The Life of John Bunyan
Edmund Venables, M.A.

Part 2 out of 3

and that men were bound to look out for their souls' welfare on
week-days as well as Sundays. Neither could convince the other.
Bunyan's stubbornness was not a little provoking to Foster, and was
equally disappointing to Wingate. They both evidently wished to
dismiss the case, and intentionally provided a loophole for
Bunyan's escape. The promise put into his mouth - "that he would
not call the people together" - was purposely devised to meet his
scrupulous conscience. But even if he could keep the promise in
the letter, Bunyan knew that he was fully purposed to violate its
spirit. He was the last man to forfeit self-respect by playing
fast and loose with his conscience. All evasion was foreign to his
nature. The long interview came to an end at last. Once again
Wingate and Foster endeavoured to break down Bunyan's resolution;
but when they saw he was "at a point, and would not be moved or
persuaded," the mittimus was again put into the constable's hands,
and he and his prisoner were started on the walk to Bedford gaol.
It was dark, as we have seen, when this protracted interview began.
It must have now been deep in the night. Bunyan gives no hint
whether the walk was taken in the dark or in the daylight. There
was however no need for haste. Bedford was thirteen miles away,
and the constable would probably wait till the morning to set out
for the prison which was to be Bunyan's home for twelve long years,
to which he went carrying, he says, the "peace of God along with
me, and His comfort in my poor soul."


A long-standing tradition has identified Bunyan's place of
imprisonment with a little corporation lock-up-house, some fourteen
feet square, picturesquely perched on one of the mid-piers of the
many-arched mediaeval bridge which, previously to 1765, spanned the
Ouse at Bedford, and as Mr. Froude has said, has "furnished a
subject for pictures," both of pen and pencil, "which if correct
would be extremely affecting." Unfortunately, however, for the
lovers of the sensational, these pictures are not "correct," but
are based on a false assumption which grew up out of a desire to
heap contumely on Bunyan's enemies by exaggerating the severity of
his protracted, but by no means harsh imprisonment. Being arrested
by the warrant of a county magistrate for a county offence,
Bunyan's place of incarceration was naturally the county gaol.
There he undoubtedly passed the twelve years of his captivity, and
there the royal warrant for his release found him "a prisoner in
the common gaol for our county of Bedford." But though far
different from the pictures which writers, desirous of exhibiting
the sufferings of the Puritan confessor in the most telling form,
have drawn - if not "a damp and dreary cell" into which "a narrow
chink admits a few scanty rays of light to render visible the
prisoner, pale and emaciated, seated on the humid earth, pursuing
his daily task to earn the morsel which prolongs his existence and
his confinement together," - "the common gaol" of Bedford must have
been a sufficiently strait and unwholesome abode, especially for
one, like the travelling tinker, accustomed to spend the greater
part of his days in the open-air in unrestricted freedom. Prisons
in those days, and indeed long afterwards, were, at their best,
foul, dark, miserable places. A century later Howard found Bedford
gaol, though better than some, in what would now be justly deemed a
disgraceful condition. One who visited Bunyan during his
confinement speaks of it as "an uncomfortable and close prison."
Bunyan however himself, in the narrative of his imprisonment, makes
no complaint of it, nor do we hear of his health having in any way
suffered from the conditions of his confinement, as was the case
with not a few of his fellow-sufferers for the sake of religion in
other English gaols, some of them even unto death. Bad as it must
have been to be a prisoner, as far as his own testimony goes, there
is no evidence that his imprisonment, though varying in its
strictness with his various gaolers, was aggravated by any special
severity; and, as Mr. Froude has said, "it is unlikely that at any
time he was made to suffer any greater hardships than were
absolutely inevitable."

The arrest of one whose work as a preacher had been a blessing to
so many, was not at once tamely acquiesced in by the religious body
to which he belonged. A few days after Bunyan's committal to gaol,
some of "the brethren" applied to Mr. Crompton, a young magistrate
at Elstow, to bail him out, offering the required security for his
appearance at the Quarter Sessions. The magistrate was at first
disposed to accept the bail; but being a young man, new in his
office, and thinking it possible that there might be more against
Bunyan than the "mittimus" expressed, he was afraid of compromising
himself by letting him go at large. His refusal, though it sent
him back to prison, was received by Bunyan with his usual calm
trust in God's overruling providence. "I was not at all daunted,
but rather glad, and saw evidently that the Lord had heard me."
Before he set out for the justice's house, he tells us he had
committed the whole event to God's ordering, with the prayer that
"if he might do more good by being at liberty than in prison," the
bail might be accepted, "but if not, that His will might be done."
In the failure of his friends' good offices he saw an answer to his
prayer, encouraging the hope that the untoward event, which
deprived them of his personal ministrations, "might be an awaking
to the saints in the country," and while "the slender answer of the
justice," which sent him back to his prison, stirred something akin
to contempt, his soul was full of gladness. "Verily I did meet my
God sweetly again, comforting of me, and satisfying of me, that it
was His will and mind that I should be there." The sense that he
was being conformed to the image of his great Master was a stay to
his soul. "This word," he continues, "did drop in upon my heart
with some life, for he knew that 'for envy they had delivered

Seven weeds after his committal, early in January, 1661, the
Quarter Sessions came on, and "John Bunyan, of the town of Bedford,
labourer," was indicted in the customary form for having
"devilishly and perniciously abstained from coming to church to
hear Divine Service," and as "a common upholder of several unlawful
meetings and conventions, to the great disturbance and distraction
of the good subjects of the kingdom." The chairman of the bench
was the brutal and blustering Sir John Keeling, the prototype of
Bunyan's Lord Hategood in Faithful's trial at Vanity Fair, who
afterwards, by his base subserviency to an infamous government,
climbed to the Lord Chief Justice's seat, over the head of Sir
Matthew Hale. Keeling had suffered much from the Puritans during
the great Rebellion, when, according to Clarendon, he was "always
in gaol," and was by no means disposed to deal leniently with an
offender of that persuasion. His brethren of the bench were
country gentlemen hating Puritanism from their heart, and eager for
retaliation for the wrongs it had wrought them. From such a bench,
even if Bunyan had been less uncompromising, no leniency was to be
anticipated. But Bunyan's attitude forbade any leniency. As the
law stood he had indisputably broken it, and he expressed his
determination, respectfully but firmly, to take the first
opportunity of breaking it again. "I told them that if I was let
out of prison today I would preach the gospel again to-morrow by
the help of God." We may dislike the tone adopted by the
magistrates towards the prisoner; we may condemn it as overbearing
and contemptuous; we may smile at Keeling's expositions of
Scripture and his stock arguments against unauthorized prayer and
preaching, though we may charitably believe that Bunyan
misunderstood him when he makes him say that "the Book of Common
Prayer had been ever since the apostles' time"; we may think that
the prisoner, in his "canting pedlar's French," as Keeling called
it, had the better of his judges in knowledge of the Bible, in
Christian charity, as well as in dignity and in common sense, and
that they showed their wisdom in silencing him in court - "Let him
speak no further," said one of them, "he will do harm," - since
they could not answer him more convincingly: but his legal offence
was clear. He confessed to the indictment, if not in express
terms, yet virtually. He and his friends had held "many meetings
together, both to pray to God and to exhort one another. I
confessed myself guilty no otherwise." Such meetings were
forbidden by the law, which it was the duty of the justices to
administer, and they had no choice whether they would convict or
no. Perhaps they were not sorry they had no such choice. Bunyan
was a most "impracticable" prisoner, and as Mr. Froude says, the
"magistrates being but unregenerate mortals may be pardoned if they
found him provoking." The sentence necessarily followed. It was
pronounced, not, we are sure reluctantly, by Keeling, in the terms
of the Act. "He was to go back to prison for three months. If at
three months' end he still refused to go to church to hear Divine
service and leave his preaching, he was to be banished the realm,"
- in modern language "transported," and if "he came back again
without special royal license," he must "stretch by the neck for

"This," said Keeling, "I tell you plainly." Bunyan's reply that
"as to that matter he was at a point with the judge," for "that he
would repeat the offence the first time he could," provoked a
rejoinder from one of the bench, and the unseemly wrangling might
have been still further prolonged, had it not been stopped by the
gaoler, who "pulling him away to be gone," had him back to prison,
where he says, and "blesses the Lord Jesus Christ for it," his
heart was as "sweetly refreshed" in returning to it as it had "been
during his examination. So that I find Christ's words more than
bare trifles, where He saith, He will give a mouth and wisdom, even
such as all the adversaries shall not gainsay or resist. And that
His peace no man can take from us."

The magistrates, however, though not unnaturally irritated by what
seemed to them Bunyan's unreasonable obstinacy, were not desirous
to push matters to extremity. The three months named in his
sentence, at the expiration of which he was either to conform or be
banished the realm, were fast drawing to an end, without any sign
of submission on his part. As a last resort Mr. Cobb, the Clerk of
the Peace, was sent to try what calm and friendly reasoning might
effect. Cobb, who evidently knew Bunyan personally, did his best,
as a kind-hearted, sensible man, to bring him to reason. Cobb did
not profess to be "a man that could dispute," and Bunyan had the
better of him in argument. His position, however, was
unassailable. The recent insurrection of Venner and his Fifth
Monarchy men, he said, had shown the danger to the public peace
there was in allowing fanatical gatherings to assemble unchecked.
Bunyan, whose loyalty was unquestioned, must acknowledge the
prudence of suppressing meetings which, however good their
ostensible aim, might issue in nothing less than the ruin of the
kingdom and commonwealth. Bunyan had confessed his readiness to
obey the apostolic precept by submitting himself to the king as
supreme. The king forbade the holding of private meetings, which,
under colour of religion, might be prejudicial to the State. Why
then did he not submit? This need not hinder him from doing good
in a neighbourly way. He might continue to use his gifts and
exhort his neighbours in private discourse, provided he did not
bring people together in public assemblies. The law did not
abridge him of this liberty. Why should he stand so strictly on
public meetings? Or why should he not come to church and hear?
Was his gift so far above that of others that he could learn of no
one? If he could not be persuaded, the judges were resolved to
prosecute the law against him. He would be sent away beyond the
seas to Spain or Constantinople - either Cobb's or Bunyan's
colonial geography was rather at fault here - or some other remote
part of the world, and what good could he do to his friends then?
"Neighbour Bunyan" had better consider these things seriously
before the Quarter Session, and be ruled by good advice. The
gaoler here put in his word in support of Cobb's arguments:
"Indeed, sir, I hope he will be ruled." But all Cobb's friendly
reasonings and expostulations were ineffectual to bend Bunyan's
sturdy will. He would yield to no-one in his loyalty to his
sovereign, and his readiness to obey the law. But, he said, with a
hairsplitting casuistry he would have indignantly condemned in
others, the law provided two ways of obeying, "one to obey
actively, and if his conscience forbad that, then to obey
passively; to lie down and suffer whatever they might do to him."
The Clerk of the Peace saw that it was no use to prolong the
argument any further. "At this," writes Bunyan, "he sat down, and
said no more; which, when he had done, I did thank him for his
civil and meek discoursing with me; and so we parted: O that we
might meet in heaven!"

