Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

wished that Howard had not pulled down the old Jail; just that we might have seen and shown how Bunyan sat at his table—and how the light fell upon his Bible and papers and what room he had for walking when his limbs ached with sit. ting—and whether the fire-place was smoky—and how far his bed was out of the draught. Biography is as tedious to write, as it is to read, when we cannot get thus to a man's side, and peep at all his circumstances. It will not, however, be for want of trying to do so, that I shall fail to give life to my picture.

Bunyan's first deep thoughts in prison, so far as they did not regard himself and his family, were peculiar, and came very unexpectedly upon him. One Sabbath, when it was his. turn to expound the Scriptures to his fellow prisoners, he found himself “ so empty, spiritless, and barren," that he verily thought he could not speak five words of edifying truth, with either “ life or evidence.” But it was his turn; and he had no alternative; for his brethren and companions in tribulation for the kingdom of God, « expected to be refreshed” by him. “ Providentially it so fell out at last,” he says, “ that I cast my eye upon the 11th verse of the 20th Chapter of the Revela. tions : upon which when I had considered awhile, methought I perceived something of the Jasper in whose light you there find that this Holy City is said to come and descend. Where. fore, having got in my eye some dim glimmerings thereof, and finding in my heart a desire to see further thereinto, I with a few groans

did carry my meditations to the Lord Jesus for a blessing, which he did forthwith grant according to his grace.”

Such was the origin of his Holy City. That work is often called “ The Holy City's Resurrection :” but Bunyan does not give it that title in the first Edition ; which is now

I have already hinted that it was a favourite with him, because it burst upon him unexpectedly, and flowed from long cherished recollections of sick-bed meditations. Accord. ingly, he dedicated it to “ four sorts of readers.” The fourth epistle is addressed to “ The Mother of Harlots," thus; “ Mis. tress, I suppose I have nothing here, that will either please your wanton eye, or go down with your voluptuous palate. Here is bread indeed, as also milk and wheat : but here is neither paint to adorn thy wrinkled face, nor crutch to uphold or un. dershore thy shaking, tottering, staggering kingdom of Rome ; but rather à certain presage of thy sudden and fearful final downfall ; and of the exaltation of that Holy Matron whose

before me.

chastity thou dost abhor, because by it she reproveth and condemneth thy lewd and stubborn life. Wherefore, Lady,smell thou mayst of this ; but taste thou wilt not. Thou wilt at the sight of so homely a dish as this, snuff, and cry · Foh ;' put the branch to the nose, and say “Contemptible !' But Wisdom is justified of all her children. The Virgin daughter of Zion hath despised thee and laughed thee to scorn; Jeru. salem hath shaken her head at thee; yea, her God hath smit. ten his hands at thy dishonest gains and freaks.”

This “ homely dish,” as Bunyan calls the Treatise, must have made his fellow prisoners turn up

their
eyes

in wonder, whether it made the Scarlet Lady turn up her nose in disgust or not.

It is really an amazing Commentary, and must have had an electrical effect upon his companions. Even the scholars and theologians amongst them, must have felt that they had no such knowledge of the letter of Scripture, and no such power of assimilating and combining scriptural facts and figures. For in none of his works has Bunyan shown such an acquaintance with the language of the Bible ; or such dexterity in harmonizing Old Testament types with New Testament symbols, in the interpretation of prophecy. The old and new imagery of Revelation, almost ceases to be mystical in his hands, and becomes as intelligible as ordinary words. It is, of course, impossible to illustrate this here. It would, however, be

wrong not to mention the fact. No reader of the “ HOLY Citr” may agree with Bunyan's theory of Apocalyptic visions ;

but

every reader of it must feel, with all the force of a sensation, that he never saw the man who had such com. mand over sacred phraseology. It was well that Bunyan had no Millenarian vagaries ; for with his power over the harp of prophecy, he would have been a bewitching minstrel in the Vatican of that School.

Bunyan's friends did not forget him when he became a prisoner. Some of them visited him, and others remembered his bonds as if they had been bound with him. He felt their kindness; and as the least suspicious mode of answering the Letters he received, he published a poetical Epistle, dedicated to “ The Heart of Suffering Saints and Reigning Sinners." There are some verses of this poem deserve preservation ; especially as we have so few specimens of Bunyan's corres. pondence.

“Friend, I salute thee in the Lord,

And wish thou may'st abound
In faith, and have a good regard
To keep on holy ground.
Thou dost encourage me to hold
My head above the flood;
Thy counsel better is than gold,
In need thereof I stood!

“I take it kindly at thy hand,
Thou didst unto me write!
My feet upon Mount Zion stand-
In that is my delight.
I am indeed in prison now,
In body; but my

mind
Is free to study Christ, and how
Unto me He is kind.

“For though men keep my outward man
Within their bolts and bars ;
Yet by the faith of Christ I can
Mount higher than the stars.
Their fetters cannot spirits tame,
Nor tie up God from me,
My faith and hope they cannot lame :
Above them I shall be.
“I
here am very much refreshed
To think-When I was out,
I preached life, and peace, and rest,
To sinners round about.'
My business then was souls to save,
By preaching grace and faith :
Of which the comfort now I have,
And shall have unto death.

“ Alas, they little think what peace

They help me to: for by
Their rage, my comforts do increase
Bless God, therefore, do I!
Though they say, then, that we are fools,
Because we here do lie,
I answer, jails are Jesus' schools ;
In them we learn to die.

66T is not the baseness of this state

Doth hide from us God's face :
He frequently, both soon and late,
Doth visit us with grace.
Here come the angels, here come saints,
Here comes the Spirit of God,
To comfort us in our restraints
Under the wicked's rod.

"To them that here for evil lie,
This place is comfortless :
But not to me, because that I
Suffer for righteousness.
The Truth and I were both here cast
Together; and we do
Lie arm in arm, and so hold fast
Each other. This is true !

“ This jail to us is as a hill,

From whence we plainly see
Beyond this world, and take our fill
Of things that lasting be.
We change our drossy dust for gold;
From death to life we fly.
We let go shadows, and take hold

Of immortality.
"That liberty we lose for Him,

Sickness might take away.
Our goods might also, for our sin,
By fire or thieves decay.
Who now dare say, we throw away
Our goods or liberty?
When God's most Holy Word doth say,
We gain thus much thereby.
Hark yet again, ye carnal men,

And hear what I shall say
In your own dialect, and ihen
I'll you no longer stay!
Though you dare crack a coward's crown,
Or quarrel for a pin,
You dare not on the wicked frown,
Nor speak against their sin.
“Know, then, true valour there doth dwell,

Where men engage for God,
Against the Devil, Death, and Hell,
And bear the wicked's rod.
These be the men that God doth count
Of high and noble mind:
T'hese be the men that do surmount
What you in nature find.

Works, vol. ii.

p. 1477.

This “ lights us deep” into the cast of Bunyan's musings in prison. They were not, however, always thus bold, or bright. But, bright or dark, he has told them with equal frankness, and for a noble purpose. There is nothing finer, either in sentiment or language, in any writer, than his application of David's words, on contributing to the building of the temple,

[ocr errors]

to his own legacy to the church :-“ Many more of the divine dealings towards me (in prison) I might relate: but these, out of the SPOILS won in battle, havé I dedicated to maintain the house of God.” These spoils, happily, remain for the use of the church. " I have continued with much content, through grace,” he says, “in prison : but have met with many turnings and goings upon my heart, both from the Lord, Satan, and my own corruptions. By all which—Glory be to Jesus ! I have also received, among many things, much conviction, instruc. tion, and understanding : of which, at large, I shall not here discourse : only give you a hint or two; a word that may

stir up the godly to bless God, and to pray for me ; and also to take encouragement, should the case be their own, · Not to fear what man can do unto them.'

I never had, in all my life, so great an inlet into the word of God as now : those scriptures that I saw nothing in before, were made, in this place and state, to shine upon me; Jesus Christ also was never more real and apparent than now; here I have seen and felt him indeed. Oh! that word, · We have not preached unto you cunningly devised fables ;' and that, • God raised Christ from the dead, and gave him glory, that our faith and hope might be in God,' were blessed words unto me in this my imprisoned condition.

“ These three or four scriptures, also, have been great refreshments in this condition to me: • Let not your heart be troubled ; ye believe in God, believe also in me.--In my Fa. ther's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.—I go to prepare a place for you.—And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am there ye may be also.—And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.–These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.-In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God; when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. But ye are come to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. To the general assembly and church of the first-born which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all; and to the spirits of just men made perfect; and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” So that sometimes, when I have enjoyed the savour of them, I

« PoprzedniaDalej »