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All this is come upon us, yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant : our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way, though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.'
“ Now was my heart full of comfort, for I hoped it was sin. cere. I would not have been without this trial for much. I am comforted every time I think of it; and I hope I shall bless God for ever, for the teachings I have had by it. Many more of the divine dealings towards me I might relate, · But these out of the spoils won in battle have I dedicated to main. tain the house of God.'"
Bunyan appended to this wonderful document some out. lines of another class of thoughts, which render it even more wonderful than it appears at first sight. There were times, whilst these hopes and fears were chasing each other, when Infidelity, as well as darkness, shook him more in prison than all the temptations he had ever gone through before. « Of all the temptations I ever met with in my life, the worst, and the worst to bear, is,” he says, “ to question the being of God, and the truth of the Gospel. When this temptation comes, it taketh away my girdle from me, and removeth the foundation from under me. O, I have often thought of that word, . Have your loins girt about with Truth ;' and of that, · If the founda. tions be destroyed what can the Righteous do ?!”
When I first read this sad account of his struggles in prison, I felt anxious to know how he got over the temptation. But the document is silent on that subject. It furnishes no clue to the means or the process of his victory. He left a clue, how. ever, in another Work ; and it is an interesting one, although but an incidental remark. In his Commentary on parts of Genesis, he says of the Rainbow and the regularity of seed. time and harvest, « My Reason tells me they are, and have continued a true prophecy; otherwise, the world could not have existed : for, take away seed-time and harvest, and an end is put to the beginning of the universe. These words were some of the first (chief?) that prevailed with me to believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God.”— Works, vol. iv. p. 2556.
These Prison Thoughts, although somewhat out of place here, will enable the reader to appreciate the Works which were written in Jail; and thus they will be more valuable as lights upon them, than as details of Bunyan's experience. His hand will be traced with interest, now that his heart is
naked and open before us. As experience, however, these de. tails are highly instructive, as well as interesting. The thorough sifting he now gives to his motives and emotions ; to tokens and impulses ; contrasts finely with his early im. prudences, when he was the creature of circumstances. What he says of Noah, with the olive leaf, may be applied to himself now. “ Noah was inquisitive and searching as to how the dove found it. That is, whether she found it dead on the waters, or pluckt it from a tree? He found by its freshness and greenness as a slip, that she had plucked it off. Where. fore he had good ground to be comforted now : for the waters could not be deep ; especially as the olive tree grows in the bottoms or valleys. So we should say of all Signs and Visions, either inward or outward,— See whether they be dead leaves, or plucked from a green tree. There are lying Visions ;-—and not a few have cast up all (religion,) because the seeming truth of some vision hath failed.”- Works, vol. i. p. 63. fol. ed.
BUNYAN'S PRISON AMUSEMENTS.
BUNYAN's chief enjoyment in Prison, next to his high commu. nion with God and Heaven, was the composition of his Pil. grim's Progress. That Work was the only one of his joys, which he allowed neither stranger nor friend to intermeddle with. He kept it " a fountain sealed," from all his family and fellow-prisoners, until it was completed. Dunn, or Wheeler, or Coxe, or any other companion, might hear a page, or obtain a peep, of any of his other Works, whilst they were planning or in progress ;-but the Pilgrim was for no eye nor ear but his own, until he 6 awoke out of his Dream.” He never once, during all that Dream, " talked in his sleep.”