The Coronation which took place very soon after this interview,
April 13, 1661, afforded a prospect of release without unworthy
submission. The customary proclamation, which allowed prisoners
under sentence for any offence short of felony to sue out a pardon
for twelve months from that date, suspended the execution of the
sentence of banishment and gave a hope that the prison doors might
be opened for him. The local authorities taking no steps to enable
him to profit by the royal clemency, by inserting his name in the
list of pardonable offenders, his second wife, Elizabeth, travelled
up to London, - no slight venture for a young woman not so long
raised from the sick bed on which the first news of her husband's
arrest had laid her, - and with dauntless courage made her way to
the House of Lords, where she presented her petition to one of the
peers, whom she calls Lord Barkwood, but whom unfortunately we
cannot now identify. He treated her kindly, and showed her
petition to other peers, who appear to have been acquainted with
the circumstances of Bunyan's case. They replied that the matter
was beyond their province, and that the question of her husband's
release was committed to the judges at the next assizes. These
assizes were held at Bedford in the following August. The judges
of the circuit were Twisden and Sir Matthew Hale. From the latter
- the friend of Richard Baxter, who, as Burnet records, took great
care to "cover the Nonconformists, whom he thought too hardly used,
all he could from the seventies some designed; and discouraged
those who were inclined to stretch the laws too much against them"
- Bunyan's case would be certain to meet with sympathetic
consideration. But being set to administer the law, not according
to his private wishes, but according to its letter and its spirit,
he was powerless to relieve him. Three several times did Bunyan's
noble-hearted wife present her husband's petition that he might be
heard, and his case taken impartially into consideration. But the
law forbad what Burnet calls Sir Matthew Hale's "tender and
compassionate nature" to have free exercise. He "received the
petition very mildly at her hand, telling her that he would do her
and her husband the best good he could; but he feared he could do
none." His brother judge's reception of her petition was very
different. Having thrown it into the coach, Twisden "snapt her
up," telling her, what after all was no more than the truth, that
her husband was a convicted person, and could not be released
unless he would promise to obey the law and abstain from preaching.
On this the High Sheriff, Edmund Wylde, of Houghton Conquest, spoke
kindly to the poor woman, and encouraged her to make a fresh
application to the judges before they left the town. So she made
her way, "with abashed face and trembling heart," to the large
chamber at the Old Swan Inn at the Bridge Foot, where the two
judges were receiving a large number of the justices of the peace
and other gentry of the county. Addressing Sir Matthew Hale she
said, "My lord, I make bold to come again to your lordship to know
what may be done with my husband." Hale received her with the same
gentleness as before, repeated what he had said previously, that as
her husband had been legally convicted, and his conviction was
recorded, unless there was something to undo that he could do her
no good. Twisden, on the other hand, got violently angry, charged
her brutally with making poverty her cloak, told her that her
husband was a breaker of the peace, whose doctrine was the doctrine
of the devil, and that he ran up and down and did harm, while he
was better maintained by his preaching than by following his
tinker's craft. At last he waxed so violent that "withal she
thought he would have struck her." In the midst of all his coarse
abuse, however, Twisden hit the mark when he asked: "What! you
think we can do what we list?" And when we find Hale, confessedly
the soundest lawyer of the time, whose sympathies were all with the
prisoner, after calling for the Statute Book, thus summing up the
matter: "I am sorry, woman, that I can do thee no good. Thou must
do one of these three things, viz., either apply thyself to the
king, or sue out his pardon, or get a writ of error," which last,
he told her, would be the cheapest course - we may feel sure that
Bunyan's Petition was not granted because it could not be granted
legally. The blame of his continued imprisonment lay, if anywhere,
with the law, not with its administrators. This is not always
borne in mind as it ought to be. As Mr. Froude remarks, "Persons
often choose to forget that judges are sworn to administer the law
which they find, and rail at them as if the sentences which they
are obliged by their oath to pass were their own personal acts."
It is not surprising that Elizabeth Bunyan was unable to draw this
distinction, and that she left the Swan chamber in tears, not,
however, so much at what she thought the judges' "hardheartedness
to her and her husband," as at the thought of "the sad account such
poor creatures would have to give" hereafter, for what she deemed
their "opposition to Christ and His gospel."

No steps seem to have been taken by Bunyan's wife, or any of his
influential friends, to carry out either of the expedients named by
Hale. It may have been that the money needed was not forthcoming,
or, what Southey remarks is "quite probable," - "because it is
certain that Bunyan, thinking himself in conscience bound to preach
in defiance of the law, would soon have made his case worse than it
then was."

At the next assizes, which were held in January, 1662, Bunyan again
made strenuous efforts to get his name put on the calendar of
felons, that he might have a regular trial before the king's judges
and be able to plead his cause in person. This, however, was
effectually thwarted by the unfriendly influence of the county
magistrates by whom he had been committed, and the Clerk of the
Peace, Mr. Cobb, who having failed in his kindly meant attempt to
induce "Neighbour Bunyan" to conform, had turned bitterly against
him and become one of his chief enemies. "Thus," writes Bunyan,
"was I hindered and prevented at that time also from appearing
before the judge, and left in prison." Of this prison, the county
gaol of Bedford, he remained an inmate, with one, short interval in
1666, for the next twelve years, till his release by order of the
Privy Council, May 17, 1672.


The exaggeration of the severity of Bunyan's imprisonment long
current, now that the facts are better known, has led, by a very
intelligible reaction, to an undue depreciation of it. Mr. Froude
thinks that his incarceration was "intended to be little more than
nominal," and was really meant in kindness by the authorities who
"respected his character," as the best means of preventing him from
getting himself into greater trouble by "repeating an offence that
would compel them to adopt harsh measures which they were earnestly
trying to avoid." If convicted again he must be transported, and
"they were unwilling to drive him out of the country." It is,
however, to be feared that it was no such kind consideration for
the tinker-preacher which kept the prison doors closed on Bunyan.
To the justices he was simply an obstinate law-breaker, who must be
kept in prison as long as he refused compliance with the Act. If
he rotted in gaol, as so many of his fellow sufferers for
conscience' sake did in those unhappy times, it was no concern of
theirs. He and his stubbornness would be alone to blame.

It is certainly true that during a portion of his captivity,
Bunyan, in Dr. Brown's words, "had an amount of liberty which in
the case of a prisoner nowadays would be simply impossible." But
the mistake has been made of extending to the whole period an
indulgence which belonged only to a part, and that a very limited
part of it. When we are told that Bunyan was treated as a prisoner
at large, and like one "on parole," free to come and go as he
pleased, even as far as London, we must remember that Bunyan's own
words expressly restrict this indulgence to the six months between
the Autumn Assizes of 1661 and the Spring Assizes of 1662.
"Between these two assizes," he says, "I had by my jailer some
liberty granted me more than at the first." This liberty was
certainly of the largest kind consistent with his character of a
prisoner. The church books show that he was occasionally present
at their meetings, and was employed on the business of the
congregation. Nay, even his preaching, which was the cause of his
imprisonment, was not forbidden. "I followed," he says, writing of
this period, "my wonted course of preaching, taking all occasions
that were put into my hand to visit the people of God." But this
indulgence was very brief and was brought sharply to an end. It
was plainly irregular, and depended on the connivance of his
jailer. We cannot be surprised that when it came to the
magistrates' ears - "my enemies," Bunyan rather unworthily calls
them - they were seriously displeased. Confounding Bunyan with the
Fifth Monarchy men and other turbulent sectaries, they imagined
that his visits to London had a political object, "to plot, and
raise division, and make insurrections," which, he honestly adds,
"God knows was a slander." The jailer was all but "cast out of his
place," and threatened with an indictment for breach of trust,
while his own liberty was so seriously "straitened" that he was
prohibited even "to look out at the door." The last time Bunyan's
name appears as present at a church meeting is October 28, 1661,
nor do we see it again till October 9, 1668, only four years before
his twelve years term of imprisonment expired.

But though his imprisonment was not so severe, nor his prison quite
so narrow and wretched as some word-painters have described them,
during the greater part of the time his condition was a dreary and
painful one, especially when spent, as it sometimes was, "under
cruel and oppressive jailers." The enforced separation from his
wife and children, especially his tenderly loved blind daughter,
Mary, was a continually renewed anguish to his loving heart. "The
parting with them," he writes, "hath often been to me as pulling
the flesh from the bones; and that not only because I am somewhat
too fond of these great mercies, but also because I should often
have brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries, and wants my
poor family was like to meet with, should I be taken from them;
especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer to my heart than all
beside. Poor child, thought I, thou must be beaten, thou must beg,
thou must suffer hunger, cold, nakedness, and a thousand
calamities, though I cannot now endure the wind should blow on
thee. O, the thoughts of the hardships my blind one might go under
would break my heart to pieces." He seemed to himself like a man
pulling down his house on his wife and children's head, and yet he
felt, "I must do it; O, I must do it." He was also, he tells us,
at one time, being but "a young prisoner," greatly troubled by the
thoughts that "for aught he could tell," his "imprisonment might
end at the gallows," not so much that he dreaded death as that he
was apprehensive that when it came to the point, even if he made "a
scrabbling shift to clamber up the ladder," he might play the
coward and so do discredit to the cause of religion. "I was
ashamed to die with a pale face and tottering knees for such a
cause as this." The belief that his imprisonment might be
terminated by death on the scaffold, however groundless, evidently
weighed long on his mind. The closing sentences of his third
prison book, "Christian Behaviour," published in 1663, the second
year of his durance, clearly point to such an expectation. "Thus
have I in few words written to you before I die, . . . not knowing
the shortness of my life, nor the hindrances that hereafter I may
have of serving my God and you." The ladder of his apprehensions
was, as Mr. Froude has said, "an imaginary ladder," but it was very
real to Bunyan. "Oft I was as if I was on the ladder with a rope
about my neck." The thought of it, as his autobiography shows,
caused him some of his deepest searchings of heart, and noblest
ventures of faith. He was content to suffer by the hangman's hand
if thus he might have an opportunity of addressing the crowd that
he thought would come to see him die. "And if it must be so, if
God will but convert one soul by my very last words, I shall not
count my life thrown away or lost." And even when hours of
darkness came over his soul, and he was tempted to question the
reality of his Christian profession, and to doubt whether God would
give him comfort at the hour of death, he stayed himself up with
such bold words as these. "I was bound, but He was free. Yea,
'twas my duty to stand to His word whether He would ever look on me
or no, or save me at the last. If God doth not come in, thought I,
I will leap off the ladder even blindfold into Eternity, sink or
swim, come heaven, come hell. Lord Jesus, if Thou wilt catch me,
do. If not, I will venture for Thy name."

