them partake of a feast of mutton, rabbits, and lamb [lamb in November!!]; that they shone like angels, and talked of doctrine, and that she knew some of the guests; that her feet were a little sore, but not her hands, nor was she dirty. In examining her, the judge elicited that she made no mention of the story for a year and three-quarters, and that her deposition then was that some evil spirit changed her into a bay-horse; that her hands and feet were lamentably bruised, and changed as black as a coal; that she had her chemise on, which was all bloody, from her sides being rent and torn with the spurs. All this was unknown to her husband; nor had she accounted for her chemise so strangely fitting a horse or mare. It was proved that the complainant had received money for bringing the charge, and pretended to have burnt some of her hair with elder-bark, as a counter-charm to prevent it happening again. The judge summed up with observing that it was a mere dream or phantasy, and that the complainant was the sorceress, by practicing incantations in burning her hair and bark. The jury found a verdict of—not guilty; and thus two innocent persons were saved by an enlightened judge from an ignominious death. It is almost incredible that, even after the trial, priests and magistrates who had promoted the prosecution professed to believe that the charge was true. This singular narrative, in defence of the poor persecuted Quakeress, is signed James Blackley, an alderman, George Whitehead, and three others. No one can believe that John Bunyan gave credit to such a tale, or mentioned it to the injury of the parties accused. His reply was, that these slanders were devised by the devil and his instruments—'God knows that I am innocent.' The probability is, that the pamphlet called Strange News from Cambridge had been sent to him, and that he gave it to some Quaker to answer.

Considering the almost universal belief in witchcraft in those days—that Baxter, Cotton Mather, Clarke, and many of our most eminent divines, believed in it—and that Bunyan received the Scriptures in our authorized translation with the deepest reverence, it becomes an interesting inquiry how far he believed in witchcraft, possessions, incantations, and charms. He was persuaded that Satan could appear to mankind in the shape of animals, and in the human form. Had any one doubted the possibility of these appearances, he would at that time have been called an atheist and an unbeliever in the existence of God and of separate spirits. Thus he argues, that 'If sin can make one who was sometimes a glorious angel in heaven now so to abuse himself as to become, to appearance, as a filthy frog, a toad, a rat, a cat, a fly, a mouse, or a dog, to serve its ends upon a poor mortal, that it might gull them of everlasting life, no marvel if the soul is so beguiled as to sell itself from God and all good for so poor a nothing as a momentary pleasure.'[202] When speaking of the impropriety of excluding a pious person from the Lord's table, because of a difference of opinion as to water baptism, he says, 'Do you more to the openly profane—yea, to all wizards and witches in the land?'[203] In quoting Isaiah 13, he, taught by the Puritan version, puts the key in the margin—'Wild beasts of the desert shall be there and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures. And owls shall dwell there, and satyrs [that is, the hobgoblins, or devils] shall dance there.'[204] He gave no credence to the appearance of departed spirits, except in the hour of death; and then, while between time and eternity, he thought that in some rare cases spiritual sight was given to see objects otherwise invisible.[205]

He fully believed in the power of Satan to suggest evil thoughts to the pious Christian, and to terrify and punish the wicked, even in this life; but never hints, through all his works, at any power of Satan to communicate to man any ability to injure his fellows. What a contrast is there between the Pilgrim of Loretto, with its witch and devil story, mentioned in the introduction to the Pilgrim's Progress, and Bunyan's great allegorical work! Conjurors and fortune-tellers, or witches and wizards, were vagabonds deserving for their fraudulent pretensions,[206] punishment by a few months' imprisonment to hard labour, but not a frightful death. In all these things this great man was vastly in advance of his age. He had studied nature from personal observation and the book of revelation. In proportion as the laws of nature are understood, the crafty pretensions of conjurors and witches become exposed to contempt. Bunyan never believed that the great and unchangeable principles which the Creator has ordained to govern nature could be disturbed by the freaks of poor old crazy women, for purposes trifling and insignificant. No, such a man could never have circulated a report that a woman was turned into a bay mare, and her chemise into a horse-cloth and saddle! Unbridled sectarian feeling perverted some remark of his, probably made with the kindest intention, into a most incredible slander.

Among the many singularities of that very interesting period, one was the number of religious tournaments or disputations that were held all over the country. The details of one of these, between Fisher, a Jesuit, and Archbishop Laud, occupy a folio volume. In these wordy duels the Baptists and Quakers bore a prominent part. To write a history of them would occupy more space than our narrow limits will allow. Bunyan entered into one of these controversies with the Quakers at Bedford Market-cross,[207] and probably held others in the church, those buildings being at times available under the Protectorate for such purposes. Bunyan was met by the son of thunder, Edward Burrough, who was also assisted by Anne Blackly, a remarkably pious woman and an able disputant. Bunyan pressed them with the Scriptures, and dealt such severe blows that Mrs. Blackly, in the public assembly, bid him throw away the Scriptures. To which he answered, 'No, for then the devil would be too hard for me.' The great controversy was as to Christ within his saints. Bunyan proved, by the holy oracles, that Christ had ascended, and was at the right hand of God; to which Mrs. Blackly answered, that he preached up an idol, and used conjuraton and witchcraft. To the charge of spiritual conjuration and witchcraft he made no reply, it being unworthy his notice; but called upon her to repent of her wickedness in calling Christ an idol. With regard to his presence in his saints, he reminded her, that if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.[208] As a matter of course, both parties claimed the victory; and although the hearers were puzzled, doubtless much good was effected.

These were comparatively happy days for God's fearers—much valuable seed was sown, and the light of divine truth penetrated into many a benighted town and village. At length dark and portentous clouds rolled over the horizon. The Protector had entered into rest; his son was wholly incapable of taking the helm of public affairs. The exiled king, Charles II, declared his determination to publish an amnesty for all political offences; and from Breda issued his proclamation for liberty of conscience, and the kingdom was cajoled and sold. The king was scarcely seated on his throne, and armed with power, when he threw off the mask. Men who had faithfully performed very painful duties under the authority of Acts of Parliament were put to death, others imprisoned and transported, and uniformity in religion was re-enacted under ferocious penalties. Bunyan was to endure a cruel imprisonment, with all the fears of an ignominious death. 'Now,' he says, 'as Satan laboured by reproaches and slanders, to make me vile among my countrymen, that if possible my preaching might be made of none effect, so there was added hereto a long and tedious imprisonment, that thereby I might be frighted from my service for Christ, and the world terrified and made afraid to hear me preach, of which I shall in the next place give you a brief account.'[209]

THE FIFTH PERIOD.

