Obrazy na stronie

for me.

I thought-now I grow worse and worse ; now I am farther off from conversion than ever I was before : wherefore I began to sink greatly, and began to entertain such discouragement in my heart as laid me low as hell. If I now should have burned at a stake, I could not believe that Christ had a love

Alas, I could neither hear Him, nor see Him, nor feel Him, nor savour any of His things. I was driven as with a tempest! My heart would be unclean, and the Canaan. ites would dwell in the land. All my sense and feeling were against me. I saw I had a heart that would sin, and that Jay under a Law that would condemn."

Further, in these days, I would find my heart shut itself up against the Lord, and against his holy word. I have found my unbelief to set, as it were, the shoulder to the door, to keep Him out: and that too even,—when I have with many a bitter sigh cried, Good Lord, break it open. Lord, break these ógates of brass,' and cut these · bars of iron asunder.”

The only thing which operated as a check upon this alienation and alarm, was, a vague hope that he might, like Cyrus, be intended for some service in the cause of God: " that word would sometimes create in my heart a peaceable pause,-"I girded thee, though thou hast not known me.'" We thus find him again taking up with one of the very

last Texts, which we should expect him to apply to himself at such a time. The application is not, however, so forced or far-fetched as it seems at first sight. It is, in fact, quite in keeping with the law of his associations: for he linked his ideas together by sounds or sensations.

When he did pray at all now, it was that “ the fears and aversions which, like gates of brass and bars of iron,” shut up his heart against godliness, might be broken. This was the form which his prayers took; and being also the form of the promise made to Cyrus, he tried to class himself, so far, with Cyrus. Bunyan took, however, another view of these sad failings when he wrote the history of them : “ These things,” he says, “ have often made me think of the child, which the father brought to Christ; who, while he was yet coming to Him, was thrown down by the devil, and also so rent and torn by him, that he lay and wallowed, foaming."

His distress really came to this soon; although Satan had, perhaps, less to do with it than with some former and subse. quent temptations of another kind. “My original and inward pollution,” he exclaims, “ that, that was my plague and afflic. tion;—that, I saw always putting itself forth within me at a dreadful rate ;—that, I had the guilt of to amazement. By reason of that, I was more loathsome in mine own eyes than a toad ; and I thought I was so in God's eyes too. Sin, and corruption, I said, would as naturally bubble out of my heart, as water would bubble out of a fountain. I thought now, that every one had a better heart than I had. I could have chang. ed hearts with any body. I thought none but the devil himself could equalize me for inward wickedness and pollution of mind.”

There is extravagance in this, certainly: but there is also much sober truth in it. For although there were worse hearts in Bedford, and anywhere, than Bunyan's, his heart was now both estranged and averse to meditative and devotional piety. “ The root of the matter” was in him : but it was overrun with the matted weeds of ignorance, fear, and suspicion. Even this is not all the truth concerning him, at this time. Like Jonah, he was “angry" with God, because the Gourds under which he wanted to screen his head, withered as fast as they had sprung up. He did not think the “ wee bush” of a simple Promise a better than nae bield ;" but almost demand. ed that the stately Cedars of Calling and Election, should spring “ up in a night,” and shelter him forever.

This is the real secret of Bunyan's hardness of heart: He could not get what he wanted, in his own way, nor at his own time; and therefore, he “charged God foolishly," and in no small bitterness as well as grief of spirit. « Sure, thought I," he exclaims, “I am forsaken of God; sure, I am given up to the devil, and to a reprobate mind. Now I was sorry that God had made me man; for I feared I was a reprobate. Yea, I thought it impossible that ever I should arrive to so much godliness of heart, as to thank God that he had made me a man. I counted myself alone, and above all men unblessed. The beasts, birds, fishes I blessed their condition; for they had not a sinful nature, and were not obnoxious to the wrath of God. I could have rejoiced had my condition been as theirs. I counted man-as unconverted the most doleful of all crea. tures."

There is more than self-abasement, or even than self-con. demnation, in this wild reasoning. It breathes much of pride and self-will also. I would not reprehend nor characterize it thus harshly, had it been but the occasional ebullition of his mind. Such dark and daring regrets may flash across the spirit for a moment, without proving much against its general temperament: but when they last and are indulged for years, they do prove that God is arraigned as well as dreaded. Now this temper did last long. Bunyan himself


6 Thus I continued a long while, even for some years together.” The misery he endured whilst indulging this wrong spirit must not, therefore, be allowed to hide or soften its badness. It was proud and peevish as well as despairing. He did all but curse the day of his birth.