Bunyan being precluded by his imprisonment from carrying on his
brazier's craft for the support of his wife and family, and his
active spirit craving occupation, he got himself taught how to make
"long tagged laces," "many hundred gross" of which, we are told by
one who first formed his acquaintance in prison, he made during his
captivity, for "his own and his family's necessities." "While his
hands were thus busied," writes Lord Macaulay, "he had often
employment for his mind and for his lips." "Though a prisoner he
was a preacher still." As with St. Paul in his Roman chains, "the
word of God was not bound." The prisoners for conscience' sake,
who like him, from time to time, were cooped up in Bedford gaol,
including several of his brother ministers and some of his old
friends among the leading members of his own little church,
furnished a numerous and sympathetic congregation. At one time a
body of some sixty, who had met for worship at night in a
neighbouring wood, were marched off to gaol, with their minister at
their head. But while all about him was in confusion, his spirit
maintained its even calm, and he could at once speak the words of
strength and comfort that were needed. In the midst of the hurry
which so many "newcomers occasioned," writes the friend to whom we
are indebted for the details of his prison life, "I have heard Mr.
Bunyan both preach and pray with that mighty spirit of faith and
plerophory of Divine assistance that has made me stand and wonder."
These sermons addressed to his fellow prisoners supplied, in many
cases, the first outlines of the books which, in rapid succession,
flowed from his pen during the earlier years of his imprisonment,
relieving the otherwise insupportable tedium of his close
confinement. Bunyan himself tells us that this was the case with
regard to his "Holy City," the first idea of which was borne in
upon his mind when addressing "his brethren in the prison chamber,"
nor can we doubt that the case was the same with other works of
his. To these we shall hereafter return. Nor was it his fellow
prisoners only who profited by his counsels. In his "Life and
Death of Mr. Badman," he gives us a story of a woman who came to
him when he was in prison, to confess how she had robbed her
master, and to ask his help. Hers was probably a representative
case. The time spared from his handicraft, and not employed in
religious counsel and exhortation, was given to study and
composition. For this his confinement secured him the leisure
which otherwise he would have looked for in vain. The few books he
possessed he studied indefatigably. His library was, at least at
one period, a very limited one, - "the least and the best library,"
writes a friend who visited him in prison, "that I ever saw,
consisting only of two books - the Bible, and Foxe's 'Book of
Martyrs.'" "But with these two books," writes Mr. Froude, "he had
no cause to complain of intellectual destitution." Bunyan's mode
of composition, though certainly exceedingly rapid, - thoughts
succeeding one another with a quickness akin to inspiration, - was
anything but careless. The "limae labor" with him was unsparing.
It was, he tells us, "first with doing, and then with undoing, and
after that with doing again," that his books were brought to
completion, and became what they are, a mine of Evangelical
Calvinism of the richest ore, entirely free from the narrow
dogmatism and harsh predestinarianism of the great Genevan divine;
books which for clearness of thought, lucidity of arrangement,
felicity of language, rich even if sometimes homely force of
illustration, and earnestness of piety have never been surpassed.

Bunyan's prison life when the first bitterness of it was past, and
habit had done away with its strangeness, was a quiet and it would
seem, not an unhappy one. A manly self-respect bore him up and
forbade his dwelling on the darker features of his position, or
thinking or speaking harshly of the authors of his durance. "He
was," writes one who saw him at this time, "mild and affable in
conversation; not given to loquacity or to much discourse unless
some urgent occasion required. It was observed he never spoke of
himself or his parents, but seemed low in his own eyes. He was
never heard to reproach or revile, whatever injury he received, but
rather rebuked those who did so. He managed all things with such
exactness as if he had made it his study not to give offence."

According to his earliest biographer, Charles Doe, in 1666, the
year of the Fire of London, after Bunyan had lain six years in
Bedford gaol, "by the intercession of some interest or power that
took pity on his sufferings," he enjoyed a short interval of
liberty. Who these friends and sympathisers were is not mentioned,
and it would be vain to conjecture. This period of freedom,
however, was very short. He at once resumed his old work of
preaching, against which the laws had become even more stringent
during his imprisonment, and was apprehended at a meeting just as
he was about to preach a sermon. He had given out his text, "Dost
thou believe on the Son of God?" (John ix. 35), and was standing
with his open Bible in his hand, when the constable came in to take
him. Bunyan fixed his eyes on the man, who turned pale, let go his
hold, and drew back, while Bunyan exclaimed, "See how this man
trembles at the word of God!" This is all we know of his second
arrest, and even this little is somewhat doubtful. The time, the
place, the circumstances, are as provokingly vague as much else of
Bunyan's life. The fact, however, is certain. Bunyan returned to
Bedford gaol, where he spent another six years, until the issuing
of the "Declaration of Indulgence" early in 1672 opened the long-
closed doors, and he walked out a free man, and with what he valued
far more than personal liberty, freedom to deliver Christ's message
as he understood it himself, none making him afraid, and to declare
to his brother sinners what their Saviour had done for them, and
what he expected them to do that they might obtain the salvation He
died to win.

From some unknown cause, perhaps the depressing effect of
protracted confinement, during this second six years Bunyan's pen
was far less prolific than during the former period. Only two of
his books are dated in these years. The last of these, "A Defence
of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith," a reply to a work of
Edward Fowler, afterwards Bishop of Gloucester, the rector of
Northill, was written in hot haste immediately before his release,
and issued from the press contemporaneously with it, the prospect
of liberty apparently breathing new life into his wearied soul.
When once Bunyan became a free man again, his pen recovered its
former copiousness of production, and the works by which he has
been immortalized, "The Pilgrim's Progress" - which has been
erroneously ascribed to Bunyan's twelve years' imprisonment - and
its sequel, "The Holy War," and the "Life and Death of Mr. Badman,"
and a host of more strictly theological works, followed one another
in rapid succession.

Bunyan's second term of imprisonment was certainly less severe than
that which preceded it. At its commencement we learn that, like
Joseph in Egypt, he found favour in his jailer's eyes, who "took
such pity of his rigorous suffering, that he put all care and trust
into his hands." Towards the close of his imprisonment its rigour
was still further relaxed. The Bedford church book begins its
record again in 1688, after an interval of ominous silence of five
years, when the persecution was at the hottest. In its earliest
entries we find Bunyan's name, which occurs repeatedly up to the
date of his final release in 1672. Not one of these notices gives
the slightest allusion of his being a prisoner. He is deputed with
others to visit and remonstrate with backsliding brethren, and
fulfil other commissions on behalf of the congregation, as if he
were in the full enjoyment of his liberty. This was in the two
years' interval between the expiration of the Conventicle Act,
March 2, 1667-8, and the passing of the new Act, styled by Marvell,
"the quintessence of arbitrary malice," April 11, 1670. After a
few months of hot persecution, when a disgraceful system of
espionage was set on foot and the vilest wretches drove a lucrative
trade as spies on "meetingers," the severity greatly lessened.
Charles II. was already meditating the issuing of a Declaration of
Indulgence, and signified his disapprobation of the "forceable
courses" in which, "the sad experience of twelve years" showed,
there was "very little fruit." One of the first and most notable
consequences of this change of policy was Bunyan's release.

Mr. Offor's patient researches in the State Paper Office have
proved that the Quakers, than whom no class of sectaries had
suffered more severely from the persecuting edicts of the Crown,
were mainly instrumental in throwing open the prison doors to those
who, like Bunyan, were in bonds for the sake of their religion.
Gratitude to John Groves, the Quaker mate of Tattersall's fishing
boat, in which Charles had escaped to France after the battle of
Worcester, had something, and the untiring advocacy of George
Whitehead, the Quaker, had still more, to do with this act of royal
clemency. We can readily believe that the good-natured Charles was
not sorry to have an opportunity of evidencing his sense of former
services rendered at a time of his greatest extremity. But the
main cause lay much deeper, and is connected with what Lord
Macaulay justly styles "one of the worst acts of one of the worst
governments that England has ever seen" - that of the Cabal. Our
national honour was at its lowest ebb. Charles had just concluded
the profligate Treaty of Dover, by which, in return for the
"protection" he sought from the French king, he declared himself a
Roman Catholic at heart, and bound himself to take the first
opportunity of "changing the present state of religion in England
for a better," and restoring the authority of the Pope. The
announcement of his conversion Charles found it convenient to
postpone. Nor could the other part of his engagement be safely
carried into effect at once. It called for secret and cautious
preparation. But to pave the way for it, by an unconstitutional
exercise of his prerogative he issued a Declaration of Indulgence
which suspended all penal laws against "whatever sort of
Nonconformists or Recusants." The latter were evidently the real
object of the indulgence; the former class were only introduced the
better to cloke his infamous design. Toleration, however, was thus
at last secured, and the long-oppressed Nonconformists hastened to
profit by it. "Ministers returned," writes Mr. J. R. Green, "after
years of banishment, to their homes and their flocks. Chapels were
re-opened. The gaols were emptied. Men were set free to worship
God after their own fashion. John Bunyan left the prison which had
for twelve years been his home." More than three thousand licenses
to preach were at once issued. One of the earliest of these, dated
May 9, 1672, four months before his formal pardon under the Great
Seal, was granted to Bunyan, who in the preceding January had been
chosen their minister by the little congregation at Bedford, and
"giving himself up to serve Christ and His Church in that charge,
had received of the elders the right hand of fellowship." The
place licensed for the exercise of Bunyan's ministry was a barn
standing in an orchard, once forming part of the Castle Moat, which
one of the congregation, Josias Roughead, acting for the members of
his church, had purchased. The license bears date May 9, 1672.
This primitive place of worship, in which Bunyan preached regularly
till his death, was pulled down in 1707, when a "three-ridged
meeting-house" was erected in its place. This in its turn gave
way, in 1849, to the existing more seemly chapel, to which the
present Duke of Bedford, in 1876, presented a pair of noble bronze
doors bearing scenes, in high relief, from "The Pilgrim's
Progress," the work of Mr. Frederick Thrupp. In the vestry are
preserved Bunyan's chair, and other relics of the man who has made
the name of Bedford famous to the whole civilized world.


Mr. Green has observed that Bunyan "found compensation for the
narrow bounds of his prison in the wonderful activity of his pen.
Tracts, controversial treatises, poems, meditations, his 'Grace
Abounding,' and his 'Holy War,' followed each other in quick
succession." Bunyan's literary fertility in the earlier half of
his imprisonment was indeed amazing. Even if, as seems almost
certain, we have been hitherto in error in assigning the First Part
of "The Pilgrim's Progress" to this period, while the "Holy War"
certainly belongs to a later, the works which had their birth in
Bedford Gaol during the first six years of his confinement, are of
themselves sufficient to make the reputation of any ordinary
writer. As has been already remarked, for some unexplained cause,
Bunyan's gifts as an author were much more sparingly called into
exercise during the second half of his captivity. Only two works
appear to have been written between 1666 and his release in 1672.

Mr. Green has spoken of "poems" as among the products of Bunyan's
pen during this period. The compositions in verse belonging to
this epoch, of which there are several, hardly deserve to be
dignified with so high a title. At no part of his life had Bunyan
much title to be called a poet. He did not aspire beyond the rank
of a versifier, who clothed his thoughts in rhyme or metre instead
of the more congenial prose, partly for the pleasure of the
exercise, partly because he knew by experience that the lessons he
wished to inculcate were more likely to be remembered in that form.
Mr. Froude, who takes a higher estimate of Bunyan's verse than is
commonly held, remarks that though it is the fashion to apply the
epithet of "doggerel" to it, the "sincere and rational meaning"
which pervades his compositions renders such an epithet improper.
"His ear for rhythm," he continues, "though less true than in his
prose, is seldom wholly at fault, and whether in prose or verse, he
had the superlative merit that he could never write nonsense."
Bunyan's earliest prison work, entitled "Profitable Meditations,"
was in verse, and neither this nor his later metrical ventures
before his release - his "Four Last Things," his "Ebal and
Gerizim," and his "Prison Meditations" - can be said to show much
poetical power. At best he is a mere rhymester, to whom rhyme and
metre, even when self-chosen, were as uncongenial accoutrements "as
Saul's armour was to David." The first-named book, which is
entitled a "Conference between Christ and a Sinner," in the form of
a poetical dialogue, according to Dr. Brown has "small literary
merit of any sort." The others do not deserve much higher
commendation. There is an individuality about the "Prison
Meditations" which imparts to it a personal interest, which is
entirely wanting in the other two works, which may be characterized
as metrical sermons, couched in verse of the Sternhold and Hopkins
type. A specimen or two will suffice. The "Four Last Things" thus

"These lines I at this time present
To all that will them heed,
Wherein I show to what intent
God saith, 'Convert with speed.'
For these four things come on apace,
Which we should know full well,
Both death and judgment, and, in place
Next to them, heaven and hell."

