« PoprzedniaDalej »
But how much more might one upon it see,
Works, vol. ii.
“ The twittering swallow” wheeling around the prison, and skimming the river, did not escape his notice, nor move in vain.
“This pretty bird, O, how she flies and sings!
But could she do so, if she had not wings ?
Works, vol. ii. p. 959.
Such was Bunyan's spirit in prison : such were his sympa. thies, associations, longings and amusements. And those who sympathize with his joys and sorrows, whilst an Ambassador in bonds, and an author in purpose, will not laugh at my at. tempts to get and give a sight of him. They may be fail. ures; but they have been efforts, honestly and patiently made; and which, perhaps, no one else would have made, unless he had more in view than mere biography, and other than literary motives. But whilst I have forgotten neither of these, I have been chiefly influenced and regulated by the great moral lesson which the life and talents of Bunyan teach. I want those who admire the Pilgrim, and marvel at « The Grace Abound. ing," to study the whole character of the Author.
MO RA L PHILOSOPHY.
In a list of eminent Protestant Bishops lately published in Ireland to confront the Popish Bench, the name of Bunyan appears as one of the stars of the British Episcopate. This may be an Irish bull, but it is not a moral blunder. Bishop Bunyan was the Tinker's first title, when he ceased to be a tinker ; and Whitefield gave currency to it in Ireland. In this way, the worthy Clergyman who drew up the list was misled. It is, however, neither a mistake nor a misnomer to call Bunyan a moral Philosopher, if a high relish for virtue, and a deep insight into its elements and excellence, constitute a great Moralist. He could also apply, as well as explain, its principles. He knew human nature as well as divine law. He was both a mental and moral Philosopher; and could do what few of either class have ever attempted,close with the consciences of his readers, and pursue both the stubborn and the treacherous through all the labyrinths of resistance and evasion. His genius, like the magnetized chariot of the Chi. nese emperor, which enabled him to make conquests by show. ing him in what direction to pursue the enemy, both fitted and inclined Bunyan to fight for victory, in battling with the vi. cious and the compromising.
This cast of his mind has never been sufficiently illustrated or noticed. His Pilgrims are, indeed, Ethics in motion ;—Morals in action ; but they are so, because his general principles were profound, and his tact and insight intuitive.
Nothing is more distinguishable in his character, than his keen discernment of “the beauties of Holiness.” He was emphatically " of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.” No painter or poet ever had a finer eye for the beauties and sublimities of Nature, than he had for the graces, virtues, and proprieties of Christian character. He understood them, as well as exemplified them. He could define or depict them all in words, as well as imitate them in his practice and spirit. This is more than could be expected from him, when his edu. cation, condition, and associations are remembered. For even when these became most favourable to the improvement of his taste and character, they. did not amount to much that was either inspiring or instructive; nor do they explain his moral discernment. He never saw good society, in the conventional sense of that phrase, until some of his best treatises on the
things which are pure, lovely, and of good report,” were written. He had met, indeed, good men, and mixed a little with pious families, before his imprisonment: but they were all in the lower ranks of life, and more influenced in their virtues by the rules of virtue, than by the reasons of it. I mean, that they had more principle than sentiment, or more conscience than taste in their well-doing. 6 From whence then had this man knowledge” of the foundations, refinements, and secrets of high-toned morals and courtesy !
Now it is certain that Bunyan did not learn general principles from ethical books. He had none to consult ; except Bishор Fowler's “ Design of Christianity,” can be considered such ; and he hated its theology too much to admire its ethics. Be. sides, he had written his Pilgrim before he read that book ; and there he had evinced both
his knowledge and tact as a moralist, as well as a divine. This remark applies equally to his acquaintance with some of the writings of Campian the Jesuit, and William Penn. He read them in 1671, in order to prove that Fowler “ falleth in with the Quakers and Ro. manists against the 10th, 11th, and 13th of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England.”
As Bunyan had no Books in prison from which he could derive his profound and delicate views of the beauty of Ho. liness, so he had no instructive companions in it. He had examples of personal holiness before him there, in his brethren and companions in tribulation; but no moral philosophers, that we know of. Wheeler and Dunn were good men ; but not Masters in Israel. Besides, even if there were, now and then, some men of learning and talent, amongst the Nonconformist prisoners in Bedford Jail, Bunyan had proved himself a phi. losopher whilst he was a tinker. He made Edward Burroughs feel this, when he reduced all his sophism about the Inward Light, to absurdities. The Quaker found that he had a Meta. physician to deal with, and therefore called him a liar.
