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CHAPTER XXII.

BUNYAN'S TRIAL.

1661.

BUNYAN was tried by five justices, whose names will be as widely known and as imperishable as “ THE FIVE POINTS,” although for other reasons. Keeling, Chester, Blundale, Beechir, and Snagg, will be red-letter names for ever, in the Almanac of Persecution. Dr. Southey has not at all removed them from this

“Bad eminence,"

nor made their standing more honourable, by declaring that he felt "bound" to say, “ that Bunyan has been most wrongfully represented as having been the victim of intolerant laws, and prelatical oppression.” These justices were both the interpreters and representatives of law and prelacy; and as he has neither shown that they went beyond their commission, nor that they disgraced it, even when they said that Bunyan's god was Beelzebub, and his spirit the devil, both law and prelacy, as they then reigned, must now stand with them. One of them, Sir George Blundale, could cudgel Nonconformists, as well as question, insult, and fine them, when informers brought them before him at his own house :-like his friend Foster, who signalized himself, at the same time, by well nigh ruining a poor pipe-maker, and then telling him that his children “must starve,” if he continued.“ a rebel.” See the chapter—“ Bun. yan's Church Persecuted.” Justice Chester did all he could to set Sir Matthew Hale against Bunyan. Keeling, the judge in this junto, could ape both the insolent buffoonery, and breathe the ruffian spirit, of Jefferies. Indeed, he almost ri. valled that laughing-hyæna, when he called Bunyan's defence, 6 canting in pedlar's Latin ;” and concluded his sentence of imprisonment by the brutal threat, “ You must stretch by the neck for it, if you do not submit;—I tell you plainly." His learning also equalled that of the popish dignitary, at the Re. formation, who pronounced the Hebrew to be a newly invented language : Keeling, with equal erudition, affirmed that the Prayer Book had been “ since the time of the apostles.” Still, with all his faults, he had sense enough to acknowledge that it is mere "babbling," for men who have no piety, to address God as their á Father," by the Lord's Prayer.

These hints concerning the justices, will prepare the reader for Bunyan's own account of his trial. “After I had lain in prison above seven weeks,” he says, “the Quarter Sessions were to be kept in Bedford, for the county thereof; unto which I was to be brought; and when my jailor had set ine before these justices, there was a bill of indictment preferred against me. The extent thereof was as followeth : • That John Bunyan, of the town of Bedford, labourer, being a person of such and such conditions, he hath (since such a time) devilishly and perniciously abstained from coming to church to hear divine service, and is a common upholder of several unlawful meetings and conventicles, to the great disturbance and distraction of the good subjects of this kingdom, contrary to the laws of our sovereign lord the king,' &c.

“ The CLERK. When this was read, the clerk of the sessions said unto me, What say you to this?

"Bun. I said, that as to the first part of it, I was a common frequenter of the church of God. And was also, by grace, a member with the people, over whom Christ is the Head.

“KEELING. But saith Justice Keeling, (who was the judge in that court,) Do you come to church, (you know what I mean) to the parish church, to hear divine service ?

“ Bun. I answered, No, I did not. 6 KEEL. He asked me why?

6 Bun. I said, because I could not find it commanded in the word of God.

• KEEL. He said we were commanded to pray.
“ Bun. I said, but not by the common prayer-book.
6 KEEL. He said how then ?

66 Bun. I said, with the spirit. As the apostle saith, • I will pray with the spirit, and with the understanding.' 1 Cor. xiv. 15.

“ KEEL. He said we might pray with the spirit, and with the understanding, and with the common prayer-book also.

“Bun. I said that the prayers in the common prayer-book were such as were made by other men, and not by the motion of the Holy Ghost within our hearts; and as I said, the apostle saith, he will pray with the spirit, and with the understanding ; not with the spirit and the common prayer-book.

“ ANOTHER JUSTICE. What do you count prayer ? Do you think it is to say a few words over before, or among a people ?

“ Bun. I said, no, not so ; for men might have many elegant or excellent words, and yet not pray at all : but when a man prayeth, he doth through a sense of those things which he wants (which sense is begotten by the Spirit) pour out his heart before God through Christ : though his words be not so many and so excellent as those of others are.

“ JUSTICES. They said that was true.

“ Bun. I said, this might be done without the common pray. er-book.

“ ANOTHER. One of them said (I think it was Justice Blun. dale, or Justice Snagg,) How should we know, that you do not write out your prayers first, and then read them afterwards to the people? This he spake in a laughing way.

“Bun. I said, it is not our use, to take a pen and paper and write a few words thereon, and then go and read it over to a company of people.