BUNYAN SUFFERS PERSECUTION, AND A LONG AND DANGEROUS IMPRISONMENT, FOR REFUSING TO ATTEND THE COMMON PRAYER SERVICE, AND FOR PREACHING.

—'O happie he who doth possesse Christ for his fellow prisoner, who doth gladde With heavenly sunbeams, goales that are most sad.'

(Written by William Prynne, on his Prison wall, in the Tower.)

The men who arraign their fellows before any standard of orthodoxy, or claim the right of dictating forms of belief or modes of worship under pains or penalties, are guilty of assuming the prerogative of the Most High, and of claiming, for their frail opinions, infallibility. Such are guilty of high treason against the Majesty of heaven—and all their machinations have a direct tendency to destroy human happiness—the wealth of the nation, and that universal good-will among men which the gospel is intended to establish. Such men present to us the various features of antichrist, the dread enemy of mankind.

The duty of every intelligent creature is to watch the operations of nature, that he may be led to just perceptions of the greatness of the Creator, and the goodness of his immutable laws. Soon he finds his perceptions dim, and is conscious of evil propensities, which baffle all his efforts at sinless perfection. He finds nothing in nature to solve the solemn inquiry how sin is to be pardoned, and evil thoughts and habits to be rooted out. The convinced sinner then feels the necessity of a direct revelation from God; and in the Bible alone he finds that astounding declaration, which leaves all human philosophy at an immeasurable distance—'Ye must be born again.' God only can effect the wondrous change—man, priest, prophet, or magi, can do him no good—his terror-stricken conscience drives him to his Creator, and faith in the Redeemer causes consolation to abound.

In every kingdom of the world, the Christian inquirer is met by the opposition of antichrist, in some form or other, attempts will be made to limit his free-born spirit to human inventions and mediations in seeking Divine mercy. He feels that he is bound, by all his hopes of happiness, here and hereafter, to obey God rather than man, in everything pertaining to spiritual religion. In his simple obedience to the Word of God, he braves all dangers, sure of the Divine blessing and support while encountering obloquy, contempt, allurements, and persecution, in its varied polluted forms and appalling cruelties.

After the decease of Oliver Cromwell, it soon became apparent that the exiled king would be restored. In the prospect of that event, Charles II promised a free pardon to all his subjects, excepting only such persons as should be excepted by parliament; and 'we do declare a liberty to tender consciences, and that no man shall be disquieted or called in question for differences of opinion in matters of religion, which do not disturb the peace of the kingdom.' Who could imagine, that, in the face of this solemn declaration, acts, the most oppressive and tyrannical, would be passed—compelling pretended uniformity in belief and real uniformity in the mode of public worship—driving the most pious and useful clergymen from their pulpits and livings—preventing them from becoming tutors or schoolmasters—and not suffering them to live within five miles of a city or town. Ruinous penalties were inflicted, not only on every minister, but upon every hearer, who met to worship God in private houses or in the fields and woods. Christians, convinced of the wickedness of such laws, strove, by every possible means, to evade the penalties, with a stern determination to worship God in the way that their conscience led them. They met their beloved ministers in private places, and at the most unseasonable hours. It is said that Bunyan, to avoid discovery, went from a friend's house disguised as a carter; with his white frock, wide-awake cap, and his whip in his hand, to attend a private meeting in a sheltered field or barn. To prevent these meetings, severe and almost arbitrary penalties were enforced, a considerable part of which went to the informers—men of debauched habits and profligate principles. With all their vigilance, these prohibited meetings could not be prevented. In some cases, the persecuted disciples of a persecuted Lord took houses adjoining each other, and, by opening internal communications, assembled together. In some cases, the barn or room in which they met, had a door behind the pulpit, by which the preacher could escape. A curious letter, preserved in the archives at Devonshire House, states, that when a Christian assembly was held near Devonshire Square, while the minister was in his sermon, the officers and trained bands entered the meeting-house. The preacher immediately ceased preaching, and gave out the lines of a hymn, which the congregation joined in singing, and the officers waited till the devotional exercise was ended. The preacher, taking advantage of their hesitation, made his escape by a door at the back of the pulpit; 'thus,' says the quaint Quaker, 'he choked the informers off with his hymn.' In the Life of Badman are some illustrative anecdotes relating to informers and their violent ends, with an interesting cut of a religious meeting in the fields. One informer is in a neighbouring tree, to identify the meeters; while in the distance, another is running for the officers, with this verse under the print:—

'Informer, art thou in the tree? Take heed, lest there thou hanged be: Look likewise to thy foot-hold well; Lest, if thou slip, thou fall to hell.'

In many cases the justices considered a field preacher to be equally guilty with a regicide.[210] One of the informers, named W. S., was very diligent in this business; 'he would watch a-nights, climb trees, and range the woods a-days, if possible to find out the meeters, for then they were forced to meet in the fields.' At length he was stricken by the hand of God, and died a most wretched object.[211] The cruelties that were inflicted upon Dissenters are scarcely credible. Penn, the Quaker, gives this narrative of facts:—The widow's mite hath not escaped their hands; they have made her cow the forfeit of her conscience, not leaving her a bed to lie on, nor a blanket to cover her; and what is yet more barbarous, and helps to make up this tragedy, the poor helpless orphan's milk, boiling over the fire, was flung away, and the skillet made part of their prize; that, had not nature in neighbours been stronger than cruelty in informers and officers, to open her bowels for their relief, they must have utterly perished.[212] One of these infamous, hard-hearted wretches in Bedford, was stricken, soon after, with death; and such had been his notorious brutality, that his widow could not obtain a hearse, but was obliged to carry his body to the grave in a cart.

