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BUNYAN'S SECOND REFORMATION.
BUNYAN's first reformation, as we have seen, did not amount to much, nor last long. He turned over a new leaf, and but one leaf; and that he soon turned back to its old place ; for he seems neither to have gone to Church again, nor to have read with his wife, for some time, after he determined “ to go on in sinning.”
This will not be wondered at, when the form of that deter. mination is read. We have seen that he returned desperate. ly to his sport on the green, when his pride rallied his spirits. This he did, he says, “ under a kind of despair,” which possessed his soul with a persuasion, that he “ could never attain to other comfort, than that which sinning could furnish. This would have been an ensnaring temptation to any man. To Bunyan it was an inflaming one. It set on fire the whole course of his nature. “Heaven was gone,” he says; “ where. fore I found within me a great desire to take my fill of sin : still studying what sin was yet to be committed, that I might taste the sweetness of it. And I made as much haste as I could to fill my belly with its delicacies, lest I should die before I had my desires :--for that I greatly feared.”
This is as explicit as it is awful. And yet Dr. Southey says, that swearing was the only actual sin to which he was addicted !” Bunyan himself says of the preceding confession, “ In these things, I protest before God, I lie not ; neither do I frame this sort of speech. These were really, strongly, and with all my heart, my desires. The good Lord, whose mercy is unsearchable, forgive my transgressions! Now, therefore, I went on in sin with great greediness of mind; still grudging that I could not be satisfied with it as I would.”
Now, although Bunyan often calls vanities, vices; and follies sins; and sinful desires, transgressions ; both his sense and Saxon are too good to allow such a confession to be inter. preted of swearing only. I know that it does not mean sen.
suality, nor habitual drunkenness; but I am quite sure that it means more than swearing, or even than blaspheming. It means theft also : petty, it may be ; but still theft. Hence, when his conscience became tender, he says, “I durst not take a pin or stick, though but so big as a straw; for my conscience now was sore, and would smart at every touch.” In like man. ner, one of the first compliments paid to him on his reforma. tion, by his neighbours, was, that now he had become a tru. ly honest man.” Thus he had not been distinguished for honesty before. Tinker-like, he had no doubt, taken so many stakes from the hedges, and stray fouls from the farms, that neither the farmers nor their wives would have countersigned the assertion of Dr. Southey, that swearing was his only actual sin.”
But, whatever the confession included, Bunyan says, “ This did continue with me about a month or more ; but one day, as I was standing at a neighbour's shop-window, cursing and swearing, and playing the mad-man after my wonted manner, there sat within, the woman of the house, and heard me; who, though she was a loose ungodly wretch” (in this all the old accounts of her agree), “ yet protested, I swore and cursed at that most fearful rate, that she was made to tremble to hear me : and told me farther, that I was the ungodliest fellow for swearing that she ever heard in all her life ; and that I, by thus doing, was enough to spoil all the youth in the whole town, if they came but in my company."
Bunyan little expected such a reproof from such a quarter. 6. It wrought more with him," says one of his early Annalists, “ than many that had been given him before by the sober and godly.” His first Biographer says, “ I remember he declared, that the first impulse upon his mind, was the sharp rebuke of a woman who was reputed to be of slender virtue, who hearing him garnish his discourses, as he termed it, with oaths at the beginning and end, severely reproved him, and admonished his companions to shun his conversation, or he would spoil them and make them as bad as himself.” Bunyan himself says, 66 At this reproof, I was silenced, and put to secret shame; and that too, as I thought, before the God of Heaven.”
I have recorded this minutely, because it had a better effect upon him than his supposed vision, and because from that hour his second reformation began. He stood by the shop window, as he had done on the play-ground, silent, indeed, but “hanging down his head,” and musing more wisely, although more
openly rebuked. “While I stood there,” he says, with touch. ing simplicity, “ I wished with all my heart that I might be a little child again, that my father might learn me to speak with. out this wicked way of swearing : for, thought I, I am so much accustomed to it, that it is in vain for me to think of a reformation : for, I thought, that could never be.”
He was now touching again the very rock upon which his former convictions made shipwreck. He remembered this well, and felt it deeply when he came to record it in his life. Hence he says, “ How it came to pass I know not ; but I did, from this time forward, leave off my swearing, that it was a great wonder to myself to observe it. And, whereas before, I knew not how to speak unless I put an oath before and ano. ther behind, to make the words have authority; now I could speak better without it, and with more pleasantness than ever I could before.”
Thus it is not so useless for the bad to reprove the worst, as the Proverbs, “ Satan rebuking sin,” and “The kettle calling the pot black,” imply. The latter proverb originated most like. ly, amongst the Tinkers, and had been often used, perhaps, by Bunyan himself, to turn the laugh against ordinary reproy. ers; but now he could not employ it, although it was never more applicable. The fact is, very unexpected reproofs do their work upon the conscience, before the memory can send an answer into the lips. Perkins of Cambridge, (an able Pu. ritan divine afterwards) was shamed out of his drunken habits at once, by overhearing a poor woman say to her crying child, * Hold your tongue, or I will give you to drunken Perkins yon. der.” Thus, whilst it is all very well to say with Dávid, “ Let the righteous smite me,” there is more occasion for shame when the wicked may repeat the blow, without injustice. Then it is pitiful to say, “ Look at home,” or to talk against “ Satan reproving sin." Reproof for a specific sin or incon. sistency, must be richly deserved, before the wicked would think of administering it.
