Obrazy na stronie

Nothing, certainly, was farther from the design of the men who led on the general Body, than to imply, even, that the Churches or Ministers who held Open Communion, held any disloyal or disorganizing opinions. They did not, however, fraternize with them, nor own them. They did not stand aloof from them exactly as they did from Henry Adis's Free Willers, nor at all for the same reasons : but still, they had no fellowship with them; and hence, Bunyan was suspected of some connexion with the Fifth Monarchy men, when he was discovered in London among the liberal Baptists. This view of the case has never been taken, that I know of; and I am not sure that it can be fully sustained. It is, however, forced upon me by the light in which the Protests of the general Body placed, “The small Society of baptized believers, under. going the name of the Free Willers, about the city of Lon. don.' Henry Adis, Richard Pilgrim, and William Cox, " in behalf of themselves, and those who walk with them,” say, that they were more suspected and persecuted than others. They seem to have been high Millenarians; and thus the Protests against certain views of the personal reign of Christ on earth,” although not aimed at them by the Writers, were applied to them by the magistrates. And the severity of Bunyan's im. prisonment, seems to have arisen from a similar cause. He was not identified with the great body of his brethren, and thus he was even more suspected by the Church and the State than the generality of them.

Whatever truth there may be in this view of the matter, will not be altered in its power or position by the fact, that the Baptist Body condemned, by their declaration, all Churches, in common with that of Bunyan. This is true. But it is equally true at this time, that their condemnation of all but Baptist Churches went for nothing. Their condemnation of other Churches passed for praise : whereas, in excepting any of their own order, they subjected them, however undesignedly, to unusual suspicion : for as all Baptists were then deemed Ana. baptists, it was readily supposed that disowned Baptists de. served the name.

Neither, indeed, deserved it. It was a mere and vile calumny. But thus it was perpetuated. Accordingly, Jessey was twice arrested and imprisoned at this time. His name, like Bunyan's, was not appended to the Declaration of Faith ; and thus he too felt the consequences of not being recognized by the Body.

These, to say the least, are singular coincidences, even

[ocr errors]

if they do not prove that the Protests against the name Anabaptist created suspicion against those who did not sign them. It is also a curious fact, that Bunyan had so little fear, or care, about the name, that he applies it to the whole Body, just as he does the titles Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Independent, to other Bodies.- Works, vol. iii. p. 1403.

But if Bunyan sustained some accidental injury from the circumstance, that the vindications of themselves, issued by the General Body, left those who did not belong to it, to all the jealousy of the times, he derived much benefit from the noble example of fortitude and patience, which Keach and and Kiffen, Knollys and Vavaser Powel, exhibited. He did not, indeed, see Keach in the pillory, nor Kiffen at the bar, nor Knollys haled through the streets, nor Dagnall under sentence of death, nor the equally noble sight of Brandon of Ayles. bury returning, with tears for his momentary recantation, to share Dagnall's sentence if necessary; but he heard of all this, and caught the inspiration of it, and stood prepared to imitate them all, if called upon to endure more than bonds. Bunyan could forgive Kiffen any thing; he admired him so much for his prudence and heroism. “ I forgive Mr. Kiffen,"

“ and love him never the worse, for what he hath done in the matter of those unhandsome brands that my Brethren have laid upon me, for saying that the Church of Christ hath not warrant to keep out of her Communion a visible

One reason of this disinterested love was, that Kiffen by his influence with the Chancellor, had obtained a reprieve for ten men and two women, who were sentenced to death at Aylesbury for mere nonconformity.-Crosby, vol. ii. p. 184.

Keach also stood deservedly high in Bunyan's estimation, although he had often laid “The Axe to the Root” he thought) of the Open Communion system. This, Bunyan forgot, as he did the abortive attempts of the good old Tro. pologist to allegorize, and thought only of his martyr-spirit at the pillory. No wonder that this commended itself to a spirit of the same order! A fàinter spirit than Bunyan's glows and glories to hear Keach say to his weeping friends, as they followed him to the Pillory, in Aylesbury, " The Cross is the way to the Crown." Crosby says, (and he had the nar. rative of a witness to copy from) that “ His head and hands were no sooner fixed in the Pillory, than he began to address himself to the spectators thus : "Good people, I am not

he says,



ashamed to stand here this day, with this paper on my head; my Lord was not ashamed to suffer on the Cross.