It is gratifying to leave these horrors—these stains upon our national history—for a moment, to record an event which took place about fifty years back. The Rev. S. Hillyard, the pastor of Bunyan's church, thus writes:—'When our meeting-house was lately repaired, we were allowed, by the Lord Lieutenant and the justices, to carry on our public worship, for a quarter of a year in the town-hall, where, if it had been standing in Mr. Bunyan's time, he must have been tried and committed to jail for preaching.' How different our position from that of our pilgrim forefathers.

The justices, if the law had allowed them, would, from the first, have prevented Bunyan's preaching. When they had the power, he possessed nothing to excite the cupidity of an informer: this, with the caution of his friends, saved him, for some months, from being apprehended; they met privately in barns, milk-houses, and stables, or in any convenient place in which they were not likely to be disturbed. In addition to these services, every opportunity was embraced to visit his friends—praying with them, and administering consolation, arming them with a steady resolve to be patient in suffering, and to trust in God for their safety and reward. At length an information was laid, and he was caught in the very act of worshipping God with some pious neighbours. Bunyan's account of this event is deeply interesting; but the want of sufficient space prevents my giving more than an abstract of it, referring the reader to his Grace Abounding for fuller details.

On November 12, 1660, as the winter was setting in, having been invited to preach at Samsell, in Bedfordshire, he prepared a sermon upon these words—'Dost thou believe in the Son of God?' (John 9:35); from which he intended 'to show the absolute need of faith in Jesus Christ, and that it was also a thing of the highest concern for men to inquire into, and to ask their own hearts whether they had faith or no.'[213] He had then been a preacher of the glorious gospel of Christ for five or six years, without any interruption; for, although indicted, he had continued his useful career, and through grace had received great encouragement and eminent proofs of the Divine blessing.

Francis Wingate, a neighbouring justice of the peace, having heard of the intended meeting, issued his warrant to bring the preacher before him. The intention of the magistrate was whispered about, and came to Bunyan's ears before the meeting was held, probably to give him an opportunity of escape. His friends, becoming alarmed for his safety, advised him to forego the opportunity. It was a trying moment for him; he had a beloved wife to whom he had not been long married, and four dear children, one of them blind, depending upon his daily labour for food. If he escaped, he might continue his stolen opportunities of doing good to the souls of men. He hesitated but for a few minutes for private prayer; he had hitherto shown himself hearty and courageous in preaching, and it was his business to encourage the timid flock. 'Therefore, thought I, if I should now run and make an escape, it will be of a very ill savour in the country; what will my weak and newly converted brethren think of it? If I should run, now there was a warrant out for me, I might, by so doing, make them afraid to stand when great words only should be spoken to them.' He retired into a close, privately, to seek Divine direction, and came back resolved to abide the will of God. It was the first attempt, near Bedford, to apprehend a preacher of the gospel, and he thus argued with himself—'If God, of his mercy, should choose me to go upon the forlorn hope, that is, to be the first that should be opposed for the gospel, if I should fly it might be a discouragement to the whole body that should follow after. And I thought that the world thereby would take occasion at my cowardliness, to have blasphemed the gospel.'[214] These considerations brought him to the noble resolution of fulfilling his duty, under all its difficulties and dangers. In these reasonings the same honourable decision of mind animated him which impelled Daniel, and the three Hebrew youths, to violate the wicked laws of the nation in which they lived, because these laws were opposed to the will of God. He and they, as well as the apostles, judged for themselves, and opposed statutes or ancient customs which, in their opinion, were contrary to the Divine law by which they were to be judged at the solemn and great day. Nor did they, in the prospect of the most dread personal sufferings, hesitate to follow the convictions of their minds. Some laws are more honoured in the breach than in the observance of them. The law of Pharaoh to destroy the male children of the Israelites, in ancient times, and the present Popish laws of Tuscany, that the Bible shall not be read, are laws so contrary to common sense, and the most sacred duties of man, that 'God dealt well' with those who broke them in Egypt, as he has ever dealt with those who have thus honoured him. The millions of prayers that were offered up for a blessing upon the confessors, Madiai, have been answered. Had they perished in the prisons of Tuscany, they would have joined the noble army of martyrs before the throne of God, to witness his judgments upon that persecuting church which has shed so much holy blood.

When Bunyan was advised to escape by dismissing the meeting, which consisted of about forty persons, he replied, 'No, by no means; I will not stir, neither will I have the meeting dismissed. Come, be of good cheer, let us not be daunted; our cause is good, we need not be ashamed of it; to preach God's Word is so good a work, that we shall be well rewarded if we suffer for that.'[215] All this took place about an hour before the officers arrived. The service was commenced with prayer at the time appointed, the preacher and hearers had their Bibles in their hands to read the text, when the constable and his attendants came in, and, exhibiting the warrant, ordered him to lave the pulpit and come down; but he mildly told him that he was about his Master's business, and must rather obey his Lord's voice than that of man. Then a constable was ordered to fetch him down, who, coming up and taking hold of his coat, was about to remove him, when Mr. Bunyan fixed his eyes steadfastly upon him; having his Bible open in his hand, the man let go, looked pale, and retired; upon which he said to the congregation, 'See how this man trembles at the Word of God.' Truly did one of his friends say, 'he had a sharp, quick eye.' But being commanded in the king's name, he went with the officer, accompanied by some of his friends, to the magistrate's residence. Before they left, the constable allowed him to speak a few words to the people of counsel and encouragement. He declared that it was a mercy when called to suffer upon so good an account; that it was of grace that they had been kept from crimes, which might have caused their apprehension as thieves and murderers, or for some wickedness; but by the blessing of God it was not so, but, as Christians, they were called to suffer for well-doing; and that we had better be persecuted than the persecutors. The constable took him to the justice's house, but as he was from home, to save the expense and trouble of charging a watch to secure his prisoner, he allowed him to go home, one of his friends undertaking to be answerable for his appearance the next day. On the following morning they went to the constable and then to the justice. The celebrated Quaker, John Roberts, managed an affair of that kind better. There was plenty of time to have held and dismissed the meeting before the constable arrived, and then he might have done as Roberts did—made the best of his way to the magistrate's house, and demanded, 'Dost thou want me, old man?' and when asked whether or not he went to church, his ready reply was, 'Yes, sometimes I go to the church, and sometimes the church comes to me.'[216]