The following lines are from "Ebal and Gerizim":-

"Thou art like one that hangeth by a thread
Over the mouth of hell, as one half dead;
And oh, how soon this thread may broken be,
Or cut by death, is yet unknown to thee.
But sure it is if all the weight of sin,
And all that Satan too hath doing been
Or yet can do, can break this crazy thread,
'Twill not be long before among the dead
Thou tumble do, as linked fast in chains,
With them to wait in fear for future pains."

The poetical effusion entitled "Prison Meditations" does not in any
way rise above the prosaic level of its predecessors. But it can
be read with less weariness from the picture it presents of
Bunyan's prison life, and of the courageous faith which sustained
him. Some unnamed friend, it would appear, fearing he might
flinch, had written him a letter counselling him to keep "his head
above the flood." Bunyan replied in seventy stanzas in ballad
measure, thanking his correspondent for his good advice, of which
he confesses he stood in need, and which he takes it kindly of him
to send, even though his feet stand upon Mount Zion, and the gaol
is to him like a hill from which he could see beyond this world,
and take his fill of the blessedness of that which remains for the
Christian. Though in bonds his mind is free, and can wander where
it will.

"For though men keep my outward man
Within their locks and bars,
Yet by the faith of Christ, I can
Mount higher than the stars."

Meanwhile his captivity is sweetened by the thought of what it was
that brought him there:-

"I here am very much refreshed
To think, when I was out,
I preached life, and peace, and rest,
To sinners round about.

My business then was souls to save
By preaching grace and faith,
Of which the comfort now I have
And have it shall till death.

That was the work I was about
When hands on me they laid.
'Twas this for which they plucked me out
And vilely to me said,

'You heretic, deceiver, come,
To prison you must go,
You preach abroad, and keep not home,
You are the Church's foe.'

Wherefore to prison they me sent,
Where to this day I lie,
And can with very much content
For my profession die.

The prison very sweet to me
Hath been since I came here,
And so would also hanging be
If God would there appear.

To them that here for evil lie
The place is comfortless;
But not to me, because that I
Lie here for righteousness.

The truth and I were both here cast
Together, and we do
Lie arm in arm, and so hold fast
Each other, this is true.

Who now dare say we throw away
Our goods or liberty,
When God's most holy Word doth say
We gain thus much thereby?"

It will be seen that though Bunyan's verses are certainly not high-
class poetry, they are very far removed from doggerel. Nothing
indeed that Bunyan ever wrote, however rugged the rhymes and
limping the metre, can be so stigmatized. The rude scribblings on
the margins of the copy of the "Book of Martyrs," which bears
Bunyan's signature on the title-pages, though regarded by Southey
as "undoubtedly" his, certainly came from a later and must less
instructed pen. And as he advanced in his literary career, his
claim to the title of a poet, though never of the highest, was much
strengthened. The verses which diversify the narrative in the
Second Part of "The Pilgrim's Progress" are decidedly superior to
those in the First Part, and some are of high excellence. Who is
ignorant of the charming little song of the Shepherd Boy in the
Valley of Humiliation, "in very mean clothes, but with a very fresh
and well-favoured countenance, and wearing more of the herb called
Heartsease in his bosom than he that is clad in silk and velvet?" -

"He that is down need fear no fall;
He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble, ever shall
Have God to be his guide.

I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much,
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because Thou savest such.

Fulness to such a burden is
That go on Pilgrimage,
Here little, and hereafter Bliss
Is best from age to age."

Bunyan reaches a still higher flight in Valiant-for-Truth's song,
later on, the Shakesperian ring of which recalls Amiens' in "As You
Like It,"

"Under the greenwood tree,
Who loves to lie with me. . .
Come hither, come hither,"

and has led some to question whether it can be Bunyan's own. The
resemblance, as Mr. Froude remarks, is "too near to be accidental."
"Perhaps he may have heard the lines, and the rhymes may have clung
to him without his knowing whence they came."

"Who would true Valour see,
Let him come hither,
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather.
There's no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a Pilgrim.

Who so beset him round
With dismal stories,
Do but themselves confound
His strength the more is.
No lion can him fright,
He'll with a giant fight,
But he will have a right
To be a Pilgrim.

Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
Can daunt his spirit,
He knows he at the end
Shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away
He'll fear not what men say,
He'll labour night and day
To be a Pilgrim."

All readers of "The Pilgrim's Progress" and "The Holy War" are
familiar with the long metrical compositions giving the history of
these works by which they are prefaced and the latter work is
closed. No more characteristic examples of Bunyan's muse can be
found. They show his excellent command of his native tongue in
racy vernacular, homely but never vulgar, and his power of
expressing his meaning "with sharp defined outlines and without the
waste of a word."

Take this account of his perplexity, when the First Part of his
"Pilgrim's Progress" was finished, whether it should be given to
the world or no, and the characteristic decision with which he
settled the question for himself:-

"Well, when I had then put mine ends together,
I show'd them others that I might see whether
They would condemn them, or them justify;
And some said Let them live; some, Let them die.
Some said, John, print it; others said, Not so;
Some said it might do good; others said No.
Now was I in a strait, and did not see
Which was the best thing to be done by me;
At last I thought since you are thus divided
I print it will; and so the case decided;"

or the lines in which he introduces the Second Part of the Pilgrim
to the readers of the former part:-

"Go now, my little Book, to every place
Where my first Pilgrim hath but shown his face:
Call at their door: If any say, 'Who's there?'
Then answer that Christiana is here.
If they bid thee come in, then enter thou
With all thy boys. And then, as thou knowest how,
Tell who they are, also from whence they came;
Perhaps they'll know them by their looks or name.
But if they should not, ask them yet again
If formerly they did not entertain
One Christian, a pilgrim. If they say
They did, and were delighted in his way:
Then let them know that these related are
Unto him, yea, his wife and children are.
Tell them that they have left their house and home,
Are turned Pilgrims, seek a world to come;
That they have met with hardships on the way,
That they do meet with troubles night and day."

How racy, even if the lines are a little halting, is the defence of
the genuineness of his Pilgrim in "The Advertisement to the Reader"
at the end of "The Holy War."

"Some say the Pilgrim's Progress is not mine,
Insinuating as if I would shine
In name or fame by the worth of another,
Like some made rich by robbing of their brother;
Or that so fond I am of being sire
I'll father bastards; or if need require,
I'll tell a lie or print to get applause.
I scorn it. John such dirt-heap never was
Since God converted him. . .
Witness my name, if anagram'd to thee
The letters make NU HONY IN A B.

How full of life and vigour his sketch of the beleaguerment and
deliverance of "Mansoul," as a picture of his own spiritual
experience, in the introductory verses to "The Holy War"! -

"For my part I, myself, was in the town,
Both when 'twas set up, and when pulling down;
I saw Diabolus in possession,
And Mansoul also under his oppression.
Yes, I was there when she crowned him for lord,
And to him did submit with one accord.
When Mansoul trampled upon things divine,
And wallowed in filth as doth a swine,
When she betook herself unto her arms,
Fought her Emmanuel, despised his charms:
Then I was there, and did rejoice to see
Diabolus and Mansoul so agree.
I saw the prince's armed men come down
By troops, by thousands, to besiege the town,
I saw the captains, heard the trumpets sound,
And how his forces covered all the ground,
Yea, how they set themselves in battle array,
I shall remember to my dying day."

Bunyan's other essays in the domain of poetry need not detain us
long. The most considerable of these - at least in bulk - if it be
really his, is a version of some portions of the Old and New
Testaments: the life of Joseph, the Book of Ruth, the history of
Samson, the Book of Jonah, the Sermon on the Mount, and the General
Epistle of St. James. The attempt to do the English Bible into
verse has been often made and never successfully: in the nature of
things success in such a task is impossible, nor can this attempt
be regarded as happier than that of others. Mr. Froude indeed, who
undoubtingly accepts their genuineness, is of a different opinion.
He styles the "Book of Ruth" and the "History of Joseph" "beautiful
idylls," of such high excellence that, "if we found them in the
collected works of a poet laureate, we should consider that a
difficult task had been accomplished successfully." It would seem
almost doubtful whether Mr. Froude can have read the compositions
that he commends so largely, and so much beyond their merit. The
following specimen, taken haphazard, will show how thoroughly
Bunyan or the rhymester, whoever he may be, has overcome what Mr.
Froude regards as an almost insuperable difficulty, and has managed
to "spoil completely the faultless prose of the English

"Ruth replied,
Intreat me not to leave thee or return;
For where thou goest I'll go, where thou sojourn
I'll sojourn also - and what people's thine,
And who thy God, the same shall both be mine.
Where thou shalt die, there will I die likewise,
And I'll be buried where thy body lies.
The Lord do so to me and more if I
Do leave thee or forsake thee till I die."

The more we read of these poems, not given to the world till twelve
years after Bunyan's death, and that by a publisher who was "a
repeated offender against the laws of honest dealing," the more we
are inclined to agree with Dr. Brown, that the internal evidence of
their style renders their genuineness at the least questionable.
In the dull prosaic level of these compositions there is certainly
no trace of the "force and power" always present in Bunyan's rudest
rhymes, still less of the "dash of genius" and the "sparkle of
soul" which occasionally discover the hand of a master.

Of the authenticity of Bunyan's "Divine Emblems," originally
published three years after his death under the title of "Country
Rhymes for Children," there is no question. The internal evidence
confirms the external. The book is thoroughly in Bunyan's vein,
and in its homely naturalness of imagery recalls the similitudes of
the "Interpreter's House," especially those expounded to Christiana
and her boys. As in that "house of imagery" things of the most
common sort, the sweeping of a room, the burning of a fire, the
drinking of a chicken, a robin with a spider in his mouth, are made
the vehicle of religious teaching; so in this "Book for Boys and
Girls," a mole burrowing in the ground, a swallow soaring in the
air, the cuckoo which can do nothing but utter two notes, a flaming
and a blinking candle, or a pound of candles falling to the ground,
a boy chasing a butterfly, the cackling of a hen when she has laid
her egg, all, to his imaginative mind, set forth some spiritual
truth or enforce some wholesome moral lesson. How racy, though
homely, are these lines on a Frog! -

"The Frog by nature is but damp and cold,
Her mouth is large, her belly much will hold,
She sits somewhat ascending, loves to be
Croaking in gardens, though unpleasantly.

The hypocrite is like unto this Frog,
As like as is the puppy to the dog.
He is of nature cold, his mouth is wide
To prate, and at true goodness to deride.
And though this world is that which he doth love,
He mounts his head as if he lived above.
And though he seeks in churches for to croak,
He neither seeketh Jesus nor His yoke."

There is some real poetry in those on the Cuckoo, though we may be
inclined to resent his harsh treatment of our universal favourite:-

"Thou booby says't thou nothing but Cuckoo?
The robin and the wren can that outdo.
They to us play thorough their little throats
Not one, but sundry pretty tuneful notes.
But thou hast fellows, some like thee can do
Little but suck our eggs, and sing Cuckoo.

Thy notes do not first welcome in our spring,
Nor dost thou its first tokens to us bring.
Birds less than thee by far like prophets do
Tell us 'tis coming, though not by Cuckoo,
Nor dost thou summer bear away with thee
Though thou a yawling bawling Cuckoo be.
When thou dost cease among us to appear,
Then doth our harvest bravely crown our year.
But thou hast fellows, some like thee can do
Little but suck our eggs, and sing Cuckoo.

Since Cuckoos forward not our early spring
Nor help with notes to bring our harvest in,
And since while here, she only makes a noise
So pleasing unto none as girls and boys,
The Formalist we may compare her to,
For he doth suck our eggs and sing Cuckoo."

