Obrazy na stronie

of that rank that is meanest and most despised of all the families of the land.” This implies that they had somewhat identified themselves with the gypsies, or allowed themselves to be classed with them. He does not, however, say, nor insinuate, that his parents were personally despised by their neighbours, or that they were profligate. I have now before me two old Sketches of his Life, which state that they were “ honest, and bore a fair character.” He himself records with gratitude, that notwithstanding their meanness and inconsiderableness, God put into their hearts “ to put me to school, to learn me both to read and write, according to the rate of other poor

men's children."-Life by Himself

This is so rarely done by tinkers, even now, that the fact warrants the report of the “ fair character” of his parents, at least for honesty and industry. It deserves special notice also, that Bunyan does not ascribe any of his own vices to their ex. ample. He says nothing, indeed, against them. On the other hand, however, he says but little in their favour, except that they sent him to school ; and that most likely, cost them no. thing. The Harpur Grammar School in Bedford, founded in 1556, by Sir W. Harpur, Mayor of London, for teaching

grammar and good manners," was then open to the children of the poor; and Elstow itself, as the seat of one of the oldest abbeys, may have had some charitable foundation of the same kind. It was then in the possession of the Hildersons, and continued in that family until Whitbread purchased it. The abbey was founded in the reign of William the Conqueror, by Judith, his niece, the then Countess of Huntingdon : a fact which had, perhaps, no small influence upon her illustrious successor, SELINA, when she consecrated her wealth, as well as her heart, to the glory of God.

If Bunyan was educated at the Harpur School, he certainly did not learn “good manners," whatever “ grammar” he acquired there. “From a child,” he says, “ I have but few equals, (considering my years, which were then but tender and few,) for cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming the holy name of God. Yea, so settled and rooted was I in these things, that they became as a second nature to me.”

Thus the school, whatever it was, had no moral influence upon the pupil. Bunyan says nothing of his master, as having ever interfered by the rod or reproof to check or warn him, when he began his open ungodliness. There is, therefore, some reason to suspect, that his teacher never tried at all, nor his parents much, to bring him up in the fear of God. This is a painful conclusion : but I know of nothing to soften it; except we suppose that he drew the picture of his own boyhood, partly, in the early life of his BADMAN. He says of him, “From a child he was very bad. He used to be, as we say, the ringleader and master-sinner from a child ; the in. ventor of bad words, and an example of bad actions. When a child, his parents scarce knew when to believe he spake true. He was also much given to pilfer and steal the things of his fellow-children, or any thing at a neighbour's house. Yea, what was his father's could not escape his fingers. All was fish that came to his net. You must understand me, of trifles : for being yet but a child, he attempted no great matter, especially at first. He was also greatly given, and that whilst a lad, to grievous cursing and swearing. He counted it a glory to swear and curse ; and it was as natural to him as to eat, drink, and sleep.”—Life and Death of Mr. Badmam.

This is not only very like what Bunyan says of himself in his own Life ; but it is told with an ease and a point, which experience alone could have reached. Mr. Badman was, no doubt, a real character, whom Bunyan knew and studied : but he certainly studied “the young rogue’s” boyhood, because of its resemblance to his own. He either saw himself reflected in that lad; or he completed Badman's image from his own features, to heighten its effect. This being evidently the fact, it

may be equally true that he refers to his own parents, when he says, “ To my knowledge,” young Badman's “ living was a great grief to his parents ; for their hearts were much dejected at this beginning of their son. Nor did there want counsel or correction froin them to him, if that would have made him better. He was told over and over again, in my hearing, that all liars should have their portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone." “ I dare (to) say, he learned none of his wicked things from his father and mother, nor was he admitted to go much abroad among other children that were vile, to learn to sin of them.”

If there be any reference here to his own parents, it will account for the fact, that he never blames them for a bad exam. ple; and it will explain his “ fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation,” whilst he was but a boy. That is unaccountable, perhaps, otherwise. The following picture of his conscience tells at once, that solemn truths had been

way of

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

lodged in his memory, and fixed in his imagination, by some human means, whatever they were. “ Even in my childhood, the Lord did scare and affrighten me with fearful dreams, and did terrify me with fearful visions. For often, after I had spent this and the other day in sin, I have in my bed been greatly afflicted while asleep, with the apprehension of devils and wicked spirits, who still, as I then thought, laboured to draw me away with them : of which I could never be rid.

“ Also I should at these years, be greatly afflicted and trou. bled with the thoughts of the fearful torments of hell-fire : still fearing, that it would be my lot to be found at last among those devils and hellish fiends, who are bound down with the chains and bonds of darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.

“ These things, I say, when I was but a child,but nine or ten years old—did so distress my soul, that then in the midst of my many sports and childish vanities, amidst my vain companions, I was often cast down and afflicted in my mind therewith : yet could I not let go my sins. Yea, I was also, then, so overcome with despair of life and heaven, that I should often wish, either that there had been no hell, or that I had been a devil, supposing they were only tormentors; or that, if it must needs be I went thither, I might rather be a tormentor than be tormented myself.”

