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Interspersed with Observations by the Doctor, corresponding to Bunyan's own
BIOGRAPHY is a branch of literature, which hath invariably
called forth the attention, and become the study, of the wise in all ages. And it must be confessed, that it is one of the most interesting, as well as useful, to fill in those portions of life, in the perusal of the memoirs of good and gracious men, which are not engaged in the higher concerns of godliness. Nay, the subject is in many instances, connected with the sacred pages themselves; for in the word of God, we find the history of the faithful recorded by GOD THE HOLY GHOST, and both endeared and recommended to the church in the lives of those holy men of old, of whom the world was not worthy. And the Lord hath stamped his divine seal of approbation on the memoirs of the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, when commanding every one of his people to shew the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end, that they be not slothful, but followers of them, who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises. Heb. vi. 11, 12.
The life of John Bunyan is one among the many which comes within this description of character. He demands by just right, a niche in the archives of great men. Not indeed the great men, in the vocabulary of this world's esteem; for his lot was cast among the humbler walks of life; neither among the wise or learned of
this world (as the apostle calls them) nor of the princes of this world, which come to nought; but among the wise and learned which maketh wise unto salvation, through the faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Tim. iii. 15. And here John Bunyan stands eminently distinguished; and the coat of arms he bears, as one of that august family whose names are written in the book of life, is according to the heraldry of heaven, and will be held in everlasting remembrance.
John Bunyan is said to have been born at a village near Bedford, called Elstow, in the year of our Lord God 1628. His parents were among the poor of the very humblest order, and earned their daily bread, by the sweat of their brow. And it can only be ascribed to the overruling providence of the Lord, that under such a depression of circumstances, and at a time when charity schools were not as they now are, in the nineteenth century, so very generally established, the parents of Bunyan obtained for him even the little learning to read and write. No doubt, that gracious God, who had such eminent services for his servant to perform, as an instrument in his Almighty hand, in the after stages of his life; by his wisdom appointed the means; and in those slender trainments of education, simple and slender as they were, laid the foundation for bringing forth that great work, "The Pilgrim's Progress," which the Lord hath blessed, and continues to bless to his church, in manifesting thereby the riches of his grace to many generations.
And here I take occasion to remark, how very sweetly the Lord calls his people to notice his gracious dealings towards them, amidst the vast variety of dispensations, in the events of the present life. To an enlightened eye, the world itself, and ail that is going on in the world, appear, but as a confused mass, without order or regularity. Like the visions of God, which the prophet saw, of the whirlwind, and the great cloud, and fire, infolding itself, and the wheel within wheel, going on, in perpetual movement, which by human observation only, nothing could unravel. But when the Lord opened to the prophet's view, One behind the machine, like to the Son of Man, guiding and directing the whole, according to his unerring wisdom; then the cause was discovered. See Ezek. chap. i. The great events in the church of God, are equally obscure throughout and unintelligible, until He, who first commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of JESUS CHRIST and then the regenerated child of God is led to see some of the otherwise seemingly mysterious providences of God to his people. He then learns, in the school of grace, somewhat of the wisdom of those arrangements, which JEHOVAH in his Trinity of Persons hath appointed, for carrying on and completing the sacred purposes of his sovereign will, in that everlasting covenant which is ordered in all things and sure. 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. Here he discovers somewhat of the outlines of that mysterious government, which God hath
been been pleased to establish from the beginning. He chose the church in Christ to be holy and without hlame before him in love. Eph. i. 4. And hence, wherefore one should be born of this parent after the flesh, rather than of another; why under circumstances of poverty rather than affluence; wherefore in one generation of the church, and not another; why brought into difficulties and exercises of affliction, either of mind or body, from which others are exempt; wherefore limited in the opportunities of acquiring human knowledge, which carnal men possess, and of such, and numberless other things of this world's goods, to a great extent? The regenerated child of God, by being taught to look at objects through a spiritual medium, discerns that these different dispensations are so arranged by a wisdom which cannot err, as shall best subserve the blessed and vast designs of Him, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will; and who hath promised, that the whole and every part work together for good to them that love God: and are the called according to his purpose. Rom. viii. 28. And when the regenerated child of God, taught of God, is thus made in any degree or measure acquainted with somewhat of the cause of the Lord's dispensations, in the world of his providence, as well as of his grace; he sees enough to discover, that all things are arranged with infinite wisdom, are carried on with infinite power, and have originated in infinite love, towards the persons and interests of his church and people. And when the whole comes to be unfolded at the great day of account, in the presence of the congregated world of men and angels; it will be found, that every minute circumstance relating to the Lord's people, in forming them and conducting them home, through a life of grace unto glory, hath been, and is in every instance, such and such only as hath best promoted and doth promote their everlasting welfare. And oh! how will that song of Moses, the servant of God, the song of the Lamb, burst from every heart, when all is comprehended and brought into one view? Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty! just and true are thy ways thou King of saints! Rev. xv. 3.
