Life of Bunyan
Rev. James Hamilton

software or any other related product without express permission.]


by Rev. James Hamilton
Scotch Church, Regent Square, London.

After the pleasant sketches of pens so graceful as Southey's and
Montgomery's; after the elaborate biography of Mr Philip, whose
researches have left few desiderata for any subsequent devotee;
indeed, after Bunyan's own graphic and characteristic narrative, the
task on which we are now entering is one which, as we would have
courted it the less, so we feel that we have peculiar facilities for
performing it. Our main object is to give a simple and coherent
account of a most unusual man--and then we should like to turn to
some instructive purpose the peculiarities of his singular history,
and no less singular works.

John Bunyan was born at Elstow, near Bedford, in 1628. His father
was a brazier or tinker, and brought up his son as a craftsman of
like occupation. There is no evidence for the gipsy origin of the
house of Bunyan; and though extremely poor, John's father gave his
son such an education as poor men could then obtain for their
children. He was sent to school and taught to read and write.

There has been some needless controversy regarding Bunyan's early
days. Some have too readily taken for granted that he was in all
respects a reprobate; and others--the chief of whom is Dr Southey--
have laboured to shew that there was little in the lad which any
would censure, save the righteous overmuch. The truth is, that
considering his rank of life, his conduct was not flagitious; for he
never was a drunkard, a libertine, or a lover of sanguinary sports:
and the profanity and sabbath-breaking and heart-atheism which
afterwards preyed on his awakened conscience, are unhappily too
frequent to make their perpetrator conspicuous. The thing which gave
Bunyan any notoriety in the days of his ungodliness, and which made
him afterwards appear to himself such a monster of iniquity, was the
energy which he put into all his doings. He had a zeal for idle
play, and an enthusiasm in mischief, which were the perverse
manifestations of a forceful character, and which may have well
entitled him to Southey's epithet--"a blackguard." The reader need
not go far to see young Bunyan. Perhaps there is near your dwelling
an Elstow--a quiet hamlet of some fifty houses sprinkled about in the
picturesque confusion, and with the easy amplitude of space, which
gives an old English village its look of leisure and longevity. And
it is now verging to the close of the summer's day. The daws are
taking short excursions from the steeple, and tamer fowls have gone
home from the darkening and dewy green. But old Bunyan's donkey is
still browzing there, and yonder is old Bunyan's self--the brawny
tramper dispread on the settle, retailing to the more clownish
residents tap-room wit and roadside news. However, it is young
Bunyan you wish to see. Yonder he is, the noisiest of the party,
playing pitch-and-toss--that one with the shaggy eyebrows, whose
entire soul is ascending in the twirling penny--grim enough to be the
blacksmith's apprentice, but his singed garments hanging round him
with a lank and idle freedom which scorns indentures; his energetic
movements and authoritative vociferations at once bespeaking the
ragamuffin ringleader. The penny has come down with the wrong side
uppermost, and the loud execration at once bewrays young Badman. You
have only to remember that it is Sabbath evening, and you witness a
scene often enacted on Elstow green two hundred years ago.

The strong depraving element in Bunyan's character was UNGODLINESS.
He walked according to the course of this world, fulfilling the
desires of the flesh and of the mind; and conscious of his own
rebellion, he said unto God, "Depart from me, for I desire not the
knowledge of thy ways." The only restraining influence of which he
then felt the power, was terror. His days were often gloomy through
forebodings of the wrath to come; and his nights were scared with
visions, which the boisterous diversions and adventures of his
waking-day could not always dispel. He would dream that the last day
had come, and that the quaking earth was opening its mouth to let him
down to hell; or he would find himself in the grasp of fiends, who
were dragging him powerless away. And musing over these terrors of
the night, yet feeling that he could not abandon his sins, in his
despair of heaven his anxious fancy would suggest to him all sorts of
strange desires. He would wish that there had been no hell at all;
or that, if he must needs go thither, he might be a devil, "supposing
they were only tormentors, and I would rather be a tormentor than
tormented myself."

These were the fears of his childhood. As he grew older, he grew
harder. He experienced some remarkable providences, but they neither
startled nor melted him. He once fell into the sea, and another time
out of a boat into Bedford river, and either time had a narrow escape
from drowning. One day in the field with a companion, an adder
glided across their path. Bunyan's ready switch stunned it in a
moment; but with characteristic daring, he forced open the creature's
mouth, and plucked out the sting--a foolhardiness which, as he
himself observes, might, but for God's mercy, have brought him to his
end. In the civil war he was "drawn" as a soldier to go to the siege
of Leicester; but when ready to set out, a comrade sought leave to
take his place. Bunyan consented. His companion went to Leicester,
and, standing sentry, was shot through the head, and died. These
interpositions made no impression on him at the time.

He married very early: "And my mercy was to light upon a wife, whose
father was counted godly. This woman and I, though we came together
as poor as poor might be--not having so much household stuff as a
dish or spoon betwixt us, yet this she had for her portion, 'The
Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven,' and 'The Practice of Piety,' which
her father had left her when he died, in these two books I would
sometimes read with her; wherein I also found some things that were
somewhat pleasing to me. She also would be often telling of me what
a godly man her father was, and what a strict and holy life he lived
in his days, both in word and deeds. Wherefore these books, with the
relation, though they did not reach my heart to awaken it about my
soul and sinful state, yet they did beget within me some desires to
reform my vicious life, and fall in very eagerly with the religion of
the times--to wit, to go to church twice a-day, and that, too, with
the foremost; and there should very devoutly both say and sing as
others did, yet retaining my wicked life. But, withal, I was so
overrun with the spirit of superstition, that I adored, and that with
great devotion, even all things--the high-place, priest, clerk,
vestment, service, and what else belonging to the Church; counting
all things holy that were therein contained, and especially the
priest and clerk, most happy, and, without doubt, greatly blessed,
because they were the servants, as I then thought, of God, and were
principal in the temple to do his work therein."

So strong was this superstitious feeling--one shared by the ignorant
peasantry in many portions of England, even at the present day--that
"had he but seen a priest, though never so sordid and debauched in
his life, his spirit would fall under him; and he could have lain
down at their feet and been trampled upon by them--their name, their
garb, and work, did so intoxicate and bewitch him." It little
matters what form superstition takes--image-worship, priest-worship,
or temple-worship; nothing is transforming except Christ in the
heart, a Saviour realized, accepted, and enthroned. Whilst adoring
the altar, and worshipping the surplice, and deifying the individual
who wore it, Bunyan continued to curse and blaspheme, and spend his
Sabbaths in the same riot as before.

One day, however, he heard a sermon on the sin of Sabbath-breaking.
It fell heavy on his conscience; for it seemed all intended for him.
It haunted him throughout the day, and when he went to his usual
diversion in the afternoon, its cadence was still knelling in his
troubled ear. He was busy at a game called "Cat," and had already
struck the ball one blow, and was about to deal another, when "a
voice darted from heaven into his soul, 'Wilt thou leave thy sins and
go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell?'" His arm was
arrested, and looking up to heaven, it seemed as if the Lord Jesus
was looking down upon him in remonstrance and severe displeasure;
and, at the same instant, the conviction flashed across him, that he
had sinned so long that repentance was now too late. "My state is
surely miserable--miserable if I leave my sins, and but miserable if
I follow them. I can but be damned; and if I must be so, I had as
good be damned for many sins as few." In the desperation of this
awful conclusion he resumed the game; and so persuaded was he that
heaven was for ever forfeited, that for some time after he made it
his deliberate policy to enjoy the pleasures of sin as rapidly and
intensely as possible.

To understand the foregoing incident, and some which may follow, the
reader must remember that Bunyan was made up of vivid fancy and
vehement emotion. He seldom believed; he always felt and saw. And
he could do nothing by halves. He threw a whole heart into his love
and his hatred; and when he rejoiced or trembled, the entire man and
every movement was converted into ecstasy or horror. Many have
experienced the dim counterpart of such processes as we are now
describing; but will scarcely recognise their own equivalent history
in the bright realizations and agonizing vicissitudes of a mind so
fervent and ideal.