This is a painful conclusion : but it is not a rash one ; nor is there any reason to wonder, that Bunyan's heart became thus exasperated against God. The heart of any man is capable of all this, if he once give way to despair. The heart will then harden, just in proportion as it suffers. Be sides, the very claims of Religion upon it, can exasperate its enmity against God, when they are looked at in all their length and breadth. Such a look of them, Bunyan had taken; and their “ Law” not only wrought “ wrath,” but also, as in the case of Paul, “all manner of concupiscence.” He saw what he ought to be in heart and spirit, and he did not like it. He was not unwilling to be moral ; but he was averse to spiritual. ity and heavenly

mindedness, when he found that they had to be cultivated by watchfulness and prayer, and to be maintain. ed as duties even when hope was low and feeling languid. Thus it was not “ false notions,” of his own depravity, which “ well nigh made him believe that his heart was hopelessly and incurably” depraved: but it was a clear sight and a deep sense of what his heart ought to be, that offended him at first, and afterwards exasperated him, when he found no way of prying into either the Ark of the divine purposes, or the Lamb's book of life. Disappointments of this kind can mortify as well as alarm; harden as well as horrify the mind : and the man who can “ observe the symptoms whilst in the paroxysms,” will inevitably, and not unreasonably, fall in with God's opinion, even to the very letter, that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” The Oracle adds the ques. tion, “Who can know it?” Bunyan knew it better than JEREMY Taylor,—who was at this time bending all the force of his genius and erudition against even the qualified creed of his own Church, on the subject of original and inherent sin; and better too than Anthony Burgess, although he was sustain. ing Augustine against Taylor ; for Bunyan judged from experience, and not from books nor tradition.

The difference of opinion on this subject, between Bunyan and Bishop Taylor, is easily accounted for. Both reasoned about the human heart from their own hearts, and in reference to widely different circumstances. Taylor's views of the heart were modified by his consciousness of what his own heart would “indite" upon an episcopal throne, or in the King's Chapel; and Bunyan, by what tinkering, travelling, and poverty, opposed to watchfulness and devotion. No thinking man can wonder, that those who can rise to affluence or influence by eminent piety, should feel less aversion to it at first, than those who cannot better their worldly circumstances at all. The heart does not writhe nor rise against spiritual religion, until much of it is required, and no temporal advan. tage be seen to accrue from it. I make this remark in connexion with Jeremy Taylor, because he is as justly venerated as he is well known, and because he is infinitely beyond all suspicion of direct worldly-mindedness. He retained both his greatness and spirituality, under poverty and suffering. But still, he reasoned and wrote, with Mitres and Palaces in his memory and imagination; and the prospect of restoring them, although not for himself, made him think too well of human nature, because he saw that it had no great objection to be even

66 Twice a saint in lawn."

He himself would have been a saint in sackcloth, after his principles were fixed and his character formed: but the ques. tion is, would he not have thought worse of human nature, had he been as like the TINKER in condition and education at first, as he was in genius and mental energy?

Bunyan did not always judge ill at this time, either of him. self or of others. He could see the folly of others in distress. ing themselves about earthly things, even when he was blind to his own folly in vexing himself about “secret things.” A sounder judgment of “ the course of this world” than the fol. lowing, it would not be easy to quote or conceive :- _66 While I was thus afflicted with the fears of my own damnation, there were two things would make me wonder.

The one was, when I saw people hunting after the things of this life, as if they should live here always. The other was,—when I found Professors much distressed and cast down when they met with outward losses, as of husband, wife, child, &c. Lord, thought 1,--what a-do is here about such little things as these! What seeking after carnal things by some, and what grief in others for the loss of thern ! These are not unfair nor unfeeling exclamations. He is no wise man who does not wonder and weep too, to see how all losses, but the loss of the soul, are deprecated and deplored; whilst that is not avoided nor feared by the generality. Bunyan went too far when he added, “If they so much labour after, and shed so many tears for, the things of this present life,—how am I to be bemoaned, pitied, and prayed for? My soul is dying! My soul is damning !' This conclusion was rash : but the reasoning is sound. So it is in the following exclamation, “ Were my soul but in a good condition, and were I but sure of it, ah! how rich should I esteem myself, though blessed with but bread and water. I should count those but small afflictions, and bear them as little burthens. But a wounded spirit who can bear?

Nothing, however, shows more the general soundness of Bunyan's judgment, during the years this despair lasted, than his willingness to bear “a wounded spirit,” rather than take up with a false peace, or a superficial cure.

He dreaded a seired conscience more than a sad heart. Hence he says, with touching simplicity, and with holy jealousy, and with great wisdom,

—Though I was much troubled, and tossed, and afflicted, with the sight, sense, and terror of my own wick. edness, yet I was afraid to let this sight and sense go quite off my mind : for I found, that unless guilt of conscience was taken off the right way—by the Blood of Christma man grew rather worse for the loss of his trouble of mind. Wherefore, if my guilt lay hard upon me, then would I cry that the blood of Christ might take it off. And if it was going off without IT (for the sense of sin would be sometimes as if it would die and go quite away,) then I would also strive to fetch it upon my heart agair, by bringing the punishment of sin in hell-fire upon iny spirits ; and would cry, Lord, let it not go off my heart, but in the right way-by the blood of Christ, and the application of Thy mercy, through Him, to my soul. For that Scripture did lay much upon me, without shedding of blood there is no remission.' Heb. ix. 22. And that which made me more afraid of this, was,—because I had seen some who, though when they were under the wounds of conscience would prar and cry, yet, seeking rather present ease from their trouble than pardon for their sin, cared not how they lost their guilt, so they got it out of their mind. Now having got it

« PoprzedniaDalej »