Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

more of the scene; except, that the devil threw part of the body upon the banqueting table, before the Mayor, telling his worship, “ that like destruction awaited him," if he did not “ amend his wicked life.” This is very unlike the devil : but Bunyan forgot that, in his anxiety to warn swearers, and cursers. Thus his very credulity arose from good motives. Besides, it was not greater than that of more learned men, in these times.

Another vice of the age, which he lashed severely, was the indelicate dress of women, who imitated the court bevy of Charles II. “I once talked with a maid, by way of reproof," he says, “ of her fond and gaudy garments. But she told me, the Tailor would make it so. Alas, poor proud girl, she gave the order to the Tailor so to make it. Many make parents, husbands, and tailors, the blind to others : but their naughty hearts, and their giving way thereto,—that is the original cause of all these evils. Many have their excuses ready : but these will be but the spider's web, when the thunder of the word of the great God shall rattle from heaven against them, as it will at death and judgment; but I wish it might do it before.”

I dare not quote his sketches of fashionable dress. Not, however, that they are extravagant or indelicate ; but only too graphic. Bunyan's tastes were chaste, and his mind nobly pure, from the time he became a Christian. Indeed before, he was not a sensualist. Who could keep nearer to truth, or farther from indelicacy, than he does in the following charac. teristic stroke! “I wonder what it was that of old was called • the attire of a harlot. Certainly, it could not be more be. witching and tempting, than are the garments of many professors this day.” But this subject is sufficiently touched by others.

It was not, however, vain professors only, that he could show up graphically. He pilloried the farmers' wives who “ made a prey of the necessity of the poor,” as well as the ci proud dames” who aped the court. Cobbett, with all his powers of description and exposure, never went beyond the following sketch. It only wants names, in order to be a per. fect story. Even without names, it is all alive, and in motion. -- There is a poor body, we will suppose, so many miles from the market; and this man wants a bushel of grist, a pound of butter, or a cheese, for himself, his wife, and poor children. But his dwelling is so far from the market, that if

he goes thither, he shall lose his day's work, which will be eight-pence or ten-pence damage to him; and that is some. thing to a poor man. So he goeth to one of his Masters or Dames for what he wanteth, and asks them to help him with such a thing. Yes, say they, you may have it : but, withal, they give him a gripe: perhaps, make him pay as much more for it at home, as they can get when they have carried it five miles to a market; yea, and that too for a refuse of their commodity. In this the women are especially faulty, in the sale of their butter and cheese. But above all your Hucksters, that buy up the poor man's victuals by wholesale, and sell it to him again for unreasonable gains by retail, and as we call it, by piece. meal, they are got into a way, after a stringing rate, to play their game upon (the poor) by extortion. I mean, such who buy up butter, cheese, eggs, bacon, by wholesale, and sell it again (as they call it) by twopenny-worths, penny-worths, a halfpenny-worth, or the like, to the poor,—all the week, after the market is past. These, though I would not condemn them all, do, many of them, bite and pinch the poor, by this kind of evil dealing. Besides, these are Usurers. Yea, they take usury for victuals ; which thing the Lord hath forbidden.

6 Perhaps some will find fault, for my meddling thus, with other folks' matters, and for my prying thus into the secrets of their iniquity. But to such I would say,--since such actions are evil, it is time they should be hissed out of the world.”— Works, vol. ii. Even Ebenezer Elliot, the Corn-Law Rhymer, could not wish this better done. It is not an anecdote, I know; but it has dramatic power, of the highest order. This may be accounted for by Bunyan's opportunities of seeing the mar. kets, whilst travelling as a tinker. There was also a regular Cheese.fair at Elstow. Camden's Brit.

Bunyan tells a remarkable story in his Life of Badman, con. cerning the master of an Ale-House, whom he evidently knew something of. I refer to it, for the sake of some incidental facts which throw some light upon his times. The Publican had a half-witted son, whom he encouraged to curse him for the amusement of his guests, when they were too dull. He would even irritate the poor idiot, to consign him to the devil! In course of time, the wretched man was seized with a disor. der, which was deemed Satanic possession. Something, as if “ a live thing,” moved up and down in his body, until his fits came on. Then, it settled like “ a hard lump on the soft part of his chest, and so would rend and tear him, and make him

roar.” This, of course, was nothing but extreme spasms. It was, however, treated as possession. “ There was one Freeman—who was more than an ordinary doctor-sent for, to cast out this devil :- and I was there when he attempted to do it ;" says Bunyan, or Bunyan's friend.