This fact has never been noticed, so far as I recollect, by any of his Biographers or Critics, although he himself states. it strongly. He says expressly of the Pilgrim's Progress,
“ Manner and matter too were all my own,
Preface. It was thus, most likely, written whilst his companions were fast asleep, or before they got up in the morning. And if so, this will partly account for that passionate love of sunrise, and his grief at sunset, which runs through his poetry, in the “ Divine Emblems ;” as well as for his frequent sonnets about his Candles, when a fall or a fly injured them. But however this may be, his prison amusements, as detailed in this chapter, will throw some light upon the process by which he brought and kept himself up to the mark, in composing his Pilgrims; as well as show how he lightened all his labour by diversifying his pursuits, and humouring the versatility of his mind. :
It is not from conjecture; that I assign to his prison the origin of the following specimens of his genius and habits. His spiritualizings began to be written there. He took his.
turn too in that Exercise, in the Common Room of the Jail. And as he had no time to write poetry after he was released from prison, his “ Divine Emblems” can be traced to no other place. Besides, they bear all the marks of the prison-house; and were, most likely, prepared to be sold by his wife and chil. dren, along with the Tag-laces upon which their daily bread depended for a time.
Bunyan's amusements in Prison were all literary. He had nothing but his pen wherewith to cheat or cheer his sad hours. The only thing in the form of a comfort in his cell, apart from his Bible, Concordance, and Book of Martyrs, was a Rose. Bush; and of it he was so fond, that it seems to have been sent to him as a memorial of old friendship.
“This homely Bush doth to mine eyes expose,
A very fair, yea comely, ruddy rose.
Saying, 'Come pluck me; I thy rose will be."" But whilst he thus complimented it upon its beauty, and its seeming good-will towards him, he also quarrelled with it play. fully at times, because it pricked his fingers.
“ Yet,-offer I to gather rose or bud,
'Tis ten to one, but Bush will have my blood.
Vol. ii. p. 971. When Bunyan wrote this, the word trepan had a very em. phatic meaning. Trepanners was the name of the Olivers and Castles of these times ; and although none of them had tam. pered with him, he knew well what Crowther had done, and what Evan Price had suffered, in Lancashire.
Besides his Rose-Bush and Sand-Glass, and a spider he became acquainted with at the window, Bunyan had nothing to divert his lonely hours, except what he could see upon the road or the river, through the iron gratings, on market days. Then, he sometimes enjoyed a laugh at the expense of the Farmers..
" There's one rides very sagely on the road!
Showing that he affects the gravest mode.
Another rides tantivy, or full trot,
To show such gravity, he matters not.
Vol. ii. p. 973 But the study of Solomon's Temple was Bunyan's chief relaxation : for although his poetry amused him, it also wearied him ; because he could not rhyme so fast as he reasoned. Spiritualizing in prose was his hobby, when he had done with his hard work.
We have seen enough of Bunyan's “vein” already, in his accidental and unconscious allegorizing, to whet our curiosity for his deliberate efforts. The man who wrote the Pilgrim and the Holy War, in what Montgomery well calls 6 Allegory so perfect as to hide itself like light, whilst revealing through its colourless and undistorting medium all beside,” was sure to place other truths in the same light. Indeed, it was by trying his hand often at brief spiritualizations, that he became master of lengthened and continuous allegory. He improved him. self by amusing himself.
This has never been sufficiently noticed. It is, however, essential to the history of his genius and writings; and if its development bring out some conceits, both extravagant and ludicrous, we should remember whilst we laugh, that he needed a hobby, and that the worst and weakest of his conceits may be paralleled in the works of both the Fathers and the Reformers. It was St. Athanasius, not Bunyan, who found the penitent thief of Calvary in Habakkuk’s prophecy, that “ the beam (the beetle : Septuagint) out of the wall, shall put forth a voice.” It was St. Bernard, who found the origin of Satan's name, Diabolus, in the words “duobus bolis," two pockets. Bunyan seldom went further than St. Jerome, who found all the Christian virtues symbolized in the pontificals of Aaron. I need not add, that he never dreamt of applying the prophe. cies of the Agony or the Atonement to the martyrdom of Charles. He did think, however, that the doors of the Temple were made of fir, because the fir-tree is “ the house of the Stork ; an unclean bird; and thus an emblem of sinners, who find refuge and rest in the gospel.” He had no doubt that the ceiling of the temple, as it was studded with precious