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God already, and shall be counted a Traitor to Christ in the day of judgment." This was enough for Bunyan; for Wy. CLIFFE had said it! No matter that he could not read the “ Impedimenta Evangelizantium," nor that he had no access to the English MS. at Cambridge, entitled, “How Antichrist and his Clerkis feran trewe prestis fro prechyinge of Christis gos. pel,”—he knew the Author's opinion, and identified himself with it, although he had no Duke of Lancaster, nor any Lord Percy, to awe his enemies.
It is a curious coincidence, that the Monkish historians im. plicate Wycliffe in the insurrection of Watt Tyler, just in the same way that Dr. Southey connects Venner's insurrection with Puritanism and Bunyan's arrest !
These hints will enable the reader to appreciate Bunyan's narrative of what he calls, “ The Substance of some Discourse had between the Clerk of the Peace and myself, when he came to admonish me, according to the tenor of that Law by which I was in Prison.
“ When I had lain in prison other twelve weeks, not know. ing what they intended to do with me, the third of April, 1661, comes Mr. Cobb unto me, (as he told me) being sent by the justices to admonish me, and demand of me subunittance to the Church of England &c. The extent of our discourse was as followeth.
“ Cobb. When he was come into the house he sent for me out of my chamber; and when I was come unto him, he said, Neighbour Bunyan, how do you do?
“ Bun. I thank you, Sir, said I, very well, blessed be the Lord.
“ Cobb. Saith he, I come to tell you, that it is desired, you would subrnit yourself to the laws of the land, or else at the next sessions it will go worse with you, even to be sent away out of the nation, or else worse than that.
“ Bun. I said, that I did desire to demean myself in the world, both as becometh a man and a Christian.
“Cobb. But saith he, you must submit to the laws of the land, and leave off those meetings, which you was wont to have : for the statute law is directly against it; and I am sent to you by the justices to tell you, that they do intend to prosecute the law against you,
submit not. “ Bun. I said, Sir, I conceive that the law by which I am in prison at this time, doth not reach or condemn either me, or the meetings which I do frequent ; that law was made
against those, that being designed to do evil in their meetings, make the exercise of religion their pretence to cover their wickedness. It doth not forbid the private meetings of those that plainly and simply make it their only end to worship the Lord, and to exhort one another to edification. My end in meeting with others is simply to do as much good as I can, by exhortation and cour
punsel, according to that small measure of light which God hath given me, and not to disturb the peace of the nation.
6 COBB. Every one may say the same, said he ; you see the late insurrection at London, under what glorious pretences they went, and yet indeed they intended no less than the ruin of the kingdom and commonwealth.”
(" Mr. Cobb,” says Ivimey, “ referred to the fifth monarchy men, a small number of enthusiasts. Their leader was Thomas Venner, a wine-cooper, who in his little conventicle, in Coleman-street, warmed his admirers with passionate ex. pectations of a fifth universal monarchy, under the personal reign of King Jesus upon earth, and that the saints were to take the kingdom themselves. To introduce this imaginary kingdom, they marched out of their meeting-house towards St. Paul's Churchyard, on Sunday, January 6, 1661, to the number of about fifty men well armed, and with a resolution to subvert the present government, or die in the attempt. They published a declaration of the design of their rising, and placed sentinels at proper places. The Lord Mayor sent the Trained Bands to disperse them, whom they quickly routed, but in the evening retired to Cane Wood, between Highgate and Hampstead. On Wednesday morning they returned, and dispersed a party of the King's soldiers in Threadneedle-street. In Wood-street they repelled the Trained Bands, and some of the Horse-guards; but Venner himself was knocked down, and some of his company slain; from hence the remainder retreated to Cripplegate, and took possession of a house, which they threatened to defend with a deperate resolution, but nobody appearing to countenance their frenzy, they surrendered after they had lost about half their number : Venner and one of his officers, were hanged before their meeting-house door in Coleman-street January 19; and a few days after, nine more were executed in divers parts of the city.”)
Bun. That practice of theirs I abhor, said I; yet it doth not follow, that because they did so, therefore all others will do
I look upon it as my duty to behave myself under the
king's government, both as becomes a man and a Christian, and if an occasion were offered me, I should willingly manifest my loyalty to my prince both by word and deed. “ Cobb. Well
, said he, I do not profess myself to be a man that can dispute ; but this I say truly, neighbour Bunyan, I would have you consider this matter seriously, and submit yourself; you may have your liberty to exhort your neighbour in private discourse, so be you do not call together an assembly of people ; and truly you may do much good to the church of Christ, if
way ; and this you may do, and the law will not abridge you of it. It is your private meetings that the law is against.
“ Bun. Sir, said I, if I may do good to one by my discourse, why may I not do good to two? And if to two, why not to four, and so to eight?
“Cobb. Ay, saith he, and to a hundred, I warrant you.
“Bun. Yes, Sir, said I, I think I should not be forbid to do as much good as I can.
