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in him, and it shocked him if at any time he saw those who pretended to be religious act in a manner unworthy of their profession. Some providential escapes during this part of his life, he looked back upon afterward, as so many judgments mixed with mercy. Once he fell into a creek of the sea, once out of a boat into the river Ouse near Bedford, and each time was narrowly saved from drowning. One day an adder crossed his path; he stunned it with a stick, then forced open its mouth with the stick, and plucked out the tongue, which he supposed to be the sting, with his fingers, "by which act,” he says, "had not God been merciful unto me, I might by my desperateness have brought myself to my end." If this indeed were an adder, and not a harmeless snake, his escape from the fangs was more remarkable than he was himself aware of. A circumstance which was likely to impress him more deeply occurred in the eighteenth year of his age, when being a soldier in the parliament's army he was drawn out to go to the siege of Leicester: one of the same company wished to go in his stead; Bunyan consented to exchange with him, and this volunteer substitute standing sentinel one day at the siege was shot through the head with a musket-ball.
Some serious thoughts this would have awakened in a harder heart than Bunyan's; but his heart never was hardened. The self-accusations of such a man are to be received with some distrust, not of his sincerity, but of his sober judgment. It should seem that he ran headlong into the boisterous vices which prove fatal to so many of the ignorant and the brutal, for want of that necessary and wholesome restrictive discipline which it is the duty of a government to provide; but he was not led into those habitual sins which infix a deeper stain. "Had not a miracle of precious grace prevented, I had laid myself open," he says, "even to the stroke of those laws, which bring some to disgrace and open shame before the face of the world." That grace he had; he was no drunkard, for if he had been he would loudly have proclaimed it; and on another point we have his own solemn declaration, in one of the most characteristic passages in his whole works, where he replies to those who slandered him as leading a licentious life with women. "I call on them," he says, "when they have used the utmost of their endeavours, and made the fullest inquiry that they can, to prove against me truly, that there is any woman in heaven or earth or hell, that can say I have at any time, in any place, by day or night, so much as attempted to be naught with them. And speak I thus to beg mine enemies into a good esteem of me? No, not I! I will in this beg belief of no man. Believe, or disbelieve me in this, 'tis all a-case to me. My foes have missed their mark in this their shooting at me. I am not the man. I wish that they themselves be guiltless. If all the fornicators and adulterers in England were hanged up by the neck till they be dead, John Bunyan, the object of their envy would be still alive and well. I know not whether there be such a thing as a woman breathing under the copes of heaven, but by their apparel, their children, or by common fame, except my wife." And "for a wind-up in this matter," calling again not only upon men, but angels to prove him guilty if he be, and upon God for a record upon his soul that in these things he was innocent, he says, "not that I have
been thus kept because of any goodness in me more than any other, but God has been merciful to me, and has kept me."
Bunyan married presently after his substitute had been killed at the siege of Leicester, probably therefore before he was nineteen. This he might have counted among his mercies, as he has counted it that he was led "to light upon a wife” whose father as she often told him, was a godly man who had been used to reprove vice both in his own house and among his neighbours, and had lived a strict and holy life both in word and deed. There was no imprudence in this early marriage, though they "came together as poor as poor might be, not having so much household stuff as a dish or a spoon betwixt them both;" for Bunyan had a trade to which he could trust, and the young woman had been trained up in the way she should go. She brought him for her portion two books which her father had left her at his death: "the Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven" was one: the other was Bayly, Bishop of Bangor's "Practice of Piety," which has been translated into Welsh, (the author's native tongue,) into Hungarian, and into Polish, and of which more than fifty editions were published in the course of a hundred years. These books he sometimes read with her; and though they did not, he says, reach his heart to awaken it, yet they did beget within him some desires to reform his vicious life, and made him fall in eagerly with the religion of the times, to go to church twice a day with the foremost, and there very devoutly say and sing as others did; yet, according to his own account, retaining his wicked life.
