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LIFE OF JOHN BUNYAN.
BUNYAN'S BIRTH AND PARENTAGE: DEPRAVITY
OF HIS YOUTHFUL YEARS.
BEDFORD is a flourishing town, lying in a rich valley, on the banks of the Ouse, about fifty miles from London. It is a place of great antiquity, and has been the theatre of important events. More than a thousand years have passed away since the first building was erected on its site. It has been the scene of Saxon and Danish warfare; and its strong castle (demolished centuries ago) witnessed many a bloody siege. Yet to multitudes, with whom its name is a familiar sound, Bedford is known only from its connection with an individual who, though of obscure parentage and humble occupation, there earned for himself “
a name that will outlive the memory of kings"—the worldrenowned author of the Pilgrim's Progress.
But although we are accustomed to associate the town of Bedford with the name of Bunyan, he was not a native of that place, but of Elstow, a small village about a mile distant, where he was born in the year 1628, in the humble dwelling which is represented in our engraving.
Of Bunyan's early history, except his spirit. ual experience, of which he has left a faithful and ample record, little can now be ascertained. Had he dreamed, observes Dr. Southey, of being for ever known, and taking his place among those who
be called the immortals of the earth, he would probably have given us more details of his temporal circumstances and the events of his life; but glorious dreamer though he was, this never entered into his imaginings.
Of his parentage he says, “ My descent was of a low and inconsiderable generation, my father's house being of that rank that is meanest and most despised of all the families in the land.” His father was a tinker, and brought up his sons,
, of whom he had several, to the same business; but he was not, as some have supposed, one of those itinerant repairers of dilapidated pots and kettles, called gipsies. He had a settled habitation, and though poor was honest, and bore a fair character.
Bunyan records, with gratitude, that his parents, “notwithstanding their meanness and in
considerableness," sent him to school,“ to learn both to read and write, the which," he adds," I also attained according to the rate of other poor men's children, though, to my shame I confess, I did soon lose that little I learnt, even almost utterly.”
At what school he was placed we are not told. Mr. Philip suggests that it may have been the grammar school founded at Bedford in 1556, by Sir W. Harpur, (mayor of London,) for teaching “ grammar and good manners," and which was then open to the children of the poor.
“But if Bunyan was educated at the Harpur school, he certainly did not learn 'good manners,' whatever 'grammar' he acquired there." Associating with vile companions, he was early initiated into profaneness, and soon became a sort of ringleader in all kinds of boyish vice and ungodliness; so that, as he tells us, "from a child he had but few equals, considering his years, for cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming the holy name of God; yea,” he adds,
so settled and rooted was I in these things, that they became as a second nature to me.”
Whether his parents took any pains to check his vicious propensities, we cannot tell ; but that by some persons, if not by them, he was faithfully warned of the consequences of his bad conduct, is evident from his early compunctions
of conscience, and the terrific visions which haunted his nightly slumbers. “Even in my childhood,” he says,
“ the Lord did scare and alfrighten me with fearful dreams, and did terrify me with fearful visions. For often, after I have spent this and the other day in sin, I have in my bed been greatly afflicted, while asleep, with the apprehensions of devils and wicked spirits, who still, as I then thought, laboured to draw me away with them, of which I could never be rid. Also I should at these years be greatly afflicted and troubled with the thoughts of the fearful torments of hell-fire, still fearing that it would be my lot to be found at last among
those devils and hellish fiends who are there bound down with the chains and bonds of darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.
“ These things, I say, when I was but a child, but nine or ten years old, did so distress my soul, that then, in the midst of my many sports and childish vanities, amidst my vain companions, I was often much cast down, and afflicted in my mind therewith, yet I could not let go my
I was also then so overcome with despair of life and heaven, that I should often wish, either that there had been no hell, or that I had been a devil ; supposing that they were only tormentors; that if it must needs
sins : yea,
be that I went thither, I might rather be a tormentor than be tormented myself.”
Some of the terrible dreams by which Bunyan's conscience was aroused and alarmed are related in the old Memoir. “ Once he dreamed he saw the face of the heavens, as it were, all on fire, the firmament crackling and shivering as with the noise of mighty thunders, and an archangel flew in the midst of heaven sounding a trumpet, and a glorious throne was seated in the east, whereon sat one in brightness like the morning star; upon which he, thinking it was the end of the world, fell upon his knees, and, with uplisted hands toward heaven, cried, ! O Lord God, have mercy upon me! what shall I do! the day of judgment is come, and I am not prepared ! when immediately he heard a voice behind him, exceeding loud, saying, “Repent;' and upon this he awoke, and found it but a dream. Yet, as he said, upon this he grew more serious, and it remained in his mind a considerable time.
“ At another time he dreamed that he was in a pleasant place, jovial and rioting, banqueting and feasting his senses, when immediately a mighty earthquake rent the earth, and made a wide gap, out of which came bloody flames, and the figures of men tossed up in globes of fire, and falling down again with horrible cries,