For a month or more he went on in resolute sinning, only grudging
that he could not get such scope as the madness of despair solicited,
when one day standing at a neighbour's window, cursing and swearing,
and "playing the madman, after his wonted manner," the woman of the
house protested that he made her tremble, and that truly he was the
ungodliest fellow for swearing that she ever heard in all her life,
and quite enough to ruin the youth of the whole town. The woman was
herself a notoriously worthless character; and so severe a reproof,
from so strange a quarter, had a singular effect on Bunyan's mind.
He was in a moment silenced. He blushed before the God of heaven;
and as he there stood with hanging head, he wished with all his heart
that he were a little child again, that his father might teach him to
speak without profanity; for he thought it so inveterate now, that
reformation was out of the question. Nevertheless, so it was, from
that instant onward he was cured of his wicked habit, and people
wondered at the change.

"Quickly after this I fell into company with one poor man that made
profession of religion; who, as I then thought, did talk pleasantly
of the Scriptures and of the matter of religious. Wherefore, falling
into some love and liking of what he said, I betook me to my Bible,
and began to take great pleasure in reading, but especially with the
historical part thereof; for as for Paul's Epistles, and such like
Scriptures, I could not away with them, being as yet ignorant either
of the corruption of my nature, or of the want and worth of Jesus
Christ to save me. Wherefore I fell into some outward reformation,
both in my words and life, and did set the commandments before me for
my way to heaven; which commandments I also did strive to keep, and,
as I thought, did keep them pretty well sometimes, and then I should
have comfort; yet now and then should break one, and so afflict my
conscience; but then I should repent, and say I was sorry for it, and
promise God to do better next time, and there got help again; for
then I thought I pleased God as well as any man in England. Thus I
continued about a year; all which time our neighbours did take me to
be a very godly man, a new and religious man, and did marvel much to
see such great and famous alteration in my life and manners; and
indeed so it was, though I knew not Christ, nor grace, nor faith, nor
hope; for, as I have well since seen, had I then died, my state had
been most fearful. But, I say, my neighbours were amazed at this my
great conversion, from prodigious profaneness to something like a
moral life; and so they well might; for this my conversion was as
great as for Tom of Bedlam to become a sober man. Now, therefore,
they began to speak well of me, both before my face and behind my
back. Now I was, as they said, become godly; now I was become a
right honest man. But oh! when I understood these were their words
and opinions of me, it pleased me mighty well. For though, as yet, I
was nothing but a poor painted hypocrite, yet I loved to be talked of
as one that was truly godly . . . And thus I continued for about a
twelvemonth or more."

Though not acting from enlightened MOTIVES, Bunyan was now under the
guidance of new INFLUENCES. For just as the Spirit of God puts forth
a restraining influence on many during the days of their carnality,
which makes the change at their conversion less conspicuous than if
they had been lifted from the depths of a flagitious reprobacy; so
others he long subjects to a preparatory process, during which some
of the old and most offensive things of their ungodliness pass away;
and when the revolution, effected by the entrance of the evangelic
motive, at last takes place, it is rather to personal consciousness
than to outward observation that the change is perceptible. The real
and final transformation is rather within the man than upon him. So
was it with John Bunyan. One by one he abandoned his besetting sins,
and made many concessions to conscience, while as yet he had not
yielded his heart to the Saviour. It was slowly and regretfully,
however, that he severed the "right hand." One of his principal
amusements was one which he could not comfortably continue. It was
BELL-RINGING; by which he probably means the merry peals with which
they used to desecrate their Sabbath evenings. It was only by
degrees that he was able to abandon this favourite diversion. "What
if one of the bells should fall?" To provide against this
contingency, he took his stand under a beam fastened across the
tower. "But what if the falling bell should rebound from one of the
side walls, and hit me after all?" This thought sent him down
stairs, and made him take his station, rope in hand, at the steeple
door. "But what if the steeple itself should come down?" This
thought banished him altogether, and he bade adieu to bell-ringing.
And by a similar series of concessions, eventually, but with longer
delay, he gave up another practice, for which his conscience checked
him--dancing. All these improvements in his conduct were a source of
much complacency to himself, though all this while he wanted the
soul-emancipating and sin-subduing knowledge of Jesus Christ. The
Son had not made him free.

There is such a thing as cant. It is possible for flippant
pretenders to acquire a peculiar phraseology, and use it with a
painful dexterity; and it is also possible for genuine Christians to
subside into a state of mind so listless or secular, that their talk
on religious topics will have the inane and heartless sound of the
tinkling cymbal. But as there is an experimental religion, so is it
possible for those who have felt religion in its vitality to exchange
their thoughts regarding it, and to relate what it--or rather, God in
it--has done for them. There are few things which indicate a
healthier state of personal piety than such a frank and full-hearted
Christian intercourse. It was a specimen of such communings which
impressed on the mind of Bunyan the need of something beyond an
outside reformation. He had gone to Bedford in prosecution of his
calling, when, passing along the street, he noticed a few poor women
sitting in a doorway, and talking together. He drew near to listen
to their discourse. It surprised him; for though he had by this time
become a great talker on sacred subjects, their themes were far
beyond his reach. God's work in their souls, the views they had
obtained of their natural misery and of God's love in Christ Jesus,
what words and promises had particularly refreshed them and
strengthened them against the temptations of Satan; it was of matters
so personal and vital that they spake to one another. "And methough
they spake as if you had made them speak; they spoke with such
pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such appearance of grace
in all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new
world--as if they were 'people that dwelt alone, and were not to be
reckoned among their neighbours!'"

The conversation of these poor people made a deep impression on
Bunyan's mind. He saw that there was something in real religion into
which he had not yet penetrated. He sought the society of these
humble instructors, and learned from them much that he had not known
before. He began to read the Bible with new avidity; and that
portion which had formerly been most distasteful, the Epistles of
Paul, now became the subject of his special study. A sect of
Antinomians, who boasted that they could do whatsoever they pleased
without sinning, now fell in his way. Professors of religion were
rapidly embracing their opinions, and there was something in their
wild fervour and apparent raptures, prepossessing to the ardent mind
of Bunyan. He read their books, and pondered their principles; but
prefaced his examination with the simple prayer,--"O Lord, I am a
fool, and not able to know the truths from error. Lord, leave me not
to my own blindness. If this doctrine be of God, let me not despise
it; if it be of the devil, let me not embrace it. Lord, in this
matter I lay my soul only at thy foot: let me not be deceived, I
humbly beseech thee." His prayer was heard, and he was saved from
this snare of the devil.

The object to which the eye of an inquiring sinner should be turned,
is CHRIST--the finished work and the sufficient Saviour. But, in
point of fact, the chief stress of the more evangelical instruction
has usually been laid on FAITH--on that act of the mind which unites
the soul to the Saviour, and makes salvation personal; and it is only
by studying faiths that many have come at last to an indirect and
circuitous acquaintance with Christ. By some such misdirection
Bunyan was misled. In quest of faith he went a long and joyless
journey, and was wearied with the greatness of his way. It was
secretly urged upon his mind, that if he had faith he would be able
to work miracles; and passages of Scripture were borne in upon his
mind, which bespoke the omnipotence of faith. One day, on the road
from Elstow to Bedford, it was suggested to his mind to try some
miracle, and that miracle should be, "to say to the puddles which
were in the horse-pads, 'Be dry,' and to the dry places, 'Be you
puddles.'" However, before doing this, he thought he should go over
the hedge and pray for faith, and then come and speak the word. "But
what if, after you have prayed and tried to do it, nothing happens?"
The dread of this alternative made him postpone the anxious
experiment, and left him still in doubt.

Then he had a sort of waking vision, suggested by what he had seen in
his pious friends at Bedford. "I saw as if they were on the sunny
side of some high mountain, there refreshing themselves with the
pleasant beams of the sun, while I was shivering and shrinking in the
cold, afflicted with frost, snow, and dark clouds. Methought also,
betwixt me and them, I saw a wall that did compass about this
mountain; now through this wall my soul did greatly desire to pass,
concluding that if I could, I would even go into the very midst of
them, and there also comfort myself with the heat of their sun.
About this wall I thought myself to go again and again, still prying
as I went, to see if I could find some gap or passage to enter
therein. But none could I find for some time. At the last I saw, as
it were, a narrow gap, like a little doorway in the wall, through
which I attempted to pass. Now, the passage being very strait and
narrow, I made many offers to get in, but all in vain, even until I
was wellnigh quite beat out, by striving to get in. At last, with
great striving, methought I at first did get in my head, and after
that, by a sideling striving, my shoulders and my whole body. {1}
Then was I exceeding glad; went and sat down in the midst of them,
and so was comforted with the light and heat of their sun. Now, this
mountain and wall were thus made out to me: The mountain signified
the church of the living God; the sun that shone thereon, the
comfortable shining of his merciful face on them that were therein:
the wall, I thought, was the world, that did make separation between
the Christians and the world; and the gap which was in the wall, I
thought was Jesus Christ, who is the way to God the Father. But
forasmuch as the passage was wonderful narrow, even so narrow that I
could not, but with great difficulty, enter in thereat, it shewed me
that none could enter into life but those that were in downright
earnest, and unless they left that wicked world behind them; for here
was only room for body and soul, but not for body and soul and sin."
The dream did him good, for, though it brought him no absolute
assurance, it inspirited his efforts after it.