A perusal of this little volume with its roughness and quaintness,
sometimes grating on the ear but full of strong thought and
picturesque images, cannot fail to raise Bunyan's pretensions as a
poet. His muse, it is true, as Alexander Smith has said, is a
homely one. She is "clad in russet, wears shoes and stockings, has
a country accent, and walks along the level Bedfordshire roads."
But if the lines are unpolished, "they have pith and sinew, like
the talk of a shrewd peasant," with the "strong thought and the
knack of the skilled workman who can drive by a single blow the
nail home to the head."

During his imprisonment Bunyan's pen was much more fertile in prose
than in poetry. Besides his world-famous "Grace Abounding," he
produced during the first six years of his gaol life a treatise on
prayer, entitled "Praying in the Spirit;" a book on "Christian
Behaviour," setting forth with uncompromising plainness the
relative duties of husbands and wives, parents and children,
masters and servants, by which those who profess a true faith are
bound to show forth its reality and power; the "Holy City," an
exposition of the vision in the closing chapters of the Book of
Revelation, brilliant with picturesque description and rich in
suggestive thought, which, he tells us, had its origin in a sermon
preached by him to his brethren in bonds in their prison chamber;
and a work on the "Resurrection of the Dead and Eternal Judgment."
On these works we may not linger. There is not one of them which
is not marked by vigour of thought, clearness of language, accuracy
of arrangement, and deep spiritual experience. Nor is there one
which does not here and there exhibit specimens of Bunyan's
picturesque imaginative power, and his command of forcible and racy
language. Each will reward perusal. His work on "Prayer" is
couched in the most exalted strain, and is evidently the production
of one who by long and agonizing experience had learnt the true
nature of prayer, as a pouring out of the soul to God, and a
wrestling with Him until the blessing, delayed not denied, is
granted. It is, however, unhappily deformed by much ignorant
reviling of the Book of Common Prayer. He denounces it as "taken
out of the papistical mass-book, the scraps and fragments of some
popes, some friars, and I know not what;" and ridicules the order
of service it propounds to the worshippers. "They have the matter
and the manner of their prayer at their fingers' ends; they set
such a prayer for such a day, and that twenty years before it
comes: one for Christmas, another for Easter, and six days after
that. They have also bounded how many syllables must be said in
every one of them at their public exercises. For each saint's day
also they have them ready for the generations yet unborn to say.
They can tell you also when you shall kneel, when you shall stand,
when you should abide in your seats, when you should go up into the
chancel, and what you should do when you come there. All which the
apostles came short of, as not being able to compose so profound a
manner." This bitter satirical vein in treating of sacred things
is unworthy of its author, and degrading to his sense of reverence.
It has its excuse in the hard measure he had received from those
who were so unwisely endeavouring to force the Prayer Book on a
generation which had largely forgotten it. In his mind, the men
and the book were identified, and the unchristian behaviour of its
advocates blinded his eyes to its merits as a guide to devotion.
Bunyan, when denouncing forms in worship, forgot that the same
apostle who directs that in our public assemblies everything should
be done "to edification," directs also that everything should be
done "decently and in order."

By far the most important of these prison works - "The Pilgrim's
Progress," belonging, as will be seen, to a later period - is the
"Grace Abounding," in which with inimitable earnestness and
simplicity Bunyan gives the story of his early life and his
religious history. This book, if he had written no other, would
stamp Bunyan as one of the greatest masters of the English language
of his own or any other age. In graphic delineation of the
struggles of a conscience convicted of sin towards a hardly won
freedom and peace, the alternations of light and darkness, of hope
and despair, which chequered its course, its morbid self-torturing
questionings of motive and action, this work of the travelling
tinker, as a spiritual history, has never been surpassed. Its
equal can hardly be found, save perhaps in the "Confessions of St.
Augustine." These, however, though describing a like spiritual
conflict, are couched in a more cultured style, and rise to a
higher metaphysical region than Bunyan was capable of attaining to.
His level is a lower one, but on that level Bunyan is without a
rival. Never has the history of a soul convinced of the reality of
eternal perdition in its most terrible form as the most certain of
all possible facts, and of its own imminent danger of hopeless,
irreversible doom - seeing itself, to employ his own image,
hanging, as it were, over the pit of hell by a thin line, which
might snap any moment - been portrayed in more nervous and awe-
inspiring language. And its awfulness is enhanced by its self-
evident truth. Bunyan was drawing no imaginary picture of what
others might feel, but simply telling in plain unadorned language
what he had felt. The experience was a very tremendous reality to
him. Like Dante, if he had not actually been in hell, he had been
on the very threshold of it; he had in very deed traversed "the
Valley of the Shadow of Death," had heard its "hideous noises," and
seen "the Hobgoblins of the Pit." He "spake what he knew and
testified what he had seen." Every sentence breathes the most
tremendous earnestness. His words are the plainest, drawn from his
own homely vernacular. He says in his preface, which will amply
repay reading, as one of the most characteristic specimens of his
style, that he could have stepped into a higher style, and adorned
his narrative more plentifully. But he dared not. "God did not
play in convincing him. The devil did not play in tempting him.
He himself did not play when he sunk as into a bottomless pit, and
the pangs of hell caught hold on him. Nor could he play in
relating them. He must be plain and simple and lay down the thing
as it was. He that liked it might receive it. He that did not
might produce a better." The remembrance of "his great sins, his
great temptations, his great fears of perishing for ever, recalled
the remembrance of his great help, his great support from heaven,
the great grace God extended to such a wretch as he was." Having
thus enlarged on his own experience, he calls on his spiritual
children, for whose use the work was originally composed and to
whom it is dedicated, - "those whom God had counted him worthy to
beget to Faith by his ministry in the Word" - to survey their own
religious history, to "work diligently and leave no corner
unsearched." He would have them "remember their tears and prayers
to God; how they sighed under every hedge for mercy. Had they
never a hill Mizar (Psa. xlii. 6) to remember? Had they forgotten
the close, the milkhouse, the stable, the barn, where God visited
their souls? Let them remember the Word on which the Lord had
caused them to hope. If they had sinned against light, if they
were tempted to blaspheme, if they were down in despair, let them
remember that it had been so with him, their spiritual father, and
that out of them all the Lord had delivered him." This dedication
ends thus: "My dear children, the milk and honey is beyond this
wilderness. God be merciful to you, and grant you be not slothful
to go in to possess the land."

This remarkable book, as we learn from the title-page, was "written
by his own hand in prison." It was first published by George
Larkin in London, in 1666, the sixth year of his imprisonment, the
year of the Fire of London, about the time that he experienced his
first brief release. As with "The Pilgrim's Progress," the work
grew in picturesque detail and graphic power in the author's hand
after its first appearance. The later editions supply some of the
most interesting personal facts contained in the narrative, which
were wanting when it first issued from the press. His two escapes
from drowning, and from the supposed sting of an adder; his being
drawn as a soldier, and his providential deliverance from death;
the graphic account of his difficulty in giving up bell-ringing at
Elstow Church, and dancing on Sundays on Elstow Green - these and
other minor touches which give a life and colour to the story,
which we should be very sorry to lose, are later additions. It is
impossible to over-estimate the value of the "Grace Abounding,"
both for the facts of Bunyan's earlier life and for the spiritual
experience of which these facts were, in his eyes only the outward
framework. Beginning with his parentage and boyhood, it carries us
down to his marriage and life in the wayside-cottage at Elstow, his
introduction to Mr. Gifford's congregation at Bedford, his joining
that holy brotherhood, and his subsequent call to the work of the
ministry among them, and winds up with an account of his
apprehension, examinations, and imprisonment in Bedford gaol. The
work concludes with a report of the conversation between his noble-
hearted wife and Sir Matthew Hale and the other judges at the
Midsummer assizes, narrated in a former chapter, "taken down," he
says, "from her own mouth." The whole story is of such sustained
interest that our chief regret on finishing it is that it stops
where it does, and does not go on much further. Its importance for
our knowledge of Bunyan as a man, as distinguished from an author,
and of the circumstances of his life, is seen by a comparison of
our acquaintance with his earlier and with his later years. When
he laid down his pen no one took it up, and beyond two or three
facts, and a few hazy anecdotes we know little or nothing of all
that happened between his final release and his death.

The value of the "Grace Abounding," however, as a work of
experimental religion may be easily over-estimated. It is not many
who can study Bunyan's minute history of the various stages of his
spiritual life with real profit. To some temperaments, especially
among the young, the book is more likely to prove injurious than
beneficial; it is calculated rather to nourish morbid imaginations,
and a dangerous habit of introspection, than to foster the quiet
growth of the inner life. Bunyan's unhappy mode of dealing with
the Bible as a collection of texts, each of Divine authority and
declaring a definite meaning entirely irrespective of its context,
by which the words hide the Word, is also utterly destructive of
the true purpose of the Holy Scriptures as a revelation of God's
loving and holy mind and will. Few things are more touching than
the eagerness with which, in his intense self-torture, Bunyan tried
to evade the force of those "fearful and terrible Scriptures" which
appeared to seal his condemnation, and to lay hold of the promises
to the penitent sinner. His tempest-tossed spirit could only find
rest by doing violence to the dogma, then universally accepted and
not quite extinct even in our own days, that the authority of the
Bible - that "Divine Library" - collectively taken, belongs to each
and every sentence of the Bible taken for and by itself, and that,
in Coleridge's words, "detached sentences from books composed at
the distance of centuries, nay, sometimes at a millenium from each
other, under different dispensations and for different objects,"
are to be brought together "into logical dependency." But "where
the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty." The divinely given
life in the soul of man snaps the bonds of humanly-constructed
logical systems. Only those, however, who have known by experience
the force of Bunyan's spiritual combat, can fully appreciate and
profit by Bunyan's narrative. He tells us on the title-page that
it was written "for the support of the weak and tempted people of
God." For such the "Grace Abounding to the chief of sinners" will
ever prove most valuable. Those for whom it was intended will find
in it a message - of comfort and strength.

As has been said, Bunyan's pen was almost idle during the last six
years of his imprisonment. Only two of his works were produced in
this period: his "Confession of Faith," and his "Defence of the
Doctrine of Justification by Faith." Both were written very near
the end of his prison life, and published in the same year, 1672,
only a week or two before his release. The object of the former
work was, as Dr. Brown tells us, "to vindicate his teaching, and if
possible, to secure his liberty." Writing as one "in bonds for the
Gospel," his professed principles, he asserts, are "faith, and
holiness springing therefrom, with an endeavour so far as in him
lies to be at peace with all men." He is ready to hold communion
with all whose principles are the same; with all whom he can reckon
as children of God. With these he will not quarrel about "things
that are circumstantial," such as water baptism, which he regards
as something quite indifferent, men being "neither the better for
having it, nor the worse for having it not." "He will receive them
in the Lord as becometh saints. If they will not have communion
with him, the neglect is theirs not his. But with the openly
profane and ungodly, though, poor people! they have been christened
and take the communion, he will have no communion. It would be a
strange community, he says, that consisted of men and beasts. Men
do not receive their horse or their dog to their table; they put
them in a room by themselves." As regards forms and ceremonies, he
"cannot allow his soul to be governed in its approach to God by the
superstitious inventions of this world. He is content to stay in
prison even till the moss grows on his eyelids rather than thus
make of his conscience a continual butchery and slaughter-shop by
putting out his eyes and committing himself to the blind to lead
him. Eleven years' imprisonment was a weighty argument to pause
and pause again over the foundation of the principles for which he
had thus suffered. Those principles he had asserted at his trial,
and in the tedious tract of time since then he had in cold blood
examined them by the Word of God and found them good; nor could he
dare to revolt from or deny them on pain of eternal damnation."

