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but having, not only at my Trial asserted them, but all this tedious tract of time, examined them in cool blood a thousand times by the Word of God, I cannot, dare not now revolt or deny, on pain of eternal damnation. “Thine in Bonds of the Gospel,
« JOHN BUNYAN." (No date.)
DR. SOUTHEY says, that “ Calvinism would never have become a term of reproach, nor have driven so many pious minds, in horror of it, to an opposite extreme, if it had never worn a blacker appearance than in Bunyan's Works.” He was less courteous to Calvinism, as Whitefield preached it, although the Methodist was as 6 mild and charitable" as the Baptist. The Calvinism of both was, indeed, the same, when they be. came men. It is highly creditable, however, to Dr. Southey, to have made this concession even in the case of Bunyan. It places him, where he deserves to stand, with Bishop Horsley: for it is not so much the compliment of a poet to Bunyan, as the homage of a scholar to Truth. I have had to animadvert often and severely upon his life of Bunyan; but I have never forgotten for a moment his vast and varied erudition, or the loveliness of his private character, or the deep interest he takes in theology as well as in literature. Little did I imagine, whilst honoured by a seat at his fireside, and enraptured by his playful wit and profound wisdom in his Li. brary, of which he is the impersonation, that it would ever be my duty to write a line concerning him, except fronı gratitude and admiration! It was, indeed, the sight (in early life) of his beautiful character as a student and a father, that led me to combine literature with both my domestic habits and professional duties ; and as I have reaped much enjoyment from this combination, I feel at times as if I had been ungrateful or unjust to him. And I certainly have been both,—if Pu. ritanism be the heresy he says it is, or if Experience be fana. ticism. I, however, believe the former to be the noblest form of Christianity, and the latter the vital spirit of Piety; and, therefore, I have written against Dr. Southey as their avowed enemy; and only as such. I believe, also, that he will be remembered and influential, on this subject, when nine-tenths of both its lay and ecclesiastical assailants are forgotton ; for he
has hung his high.Church principles, and his low.Church phi. losophy, upon the loftiest Cedars of the Lebanon of both Dis. sent and Methodism; and thus he cannot die now, even if his poetry had not immortalized him before.
I have purposely placed these remarks in this chapter, be. cause Bunyan's Calvinism is his only theological peculiarity, which Dr. Southey has complimented; and because some read. ers will wonder to find that Bunyan was a Calvinist of any kind; and thus turn to it to see,- of what kind. Now, what. ever kind it may be, it is not borrowed Calvinism, nor, of course, copied from Calvin. The only thing of his, Bunyan was likely to see, was his Commentary on the Acts, which was translated and published by Featherstone, in 1585, under the auspices of the Earl of Huntingdon; and that, if he ever saw it, would have contradicted not a little of the Calvinism he was accustomed to hear. The old Genevan, whatever some may say for him, said for himself, “ Because many entangle themselves in doubtful and thorny imaginations, while they seek for their salvation in the hidden council of God, let us learn to seek no other certainty save that which is revealed to us in the Gospel. I say,-let this seal suffice us, that who. soever believeth in the Son of God hath eternal life.'”—Cal. vin's Acts, p. 327.
Bunyan, as we shall see, might have read this Calvinistic maxim, or heard it quoted. We know, however, that he had studied as well as read Luther on the Galatians; and thus was as likely as Gifford, to apply to himself (as Luther did to him. self,) what Paul says of his own election. “Under the Pope. dom, we (Monks) were verily no less, if not more, contume. lious and blasphemous against Christ and his Gospel, than Paul himself;—and especially I! So highly did i esteem the Pope's authority, that I thought it a sin worthy of everlasting death, to dissent from him even in the least point. That wicked opinion caused me to reckon John Huss an accursed heretic. Yea, I accounted it a heinous offence but once to think of him! I would, myself, in defence of the Pope's authority, have applied sword and fire for burning and destroying that heretic; and thought it a high service to God so to do. There was not one of us but was a bloodsucker, if not in deed, yet in heart. It is the alone and inestimable favour of God, that hath spared such a wretch, and, besides that, given me the knowledge of salva. tion. This gift came to me by the mere predestination and free mercy of God.”—Luther's Galat. 4to. p. 35.