How long Bunyan's reformation was confined to the aban. donment of one bad habit, cannot now be ascertained with certainty. It seems, however, to have been so for a considerable length of time. Hence he says, “ All this while, I knew not Jesus Christ, neither did leave my sports and plays.” Thus he was not carried far by his second convictions, nor influenced by any regard to the love or the authority of Christ. This is what he means by not knowing Jesus Christ. Accord
ingly, he adds, “I was ignorant of the corruptions of my nature, and of the want and worth of Christ to save us.”
Soon after this, happily, Bunyan was led to take great delight in reading the Scriptures. This, as might be expect. ed, enlarged his views of personal reformation, and increas. ed his improvement. It had, however, from its random char. acter, another effect; it laid the foundation for most of the sad mistakes which embarrassed and embittered his spirit, when he became deeply concerned about his salvation. This is a startling, remark, I am aware. Indeed I intend it to be so. In no other way could the reader be prepared for the strange fancies, or the haunting fears, which mark the early religious experience of Bunyan. These spring chiefly, how. ever, from reading first, and spiritualizing in his own allegori. cal vein, as he went on, the historical parts and ceremonial precepts of the Old Testament. He thus began with things which had no direct bearing upon his eternal interests, or his moral improvement. Even the Apocrypha was more interest. ing to him than the Gospels; and Paul's Epistles, he could not “away with them” at all.
This fact has been too little noticed hitherto, or brought in too late to be useful. Bunyan's narrative of it is in his best style. “ I fell into company with one poor màn that made profession of religion, who, as I then thought, did talk pleasant. ly of the Scriptures, and of the matter of religion. Where. fore, falling into some love and liking to what he said, I be. took me to my bible, and began to take pleasure in reading : but especially in the historical part thereof; for, as for Paul's Epistles, and such like Scriptures, I could not away with them, being as yet ignorant either of the corruptions of my nature, or of the want and worth of Jesus Christ to save us." Such was his reading; partial and irregular. His new counsellor, also was a dangerous man; for although not then, what he soon afterwards became,“ a most devilish Ranter,” and eventually an Atheist, he must have been a mere talker, and a thorough speculator, however “ pleasantly” he could speak about the Scriptures and the matter of religion : for men who soon come to “ deny that there is a God, angel, or spirit,” never had any fixed principles, even if they were not, as this man showed himself to be, licentious at the heart's core. I do not now, however, enter upon his history any farther than just to show that Bunyan fell into bad hands, when this masked libertine became his " intimate companion.” He, indeed, neither knew
nor suspected him to be rotten at the core then. In fact, he became acquainted with him when he was least dangerous; for the man was then trying a moral religion, for once in his life, after having run the gauntlet through all the ranks of speculation. He came soon, however, “ to laugh at all so. briety" and decency; and, therefore, it is not unfair nor rash to assume that from the first, he had a strong disposition to “ wrest the Scriptures.”
These facts of the case will keep the reader on the watch for their influence upon Bunyan's mental habits. The Bible, however, even as he read it then, had a decided influence upon his moral habits. “I fell,” he says, “ to some outward refor. mation, and did set the Commandments before me, for my way to Heaven; which commandments I also did strive to keep; and, as I thought, did keep them pretty well sometimes. And then I should have comfort. Yet now and then, I should break one, and so afflict my conscience. But then, I should repent, and say I was sorry for it, and promise God to do bet. ter; and there got help again; for, then, I thought I pleased God as well as any man in England.”
This self-complacency, whilst it sprang from his own un. renewed heart, was nourished by public applause. He was now a new man, although not “ a new creature;” and as his neighbours were ignorant of this Scriptural distinction, “ they did marvel much," he says, “ to see such great and famous al. teration in my life and manners. They did take me to be a very godly man-a new and religious man.” He himself admits also, that the alteration was famous: “and indeed so it was,” he says, “ though I knew not (then) Christ, nor grace, nor faith, nor hope ; for as I have well since seen, had I died then, my state had been most fearful. But, I say, my neighbours were amazed at this my great conversion from prodigious profane. ness, to something like a moral life. And truly so they well might; for this my conversion was as great, as for TOM OF BEDLAM to become a sober man. Now, therefore, they began to praise, to commend, and speak well of me, both to my face and behind my back. Now I was, they said, become godly; now I was become a right honest man. And 0, when I un. derstood those were their words and opinions of me, it pleased me mighty well.”
It is impossible not to imagine, that his worthy wife brought the best of these “ words and opinions” home to him, from both church and market. Public respect was a new thing to