When Bunyan and the constable came before Justice Wingate, he inquired what the meeters did, and what they had with them; suspecting that they met armed, or for treasonable practices: but when the constable told him that they were unarmed, and merely assembled to preach and hear the Word, he could not well tell what to say. Justice Wingate was not the only magistrate who had felt difficulties as to the construction of the persecuting acts of 35 Eliz. and 15 Chas. II. Had he taken an opinion, as one of the justices at that time did, it might have saved him from the infamy and guilt of punishing an innocent man. The case was this:—'Two persons of insolent behaviour, calling themselves informers, demanded, on their evidence of having been present, without summons or hearing in presence of the accused, that a fine of 100 should be levied; they were at the meeting and heard no Common Prayer service.' The opinion was that there must be evidence showing the intent, and that the meeting was held under colour and pretence of any exercise of religion to concoct sedition.[217] Mr. Wingate asked Bunyan why he did not follow his calling and go to church? to which he replied, that all his intention was to instruct and counsel people to forsake their sins, and that he did, without confusion, both follow his calling and preach the Word. At this the angry justice ordered his commitment to jail, refusing bail, unless he would promise to give up preaching. While his mittimus was preparing, he had a short controversy with an old enemy of the truth, Dr. Lindale, and also with a persecuting justice, Mr. Foster, who, soon after, sorely vexed the people of God at Bedford. They tried their utmost endeavours to persuade him to promise not to preach; a word from him might have saved his liberty; but it was a word which would have sacrificed his religious convictions, and these were dearer to him than life itself. This was a trying moment, but he had been forewarned of his danger by the extraordinary temptation to sell Christ narrated in his Grace Abounding. His feelings, while they were conducting him to the prison, were so cheering as to enable him to forget his sorrows; he thus describes them—'Verily, as I was going forth of the doors I had much ado to forbear saying to them, that I carried the peace of God along with me; and, blessed be the Lord, I went away to prison with God's comfort in my poor soul.'[218]

Tradition points out the place in which this eminently pious man was confined, as an ancient prison, built with the bridge over the river Ouse, supported on one of the piers near the middle of the river.[219] As the bridge was only four yards and a half wide, the prison must have been very small. Howard, the philanthropist, visited the Bedford prison, that which was dignified as the county jail about 1788, and thus describes it:—'The men and women felons associate together; their night-rooms are two dungeons. Only one court for debtors and felons; and no apartment for the jailer.'[220] Imagination can hardly realize the miseries of fifty or sixty pious men and women, taken from a place of public worship and incarcerated in such dens or dungeons with felons, as was the case while Bunyan was a prisoner. Twelve feet square was about the extent of the walls; for it occupies but one pier between the center arches of the bridge. How properly does the poor pilgrim call it a certain DEN! What an abode for men and women who had been made by God kings and priests—the heirs of heaven! The eyes of Howard, a Dissenter, penetrated these dens, these hidden things of darkness, these abodes of cruelty. He revealed what lay and clerical magistrates ought to have published centuries before, that they were not fit places in which to imprison any, even the worst of criminals. He denounced them, humanity shuddered at the discovery, and they were razed to their foundations. In this den God permitted his honoured servant, John Bunyan, to be incarcerated for more than twelve years of the prime of his life. A man, whose holy zeal for the salvation of sinners, whose disinterested labours, whose sufferings for Christ prove his apostolical descent much better than those who claim descent from popes, and Wolsey or Bonner—those fiends in human shape.

Bedford bridge was pulled down in the year 1811, when the present handsome bridge was built. One of the workmen employed upon the ruins found, among the rubbish, where the prison had stood, a ring made of fine gold, bearing an inscription which affords strong presumptive evidence that it belonged to our great allegorist. Dr. Abbot, a neighbouring clergyman, who had daily watched the labours of the workmen, luckily saw it, and saved it from destruction. He constantly wore it, until, drawing near the end of his pilgrimage, in 1817, he took it off his own finger and placed it upon that of his friend Dr. Bower, then curate of Elstow,[221] and at present the dean of Manchester, charging him to keep it for his sake. This ring must have been a present from some person of property, as a token of great respect for Bunyan's pious character, and probably from an indignant sense of his unjust and cruel imprisonment. By the kind permission of the dean, we are enabled to give a correct representation of this curious relic.[222][223]

Bunyan was thirty-two years of age when taken to prison. He had suffered the loss of his pious wife, whose conversation and portion had been so blessed to him. It is not improbable that her peaceful departure is pictured in Christiana's crossing the river which has no bridge. She left him with four young children, one of whom very naturally and most strongly excited his paternal feelings, from the circumstance of her having been afflicted with blindness. He had married a second time, a woman of exemplary piety and retiring modesty; but whose spirit, when roused to seek the release of her beloved husband, enabled her to stand unabashed, and full of energy and presence of mind, before judges in their courts, and lords in their mansions. When her partner was sent to jail, she was in that peculiar state that called for all his sympathy and his tenderest care. The shock was too severe for her delicate situation; she became dangerously ill, and, although her life was spared, all hopes had fled of her maternal feelings being called into exercise. Thus did one calamity follow another; still he preserved his integrity.[224]

Bunyan was treated with all the kindness which many of his jailers dared to show him. In his times, imprisonment and fetters were generally companions. Thus he says—'When a felon is going to be tried, his fetters are still making a noise on his heels.'[225] So the prisoners in the Holy War are represented as being 'brought in chains to the bar' for trial. 'The prisoners were handled by the jailer so severely, and loaded so with irons, that they died in the prison.'[226] In many cases, prisoners for conscience' sake were treated with such brutality, before the form of trial, as to cause their death. By Divine mercy, Bunyan was saved from these dreadful punishments, which have ceased as civilization has progressed, and now cloud the narratives of a darker age.