At this time Bunyan describes himself as having a most superstitious veneration for "the high place, priest, clerk, vestment, service, and what else, belonging to the Church," counting the priest and clerk most happy and without doubt blessed because they were as he then thought the servants of God, yea, he could "have laid down at the feet of a priest, and have been trampled upon by them, their name, their garb and work, did so intoxicate and bewitch" him. The service it must be remembered, of which he speaks, was not the Liturgy of the Church of England, (which might not then be used even in any private family without subjecting them to the penalty of five pounds for the first offence, ten for the second, and a year's imprisonment for the third,) but what the meager directory of the victorious Puritans had substituted for it, in which only the order of the service was prescribed, and all else left to the discretion of the minister. The first doubt which he felt in this stage of his progress, concerning his own prospect of salvation, was of a curious kind: hearing the Israelites called the peculiar people of God, it occurred to him that if he were one of that race, his soul must needs be safe; having a great longing to be resolved about this question he asked his father at last, and the old tinker assuring him that he was not, put an end to his hopes on that score.
One day the minister preached against Sabbath breaking, and Bunyan who used especially to follow his sports on Sundays, fell in conscience under that sermon, verily believing it was intended for him, and feeling what guilt was, which he could not remember that he had ever felt before. Home he went with a great burden upon his spirit; but dinner removed that burden; his
animal spirits recovered from their depression; he shook the sermon out of his mind, and away he went with great delight to his old sports. The Puritans notwithstanding the outcry which they had raised against what is called the Book of Sports, found it necessary to tolerate such recreations on the Sabbath, but is it more remarkable to find a married man engaged in games which are now only practised by boys. Dinner had for a time prevailed over that morning's sermon; but it was only for a time; the dinner sat easy upon him, the sermon did not; and in the midst of a game of cat, as he was about to strike the cat from the hole, it seemed to him as if a voice from heaven suddenly darted into his soul and said, Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven? Or have thy sins, and go to hell? "At this," he continues, “I was put to an exceeding maze: wherefore leaving my cat upon the ground, I looked up to heaven, and was as if I had with the eyes of my understanding, seen the Lord Jesus looking down upon me, as being very hotly displeas ed with me, and as if he did severely threaten me with some grievous punishment for these and other ungodly practices."
The voice he believed was from heaven, and it may be inferred from his relation that though he was sensible the vision was only seen with the mind's eye he deemed it not the less real. The effect was to fasten upon his spirit a sudden and dreadful conclusion that it was too late for him to turn away from his wickedness, for Christ would not forgive him; he felt his heart sink in despair, and this insane reasoning past in his mind, "My state is surely miserable; miserable if I leave my sins, and but miserable if I follow them. I can but be damned; and if I must be so, I had as good be damned for many sins, as be damned for few." Thus he says, "I stood in the midst of my play, before all that were present, but yet I told them nothing; but having made this conclusion, I returned desperately to my sport again. And I well remember that presently this kind of despair did so possess my soul, that I was persuaded I could never attain to other comfort than what I should get in sin: for heaven was gone already, so that on that I must not think. Wherefore I found within me great desire to take my fill of sin, still studying what sin was and yet to be committed, that I might taste the sweetness of it-lest I should die before I had my desires. In these things I protest before God I lie not: neither do I frame this sort of speech: these were really, strongly, and with all my heart, my desires. The good Lord whose mercy is unsearchable, forgive me my transgressions!"
When thus faithfully describing the state of his feelings at that time, Bunyan was not conscious that he exaggerated the character of his offences. Yet in another part of his writings he qualifies those offences more truly where he speaks of himself as having been addicted to "all manner of youthful vanities;" and this relation itself is accompanied with a remark that it is a usual temptation of the devil "to overrun the spirits with a scurvy and seared frame of heart and benumning of conscience: so that though there be not much guilt attending the poor creatures who are thus tempted, "yet they continually have a secret conclusion within them, that there is no hope for them.” This state lasted with him little more than a month; it then happened that as
he stood at a neighbour's shop window, "cursing and swearing and playing the madman," after his wonted manner, the woman of the house heard him, and though she was (he says) a very loose and ungodly wretch she told him that he made her tremble to hear him; "that he was the ungodliest fellow for swearing that ever she heard in all her life; and that by thus doing he was able to spoil all the youth in the whole town if they came but in his company.” The reproof came with more effect than if it had come from a better person: it silenced him, and put him to secret shame, and that too, as he thought, "before the God of heaven;" wherefore, he says, "while I stood there, and hanging down my head, I wished with all my heart that I might be a little child again, that my father might learn me to speak without this wicked way of swearing; for thought I, I am so accustomed to it, that it is vain for me to think of a reformation." From that hour however the reformation of this, the only actual sin to which he was addicted, began. Even to his own wonder it took place, and he who till then had not known how to speak unless he put an oath before and another behind to make his words have authority, discovered that he could speak better and more pleasantly without such expletives than he had ever done before.
