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CHAPTER II.

BUNYAN IN THE ARMY: HIS MARRIAGE, AND

OUTWARD REFORMATION.

It was Bunyan's lot to fall upon troublous times. The civil war between Charles I. and the parliament broke out about the period of his life at which we have now arrived, -just as he was growing up to manhood. A youth of his bold and reckless character could not be expected to remain an idle spectator of this exciting struggle; and accordingly we find that he enlisted as a soldier, and joined the parliamentary forces, when he was only seventeen years

of age.

While he was in the army he experienced a merciful interposition of Providence, which he relates in the following words :-" This also I have taken notice of with thanksgiving: when I was a soldier, I, with others, were drawn out to go to such a place to besiege it; but when I

was just ready to go, one of the company de1 sired to go in my room; to which, when I had

consented, he took my place; and coming to the siege, as he stood sentinel, he was shot in the head with a musket bullet, and died.”

Bunyan does not specify where this took place, but the information is supplied by the author of the old Memoir already referred to, who says, “He often acknowledged, with uplifted hands and eyes, a wonderful providence: for in June, 1645, being at the siege of Leicester, he was called out to be one (of a party) who should make a violent attack on the town, [which was then] vigorously defended by the king's forces against the parliamentarians. He appearing to the officer to be somewhat awkward in handling his arms,

another man voluntarily thrust himself into his place."

At this time Bunyan was only seventeen, and his youth, as well as the fact of his being but a raw recruit, sufficiently accounts for the awk. wardness which appears to have been the indirect means of saving his life.

His period of military service was short; probably less than two years. Soon after quitting the army, and while he was yet very young, it is supposed before he was nineteen, he entered into the marriage state ; and his

mercy was,” he tells us, “to light upon a wife whose father was counted godly.” This step, as we learn from his earliest biographer, was advised by his friends, who " thought that changing his condition to the married state

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might reform him, and therefore urged him to it as a seasonable and comfortable advantage. But the difficult thing was, that his poverty, and irregular course of life, made it very difficult for him to get a wife suitable to his inclination : and because none of the rich would yield to his solicitations, he found hiniself constrained to marry one without any fortune.” As it respects “fortune,” she seems to have been about on a par with her husband, who

says, together as poor as poor might be, not having so much household stuff as a dish or a spoon between us." But it will be asked, How came a virtuous woman, who had been religiously educated, to marry such a man as Bunyan; and what prospect could she have had of either happiness or comfort with him ? In reply to this question it should be remarked, that Bunyan, in his worst state, does not appear to have been either an idle, a malicious, or a dishonest man; nor was he as conscience-hardened as many less notorious sinners. Besides, as it was a hope of his reformation that encouraged his friends to bring about the match, so it is not unlikely that she was in some degree influenced by the same motive in uniting her lot with his. Certain it is, that his career of vice received a considerable check in consequence

*

of his marriage, which may very justly be regarded as the first step toward his conversion. It should be remarked, too, that at this time Mrs. Bunyan, though strictly moral, does not appear to have known much of experimental piety.

The sole portion, besides herself, which Bunyan's wife brought to her husband was two books, " The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven," and “ The Practice of Piety,"* which she inherited from her father,—and which “she frequently enticed her husband to read, and apply the use of them to the reforming his manners, and saving his soul.”—(Old Memoir.) Bunyan himself says, “In these two books I shouldt

* These two works appear to have been the most popular religious books of the day. Richard Baxter, who was contemporary with Bunyan, mentions as one of the characteristics of those pious persons who in that day were stigmatized as Puritans, that " they read the Scriptures, and such books as • The Practice of Piety,' Dent's • Plain Man's Pathway,' and Dod on the Command. ments,' &c.” Of “The Practice of Piety,” which was written by Bayley, bishop of Bangor, fifty editions, as we are informed by Southey, were published in the course of a hundred years; and it was also translated into Welsh, (the author's native language,) into Hungarian, and into Polish.

+ Bunyan uses the word “should” in the sense of would, a practice which was once common in some

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sometimes read with* her, wherein I also found some things that were somewhat pleasing to me ; but all this while I met with no conviction. She also would be often telling me of what a godly man her father was; and how he would reprove and correct vice, both in his house and among his neighbours; and what a strict and holy life he led in his days, both in word and deed."

The reading of these books, the admonitions of his wife, and her frequent references to the piety of her father, had a winning influence upon Bunyan, who says, “ Though they did not reach my heart, to awaken it about

my

sad and sinful state, yet they did beget within me some desires to reform my vicious life, and fall in very eagerly with the religion of the times; to wit, to go to church twice a day, and that too with

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parts of England. The reader will bear this in mind in reading our quotations from Bunyan.

* Without her he would probably have been unable to read them. The old Memoir says, “To the voice of his wife he hearkened, and by that means recovered his reading, which, not minding before, he had almost lost.” This agrees with Bunyan's own statement, when speak. ing of his being sent by his parents to school," I did soon lose that little I learnt, even almost utterly, and that long before the Lord did work his gracious work of conversion upon my soul."

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