After having lain in prison about seven weeks, the session was held at Bedford, for the county; and Bunyan was placed at the bar, indicted for devilishly and perniciously abstaining from coming to church to hear Divine service, and as a common upholder of several unlawful meetings and conventicles, to the great disturbance and distraction of the good subjects of this kingdom, contrary to the laws of our sovereign lord the king. In this indictment Bunyan is not described as 'of Elstow' but 'of Bedford.' Probably he had removed to Bedford soon after he joined Gifford's church. The bench was numerous, and presided over by Justice Keelin.[227] If this was Sergeant Kelynge who, the following year, was made Lord Chief-Justice, he was a most arbitrary tyrant, equaled or excelled only by Judge Jeffreys. It was before him that some persons were indicted for attending a conventicle; but it being only proved that they had assembled on the Lord's-day with Bibles in their hands without prayer-books, and there being no proof that their meeting was only under colour or pretence of religion, the jury acquitted them. Upon this he fined each of the jury-men one hundred marks, and imprisoned them till the fines were paid. Again, on a trial for murder, the prisoner being under suspicion of Dissent, was one whom the judge had a great desire to hang, he fined and imprisoned all the jury because, contrary to his direction, they brought in a verdict of manslaughter! Well was it said, that he was more fit to charge the Roundheads under Prince Rupert than to charge a jury. After a short career, he fell into utter contempt.[228] He entered into a long argument with the poor tinker, about using the liturgy of the Church of England, first warning him of his danger if he spake lightly of it. Bunyan argued that prayer was purely spiritual, the offering of the heart, and not the reading of a form. The justice declared—'We know the Common Prayer-book hath been ever since the apostles' time, and is lawful to be used in the church!!' It is surprising that such a dialogue was ever entered upon; either Keling was desirous of triumphing over the celebrated tinker, or his countenance and personal appearance commanded respect. For some cause he was treated with great liberality for those times; the extent of it may be seen by one justice asking him, 'Is your God Beelzebub?' and another declaring that he was possessed with the devil! 'All which,' says Bunyan, 'I passed over, the Lord forgive them!' When, however, the justice was worsted in argument, and acknowledged that he was not well versed in Scripture, he demanded the prisoner's plea, saying, 'Then you confess the indictment?' 'Now,' says Bunyan, 'and not till now, I saw I was indicted; and said—"This I confess, we have had many meetings together, both to pray to God, and to exhort one another; and that we had the sweet comforting presence of the Lord among us for our encouragement (blessed be his name!); therefore I confess myself guilty, and no otherwise."' This was recorded as a plea of guilty, and Keling resumed his natural ferocity. 'Then,' said he, 'hear your judgment. You must be had back again to prison, and there lie for three months following; and then, if you do not submit to go to church to hear Divine service, and leave your preaching, you must be banished the realm; and after that, if you shall be found in this realm without special license from the king, you must stretch by the neck for it. I tell you plainly'; 'and so he bid my jailer have me away.' The hero answered—'I am at a point with you: if I were out of prison to-day, I would preach the gospel again to-morrow, by the help of God.'[229]

The statutes, by virtue of which this awful sentence was pronounced, together with the legal form of recantation used by those who were terrified into conformity, are set forth in a note to the Grace Abounding.[230] Bunyan was, if not the first, one of the first Dissenters who were proceeded against after the restoration of Charles II; and his trial, if such it may be called, was followed by a wholesale persecution. The king, as head of the Church of England, wreaked his vengeance upon all classes of Dissenters, excepting Roman Catholics and Jews.

The reign of Charles II was most disgraceful and disastrous to the nation, even the king being a pensioner upon the French court. The Dutch swept the seas, and threatened to burn London; a dreadful plague depopulated the metropolis—the principal part of which was, in the following year, with its cathedral, churches, and public buildings, destroyed by fire; plots and conspiracies alarmed the people; tyranny was triumphant; even the bodies of the illustrious dead were exhumed, and treated with worse than savage ferocity; while a fierce persecution raged throughout the kingdom, which filled the jails with Dissenters.

In Scotland, the persecution raged with still more deadly violence. Military, in addition to civil despotism, strove to enforce the use of the Book of Common Prayer. The heroic achievements and awful suffering of Scottish Christians saved their descendants from this yoke of bondage.[231]

A short account of the extent of the sufferings of our pious ancestors is given in the Introduction to the Pilgrim's Progress[232]—a narrative which would appear incredible did it not rest upon unimpeachable authority. It would be difficult to believe the records of the brutal treatment which the sufferers underwent had they not been handed down to us in the State Trials, and in public registers, over which the persecuted had no control. Two instances will show the extreme peril in which the most learned and pious men held their lives. John James, the pastor of a Baptist church in Whitechapel, was charged, upon the evidence of a perjured drunken vagabond named Tipler, a pipe-maker's journeyman, who was not present in the meeting, but swore that he heard him utter treasonable words. Notwithstanding the evidence of some most respectable witnesses, who were present during the whole service, and distinctly proved that no such words were used, Mr. James was convicted, and sentenced to be hung. His distracted wife saw the king, presented a petition, and implored mercy, when the unfeeling monarch replied, 'O! Mr. James; he is a sweet gentleman.' Again, on the following morning, she fell at his feet, beseeching his royal clemency, when he spurned her from him, saying, 'John James, that rogue, he shall be hanged; yea, he shall be hanged.' And, in the presence of his weeping friends, he ascended from the gibbet to the mansions of the blessed. His real crime was, that he continued to preach after having been warned not to do so by John Robinson, lieutenant of the Tower, properly called, by Mr. Crosby,[233] a devouring wolf, upon whose head the blood of this and other innocent Dissenters will be found. Another Dissenting minister, learned, pious, loyal, and peaceful, was, during Bunyan's time, marked for destruction. Thomas Rosewell was tried before the monster Jeffreys. He was charged, upon the evidence of two infamous informers, with having doubted the power of the king to cure the kings' evil, and with saying that they should overcome their enemies with rams' horns, broken platters, and a stone in a sling. A number of most respectable witnesses deposed to their having been present; that no such words were uttered, and that Mr. Rosewell was eminent for loyalty and devoted attachment to the Government. Alas! he was a Dissenting teacher of high standing, of extensive acquirements, and of great earnestness in seeking the salvation of sinners; and, under the direction of that brutal judge, the venal jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to be hung. This frightful sentence would have been executed but from a singular interposition of Providence. Sir John Talbot was present during the trial, and a stranger to Mr. Rosewell; but he was so struck with the proceedings, that he hastened to the king, related the facts, and added, 'that he had seen the life of a subject, who appeared to be a gentleman and a scholar, in danger, upon such evidence as he would not hang his dog on.' And added, 'Sire, if you suffer this man to die, we are none of us safe in our own houses.' At this moment Jeffreys came in, gloating over his prey, exulting in the innocent blood he was about to shed, when, to his utter confusion, the king said, 'Mr. Rosewell shall not die'; and his pardon was issued under the great seal.[234] Every Englishman should read the state trials of that period, recording the sufferings of Richard Baxter, William Penn, Sir H. Vane, and many others of our most pious forefathers; and they must feel that it was a miracle of mercy that saved the life of Bunyan, and gave him leisure to write not only his popular allegories, but the most valuable treatises in the English language upon subjects of the deepest importance.