There is scarcely a fear which can assail an inquiring spirit which
did not at some stage of his progress arrest the mind of Bunyan. At
one time he was afflicted by an erroneous view of the doctrine of
election. Looking at them from the outer and under side, those
purposes of everlasting love which secure their safety who have
already got within the precincts of salvation, appeared bristling and
forbidding--a frowning chevaux de frise, rather than a fence of
protection and preservation. And when somewhat relieved from this
perplexity, he fell into another. He feared that the day of grace
was gone; and so impressed on his mind was this mournful conviction,
that he could do little else than upbraid his own infatuation for
allowing the one propitious season to pass for ever away. But the
words, "Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled;" and
those others, "And yet there is room," brought him relief. Then,
again, he saw that the call of Christ was needful to make a man a
disciple; and he feared that he should never get that call. "But oh!
how I now loved those words that spake of a Christian's calling as
when the Lord said to one, Follow me; and to another, Come after me:
and oh! thought I, that he would say so to me too: how gladly would
I run after him! How lovely now was every one in my eyes, that I
thought to be converted, whether man or woman! They shone, they
walked like a people that carried the broad seal of heaven upon them.
Oh! I saw the lot was fallen to them in pleasant places, and they had
a goodly heritage. But that which made me sick, was that of Christ,-
-'He went up into a mountain, and called to him whom he would, and
they came unto him.' This Scripture made me faint and fear, yet it
kindled fire in my soul. That which made me fear was this: lest
Christ should have no liking to me, for he called whom he would. But
oh! the glory that I saw in that condition did still so engage my
heart, that I could seldom read of any that Christ did call but I
presently wished, 'Would I had been in their clothes! would I had
been born Peter! would I had been born John! or, would I had been
bye, and had heard him when he called them, how would I have cried, O
Lord, call me also. But oh! I feared he would not call me.'"

There was at that time a minister in Bedford whose history was almost
as remarkable as Bunyan's own. His name was Gifford. He had been a
staunch royalist, and concerned in the rising in Kent. He was
arrested, and, with eleven of his comrades, was doomed to die. The
night before the day fixed for his execution his sister came to visit
him. She found the guard asleep, and, with her assistance, the
prisoner effected his escape. For three days he was hid in a field,
in the bottom of a deep ditch; but at last he contrived to get away
to a place of safety in the neighbourhood of Bedford. Being there a
perfect stranger, he ventured on the practice of physic; but he was
still abandoned to reckless habits and outrageous vice. One evening
he lost a large sum of money at the gaming-table, and in the
fierceness of his chagrin his mind was filled with the most desperate
thoughts of the providence of God. In his vexation he snatched up a
book. It was a volume of Bolton, a solemn and forceful writer then
well known. A sentence in this book so fixed on his conscience that
for many weeks he could get no rest in his spirit. When at last he
found forgiveness through the blood of Christ, his joy was extreme,
and, except for two days before his death, he never lost the
comfortable persuasion of God's love. For some time the few pious
individuals in that neighbourhood would not believe that such a
reprobate was really converted; but, nothing daunted by their
distrust, like his prototype of Tarsus, he began to preach the Word
with boldness, and, endowed with a vigorous mind and a fervent
spirit, remarkable success attended his ministry. A little church
was formed, and he was invited to become its pastor; and there he
continued till he died. {2} It was to this Mr Gifford that Bunyan
was at this time introduced; and though the conversations of this
"Evangelist" brought him no immediate comfort, it was well for him to
enjoy the friendship and sympathy of one whose own views were so
clear and happy.

It is instructive to find, that, amid all the depression of these
anxious days, it was not any one sin, nor any particular class of
sins, which made him so fearful and unhappy. He felt that he was a
sinner, and as a sinner he wanted a perfect righteousness to present
him faultless before God. This righteousness, he also knew, was
nowhere to be found except in the person of Jesus Christ. "My
original and inward pollution,--that was my plague and affliction.
THAT I saw at a dreadful rate, always putting forth itself within
me,--that I had the guilt of to amazement; by reason of that I was
more loathsome in mine own eyes than a toad; and I thought I was so
in God's eyes too. Sin and corruption, I said, would as naturally
bubble out of my heart as water would out of a fountain. I thought
now that every one had a better heart than I had. I could have
changed hearts with any body. I thought none but the devil himself
could equalize me for inward wickedness and pollution of mind. I
fell, therefore, at the sight of my own vileness, deeply into
despair; for I concluded that this condition that I was in could not
stand with a state of grace. Sure, thought I, I am forsaken of God;
sure I am given up to the devil and a reprobate mind. And thus I
continued a long while, even for some years together."

During these painful apprehensions regarding his own state, it is no
marvel that he looked on secular things with an apathetic eye.
"While thus afflicted with the fears of my own damnation, there were
two things would make me wonder: the one was, when I saw old people
hunting after the things of this life, as if they should live here
always; the other was, when I found professors much distressed and
cast down when they met with outward losses, as of husband, wife,
child, &c. Lord, thought I, what a-do is here about such little
things as these! What seeking after carnal things by some, and what
grief in others for the loss of them! If they so much labour after,
and shied so many tears for the things of this present life, how am I
to be bemoaned, pitied, and prayed for! My soul is dying, my soul is
damning. Were my soul but in a good condition, and were I but sure
of it, ah! how rich would I esteem myself, though blessed but with
bread and water! I should count those but small afflictions, and
bear them as little burdens. A wounded spirit who can bear?"

This long interval of gloom was at last relieved by a brief sunburst
of joy. He heard a sermon on the text, "Behold, thou art fair, my
love;" in which the preacher said, that a ransomed soul is precious
to the Saviour, even when it appears very worthless to itself,--that
Christ loves it when tempted, assaulted, afflicted, and mourning
under the hiding of God's countenance. Bunyan went home musing on
the words, till the truth of what the preacher said began to force
itself upon his mind; and half incredulous at first, a hesitating
hope dawned in upon his spirit. "Then I began to give place to the
word, which, with power, did over and over make this joyful sound
within my soul--"Thou art my love, thou art my love; and nothing
shall separate thee from my love." And with that my heart was filled
full of comfort and hope; and now I could believe that my sins should
be forgiven me: yea, I was now so taken with the love and mercy of
God, that I remember I could not tell how to contain till I got home.
I thought I could have spoken of his love, and have told of his mercy
to me, even to the very crows that sat upon the ploughed lands before
me, had they been capable to have understood me. Wherefore, I said
in my soul, with much gladness, Well, I would I had pen and ink here.
I would write this down before I go any farther; for surely I will
not forget this forty years hence."

However, as he himself remarks, in less than forty days he had
forgotten it all. A flood of new and fierce temptations broke over
him, and had it not been for a strong sustaining arm which unseen
upheld him, his soul must have sunk in the deep and angry waters. At
one time he was almost overwhelmed in a hurricane of blasphemous
suggestions, and at another time his faith had wellnigh made
shipwreck on the shoals of infidelity or deliberate atheism. But the
very reluctance and dismay of his spirit showed that a new nature was
in him. "I often, when these temptations have been with force upon
me, did compare myself to the case of such a child whom some gipsy
hath by force took up in her arms, and is carrying from friend and
country; kick sometimes I did, and also shriek and cry; but yet I was
bound in the wings of the temptation, and the wind would carry me
away." It was all that he could do to refrain from articulating such
words as he imagined would amount to the sin against the Holy Ghost;
and for a year together he was haunted with such diabolical
suggestions that he was weary of his life, and fain would have
changed condition with a horse or a dog. During this dreary term it
is no wonder that his heart felt hard. "Though he should have given
a thousand pounds for a tear, he could not shed one; and often he had
not even the desire to shed one." Every ordinance was an affliction.
He could not listen to a sermon, or take up a religious book, but a
crowd of wild and horrid fancies rushed in betwixt the subject and
his bewildered mind, he could not assume the attitude of prayer but
he felt impelled to break off, almost as if some one had been pulling
him away; or, to mar his devotion, some ridiculous object was sure to
be presented to his fancy. It is not surprising that he should have
concluded that he was possessed by the devil; and it is scarcely
possible to peruse his own and similar recitals without the forcible
conviction that they are more than the mere workings of the mind,
either in its sane or its disordered state.

