of everlasting wrath, and fearing that his lot would be found among those, who are reserved in chains and darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

I detain the reader to remark the striking nature of this observation of Bunyan. It is such as the Lord's people more or less can all subscribe to; and I cannot help admiring the gracious ways of the Lord towards his people, when they themselves are wholly unconscious of the Lord, yea, are causing him to serve with their sins, and wearying him with their iniquities. It opens to a very melting subject, when then the Lord hath brought his people to a sense of this. Then the tender expostulations of his grace come home to the heart in all their energy. We have a very beautiful example of the kind where the Lord speaks to his Israel, in those affecting words, by the prophet: I have shewed thee new things from this time; even hidden things, and thou didst not know them. They are created now, and not from the beginning; even before the day when thou heardst them not, lest thou shouldst say behold, I knew them. Yea, thou heardest not: yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened; for I knew that thou wouldst deal very treacherously, and was called a transgressor from the womb. Isaiah xlviii. 6-8.

As Bunyan advanced from childhood to youth, and the propensities of his corrupt nature found new and increasing strength from increasing years, his sins widened into a greater channel of evil gratifications. He saith in his account of this part of his sinful › life, that "with more greediness, according to the strength of nature, I did still let loose the reins of my lust, and delighted in all transgressions against the law of God; so that, until 1 came to the state of marriage, I was the very ringleader of all the youth that kept me company, in all manner of vice and ungodliness. Yea, such prevalency had the lusts and fruits of the flesh on this poor soul of mine, that had not a miracle of grace prevented, I had not only perished by the stroke of Eternal Justice, but had also laid myself open even to the stroke of those laws which bring many to disgrace and open shame before the face of the world."

[ocr errors]

I pause again here, for 1 must not let so interesting a part in the life of Bunyan (which furnisheth cause for humbling views to the whole church of God) to pass by unnoticed. If the reader of this short memoir, in the events of which marked the history of the Author of the Pilgrim's Progress," be himself regenerated, I beg to remind him, that what we read in him, naturally belongs to us all. Every son and daughter of Adam, in consequence of the fall; the church, as well as the world, are all alike by nature, subjects and vassals in the kingdom of Satan. Truly doth the scripture testify, that we, who when by grace are regenerated, are all by nature, chilaren of wrath, even as others; truly born in sin, and therefore justly liable to the wrath of God. And but for that grace which bringeth salvation, under the just sentence alike with all.


[ocr errors]

is therefore the most affecting sight to any, and to every regenerated child of God when he beholds the state of any ungodly unawakened sinners, to hear and feel the sweet and powerful words of the Apostle; And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God. 1 Cor. vi. 11. Lord! said the astonished Apostle, (and every child of God feels constrained to say the same), how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? John xiv. 22.

It is wonderfully interesting to observe, in the life of this man, how the Lord was watching over him for good, all the while he lay dead in trespasses and sins. Through every step here, and there, in his history, an enlightened eye can perceive, precious tokens of that everlasting love which rèmembers his people in their low estate, for his mercy endureth for ever. Psalm cxxxvi. 23. He tells us, that in those days of his vile and sinful conduct, the thoughts of religion were very grievous to him. "I could neither (said he) endure it myself, nor suffer, that any other should. So that when 1 have seen some read in those books that concerned godliness, it would be as a prison to me. Then I said unto God, if not in word, yet in deed, like to those of old, "Depart from me, for 1 desire not the knowledge of thy ways." Job xxi. 14. Here Bunyan seems to have been one almost ripe in wickedness. The Holy Ghost by the Apostle, speaking of the reprobate, hath described the characters of such; when he saith, "Who knowing the judgment of God that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but take pleasure in them that do them." Rom. i. 32. And how awful to behold the same in the Lord's people! Such an one appears almost brim full with iniquity! He is like a ship at sea, apparently ready to founder. Surely it must be Divine interpositionto bring such an one to shore, and in a storm so overwhelming, as threatens every moment the going down, to save from shipwreck. Yet here, as in ten thousand other instances, we see the Lord's hand. Bunyan was a vessel of mercy, in whom the Lord "might make known the riches of his glory, and in which he had afore-prepared unto glory." Rom. ix. 23. Like Paul, he was left, to shew to him the desperately wicked state of his own heart; and just in the moment of seeming destruction, while riding on with fury to root out, as he wished, the very name of the Lord Jesus from the earth, that gracious Lord called to him from heaven; unhorsed him in the field of battle; and so made him tremble, that instead of breathing out any longer threatenings and slaughters against the disciples of the Lord; the cry of mercy issues from his convulsed soul; "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Acts ix. 1, &c. Well might the same Apostle, in after days of his conversion, say; and well might all truly converted sinners like him say the same: "Oh! the depth of riches, both of wisdom, and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Rom. xi. 33.

