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the hedge, and lay all waste and common, when we desired the Prelates tyranny might cease.” Baxter, however, never regretted the downfall of that tyranny itself, nor ever thought that such Prelacy would have preserved either the morals or the maxims of the Reformation. Besides, if the Puritans are to be held accountable for the monstrocities of the Common. wealth, the Prelatists must answer for the wider-spread enor. mities of the Restoration. Bunyan saw both, and spared neither, as we shall see by and by.
He felt deeply, and has told frankly, the seductive power of Anti-nomianism, as it then appeared to his passions. “Oh these temptations !” he exclaims ; “I being but a young man, and my nature in its prime." It deserves special notice here, that he ascribed to a hope that God had designed him “for better things,” the strength of that Godly fear, by which he was kept from embracing the “ cursed principles” of the Ranters.
He verified, also, at this time, in his own experience, the truth of David's answer to the question, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy Word.” Never did young or old man take better heed to ihis rule than Bunyan did, whether travelling or at home. « The Bible,” he says, " was precious to me in those days. I began, methought, to look into the Bible with new eyes; and read as I never did before ; and especially the epistles of the apostle St. Paul were sweet and pleasant to me. And, indeed, I was never out of the Bible, either by reading or meditation : still crying out to God, that I might know the truth and way to heaven and glory.”
Now his reading became impartial, and for the right pur. pose. And yet, even at this time, that cast of his mind, which I have already hinted at, showed itself. Both the marvel. lous and the mystical, had peculiar charms to him. He even preferred the abstract to the simple and plain, except where practical duty was concerned. Hence, instead of taking his views of faith from the definitions of Paul or John, he took them first from Paul's catalogue of the miraculous or extraor. dinary gifts of the Spirit ; where faith has evidently and cer. tainly the same reference to the Miraculous, which Tongues or Prophesy had. 1 Cor. xii. 9.
There is also, in connexion with his peculiar mind, some. thing suspicious in the very way he speaks of searching the Scriptures. Instead of saying, he met with such a passage,
he says, he hit upon it; and he evidently regarded it as a “happy hit.” A mind of this order, without a guide, is sure to miss, and that widely at times. Accordingly, Bunyan's first notions of faith were equally vague and visio nary.
“ As I went on and read,” he says, “I hit upon that passage, • To one is given by the Spirit, the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit ; and to another faith,' &c. On this ( mused, and could not tell what to do: especially this word faith put me to it! for I could not help it; but sometimes must question, whether I had faith or no. But I was loath to conclude I had no faith; for if I do so, thought I, then I shall count myself a very castaway indeed." This was wisely resolved; but unwisely reasoned. “ No," said I to myself, “ though I am convinced that I am an igno. rant sot, and that I want those blessed gifts of knowledge and understanding that other people have, yet, at a venture, I will conclude, I am not altogether faithless, though I know not what faith is.” He made this venture, because he was “ loath to fall quite into despair.” Thus he never thought of asking himself, what he believed. That was too plain a question for his taste ; too simple a path for his feet. Accordingly, he saw no faith in his cordial belief of the truth, although he loved the truth so far as he knew it. There was no perverseness of heart in this mistake. It sprang from sheer ignorance, and the fear of taking up with a mere nominal faith. He saw that those who “ conclude themselves in a faithless state, have neither rest nor quiet in their souls ;” and therefore he was afraid to meet the question fairly, in his own case, lest he should be driven into despair: for he saw 6 for certain,” that if he had not faith, he was “sure to perish for ever.” This, he says, made him “afraid to see his want of faith,” although he strongly suspected he had none. He could not rest long, however, upon what he well calls “ the blind conclusion,” that he was “not altogether faithless,' even although ignorant of what faith is. His acute understanding shrank from this absurdity with shame, even whilst his aching heart clung to it with fondness. “I could not rest content,” he says, “until I did now come to some certain knowledge, whether I had faith or no: this al. ways running in my mind, But what if you want faith indeed ? How can you tell you have faith? So that, though I endea. voured at first to look over (to overlook) the business of faith, yet in a little time, I better considering the matter, was willing to put myself upon trial, whether I had faith or no.” The
met le wa alls to to me
honesty of this resolution is as delightful as its imprudence is glaring. In after years, however, he himself thought only of its rashness. “Alas, poor wretch,” he says of himself, “ so ignorant and brutish was I, that I knew not (then) any more how to do it, than I know how to begin and accomplish that rare and curious piece of art which I never yet saw or considered.”
