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JOHN BUNYAN. f xvii
He was at some times favoured by the jailors, and permitted to see his family and friends; and, during the former part of his imprisonment, he was even allowed to go out occasionally, and once to take a journey to London, probably to see whether any legal redress might be obtained ; according to some intimations given by Sir Matthew, Hale, when petitions in his favour were laid before the judges. But this indulgence of the jailor, exposing him to great danger, Mr. Bunyan was afterwards more closely confined. Hence I suppose has arisen the opinion, which commonly prevails, that he was imprisoned at different times : but he seems never to have been set at liberty, and then re-committed ; though his hardships and restraints were greater at one time than at another.
In the last year of his imprisonment, (A. D. 1671) he was chosen pastor of the dissenting church at Bedford; though it does not appear what opportunity he could have of exercising his pastoral office, except within the precincts of the jail. He was, however, liberated soon after, through the good offices of Dr. Barlow, Bishop of Lincoln, after many fruitless attempts had been made for that purpose. Thus terminated his tedious, severe, and even illegal imprisonment, which had given him abundant opportunity for the exercise of patience and meekness; and which seems to have been over-ruled both for his own spiritual improvement, and the furtherance of the gospel; by leading him to study, and to form habits of close reflection, and accurate investigation of various subjects, in order to pen his several treatises : when probably he would neither have thought so deeply, nor written so well, had he been more at ease and at liberty.
A short time after his enlargement, he built a meeting-house at Bedford, by the voluntary contributions of his friends; and here he statedly preached to large auditories, till his death, without meeting with any remarkable molestation. He used to come up to London every year, where he preached among the non-conformists with great acceptance ; and it is said that Dr. Owen frequently attended on these occasions, and expressed his approbation in very decided language. He likewise made stated circuits into other parts of England; and animated his brethren to bear the cross patiently, to obey God rather than man, and to leave all consequences with him. He was at the same time peculiarly attentive to the temporal wants of those who suffered for conscience sake, and of the sick or afflicted ; and he em. ployed his influence very successfully, in reconciling differences among professors of the gospel, and thus preventing disgraceful and burden. $orne ** was very exact in family religion, and the in
xviii The Life or
struction of his children; being principally concerned for their spiritual interests, and comparatively indifferent about their temporal prosperity. He therefore declined the liberal proposal of a wealthy citizen of London, to take his son as an apprentice without any premium, saying, ‘God did not send me to advance my family, but to preach the gospel '—probably disliking the business or situation as unfavourable to piety. Nothing material is recorded concerning him, between his enlargement in 1672, and his death in 1688. It is said, that he clearly saw through the designs of the court in favour of popery, when the indulgence was granted to the Dissenters, by James II. in 1687 : but that he advised his brethren to avail themselves of the sunshine, by diligent endeavours to spread the gospel, and to prepare for an approaching storm by fasting and prayer. The next year he took a journey in very bad weather from London to Reading, Berks, to make up a breach between a father and son, with whom he had some acquaintance; and having happily effected his last work and labour of love, he returned to his lodgings on Snow-hill, apparently in good health, but very wet with the heavy rain that was then falling: and soon after he was seized with a fever, which in ten days terminated his useful life. He bore his malady with great patience and composure, and died in a very comfortable and triumphant manner, August 31, 1688, aged sixty years ; after having exercised his ministry about thirty-two. He lies buried in Bunhill fields, where a tombstone to his memory may still be seen. He was twice married : by his first wife, he had four children, one of which, a daughter named Mary, who was blind, died before him. He was married to his second wife A. D. 1658, two years before his imprisonment, by whom he seems not to have had any children. She survived him about four years. Concerning the other branches of his family we have not been able to gain anyinformation. Mr. Bunyan was tall and broad set, though not corpulent: he had a ruddy complexion, with sparkling eyes, and hair inclining to red, but in his old age sprinkled with grey. His whole appearance was plain, and his dress always simple and unaffected. He published sixty tracts, which equalled the number of years he lived. The PILGRIM's PaogREss had passed through more than fifty editions in 1784. His character seems to have been uniformly good, from the time when he was brought acquainted with the blessed gospel of Christ: and though his countenance was rather stern and his manner rough ;
John BUNYAN. xix.
yet he was very mild, modest, and affable, in his behaviour. He was backward to speak much, except on particular occasions, and remarkably averse to boasting ; ready to submit to the judgment of others, and disposed to forgive injuries, to follow peace with all men, and to employ himself as a peace-maker: yet he was steady to his principles, and bold in reproving sin without respect to persons. Many slanders were spread concerning him during the course of his ministry, some of which he refuted : they have, however, all died away; and no one now pretends to say anything to his disadvantage, except as a firm attachment to his creed and practice, as a Calvinist, a Dissenter, and an Antipaedo-baptist, has been called bigotry; and as the account given of his own experience has been misunderstood or misrepresented.
He was undoubtedly endued with extraordinary natural talents; his understanding, discernment, memory, invention, and imagination, were remarkably sound and vigorous : so that he made very great proficiency in the knowledge of scriptural divinity, though brought up in ignorance : but he never made such progress in human learning.— Even such persons, as did not favour his religious principles, have done ample justice to his mental powers. The celebrated Dr. Johnson ranks the PILenam's Paogness among a very few books indeed, of which the reader, when he comes to the conclusion, wishes they had been longer ; and allows it to rank high among the works of original genius.” But it is above all things wonderful, that Bunyan's imagination, fertile and vigorous in a very great degree, and wholly untutored by the rules of learning, should in this instance have been so disciplined by sound judgment, and deep acquaintance with the Scripture, as to produce, in the form of an allegory, one of the fairest and most unexceptionable treatises on the system of Calvinism, that can be found in the English language 1 In several of his other publications his imagination frequently carried him beyond just bounds: but here he avoids all extremes, and seems not to deviate either to the right hand or to the left. Perhaps, as he was himself liable to depression of spirit, and had passed through deep distresses, the view he gives of the Pilgrim's temptations may be too gloomy; but he has shewn in the course of the work, that this arose principally from inadequate views of evangelical truth, and the want of Christian communion, with the benefits to be derived from the counsels of a faithful minister.
*Piozzi's Anecdotes of Johnson.—Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. ii. p. 97, 2d edition,
AS I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den; and I laid me down in that place to sleep ; and as I slept I dreamed a dream. (a) I dreamed, and behold “I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back.” I looked, and saw him open the book and read therein ; and as he read he wept and trembled; and, not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying, “What shall I do P”t (b)
(a) Mr. Bunyan was confined about twelve years in Bedford jail, for exercising his ministry contrary to the statutes then in force. This was ‘the den, in which he slept and dreamed :' here he penned this instructive allegory, and many other useful works, which evince that he was neither soured nor disheartened by persecution. The Christian, who understands what usage he ought to expect in this evil world, comparing our present measure of religious liberty with the rigours of that age, will see abundant cause for gratitude; but they who are disposed to complain, can never be at a loss for topics, while so much is amiss among all ranks and orders of men, and in the conduct of every individual.
(b) The allegory opens with a description of its principal characters. The author in his dream saw him “clothed in rags; which implies that all men are sinners, in their dispositions and conduct; that their supposed virtues are radically defective, and worthless in the sight of God; and that the Pilgrim has discovered his own righteousness to be insufficient for justification, even as sordid rags would be unsuitable raiment for those whe stand before kings. “His face turned from his own house, represents the sinner convinced that it is absolutely necessary to subordinate all other concerns to the care of his immortal soul, and to renounce every thing which interferes with that grand object: and shh makes him lose his former relish for the pleasures of sin, and even for the most law