Soon afterward he fell in company with a poor man who talked to him concerning religion and the Scriptures in a manner which took his attention, and sent him to his bible. He began to take great pleasure in reading it, especially the historical parts; the Epistles he says "he could not away with, being as yet ignorant both of the corruption of our nature and of the want and worth of Christ to save us.' And this produced such a change in his whole deportment, that his neighbours took him to be a new man, and were amazed at his conversation from prodigious profaneness to a moral and religious life. They began to speak well of him, both to his face and behind his back, and he was well pleased at having obtained, and as he thought, deserved, their good opinion. And yet, he says, "I was nothing but a poor painted hypocrite—I did all I did either to be seen of, or to be well spoken of by men-I knew not Christ, nor grace, nor faith, nor hope; and as I have well seen since, had I then died, my state had been most fearful."
Bunyan had formerly taken great delight in bell ringing; but now that his conscience "began to be tender," he thought it "a vain practice," in other words a sin; yet he so hankered after this his old exercise, that though he durst not pull a rope himself, he would go and look at the ringers, not without a secret feeling that to do so was unbecoming the religious character which he now professed. A fear came upon him that one of the bells might fall; to secure himself against such an accident, he stood under a beam that lay athwart the steeple, from side to side: but his apprehensions being orce awakened he then considered that the bell might fall with a swing, hit the wall first, rebound, and so strike him in its descent. Upon this, he retired to the steeple door, and thinking himself safe enough there, for if the bell should fall he could slip out. Further than the door he did not venture, nor did he long continue to think himself secure there; for the next fancy which possessed him was that the steeple itself might fall; and this so possessed him and so
shook hi mind, that he dared not stand at the door longer, but fled for fear the tower should come down upon him-to such a state of nervous weakness had a diseased feeling brought his strong body and strong mind.-The last amusement from which ne weaned himself was that of dancing: it was a full year before he could quite leave that: but in so doing, and in any thing in which he thought he was performing his duty, he had such peace of mind, such satisfaction, that—" to relate it," he says, "in mine own way, I thought no man in England could please God better than I.-Poor wretch as I was, I was all this while ignorant of Jesus Christ, and going about to establish my own righteousness, and had perished therein, had not God in mercy showed me more of my state by nature."
Mr. Scott in the life of Bunyan prefixed to his edition of the Pilgrim's Progress says it is not advisable to recapitulate those impressions which constitute a large part of his religious experience. But Bunyan's character would be imperfectly understood, and could not be justly appreciated, if this part of his history were kept out of sight. To respect him as he deserves, to admire him as he ought to be admired, it is necessary that we should be informed not only of the coarseness and brutality of his youth, but of the extreme ignorance out of which he worked his way, and the stage of burning enthusiasm through which he passed-a passage not less terrible than that of his own Pilgrim in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. His ignorance, like the brutal manners from which he had now been reclaimed, was the consequence of his low station in life, but the enthusiasm which then succeeded was brought on by the circumstances of an age in which hypocrisy was pregnant, and fanaticism rampant throughout the land. "We intended not," says Baxter, "to dig down the banks, or pull up the hedge and lay all waste and common, when we desired the prelates' tyranny might cease." No: for the intention had been under the pretext of abating one tyranny, to establish a far severer and more galling in its stead; in doing this the banks had been thrown down, and the hedge destroyed and while the bestial herd who broke in rejoiced in the havoc, Baxter and other such erring though good men stood marvelling at the mischief which never could have been effected, if they had not mainly assisted in it. The wildest opinions of every kind were abroad, "divers and strange doctrines," with every wind of which, men having no longer an anchor whereby to hold, were carried about and tossed to and fro. They passed with equal facility from strict puritanism to the utmost license of practical and theoretical impiety, as antinomians or as atheists; and from extreme profligacy to extreme superstition in any of its forms. The poor man by whose conversation Bunyan was first led into "some love and liking of religion," and induced to read the Bible and to delight in it, became a ranter, wallowed in his sins as one who was secure in his privilege of election, and finally having corrupted his heart, perverted his reason and seared his conscience, laughed at his former professions, persuaded himself that there was neither a future state for man, nor a God to punish or to save him, and told Bunyan that he had gone through all religions, and in this persuasion had fallen upon the right at last!