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generality when they begin to care for their souls, Even those who know something of it as a scheme of salvation by grace and through faith, have little or no idea, at first, that believing it is faith. They usually mean by faith, something more diffi. cult, and less within their power, than even the best of good works. Instead, therefore, of its being a wonder that so many are frightened or confused, when they begin to grapple in good earnest with the question of acceptance with God, the wonder is that so few are gravelled by it, or that Bunyan is a rarity.
Besides, were the Gospel well known to every one, no one knows himself well at first, in reference to religion. Now self-knowledge is just as much wanted as scriptural know. ledge: and as nothing can teach the former but Experience in any case, and bitter Experience in most cases, it is wisely ordered that all shall suffer more or less, for a time, from fears and temptations. They thus learn (what neither Reason nor Conscience suggest) that their own hearts are not to be trust. ed, nor their own resolutions to be depended upon. They discover also (for it is a discovery) that they are quite capable of going into opinions and presuinptions, which, if not checked by the healthful Spirit of truth, grace, and holiness, would land them in impiety or scepticism. It is, therefore, a good thing for any man to get a sight, by any means, of his own heart. No man would or could believe the extent of its alienation from God, without being left to feel it now and then. For as it is only sickness or danger, which can bring home to us a practical sense of our weakness and mortality, so it is only Experi. ence which can make us afraid of our own hearts.
I have been led into these considerations by a remark of Bishop Butler's, which throws more light upon the infancy of Internal Religion, than the crucifix he set up in the palace-chapel of Durham (from which the crucifix was first removed by an ancestor of my family) did on “ The Importance of Exter. nal Religion :"_“If we suppose,” he says in ANALOGY, (p. 107) “ a person brought into the world with both body and mind in maturity, as far as this is conceivable, he would plain. ly, at first, be as unqualified for the business of life as an Idiot. He would be in a manner distracted with astonishment, and apprehension, and curiosity, and suspense : nor can one guess how long it would be before he would be familiarized to himself and the objects about him, enough even to set himself to any. thing. It may be questioned too, whether the natural informa. tion of his sight and hearing would be of any manner of use at all to him in acting, before experience. And it seems, that men would be strangely head-strong and self-willed, and dis. posed to exert themselves with an impetuosity which would ren. der society insupportable, and living in it impracticable, were it not for some acquired moderation and self-government, some aptitude and readiness in restraining themselves, and in con. cealing their sense of things.-In these respects, and probably in many more of which we have no particular notion, mankind is left by nature an unformed and unfinished creature, utterly deficient and unqualified, before the acquirement of knowledge, experience, and habits, for that mature state of life which was the end of his creation ; considering him as related only to this world.” All this is equally true of mankind, in regard to re. ligion.
I thus bespeak the candour of Philosophy, as well as of edu. cated Piety, on behalf of new-born Bunyan. I will neither conceal nor soften his freaks or fancies, his caprice or rash. ness : but I must treat them with tenderness and demand for him great allowances at this stage of his Christian life.
Bunyan erred nearly as much when he ascribed all his dis. couragements and suspicions to the Tempter, as when he charged himself with the guilt of every temptation which haunt. ed him. This is hardly to be wondered at. He was ignorant of the devices of Satan, when they began to sift and shake him ; and he had suffered so much from them before it could be said of him as of Christ, “ then the devil leaveth him, and an An. gel ministered unto him,” that he naturally traced to the devil all the fears and doubts, as well as the distractions and blasphemies, which had ever harassed his mind. He saw, when writing an account of them, that his dilemmas had had the same influence as his distractions, in beating him off from the foundation of Hope ; and therefore he ascribed both to the same cause. It is not necessary, however, that his Biogra. pher should do so. It has been too often done already by his Annalists. Besides, there is much in his Experience not easily to be accounted for, even when Satanic
agency is drawn upon for explanations. Such being the fact, I am not inclined to draw much upon that source, until nothing else will explain Bunyan's temptations.
It is not meant by these remarks, to convey the idea that Satan had nothing to do with Bunyan's wild reasonings about faith, and election, and the length of the day of grace. All I
“ to find my
mean, is, that “no strange thing had befallen " him, when questions about “ secret things" drove him to his wits' end. Such questions are only too natural : without strong temptation to enforce or suggest them. They might have occurred without Satan; although, when once started, he struck in with them, or turned them into “ fiery darts.” That he did so, in this instance, cannot be doubted by any one who be. lieves in his agency : for it will be seen, that the questions soon go against the very “grain of nature,” as well as against Bunyan's flame of desire." I began,” he says, soul assaulted with fresh doubts about my future happiness : especially with such as these; Whether I was elected ? How if the day of grace be past? By these two temptations, I was very much afflicted and disquieted : sometimes by one, and sometimes by the other of them.”
“ And first, to speak of that about questioning my elec. tion :—I found at this time, that though I was in a flame to find the way to Heaven and Glory, and though nothing could beat me off from this, yet this question did so offend and dis. courage me, that I was, (especially at some times,) as if the very strength of my body also, had been taken away by the force and power thereof. This Scripture did also seein to trample upon all my desires,- It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.' With this Scripture,–I could not tell what to do; for I evidently
that unless the great God, of his infinite grace, had voluntarily chosen me to be a vessel of mercy, though I should desire and long, and labour until my heart did break.no good could come of it. Therefore, this would stick with me: How can you tell that you are elected ? And, what if you should not (be so ?) How then ?
“O Lord, thought I,—What if I should not, indeed ? It may be you are not (elected), said the Tempter. It may be so, indeed, said I. Why then, said Satan, you had as good leave off, and strive no farther ; for if, indeed, you should not be elected and chosen of God, there is no hope of your being saved ; for it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that run. neth, but of God that showeth mercy.
“ By these things I was driven to my wits' end ; not know. ing what to say, nor how to answer the temptations. Indeed, I little thought that Satan had thus assaulted me : but that rather it was my own prudence, thus to start the question. For that the Elect only obtained eternal life, that, I without
scruple, did heartily close with : but that myself was one of them ;—there lay the question! Thus, therefore, for several days, I was greatly assaulted and perplexed; and was often, when I have been walking, ready to sink where I went, with faintness in my mind.”
Thus although this question originated in a mistake of Bun. yan's, it was ripened into a temptation by Satan. In itself, it was not an unnatural question ; but it became absolutely Sa. tanic, when it prevailed over a very flame of holy and heaven. ly desire, and thus prostrated both a robust body and a mighty mind. I cannot, notwithstanding all my suspicions of the morbid cast of Bunyan's mind, exclude temptation here. There is less of it, indeed, than in some of his subsequent horrors; but still enough to compel the exclamation, “ An Enemy hath done this !”
This is, certainly, a convenient, as well as a summary, mode of accounting for the overwhelming effects of such a ques. tion. It is, I grant, employing one mystery to explain another. Still, better do that, than do nothing. Satanic agency, however mysterious in itself, aud whatever difficul. ties it involves, is a revealed fact: whereas it is neither reveal. ed by God, nor ascertained by philosophy, that mind has a natural tendency to torture itself into despair with such ques. tions. It is inclined to tamper with them, and to indulge many suspicions and fears for the safety of what is dear, and about the success of what is important. We conjure up thousands of dark fancies, and can make ourselves feverish by dwelling upon imaginary accidents. But it is not natural to indulge the fear of perishing, nor yet to lay to heart the dan. ger of being lost forever. All the natural tendencies of the human mind lean the other way, and trifle or presume, until the power of Truth check them. When, therefore, that power set Bunyan “in a flame to find the way to Heaven and Glory," that flame took, of course, the guidance of his voluntary thoughts. From whence, then, came the involuntary fears which prevailed against both volition and burning desire ? He who says in answer to this question, from the mind itself,” insinuates more against the Author of mind, than he who traces the overwhelming fears to the agency of Satan. For if the constitution of the mind incline it to a bye-play, which can defeat all its best and concentrated desires, even when their spring-tide flows upon the eternal channels of self-love, and in a heavenward direction, then are we more
perilled by this mental bye-play, than by all the power of Satan. He is an Enemy without ; of whom we are apprised and warned: but this is an enemy within ; of whom we have no notice. We are told that Satan suggests lies; and thus we are prepared to suspect him. But we are not told by the Father of our spirits, that there is in them a lurking bias to despair, which may defeat all their wishes and efforts to hope. We are told by God, of inward foes to Holiness, and of the war of the flesh against the spirit, and of a law in the members opposed to the law of the mind : but of no inward law, lust, or bias against Hope. When, therefore, philosophizers ascribe such despair to the mind itself, in order to get rid of Satanic agency, they only involve themselves in the greater difficulty, of accounting for tendency instead of temptation. In this dilemma, the latter is the least horn.
We have seen that neither the cast of Bunyan's mind, nor the defects of his knowledge, will account fully for his proneness to despair. They explain, however, the way in which Satan took advantage of him so often and easily. Bunyan's temperament was prying, capricious, and moody; and as he had no taste now for his old sins, and had never dreamt that it was wrong or unwise to indulge fancies and curiosity, he was thus an easy prey to the tempter. In fact, he almost tempted the devil; for he thought it prudence" to start and pursue curious questions, even at all hazards : a temper which Satan has always humoured equally, whether indulged under the Tree of Knowledge, the Tree of Ignorance, or the Tree of Life.
Bunyan's curiosity was, however, universal. It pried into every thing which fell under his notice; and thus the bright as well as the dark side of the Pillar of Revelation, engaged his scrutinizing eye from time to time. His mind could dwell long on the dark side; but it could not forget the bright side altogether. Accordingly, after he had been “many weeks oppressed and cast down,” by questioning his election, he remembered having read the words, “ Look at the generations of old, and see : did ever any trust in God, and were confounded ?” That moment his hopes, which had just before been quite "giving up the ghost,” revived, as if an angel had ministered to him, when the devil left him. Yea, they did not sink, even when he could not find the passage in either the Old or the New Testament, nor although none of his pious friends “ knew such place.” More than a year elapsed before