Only relieved by some glimpses of comfort, "which, like Peter's
sheet, were of a sudden caught up from him into heaven again," this
horrible darkness lasted no less than a year. The light which first
stole in upon it, and in which it finally melted away, was a clear
discovery of the person of Christ, more especially a distinct
perception of the dispositions which he manifested while here on
earth. And one thing greatly helped him. He alighted on a congenial
mind, and an experience almost identical with his own. From the
emancipation which this new acquaintance gave to his spirit, as well
as the tone which he imparted to Bunyan's theology, we had best
relate the incident in his own words. "Before I had got thus far out
of my temptations, I did greatly long to see some ancient godly man's
experience, who had writ some hundreds of years before I was born;
for those who had writ in our days, I thought (but I desire them now
to pardon me) that they had writ only that which others felt; or else
had, through the strength of their wits and parts, studied to answer
such objections as they perceived others perplexed with, without
going down themselves into the deep. Well, after many such longings
in my mind, the God in whose hands are all our days and ways, did
cast into my hands one day a book of Martin Luther's: it was his
Comment on the Galatians; it also was so old that it was ready to
fall piece from piece if I did but turn it over. Now I was pleased
much that such an old book had fallen into my hands; the which, when
I had but a little way perused, I found my condition in his
experience so largely and profoundly handled, as if his book had been
written out of my heart. This made me marvel: for thus, thought I,
this man could not know anything of the state of Christians now, but
must needs write and speak the experience of former days. Besides,
he doth most gravely also, in that book, debate of the sin of these
temptations, namely, blasphemy, desperation, and the like; shewing
that the law of Moses, as well as the devil, death, and hell, hath a
very great hand therein: flee which, at first, was very strange to
me; but considering and watching, I found it so indeed. But of
particulars here I intend nothing; only this, methinks, I must let
fall before all men, I do prefer this book of Martin Luther upon the
Galatians--excepting the Holy Bible--before all the books that ever I
have seen, as most fit for a wounded conscience."

There was one thing of which Bunyan was very conscious--that his
extrication from the fearful pit was the work of an almighty hand.
The transition was very blissful; but just because his present views
were so bright and assuring, he knew that flesh and blood had not
revealed them. "Now I had an evidence, as I thought, of my salvation
from heaven, with many golden seals thereon, all hanging in my sight.
Now could I remember this manifestation and the other discovery of
grace with comfort, and should often long and desire that the last
day were come, that I might be for ever inflamed with the sight and
joy and communion with him, whose head was crowned with thorns, whose
face was spit on and body broken, and soul made an offering for my
sins: for, whereas before I lay continually trembling at the mouth
of hell, now methought I was got so far therefrom, that I could not,
when I looked back, scarce discern it. And oh! thought I, that I
were fourscore years old now, that I might die quickly, that my soul
might be gone to rest." "And now I found, as I thought, that I loved
Christ dearly. Oh! methought that my soul cleaved unto him, my
affections cleaved unto him. I felt love to him as hot as fire; and
new, as Job said, I thought I should die in my nest."

Another period of fearful agony, however, awaited him, and, like the
last, it continued for a year. In perusing his own recital of these
terrible conflicts, the first relief to our tortured sympathy is in
the recollection that it is all over now, and that the sufferer,
escaped from his great tribulation, is long ago before the throne.
But in the calmer, because remoter, contemplation of this fiery
trial, it is easy to see "the end of the Lord." When He permitted
Satan to tempt his servant Job, it was not for Job's sake merely, nor
for the sake of the blessed contrast which surprised his latter days,
that he allowed such thick-coming woes to gather round the patriarch;
but it was to provide in his parallel experience a storehouse of
encouragement and hope for the future children of sorrow. And when
the Lord permitted the adversary so violently to assail our worthy,
and when he caused so many of his own waves and billows to pass over
him, it was not merely for the sake of Bunyan; it was for the sake of
Bunyan's readers down to the end of time. By selecting this strong
spirit as the subject of these trials, the Lord provided, in his
intense feelings and vivid realizations, a normal type--a glaring
instance of those experiences which, in their fainter modifications,
are common to most Christians; and, through his graphic pen, secured
a guidebook for Zion's pilgrims in ages yet to come. In the
temptations we are now called to record, there is something so
peculiar, that we do not know if Christian biography supplies any
exact counterpart; but the time and manner of its occurrence have
many and painful parallels. It was after he had entered into "rest"-
-when he had received joyful assurance of his admission into God's
family, and was desiring to depart and be with Christ--it was then
that this assault was made on his constancy, and it was a fiercer
assault than any. If we do not greatly err, it is not uncommon for
believers to be visited after conversion with temptations from which
they were exempt in the days of their ignorance; as well as
temptations which, but for their conversion, could not have existed.

The temptation to which we have alluded, took this strange and
dreadful form--to sell and part with his Saviour, to exchange him for
the things of this life--for anything. This horrid thought he could
not shake out of his mind, day nor night, for many months together.
It intermixed itself with every occupation, however sacred, or
however trivial. "He could not eat his food, stoop for a pin, chop a
stick, nor cast his eye to look on this or that, but still the
temptation would come, 'Sell Christ for this, sell Christ for that,
sell him, sell him.' Sometimes it would run in my thoughts not so
little as a hundred times together, Sell him, sell him, sell him:
Against which, I may say, for whole hours together, I have been
forced to stand as continually leaning and forcing my spirit against
it; lest haply, before I was aware, some wicked thought might arise
in my heart that might consent thereto: and sometimes the tempter
would make me believe I had consented to it; but then should I be as
tortured on a rack for whole days together."--"But, to be brief, one
morning as I did lie in my bed, I was, as at other times, most
fiercely assaulted with this temptation to sell and part with Christ-
-the wicked suggestion still running in my mind, Sell him, sell him,
sell him, sell him, as fast as a man could speak, against which I
also, as at other times, answered, No, no; not for thousands,
thousands, thousands, at least twenty times together. But at last,
after much striving, even until I was almost out of breath, I felt
this thought pass through my heart, Let him go, if he will; and I
thought also that I felt my heart freely consent thereto. Oh, the
diligence of Satan! Oh, the desperateness of man's heart! Now was
the battle won, and down fell I, as a bird that is shot from the top
of a tree, into great guilt and fearful despair. Thus getting out of
my bed, I went moping into the field, but, God knows, with as heavy a
heart as mortal man, I think, could bear. Where, for the space of
two hours, I was like a man bereft of life, and as now past all
recovery, and bound over to eternal punishment. And withal, that
scripture did seize upon my soul, 'O profane person, as Esau, who,
for one morsel of meat, sold his birth-right; for ye know how that
afterwards, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was
rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it
carefully with tears.' These words were to my soul like fetters of
brass, in the continual sound of which I went for several months

The anxious casuistry in which he sought relief, and the alternation
of wistful hope and blank despair, in which for many a dismal day he
was tossed to and fro, none but himself can properly describe. They
are deeply affecting, and to some may prove instructive.

"Then began I, with sad and careful heart, to consider of the nature
and largeness of my sin, and to search into the word of God, if in
any place I could espy a word of promise, or any encouraging sentence
by which I might take relief. Wherefore I began to consider that of
Mark iii., 'All manner of sins and blasphemies shall be forgiven unto
the sons of men, wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:' which place,
methought, at a blush, did contain a large and glorious promise for
the pardon of high offences. But considering the place more fully, I
thought it was rather to be understood as relating more chiefly to
those who had, while in a natural state, committed such things as
there are mentioned; but not to me, who had not only received light
and mercy, but that had, both after and also contrary to that, so
slighted Christ as I had done. I feared, therefore, that this wicked
sin of mine might be that sin unpardonable, of which he there thus
speaketh, 'But he that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost hath never
forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.'

"And now was I both a burden and a terror to myself; nor did I ever
so know as now what it was to be weary of my life and yet afraid to
die. O how gladly would I have been anybody but myself! anything but
a man! and in any condition but my own! for there was nothing did
pass more frequently over my mind, than that it was impossible for me
to be forgiven my transgression, and to be saved from wrath to come."

