Obrazy na stronie

a continual butchery and slaughter-shop--unless, putting out my own eyes, I commit me to the blind to lead me, as I doubt is desired by some--I have determined, the almighty God being my help and shield, yet to suffer, if frail life should continue so long, even till the moss shall grow on mine eyebrows, rather than thus to violate my faith and principles.”

Much obscurity has hitherto rested on the subject of Bunyan's deliverance from prison. He himself says nothing about it; but all his early biographers attribute it to the interserence of Dr. Barlow, afterward bishop of Lincoln.. Recent researches, however, have brought to light the fact that he owed his enlargement to the influence, not of a bishop, but of a Quaker. The evidences of this fact are found in a letter from Ellis Hookes, a Quaker, to George Fox, the founder of the sect; another letter from the same to Fox's wife ; and an autobiographical

; narrative, published in 1725, entitled, “ The Christian Progress of George Whitehead," who was also a member of the Society of Friends. Extracts from these have lately been published, from which we have condensed a relation of the circumstances which led to Bunyan's release, which took place about the close of 1672. The account will be found in the Appendix, p. 333.

Being now again at liberty, and having through mercy, shaken off his bodily setters, (for those upon his soul were broken before, by the abounding grace that filled his heart,) he went to visit those that had been a comfort to him in his tribulation, with a Christian-like acknowledgment of their kindness and charity; giving encouragement by his example, if it happened to be their hard haps to fall into affliction or trouble, then to suffer patiently for the sake of a good conscience, and for the love of God in Jesus Christ toward their souls.”—Doe.

Soon after his enlargement his congregation built him a church. The ground on which it stood was bought by subscription on the 11th of August, 1672. The original agreement for the ground is still preserved. “It is between J. Ruffhead, shoemaker, and John Bunyan, brazier, both of Bedford, for £50, lawsul money.”Philip.

In the following year his eldest son, Thomas, became a member of the society, and was no doubt received with rapture by his father to the church and table of the Lord. It is thus recorded in the church book :-_"The 6th of the eleventh month, 1673, Thomas Bunyan received into communion."




To the Confession of Faith, which Bunyan published soon after his ordination, he appended what he called, " A Reason of my Practice; or with who, and who not, I can hold Church Fellowship, or the Communion of Saints.” It is well known to be the practice of the Baptists, in general, to admit none to their communion but those who are baptized in their sense of the term, that is, immersed on a profession of their faith ; thus excluding all but the members of their own persuasion. The church at Bedford, as has already been stated, though composed chiefly of Baptists, was constituted on more liberal principles, requiring no other terms of communion than “ a profession of faith in Christ, attended by holiness of life.” This drew upon them considerable reproach from the strict-communion Baptists, which occasioned the publication of the treatise just named. In it Bunyan, aster stating that he cannot commune with any who “profess not faith and holiness," or whose conduct does not consist with such a profession

[ocr errors]

proceeds to vindicate the practice of the church of which he was now the pastor ; showing that it was their duty to hold communion with all that were

“ visible saints," whether they were baptized or not. Like other Baptists, he held infant baptism to be no baptism at all; but then he maintained, that as on the one hand baptism did not make a person a Christian, so neither on the other did the want of it prevent him from being one. He says, “ A failure in such a circumstance as water doth not unchristian us, for thousands of thousands that could not consent thereto as we have, more glorious than we are like to do, acquitted themselves and their Christianity before men, and are now with the

innumerable company of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect.”. What is said of eating, or the contrary, (Rom. xiv; 1 Cor. viii,) may, as to this, be said of water baptism. Neither if I be baptized am I the better ; neither if I be not am I the worse: not the better before God, not the worse before men; still meaning as Paul doth, providing I walk according to my light with God; (otherwise it is false ; for if a man that seeth it to be his duty shall despisingly neglect it, or if he that hath no faith therein shall foolishly take it up, both these are for this the worse, being convicted in themselves for

transgressors.) He therefore that doth it according to his light, doth well; and he that doth it not, or dare not do it, for want of light, doth not ill; for he approveth his heart to be sincere with God. If therefore he be not by grace a partaker of light in that circumstance which thou professest, yet he is a partaker of that liberty and mercy by which thou standest. He hath liberty to call God Father, as thou, and to believe he shall be saved by Jesus; his faith, as thine, hath purified his heart; he is tender of the glory of God, as thou art; and can claim by grace an inheritance in heaven.” On the ground therefore that the circumstances in which the Baptists differed from their brethren were such as “neither make nor mar Christianity,” he

urges, “Let us love one another, and walk together, leaving each other in all such circumstances to our own Master, to our own faith. • Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth.' .... What greater contempt can be thrown upon the saints, than for their brethren to cast them off, or to debar them from church communion? ... What can the church do more to the sinners, or open profane ? Civil commerce you will have with the worst, and what more will you have with these? Perhaps you will say,

« PoprzedniaDalej »