Obrazy na stronie

took no pleasure in recording them. 66. If it had been the will of God,” he says, “ I would, that neither I nor anybody else, could tell more of these stories : true stories, that are neither lie nor romance. But what need I instance in particular persons, when the judgment of God against this kind of people was made manifest, I think I may say, if not in all, yet in most of the counties of England, where such poor creatures were.

It is only too easy to illustrate and verify Bunyan's opinion, in this matter. God did make examples, wherever such trait. ors and trepanners “ wore out the saints of the Most High :" and what God does in retribution, ought not to be buried in oblivion. I know that it is now unpopular to revive the memory of such facts. I feel too, that we are prone to call the fearful end of an enemy, a judgment; and the same end, only a misfortune, when it befals a friend. But still, it is equally wrong and dangerous to forget the signal catastrophes, by which the living conviction “ that verily there is a God who judgeth,” is kept up in the public mind. I have, therefore, felt it to be an imperative duty to preserve in the sketch of Bunyan's Times, some of the most remarkable instances of Divine retribution:

Bunyan was also an attentive observer, and occasionally a frank recorder, of the Apostacies from godliness, which oc. curred in his neighbourhood. He mentions two, of which he says expressly, “ This was done in Bedford : I knew a man that was once, as I thought, hopefully awakened about his con. dition. Yea, I knew two that were so awakened. But in (course of) time, they began to draw back, and to incline again to their lusts. Wherefore, God gave them up to the company of three or four men, that in less than three years brought them roundly to the gallows, where they were hanged like dogs because they refused to live like honest men.

With almost equal fidelity to time and place, Bunyan ventured to give the following account of an Infidel : “ There was a man dwelt about twelve miles from us, that had so trained himself up in his atheistical notions, that, at last, he attempted to write a book against Jesus Christ, and against the divine authority of the Scriptures : but I think it was not published : well; after many days, God struck him with sickness, whereof he died. So, being sick, and musing upon his former doings, the book he had written came into his mind; and, with it, such a sense of his evil in writing it, that it tore his conscience as a lion would tear a kid. He lay, therefore, upon his death

bed in sad case, and much affiction of conscience. Some of my friends also went to see him; and as they were in his chamber one day, he hastily called for pen, ink, and paper ; which when it was given him, he took it, and writ to this purpose, — ** I (such a one, in such a Town) must go to hell. fire, for writing a book against Jesus Christ, and against the authority of the Holy Scriptures.' He would also have leaped out of the window of his house, to have killed himself: but was prevented of that. So he died in his bed ;—such a death as it was. It will be well, if others take warning by this story. The story is as true as it is remarkable. I had it from them that I dare believe, who themselves were eye and ear witnesses; and also caught him in their arms, and saved him, when he would have leaped out of his chamber-window, to have destroyed himself.”

Bunyan seems to have had not a few opportunities, even while in prison, of marking both the power and the treachery of conscience. One story on this subject deserves to be known. 66 When I was in prison," he says, “ there came a woman to me, that was under a great deal of trouble. So I asked her (she being a stranger to me,) what she had to say to

She said, she was afraid she should be damned. I asked her the cause of those fears. She told me, that she had some. times since lived with a shop-keeper at Wellingborough, and had robbed his box in the shop, several times, of money, to the value of more than now I will say. • And pray,' says she, tell me what I shall do.' I told her - I would have her go to her Master, and make him satisfaction. She said, she was afraid. I asked her, Why? She said, she doubted he would hang her. I told her, I would intercede for her life, and make use of other friends too to do the like. But she told me she durst not venture that. - Well,' said I, · shall I send to your Master, while you

abide out of sight, and make your peace with him before he sees you? And with that, I asked her Master's

But all that she said in answer to this was;—Pray, let it alone till I come to you again. So, away she went, and neither told me her Master's name nor her own.

This was about ten or twelve years since; and I never saw her again. I tell you this story, for this cause, to confirm your fears, that such kind of servants, too many there be: and that God makes them sometimes like old Todd, to betray themselves, through the terrors He lays upon them. I could tell you of another,



[ocr errors]

that came to me with a like relation concerning herself, and the robbing of her Mistress : but at this time, let this suffice.”

The story of old Todd, Bunyan himself tells thus : “ At a summer Assizes holden at Hartford, while the Judge was sit. ting on the bench, comes this old Todd into the court, clothed in a green suit, with his leathern girdle in his hand, his bosom open, and all dripping of sweat as if he had run for his life. And being come in, he spake aloud as follows : 5 My Lord, said he, here is the veriest rogue that breathes on the face of the earth. I have been a thief from a child.

When I was but a little one, I gave myself to rob orchards, and to do other such like wicked things; and I have continued a thief ever since. My Lord, there has not been a robbery committed these many years, within so many miles of this place, but I have either been at it, or privy to it.

“ The Judge thought the fellow was mad: but after some conference with some of the Justices, they agreed to indict him. And so they did, of several felonious actions : to all of which he heartily confessed guilty ; and so was hanged, with his wife at the same time.

“ As for the truth of this story," says Bunyan, “ the relator (whom I dare believe) told me, that he was in the court at the same time himself, and stood within less than two yards of old Todd, when he heard him utter the words aloud.”

