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Lord, go off my knees, until I entreat him for help and mercy against the temptations that are to come :—and I do beseech thee, reader, that thou learn to beware of my negligence, by the afflictions, that for this thing I did for days, and months, and years, with sorrow undergo.
“ Another cause of this temptation was, that I had tempted God : and on this manner did I do it: upon a time my wife was great with child, and before her full time was come, her pangs, as of a woman in travail, were fierce and strong upon her, even as she would immediately have fallen into la. bour, and been delivered of an untimely birth: now at this very time it was, that I had been so strongly tempted to ques. tion the being of God; wherefore, as my wife lay crying by me, I said, but with all secresy imaginable (even thinking in my heart, Lord, if now thou wilt remove this sad affliction from my wife, and cause that she be troubled no more there. with this night, (and now were her pangs just upon her,) then I shall know that thou canst discern the most secret thoughts of the heart.'
“I had no sooner said it in my heart, but her pangs were taken from her, and she was cast into a deep sleep, and so continued till morning ; at this I greatly marvelled, not know. ing what to think; but after I had been awake a good while, and heard her cry no more, I fell asleep also; so when I awak. ed in the morning, it came upon me again, even what I had said in my heart the last night, and how the Lord had showed me, that he knew my secret thoughts; which was a great astonishment unto me for several weeks after.
“ Well, about a year and a half afterwards, that wicked sinful thought, of which I have spoken before, went through my wicked heart, even this thought, • let Christ go if he will ;' so when I was fallen under the guilt of this, the remembrance of my other thought, and of the effect thereof, would also come upon me with this retort, which also carried' rebuke along with it, now you may see, that God doth know the most secret thoughts of the heart.'
“ And with this, that of the passages that were betwixt the Lord and his servant Gideon, fell upon my spirit; how because that Gideon tempted God with his fleece, both wet and dry, when he should have believed and ventured upon his words; therefore, the Lord did afterwards so try him, as to send him against an innumerable company of enemies, and that too, as to outward appearance, without any strength or help. Thus he served me, and that justly, for I should have believed his word, and not have put an if upon the all-seeing. ness of God.
“ And now to show you something of the advantages that I also have gained by this temptation; and first, by this I was made continually to possess in my soul a very wonderful sense both of the blessing and the glory of God, and of his beloved Son; in the temptation that went before, my soul was per. plexed with unbelief, blasphemy, and hardness of heart, ques. tions about the being of God, Christ, the truth of the word, and certainty of the world to come : I say, then I was greatly as. saulted and tormented with atheism ;—but now the case was otherwise ; now was God and Christ continually before my face though not in a way of comfort, but in a way of exceeding dread and terror. The glory of the holiness of God, did at this time break me to pieces ; and the bowels and compassion of Christ did break me as on the wheel ; for I could not consider him but as a lost and rejected Christ, the remembrance of whom, was as the continual breaking of my bones.
“ The Scriptures also were wonderful things unto me; I saw that the truth and verity of them were the keys of the kingdom of heaven; those that the Scriptures favour, they must inherit bliss; but those that they oppose and condemn, must perish for evermore. Oh! this word, . For the Scrip. tures cannot be broken,' would rend the caul of my heart: and so would that other. Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted ; but whose sins ye retain, they are retained. Now I saw the apostles to be the elders of the city of refuge. Those that they were to receive in, were received to life; but those that they shut out were slain by the avenger of blood.
“Oh! one sentence of the Scripture did more afflict and terrify my mind, I mean those sentences that stood against me (as sometimes I thought they every one did) more, I say, than an army of forty thousand men that might come against me. Wo be to him against whom the Scriptures bend them. selves!
“ By this temptation I was made to see more into the nature of the promises than ever I had before, for I lying now trembling under the mighty hand of God, continually torn and rent by the thundering of his justice :this made me with care. ful heart, and watchful eye, and great fearfulness, to turn over every leaf, and with much diligence, mixed with trem
bling, to consider every sentence, together with its natural force and latitude.