" The manner was this : they had the possessed man into an outer-room, and laid him on his belly upon a form, with his head hanging over the form’s-end. Then they bound him down thereto : which done, they set a pan of coals under his mouth, and put something therein that made a great smoke : by this means (as it was said) to fetch out the devil. There, therefore, they kept the man till he was almost smothered in smoke : but no devil came out of him. At which Freeman was somewhat abashed, the man greatly afflicted, and I made to go away wondering and fearing. In a little time, there. fore, that which possessed the man carried him out of the world, according to the cursed wishes of his son. And this was the end of this hellish mirth !”

There was a wiser Doctor in Bedford than Freeman. “We had in our town,” says Bunyan, “a little girl that loved to eat the heads of foul tobacco-pipes ; and neither rod nor good word could reclaim her, or make her leave them. So her fa. ther takes advice of a Doctor, to wean her from thom. Take,' saith the Doctor, • a great many of the foulest tobacco-pipe heads you can get, and boil them in milk, and make a posset of that milk, and make your daughter drink that posset-drink up.' He did so, and made her drink it up. It made her so sick, that she could never abide to meddle with tobacco-pipe heads any more ; and so she was cured of that disease.” Bunyan used to tell this anecdote, in order to illustrate the fact, “ that sin may be made an affliction as bitter as worm. wood and gall ;" and to enforce the warning, “ Take heed; God will make thee a posset so bitter to thy soul, that it shall make sin loathsome to thee.”- Works, p. 538. This girl was, probably, the daughter of the Pipe Manufacturer, mentioned in the Chapter, “ Bunyan's Church Persecuted.”

I add only two more anecdotes illustrative of his mode of turning trifles to account. “I heard a story from a soldier, who, with his company, had laid siege against a Fort,—that so long as the besieged were persuaded their foes would show them no favour, they fought like mad-men : but when they saw one of their fellows taken, and received to favour, they all came tumbling down from their fortress, and delivered them

selves into their enemy's hands. And I am persuaded that, did sinners believe the grace and willingness of Christ's heart to save, as the word imports, they would come tumbling into his arms."- Works, p. 446.

“Once being at an honest woman's house, I, after some pause, asked her how she did ? She said, “Very badly.' I asked her if she was sick ? She answered, No.' What then,' said I, «are any of your children ill ? She told me • No.' What,' said Í, is your husband amiss, or do you go back in the world ? No, no,' said she, but I am afraid I shall not be saved! She then broke out with a heavy heart, saying, “ Ah! Goodman Bunyan,--Christ and a pitcher! Had I Christ, it would be better with me than I think it is now, though I went and begged my bread with a pitcher ! This cry, • Christ and a pitcher, made a melodious noise in the ears of the very angels. The bells of heaven ring, and angels shout for joy, when the want and worth of Christ” are thus felt and confessed. Works, p. 526, 544.

It will be readily seen from such applications of familiar events, that Bunyan was an attentive observer of men and things, and thus that most of the characters in his Pilgrims were copied from real life. This has been suspected in his Holy War also ; but without reason. The leaders in that war are either too good or too bad, to have had their originals in the royal or the parliamentary army. Besides, Bunyan had not sufficient access to any of them, to copy from them. He may have found some of the new Aldermen and Burgesses of Mansoul in the old Corporation of Bedford ; but his Captains and Standard Bearers, are all pure abstractions, or embodied passions.

CHAPTER XXIX.

BUNYA N's JAILOR.

1661.

BUNYAN, like Joseph in Egypt, found a friend in the Keeper of the prison ;”—and he equally deserved one. Would we knew his Jailor's name! But, like that of Joseph's, it is un. known. It will be said of both keepers, however, until the end of time, that “God gave” their prisoners favour in their sight.

Bunyan says of his Jailor, “By him I had some liberty granted me, more than at the first : so that I followed my wonted course of preaching; taking all occasions that were put into my hand to visit the people of God, exhorting them to be steadfast in the faith of Christ Jesus, and to take heed that they touched not the Common Prayer, but to mind the Word of God which giveth direction to Christians in every point ; being able to make the man of God perfect in all things through faith in Jesus Christ, and thoroughly to furnish him unto all good work.'2 Tim. ii. 17. “Touch not;"this seems, at first sight, but a sorry return for the freedom so generously granted by the friendly Jailor. It was, however, like Paul's “Nay, verily let them fetch us out,” addressed to the Jailor at Philippi. It was not to peril him, but to main tain the rights of Roman Citizenship, that Paul spoke thus. So with Bunyan. Had he been silent on the subject of the Prayer Book, out of consideration for his Keeper, he would have stultified his own cause, now that the Prayer Book was made the hinge upon which even citizenship turned. Besides, to give any quarter to the claims of that book then, would have been to concede all the rights of conscience: for not only was no discretionary use of it permitted, but it was employed to enforce attendance upon the ministry of men who, in many instances (judging merely from Bishop Burnet's account of

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »