« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
the Tinker; and as he enjoyed it mightily, she would natural. ly keep upon the outlook for whatever compliments were most likely to gratify him ; for it would never occur to her, that she was feeding his vanity, or ministering to his self-righteousness. The only thing she saw was, her husband becoming like her fa. ther; and the only thing she felt was, that the example she had so often held up for imitation, was now taking effect. I can see her now, hanging over his chair with rapture; and can hear her say, “0, John, dear, that is so like what father was.” Who does not feel that there is more fact than fancy in this vision of Bunyan's fire-side, when Bunyan was “ talking bravely” about religion ? ?
I do not forget that Bunyan himself felt differently, when he wrote the history of his Pharisaism. Any thing, however, is better than blackguardism, especially in a husband; and that wife is more nice than wise, who would not hail and help on the moral improvement of her husband, even if she knew that his motives and his spirit were legal--for they would not become evangelical by finding fault with them—nor by calling what he means for good, by ill names. The Cross of Christ can never be endeared or commended to unconscious Pharisees, by unmasking abstract Pharisaism. .
Bunyan was, however, although he knew it not at the time, a thorough Pharisee. Accordingly, when he reviewed this period of his life, he said, “ As yet I was nothing but a poor painted hypocrite; yet I loved to be talked of, as one that was truly godly. I was proud of my godliness; and, indeed, I did all I could, either to be seen of, or to be well spoken of by men. And thus I continued for about a twelvemonth, or more.”
During that year, his conscience began to question the law. fulness of his favourite amusements-bell-ringing and dancing. And, in regard to the former, his conscience was not at all too squeamish ; for the ringing he had loved occurred chiefly on Sabbath; and that not to summon the parish to worship, but to serenade them after worship. It is also not unlikely, that the dancing he was so fond of, followed the merry peal of the Sabbath-evening bells. It is not easy, otherwise, to account for the following struggles he had to make before he could give either up ; unless, indeed we suppose that the company in the steeple-tower, or on the green of Elstow, were no longer suited to his taste. “ Now you must know," he says, “that before this, I had taken much delight in ringing; but my conscience
beginning to be tender, I thought such practice but vain ; and therefore forced myself to leave it; yet my mind hankered: wherefore I would go to the steeple house (it was a distinct house from the Church), and look on, though I durst not ring.
“ But I thought this did not become religion neither; yet I forced myself, and would look on still. But quickly after I began to think, How if one of the Bells should fall? Then I chose to stand under a main-beam, that lay overthwart the steeple from side to side; thinking, there I might stand sure, But then, I thought again, should the Bell fall with a swing, it must first hit the wall, and then rebounding upon me, might kill me, for all this beam. This made me stand in the steeple door. And now, I thought, I am safe enough; for if the Bell should now fall, I can slip out behind these thick walls, and so be preserved notwithstanding.
“ So after this I would yet go and hear them ring ; but would not go farther than the steeple door. But then it came into my head, How if the steeple itself should fall ? And this thought did continually so shake my mind, that I durst not stand at the steeple door any longer; but was forced to flee, for fear the steeple should fall upon my head.
6 Another thing was, my dancing. I was full a year be. fore I could quite leave that. But, all this while, when I thought I had kept this or that commandment, or did, by word or deed, any thing I thought was good, I had great peace of conscience; and would think with myself, God cannot choose but be now pleased with me! Yea, to relate this in my own way, I thought no man in England could please God better than I! But, poor wretch as I was, I was all this while igno. rant of Jesus Christ, and going about to establish my own righteousness: and had perished therein, had not God, in mer. cy, showed me my state by nature.”