One point, during this eventful period of Bunyan's life, is most striking; namely, that though sinning with an high hand himself, and taking pleasure in those that did so among his worthless companions, he tells us, that his mind revolted with indignation at the conduct of professors in religion, who put on the pharisaical appearance of righteousness, and yet were sometimes detected in licentiousness. "1 will remember, (said he) that at the time when I could, and did indulge myself in sinful pleasures with the greatest delight and ease; and also took pleasure in the vileness of my companions; yet even then, if I had at any time, seen wicked things done by those who profess goodness; it would make my spirits tremble. As once, above all the rest, when I was in the height of vanity, yet hearing one to swear, that was reckoned for a religious man, it had so great a stroke upon my spirit, that it made my heart ache." Surely, such convictions upon the mind, and at such a time, could be no other than the working of God the Holy Ghost, whose office in the covenant of grace, is "to reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." John xvi. 8. Somewhat like the day dawn and day star before the approach of day; and as John the Baptist became the harbinger of Christ, preparing the way of the Lord.

But I would beg to drop the prosecution of Bunyan's history for one moment, in this part of it, if only in a parenthesis, to observe, how more than ordinarily abominable are the offences of those who make a profession of religion, and are all the while without the power of godliness. It is a wretched sight to behold the ruins of the fall, in the numberless examples of sin every where abounding; but when any cover over their iniquity with the mantle of a profession towards God, and assume a character their own hearts tell them they are strangers to, the malignity puts on a more horrible form. And though, ultimately, the cause of the Lord can no more be really injured by such characters, than the sun or moon's brightness by the barking of dogs; yet the evil in their minds is the same. the final end of such men is strikingly drawn by the Holy Ghost. "These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds: trees, whose fruit withereth; without fruit; twice dead plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame! wandering stars; to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever." Jude 12, 13.


According to the statement given by Bunyan, of his own life, prior to a work of grace from the Lord; there were several very reinarkable providences manifested towards him, in escapes from death. Twice, (he tells the readers of his history) he escaped being drowned. Once, in a daring act of presumption, he thrust his hand into the mouth of an adder, whom he had stunned with a blow, and felt no hurt. A fourth mercy of distingushing preservation he received, when in the army, by which his life was given to him; for being ordered to go on duty, at the seige, a companion begged that he

might go for him, who fell by a musket shot, in the very spot, where but for the providence of the Lord, Bunyan would have been. But none of these things at the time had the least effect upon his mind; though in the after-stages of his life, when the Lord had called him by his grace, and revealed himself to him, he then could, and did look back, and beheld the gracious interposition of the Lord.

And perhaps, there is not a subject, which tends to arrest the mind of the Lord's people more sensibly, when brought to behold the dealings of the Lord through the spiritual medium of Divine teaching, than the many seemingly hair-breadth escapes which they passed through, during the days of their unregeneracy. What God the Holy Ghost hath said of the Church in general, by his servant Jude, may be applied with full strength of truth, to the case of every individual in particular, more or less, of the church. They are sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ, and called. Jude 1. Doth the reader of this short memoir of Bunyan know what this means in his own history? Oh! who shall calculate the extent of those deliverances, by which the lives of the Lord's people are preserved in Christ, before that they are called to Christ? Who shall mark down the nameless, numberless, occasions of this kind, in which that preservation in Christ, hath kept them from death, while they were unconscious of danger? It is blessed, yea, very blessed, when grace enables the regenerated child of God, to look back, and mark the ways, and works of God towards him through all his youth up, until called by an holy calling. The church hath made a striking observation of her own history, to this amount, in a long and beautiful psalm, when she sums up the whole conclusion, in those remarkable words: Whoso is wise, will ponder these things; even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord. Psalm evil. throughout.

