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my wonted manner, there sat within the woman of the house, and heard me; who, though she was a very loose and ungodly wretch, yet protested that I swore and cursed at the most ungodly rate ; that she was made to tremble to hear me ; and told me further, that I was the ungodliest fellow for swearing that she ever heard in all her life ; and that I by thus doing was able to spoil all the youth in the whole town, if they came but in my company.” She also admonished the young men who were with him to shun his conversation, or he would make them as bad as himself.*
This severe rebuke, coming from such an unexpected quarter, was not lost upon Bunyan,
“At this reproof I was silenced, and put to secret shame; and that too, as I thought, before the God of heaven ; wherefore, while I stood there, and hanging down my head, I
* Somewhat similar to this was the remarkable cir. cumstance in the life of Mr. Perkins, an able minister of the gospel, who, while a student at Cambridge, was a great drunkard. As he was walking in the skirts of the town, he heard a woman say to a child that was froward and peevish, “ Hold your tongue, or I will give you to drunken Perkins yonder.” Finding himself become a by-word among the people, his conscience was deeply impressed, and this was the first step toward his conver. sion.-Inimey
wished with all my heart that I might be a little child again, that my father might teach me to speak without this wicked way of swearing; for, thought I, I am so accustomed to it, that it is in vain for me to think of a reformation, for I thought that could never be.
“ But how it came to pass I know not; I did from this time forward so leave my swearing, that it was a great wonder to myself to observe it; and whereas, before, I knew not how to speak unless I put an oath before, and another behind, to make my words have authority; now I could, without it, speak better and with more pleasantness than ever I could before. All this while I knew not Jesus Christ, neither did I leave my sports and plays."
The next step in his reformation was his taking delight in reading the word of God, to which he was led by the conversation of a poor man who made a profession of religion ; and “who,” says Bunyan, " as I then thought, did talk pleasantly of the Scriptures, and of the matter of religion; wherefore, falling into some love and liking to what he said, I betook me to my Bible, and began to take great pleasure in reading." His favourite portions of Scripture at this time were the historical books : for St. Paul's Epistles he had no relish whatever : he
“could not away with them,” he says, for he was as yet ignorant of the corruption of his nature, and his need of a Saviour.
His reading, however, was not unproductive of good, for it occasioned some further reformation both of his language and conduct. He now set the commandments before him as the rule of his life and the way to heaven. These commandments he strove to keep, and, as he thought, “ did keep them pretty well sometimes," and then he felt encouraged and comforted. “Yet now and then,” he says, “I should break one, and so afflict my conscience. But then I should repent, and say I was sorry for it, and promise God to do better; and there got help again; for then I thought I pleased God as well as any man in England.”
In this way he continued about a year, during which time he was considered to be a very godly and religious man by his neighbours, who, says Bunyan were amazed at this my great conversion from prodigious profaneness to something like a moral life; for this my conversion was as great as for Tom of Bedlam to become a sober man. Now therefore they began to praise, to commend, and to speak well of me, both to my face and behind my back. Now I was, as they said, become godly; now
I was become a right honest man. But O! when I understood those were their words and opinions of me, it pleased me mighty well. For though as yet I was nothing but a poor painted hypocrite, yet I loved to be talked of as one that was truly godly. I was proud of my godliness, and indeed I did all I did either to be seen of, or to be spoken well of by men.”
We can readily conceive Bunyan's gratification at hearing the commendations of his neighbours on his change of conduct. It was quite natural that he should be, as he expresses it,
mighty well” pleased; for to be thought and spoken well of was a new as well as pleasant thing to one who had hitherto been almost a by-word for profanity and wickedness.
Mr. Philip, at this point, very happily reminds his readers of one who must have been no small partaker of this joy: he carries them, in imagination, to the tinker's fireside, and pictures the rapture which his wife must have felt in witnessing the progress of that reformation which she, in the providence of God, appears to have been the chief instrument in producing.
BUNYAN'S RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE : DIFFICUL
TIES ABOUT FAITH, ELECTION, ETC.
BUNYAN had formerly taken great delight in ringing ; but now that his “conscience began to be tender," he thought it a vain practice, and forced himself to leave it: “yet,” he says, “my mind hankered ; wherefore I would now go to the steeple-house and look on, though I durst not ring ; but I thought this did not become religion neither; yet I forced myself, and would look on still ; but quickly after I began to think, How if one of the bells should fall ? Then I chose to stand under a main beam, that lay athwart the steeple, from side to side, thinking here I might stand sure; but then I thought again, should the bell fall with a swing, it might first hit the wall, and then, rebounding upon me, might kill me, for all this beam. This made me stand in the steeple door; and now, thought I, I am safe enough; for if the bell should then fall, I can slip out between these thick walls,
* The “steeple-house," or belfry of Elstow church, contrary to the general practice, stood apart from the main building. See the note on page 331.