He set himself to compare his sin with that of David and Peter, but
saw that there were specialties in his guilt which made it far
greater. The only case which he could compare to his own was that of

"About this time I did light on the dreadful story of that miserable
mortal, Francis Spira. Every sentence in that book, every groan of
that man, with all the rest of his actions in his dolors, as his
tears, his prayers, his gnashing of teeth, his wringing of hands, his
twisting, and languishing, and pining away, under the mighty hand of
God that was upon him, was as knives and daggers to my soul;
especially that sentence of his was frightful to me, 'Man knows the
beginning of sin, but who bounds the issues thereof!' Then would the
former sentence, as the conclusion of all, fall like a hot
thunderbolt again upon my conscience, 'For you know how, that
afterwards, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was
rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it
carefully with tears.' Then should I be struck into a very great
trembling, insomuch that at sometimes I could, for whole days
together, feel my very body, as well as my mind, to shake and totter
under the sense of this dreadful judgment of God.

"Now I should find my mind to flee from God as from the face of a
dreadful judge; yet this was my torment, I could not escape his hand.
'It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the hiving God.'
But blessed be his grace, that scripture in these flying fits would
call as running after me,--'I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy
transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins; return unto me, for I have
redeemed thee.' This, I say, would come in upon my mind when I was
fleeing from the face of God; for I did flee from his face, that is,
my mind and spirit fled before him: by reason of his highness I
could not endure. Then would that text cry, Return unto me; it would
cry aloud, with a very great voice, Return unto me, for I have
redeemed thee. Indeed this would make me make a little stop, and, as
it were, look over my shoulder behind me, to see if I could discern
that the God of grace did follow me with a pardon in his hand.

"Once as I was walking to and fro in a good man's shop, bemoaning of
myself in my sad and doleful state, afflicting myself with self-
abhorrence for this wicked and ungodly thought; lamenting also this
hard hap of mine, for that I should commit so great a sin, greatly
fearing I should not be pardoned; praying also in my heart, that if
this sin of mine did differ from that against the Holy Ghost, the
Lord would shew it me; and being now ready to sink with fear,
suddenly there was as if there had rushed in at the window the noise
of wind upon me, but very pleasant, and as if I heard a voice
speaking,--'Didst ever refuse to be justified by the blood of
Christ?' And withal my whole life of profession past was in a moment
opened to me, wherein I was made to see that designedly I had not; so
my heart answered groaningly, No. Then fell with power that word of
God upon me, See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. This made a
strange seizure upon my spirit: it brought light with it, and
commanded a silence in my heart of all those tumultuous thoughts that
before did rise, like masterless hell-hounds, to roar and bellow, and
make a hideous noise within me. It shewed me also that Jesus Christ
had yet a word of grace and mercy for me that he had not, as I
feared, quite forsaken and cast off my soul: Yea, this was a kind of
check for my proneness to desperation; a kind of threatening of me if
I did not, notwithstanding my sins and the heinousness of them,
venture my salvation upon the Son of God. But as to my determining
about this strange dispensation, what it was, I know not. I have not
yet in twenty years' time been able to make a judgment of it. I
thought then what here I should be loath to speak. But verily, that
sudden rushing wind was as if an angel had come upon me; but both it
and the salvation, I will leave until the day of judgment. Only this
I say, it commanded a great calm in my soul. It persuaded me there
might be hope; it shewed me, as I thought, what the sin unpardonable
was, and that my soul had yet the blessed privilege to flee to Jesus
Christ for mercy. But I say concerning this dispensation, I know not
what yet to say unto it. I leave it to be thought on by men of sound
judgment. I lay not the stress of my salvation thereupon, but upon
the Lord Jesus in the promise; yet seeing I am here unfolding of my
secret things, I thought it might not be altogether inexpedient to
let this also shew itself, though I cannot now relate the matter as
then I did experience it. This lasted in the savour thereof about
three or four days, and then I began to mistrust and despair again."

No solid peace can enter the soul except that which is brought by the
Comforter. It is not the word read and heard, but the word revealed
by the Spirit, which is saving and assuring. There is undoubtedly a
divine operation on the mind wherever any special impression is
produced by the truths of God; and whether that impression should be
made with audible and visible manifestations accompanying it--as on
the day of Pentecost--or should be so vivid as to convert a mental
perception into a bodily sensation, as we are disposed to think was
the case with some of the remarkable sights and heavenly voices which
good men have recorded, is really of little moment. In Bunyan's
case, so warm was his imagination, that every clear perception was
sure to be instantaneously sounding in his ear, or standing out a
bright vision before his admiring eyes. This feature of his mental
conformation has been noticed already; but this may be the proper
place to allude to it again.

After the short breathing time we just noticed, Bunyan began to sink
in the deep waters again. It was in vain that he asked the prayers
of God's people, and equally in vain that he imparted his grief to
those who had passed through the same conflicts with the devil. One
"ancient Christian," to whom he stated his fear that he had committed
the sin for which there is no forgiveness, thought so too. "Thus was
I always sinking, whatever I did think or do. So one day I walked to
a neighbouring town, and sat down upon a settle in the street, and
fell into a very deep panic about the most fearful state my sin had
brought me to; and after long musing, I lifted up my head; but
methought I saw as if the sun that shineth in the heavens did grudge
to give light; and as if the very stones in the street, and tiles
upon the houses, did bend themselves against me: methought that they
all combined together to banish me out of the world; I was abhorred
of them, and unfit to dwell among them, or be partaker of their
benefits, because I had sinned against the Saviour. Then breaking
out in the bitterness of my soul, I said to my soul, with a grievous
sigh, 'How can God comfort such a wretch as I am?' I had no sooner
said it, but this returned upon me, as an echo doth answer a voice,
'This sin is not unto death.' At which I was as if raised out of the
grave, and cried out again, 'Lord, how couldst thou find out such a
word as this?' for I was filled with admiration at the fitness and at
the unexpectedness of the sentence. The fitness of the word; the
rightness of the timing of it; the power and sweetness and light and
glory that came with it also, were marvellous to me to find. I was
now for the time out of doubt as to that about which I was so much in
doubt before. I seemed now to stand upon the same ground with other
sinners, and to have as good right to the word and prayer as any of

In coming to this conclusion, he had made a great step in advance.
His misery had hitherto been occasioned by a device of the devil,
which keeps many anxious souls from comfort. He regarded his own
case as a special exception to which a gospel, otherwise general, did
not apply; but this snare was now broken, and, though with halting
pace, he was on the way to settled rest and joy. Frequently he would
feel that his transgressions had cut him off from Christ, and left
him "neither foot-hold nor handhold among all the props and stays in
the precious word of life;" but presently he would find some gracious
assurance--he knew not how--sustaining him. At one time he would
appear to himself like a child fallen into a mill-pond, "who thought
it could make some shift to sprawl and scramble in the water," yet,
as it could find nothing to which to cling, must sink at last; but by
and by he would perceive that an unseen power was buoying him up, and
encouraging him to cry from the depths. At another time he would be
so discouraged and daunted, that he scarcely dared to pray, and yet
in a sort of desperation beginning, he found it true that "men ought
always to pray and not to faint." On one occasion, whilst
endeavouring to draw near the throne of grace, the tempter suggested
"that neither the mercy of God, nor yet the blood of Christ, at all
concerned him, nor could they help him by reason of his sin;
therefore it was vain to pray." Yet he thought with himself, "I will
pray." "But," said the tempter, "your sin is unpardonable." "Well,"
said he, "I will pray." "It is to no boot," said the adversary. And
still he answered, "I will pray." And so he began his prayer, "Lord,
Satan tells me that neither they mercy, nor Christ's blood, is
sufficient to save my soul. Lord, shall I honour thee most by
believing thou wilt and canst? or him, by believing thou neither wilt
nor canst? Lord, I would fain honour thee by believing thou canst
and thou wiliest." And whilst he was thus speaking, "as if some one
had clapped him on the back," that scripture fastened on his mind, "O
man great is thy faith."

