图书图片
PDF
ePub

20

8

Life of the Author.

Such an entire change took place in his sentiments, dispositions, and affections, and his mind was so deeply engaged in contemplating the great concerns of eternity, and the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, that he found it very difficult to employ his thoughts on any secular affairs.

But this extraordinary flow of affections, not being attended by a proportionable measure of doctrinal information, laid him open to various attempts of Satan and his emissaries. The Ranters first assailed him by one of their party, who had formerly been Mr. Bunyan's companion in vice; but he over-acted his part; and, proceeding even. to deny the being of a God, probably furnished the character of Atheist in the 66 'Pilgrim's Progress." While Mr. Bunyan was engaged in reading the books of the Ranters, not being able to form his judgment about them, he was led to offer up prayer to God that he might be able to discern truth from error. This most suitable request the Lord graciously answered; he soon saw through the delusions of the Ranters, and probably referred to them, under the character of Self-will, in the second part of this work.

The Epistles of St. Paul, which he now read with great attention, but without any guide or instructor, gave occasion to his being assaulted by many sore temptations. He found the apostle continually speaking of faith, and he could find no way by which he might understand the meaning of that word, or discover whether he was a believer or not; so that, mistaking the words of Christ (Matt. xvii. 20), he was tempted to seek a solution of his difficulty by trying to work a miracle. He thought, however, it would be right to pray before he made the attempt, and this induced him to desist, though his difficulties still remained. He was delivered from great perplexities about the doctrine of election, by reflecting that none ever trusted in God, and was confounded;" and therefore it

Life of the Author.

9

would be best for him to trust in God, and leave elec tion, as a "secret thing," with the Lord, to whom it belonged.

After some time Mr. Bunyan became acquainted with Mr. Gifford, an Antipædobaptist minister at Bedford, whose conversation was very useful to him; yet he was in some respects more discouraged than ever, by fuller discoveries of those evils in his heart which he had not before noticed; and by doubts concerning the truth of the Scriptures, which his entire ignorance of the evidences by which they are authenticated rendered durably perplexing to him. He was, however, at length relieved by a sermon he heard on the love of Christ, though the grounds on which he derived satisfaction and encouragement from it are not very accurately stated. Soon after this he was admitted, by adult baptism, a member of Mr. Gifford's church, A.D. 1655, being then twenty-seven years of age; and, after a little time, was earnestly desired by the congregation to expound or preach. For a while he resisted their importunity, under a deep sense of his incompetency; but at length he was prevailed upon to speak in a small company, which he did greatly to their satisfaction and edification. Having been thus proved for a considerable time, he was at length called forth, and set apart by fasting and prayer to the ministerial office, which he exercised with faithfulness and success during a long course of years, though frequently with the greatest trepidation and inquietude.

As he was baptized 1655, and imprisoned 1660, he could not have been long engaged in the work previous to that event; and it does not appear whether he obtained a stated employment as a minister, or whether he only preached occasionally, and continued to work at his trade. Previous, however, to the restoration of Charles II., when the churches were principally filled by those who have since been distinguished as Noncon

10

Life of the Author.

formists, he was expected to preach in a church near Cambridge; and a student of that university, not remarkable for sobriety, observing a concourse of people, was induced by curiosity to hear "the tinker prate;' but the discourse made an unexpected impression on his mind. He embraced every future opportunity of hearing Mr. Bunyan, and at length became an eminent preacher in Cambridgeshire. When the Restoration took place, and, contrary to equity, engagements, and sound policy, the laws were framed and executed with a severity evidently intended to exclude every man who scrupled the least tittle of the doctrine, liturgy, discipline, or government of the Established Church, Mr. Bunyan was one of the first that suffered by them; for, being courageous and unreserved, he went on in his ministerial work without any disguise, and, on November 12, 1660, was apprehended by a warrant from Justice Wingate, at Harlington, near Bedford, with sixty other persons, and committed to the county gaol. He was confined till the quarter-sessions, when his indictment stated, "That John Bunyan, of the town of Bedford, labourer, had devilishly and perniciously abstained from coming to church to hear divine service; and was a common upholder of several unlawful meetings and conventicles, to the great disturbance and distraction of the good subjects of this kingdom, contrary to the laws of our sovereign Lord the King." The facts charged upon him in this absurd indictment were never proved, as no witnesses were produced. He had confessed, in conversation with the magistrates, that he was a Dissenter, and had preached. This, being considered as equivalent to conviction, was recorded against him; and as he refused to conform, he was sentenced to perpetual banishment. This sentence indeed was not executed; but he was confined in Bedford gaol more thar twelve years, notwithstanding several attempts were made to obtain his deliverance.

[merged small][merged small][graphic]

BUNYAN PARTING FROM HIS FAMILY.

During this tedious imprisonment, or at least part of it, he had no books, except a Bible and Fox's Martyrology; yet in this situation he penned the "Pilgrim's Progress," and many other treatises. He was only thirty-two years of age when he was imprisoned. He had spent his youth in the most disadvantageous manner imaginable; had been no more than five years a member of the church at Bedford, and less time a preacher of the gospel; yet in this admired allegory he

12

Life of the Author.

appears to have been most intimately acquainted with all the variety of characters which ministers, long employed in the sacred service, and eminent for judgment. and sagacity, have observed among professors or opposers of evangelical truth!

He was at some times favoured by the gaolers, and permitted to see his family and friends; and, during the former part of his imprisonment, was even allowed to go out occasionally, and once to take a journey to London, probably to see whether some legal redress might not be obtained, according to some intimations given by Sir Matthew Hale, when petitions in his favour were laid before the judges. But this indulgence of the gaoler exposing him to great danger, Mr. Bunyan was afterwards more closely confined.

In the last year of his imprisonment (A.D. 1671) he was chosen pastor of the Dissenting church at Bedford, though it does not appear what opportunity he could have of exercising his pastoral office, except within the precincts of the gaol. He was, however, liberated soon after, through the good offices of Dr. Barlow, Bishop of Lincoln, after many fruitless attempts had been made for that purpose. Thus terminated his tedious, severe, and even illegal imprisonment, which had given him abundant opportunity for the exercise of patience and meekness; and which seems to have been overruled both for his own spiritual improvement and the furtherance of the gospel, by leading him to study, and to form habits of close reflection and accurate investigation of various subjects, in order to pen his several treatises, when probably he would neither have thought so deeply, nor written so well, had he been more at ease, and at liberty.

A short time after his enlargement he built a meetinghouse at Bedford by the voluntary contributions of his friends, and here he statedly preached to large auditories, till his death, without meeting with any re

« 上一页继续 »