The second-named work, the "Defence of the Doctrine of
Justification by Faith," is entirely controversial. The Rev.
Edward Fowler, afterwards Bishop of Gloucester, then Rector of
Northill, had published in the early part of 1671, a book entitled
"The Design of Christianity." A copy having found its way into
Bunyan's hands, he was so deeply stirred by what he deemed its
subversion of the true foundation of Evangelical religion that he
took up his pen and in the space of six weeks composed a long and
elaborate examination of the book, chapter by chapter, and a
confutation of its teaching. Fowler's doctrines as Bunyan
understood them - or rather misunderstood them - awoke the worst
side of his impetuous nature. His vituperation of the author and
his book is coarse and unmeasured. He roundly charges Fowler with
having "closely, privily, and devilishly turned the grace of God
into a licentious doctrine, bespattering it with giving liberty to
lasciviousness;" and he calls him "a pretended minister of the
Word," who, in "his cursed blasphemous book vilely exposes to
public view the rottenness of his heart, in principle diametrically
opposite to the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ, a glorious
latitudinarian that can, as to religion, turn and twist like an eel
on the angle, or rather like the weathercock that stands on the
steeple;" and describes him as "contradicting the wholesome
doctrine of the Church of England." He "knows him not by face much
less his personal practise." He may have "kept himself clear of
the ignorant Sir Johns who had for a long time, as a judgment of
God, been made the mouth to the people - men of debauched lives who
for the love of filthy lucre and the pampering of their idle
carcases had made shipwreck of their former faith;" but he does
know that having been ejected as a Nonconformist in 1662, he had
afterwards gone over to the winning side, and he fears that "such
an unstable weathercock spirit as he had manifested would stumble
the work and give advantage to the adversary to speak vilifyingly
of religion." No excuse can be offered for the coarse violence of
Bunyan's language in this book; but it was too much the habit of
the time to load a theological opponent with vituperation, to push
his assertions to the furthest extreme, and make the most
unwarrantable deductions from them. It must be acknowledged that
Bunyan does not treat Fowler and his doctrines with fairness, and
that, if the latter may be thought to depreciate unduly the
sacrifice of the Death of Christ as an expiation for man's guilt,
and to lay too great a stress on the moral faculties remaining in
the soul after the Fall, Bunyan errs still more widely on the other
side in asserting the absolute, irredeemable corruption of human
nature, leaving nothing for grace to work upon, but demanding an
absolutely fresh creation, not a revivification of the Divine
nature grievously marred but not annihilated by Adam's sin.

A reply to Bunyan's severe strictures was not slow to appear. The
book bears the title, characteristic of the tone and language of
its contents, of "DIRT WIP'T OFF; or, a manifest discovery of the
Gross Ignorance, Erroneousness, and most Unchristian and Wicked
Spirit of one John Bunyan, Lay-preacher in Bedford." It professes
to be written by a friend of Fowler's, but Fowler was generally
accredited with it. Its violent tirades against one who, he says,
had been "near these twenty years or longer very infamous in the
Town and County of Bedford as a very Pestilent Schismatick," and
whom he suggests the authorities have done wrong in letting out of
prison, and had better clap in gaol again as "an impudent and
malicious Firebrand," have long since been consigned to a merciful
oblivion, where we may safely leave them.


Bunyan's protracted imprisonment came to an end in 1672. The exact
date of his actual liberation is uncertain. His pardon under the
Great Seal bears date September 13th. But we find from the church
books that he had been appointed pastor of the congregation to
which he belonged as early as the 21st of January of that year, and
on the 9th of May his ministerial position was duly recognized by
the Government, and a license was granted to him to act "as
preacher in the house of Josias Roughead," for those "of the
Persuasion commonly called Congregational." His release would
therefore seem to have anticipated the formal issue of his pardon
by four months. Bunyan was now half way through his forty-fourth
year. Sixteen years still remained to him before his career of
indefatigable service in the Master's work was brought to a close.
Of these sixteen years, as has already been remarked, we have only
a very general knowledge. Details are entirely wanting; nor is
there any known source from which they can be recovered. If he
kept any diary it has not been preserved. If he wrote letters -
and one who was looked up to by so large a circle of disciples as a
spiritual father and guide, and whose pen was so ready of exercise,
cannot fail to have written many - not one has come down to us.
The pages of the church books during his pastorate are also
provokingly barren of record, and little that they contain is in
Bunyan's handwriting. As Dr. Brown has said, "he seems to have
been too busy to keep any records of his busy life." Nor can we
fill up the blank from external authorities. The references to
Bunyan in contemporary biographies are far fewer than we might have
expected; certainly far fewer than we could have desired. But the
little that is recorded is eminently characteristic. We see him
constantly engaged in the great work to which he felt God had
called him, and for which, "with much content through grace," he
had suffered twelve years' incarceration. In addition to the
regular discharge of his pastoral duties to his own congregation,
he took a general oversight of the villages far and near which had
been the scene of his earlier ministry, preaching whenever
opportunity offered, and, ever unsparing of his own personal
labour, making long journeys into distant parts of the country for
the furtherance of the gospel. We find him preaching at Leicester
in the year of his release. Reading also is mentioned as receiving
occasional visits from him, and that not without peril after the
revival of persecution; while the congregations in London had the
benefit of his exhortations at stated intervals. Almost the first
thing Bunyan did, after his liberation from gaol, was to make
others sharers in his hardly won "liberty of prophesying," by
applying to the Government for licenses for preachers and preaching
places in Bedfordshire and the neighbouring counties, under the
Declaration of Indulgence. The still existing list sent in to the
authorities by him, in his own handwriting, contains the names of
twenty-five preachers and thirty buildings, besides "Josias
Roughead's House in his orchard at Bedford." Nineteen of these
were in his own native county, three in Northamptonshire, three in
Buckinghamshire, two in Cambridgeshire, two in Huntingdonshire, and
one in Hertfordshire. The places sought to be licensed were very
various, barns, malthouses, halls belonging to public companies,
&c., but more usually private houses. Over these religious
communities, bound together by a common faith and common suffering,
Bunyan exercised a quasi-episcopal superintendence, which gained
for him the playful title of "Bishop Bunyan." In his regular
circuits, - "visitations" we may not improperly term them, - we are
told that he exerted himself to relieve the temporal wants of the
sufferers under the penal laws, - so soon and so cruelly revived, -
ministered diligently to the sick and afflicted, and used his
influence in reconciling differences between "professors of the
gospel," and thus prevented the scandal of litigation among
Christians. The closing period of Bunyan's life was laborious but
happy, spent "honourably and innocently" in writing, preaching,
visiting his congregations, and planting daughter churches.
"Happy," writes Mr. Froude, "in his work; happy in the sense that
his influence was daily extending - spreading over his own country
and to the far-off settlements of America, - he spent his last
years in his own land of Beulah, Doubting Castle out of sight, and
the towers and minarets of Immanuel's Land growing nearer and
clearer as the days went on."

With his time so largely occupied in his spiritual functions, he
could have had but small leisure to devote to his worldly calling.
This, however, one of so honest and independent a spirit is sure
not to have neglected, it was indeed necessary that to a certain
extent he should work for his living. He had a family to maintain.
His congregation were mostly of the poorer sort, unable to
contribute much to their pastor's support. Had it been otherwise,
Bunyan was the last man in the world to make a trade of the gospel,
and though never hesitating to avail himself of the apostolic
privilege to "live of the gospel," he, like the apostle of the
Gentiles, would never be ashamed to "work with his own hands," that
he might "minister to his own necessities," and those of his
family. But from the time of his release he regarded his
ministerial work as the chief work of his life. "When he came
abroad," says one who knew him, "he found his temporal affairs were
gone to wreck, and he had as to them to begin again as if he had
newly come into the world. But yet he was not destitute of
friends, who had all along supported him with necessaries and had
been very good to his family, so that by their assistance getting
things a little about him again, he resolved as much as possible to
decline worldly business, and give himself wholly up to the service
of God." The anonymous writer to whom we are indebted for
information concerning his imprisonment and his subsequent life,
says that Bunyan, "contenting himself with that little God had
bestowed upon him, sequestered himself from all secular employments
to follow that of his call to the ministry." The fact, however,
that in the "deed of gift" of all his property to his wife in 1685,
he still describes himself as a "brazier," puts it beyond all doubt
that though his ministerial duties were his chief concern, he
prudently kept fast hold of his handicraft as a certain means of
support for himself and those dependent on him. On the whole,
Bunyan's outward circumstances were probably easy. His wants were
few and easily supplied. "Having food and raiment" for himself,
his wife, and his children, he was "therewith content." The house
in the parish of St. Cuthbert's which was his home from his release
to his death (unhappily demolished fifty years back), shows the
humble character of his daily life. It was a small cottage, such
as labourers now occupy, with three small rooms on the ground
floor, and a garret with a diminutive dormer window under the high-
pitched tiled roof. Behind stood an outbuilding which served as
his workshop. We have a passing glimpse of this cottage home in
the diary of Thomas Hearne, the Oxford antiquary. One Mr. Bagford,
otherwise unknown to us, had once "walked into the country" on
purpose to see "the study of John Bunyan," and the student who made
it famous. On his arrival the interviewer - as we should now call
him - met with a civil and courteous reception from Bunyan; but he
found the contents of his study hardly larger than those of his
prison cell. They were limited to a Bible, and copies of "The
Pilgrim's Progress," and a few other books, chiefly his own works,
"all lying on a shelf or shelves." Slight as this sketch is, it
puts us more in touch with the immortal dreamer than many longer
and more elaborate paragraphs.

Bunyan's celebrity as a preacher, great before he was shut up in
gaol, was naturally enhanced by the circumstance of his
imprisonment. The barn in Josias Roughead's orchard, where he was
licensed as a preacher, was "so thronged the first time he appeared
there to edify, that many were constrained to stay without; every
one that was of his persuasion striving to partake of his
instructions." Wherever he ministered, sometimes, when troublous
days returned, in woods, and in dells, and other hiding-places, the
announcement that John Bunyan was to preach gathered a large and
attentive auditory, hanging on his lips and drinking from them the
word of life. His fame grew the more he was known and reached its
climax when his work was nearest its end. His biographer Charles
Doe tells us that just before his death, "when Mr. Bunyan preached
in London, if there were but one day's notice given, there would be
more people come together than the meeting-house could hold. I
have seen, by my computation, about twelve hundred at a morning
lecture by seven o'clock on a working day, in the dark winter time.
I also computed about three thousand that came to hear him one
Lord's Day in London, at a town's-end meeting-house, so that half
were fain to go back again for want of room, and then himself was
fain at a back door to be pulled almost over people to get upstairs
to his pulpit." This "town's-end meeting house" has been
identified by some with a quaint straggling long building which
once stood in Queen Street, Southwark, of which there is an
engraving in Wilkinson's "Londina Illustrata." Doe's account,
however, probably points to another building, as the Zoar Street
meeting-house was not opened for worship till about six months
before Bunyan's death, and then for Presbyterian service. Other
places in London connected with his preaching are Pinners' Hall in
Old Broad Street, where, on one of his occasional visits, he
delivered his striking sermon on "The Greatness of the Soul and the
Unspeakableness of the Loss thereof," first published in 1683; and
Dr. Owen's meeting-house in White's Alley, Moorfields, which was
the gathering-place for titled folk, city merchants, and other
Nonconformists of position and degree. At earlier times, when the
penal laws against Nonconformists were in vigorous exercise, Bunyan
had to hold his meetings by stealth in private houses and other
places where he might hope to escape the lynx-eyed informer. It
was at one of these furtive meetings that his earliest biographer,
the honest combmaker at the foot of London Bridge, Charles Doe,
first heard him preach. His choice of an Old Testament text at
first offended Doe, who had lately come into New Testament light
and had had enough of the "historical and doing-for-favour of the
Old Testament." But as he went on he preached "so New Testament
like" that his hearer's prejudices vanished, and he could only
"admire, weep for joy, and give the preacher his affections."