All this is somewhat too much, both in vividness and va. riety, even for the mind of Bunyan ; unless we suppose that his parents, or his schoolmaster, or somebody else, had occa. sionally plied him with scriptural arguments against sin. True, the mental elements of the man were in the boy, even then; and he had evidently read the Scriptures, and remembered their haunting visions of the wrath to come. It is im. possible, however, to refer to them his wish to be a devil, that thus he might be a tormentor, instead of being tormented by devils. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest this daring and desperate wish : whereas there is, and always has been, in the vague generalities of popular talk, something akin to the idea, that the devil and his angels inflict more suffering upon the lost in hell than they themselves endure.

I am not anxious to arrive at a certain conclusion in this matter, although I thus go into the question of the origin of his “ fearful dreams,” and of his daring imaginings. All I want to show is, that whilst his night-dreams may be traced to the Bible, his day-dreams about the work of devils in the invisible world must be traced to some other source ; and none is so likely as parental warning. We know from Bun. yan himself, that his father was not unacquainted with the Bible : “ I asked my father," he says, “whether we were Israelites or no. For, finding in Scripture, that they were once the peculiar people of God, thought I, if I were one of the race, my soul must needs be happy. My father told me, • No, we were not."" Now, although this question was put after his marriage, still, it reveals his opinion of his father's knowledge ; for after having pondered the query long, he says, “ At last I asked my father.” One reason for this was, no doubt, a fancy that there might be some connexion between the Jews and the gypsies : but it is equally evident that he had also some confidence in his father's judgment. Hence, when that was against him, he said, “ Then I fell in spirit as to that hope, and so remained.” Once also, when he was silenced and put to shame by a reproof from a godless woman, he says, “I wished, with all my heart, that I was a little child again, that my father might learn me to speak without swearing."

Even his 6 fearful dreams and visions” themselves prove, by their effect upon his spirits, and especially by the despair they threw him into when he awoke, that he must have seen and heard others, who had similar views of Eternal Judg. ment. A mere boy was utterly unlikely to apply to himself the fiercest terrors of the wrath to come, if he had never met with any one to point him to them, as deserved by himself. The fear of them haunted him even in the “very midst of his sports and vain companions :” a fact which proved that he knew the opinion of some of his neighbours in regard to him. self. Indeed, nothing is more likely, than that he was often reproved and warned by the Puritans of Elstow and Bedford. His vions were just those, which the godly men and women of that age

would most loudly condemn, and most solemnly threa. ten. His very sports were an abomination to them : for the popular games were then associated with principles which the Puritans both hated and dreaded. He would, therefore, have been often warned and reproved on the common, when a Puritan passed by, even if oaths and blasphemies had not been mingled with his sports ; and as they were the very shouts of his gambols, he was as sure to hear a “testimony” against both, as Scott's “ Cuddie Headrig” from his mither, against the popinjay.

Besides, there is good reason to suppose that Bunyan, if not invited into the houses of the Puritans, was allowed to be present in more then one or two of them, when they read to their families books of Christian piety." Accordingly, he says, “ It was a prison to me, when I have seen some read these books. In these days, the thoughts of religion were very grievous to me. I could neither endure it myself, nor that any other should.”

These hints throw some light upon the readiness with which his conscience applied to himself “ the terrors of the Lord :" but they leave to the Bible and his incipient genius, all the solemn majesty of his young dreams. These, like his Pilgrim, were his own creations : for, although we may have dreamt of the Day of Judgment, much in the same form as Bunyan, we only dreamt his dream over again. We had his example to help our duller imaginations : whereas the tinker boy had read nothing but his Bible. No Glorious Dreamer had sent him to bed, full of solemn thoughts, or dazzled with glaring visions. He himself knew, and never forgot, that fact; and hence he ascribed his night vision to God alone : “ I have with soberness considered,” he says, “that the Lord, even in my childhood, did scare and affrighten me with fearful dreams,"

Bunyan's dreams, then, were not always unsoftened in their issue. Ivimey has quoted one, to this effect : « Once he dreamed that he was just dropping into the flames amongst the damned, when a person in white raiment suddenly plucked him as a brand out of the fire.” This is the creation of his own mind, from the visions of Zechariah and John: and as “a dream cometh of a multitude of business,” a part of his business on that day must have been the perusal of part of two books of the Holy Scriptures. We know also where he must have read on the morning of the day, when he dreamt "that the end of the world and the day of judgment were arrived ; and thought that the earth quaked, and opened her mouth to receive him.”—Ivimey's Life. Indeed, his own versions of such dreams (as we shall see) all manifest an extensive familiarity with the Scriptures, and a keen perception, yea, vivid realization, of whatever is most appalling or magnificent in eternal things. He dreamt like a prophet, whilst he was only a boy.

The finest illustration of this, Bunyan put into the lips of the man in the “chamber," at the Interpreter's house. That

« PoprzedniaDalej »