Relief came slowly but steadily, and was the more abiding, because he
had learned by experience to distrust any comfort which did not come
from the word of God. Such passages as these, "My grace is
sufficient for thee," and "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise
cast out," greatly lightened his burden; but he derived still
stronger encouragement from considering that the Gospel, with its
benignity, is much more expressive of the mind and disposition of God
than the law with its severity. "Mercy rejoiceth over judgment. How
shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if
the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the
ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which
was made glorious, had no glory in this respect, by reason of the
glory that excelleth." Or, as the same truth presented itself to his
mind in an aspect more arresting to a mind like his, "And Peter said
unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make
three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for
Elias. For he wist not what to say, for he was sore afraid. And
there was a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the
cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, hear him." "Then I saw that
Moses and Elias must both vanish, and leave Christ and his saints

We have now arrived at the happy time when these doubts and
distractions were exchanged for songs of deliverance. We relate it
in the words of Bunyan's own narrative: "One day as I was passing
into the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience,
fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon
my soul, 'Thy righteousness is in heaven;' and methought withal, I
saw with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God's right hand;
there, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or
whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, 'He wants my
righteousness,' for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover,
that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness
better, nor my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my
righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, 'the same yesterday, to-day,
and for ever.' Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed; I was
loosed from my afflictions and my irons; my temptations also fled
away; so that from that time those dreadful scriptures of God left
off to trouble me. Now went I also home rejoicing for the grace and
love of God; so when I came home I looked to see if I could find that
sentence, 'Thy righteousness is in heaven,' but could not find such a
saying; wherefore my heart began to sink again, only that was brought
to my remembrance, 'He is made unto us of God, wisdom, righteousness,
sanctification, and redemption;' by this word I saw the other
sentence true. For, by this scripture, I saw that the man Christ
Jesus, as he is distinct from us as touching his bodily presence, so
he is our righteousness and sanctification before God. Here,
therefore, I lived for some time very sweetly at peace with God
through Christ. Oh! methought, Christ, Christ! There was nothing
but Christ that was before my eyes. I was not now for looking upon
this and the other benefits of Christ apart, as of his blood, burial,
or resurrection, but considering him as a whole Christ, as he is when
all these, and all other his virtues, relations, offices, and
operations met together, and that he sat on the right hand of God in
heaven. 'Twas glorious to me to see his exaltation, and the worth
and prevalency of all his benefits; and that because now I could look
from myself to him, and would reckon that all those graces of God
that now were green on me, were yet but like those cracked groats and
fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their
gold is in their trunks at home: Oh! I saw my gold was in my trunk
at home! in Christ my Lord and Saviour. Now Christ was all; all my

"Further, the Lord did also lead me into the mystery of union with
the Son of God; that I was joined to him, that I was 'flesh of his
flesh, and bone of his bone' (Eph. v. 30); and now was that word of
St Paul sweet to me. By this also was my faith in him as my
righteousness the more confirmed in me; for if he and I were one,
then his righteousness was mine, his merits mine, his victory also
mine. Now could I see myself in heaven and earth at once: in heaven
by my Christ, by my head, by my righteousness and life; though on
earth by my body or person. Now I saw Christ Jesus was looked upon
of God, and should also be looked upon by us, as that common or
public person, in whom all the whole body of his elect are always to
be considered and reckoned; that we fulfilled the law by him, rose
from the dead by him, got the victory over sin, death, the devil, and
hell by him; when he died, we died; and so of his resurrection. 'Thy
dead men shall live; together with my dead body shall they arise,'
saith he: and again, 'After two days he will revive us, and the
third day we shall live in his sight:' which is now fulfilled by the
sitting down of the Son of Man on the right hand of the Majesty in
the heavens, according to that to the Ephesians, 'He heath raised us
up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ
Jesus.' Ah! these blessed considerations and scriptures, with many
others of like nature, were in those days made to spangle in mine
eye, so that I have cause to say, 'Praise ye the Lord God in his
sanctuary; praise him in the firmament of his power; praise him for
his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.'"

Extricated from the Slough of Despond, Bunyan went on his way
rejoicing; and though sometimes interrupted by disquieting thoughts
and strong temptations, his subsequent career was a path of growing
comfort and prevailing peace. At the age of twenty-six he was
admitted a member of that Baptist church of which Mr Gifford was the
faithful pastor,--a rare man, who, in angry times, and in a small
communion, preserved his catholicity. Holding that "union with
Christ," and not agreement concerning any ordinances or things
external, is the foundation of Christian fellowship, with his dying
hand he addressed a letter to his beloved people, in which the
following sentence occurs, the utterance of a heart enlarged by
Christian magnanimity, and bent on those objects which alone look
important when the believer is waiting on the top of Pisgah: --
"Concerning separation from the Church about baptism, laying on of
hands, anointing with oil, psalms, or any other externals, I charge
every one of you respectively, as you will give an account of it to
our Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge both quick and dead at his
coming, that none of you be found guilty of this great evil, which
some have committed, and that through a zeal for God, yet not
according to knowledge. They have erred from the law of the love of
Christ, and have made a rent in the true Church, which is but one."
If our Baptist brethren are justly proud that the burning and shining
light of Bunyan was set upon their candlestick, they have equal
reason to boast of the torch at which his bland and diffussive light
was kindled. John Bunyan doubtless owed to John Gifford the peculiar
type of his Christianity, its comprehensiveness, and its sect-
forgetting zeal for the things of Jesus Christ.

He had not long been a member of the church when he was called to
exercise its actual ministry. Gifford was gone to his everlasting
rest; and as a substitute for his labours, it was put upon a few of
the brethren to speak the word of exhortation to the rest. Of these
Bunyan was one. At first he did not venture farther than to address
his friends in their more private meetings, or to follow up, with a
brief application, the sermons delivered by others in their village-
preaching. But these exercises having afforded the utmost
satisfaction to his judicious though warm-hearted hearers, he was
urged forward to more public services. These he was too humble to
covet, and too earnest to refuse. Though his education was
sufficiently rude, God had given him from the first a strong athletic
mind and a glowing heart,--that downright logic and teeming fancy,
whose bold strokes and burning images heat the Saxon temper to the
welding point, and make the popular orator of our English multitude.
Then his low original and rough wild history, however much they might
have subjected him to scorn had he exchanged the leathern apron for a
silken one, or scrambled from the hedge-side into the high-places of
the church, entailed no suspicion, and awakened much surprise, when
the Bedford townsmen saw their blaspheming neighbour a new man, and
in a way so disinterested preaching the faith which he once
destroyed. The town turned out to hear, and though there was some
mockery, many were deeply moved. His own account of it is: --"At
first I could not believe that God should speak by me to the heart of
any man, still counting myself unworthy; yet those who were thus
touched, would love me, and have a particular respect for me; and
though I did put it from me, that they should be awakened by me,
still they would confess it and affirm it before the saints of God .
. . Wherefore, seeing them in both their words and deeds to be so
constant, and also in their hearts so earnestly pressing after the
knowledge of Jesus Christ, rejoicing that ever God did send me where
they were, then I began to conclude it might be so, that God had
owned in his work such a foolish one as I; and then came that word of
God to my heart with such sweet refreshment: 'The blessing of them
that were ready to perish is come upon me; yea, I caused the widow's
heart to sing for joy.' At this, therefore, I rejoiced; yea, the
tears of those whom God had awakened by my preaching would be both
solace and encouragement to me. I thought on those sayings, 'Who is
he that maketh me glad, but the same that is made sorry by me!' And
again, 'Though I be not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am unto
you: for the seal of my apostleship are ye in the Lord.'"

There was a solemnizing and subduing power in Bunyan's ministry,
because it was heart-felt. So far as the truths he uttered were
capable of becoming subjects of personal consciousness, he had
experienced them; and so far as they were subjects of intellectual
conviction, he was not only fully persuaded of them, but saw them so
clear and evident, that his realizations were continually quickening
into sensations. He thus began with a John-Baptist ministry, to
which succeeded a Pentecostal evangel; and at last it grew into the
Pauline amplitude and completeness, "the whole counsel of God." "In
my preaching of the word, I took special notice of this one thing,
namely, that the Lord did lead me to begin where the word begins with
sinners; that is, to condemn all flesh, and to open and allege that
the curse of God by the law doth belong to and lay hold on all men as
they come into the world, because of sin. Now this part of my work I
fulfilled with great sense; for the terrors of the law, and guilt for
my transgressions, lay heavy on my conscience. I preached what I
felt, what I smartingly did feel; even that under which my poor soul
did groan and tremble to astonishment. Indeed I have been as one
sent to them from the dead; I went myself in chains to preach to them
in chains; and carried that fire in my own conscience that I
persuaded them to be aware of . . . Thus I went on for the space of
two years, crying out against men's sins, and their fearful state
because of them. After which the Lord came in upon my own soul with
some sure peace and comfort through Christ; for he did give me many
sweet discoveries of his blessed grace through him. Wherefore now I
altered in my preaching (for still I preached what I saw and felt).
Now, therefore, I did much labour to hold forth Jesus Christ in all
his offices, relations, and benefits, unto the world, and did strive
also to discover, to condemn, and remove those false supports and
props on which the world doth both lean, and by them fall and perish.
On these things also I staid as long as on the other. After this,
God led me into something of the mystery of union with Christ;
wherefore, that I discovered and shewed to them also. And when I had
travelled through these three chief points of the word of God, I was
caught in my present practice, and cast into prison, where I have
lain alone as long again to confirm the truth by way of suffering, as
I was before in testifying of it, according to the scriptures, in a
way of preaching."