Bunyan was more than once urged to leave Bedford and settle in the
metropolis. But to all these solicitations he turned a deaf ear.
Bedford was the home of his deepest affections. It was there the
holy words of the poor women "sitting in the sun," speaking "as if
joy did make them speak," had first "made his heart shake," and
shown him that he was still a stranger to vital godliness. It was
there he had been brought out of darkness into light himself, and
there too he had been the means of imparting the same blessing to
others. The very fact of his long imprisonment had identified him
with the town and its inhabitants. There he had a large and loving
congregation, to whom he was bound by the ties of a common faith
and common sufferings. Many of these recognized in Bunyan their
spiritual father; all, save a few "of the baser sort," reverenced
him as their teacher and guide. No prospect of a wider field of
usefulness, still less of a larger income, could tempt him to
desert his "few sheep in the wilderness." Some of them, it is
true, were wayward sheep, who wounded the heart of their pastor by
breaking from the fold, and displaying very un-lamb-like behaviour.
He had sometimes to realize painfully that no pale is so close but
that the enemy will creep in somewhere and seduce the flock; and
that no rules of communion, however strict, can effectually exclude
unworthy members. Brother John Stanton had to be admonished "for
abusing his wife and beating her often for very light matters" (if
the matters had been less light, would the beating in these days
have been thought justifiable?); and Sister Mary Foskett, for
"privately whispering of a horrid scandal, 'without culler of
truth,' against Brother Honeylove." Evil-speaking and backbiting
set brother against brother. Dissensions and heartburnings grieved
Bunyan's spirit. He himself was not always spared. A letter had
to be written to Sister Hawthorn "by way of reproof for her
unseemly language against Brother Scot and the whole Church." John
Wildman was had up before the Church and convicted of being "an
abominable liar and slanderer," "extraordinary guilty" against "our
beloved Brother Bunyan himself." And though Sister Hawthorn
satisfied the Church by "humble acknowledgment of her miscariag,"
the bolder misdoer only made matters worse by "a frothy letter,"
which left no alternative but a sentence of expulsion. But though
Bunyan's flock contained some whose fleeces were not as white as he
desired, these were the exception. The congregation meeting in
Josias Roughead's barn must have been, take them as a whole, a
quiet, God-fearing, spiritually-minded folk, of whom their pastor
could think with thankfulness and satisfaction as "his hope and joy
and crown of rejoicing." From such he could not be severed
lightly. Inducements which would have been powerful to a meaner
nature fell dead on his independent spirit. He was not "a man that
preached by way of bargain for money," and, writes Doe, "more than
once he refused a more plentiful income to keep his station." As
Dr. Brown says: "He was too deeply rooted on the scene of his
lifelong labours and sufferings to think of striking his tent till
the command came from the Master to come up to the higher service
for which he had been ripening so long." At Bedford, therefore, he
remained; quietly staying on in his cottage in St. Cuthbert's, and
ministering to his humble flock, loving and beloved, as Mr. Froude
writes, "through changes of ministry, Popish plots, and Monmouth
rebellions, while the terror of a restoration of Popery was
bringing on the Revolution; careless of kings and cabinets, and
confident that Giant Pope had lost his power for harm, and
thenceforward could only bite his nails at the passing pilgrims."

Bunyan's peace was not, however, altogether undisturbed. Once it
received a shock in a renewal of his imprisonment, though only for
a brief period, in 1675, to which we owe the world-famous
"Pilgrim's Progress"; and it was again threatened, though not
actually disturbed ten years later, when the renewal of the
persecution of the Nonconformists induced him to make over all his
property - little enough in good sooth - to his wife by deed of

The former of these events demands our attention, not so much for
itself as for its connection with Bishop Barlow's interference in
Bunyan's behalf, and, still more, for its results in the production
of "The Pilgrim's Progress." Until very recently the bare fact of
this later imprisonment, briefly mentioned by Charles Doe and
another of his early biographers, was all that was known to us.
They even leave the date to be gathered, though both agree in
limiting its duration to six months or thereabouts. The recent
discovery, among the Chauncey papers, by Mr. W. G. Thorpe, of the
original warrant under which Bunyan was at this time sent to gaol,
supplies the missing information. It has been already noticed that
the Declaration of Indulgence, under which Bunyan was liberated in
1672, was very short-lived. Indeed it barely lasted in force a
twelvemonth. Granted on the 15th of March of that year, it was
withdrawn on the 9th of March of the following year, at the
instance of the House of Commons, who had taken alarm at a
suspension of the laws of the realm by the "inherent power" of the
sovereign, without the advice or sanction of Parliament. The
Declaration was cancelled by Charles II., the monarch, it is said,
tearing off the Great Seal with his own hands, a subsidy being
promised to the royal spendthrift as a reward for his complaisance.
The same year the Test Act became law. Bunyan therefore and his
fellow Nonconformists were in a position of greater peril, as far
as the letter of the law was concerned, than they had ever been.
But, as Dr. Stoughton has remarked, "the letter of the law is not
to be taken as an accurate index of the Nonconformists' condition.
The pressure of a bad law depends very much upon the hands employed
in its administration." Unhappily for Bunyan, the parties in whose
hands the execution of the penal statutes against Nonconformists
rested in Bedfordshire were his bitter personal enemies, who were
not likely to let them lie inactive. The prime mover in the matter
was doubtless Dr. William Foster, that "right Judas" whom we shall
remember holding the candle in Bunyan's face in the hall of
Harlington House at his first apprehension, and showing such
feigned affection "as if he would have leaped on his neck and
kissed him." He had some time before this become Chancellor of the
Bishop of Lincoln, and Commissary of the Court of the Archdeacon of
Bedford, offices which put in his hands extensive powers which he
had used with the most relentless severity. He has damned himself
to eternal infamy by the bitter zeal he showed in hunting down
Dissenters, inflicting exorbitant fines, and breaking into their
houses and distraining their goods for a full discharge,
maltreating their wives and daughters, and haling the offenders to
prison. Having been chiefly instrumental in Bunyan's first
committal to gaol, he doubtless viewed his release with indignation
as the leader of the Bedfordshire sectaries who was doing more
mischief to the cause of conformity, which it was his province at
all hazards to maintain, than any other twenty men. The church
would never be safe till he was clapped in prison again. The power
to do this was given by the new proclamation. By this act the
licenses to preach previously granted to Nonconformists were
recalled. Henceforward no conventicle had "any authority,
allowance, or encouragement from his Majesty." We can easily
imagine the delight with which Foster would hail the issue of this
proclamation. How he would read and read again with ever fresh
satisfaction its stringent clauses. That pestilent fellow, Bunyan,
was now once more in his clutches. This time there was no chance
of his escape. All licences were recalled, and he was absolutely
defenceless. It should not be Foster's fault if he failed to end
his days in the prison from which he ought never to have been
released. The proclamation is dated the 4th of March, 1674-5, and
was published in the GAZETTE on the 9th. It would reach Bedford on
the 11th. It placed Bunyan at the mercy of "his enemies, who
struck at him forthwith." A warrant was issued for his
apprehension, undoubtedly written by our old friend, Paul Cobb, the
clerk of the peace, who, it will be remembered, had acted in the
same capacity on Bunyan's first committal. It is dated the 4th of
March, and bears the signature of no fewer than thirteen
magistrates, ten of them affixing their seals.

That so unusually large a number took part in the execution of this
warrant, is sufficient indication of the importance attached to
Bunyan's imprisonment by the gentry of the county. The following
is the document:-

"To the Constables of Bedford and to every of them

Whereas information and complaint is made unto us that
(notwithstanding the Kings Majties late Act of most gracious
generall and free pardon to all his subjects for past misdemeanours
that by his said clemencie and indulgent grace and favor they might
bee mooved and induced for the time to come more carefully to
observe his Highenes lawes and Statutes and to continue in theire
loyall and due obedience to his Majtie) Yett one John Bunnyon of
youre said Towne Tynker hath divers times within one month last
past in contempt of his Majtie's good Lawes preached or teached at
a Conventicle Meeting or Assembly under color or ptence of exercise
of Religion in other manner than according to the Liturgie or
practiss of the Church of England These are therefore in his
Majties name to comand you forthwith to apprehend and bring the
Body of the said John Bunnion before us or any of us or other his
Majties Justice of Peace within the said County to answer the
premisses and further to doo and receave as to Lawe and Justice
shall appertaine and hereof you are not to faile. Given under our
handes and seales this ffourth day of March in the seven and
twentieth yeare of the Raigne of our most gracious Soveraigne Lord
King Charles the Second A que Dni., juxta &c 1674

J Napier W Beecher G Blundell Hum: Monoux
Will ffranklin John Ventris
Will Spencer
Will Gery St Jo Chernocke Wm Daniels
T Browne W ffoster
Gaius Squire"

There would be little delay in the execution of the warrant.

John Bunyan was a marked man and an old offender, who, on his
arrest, would be immediately committed for trial. Once more, then,
Bunyan became a prisoner, and that, there can be little doubt, in
his old quarters in the Bedford gaol. Errors die hard, and those
by whom they have been once accepted find it difficult to give them
up. The long-standing tradition of Bunyan's twelve years'
imprisonment in the little lock-up-house on the Ouse bridge, having
been scattered to the winds by the logic of fact and common sense,
those to whom the story is dear, including the latest and ablest of
his biographers, Dr. Brown, see in this second brief imprisonment a
way to rehabilitate it. Probability pointing to this imprisonment
as the time of the composition of "The Pilgrim's Progress," they
hold that on this occasion Bunyan was committed to the bridge-gaol,
and that he there wrote his immortal work, though they fail to
bring forward any satisfactory reasons for the change of the place
of his confinement. The circumstances, however, being the same,
there can be no reasonable ground for questioning that, as before,
Bunyan was imprisoned in the county gaol.

This last imprisonment of Bunyan's lasted only half as many months
as his former imprisonment had lasted years. At the end of six
months he was again a free man. His release was due to the good
officers of Owen, Cromwell's celebrated chaplain, with Barlow,
Bishop of Lincoln. The suspicion which hung over this intervention
from its being erroneously attributed to his release in 1672, three
years before Barlow became a bishop, has been dispelled by the
recently discovered warrant. The dates and circumstances are now
found to tally. The warrant for Bunyan's apprehension bears date
March 4, 1675. On the 14th of the following May the supple and
time-serving Barlow, after long and eager waiting for a mitre, was
elected to the see of Lincoln vacated by the death of Bishop
Fuller, and consecrated on the 27th of June. Barlow, a man of very
dubious churchmanship, who had succeeded in keeping his university
appointments undisturbed all through the Commonwealth, and who was
yet among the first with effusive loyalty to welcome the
restoration of monarchy, had been Owen's tutor at Oxford, and
continued to maintain friendly relations with him. As bishop of
the diocese to which Bedfordshire then, and long after, belonged,
Barlow had the power, by the then existing law, of releasing a
prisoner for nonconformity on a bond given by two persons that he
would conform within half a year. A friend of Bunyan's, probably
Ichabod Chauncey, obtained a letter from Owen to the bishop
requesting him to employ this prerogative in Bunyan's behalf.
Barlow with hollow complaisance expressed his particular kindness
for Dr. Owen, and his desire to deny him nothing he could legally
grant. He would even strain a point to serve him. But he had only
just been made a bishop, and what was asked was a new thing to him.
He desired a little time to consider of it. If he could do it,
Owen might be assured of his readiness to oblige him. A second
application at the end of a fortnight found this readiness much
cooled. It was true that on inquiry he found he might do it; but
the times were critical, and he had many enemies. It would be
safer for him not to take the initiative. Let them apply to the
Lord Chancellor, and get him to issue an order for him to release
Bunyan on the customary bond. Then he would do what Owen asked.
It was vain to tell Barlow that the way he suggested was
chargeable, and Bunyan poor. Vain also to remind him that there
was no point to be strained. He had satisfied himself that he
might do the thing legally. It was hoped he would remember his
promise. But the bishop would not budge from the position he had
taken up. They had his ultimatum; with that they must be content.
If Bunyan was to be liberated, his friends must accept Barlow's
terms. "This at last was done, and the poor man was released. But
little thanks to the bishop."