“ By this temptation also I was greatly holden off from my former foolish practice of putting by the word of promise when it came into my mind; for now, though I could not suck that comfort and sweetness from the promise, as I had done at other times, yet like to a man sinking, I would catch at all I saw ; formerly I thought I might not meddle with the promise, unless I felt its comfort ; but now 'twas no time thus to do ; the avenger of blood too hardly did pursue me!
“ Now therefore was I 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. O what did I see in that blessed sixth chapter of St. John : And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. Now I began to consider with my. self, that God had a bigger mouth to speak with than I had a heart to conceive with; I thought also with myself, that he spake not his words in haste, or in an unadvised heat, but with infinite wisdom and judgment, and in very truth and faithfulness.
“I would in these days, often in my greatest agonies even flounce towards the promise (as the horses do towards 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. Oh! many a pull hath my heart had with Satan, for that blessed sixth chapter of St. John: I did not now, as at other times, look principally for comfort, though, O how welcome would it have been unto me! But now a word, a word to lean a weary soul upon, that it might not sink for ever!—'twas that I hunted for.
i6 Yea, often when I have been making to the promise, I have seen as if the Lord would refuse my soul for ever; I was osten as if I had run upon the pikes, and as if the Lord had thrust at me, to keep me from him, as with a flaming sword. Then would I think of Esther, who went to petition the king contrary to the law, So will I go in unto the king, which is not according to law, and if I perish I perish.' I thought also of Benhadad's servants, who went with ropes upon their heads to their enemies for mercy. The woman of Canaan also,
that would not be daunted, though called dog by Christ : and the man that went to borrow bread at midnight, were also great encouragements unto me.
« I never saw those heights and depths in grace, and love and mercy, as I saw after this temptation. Great sins do draw out great grace; and where guilt is most terrible and fierce, there the mercy of God in "Christ, when showed to the soul, appears most high and mighty. When Job had passed through his captivity, he had twice as much as he had before. Blessed be God for Jesus Christ our Lord. Many other things I might here make observation of, but I would be brief, and therefore shall at this time omit them; and do pray God that my harms may make others fear to offend, lest they also be made to bear the iron yoke as I did.
6 I had two or three times, at or about my deliverance from this temptation, such strong apprehensions of the grace of God; that I could hardly bear up under it: it was so out of measure amazing, when I thought it could reach me, that I do now think if that sense of it had abode long upon me, it would have made me incapable for business."
AFTER having been thus extricated again from the horrible pit and miry clay of despair, Bunyan joined Gifford's Church in Bedford. This was in 1653. He was then, says Ivimey, * about twenty-five years of age.” ki It was, it will be recollected, whilst worshipping with this Jittle Church, that the promise, “ My grace is sufficient for thee," seemed to him written in capital letters, and spoken to him through the tiles from heaven, by Jesus Christ. This, had there been no other strong associations between his mind and the Meeting, would have endeared both the place and the people to him. Even Elstow Church would have been more sacred to him in the days of his superstition than it was, had he known that it was founded in honour of Helena, the mo. ther of Constantine. Any thing ancient or extraordinary had a magnetic charm for his taste. "He had, however, other and better reasons for uniting himself with Gifford's flock,“ to walk in the order and ordinances of Christ with them ;" as he well describes Church fellowship. The Minister and the peo. ple had been his best friends. They had been unable to cheer him for years; but they watched over him, and wept with him, all the time. Neither by word or look had they ever betray. ed, as he sometimes suspected, a fear to pray for him. În like manner, when he offered himself to their fellowship, they welcomed him sooner than Gifford himself had been, and ma. nifested none of those doubts of his sanity which philosophy has insinuated, although they had witnessed all his wildest moods. “After I propounded to the Church my desire to walk with them, I was admitted by them,” is all the account he gives of bis reception ; but it tells much, highly to their credit. Well might Dr. Southey say, 6 had it not been for the encouragement Bunyan received from the Baptists, he might have lived and died a Tinker."