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It will be readily believed, from the few specimens of Bun. yan's vein already given, that his preaching had a peculiar charm for the poor.
It was electrical amongst them, as well as edifying to the intelligent. One reason why 6 the common people heard him gladly," was, that he often re-pointed his most pointed warnings and admonitions with striking Anec. dotes which, if not always in the best taste, were well told, and told for a good purpose. I introduce them, however, not for their own sake, nor chiefly because they are Bunyan's, but be. cause they throw some light upon his times and contempora. ries, as well as illustrate his own graphic power. And we need glimpses of the kind they give into the private society of these times. There are so many Actors upon the stage of the Restoration, that we almost forget the audience before which they played their part : and although we feel that their influence could not have been good, we do not know how bad it was, until we follow some of the tools, dupes and imitators, of the Court party, into private life, public-houses, and country fairs. There, we see how truly the Throne was reflected in the bench of the ale houses, and the Court at the May-pole: the low vul. gar, rivalling the high in bigotry and baseness.
Bunyan's anecdotes of his times and contemporaries, are neither few nor apocryphal. They were written and published by himself although hitherto overlooked by his biographers. This oversight is the more remarkable, because the paucity of their materials for his Life might well have sent them to search all his pages. That task, however, has been left for me ; and now that it is performed, I feel myself am. ply rewarded for my labour. Even the labour itself was but light, when I discovered that Badman was not altogether an allegorical person, like most of the characters in the Holy War. That discovery turned Bunyan into an Annalist at once : for all his illustrations of Badman's history, are anec. dotes of persons whom he had known.
It was no ordinary fortitude or fidelity, on his part, to pub. lish these anecdotes of well known persons, whatever date be assigned to the publication of the first edition of “ The Life and Death of Mr. Badman.” Bunyan himself felt that he was daring not a little, by this exposure. Hence he says in the Preface, “ I know it is ill puddling in the cockatrice's den, and they run hazards who hunt the wild boar. But I have adventured to play at this tune on the hole of the Asps. If they bite, they bite : if they sting, they sting. I have spoken what I have spoken: and now, come on me what will! I know the better end of the staff is mine, whether Mr. Badman's friends rage or laugh at what I have writ. My object is to stop a hellish course of life, and save a soul from death."
Agreeably to this design, Bunyan records first (as might be expected,) some of the remarkable judgments of God against SWEARERS, which had occurred in his own time.
“ One was," he says, " that dreadful judgment of God upon one N. P., at Wimbledon, in Surrey, who after a horrible fit of swearing, and cursing at some persons that did not please him, suddenly fell sick, and in a little time died raving, cursing and swear. ing.” What must Bunyan have felt, both when this fact came to his knowledge, and when he wrote it? What mingled wonder and gratitude must have thrilled his spirit when he re. membered how often he had been spared, whilst a swearer and blasphemer!
With not less emotion would he record the following judg. ment; “ The dreadful story of Dorothy Mately of Ashover, in the county of Derby.”—“This Dorothy was noted by the peo. ple of the town, as a great swearer, and curser, and liar, and thief. The labour she usually did, was to wash the rubbish that came forth of the Lead Mines, and there to get sparks of lead-ore. And her usual way of asserting things was with these kind of imprecations, I would I might sink into the earth if it be not so; or, I would God would make the earth open and swallow me up. Now upon the 23d of March, 1660, this Dorothy was washing ore upon the top of a steep hill, about a quarter of a mile from Ashover, and was there taxed by a lad for taking two single pence out of his pocket. But she violently denied it; wishing that the ground might swal. low her up if she had them. She also used the same wicked words on several other occasions that day. Now one George Hodgkinson, a man of good report there, came accidently by where Dorothy was, and stood still to talk with her, as she was washing her ore. There stood also a little child by her tub side, and another at a distance calling aloud to her to come away. Wherefore, the said George took the girl by the hand to lead her away to her that called her. But, behold, they had not gone above ten yards from Dorothy, but they heard her calling out for help. So looking back, he saw the woman, and her tub and sieve, twisting round and sinking into the ground, Then said the man, Pray to God to pardon thy sin; for thou art never like to be seen alive any longer. So she and her tub twirled round and round, till they sunk about three yards into the earth; and then, for a while staid. Then, she called for help again, thinking, as she said, she should stay there. Now the man, though greatly amazed, did begin to think which way to help her. But, immediately, a great stone, which appeared in the earth, fell upon her head, and broke her skull, and then the earth fell in and covered her. She was after. wards digged up, and found about four yards within ground, with the boy's two single pence in her pocket: but her tub and sieve could not be found.”
