Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

But the question will naturally arise, How far may Bunyan's temptations be attributed to the immediate agency of the evil one, to which he was accustomed, to the close of his life, to ascribe them? There are some who ridicule the idea of Satan's exercising any direct influence upon the human mind, while others, running into the opposite extreme, refer to his immediate operation every temptation and evil suggestion with which the mind is assailed, thus clothing him almost with the attribute of omnipresence. The doctrine of the existence and agency of evil spirits is too plainly revealed in Scripture to allow any Christian to doubt; but it will often be difficult to determine when a man is “ tempted of the devil,” and when he is “ drawn away of his own lust and enticed.” There are, however, observes Mr. Philip, cases in which it may safely be said, as in the case of sowing tares, “an enemy hath done this.' ... When blasphemies which are abhorrent to the mind, and which can be traced to no blasphemous book nor bad example, are yet rushing to the lips, and raging in the thoughts, and maddening the imagination, although the victim of them would give worlds to get rid of them, they may be safely ascribed to Satanic suggestion. Christ says, indeed, that blasphemies proceed out of

[ocr errors]

the heart; but he does not say that they do so against the will, nor in spite of the prayer and effort of the heart to suppress and forget them. In such a case they are most likely what old Ambrose calls them, rather fire-balls thrown into a house, than flames from its own hearth.'”

Bunyan gives a much more satisfactory account of the advantages he derived from the severe conflict through which he had just passed, than of the causes which led to it. Before this he had often been assaulted with "unbelief, and questions about the being of God, the truth of the word, and the certainty of the world to come ;” but now these atheistical doubts ceased to molest him.

The agonizing distress he had suffered from the application of certain texts which he supposed to place him beyond the reach of mercy, and the strong consolation he received when he was enabled to lay hold by faith on some Scripture promise, gave him such a sense of the power and verity of the word of God, as he had never before experienced. The Scriptures, he tells us, were “ wonderful things unto him;" one sentence, that seemed to set itself against

would - more afflict and terrify his mind than an army of forty thousand men that might come against him."

him,

He was also led to see more into the nature of the promises than before ; for this temptation had made him “ with careful heart, and watchful eye, with great fearfulness to turn over every leaf;- and with much diligence, mixed with trembling, to consider every sentence, together with its natural force and latitude." Before this, if he did not feel comfort as soon as a promise presented itself to his mind, he put it by as not meant for him; “ but now," he says, “it was no time thus to do; the 'avenger of blood' did too hardly pursue me.

Therefore I was glad to catch at that word, which yet I feared I had no ground or right to own; and even to leap into the bosom of that promise that yet I feared did shut its heart against me. Now also I would labour to take the word as God hath laid it down, without restraining the natural force of one syllable thereof;" considering " that God had a bigger mouth to speak with, than I had a heart to conceive with. ... I would in these days, often in my greatest agonies, even flounce toward the promise, as the horses do toward sound ground that yet stick in the mire; concluding, though as one almost bereft of his wits through fear, on this will I rest and stay, and leave the fulfilling of it to the God of heaven that made it."

CHAPTER VI.

BUNYAN JOINS THE BAPTIST CHURCH AT BED

FORD: HE BEGINS TO PREACH.

AFTER Bunyan had thus been taken out of the horrible pit and miry clay of despair, he united himself with the Baptist Church at Bedford, under the pastoral care of Mr. Gifford. This was in 1655,* when he was about twenty-seven years of age. We have already stated, although this was professedly a Baptist Church, they did not make adult baptism a term of membership, nor consider a difference of sentiment on that subject a bar to communion at the Lord's table. The only condition required of those who wished to join them was, a profession of faith in Christ, attended with holiness of life; consequently there were many Pedobaptists among them. A majority of the members, however,

* Mr. Philip says in 1653; but this is evidently an error. He takes that date from Ivimey, who gives, as his authority, the Life of Bunyan prefixed to Heptinstall's edition of the Pilgrim's Progress; but on referring to that Life I find that the date given there is 1655. Scott gives the same date, as does also an old Memoir prefixed to some editions of the Pilgrim, and written by one who was à contemporary of Bunyan, and acquainted with him

[ocr errors]

were Baptists, as was Bunyan himself, who, though he mentions not the fact in his narrative, was admitted by baptism, the ceremony being probably performed in the River Ouse. The only account he gives of his reception is the following :-"I propounded to the church, that

my desire was to walk in the order and ordinances of Christ with them, and was also admitted by them."

Bunyan's conversion exerted an influence for good on some of those who had been his companions in sin. He tells us that he had “infected all the youth of the town where he was born with all manner of youthful vanities;" but on his reformation, he says, "the contagion was much allayed all the town over. When God made me sigh, they would hearken, and inquiringly say,

• What is the matter with John?'... When I went out to seek the bread of life, some of them would follow, and the rest be put into a muse at home. Yea, almost the town, at first, at times, would go out to hear at the place where I found good ; yea, young and old for awhile

* This church has ever since continued to be governed by the same liberal and Christian principles as those on which it was first organized. At the present day, how. ever, a majority of the members, as well as the pastor, (the Rev, Samuel Hillyard,) are said to be Pedobaptists.

« PoprzedniaDalej »