When he entered the prison, his first and prayerful object was to levy a tax upon his affliction—to endeavour to draw honey from the carcass of the lion. His care was to render his imprisonment subservient to the great design of showing forth the glory of God by patient submission to His will. Before his commitment, he had a strong presentiment of his sufferings; his earnest prayer, for many months, was that he might, with composure, encounter all his trials, even to an ignominious death. This led him to the solemn consideration of reckoning himself, his wife, children, health, enjoyments, all as dying, and in perfect uncertainty, and to live upon God, his invisible but ever-present Father.

Like an experienced military commander, he wisely advises every Christian to have a reserve for Christ in case of dire emergency. 'We ought to have a reserve for Christ, to help us at a dead lift. When profession and confession will not do; when loss of goods and a prison will not do; when loss of country and of friends will not do; when nothing else will do, then willingly to lay down our lives for his name.'[235] In the midst of all these dread uncertainties, his soul was raised to heavenly contemplations of the future happiness of the saints of God.

It is deeply impressive to view a man, with gigantic intellect, involved in the net which was laid to trammel his free spirit, disregarding his own wisdom; seeking guidance from heaven in earnest prayer, and in searching the sacred Scriptures; disentangling himself, and calmly waiting the will of his heavenly Father. Still he severely felt the infirmities of nature. Parting with his wife and children, he described as 'the pulling the flesh from the bones. I saw I was as a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children; yet, thought I, I must do it.'[236] His feelings were peculiarly excited to his poor blind Mary.[237] 'O! the thoughts of the hardships my poor blind one might go under, would break my heart in pieces.' It is one of the governing principles of human nature, that the most delicate or afflicted child excites our tenderest feelings. 'I have seen men,' says Bunyan, 'take most care of, and best provide for those of their children that have been most infirm and helpless; and our Advocate "shall gather his lambs with his arms, and carry them in his bosom."'[238] While in this state of distress, the promise came to his relief—'Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me.' He had heard of the miseries of those banished Christians who had been sold into slavery, and perished with cold and calamities, lying in ditches like poor, forlorn, desolate sheep.

At the end of three months he became anxious to know what the enemies of the cross intended to do with him. His sentence was transportation and death, unless he conformed. To give up or shrink from his profession of Christ, by embracing the national forms and submitting his conscience to human laws, he dared not. He resolved to persevere even at the sacrifice of his life. To add to his distress, doubts and fears clouded his prospects of futurity; 'Satan,' said he, 'laid hard at me to beat me out of heart.' At length he came to the determination to venture his eternal state with Christ, whether he had present comfort or not. His state of mind he thus describes—'If God doth not come in (to comfort me) I will leap off the ladder, even blindfold, into eternity, sink or swim, come heaven, come hell. Lord Jesus, if thou wilt catch me, do; I will venture all for thy name.' From this time he felt a good hope and great consolation.

The clerk of the peace, Mr. Cobb, was sent by the justices to persuade him to conform, and had a very long and interesting conference with him in the prison. This shows that the magistrates were well convinced that he was a leader in nonconformity, who, if brought over, would afford them a signal triumph. In fact, he was called, by a beneficed clergyman, 'the most notorious schismatic in all the county of Bedford.'[239] It is perhaps to the arguments of Cobb that he refers in his Advice to Sufferers. 'The wife of the bosom lies at him, saying, O do not cast thyself away; if thou takest this course, what shall I do? Thou hast said thou lovest me; now make it manifest by granting this my small request—Do not still remain in thine integrity. Next to this come the children, which are like to come to poverty, to beggary, to be undone, for want of wherewithal to feed, and clothe, and provide for them for time to come. Now also come kindred, and relations, and acquaintance; some chide, some cry, some argue, some threaten, some promise, some flatter, and some do all to befool him for so unadvised an act as to cast away himself, and to bring his wife and children to beggary for such a thing as religion. These are sore temptations.'[240] It was during this period of his imprisonment that the mad attempt was made, by Venner and his rabble, to overturn the government. This was pressed upon Bunyan as a reason why he should not hold meetings for religious exercises, but rely upon his more private opportunities of exhorting his neighbours. In reply to this, Mr. Cobb is reminded of Bunyan's well-known loyalty, which would become useful in proportion to his public teaching. It was a pleasing interview, which, while it did not for a moment shake his determination, led him to thank Mr. Cobb for his civil and meek discourse, and to ejaculate a heartfelt prayer—'O that we might meet in heaven.'[241] The whole of it is reprinted at the end of the Grace Abounding, and it shows that God gave him favour even with his persecutors. It Is not surprising that such a prisoner should have won the good opinion of his jailer, so that he was permitted the consolation of seeing his relatives and friends, who ministered to his comforts.