This short six months' imprisonment assumes additional importance
from the probability, first suggested by Dr. Brown, which the
recovery of its date renders almost a certainty, that it was during
this period that Bunyan began, if he did not complete, the first
part of "The Pilgrim's Progress." We know from Bunyan's own words
that the book was begun in gaol, and its composition has been
hitherto unhesitatingly assigned to his twelve years' confinement.
Dr. Brown was, we believe, the first to call this in question.
Bunyan's imprisonment, we know, ended in 1672. The first edition
of "The Pilgrim's Progress" did not appear till 1678. If written
during his earlier imprisonment, six years must have elapsed
between its writing and its publication. But it was not Bunyan's
way to keep his works in manuscript so long after their completion.
His books were commonly put in the printers' hands as soon as they
were finished. There are no sufficient reasons - though some have
been suggested - for his making an exception to this general habit
in the case of "The Pilgrim's Progress." Besides we should
certainly conclude, from the poetical introduction, that there was
little delay between the finishing of the book and its being given
to the world. After having written the book, he tells us, simply
to gratify himself, spending only "vacant seasons" in his
"scribble," to "divert" himself "from worser thoughts," he showed
it to his friends to get their opinion whether it should be
published or not. But as they were not all of one mind, but some
counselled one thing and some another, after some perplexity, he
took the matter into his own hands.

"Now was I in a strait, and did not see
Which was the best thing to be done by me;
At last I thought, Since you are so divided,
I print it will, and so the case decided."

We must agree with Dr. Brown that "there is a briskness about this
which, to say the least, is not suggestive of a six years' interval
before publication." The break which occurs in the narrative after
the visit of the Pilgrims to the Delectable Mountains, which so
unnecessarily interrupts the course of the story - "So I awoke from
my dream; and I slept and dreamed again" - has been not
unreasonably thought by Dr. Brown to indicate the point Bunyan had
reached when his six months' imprisonment ended, and from which he
continued the book after his release.

The First Part of "The Pilgrim's Progress" issued from the press in
1678. A second edition followed in the same year, and a third with
large and important additions in 1679. The Second Part, after an
interval of seven years, followed early in 1685. Between the two
parts appeared two of his most celebrated works - the "Life and
Death of Mr. Badman," published in 1680, originally intended to
supply a contrast and a foil to "The Pilgrim's Progress," by
depicting a life which was scandalously bad; and, in 1682, that
which Macaulay, with perhaps exaggerated eulogy, has said, "would
have been our greatest allegory if the earlier allegory had never
been written," the "Holy War made by Shaddai upon Diabolus."
Superior to "The Pilgrim's Progress" as a literary composition,
this last work must be pronounced decidedly inferior to it in
attractive power. For one who reads the "Holy War," five hundred
read the "Pilgrim." And those who read it once return to it again
and again, with ever fresh delight. It is a book that never tires.
One or two perusals of the "Holy War" satisfy: and even these are
not without weariness. As Mr. Froude has said, "The 'Holy War'
would have entitled Bunyan to a place among the masters of English
literature. It would never have made his name a household word in
every English-speaking family on the globe."

Leaving the further notice of these and his other chief literary
productions to another chapter, there is little more to record in
Bunyan's life. Though never again seriously troubled for his
nonconformity, his preaching journeys were not always without risk.
There is a tradition that when he visited Reading to preach, he
disguised himself as a waggoner carrying a long whip in his hand to
escape detection. The name of "Bunyan's Dell," in a wood not very
far from Hitchin, tells of the time when he and his hearers had to
conceal their meetings from their enemies' quest, with scouts
planted on every side to warn them of the approach of the spies and
informers, who for reward were actively plying their odious trade.
Reference has already been made to Bunyan's "deed of gift" of all
that he possessed in the world - his "goods, chattels, debts, ready
money, plate, rings, household stuff, apparel, utensils, brass,
pewter, bedding, and all other his substance whatsoever - to his
well-beloved wife Elizabeth Bunyan." Towards the close of the
first year of James the Second, 1685, the apprehensions under which
Bunyan executed this document were far from groundless. At no time
did the persecution of Nonconformists rage with greater fierceness.
Never, not even under the tyranny of Laud, as Lord Macaulay records
had the condition of the Puritans been so deplorable. Never had
spies been so actively employed in detecting congregations. Never
had magistrates, grand-jurors, rectors, and churchwardens been so
much on the alert. Many Nonconformists were cited before the
ecclesiastical courts. Others found it necessary to purchase the
connivance of the agents of the Government by bribes. It was
impossible for the sectaries to pray together without precautions
such as are employed by coiners and receivers of stolen goods.
Dissenting ministers, however blameless in life, however eminent in
learning, could not venture to walk the streets for fear of
outrages which were not only not repressed, but encouraged by those
whose duty it was to preserve the peace. Richard Baxter was in
prison. Howe was afraid to show himself in London for fear of
insult, and had been driven to Utrecht. Not a few who up to that
time had borne up boldly lost heart and fled the kingdom. Other
weaker spirits were terrified into a show of conformity. Through
many subsequent years the autumn of 1685 was remembered as a time
of misery and terror. There is, however, no indication of Bunyan
having been molested. The "deed of gift" by which he sought to
avoid the confiscation of his goods was never called into exercise.
Indeed its very existence was forgotten by his wife in whose behalf
it had been executed. Hidden away in a recess in his house in St.
Cuthbert's, this interesting document was accidentally discovered
at the beginning of the present century, and is preserved among the
most valued treasures of the congregation which bears his name.

Quieter times for Nonconformists were however at hand. Active
persecution was soon to cease for them, and happily never to be
renewed in England. The autumn of 1685 showed the first
indications of a great turn of fortune, and before eighteen months
had elapsed, the intolerant king and the intolerant Church were
eagerly bidding against each other for the support of the party
which both had so deeply injured. A new form of trial now awaited
the Nonconformists. Peril to their personal liberty was succeeded
by a still greater peril to their honesty and consistency of
spirit. James the Second, despairing of employing the Tories and
the Churchmen as his tools, turned, as his brother had turned
before him, to the Dissenters. The snare was craftily baited with
a Declaration of Indulgence, by which the king, by his sole
authority, annulled a long series of statutes and suspended all
penal laws against Nonconformists of every sort. These lately
political Pariahs now held the balance of power. The future
fortunes of England depended mainly on the course they would adopt.
James was resolved to convert the House of Commons from a free
deliberative assembly into a body subservient to his wishes, and
ready to give parliamentary sanction to any edict he might issue.
To obtain this end the electors must be manipulated. Leaving the
county constituencies to be dealt with by the lords-lieutenants,
half of whom preferred dismissal to carrying out the odious service
peremptorily demanded of them, James's next concern was to
"regulate" the Corporations. In those days of narrowly restricted
franchise, the municipalities virtually returned the town members.
To obtain an obedient parliament, he must secure a roll of electors
pledged to return the royal nominees. A committee of seven privy
councillors, all Roman Catholics but the infamous Jeffreys,
presided over the business, with local sub-committees scattered
over the country to carry out the details. Bedford was dealt with
in its turn. Under James's policy of courting the Puritans, the
leading Dissenters were the first persons to be approached. Two
are specially named, a Mr. Margetts, formerly Judge-Advocate-
General of the Army under General Monk, and John Bunyan. It is no
matter of surprise that Bunyan, who had been so severe a sufferer
under the old penal statutes, should desire their abrogation, and
express his readiness to "steer his friends and followers" to
support candidates who would pledge themselves to vote for their
repeal. But no further would he go. The Bedford Corporation was
"regulated," which means that nearly the whole of its members were
removed and others substituted by royal order. Of these new
members some six or seven were leading persons of Bunyan's
congregation. But, with all his ardent desire for religious
liberty, Bunyan was too keen-witted not to see through James's
policy, and too honest to give it any direct insidious support.
"In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird." He clearly
saw that it was not for any love of the Dissenters that they were
so suddenly delivered from their persecutions, and placed on a kind
of equality with the Church. The king's object was the
establishment of Popery. To this the Church was the chief
obstacle. That must be undermined and subverted first. That done,
all other religious denominations would follow. All that the
Nonconformists would gain by yielding, was the favour Polyphemus
promised Ulysses, to be devoured last. Zealous as he was for the
"liberty of prophesying," even that might be purchased at too high
a price. The boon offered by the king was "good in itself," but
not "so intended." So, as his biographer describes, when the
regulators came, "he expressed his zeal with some weariness as
perceiving the bad consequences that would ensue, and laboured with
his congregation" to prevent their being imposed on by the fair
promises of those who were at heart the bitterest enemies of the
cause they professed to advocate. The newly-modelled corporation
of Bedford seems like the other corporations through the country,
to have proved as unmanageable as the old. As Macaulay says, "The
sectaries who had declared in favour of the Indulgence had become
generally ashamed of their error, and were desirous to make
atonement." Not knowing the man they had to deal with, the
"regulators" are said to have endeavoured to buy Bunyan's support
by the offer of some place under government. The bribe was
indignantly rejected. Bunyan even refused to see the government
agent who offered it, - "he would, by no means come to him, but
sent his excuse." Behind the treacherous sunshine he saw a black
cloud, ready to break. The Ninevites' remedy he felt was now
called for. So he gathered his congregation together and appointed
a day of fasting and prayer to avert the danger that, under a
specious pretext, again menaced their civil and religious
liberties. A true, sturdy Englishman, Bunyan, with Baxter and
Howe, "refused an indulgence which could only be purchased by the
violent overthrow of the law."

Bunyan did not live to see the Revolution. Four months after he
had witnessed the delirious joy which hailed the acquittal of the
seven bishops, the Pilgrim's earthly Progress ended, and he was
bidden to cross the dark river which has no bridge. The summons
came to him in the very midst of his religious activity, both as a
preacher and as a writer. His pen had never been more busy than
when he was bidden to lay it down finally. Early in 1688, after a
two years' silence, attributable perhaps to the political troubles
of the times, his "Jerusalem Sinner Saved, or a Help to Despairing
Souls," one of the best known and most powerfully characteristic of
his works, had issued from the press, and had been followed by four
others between March and August, the month of his death. These
books were, "The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate;" a poetical
composition entitled "The Building, Nature, and Excellency of the
House of God," a discourse on the constitution and government of
the Christian Church; the "Water of Life," and "Solomon's Temple
Spiritualized." At the time of his death he was occupied in seeing
through the press a sixth book, "The Acceptable Sacrifice," which
was published after his funeral. In addition to these, Bunyan left
behind him no fewer than fourteen works in manuscript, written at
this time, as the fruit of his fertile imagination and untiring
pen. Ten of these were given to the world soon after Bunyan's
death, by one of Bunyan's most devoted followers, Charles Doe, the
combmaker of London Bridge (who naively tells us how one day


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