Take notice,—it is not for any wickedness that I stand here; but for writing and publishing His truths.'

“ After he had stood sometime silent, getting one of his hands at liberty, he pulled his Bible out of his pocket, and held it up to the people saying, “The things for which I am a spectacle to men and angels this day, are all contained in this book, as I could prove out of the same, if I had an opportuni. ty. At this, the Jailor interrupted him, and with great anger inquired who gave him the book ? Some said, his wife. She was near him, and frequently spoke in vindication of her husband, and the principles for which he suffered. But Mr. Keach replied, that he took it out of his own pocket. Upon this the Jailor took it from him, and fastened up his hand again, and told him he must not speak. But it was almost impossible to keep him from speaking. The Sheriff came in a great rage, and said he should be gagged, if he would not be silent.” --Crosby, vol. ii. p. 206.

Even after this, he ventured to speak again. At last, find. ing it was of no use to try more, he stood in silence until his two hours were completed; or only uttering the words, “ Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” When the full time of his sentence was expired, the Underkeeper lifted up the board; and soon as his head and hands were at liberty, he blessed God with a loud voice for his great goodness to him. This pillorying was repeated next week at Winslow, with the additional outrage of burning the Book for which he was condemned, be. fore his eyes. This obnoxious Book was, “The Child's In. structor, or a new and easy Primer;" but it denied Infant Baptism, and Ecclesiastical Domination. It also taught the Personal Reign of Christ on earth, just as the prophetic party in the Church do now !

After a laborious life, and many sufferings, Mr. Keach died in peace at home.

His noble-minded wife did not long survive the scenes of the pillory. She sank in the 31st year of her age. Her resemblance to "Bunyan's Elizabeth was, no doubt, one reason of his veneration for her husband.

I am not conjecturing, in thus ascribing to the example of his suffering Brethren, some of Bunyan's fortitude in prison.. His Works are full of proofs, that he knew well what they were enduring, and felt deeply the inspiration of their magna.

nimity. Not that his Baptist Brethren alone had this influence upon

his spirit. All sufferers for conscience sake were dear to him;

and hence he grouped them in his kind appeals to them. And his appeals had weight, after the publication of his Pilgrim. That Book opened many hearts to him amongst the Strict Baptists, although it relaxed none of their strictness. Christian, Faithful, and Hopeful were admitted into full communion in all their Churches, although John Bunyan was shut out.

[blocks in formation]

BUNYAN little dreamt, glorious dreamer as he was, that his prison would one day give the philanthropy of HOWARD both an impulse and a direction, which should improve all the prisons of Europe. It was, however, the old Jail on Bedford Bridge, which was almost damp enough to make “ the moss grow upon the eyebrows” of the prisoners, that fully awoke Howard to his great enterprise. His first act, when appointed High Sheriff of the county, was to improve the Jail. And it derogates nothing from the purity of his motives, or from the catholicity of his spirit, or from the splendour of his fame, to proclaim the fact, that his principles as a Dissenter heightened all his sympathies as a man and a Christian. Had Bunyan never been in Bedford Jail, nor Howard been a non. conformist, that Jail would indeed have been improved; but not so promptly, nor with such a bearing upon the prison. houses of the world.

Howard's strong sympathies with Bunyan's principles, naturally expanded into universal philanthropy. For although no character could be more unlike Bunyan's, than that of prisoners in general, the very contrast gave power to pity : because if a holy prisoner, with a good conscience and a hope full of immortality, was yet a sad man often, and at times ready to sink, what wretched men must guilty and ungodly prisoners be! This was the line of Howard's logic !

It is well known that Bunyan was not idle in prison. It is not, however, every one who knows the number and the names of the Books he wrote in Jail, that has an acquaintance with either their origin or progress. None of his biographers have led us into his cell, or enabled us to see him musing, writing, or expounding. Indeed, it was long before I could find out enough of the Chronology of his works to obtain vivid or de. finite glimpses of the student or the study. I have often

« PoprzedniaDalej »