When the time arrived for the execution of the bitterest part of his sentence, God, in his providence, interposed to save the life of his servant. He had familiarized his mind with all the circumstances of a premature and appalling death; the gibbet, the ladder, the halter, had lost much of their terrors; he had even studied the sermon he would then have preached to the concourse of spectators. At this critical time the king's coronation took place, on April 23, 1661. To garnish this grand ceremony, the king had ordered the release of numerous prisoners of certain classes, and within that description of offences was that for which Bunyan was confined. The proclamation allowed twelve months' time to sue out the pardon under the great seal, but without this expensive process thousands of vagabonds and thieves were set at liberty, while, alas, an offence against the church was not to be pardoned upon such easy terms. Bunyan and his friends were too simple, honest, and virtuous, to understand why such a distinction should be made. The assizes being held in August, he determined to seek his liberty by a petition to the judges. The court sat at the Swan Inn, and as every incident in the life of this extraordinary man excites our interest, we are gratified to have it in our power to exhibit the state of this celebrated inn at that time.

Having written his petition, and made some fair copies of it, his modest, timid wife determined to present them to the judges. Her heroic achievements—for such they deserve to be called—on behalf of her husband, are admirably narrated by Bunyan, the whole of which is reprinted in our first volume,[243] and deserves a most attentive perusal. Want of space prevents us repeating it here, or even making extracts from it. She had previously traveled to London with a petition to the House of Lords, and entrusted it to Lord Barkwood, who conferred with some of the peers upon it, and informed her that they could not interfere, the king having committed the release of the prisoners to the judges. When they came the circuit and the assizes were held at Bedford; Bunyan in vain besought the local authorities that he might have liberty to appear in person and plead for his release. This reasonable request was denied, and, as a last resource, he committed his cause to an affectionate wife. Several times she appeared before the judges; love to her husband, a stern sense of duty, a conviction of the gross injustice practiced upon one to whom she was most tenderly attached, overcame her delicate, modest, retiring habits, and forced her upon this strange duty. Well did she support the character of an advocate. This delicate, courageous, high-minded woman appeared before Judge Hale, who was much affected with her earnest pleading for one so dear to her, and whose life was so valuable to his children. It was the triumph of love, duty, and piety, over bashful timidity. Her energetic appeals were in vain. She returned to the prison with a heavy heart, to inform her husband that, while felons, malefactors, and men guilty of misdemeanours were, without any recantation or promise of amendment, to be let loose upon society to grace the coronation, the poor prisoners for conscience' sake were to undergo their unjust and savage sentences. Or, in plain words, that refusing to go to church to hear the Common Prayer was an unpardonable crime, not to be punished in any milder mode than recantation, or transportation, or the halter. With what bitter feelings must she have returned to the prison, believing that it would be the tomb of her beloved husband! How natural for the distressed, insulted wife to have written harsh things against the judge! She could not have conceived that, under the stately robes of Hale, there was a heart affected by Divine love. And when the nobleman afterwards met the despised tinker and his wife, on terms of perfect equality, clothed in more glorious robes in the mansions of the blessed, how inconceivable their surprise! It must have been equally so with the learned judge, when, in the pure atmosphere of heaven, he found that the illiterate tinker, harassed by poverty and imprisonment, produced books, the admiration of the world. As Dr. Cheever eloquently writes—'How little could he dream, that from that narrow cell in Bedford jail a glory would shine out, illustrating the grace of God, and doing more good to man, than all the prelates and judges of the kingdom would accomplish.'[244]

Bunyan was thus left in a dreary and hopeless state of imprisonment, in which he continued for somewhat more than twelve years, and it becomes an interesting inquiry how he spent his time and managed to employ his great talent in his Master's service. The first object of his solicitude would be to provide for his family, according to 1 Timothy 5:8. How to supply his house with bare necessaries to meet the expenses of a wife and four children, must have filled him with anxiety. The illness, death, and burial of his first beloved wife, had swept away any little reserve which otherwise might have accumulated, so that, soon after his imprisonment commenced, before he could resume any kind of labour, his wife thus pleaded with the judge for his liberty, 'My lord, I have four small children that cannot help themselves, of which one is blind, and have nothing to live upon but the charity of good people.' How inscrutable are the ways of Providence; the rich reveling in luxury while using their wealth to corrupt mankind, while this eminent saint, with his family, were dependent upon charity! As soon as he could get his tools in order he set to work; and we have the following testimony to his industry by a fellow-prisoner, Mr. Wilson, the Baptist minister, and of Charles Doe, who visited him in prison:—'Nor did he, while he was in prison, spend his time in a supine and careless manner, nor eat the bread of idleness; for there have I been witness that his own hands have ministered to his and his family's necessities, making many hundred gross of long tagged laces, to fill up the vacancies of his time, which he had learned to do for that purpose, since he had been in prison. There, also, I surveyed his library, the least, but yet the best that e'er I saw—the Bible and the Book of Martyrs.[245] And during his imprisonment (since I have spoken of his library), he writ several excellent and useful treatises, particularly The Holy City, Christian Behaviour, The Resurrection of the Dead, and Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.'[246] Besides these valuable treatises, Charles Doe states that, of his own knowledge, in prison Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim's Progress, the first part, and that he had this from his own mouth.[247] In addition to the demonstration of this important fact contained in the introduction to The Pilgrim's Progress, there ought to have been added, Bunyan's statement made in introducing his second part:—'Now, having taken up my lodgings in a wood about a mile off the place': no longer in 'a den,' but sheltered, in a wood, in a state of comparative, but not of perfect liberty, about a mile distant from the den in which he wrote his first part. Whether this may refer to his former cottage at Elstow, of which there is great doubt, or to the house he occupied in Bedford after his release, they were equally about a mile from the jail. He certainly means that the two parts were not written in the same place, nor is there a shadow of a doubt as to the fact that in prison the great allegory was conceived and written. Well might Mr. Doe say, 'What hath the devil or his agents got by putting our great gospel minister in prison?' They prevented his preaching to a few poor pilgrims in the villages round Bedford, and it was the means of spreading his fame, and the knowledge of the gospel, by his writings, throughout the world. Thus does the wrath of man praise God. In addition to the works above enumerated, he also published some extremely valuable tracts, several editions of a work which ought to be read by all young Christians—A Treatise on the Covenants of the Law and of Grace; several editions of Sighs from Hell; A Map of Salvation and Damnation; The Four Last Things, a poem; Mount Ebal and Gerizim, or, Redemption from the Curse, a poem; Prison Meditations, a poem: the four last are single sheets, probably sold by his children or friends to assist him in obtaining his livelihood: Justification by Faith in Jesus Christ, 4to; Confession of His Faith and Reason of His Practice. The most remarkable treatise which he published while in confinement, is on prayer, from the words of the apostle, 'I will pray with the spirit and with the understanding also.' His attention had been fixed on this subject when his free-born spirit was roused by the threat of Justice Keeling, 'Take heed of speaking irreverently of the Book of Common Prayer, for if you do you will bring great damage upon yourself.'

