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xii The Life or
The events recorded of our author are so destitute of dates, and regard to the order in which they happened, that no clear arrangement can now be made of them : but it is probable that this new attention to religion, though ineffectual to the reformation of his conduct, rendered him more susceptible of convictions; and his vigorous imagination, at that time altogether untutored by knowledge or discretion, laid him open to a variety of impressions, sleeping and waking, which he verily supposed to arise from words spoken to him, or objects presented before his bodily senses ; and he never after was able to break the association of ideas which was thus formed in his mind. Accordingly he says, that one day when he was engaged in diversion with his companions, “A voice did suddenly dart from ‘heaven into my soul, which said, Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to “heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell ?” The consciousness of his wicked course of life, accompanied with the recollection of the truths he had read, suddenly meeting in his mind, thus produced a violent alarm, and made such an impression on his imagination, that he seemed to have heard these words, and to have seen Christ frowning and menacing him. But we must not suppose, that there was any miracle wrought ; nor could there be any occasion for a new revelation to suggest or enforce so scriptural a warning. This may serve as a specimen of those impressions, which constitute a large part of his religious experience, but which it is not advisable to recapitulate.
He was next tempted to conclude that it was then too late to repent or seek salvation ; and, as he ignorantly listened to the suggestion, he indulged his corrupt inclinations without restraint, imagining: that this was the only way in which he could possibly have the least expectation of pleasure, during his whole existence.
While he was proceeding in this wretched course, a woman of very bad character reproved him with great severity for profane swearing ; declaring in the strongest expressions, that he exceeded in it all men she had ever heard. This made him greatly ashamed, when he reflected that he was too vile even for such a bad woman to endure ; so that from that time he began to break off that odious custom.—His guilty and terrified mind was also prepared to admit the most alarming impressions during his sleep and he had such a dream about the day of judgment, and its awful circumstances and consequences, as powerfully influenced his conduct. There was, indeed, nothing very extraordinary in this ; for such dreams are not uncommon to men under deep convictions : yet the Lord was doubtless, by all these means, secretly influencing his heart, and warning him to flee from the wrath to come.
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* JOHN BUNYAN. xiii
He was, however, reluctant to part with his irreligious associates and vain pleasures ; till the conversation of a poor man, who came in his way, induced him to read the Bible, especially the preceptive and historical parts of it : and this put him upon an entire reformation of his conduct; so that his neighbours were greatly astonished at the change. In this manner he went on for about a year; at some times satisfied with himself, and at others distressed with fears and consciousness of guilt. Indeed, he seems ever after to have considered all these convictions and desires as wholly originating from natural principles; but in this perhaps some persons will venture to dissent from him. A self-righteous dependence accompanied with self-complacency, and furnishing incentives to pride, is indeed a full proof of unregeneracy: but conscientiousness connected with disquietudes,hu
"miliation for sin, and a disposition to wait for divine teaching, is an
effect and evidence of life, though the mind be yet darkened with ignorance, error, and prejudice. And he, that hath given life will give it more abundantly; for, “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”
While Bunyan was in this state of mind he went to Bedford, in the exercise of his trade as a tinker, where he overheard some women discourse about regeneration: and though he did not understand their meaning, he was greatly affected by observing the earnestness, cheerfulness, and humility of their behaviour; and he was also convinced that his own views of religion were very defective. Being thus led to frequent their company, he was brought as it were into a new world. Such an entire change took place in his views and affections, and his mind was so deeply engaged in contemplating the great concerns of eternity, and the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, that he found it very difficult to employ his thoughts on any secular affairs.
But this extraordinary flow of affections, not being attended by doctrinal information in any measure proportionable, laid him open to various attempts of Satan and his emissaries. The Ranters, a set of the vilest antinomians that almost ever existed, first assailed him by one of their party, who had formerly been Mr. Bunyan's companion in vice : but he over-acted his part ; and, proceeding even to deny the being of a God, probably furnished the character of Atheist in the PILGRIM's ProgREss. While Mr. Bunyan was engaged in reading the books of the Ranters, not being able to form his judgment about them, he was led to offer up the following prayer : ‘O Lord, I am a fool, and not able to know the truth from error: Lord,
xiv with E LIFE OF
leave me not to my own blindness, either to approve or condemn
speaking of faith , and he could not understand the meaning of that
word, or discover whether he was a believer or not: so that, mistak.