Bunyan, like his first pastor, Gifford, would naturally, and well might, take a similar view of his own conversion, as both 66 calling and election;" for, what else or less could he think of it? To what but sovereign and almighty Grace, could any one ascribe or refer it? It was likely, therefore, to influence his general views of the reign of Grace. No one ought to be surprised at all, if Bunyan's personal feelings give even a highly Calvinistic cast to his doctrinal theology. I was, indeed, somewhat astonished to find a formal Treatise on Repro. bation, in his works, when I first read them ; but I merely said to myself, “I wot that through ignorance,” or in dread of the opposite extreme of the Freewillers, he wrote it. I saw it was logical, and as Bunyan is so too, I had no doubt of its Bunyanicity then. I more than doubt that now. Its logic is scho. lastic, not natural. I say scholastic, not instead of calling it artificial, because it is never redeemed by either fact or figure, fancy or egotism. It is as clear and cold as a frosty night; whereas when Bunyan is clearest he is always warmest. Light and heat radiate together in equal proportions when he reasons.
On this ground the Treatise on Reprobation, which appears in the Octavo Edition of his Works, by Hogg, may be ques. tioned. It forms no part, however, of the Folio Éditions of 1692, or 1736. Hogg's has no date; but as it has notes by Mason, and a Preface by Mr. Ryland of Northampton, and a commendation from Mr. Timothy Priestly, it is of course sub. sequent to Marshal's folio edition. Besides, the title of the Treatise is not in Hogg's table of contents. Its absence from the folio is, however, the great point against it; for they were edited by personal friends, on behalf of Bunyan's family. I do not draw, therefore, upon the credit which my readers will give me for a competent knowledge of Bunyan's style, when I thus ask them to “ stand in doubt” of this Treatise. External as well as Internal evidence is against its authenticity. The copy from which Hogg printed it would not prove it to be Bunyan's, even if his name was upon the title page, unless it bore a date prior to his death; and even then, I could hardly believe it; for his name was more than once employed by low booksellers to palm off books he never wrote.
It is not meant, however, by these facts, to say that Bunyan did not hold Reprobation in any sense; but that he did not hold it in the vulgar sense of modern Hyper-Calvinists, nor in the form it appears in that Treatise. And that he was no Hyper-Calvinist on this subject, the following passages will abundantly prove. In his Treatise on Eternal Judgment, he says, “ Now men will tattle and prattle at a mad rate about Election and Reprobation, and conclude, because all are not elected, that God is to blame that any are damned: but then, they will see that men are not damned because they were not elected, but because they sinned ; and also that they sinned, not because God put any weakness into their souls, but because they gave way, and that wilfully, knowingly, and desperately to Satan, and . so turned from the holy commandment delivered unto them.' For, observe;-among all the objections and cavils that are made, and will be made, in the day of the Lord Jesus, they have not one humph about Election and Reproba. tion. And the reason is,—that they shall see then that God could choose and refuse at pleasure, in his prerogative royal, without prejudice to the Lost. They shall be convinced that there was such reality, and downright willingness in God, in every tender of grace and mercy to the worst of men, that they will be drowned with the conviction that they did refuse love for hatred; grace for sin ; heaven for hell; God for the devil.”_Works, vol. iv. p. 2461.
In his treatise on the Covenants, he puts this question, 66 What good will waiting on God do me, if I am not elected ? If I did but know my election, that would encourage me." In answer to this question, he says, “I believe thee! But mark : thou canst not know whether thou art elected, in the first place, but in the second. Thou must first get acquain. tance with God in Christ; which cometh by giving credit to His promises, and the records he has given of his blood, righte. ousness and merits.”— Works, vol. ii. fol. p. 193.
In his Sermon on the Strait Gate, he explains the rejection of Esau (a case which long haunted him,) by drawing a dis. dinction, which is rarely made, between the birthright and the blessing. Addressing a man who cares nothing about the New Birth, but only for mercy at last, he says, “ Thou child of Esau, who sayest, Tush! to being born again; know that the birthright and blessing go together. Miss the one, and thou shalt not have the other. Esau found this to be true : for having first rejected the birthright, he was rejected when he would have (wished to have) inherited the blessing, although he sought it with tears."—Works, vol. iv. p. 2164.
He says of the Book of Life, in his New Jerusalem, “ We are to understand, I say, that book which hath written in it