Bunyan had formed his ideas of prayer from heartfelt experience; it is the cry of the burthened, sinking sinner, 'Lord save us, we perish'; or adoration rising from the heart to the throne of grace, filled with hopes of pardon and immortality. In his estimation, any form of human invention was an interference with the very nature of prayer, and with the work of the Holy Spirit, who alone can inspire our souls with acceptable prayer.

In expressing his views upon this all-important subject, Bunyan was simply guided by a sense of duty. Fear of the consequences, or of offending his enemies, never entered his mind. He felt that they were in the hands of his heavenly Father, and that all their malice must be over-ruled for good. Notwithstanding his solemn warning not to speak irreverently of the book, his refusal to use which had subjected him to severe privations and the fear of a halter, this Christian hero was not daunted, but gives his opinion of it with all that freedom and liberty which he considered essential to excite in his fellow-men inquiries as to its origin and imposition.

It is not my province to enter into the controversy whether in public worship a form of prayer ought to be used. Let every one be persuaded in his own mind; but to pass a law denouncing those that refuse to use a prescribed form as worthy of imprisonment, transportation, or death, is an attack upon the first principles of Christianity. To punish those who spoke irreverently of it, was almost an acknowledgment that it would not bear investigation. To speak of the book as in his serious judgment it deserved, was not that mark of sectarianism which Romaine exhibited when he called the beautiful hymns of Dr. Watts, which are used so much in public worship among Dissenters, 'Watts' jingle,' and 'Watts' whims!'[248] No answer appears to have been published to Bunyan's extremely interesting volume until twelve years after the author's death, when a reply appeared under the title of Liturgies Vindicated by the Dissenters, or the Lawfulness of Forms of Prayer proved against John Bunyan and the Dissenters. 1700. This is a very rare and curious volume. The author, as usual in such controversies, deals wholesale in invective, and displays all the ability of a sophist.

The Christian world is indebted to Dr. Cheever for a beautiful picture of Bunyan's devotional exercise in his cell. 'It is evening; he finishes his work, to be taken home by his dear blind child. He reads a portion of Scripture, and, clasping her small hands in his, kneels on the cold stone floor, and pours out his soul to God; then, with a parting kiss, dismisses her to her mother. The rude lamp glimmers on the table; with his Bible, pen, and paper, he writes as though joy did make him write. His face is lighted as from the radiant jasper walls of the celestial city. He clasps his hands, looks upward, and blesses God for his goodness. The last you see of him—is alone, kneeling on the prison floor; he is alone with God.'

Charles Doe, who manifested most laudable anxiety to hand down the works of Bunyan to posterity, bears honourable testimony to his conduct while in prison. 'It was by making him a visit in prison that I first saw him, and became acquainted with him; and I must profess I could not but look upon him to be a man of an excellent spirit, zealous for his master's honour, and cheerfully committing all his own concernments unto God's disposal. When I was there, there were about sixty Dissenters besides himself there, taken but a little before at a religious meeting at Kaistoe, in the county of Bedford; besides two eminent Dissenting ministers, Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Dun (both very well known in Bedfordshire, though long since with God[249]), by which means the prison was very much crowded; yet, in the midst of all that hurry which so many new-comers occasioned, I have heard Mr. Bunyan both preach and pray with that mighty spirit of faith and plerophory of divine assistance that has made me stand and wonder.'[250] Here they could sing, without fear of being overheard; no informers prowling round. The world was shut out; and, in communion with heaven, they could forget their sorrows, and have a rich foretaste of the inconceivable glory of the celestial city. It was under such circumstances that Bunyan preached one of his most remarkable sermons, afterwards published under the title of The Holy City or the New Jerusalem, 1665. 'Upon a certain first-day, being together with my brethren in our prison-chamber, they expected that, according to our custom, something should be spoken out of the Word for our mutual edification. I felt myself, it being my turn to speak, so empty, spiritless, and barren, that I thought I should not have been able to speak among them so much as five words of truth with life and evidence. At last I cast mine eye upon this prophecy, when, after considering awhile, methought I perceived something of that jasper in whose light you find this holy city descended; wherefore, having got some dim glimmering thereof, and finding a desire to see farther thereinto, I with a few groans did carry my meditations to the Lord Jesus for a blessing, which he did forthwith grant, and helping me to set before my brethren, we did all eat, and were well refreshed; and behold, also, that while I was in the distributing of it, it so increased in my hand, that of the fragments that we left, after we had well dined, I gathered up this basketful. Wherefore, setting myself to a more narrow search, through frequent prayer, what first with doing and then with undoing, and after that with doing again, I thus did finish it.'[251] To this singular event the religious public are indebted for one of Bunyan's ablest treatises, full of the striking sparkles of his extraordinary imagination. It was a subject peculiarly adapted to display his powers—the advent of New Jerusalem, her impregnable walls and gates of precious stones, golden streets, water of life, temple, and the redeemed from all nations flocking into it.[252]

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