Bunyan remembered and published cases of this kind, just for the same reason as he marked the judgments of God on blasphemers. He himself had begun like old Todd. Hence, he says in his Life, « had not a miracle of precious grace prevented, I had not only perished by the stroke of Eternal Jus. tice, but had also laid myself open even to the stroke of those Laws, which bring some to disgrace and open shame before the face of the world.”

Thus, these anecdotes, although they concern Bunyan's contemporaries, disclose his own spirit, when, at the maturity of his mind and piety, he reviewed his early life. 66 Remembering the wormwood and the gall,” his soul had them “ still in remembrance, and was humbled within” him. He 6

pos. sessed the iniquities of his youth” to the last, in the sense of never forgetting them, even when he was sure that they were forgiven.

Drunkenness also, although a vice he seems never to have been addicted to, was yet one he so narrowly escaped, that he kept his eye very closely npon the consequences of it in others,



and fearlessly published the facts. 6 I knew,” he says, who dwelt not far off our Town, that got a wife, as Mr. Bad. man got his (by hypocritical canting,) but he did not enjoy her long: for one night as he was riding home from his com. panions, where he had been at a neighbouring town, his horse threw him to the ground, where he was found dead at break of day, frightfully and lamentably mangled with his fall, and besmeared with his own blood.”

Bunyan's views of Intemperance were, as might be expected, very awful. He had no hope of “ an old drunkard” being ever reclaimed. “ Tell me,” he asks, “ when did you see an old drunkard converted ? No, no; such a one will sleep till he dies, though he sleeps on the top of a mast. So that if a man have any respect for either credit, health, life, or salvation, he will not be a drunken man.” He was, however, no Tee-To. taller, although emphatically, and even rigidly, a temperate

I judge thus, because he blames Badman for not offer. ing any refreshment to the pious men, who came to visit him on his death-bed. “ When they were going, he would scarce bid them drink, or say, Thank you for your good company, and good instruction.'

Bunyan did not mean, I sm sure, to blame Badman for with. holding drink, which was not required by thirst or fatigue. He meant only, that the common courtesies of life were not shown to godly men, although they had come on foot, or from a distance, and thus needed refreshment. In this matter he distinguished between temperance and total abstinence, as he did between a Christmas Pie and Christmas.

How severely and successfully he could expose drunkenness, the following anecdote, from his own pen, will show. he says, “a swinish vanity, indeed : I will tell you another story. There was a gentleman that had a drunken servant to be his groom ; and (he) coming home one night much abused with Beer, his Master saw it. Well (quoth his Master within him. self,) I will let thee alone to-night; but to-morrow morning I will convince thee thou art worse than a beast, by the behaviour of my horse. So when morning was come, he bids his man go and water his horse. And so he did : but coming up to his Master, he commands him to water him again. So the fellow rode into the water a second time. But his Master's horse would drink no more. So the

fellow game and told his Mas. ter. Then said his Master, Thou drunken sot, thou art far worse than my horse. He will drink but to satisfy nature ;

66 It is,"

but thou wilt drink to the abuse of nature. He will drink but to refresh himself; but thou to thy hurt and damage. He will drink that he may be more serviceable to his Master : but thou till thou art incapable of serving either God or man. 0, thou Beast, how much art thou worse than the horse thou ridest on !'

This story is, I am aware, familiar, in a vague form. Bun. yan's version of it is, however, worth preserving; it smacks so of his own style. “ His," as Dr. Southey well says, “ is a home-spun style, not a manufactured one. It is a clear stream of current English-the vernacular of his age; sometimes in. deed in its rusticity and coarseness, but always in its plainness and strength. To this natural style, Bunyan is in some degree indebted for his general popularity: his language is every where level to the most ignorant reader, and to the meanest capacity ; there is a homely reality about it: a nurse. ry tale is more intelligible, in its manner of narration, to a child."

It can hardly surprise any one, that Bunyan was not wiser than his generation, in regard to old stories about the devil. He gave currency to some of these, without at all qestioning their truth, when they happened to furnish warning against the popular vices of his times. It is, however, curious, that while he would believe almost anything about the devil, if it only showed the evil or the danger of sin, he was very cautious in giving an opinion upon the minstry of Angels. Accordingly when he was told of a “godly old Puritan,” whose wife heard, as he was dying, “ the sweetest music," “ like melodious notes of angels,” which “ went farther and farther off from the house," as the spirit departed, Bunyan said, “ I can. not say, but that God goes out of his ordinary road with us poor mortals sometimes.” He then added, that Badman's wife “ had better music in her heart,” when she was dying, " than sounded in this woman's ears.'

Here he is prudent : but in the very next breath, he tells old Clarke's most astounding story of the Woman of Oster, in Germany, without comment or query. “ This woman,” he says, “ used in her cursing, to give herself body and soul to the devil. Being reproved for it, she still continued the same ; till, being at a wedding-feast, the devil came in person, and carried her up into the air, with the most horrible outcries and roarings. In that sort, he carried her round about the town, so that the inhabitants were ready to die with fear.” I dare not quote

« PoprzedniaDalej »