If we pass on to the period in Bunyan's life, in which he entered into the marriage state, a new epoch is given the world concerning him. His account of this is worth perusing." Presently (said he) after I had changed my condition by marriage, I found some faint desires to change my vicious life. My mercy was to light upon a wife, whose father was counted godly. This woman and I, though we came together as poor as might be, (not having so much household stuff as a dish or a spoon betwixt both) yet this she had for her part, a book, which her father had left her, when he died, intitled, "The Practice of Piety," and another, called "The Plain Man's Path-Way to Heaven." In those two books, I should sometimes read with her; wherein 1 also found some things which were pleasing to me. But all this while 1 felt no conviction. She also would be often telling me what a godly man her father was; and how he would reprove and correct vice, both in his own house, and among his neighbours. Wherefore, though at that time, there was no work of God upon my soul; yet I was induced to set up somewhat of a reform, and to fall in with the religion of the times, in

going to church, twice of the Lord's-day; yea, I became so fond of the church and church-people, and the priest and clerk, and their vestments, counting all things holy belonging to them, and their services, that my mind was altogether captivated. And this conceit grew so strong upon me in a little time, that had I seen a priest, though never so sordid and debauched in life, I should have found my spirit ready to fall under him, and reverence him. Yea, I thought for the love I did bear such men, (supposing them the ministers of God) I could have laid down at their feet, and suffered myself to be trampled upon by them; their name, their garb, and employment in the church, did so intoxicate me."

I pause to remark on this part of Bunyan's history, to what a state of ruin by the fall, the mind of man is degraded. One should think it impossible, if facts did not prove it, that any single individual, much less a world, should be capable of being carried away into such dreadful superstition. But this blindness, which is so geneial, yea, almost, if not altogether universal; is perhaps suffered to operate on the mind of the children of God, as well as the ungodly, during the days of their unregeneracy, purposely to make manifest in yet stronger characters, the riches of grace in conversion. Oh! what a marvellous work it is in God the Holy Ghost, when illuminating the blindness of the minds of the Lord's people, in opening the eyes of their understanding to the apprehension of the truths of God! They then no longer call evil good, and good evil; put darkness for light, and light for darkness; put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. Isaiah, v. 20. Well might the Apostle, on his bended knees, beg of God the Father for that immense blessing to be given to the church, that in the spirit and wisdom of revelation in the knowledge of Christ, they might not only know the hope of his calling, and the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, but what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believeth. Eph. i. 17. 19. Now, if any regenerated child of God would desire to know what is the exceeding greatness of that power, which is put forth in the quickening a sinner from the death of sin to spiritual life; he must ask the question of God the Holy Ghost; for none but God the Holy Ghost, who performs Almighty sovereign act, can tell him. One thing we know, that next to that glorious act, (and never to be wrought but once) which raised Christ from the dead, for the accomplishment of which, the whole Three Persons in the Godhead concurred and co-operated; (in proof, see 1 Cor. vi. 14. Heb. xiii. 20. For God the Father; Rom. i. 4. John ii. 19, 20,21, 22. For God the Son; and Rom. viii. 8, 11. 1 Tim. iii. 16. for God the Holy Ghost), next to this glorious act, the greatest ever wrought on earth, is the resurrection of the sinuer from the death of sin to a life of righteousness in Christ. And which hath in it also, the concurring co-operation and covenant power of the whole Three Persons in the Godhead. That sweet scripture which includes the whole, is a sufficient testimony. b

« 上一页继续 »