“ COBB. But, saith he, you may but pretend to do good, and instead, notwithstanding, do harm, by seducing the people ; you are therefore denied your meeting so many together, lest you should do harm.
“Buy. And yet, said I, you say the law tolerates me to discourse with my neighbour; surely there is no law tolerates me to seduce any one ; therefore if I may by the law discourse with one, surely it is to do him good ; and if I by discoursing may do good to one, surely by the same law, I
may “ COBB. The law, saith he, doth expressly forbid your private meetings, therefore, they are not to be tolerated.
“ Bun. I told him, that I would not entertain so much uncharitableness of that parliament in the 35th of Elizabeth, or of the Queen herself, as to think they did by that law intend the oppressing of any of God's ordinances, or the interrupting any in the way of God; but men may, in the wresting of it, turn it against the way of God; but take the law in itself, and it only fighteth against those that drive at mischief in their hearts and meeting, making religion only their cloak, colour, or pretence ; for so are the words of the statute.
“ Cobb. Very good; therefore the king seeing that pro. tences are usually in and among people, so as to make religion their pretence only; therefore he, and the law before him,
doth forbid such private meetings, and tolerates only public; you may meet in public.
“ Bun. Sir, said I, let me answer you in a similitude: set the case that, at such a Wood corner, there did usually come forth thieves to do mischief, must there therefore a law be made, that every one that cometh out there shall be killed ? May not there come out from thence true men as well as thieves ? Just thus is it in this case ; I do think there may be man , that may design the destruction of the commonwealth. But it doth not follow therefore that all private meetings are unlawful. Those that transgress, let them be punished. And if at any time I myself should do any act in my conversation as doth not become a man and Christian, let me bear the punishment. And as for your saying I may meet in public, if I may be suffered, I would gladly do it. Let me have but meeting enough in public, and I shall care the less to have them in private. I do not meet in private because I am afraid to have meetings in public. I bless the Lord that my heart is at that point, that if any man can lay any thing to my charge, either in doctrine or in practice, in this parti. cular, that can be proved error or heresy, I am willing to disown it, even in the very market-place. But if it be truth, then to stand to it to the last drop of my blood. And, Sir, said I, you ought to commend me for so doing. To err, and to be a heretic, are two things: I am no heretic, because I will not stand refractorily to defend any one thing that is contrary to the word : prove any thing which I hold, to be an error, and I will recant it.
“COBB. But goodman Bunyan, said he, methinks you need not stand so strictly upon this one thing, as to have meetings of such public assemblies. Cannot you submit, and, notwithstanding, do as much good as you can, in a neighbourly way, without having such meetings?
“Bun. Truly, Sir, said I, I do not desire to commend my. self, but to think meanly of myself: yet when I do most despise myself, I cannot help taking notice of that small measure of light which God hath given me, also that the people of the Lord (by their own saying) are edified thereby. Besides, when I see that the Lord, through grace, hath in some mea. sure blessed my labour, I dare not but exercise that gift which God hath given me, for the good of the people. And I said further, that I would willingly speak in public if I might.
“ COBB. He said, that I might come to the public assemblies
and hear. What though you do not preach? you may hear. Do not think yourself so well enlightened, and that you have received a gift so far above others, but that you may hear other men preach. Or to that purpose.
“ Bun. I told him, I was as willing to be taught as to give instruction, and I looked upon it as my duty to do both ; for, said I, a man that is a teacher, he himself may learn also from another that teacheth ; as the apostle saith, • We prophesy one by one, that all may learn.' That is, every man that hath received a gift from God, he may dispense it, that others may be comforted; and when he hath done, he may hear, and learn, and be comforted himself of others.
“ COBB. But, said he, what if you should forbear awhile, and sit still, till you see further how things will go?
“ Bun. Sir, said I, Wycliffe saith, that he which leaveth off preaching and hearing of the word of God for fear of excommunication of men, he is already excommunicated of God, and shall in the day of judgment be counted a traitor to Christ.
“ COBB. Ay, saith he, they that do not hear shall be so counted indeed ; do you therefore hear.
“Bun. But, Sir, said I, he saith, he that shall leave off either preaching or hearing, &c. That is, if he hath received a gift for edification, it is his sin, if he doth not lay it out in a way of exhortation and counsel, according to the proportion of his gift; as well as to spend his time altogether in hearing others preach.
“ COBB. But, said he, how shall we know that you have rea ceived a gift? “Bun. Said I, let any man hear, and search, and prove
the doctrine by the Bible.
“ COBB. But will you be willing, said he, that two indifferent persons shall determine the case, and will you stand by their judgment ?
Bun. I said, are they infallible ? “ He said, no.
“Bun. Then, said I, it is possible my judgment may be as good as theirs. But yet I will pass by either, and in this matter be judged by the Scriptures; I am sure that is infalli. ble, and cannot err.
“Cobb. But, said he, who shall be judge between you ? for you take the Scriptures one way, and they another.
“ Bun. I said, the Scripture should, and that by comparing