« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
its degree. And, perhaps, his own good will towards Bunyan can only be proved to be very hearty, by giving it all the be. nefit of this distinction. It was good in kind, but small in degree. Be it remembered, however, that it was both more and better than that of any Bishop of the age, elect or enthroned. I both remembered and felt this fact when, in a former chapter, I merely called the following passage from “ The Life,” in the British Museum, imperfect : “ Dr. Barlow, Bishop of Lincoln, coming into these parts, and being truly informed of Mr. Bunyan's sufferings, took a speedy care, out of true Christian compassion, to be the main and chief instru. ment in his deliverance: for which, as a hearty acknowledg. ment, Mr. Bunyan returned him his unfeigned thanks, and often remembered him in his prayers, as next to God his deliverer.” This is, I think, substantially true of Dr. Barlow, although not at all so of the Bishop of Lincoln. The Mitre spoiled his sympathies, as it has done those of many; but he must have befriended Bunyan in some way, at some time; for all contemporary parties give him credit for it.
This view of the matter will not, I fear, set the question at rest. Barlow's conduct in this affair, like his work on “ Weighty Cases of Conscience,” will be edited by a “ Sir Peter Pett," both for and against him ; but not on either side so wisely as did the worthy knight, in 1692.--Watts' Biblio. graphy. The pettish on one side will ask, where are Bunyan's own acknowledgments to Dr. Barlow ? And I can neither produce them, nor refuse to admit that their absence is a suspicious fact; for he was not the man to forget or conceal his obligations. On the other side, it will be asked, and not with. out reason, why should Dr. Barlow be deprived of all the eredit, seeing there is no other claimant ? Dr. Southey felt the difficulty, and said, “How Bunyan's enlargement was effected is not known." I long entertained the opinion, that the Cabinet had sense enough, when the Pilgrim produced a sensation, to have done “the people a favour;" but I found that to be a more untenable position than even the liberality of a Bishop. The Ministers of Charles II. had neither sense nor conscience enough to estimate Bunyan or his influence : whereas, the Bench knew, at least, the worth of popular talent.
Mr. Ivimey, in his zeal to deprive Dr. Barlow of all credit, has sanctioned a view of the case, which Dr. Southey justly says, is “ fraudulent." A “cautionary bond,” it is said, was required, which pledged the prisoner to “ conform in half a
year." John Bunyan conform, or allow his friends to give any such bond for him!“ Nay, verily,” he would have lain till the moss grew upon his eye-brows, rather than accept of, or accede to, deliverance on any such terms. Twelve years of imprisonment had not shaken his principles ; and his friends knew him too well to set their hearts against his conscience in this matter, even if their own consciences would have allowed them to sign such a bond. Neither Bishop nor Chancellor, to a certainty, ever saw or heard of a pledge for Bunyan's conformity. Dr. Southey is wrong, however, in saying that the bond proposed to him when he was first arrested, would have been « less objectionable” to him than the fraudulent one in question. He would have spurned both alike, because both forbade his preaching.
By whatever means he came forth, therefore, he came forth in the character he went into the jail--as a preacher of the everlasting Gospel. His Church also held a day of thanks. giving about this time, “ for present liberty," and soon built a Chapel for him ; plain proofs that he was under no bond, who.. ever released him. The record in the Church Book is, 6 August, 1672, the ground on which the Meeting House stands was bought by subscription.”-Ivimey. I have seen the ori. ginal agreement for this ground. It is between J. Ruff head, shoemaker, and John Bunyan, brazier, both of Bedford, for £50 lawful money.
BUNYAN'S CALUMNIATOR S.
It is not generally known, that an attempt was made to implicate Bunyan in a charge of murder and seduction. He himself, very properly, does not mention it, because the Coro. ner fully acquitted the accused party : for it is not in reference to her, that he made the solemn protestations of purity, which are so well known by all who have read his “ Grace Abound. ing.” That work was written in prison : whereas the case of Agnes Beaumont occurred some years after his release. Unfortunately, her own Narrative of the horrible conspiracy bears no date. It appears, however, from the Tablet erected to her memory in the Baptist Chapel at Hitchin, that she be. came a member of Bunyan's Church in 1672, and that she died in 1720, aged 68 years. She herself mentions the name of the Minister of Hitchin, Mr. Wilson, in her Narrative ; and Ivimey gives 1677, as the date of his settlement there. The Editor also of her history says, that Mr. Wilson became the first pastor of Hitchin, in that year. I have, therefore, ventured to assign the event to the next year. On this sup. position, Agnes Beaumont would be about 25 years of age, when she was charged with murdering her father, at the in. stigation of Bunyan. He, it was said, furnished her with poison to make away with the old man, in order to obtain the property with her.
