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SKETCHES OF THE
OF MR. JOHN BUNYAN.
R. John Bunyan was born at Elstow, in the county of Bedfordshire, in the year 1628. His parents were in mean circumstances, but took care to put him to school, and have him instructed in reading and writing. Their conduct, in this respect, was highly commendable, and the happy consequences of it have been felt by the numerous readers of his works; for though he confessed that he afterwards lost almost all which he had thus attained, yet he was not, perhaps, himself fully conscious of the advantages of early instruction in the principles of learning. It is happy when they are used aright from the beginning; but even where this is not the case, they may afterwards prove a source of comfort, improvement, and usefulness, to those who have imbibed them.
The younger part of Mr. Bunyan's life was spent in the service of sin
He lost the immediate
advantages of his education, though but a common one, and made a great proficiency in wickedness. He was greatly addicted to uncleanness, lying, swearing, and blaspheming; so that, after his conversion, he reckoned himself the chiefest of sinners. He entered early into the army, and mentions in his book, entitled, Grace abounding to the chief of Sinners,' an extraordinary deliverance with which he was favoured when a soldier. A party of the soldiers was drawn out to attack Leicester, and he was of the number; but just as he was ready to set off with them, another soldier desired to go in his room, to which he consented. The soldier took his place, and as he was standing centinel, was shot in the head by a musket-ball, and died. Mr. Bunyan makes mention of this deliverance and some others which he received in his youth; but, notwithstanding the reception of such mercies, and in opposition to frequent checks of conscience, he continued to walk in his perverseness.
Soon after this deliverance from death, he married; and says concerning his union, that it was 'my mercy to light upon a wife, whose father was counted godly, though we came together as poor 'as poor might be, not having so much household'stuff as a dish or spoon betwixt us both.' She had two serious books, (with all her poverty) the reading of which, with the frequent conversation of his wife concerning the godliness of her father, and his readiness to reprove and correct vice, served to produce in his heart some desires to reform his vicious life, and adopt a form of religion. He says, however, that he was not at this time sensible of the danger and evil of sin, and that he knew nothing of Jesus Christ. His outward amendment, therefore, lasted not long. Under the influence of despair he became very greedy of sin, and sought his chief happiness in complying with its lusts. It was a
remarkable circumstance which was the occasion of
though she was a very loose and ungodly wretch, ' yet protested that he cursed and swore at that most 'fearful rate, that she was made to tremble to hear 'him.' She told him further, that he was the un
godliest fellow for swearing that she ever heard in 'all her life; and that he, by thus doing, was able 'to spoil all the youth in the whole town, if they 'came but in his company.' This reproof, coming from such a woman, filled him with shame, and had a great effect upon his conversation; for, from this time he ceased to swear as he had done before, so as that he wondered at himself, that he could then speak better, and with more pleasantness, without oaths, than he had formerly done with them. The change was indeed the more wonderful; for the habit of swearing was so fixed, that he had judged it to be vain for him to think of a reformation
In the effect of this woman's reproof upon Mr. Bunyan, there is a great resemblance between his case, and that of Mr. Perkins, who was afterwards called the holy Mr. Perkins. When young, and at the university of Cambridge, he was very wicked; and it is related of him, that, as he was going through a part of the town, he heard a women say to her child, who was froward and peevish, Either hold your 'ongue, or I will give you to drunken Perkins yonder.' Mr. Perkins was so shocked to find that he was a bye-word among the people, that he resolved upon a reformation, and, through the grace of Christ, became an eminent example of Christian faith and holiness.
Mr. Bunyan, after this singular check to his pro
faneness, fell into company with a professor of religion, and took some pleasure in reading certain parts of the holy scriptures; but he disliked the epistles of Paul, and describes himself, as yet ignorant of the corruptions of his nature, or of the want and ' worth of Jesus Christ to save us.' He continued for about a year practising an outward reformation both in his words and life, and his neighbours were amazed at his conversion from prodigious profaneness to something like a moral life. He gradually left off his ringing, and after that his dancing, and thought, in time, that he had arrived at a great height of improvement, and enjoyed much of the divine favour; but, while he was in this state of selfapprobation, (which he afterwards considered as unsafe and dangerous,) he went to Bedford, in the way of his calling, and there hearing some persons who were conversing on Regeneration, Conviction of Sin, the Love of the Lord Jesus, with what words and promises they had been refreshed and supported under the temptations of Satan, the evil of their own hearts, and the insufficiency of their own righteousness, he was greatly affected with their discourse, and convinced that his own condition was far from being so good as he thought it to have been. These were things with which he was unacquainted, and he was very desirous to hear further of them. Indeed his desires to obtain spiritual blessings were so urgent, that he says, ' It would then have been as diffi'cult for him to have saken his mind from heaven to ' earth, as he had found it since to get it again from ' earth to heaven.' In such a frame of mind he forsook the company of a young man, who had before been very dear to him, on account of his wickedness; but the change of his conduct towards him produced no alteration in him; for when he met him about three months after, and reproved him for his cursing and swearing, he made a shocking reply