Bunyan's preaching was no incoherent rant. Words of truth and
soberness formed the staple of each sermon; and his burning words and
startling images were only the electric scintillations along the
chain of his scriptural eloquence. Though the common people heard
him most gladly, he had occasional hearers of a higher class. Once
on a week-day he was expected to preach in a parish church near
Cambridge, and a concourse of people had already collected in the
churchyard. A gay student was riding past, when he noticed the
crowd, and asked what had brought them together. He was told that
the people had come out to hear one Bunyan, a tinker, preach. He
instantly dismounted, and gave a boy twopence to hold his horse, for
he declared he was determined to hear the tinker PRATE. So he went
into the church, and heard the tinker; but so deep was the impression
which that sermon made on the scholar, that he took every subsequent
opportunity to attend Bunyan's ministry, and himself became a
renowned preacher of the gospel in Cambridgeshire. Still he felt
that his errand was to the multitude, and his great anxiety was to
penetrate the darkest places of the land, and preach to the most
abandoned people. In these labours of unostentatious heroism, he
sometimes excited the jealousy of the regular parish ministers, and
even under the tolerant rule of the Protector, was in some danger of
imprisonment. However, it was not till the Restoration that he was
in serious jeopardy; but thereafter he was among the first victims of
the grand combination betwixt priests and rulers to exterminate the
gospel in England.

On the 12th of November 1660, he had promised to meet a little
congregation in a private house at Samsell in Bedfordshire. Before
the hour of meeting he was apprised that a warrant was out to seize
him; but he felt that he owed it to the gospel not to run away at
such a time. Accordingly when the people were assembled with no
weapons but their Bibles, the constable entered and arrested the
preacher. He had only time to speak a few words of counsel and
encouragement to his hearers, "You see we are prevented of our
opportunity to speak and hear the word of God, and are likely to
suffer for the same. But be not discouraged. It is a mercy to
suffer for so good a cause. We might have been apprehended as
thieves or murderers, or for other wickedness; but blessed be God, it
is not so. We suffer as Christians for well doing; and better be the
persecuted than the persecutors." After being taken before a
justice, he was committed to gaol till the ensuing sessions should be
held at Bedford. There an indictment was preferred--"That John
Bunyan, of the town of Bedford, labourer, being a person of such and
such conditions, he hath since such a time devilishly and
perniciously abstained from coming to church to hear divine service;
and is 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," &c. Of course he was convicted, and sentenced to
imprisonment, with certification, that if he did not conform within a
given period, he would he banished out of the kingdom.

After Bunyan ceases to be his own biographer, our materials become
exceeding scanty. This is the less to be lamented when we reflect
that the history of his "hidden life" is already told. The processes
have now been related which formed and developed the inner man; and
the few external events that befel him, and the few important things
that he did, during the remaining eight-and-twenty years of his
mortal pilgrimage, may be recorded in a single page.

His imprisonment was protracted from sessions to sessions, till he
had measured out twelve weary years in Bedford gaol. Perhaps we
should not call them WEARY. They had their alleviations. His wife
and children were allowed to visit him. His blind and most beloved
daughter was permitted to cheer his solitude and her own. He had his
Bible, and his "Book of Martyrs." He had his imagination, and his
pen. Above all, he had a good conscience. He felt it a blessed
exchange to quit the "iron cage" of despair for a "den" oft visited
by a celestial comforter; and which, however cheerless, did not lack
a door to heaven.

Whether it was the man's own humanity, or whether it was that God who
assuaged Joseph's captivity, gave Bunyan special favour in the eyes
of the keeper of his prison, the fact is certain, that he met with
singular indulgence at the least likely hands. Not only was he
allowed many a little indulgence in his cell, but he was suffered to
go and come with a freedom which could hardly have been exceeded had
the county gaol been his own hired house. For months together he was
a constant attender of the church-meetings of his brethren in
Bedford, and was actually chosen pastor during the period of his
incarceration. On one occasion some of the bishops who had heard a
rumour of the unusual liberty conceded to him, sent a messenger from
London to Bedford to ascertain the truth. The officer was instructed
to call at the prison during the night. It was a night when Bunyan
had received permission to stay at home with his family; but so
uneasy did he feel, that he told his wife he must go back to his old
quarters. So late was it that the gaoler blamed him for coming at
such an untimely hour; but a little afterwards the messenger arrived.
"Are all the prisoners safe?" "Yes." "Is John Bunyan safe?" "Yes."
"Let me see him." Bunyan was called, and the messenger went his way;
and when he was gone the gaoler told him, "Well, you may go out again
just when you think proper; for you know when to return better than I
can tell you."

But the best alleviations of his captivity were those wonderful works
which he there projected or composed. Some of these were
controversial; but one of them was his own life, under the title,
"Grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners," and another was the

In 1672 he obtained his liberty, and his friends immediately built
for him a large meeting-house, where he continued to preach with
little interruption till his death. Once a year he visited London,
and was there so popular, that twelve hundred people would gather
together at seven in the morning of a winter's working-day to hear
him. Amongst the admiring listeners, Dr Owen was frequently found;
and once when Charles the Second asked how a learned man like him
could sit down to hear a tinker prate, the great theologian is said
to have answered, "May it please your Majesty, could I possess the
tinker's abilities for preaching, I would most gladly relinquish all
my learning." But popular as he was, he was not fond of praise. One
day after he had concluded an impressive discourse, his friends
pressed round to thank him for his "sweet sermon." "Aye," he bluntly
answered, "you need not remind me of that; for the devil told me as
much before I left the pulpit."

He had numbered sixty years, and written as many books, when he was
released from his abundant labours. A young gentleman, his
neighbour, had fallen under his father's displeasure, and was much
concerned at his father's estrangement as well as at the prospect of
being disinherited. He begged Mr Bunyan's friendly interposition to
propitiate his father, and prepare the way for his return to parental
favour and affection. The kind-hearted man undertook the task, and
having successfully achieved it, was returning from Reading to London
on horseback, when he was thoroughly drenched with excessive rains.
He arrived cold and wet at the house of Mr Strudwick, a grocer on
Snow Hill. Here he was seized with fits of shivering, which passed
off in violent fever, and after ten days' sickness, on the 31st of
August 1688, his pilgrimage ended, and he went in by the gate into
the city.

As the most appropriate introduction to the following selections from
the practical writings of Bunyan, we would chose this rapid history
of the MAN, with a few remarks on the THEOLOGIAN and the AUTHOR.

I. Bunyan's theological merits we rank very high. No one can turn
over his pages without noticing the abundance of his Scriptural
quotations; and these quotations no one can examine without
perceiving how minutely he had studied, and how deeply he had
pondered, the word of God. But it is possible to be very TEXTUAL,
and yet by no means very scriptural. A man may heave an exact
acquaintance with the literal Bible, and yet entirely miss the great
Bible message. He may possess a dexterous command of detached
passages and insulated sentences, and yet be entirely ignorant of
that peculiar scheme which forms the great gospel revelation. But
this was Bunyan's peculiar excellence. He was even better acquainted
with the Gospel as the scheme of God, than he was familiar with the
Bible-text; and the consequence is, that though he is sometimes
irrelevant in his references, and fanciful in interpreting particular
passages, his doctrine is almost always according to the analogy of
faith. The doctrine of a free and instant justification by the
imputed righteousness of Christ, none even of the Puritans could
state with more Luther-like boldness, nor defend with an affection
more worthy of Paul. In his last and best days, Coleridge wrote, "I
know of no book, the Bible excepted, as above all comparison, which
I, according to my judgment and experience, could so safely recommend
as teaching and enforcing the whole saving truth, according to the
mind that was in Christ Jesus, as the Pilgrim's Progress. It is in
my conviction the best Summa Theologiae Evangelicae ever produced by
a writer not miraculously inspired." {3} Without questioning this
verdict, we would include in the encomium some of his other writings,
which possibly Coleridge never saw. Such as the Tracts contained in
this volume. {4} They exhibit Gospel-truths in so clear a light, and
state them in such a frank and happy tone, that he who runs may read,
and he who reads in earnest will rejoice. The Pilgrim is a peerless
guide to those who have already passed in at the wicket-gate; but
those who are still seeking peace to their troubled souls, will find
the best directory in "The Jerusalem Sinner Saved."