JOHN BUNYAN. xw
heard on the love of Christ; though the grounds, on which he derived satisfaction and encouragement from it, are not very accurately stated. Soon after this he was admitted, by adult baptism, a member of Mr. Gifford's church, A. D. 1655, being then twenty-seven years of age ; and after a little time, he was earnestly desired by the congregation to expound or preach, in a manner which is customary among the Dissenters, as a preparation to the ministry. For a while he resisted their importunity, under a deep sense of his incompetency; but at length he was prevailed upon to speak in a small company, which he did greatly to their satisfaction and edification. Having been thus proved for a considerable time, he was at length called forth, and set apart by fasting and prayer to the ministerial office, which he executed with faithfulness and success during a long course of years ; though frequently with the greatest trepidation and inward disquietude. As he was baptized 1655, and imprisoned 1660, he could not have been long engaged in the work when the latter event took place : and it does not appear whether he obtained a stated employment as a minister; or whether he only preached occasionally, and continued to work at his trade; as many Dissenters very laudably do, when called to minister among poor people, that they “may not be burdensome to them.” Previously however to the restoration of Charles II. when the churches were principally filled by those who have since been distinguished as non-conformists ; he was expected to preach in a church near Cambridge ; and a student of that university, not remarkable for sobriety, observing a concourse of people, was induced by curiosity to hear ‘the tinker prate ;' but the discourse made an unexpected impression on his mind ; he embraced every future opportunity of hearing Mr. Bunyan, and at length became an eminent preacher in Cambridgeshire. When the restoration took place, and, contrary to equity, engagements, and sound policy, the laws were framed and executed with a severity evidently intended to exclude every man, who scrupled the least tittle of the doctrine, liturgy, discipline, or government of the established church, Mr. Bunyan was one of the first that suffered by them : for being courageous and unreserved, he went on in his ministerial work without any disguise; and November 12, 1660, he was apprehended by a warrant from Justice Wingate at Harlington, near Bedford, with sixty other persons, and committed to the county jail. Security was offered for his appearance at the sessions ; but it was refused, as his sureties would not consent that he should be res
wi Title LIFE, or
tricted from preaching. He was accordingly confined till the quar. ter-sessions, when his indictment stated—“That John Bunyan, of the town of Bedford, labourer, had devilishly and perniciously abstained from coming to church to hear divine service; and was 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.” The facts charged upon him in this absurd indictment were never proved; as ne witnesses were produced. He had confessed, in conversation with the magistrates, that he was a Dissenter, and had preached : these words being considered as equivalent to conviction, were recorded against him ; and as he refused to conform, he was sentenced to perpetual banishment. This sentence indeed was not executed : but he was confined in Bedford jail more than twelve years, notwithstanding several attempts were made to obtain his deliverance.
During this tedious imprisonment, or at least part of it, he had no Books, except a Bible and Fox's Martyrology : yet thus circumstanced, he penned the PILGRIM's Paogress, and many other treatises! He was only thirty-two years of age, when he was imprisoned; he had spent his youth in the most disadvantageous manner imaginable; and he had been no more than five years a member of the church at Bedford, and less time a preacher of the gospel : yet in this admired allegory he appears to have been most intimately acquainted with all the variety of characters, which ministers, long employed in the sacred service, and eminent for judgment and sagacity, have observed among professors or opposers of evangelical truth !
No fewer than sixty Dissenters and two ministers were confined with Mr. Bunyan in this jail! and as some were discharged, others were committed during the time of his imprisonment! But this painful situation afforded him an opportunity of privately exercising his ministry to good effect. He learned in prison to make tagged thread laces in the intervals of his other labours; and by this employment he provided in the most unexceptionable manner for himself and his family. He seems to have been endued with extraordinary patience and courage, and to have experienced abundant consolations, while enduring these hardships: he was, however, sometimes distressed about his family, especially his eldest daughter, who was blind; but in these trying seasons he received comfort from meditating on the promises of God’s word."
* Jer, xv. 11. xlix. 11.,