“ But how should we know it? said he.
“Bun. Sir, it is none of our custom, said I.

“ KEEL. But said Justice Keeling, it is lawful to use the common prayer, and such like forms : for Christ taught his disciples to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And fur. ther, said he, Cannot one man teach another to pray ? • Faith comes by hearing :' and one man may convince another of sin, and therefore prayers made by men, and read over, are good to teach, and help men to pray.

“ Whilst he was speaking these words, God brought that word into my mind, in the eighth of the Romans, at the 26th verse: I say God brought it, for I had not thought on it be. fore: but as he was speaking, it came so fresh into my mind, and was set as evidently before me, as if the Scripture itself had said, “Take me, take me ;'-50 when he had done speak.

ing,

“ Bun. I said, Sir, the Scripture saith, that it is the Spirit that helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Mark, said I, it doth not say the common prayer-book teacheth us how to pray, but the Spirit. And it is the Spirit that helpeth our infirmities,' saith the apostle ; he doth not say it is the common prayer-book.

« And as to the Lord's-prayer, although it be an easy thing to say, · Our Father,' &c. with the mouth; yet there are very few that can, in the Spirit, say the two first words in that prayer; that is, that can call God their Father, as knowing what it is to be born again, and as having experience that they are begotten of the Spirit of God; which if they do not, all is but babbling, &c.

“ KEEL. Justice Keeling said, that this was a truth.

“ Bun. And I say further, as to your saying that one man may convince another of sin, and that •faith comes by hearing,' and that one man may tell another how he should pray, &c. I say men may tell each other of their sins, but it is the Spirit that must convince them.

* And though it be said that · faith comes by hearing :' yet it is the Spirit that worketh faith in the heart through hearing, or else, they are not profited by hearing.

“ And that though one man may tell another how he should pray: yet as I said before, he cannot pray, nor make his con. dition known to God, except the Spirit help. It is not the common prayer-book that can do this. It is the Spirit that showeth us our sins, and the Spirit that showeth us a Saviour : and the Spirit that stirreth up in our hearts' desires to come to God, for such things as we stand in need of, even sighing out our souls unto him for them with groans which cannot be uttered. With other words to the same purpose. At this they were set.

« KEEL. But says Justice Keeling, what have you against the common prayer-book ?

“ Bun. I said, Sir, if you will hear me, I shall lay down my reasons against it.

“ KEEL. He said, I should have liberty ; but first, said he, let me give you one caution ; take heed of speaking irreverently of the common prayer-book ; for if you do so, you will bring great damage upon yourself.

“ Bun. So I proceeded, and said, my first reason was be. cause it was not commanded in the word of God, and therefore I could not use it.

6 ANOTHER. One of them said, where do you find it commanded in the Scripture, that you should go to Elstow or Bedford, and yet it is lawful to go to either of them, is it not?

“ Bun. I said, to go to Elstow, or Bedford was a civil thing, and not material, though not commanded; and yet God's word allowed me to go about my calling, and therefore if it lay there, then to go thither, &c. But to pray, was a great part of the divine worship of God, and therefore it ought to be done ac. cording to the rule of God's word.

“ ANOTHER. One of them said, he will do harm : let him speak no further

“Just. KEEL. Justice Keeling said, No, no, never fear him, we are better established than that; he can do no harm : we know the Common Prayer-Book hath been ever since the APOS. TLES' time, and it is lawful for it to be used in the church.

“ BUN. I said, show me the place in the epistles, where the common prayer-book is written, or one text of Scripture, that commands me to read it, and I will use it. But yet notwith. standing, said I, they that have a mind to use it, they have their liberty, that is, I would not keep them from it: but for our parts, we can pray to God without it. Blessed be his name!

“ With that one of them said, Who is your God, BEELZEBUB ? Moreover, they often said I was possessed with the spirit of delusion, and of the devil. All which sayings, I passed over; the Lord forgive them ! And further, I said, blessed be the Lord for it, we are encouraged to meet together, and to pray, and exhort one another; for we have had the comfortable presence of God among us ; for ever blessed be his holy name!

“Keel. Justice Keeling called this pedlar's French, say. ing, that I must leave off my canting. The Lord open his eyes!

“Bun. I said, that we ought to · exhort one another daily while it is called to-day.'.

“ KEEL. Justice Keeling said, that I ought not to preach. And asked me where I had my authority !_with other such like words.

“Bun. I said, that I would prove that it was lawful for me, and such as I am, to preach the word of God.

“ KEEL. He said unto me, by what Scripture ?

“ I said, by that in the first epistle of Peter, the ivth chap. the 11th ver. and Acts the xviiith, with other scriptures, which

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