II. Invaluable as a theologian, Bunyan stands alone as a contributor
to theological literature. In recent times no man has done so much
to draw the world's delighted attention to the subjects of supreme
solicitude. No production of a mortal pen has found so many readers
as one work of his; and none has awakened so frequently the sighing
behest, "Let me die the death of the righteous."

None has painted the beauty of holiness in taints more lovely, nor
spoken in tones more thrilling to the heart of universal humanity.
At first the favourite of the vulgar, he is now the wonder of the
learned; and from the obscurity, not inglorious, of smoky cupboards
and cottage chimneys, he has been escorted up to the highest places
of classical renown, and duly canonized by the pontiffs of taste and
literature. The man, whom Cowper praised anonymously,

"Lest so despised a name should move a sneer,

has at last extorted emulous plaudits from a larger host of writers
than ever conspired to praise a man of genius, who was also a man of
God. Johnson and Franklin, Scott, Coleridge, and Southey, Byron and
Montgomery, Macintosh and Macaulay, have exerted their philosophical
acumen and poetic feeling to analyze his various spell, and account
for his unequalled fame; and though the round-cornered copies, with
their diverting woodcuts, have not disappeared from the poor man's
ingle, illustrated editions blaze from the shelves of every sumptuous
library, new pictures, from its exhaustless themes, light up the
walls of each annual exhibition; and amidst the graceful litter of
the drawing-room table, you are sure to take up designs from the
Pilgrim's Progress. So universal is the ascendancy of the tinker-
teacher, so world-wide the diocese of him whom Whitefield created
Bishop Bunyan, that probably half the ideas which the outside-world
entertains regarding experimental piety, they have, in some form or
other, derived from him. One of the most popular preachers in his
day, in his little treatises, as well as in his longer allegories, he
preaches to countless thousands still. The cause of this unexampled
popularity is a question of great practical moment.

And, first of all, Bunyan speaks to the whole of man,--to his
imagination, his intellect, his heart. He had in himself all these
ingredients of full-formed humanity, and in his books he lets all of
them out. French writers and preachers are apt to deal too
exclusively in the one article--fancy; and though you are amused for
the moment with the rocket-shower of brilliant and many-tinted ideas
which fall sparkling around you, when the exhibition is ended, you
are disappointed to find that the whole was momentary, and that from
all the ruby and emerald rain scarcely one gem of solid thought
remains. {5} Scottish writers and preachers are apt to indulge the
argumentative cacoethes of their country, and cramming into a tract
or sermon as much hard-thinking as the Bramah-pressure of hydrostatic
intellects can condense into the iron paragraphs, they leave no room
for such delicate materials as fancy or feeling, illustration,
imagery, or affectionate appeal; {6} whilst Irish authors and pulpit-
orators are so surcharged with their own exuberant enthusiasm, that
their main hope of making you think as they think, is to make you
feel as they feel. The heart is their Aristotle; and if they cannot
win you by a smile or melt you by a tear, they would think it labour
lost to try a syllogism. Bunyan was neither French, nor Scotch, nor
Irish. He embodied in his person, though greatly magnified, the
average mind of England--playful, affectionate, downright. His
intellectual power comes chiefly out in that homely self-commending
sense--the brief business-like reasoning, which might be termed Saxon
logic, and of which Swift in one century, and Cobbett in another, are
obvious instances. His premises are not always true, nor his
inferences always legitimate; but there is such evident absence of
sophistry, and even of that refining and hair-splitting which usually
beget the suspicion of sophistry--his statements are so sincere, and
his conclusions so direct, the language is so perspicuous, and the
appeal is made so honestly to each reader's understanding, that his
popularity as a reasoner is inevitable. We need not say that the
author of the Pilgrim possessed imagination; but it is important to
note the service it rendered to his preaching, and the charm which it
still imparts to his miscellaneous works. The pictorial power he
possessed in a rare degree. His mental eye perceived the truth most
vividly. Some minds are moving in a constant mystery. They see men
like trees walking. The different doctrines of the Bible all wear
dim outlines to them, jostling and jumbling; and after a perplexing
morrice of bewildering hints and half discoveries, they vanish into
the misty back-ground of nonentity. To Bunyan's bright and broad-
waking eye all things were clear. Thee men walked and the trees
stood still. Everything was seen in sharp relief and definite
outline--a REALITY. And besides the pictorial, he possessed in
highest perfection the illustrative faculty. Not only did his own
mind perceive the truth most vividly, but he saw the very way to give
others a clear perception of it also. This is the great secret of
successful teaching. Like a man who has chambered his difficult way
to the top of a rocky eminence, but who, once he has reached the
summit, perceives an easier path, and directs his companions along
its gentler slopes, and gives them a helping-hand to lift them over
the final obstacles; it was by giant struggles over the debris of
crumbling hopes, and through jungles of despair, and up the cliffs of
apparent impossibility, that Bunyan forced his way to the pinnacle of
his eventual joy; but no sooner was he standing there, than his
eagle-eye detected the easier path, and he made it the business of
his benevolent ministry to guide others into it. Though not the
truth, an illustration is a stepping-stone towards it; an indentation
in the rock which makes it easier to climb. No man had a happier
knack in hewing out these notches in the cliff, and no one knew
better where to place them, than this pilgrim's pioneer. Besides, he
rightly judged that the value of these suggestive similes--these
illustrative stepping-stones--depends very much on their breadth and
frequency. But Bunyan appeals not only to the intellect and
imagination, but to the hearts of men. There was no bitterness in
Bunyan. He was a man of kindness and compassion. How sorry he is
for Mr Badman! and how he makes you sympathize with Christian and Mr
Ready-to-halt and Mr Feeble-mind, and all the other interesting
companions of that eventful journey! And in his sermons how
piteously he pleads with sinners for their own souls! and how
impressive is the undisguised vehemency of his yearning affections!
In the same sentence Bunyan has a word for the man of sense, and
another for the man of fancy, and a third for the man of feeling; and
by thus blending the intellectual, the imaginative, and the
affectionate, he speaks home to the whole of man, and has made his
works a lesson-book for all mankind.

Another secret of Bunyan's popularity is the felicity of his style.
His English is vernacular, idiomatic, universal; varying with the
subject; homely in the continuous narrative; racy and pungent in his
lively and often rapid discourse; and, when occasion requires, "a
model of unaffected dignity and rhythmical flow;" but always plain,
strong, and natural. However, in speaking of his style, we do not so
much intend his words as his entire mode of expression. A thought is
like a gem; but like a gem it may be spoiled in the setting. A
careless artist may chip it and grievously curtail its dimensions; a
clumsy craftsman, in his fear of destroying it, may not sufficiently
polish it; or in his solicitude to show off its beauty, may overdo
the accompanying ornaments. Bunyan was too skilful a workman so to
mismanage the matter. His expression neither curtails nor encumbers
the thought, but makes the most of it; that is, presents it to the
reader as it is seen by the writer. Though there is a great
appearance of amplitude about his compositions, few of his words
could be wanted. Some styles are an ill-spun thread, full of
inequalities, and shaggy from beginning to end with projecting fibres
which spoil its beauty, and add nothing to its strength; but in its
easy continuousness and trim compactness, the thread of Bunyan's
discourse flows firm and smooth from first to last. Its fulness
regales the ear, and its felicity aids the understanding.


{1} Those who are interested in the historic parallels supplied by
Christian biography, will find a similar instructive dream in the
Life of General Burn, vol. i. pp. 127-130.

{2} Ivimey's Life of Bunyan, pp. 51-53.

{3} Remains, vol. iii. p. 391.

{4} The other items contained in the book that this text comes from
were: Jerusalem Sinner Saved; Pharisee and the Publican; The Trinity
and the Christian; The Law and a Christian; Bunyan's Last Sermon;
Bunyan's Dying Sayings and An Exhortation to Peace and Unity. All of


Back to Full Books