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LAST YEAR OF BUNYAN'S LIFE: HIS DYING
SAYINGS AND DEATH.
We are now rapidly approaching the close of Bunyan's earthly pilgrimage, which terminated in 1688. In the early part of that year he published “The Jerusalem Sinner saved; or good news for the vilest of men : being an help to despairing souls; showing that Christ would have mercy, in the first place, offered to the biggest sinners.” This is a discourse founded on that part of our Lord's commission to his apostles, in which he directs that their first publication of his gospel should be made in the Jewish capital :-"Begin at Jerusalem,” Luke xxiv, 47. From these words he takes occasion to show, that the fact of the first offer of mercy being made to the sinners of Jerusalem, (who, having put to death the Lord of glory, he justly esteemed to be the worst of all sinners,) affords encouragement to the vilest offenders to repent and be saved.
This sermon appears to have been one of Bunyan's favourites, and the effect produced at various times by its delivery induced him to enlarge it, and commit it to the press. “I have found, through God's grace,” he says, “good success in preaching upon this subject, and perhaps so I may in writing upon it too. I have, as you see, let down this net for a draught; the Lord catch some great fishes by it, for the magnifying of his truth.” The following are the heads of the discourse :
Christ will have mercy offered in the first place to the biggest sinners:
1. Because the biggest sinners have most need thereof.
2. Because when any of them receive it, it redounds most to the fame of his name.
3. Because by their forgiveness and salvation, others hearing of it will be encouraged the more to come to him for life.
4. Because that is the way, if they receive it, most to weaken the kingdom of Satan. The biggest sinners are Satan's colonels and captains.
5. Because such, when converted, are usually the best helps in the church against temptation, and fittest for the support of the feeble-minded there.
6. Because they, when converted, are apt to love him most.
7. Because grace, when it is received by such, finds matter to kindle upon more freely than it finds in other sinners. Great sinners are like the dry wood, or like great candles, which burn the best, and give the biggest light.
8. Because by that means the impenitent that are left behind will be at the judgment the more left without excuse.
“The Jerusalem Sinner" was followed in rapid succession by five other publications, the principal of which was, “Solomon's Temple Spiritualized; or gospel light brought out of the temple at Jerusalem.” The author attempts to show that everything in and about the temple, its furniture, and its services—from the high priest and the holy place, down to the golden nails, the snuffers, and the spoons-were typical of something corresponding in the gospel dispensation. In writing this book Bunyan did but follow the fashion of the times, for this practice of spiritualizing was popular in those days, how little soever it may be esteemed now, In the seventy sections or chapters of which the work is composed, there is much good and instructive matter; but as a whole it exhibits far more of ingenuity than of sound judgment.
Bunyan's labours were now nearly closed. His death appears to have taken place during one of his periodical visits to the metropolis.
His last sermon was preached in London, in July, 1688, from John 1, 3, “ Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” He concluded his discourse by exhorting those who were " born of God," to seek after holiness' of life : “ Consider that the holy God is your Father, and let this oblige you to live like the children of God, that you may look your Father in the face with comfort another day."
In the course of his ministry Bunyan had often found occasion to exercise himself in the character of peacemaker;" and we are told, that by his skill in reconciling difficulties," he had hindered many mischiefs, and saved some families from ruin.” It was in the performance of a work of mercy of this character that he contracted the disease which brought him to the grave. A young gentleman, a neighbour of Bunyan's, had fallen under the displeasure of his father, who in consequence threatened to disinherit him. The young man thinking Bunyan the likeliest person to effect a reconciliation, applied to him to act as mediator in his behalf. Prompted by his benevolent feelings, the good man, though labouring under bodily indisposition, readily undertook the task, and went to Reading for that purpse. There he so successfully pleaded the young man's cause, that the father's heart was softened, and his bowels yearned over his son.
The difference being thus happily adjusted, he set out on horseback on his return to London, a distance of thirty-seven miles. The day proved very rainy, and he arrived wet and late at the house of his friend, Mr. Strudwick, a grocer on Snow Hill. His exposure brought on a severe cold, and though he was treated with all the kindness and consideration which loving friendship could suggest, he continued to grow worse and worse. At first he was seized with a kind of shaking, like an ague, which turning to a violent fever, he was compelled to take to his bed. Finding his strength decay, and his end draw nigh, he settled his temporal concerns as well as the shortness of the time and the violence of his disease would permit.
Having now done with the affairs of this world, he gave himself up to the thoughts of another, and expressed himself as wishing for nothing more than to * depart and be with Christ.” He comforted those that wept around him, exhorting them to trust in God, and pray to him for mercy and forgiveness of their sins; telling them what a glorious exchange it would