All this is in Bunyan's “own way,” in more senses than he attached to the expression. He meant only his own style ; and that he had a right to call his own. It was wholly his own: at least, it smacks only of Moses and the evangelists. Who, therefore, can regret that he had read so few other books? The best contemporary Works would have spoiled both his language and his taste. It is, however, his reasonings and imaginings in the bell-tower of Elstow, that deserve the chief attention here. They throw more light upon his tempe. rament, than even his reformation itself : and I am gathering such lights, even more carefully than I record it, (much as I
feel interested in every step of it, because we shall soon want strong lights, in order to follow him through the devious and capricious mazes of bis spiritual history, or what Dr. Southey calls, “ the hot and cold fits of a spiritual Ague.” These fits would have been less mysterious to the eloquent biographer, had he studied the hot and cold fits of Bunyan, produced by the question of bell-ringing. That called into natural and full play, the original elements and tendencies of Bunyan's mind. The man who could, and did, go through such a process of hope and fear, observation and conjecture, experiment and suspicion, calculation and hesitation, in the case of an impro. bable danger, and in spite of all the massive architecture of the Tower staring him in the face, is just the kind of man who may be expected (for he is sure to examine every thing which interests him; not only on all sides, but to turn it in. side out, and outside in; and after having scrutinized all its parts, in all lights, he is almost sure to take up with the dark. est view of the subject, so far as he himself is concerned in its bearings. Bunyan was not, indeed, a slothful man, to invent Lions in the way; nor a nervous man, to suspect Lions : but he was a moody and mighty Magician, to conjure them up anywhere, and at all times, and in terrific forms. For let it ever be remembered, that it was the same powers of mind, all unknown to himself as talents, and all unbalanced by know. ledge or example, that played the fool and the madman alternately with scraps of Scripture in early life, which afterwards invented the Pilgrim's Progress, with the tact of Shakspeare, the wisdom of Plato, and the precision of Locke. The powers which created that work, were sure to run wild, whilst they knew not their own strength, and had no guide, and nothing delightful enough to satisfy their cravings when they concentrated their exercise.
But I forbear: I was not made for philosophizing. What I mean by these hints will be obvious in the next Chapter, however they may cloud the end of this one.
HITHERTO, Bunyan was, at best, only a “ brisk talker” about religion, as he calls himself; and that only as it bore upon opinion and a few practical duties. Nothing he knew of re. ligion had humbled him at all, either before God or man; and all that he practised only made him proud before both. Like many who turn over a new leaf in morals, he never looked at the old leaf, which was still uppermost in his heart.
In his case, this can hardly be wondered at. He had met with none who knew “ the plague of their own hearts ;” and his reading had not turned at all upon the necessity of a new heart, or of a right spirit, before God. His wife, also, although well disposed, was not well informed on this subject. He remembered all this when his attention was drawn to the state of his heart; and gratefully recorded the means of it. Hence he says, “ Upon a day, the good providence of God called me to Bedford, to work at my calling : and in one of the streets of that town (would we knew which street !) I came where there were three or four women sitting at a door in the sun, talking about the things of God. And being now willing to hear what they said, I drew near, to hear their discourse—for I was now a brisk talker of myself in the matters of religion
—but I may say, I heard, but understood not; for they were far above, out of my reach.
• Their talk was about a new birth—the work of God în their hearts; as also, how they were convinced of their mis. erable state by nature. They talked how God had visited their souls with his love in the Lord Jesus, and with what Promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil.”
All this was new to Bunyan; and especially that part of it which related to the devil. Of him he had never thought be. fore, as a Tempter to anything but wickedness or crime :-as a Tempter to despair, distrust, impatience, or unbelief, he had
never heard or dreamt. Accordingly, he paid unusual atten. tion to what the poor women said on this subject. “Moreover,” he says, “ they reasoned of the suggestions and tempta. tions of Satan, in particular ; and told to each other, by what means they had been afflicted, and how they were borne up under his assaults. They also discoursed of their own wretch. edness of heart, and of their unbelief; and did contemn, slight, and abhor their own righteousness as filthy, and in. sufficient to do them any good.” o
All this perplexed him, and compelled him to feel that these new things were strange things to him. And yet, he seems to have asked for no explanation of any of them; not even of Satan's temptations, which were an utter mystery to him. This is the more remarkable, as he evidently had a fair opportunity ; for the women were communicative, and he was either sitting or standing close by them. This is certain. Accordingly, when they had finished their conversation, “ I left them,” he says, 5 and went about my employment again.” Thus, he did not overhear them, as he was mending kettles ; but was in their company. He might, therefore, have asked questions; for the speakers evidently wished to draw him out. They were talking at him, although not in a wrong spirit. They knew their man; and gladly set themselves, like Pris. cilla with Apollos, to teach him, “the way of the Lord more perfectly.”
This is the true reason of their conduct. They were not religious gossips, who would have told their experience to any one. They were “ holy women,” who knew what Bunyan had been ; and what he had become by the reproof of a bad woman; and what he was likely to turn out if left in the hands of his canting companion, the masked Ranter, who could talk “ pleasantly” about religion. They knew this, and took care that he should not have all the talk to himself.
I am not ascribing to these poor women more knowledge of Bunyan and his companion, nor ‘more zeal for Bunyan's welfare, than they really possessed : for they were accredited Members of the Baptist Church in Bedford ; which was then too young, too small, and too pure, for any of its members to overlook or neglect any returning Prodigal, however far off from his Father's house; or to mistake any wolf in sheep's clothing, however woolly. The honour of religion was too dear to the truly Godly of these times, for that. And this will be equally intelligible and credible, to all who know any