In Like manner, Dr. Fowler, whilst he affected to despise him, was
glad to shelter himself from Bunyan's generalizing logic, der Baxter's special pleading. Baxter, indeed, defended the work better than its author did : but Bunyan foiled them both on the question of Justification by Faith. This would be no great achievement now; but it was a victory then.
We are thus shut up to the Bible, for the origin of Bunyan's pure taste and general principles; and never was there a finer illustration or proof of its being able to furnish the man of God, thoroughly unto every good work and word.” Its one maxim, —Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity,"_became in Bunyan's hands a perfect system of Moral Philosophy ; embracing at once the princi. ples and details of duty. “ The design of this exhortation,” he says,
“ was, and is, that naming the name of Christ should be accompanied with such a life of holiness as shall put additional lustre upon
that name, whenever it is named in a religious way.” lustre he himself determined to shed upon the name of Christ. “For my part,” he says, “ I had rather be a pattern and exam. ple of piety; rather my life should be instructing to the saints, and condemning to the world, with Noah and Lot, than hazard myself amongst the multitude of the drossy. I know that many professors will fall short of eternal life; and my judg. ment tells me they will be of the slovenly sort, that so do: and for my part, I had rather run with the foremost, and win the prize, than come behind and lose my labour. Not that works do save us : but faith which layeth hold of Christ's righteous. ness for justification, sanctifieth the heart, and makes men desirous to live in this world to the glory of that Christ who died to save us from death."
This was his mode of applying the maxim to himself. And he exemplified it so, that he could look round wherever he had gone preaching the Gospel," and say, without faltering or blushing, “ For my part, I doubt the faith of many; and fear that it will prove no better than the faith of devils, in the day of God: for it standeth in bare speculation, and is without life and soul to that which is good. For where is the man that walketh with the Cross on his shoulder! Where is the man zealous of moral holiness ? For those things, indeed, which have nothing of the cross of the purse—or the cross of the belly-or the cross of the back—or the cross of the vanity of household affairs, I find many busy sticklers : but self-denial, charity, purity in life and conversation, are almost turned quite out of doors amongst professors. But, Man of God, do thou be singular! Singularity in godliness, if it be in godliness, no man should be ashamed of.
Holiness is a rare thing now in the world. Did we but look back to the Puritans, and especially to those that suffered for the Word of God in the Marian days, we should see another life than is now among men. But hope to be with Christ hereafter, will make me strive to be like him here. Hope of being with Angels then, should make a man strive to live like an Angel here. Alas, alas, there is a company of half-priests in the world, and they cannot, dare not, teach the people the whole counsel of God. Where is that minister to be found now, that dare say to his people, look on me, and walk as you have me for an example ?"
It is needless to say, that Bunyan was not boasting, when he spoke thus of himself. He was emphatically a humble man, although proverbially a holy man. The fact is, he wanted to stand committed and pledged before the world, to be all that he professed. He had also a deep conviction, that peculiar times required “a peculiar people, zealous of good works." “ I have often thought,” he said on his death-bed, 6 that the best Cristians are found in the worst times.” This led him (strange as it may appear !) to regret that he had not been “ counted worthy to suffer” more for the name of Christ. Hence he said also, on his death-bed, “ I have thought again, that one reason why we are not better, is, because God
purges us no more (by the furnace.) Noah and Lot;—who so holy as they, in the time of their affliction? And yet, who so idle as they, in the time of their prosperity ?” Bunyan's views on the subject of suffering for Christ's sake, deserve the highest veneration. They ought not be confounded with the thirst of Polycarp for martyrdom, or with the longings of Whitefield and Wesley for the scorn of the world. Bunyan was wiser than the latter in early life, and than the former in old age. “ It is not every suffering,” he says, “ that makes a man a martyr; but suffering for the word of God after a right man. ner: that is, not only for righteousness, but for righteousness' sake ; not only for truth, but out of love to truth ; not only for God's Word, but according to it: viz., in that holy, humble, meek manner, the Word of God requireth. It is a rare thing to suffer aright; (or so as) to have my spirit, in suffering, bent against God's enemy, Sin ;-sin in doctrine, sin in worship, sin in life, and sin in conversation."-Death Bed Sayings,