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“Two Sacraments, I do believe, there be ;
BUNYAN'S SICK BED.
The title of this chapter can hardly surprise the reader. The only wonder is, that the facts of it did not occur sooner. For as Bunyan was highly nervous, as well as sensitive, his health was as much endangered as his spirits, by both the hot and cold paroxysms of his despair. Even his happy moments were perilous to health ; and will remind Scotchmen of the emphatic lines of one of their own poets,
"Oh, hold my head ! This gush o' pleasure 's like to be my dead.”
He had, indeed, an iron frame ; and he needed it; for he had a soul of fire. The latter, however, overheated the former at last, and for a time seemed consuming it.
The case was this. The burning sensation at the pit of his stomach, which seerned to him calcining or breaking his breast. bone, during the crisis of his anguish, was followed by a sink. ing which almost incapacitated him for business, when the joy of deliverance had expended its force. Another thing which hastened on his illness was, the sudden revolution of his sacra. mental feelings. They had been, at first, pure and pleasing ; but they soon assumed an opposite character. Indeed, the transition was tremendous. He says, “ I had not long been a partaker of that ordinance, but fierce and sad temptations did at all times attend me therein, both to blaspheme the ordinance itself, and to wish some deadly things to those who then eat thereof.” No wonder he called this temptation, even although there was no 6 bait.” He, accordingly, treated it as such ; not by staying away from the sacrament, but by forcing himself “to bend in prayer all the while," lest he should “at any time be guilty of consenting to these wicked and fearful thoughts." For 6 three-quarters of a year,” he was haunted
thus, and could never have rest nor ease,” except whilst pray. ing to God, “to be kept from such blasphemies," and crying to him “ to bless the bread and cup from mouth to mouth,” amongst the communicants.
It was during this distressing period, that symptoms of gal. loping Consumption showed themselves about him. He had been “ something inclined to consumption” before ; but now, he was " suddenly and violently seized with such weakness in the outward man,” that he thought he “ could not live.” At first, the prospect of death did not unman him. It gave a turn to his thoughts, which made him “ very well and comfortable” in his spirit, whenever he was able to crawl out to the Sacra. ment. That, however, he was soon unable to do. He, there. fore, set himself, according to his “ usual course,” to a serious examination of his spiritual state, that he might “ keep his in. terest in the Life to come, clear before his eyes."
His own account of the process and result of this self-examination, is very affecting : “I had no sooner begun to recall to mind my former experience of the goodness of God to my soul, but there came flocking into my mind an innumerable company of my sins and transgressions : amongst which, these were at this time most to my affliction ;-my deadness, dul. ness, and coldness in my holy duties ; my wanderings of heart, my wearisomeness in all good things, my want of love to God, his ways and people ;-with this at the end of all, “ Are these the fruits of Christianity? Are these the tokens of a blessed man ?
“At the apprehension of these things, my sickness was. doubled upon me; for I was now sick in my inward man. My soul was clogged with guilt. Now also, all my former experi. ence of God's goodness to me was quite taken out of my mind, and hid as if it had never been or seen. Now was my soul greatly pinched between these two considerations ;- Live I must not; Die I dare not. Now I sunk and fell in my spirit, and was giving up all for lost.
« But as I was walking up and down in my house, as a man: in a most woeful state, (how poor Mrs. Bunyan must have watched and wept over these successive scenes of wo!) that word of God took hold of my heart,_ Ye are justified 'freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.' 0, what a turn it made upon me! Now I was as one awaked out of some troublesome sleep and dream ; and listening to this pleasing sentence, I was as if I heard it thus spoken to me,
• Sinder, thou thinkest that because of thy sins and infirmities, I cannot save thy soul : but, Behold, my Son is by me, and upon Him I look, and not on thee; and shall deal with thee according as I am pleased with him. At this I was greatly enlightened in my mind, and made to understand that God could justify a sinner at any time, by looking upon Christ, and imputing his merits to us; and the work was forthwith done!
“ And as I was thus in a muse, that scripture came with great power upon my spirit, •Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us,' Tit. iii. 5. Now I was got on high-I saw myself within the arms of Grace and Mercy! Though I was before afraid to think of a dying hour, yet now I cried, • Let me die.' Now death was lovely and beautiful in my sight; for I saw that we shall never live indeed, till we be gone to the other world. 0, methought, this life is but a slumber, in comparison with that above?
“ At this time also, I saw more than I shall ever be able to express, while I live in this world, in these words, • Heirs of God.' Heirs of God! himself then is the portion of the saints. This I saw and wondered at : but cannot tell you what I
This lasted with him until a severer fit of his illness and weakness set him upon another review of his state before God; and although the process and the result of this second scruti. ny of his heart be much the same as the preceding, they both deserve to be recorded, because they help to explain that ap. parent anomaly in the Pilgrim,—the Valley of the Shadow of Death, at midway in Christian's journey. This is not fully explained by what Bunyan felt, when Justice Keeling (Jefferies' jackall) told him “ plainly, he must stretch by the neck for it," if he did not submit to the Laws. That threatening made him taste - the bitterness of death” in the midst of life, and was thus one reason for placing the Valley midway in the pilgrim. age. But it was not the chief reason. He was not then in such “ bondage to the fear of death,” as we now find him. Ivimey has illustrated this distinction with much ingenuity, although with some confusion, in his Notes to the Pilgrim's Progress. Bunyan was not so free from all “ distress of soul respecting his future salvation,” whilst he was “a young pri. soner” at Bedford, as Ivimey thought. Still “ the sorrows of death” although bitter then, were not so lasting as now. “I
find," he says, “ that Satan is much for assaulting the soul, when it begins to approach towards the grave. He did now beset me strongly; labouring to hide from me my former experience of God's goodness : also setting before me the Terrors of death and judgment, insomuch that, through my fear of miscarrying for ever, (should I now die)-I was as one dead before death, and as if I felt myself already descending into the pit. Methought, I said, there was no way-but to hell I must!"
No wonder Bunyan placed the Valley of the Shadow of Death, in the midst of Christian's pilgrimage! Besides, CHRISTIAN is—himself. By remembering this, his deliverances from death and the fear of death, at this time, will ex. plain the Pilgrim's song,
“But since I live let Jesus wear the Crown.” " Just as I was in the midst of those fears,” he says, “the words about the angels carrying Lazarus into Abraham's bosom, darted in upon me, as if one said, - So it shall be with thee, when thou dost leave the world.' This did sweetly re. vive my spirits, and helped me to hope in God. And when I had with comfort mused on this awhile, that Word fell with great weight upon my mind, · 0 Death, where is thy sting ; 0 Grave, where is thy victory ?!”
The effect of this strong consolation was as great upon his body, as upon his spirits. “ I became well in both body and mind," he says, “at once : for my sickness did presently vanish, and I walked comfortably in my work for God again.” This is not so strange as it appears at first sight. His illness had been brought on by long mental anguish, and had been aggravated even by his intervals of joy because they were extatic, if not extravagant before: but this joy was a perfect anodyne, that “sweetly revived his spirits,” and just “ helped him to hope." There was thus no excitement from surprise or rapture; but all was sweet and soothing whilst it lasted.
His recovery was now rapid and steady. It seems to have had but one interruption, and that arose from his mind again. Another
“ Change came v'er his spirit.” “ I had been pretty well and savoury in my spirit,” he says, “ yet suddenly there fell upon me a great cloud of darkness,