The first days of the life of Bunyan were spent according to the relation he hath given of himself in much idleness and folly. He saith in the Tract he afterwards published, entitled, "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners," "that he was not only given to wayward passions of children in play and sports, but for cursing, swearing, lying and blaspheming; there were but few, if any, which were his equals."
Here I would pause again, by way of gathering improvement. from his history. It is among the many mysterious events, in the government of our gracious God, that the Lord's people, are not only born in nature, in a state of original corruption; but manifest in the after stages of life the hole of the pit from whence they are digged by actual transgression. Yea, the Lord chargeth his Israel, with even exceeding all the idolatrous nations around them in sin
and rebellion. As I live, saith the LORD GOD, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins, but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they. Ezek. xvi. 48. 51. It hath been asked, and the question answereth itself: Could not God have placed his church and people, as he chose them in Christ before all worlds, holy, and without blame before him in love; and have preserved them in this world in the same holiness, and without sin; nay, could he not have taken them up at once to himself in heaven, without passing through this sorrowful, sinful world; or having known sin at all? Without all doubt, this might have been done, had it so suited the infinite purposes of his will. But then, the great displays of the riches of his grace in all that concerns redemption by his dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, would never have been known. The church, indeed, would have known her Lord, as her Head and Husband; but that sweet and endearing character as Redeemer and Saviour, would never have been known by her. Whereas JEHOVAH's design all along, is in magnifying the exceeding greatness of his grace toward us. And this is shewn to the uttermost in that plan of salvation, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Rom. v. 8. Grace is heightened by this ordination of wisdom; and the love of JEHOVAH in his Trinity of Persons, displayed more illustriously, in that mercy is manifested to the miserable; and all the glories of heaven more abundantly increased, in that the Lord's people, having known what it was to be wretched, are made the more sensible what it is to be happy. There are very many portions in holy scripture, explanatory of this divine ordination; and as they are opened and applied to the regenerated child of God by the Holy Ghost, they do most sweetly and blessedly relieve the souls of the Lord's people under the bitter pangs of conscious guilt. Bunyan felt this, in his own instance, when he wrote his little tract, " Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners." And thousands like him, who, while in the days of unregeneracy, ran far into the wilds of sin, when recovered, and brought in the after stages, to taste thereby more strongly the wormwood and the gal!; have found how gracious the Lord is. The great Apostle tells the Church, that he himself, the chief of sinners, for this cause obtained mercy, that in him first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. 1. Tim. 15, 16.
It is worthy our observation in the memoirs of Bunyan, as written by himself, that the Lord left not himself without witness in his very early days. For he saith, "that when he was but a child of nine or ten years old, though in point of wickedness, he seemed to be so settled and rooted in the practice of all sins capable of then being committed, and so as to become like a second nature unto him, yet he was at times greatly afflicted and troubled with the thoughts