It is painful to relate, that this fama clamosa arose out of a slander, set on foot by a Clergyman, who resided in Bedford ;
-Lane of Edworth, who knew both parties well! It was, however, a Lawyer who added the charge of murder to the clerical calumny; and he did it from revenge. He had marked her out, three years before, for his wife, and then persuaded her father to leave the bulk of his property to her, and to cut off her sister with a shilling. Her piety, however, defeated Farry's purpose. She could not bear him, because he was ungodly ; and he avenged himself, because he was disappointed.
But this extraordinary affair will be best told by herself. Her own Manuscript was transcribed by the Rev. William Coles of Ampthill, and given to his daughter, the wife of the venerable Andrew Fuller. It was first published by the Rev. Samuel James, A.M., of Hitchin, in 1760, somewhat abridged; and in 1824, it was republished by his son, with additions. Mr. Fuller said to him when enlarging it from the copy of the original, “I think your father abridged too much, and I fear the son will abridge too little.” Mr. Isaac James, of Bristol, judged better when he said, “ I hope the reader will not be of the same opinion.” I, for one, am not; and, therefore, I have given the substance of the Narrative, so far as it bears upon the character of Bunyan: not, however, without first ascertaining in Bristol, that this would not be deemed a tres pass upon the literary property of the family.
Agnes Beaumont having become a member of Bunyan's Church at Bedford, had thus a right to communicate in all the places where he administered the Sacrament, Gamlingay was one of his stations; and by accompanying him there, against his will, she involved herself in unspeakable trouble, and Bunyan in calumny, for a time.
“There was a Church-Meeting at Gamlingay,” she says, 6 and about a week before it, I was much in prayer, especially for two things : the one, that the Lord would incline the heart of my father to let me go, which he sometimes refused ; and, in those days, it was like death to me to be kept from such a meeting. I have found by experience, that to pray hard was the most successful method of obtaining my father's consent ;. for when I have not thus prayed, I have found it very difficult to prevail. The other request was, that the Lord would go with me, and that I might enjoy his presence there, at his table, that, as in many times past, it might be a sealing ordinance to my soul, and that I might have such a sight of a bleeding and dying Saviour, as might melt my heart, and enlarge it in love to his name.
« The Lord was pleased to grant me my requests. Upon asking my father, the day before, he seemed unwilling at first, but pleading with him and telling him that I would do all my work in the morning before I went out, and return home at
night, I gained his consent. Friday being come, I prepared every thing ready to set out. My father inquired who carried me? I told him I thought Mr. Wilson of Hitchin, as he told my brother, the Tuesday before, he should call; to which he said nothing. I went to my brother's and waited, expecting to meet Mr. Wilson; but he not coming, it cut me to the heart, and fearing I should not go, I burst into tears, for my brother had told me that his horses were all at work, and that he could not spare one more than what he and my sister were to ride on, and it being the depth of winter I could not walk thither.
“Now I was afraid that all my prayers on this account were lost ; my way seemed to be hedged up with thorns. I waited with many a longing look, and with a sorrowful heart, under my sad disappointment. O, thought I, that the Lord would but put it into the heart of some person to come this way. Thus I still waited, but with my heart full of fears. At last, quite unexpected, came Mr. Bunyan. The sight of him caused a mixture both of joy and of grief. I was glad to see him, but afraid he would not be willing to take me up behind him, and how to ask him I knew not. At length I desired my brother to do it, which he did. But Mr. Bunyan answered, with some degree of roughness, • No; I will not carry her.' These words were cutting indeed, and made me weep bitterly.
My brother perceiving my trouble, said, Sir, if you do not carry her, you will break her heart : but he made the same reply, adding, “Your father would be grievous angry if I should.' (A certain person in the neighbourhood, one Mr. Farry, who is often referred to afterwards in this relation, had slandered Mr. Bunyan, and set her father against him, en. deavouring to make his vile calumnies pass for truth.) I will venture that, said I. And thus, with much entreaty, he was prevailed on; and 0 how glad was I to think I was going.
“ Soon after we set out, my father came to my brother's, and asked his men who his daughter rode behind ? They said Mr. Bunyan. Upon hearing this his anger was greatly inflamed; he ran down the close, thinking to overtake me and pull me off the horse, but we were gone out of his reach.
6 I had not rode far before my heart began to be lifted up with pride at the thoughts of riding behind this servant of the Lord, and was pleased if any looked after us as we rode along. Indeed I thought myself very happy that day : first,