This story is so circumstantial, that Bunyan seems to have had it from Hodgkinson's own lips. He evidently believed “ the relator" too. This was easy for him to do. And, why should it be difficult for any one? That was an age when such warnings were loudly called for. Nothing, perhaps, but signal judgments could have checked the profane then. This one fell, indeed, upon an obscure woman : but it fell in Bun. yan's time; and he soon gave it a publicity which made what was “ done in a corner,” tell over England, as the fate of Ko. rah and his company did in the wilderness : for the Life of Badman followed in the wake of the Pilgrim's Progress. He intended this. In the Preface he says, “ As I was considering with myself, what I had written concerning the progress of the Pilgrim from this world to glory ; and how it had been ac. ceptable to many in this nation, it came again into my mind to write, of the life and death of the Ungodly, and of their travel from this world to hell.” It had thus, probably, a great circulation amongst all ranks ; and perhaps found its way, as the Pilgrim certainly did, into the hands of the court of Charles II. ; where, of all places, it was most needed! The King's copy of the Pilgrim is in the British Museum.
Another class of judgments which Bunyan marked and re. ported with deep interest, were those which befel INFORMERS, who had betrayed the secret meetings of the persecuted Dissenters. He says, he knew so many instances of the judg. ments of God overtaking these spies and accusers, as filled him with “ astonishment and wonder.” He gives the initials, as well as the history of one of these wretches, who practised about Bedford; and marks the anecdote with a cross, to show that the event fell under his own observation; a proof of the fearlessness with which he “played on the hole of the Asps,” that their prey might escape, and they themselves take warn. ing “In our Town,” he says, “ there was one W. S., a man of a very wicked life; and he, when there seemed to be coun. tenance given to it, would needs turn Informer. Well, so he did ; and was as diligent in his business as most of them could be. He would watch of nights,-climb trees,—and range the wood of days, if possible to find out the MEETERS: for then they were forced to meet in the fields."
(The accompanying Illustration is a faithful copy of an old Print, by Wooding; and only a too faithful picture of the perils of good men, in these bad times. I delight to preserve it, because it reveals to the eye both the aspect and the spirit of the Non. Cons. and Covenanters of these times. Such were the men, in looks, and in rank of life, whom the Stuarts, these dog-stars of the Church, drove into the wilderness, and hunted in the mountains, dens and caves of the earth. Such were the men, whom Scott tried to caricature, in Old Mortal. ity: but his genius triumphed over his will. It could not resist their fascination, whilst exaggerating their foibles. They started into such majesty at every stroke of the Phidias-hand of the great sculptor, that he was compelled to worship the Memories he intended to malign. He wondered forsooth !that any one could have suspected him of injustice to the Covenanters. So modern Players and Critics wonder how any one could imagine, that Dr. Squintum and Cantwell were ever meant for “ that good man, Mr. Whitefield.” The fact is, Scott was more under the spell of Dr. Erskine, his father's minister, than he was aware of, or than Lockhart understood, when the Covenanters cowed his spirit, by their ascendency oyer bis heart.)
But to return to the Informer : “He would,” says Bunyan, u curse the Meeters bitterly, and swear most fearfully what he would do when he found them. Well; after he had gone on, like a Bedlam, in his course awhile, and had done some mis.
chiefs to the people, he was stricken by the hand of God, and that in this manner. Although he had had his tongue natu. rally at will; now, he was taken with a faultering in his speech, and could not for weeks together speak otherwise than just as a man that was drunk. Then he was taken with a drawling and slabbering at his mouth ; which phlegm would sometimes hang at his mouth, well nigh half way down to the ground. Then he had such a weakness in the back-sinews of his neck, that ofttimes he could not look up before him, unless he clapt his hand upon his forehead, and held up his head that way by the strength of his hand. After this his speech went quite away, and he could speak no more than a swine or a bear. Therefore, like one of them, he would grunt and make an ugly noise, according as he was offended or pleased, or would have anything done.
“ In this posture, he continued for the space of half a year or thereabouts ; all the while, otherwise, well ; and could go about his business : save once, that he had a fall from the bell, as it hangs in our steeple ; which it was a wonder it did not kill him. But after that, he also walked about until God had made a sufficient spectacle of His judgment for his sin ; and then on a sudden, he was stricken and died miserably : and so there was an end of him and his doings.
“ I'll tell you of another. About four miles from St. Neot's there was a gentleman had a man, and a lusty young man he
Well, an Informer he was, and did much distress some people ; and had perfeeted his informations so effectually against some, that there was nothing further to do, but for the Constables to make distress on the people, that he might have the money or goods : and, as I have heard, he hastened then much to do it. Now while he was in the heat of his work, as - he stood one day by the fire-side, he had, it should seem, a mind to a sop in the pan ; for the spit was then at the fire. So he went to make one. But, behold a dog—some say his favourite dog—took distaste at something, and immediately bit his master by the leg : the which bite, notwithstanding all the means that was used to cure him, turned (as was said) into a gan. grene. However, that wound was his death, and that a dread. ful one too : for my relator said, that he lay in such a con. dition by this bite, that his flesh rotted from off him, before he went out of the world.”
It was in no vindictive spirit, that Bunyan told these anec. dotes. He durst neither overlook nor conceal them; but he