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Boston: 4 Park Street, New York : 85 Fifth Avenue

Chicago : 378-388 Wabash Avenue
The Riverside Press, Cambridge

Copyright, 1896,

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The great

I. JOHN BUNYAN's life fell in an epoch peculiarly congenial to the development of his spiritual powers. For a quarter century before his birth the temper of England had been rapidly changing. A spirit of intense earnestness, deepening to gloom, had gradually taken the place of the easy gaiety and exuberance which were the heritage of the


of Elizabeth. As the Stuart doctrine of absolute sovereignty became more insistent, and the aristocratic society grouped around the throne gave way more and more to moral license, the great body of the Commons grew sterner in its assertion of popular rights, and more fanatically grim in its devotion to the Puritan ideal of living. political drama left quite untouched the little Bedfordshire hamlet where Bunyan spent his boyhood ; but the religious zeal which was the flaming core of the mighty quarrel burned here as fiercely as anywhere in England. It is the working of this subtle fire upon his intensely sensitive temperament and vivid imagination, which lifts the history of Bunyan's obscure youth into unique interest.

Bunyan's father was a tinker, a term which in the early seventeenth century meant something between vagrant mechanic and petty thief. He was evidently considerably higher in the social scale, however, than his calling would imply, for he had a fixed residence, and was wealthy enough to send his son John to the village school at Elstow. Here the boy led the ordinary zestful life of a vigorous country lad. Besides the habit of swearing, of which he was cured by a single reproof, his vices appear to have been nothing


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worse than playing at tip-cat, bell-ringing, and dancing on the village green.

Innocent as these amusements seem to us to-day, to the Puritan mind of that time they were the snares of the devil, stretched alluringly to destroy the souls of men. Upon Bunyan's sensitive nature the awful imagery of Calvin's theology laid an irresistible spell, even in early childhood. When only nine or ten years old, he tells us, he was continually tormented with thoughts of the Day of Judgment, and often so shaken by dreams of devils that he trembled for whole days afterward. Still he could not bring himself to give up his “sports and childish vanities," or desert the "vain companions” of whom he was the ringleader.

In his seventeenth year he enlisted as a soldier. We do not know in which army he served, nor precisely for how long. The experience is noteworthy chiefly for the effect which it exercised upon his writings in mature life. The pomp and splendor of war continued to furnish him with images of the battle waged by the soul with sin. The Pilgrim's Progress, and more particularly The Holy War, are crowded with vivid passages the material for which he gathered during this year of soldiering ; and the famous figures of Great Heart and Captain Boanerges are perhaps, as Macaulay confidently asserts, portrait studies of praying captains under whom Bunyan had served in Fairfax’s army.

On his return he married a poor but godly wife, who brought with her as dowry“ neither a dish nor a spoon," but two pious books the titles of which are drolly significant of the kind of literature that prevailed in Puritan households of the time, The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven and The Practice of Piety. It was now that Bunyan's real spiritual agony began. He has left us a record of it in a work entitled Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, which is the most startlingly vivid and minute transcript of the workings of an overwrought conscience ever put on paper. One day as he was in the INTRODUCTION.

this ;

midst of a game of cat, and had struck the peg one blow from the hole, he heard a voice from the sky saying, “ Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to Heaven, or have thy sins and go to Hell ?” and looking up he saw the Lord Jesus gazing down upon him, was being very hotly displeased.” The thought that the steeple might fall and crush him in his sins drove him in a panic of fear from the door of the belltower, where he stood to look on at the ringing. Having found in the Bible a passage concerning faith, which gave him comfort, he was seized with the longing to try to work a miracle.

“Nay, one day,” he says in that wonderful simple diction which bites into the memory the pictures of his struggle, one day as I was between Elstow and Bedford, the temptation was hot upon me to try if I had Faith, by doing of some Miracle ; which Miracle at that time was

I must say to the Puddles that were in the horsepads, Be dry; and to the dry places, Be you the Puddles.

, But just as he was about to utter the words, the awful fear that his command might be unheeded and himself proved faithless and a castaway, held his lips sealed. His strained imagination peopled the air with warning or malevolent presences. Once he turned on the highroad because he thought he heard a man calling behind him from a great distance, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you.” As he sat on a street bench in Bedford the very tiles on the houses seemed to point at him and mock him. He began to be tormented by insane temptations to blasphemy and idolatry, and envied the beasts of the field because, by reason of their low estate, they were incapable of sin. By one of those vigorous unforgettable figures which illumine the pages of Grace Abounding, he compares himself while in this state of terrified obsession to a little child seized by a gypsy and carried off, frightened and weeping, to a strange people.

Even so robust a nature as Bunyan's could not long endure such a strain. He had the good fortune to meet with


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