This is his own preface to his own account of that trial of his faith, to which he was now about to subject himself. That account, therefore, ludicrous as it is, will not turn the laugh against him, except on the face of witlings: for he would have acted wisely, if he had only known how to do so. He himself claims credit for himself thus far; and says, “ You must know that, as yet, I had not in this matter broken my mind to any one: only did hear and consider.” Besides, he had no suspicion at the time, that Satan had anything to do with anything which was well meant in religion. What he says about the tempter, in the following story, is not what he thought during the temptation; but his final judgment, when he knew better. “ Being put to a plunge,” he says, “ the tempter came in with this delusion, that there was no way for me to know I had faith, but by trying to work some miracles; urging those Scriptures that seem to look that way, for the enforcing and strengthening his temptation. Nay, one day, as I was between Elstow and Bedford, the temptation was hot upon me to try if I had faith, by doing some miracle : which miracle was this ; I must say to the puddles that were in the horse-pads, Be dry ; and to the dry places, Be you puddles! And truly, one time, I was going to say this, indeed. But just as I was about to speak, this thought came into my mind,But go under yonder hedge, and pray first, that God would make you able. But when I had concluded to pray, this came hot upon me, that if I prayed, and came again, and tried to do it, and yet did nothing notwithstanding ; then to be sure, I had no faith, but was a castaway, and lost. Nay, thought I, if it be so, I will not try yet, but will stay a little longer. So I continued at a great loss : for, thought I, if they only have faith, who could do such wonderful things, then, I concluded, that for the pre. sent I neither had it, nor for the time to come were ever likely to have it. Thus I was tossed betwixt the devil and my own ignorance ; and so perplexed, especially at some times, that I could not tell what to do.”
There is a strange mixture of rashness and prudence in all
this, and a still stranger oversight of the character of the only believers he knew ; the poor women, whose experience he had heard and admired. They had said nothing about a miracles," or “ wonderful things,” even when they spoke as if joy did make them speak; and he had no doubt of the genuineness of their faith. Yet, all this he forgot, or overlooked : another proof of the tendency of his mind to take up with the abstract, rather than the obvious, in any subject which regarded himself. Even this is not saying enough of his peculiarity. His mind fixed upon miracles as the test of faith, although he had never heard of such a test ; for with all the pretences and va. garies of his times, our own have been more rife with miraclemongers. There were no Tongue-shops, even among Oliver's gifted cohorts. It remained for metropolitan Episcopalians, two centuries afterwards, to play the fool in this way, in a Scotch Kirk. I mention these things, merely in order to fix attention upon the capriciousness of Bunyan's modes of think. ing, even when he began to think for eternity. Then, from sheer dread of erring, he often argued “ without rhyme or rea. son.” Even his reveries, or day-dreams, were wiser than his deliberations. The former were vivid and fanciful : the latter were hot and morbid.
One of the former has in it, what Dr. Southey calls, “ the germ of the Pilgrim's Progress ;” and Conder, “ the germinat. ing of that imagination which was afterwards to ripen into genius.” Both critics are right : but I quote it as the germ of that piety, which ripened into sound theology and the beauties of holiness ; because this was the light in which Bunyan himself viewed it, and his chief reason for telling it so well. It was this. " About this time, the state and happiness of these poor people at Bedford was thus, in a kind of a vision, presented to me. I saw as if they were on the sunny side of some high mountain, there refreshing themselves with the pleasant beams of the sun, while I was shivering and shrinking in the cold, afflicted with frost, snow and dark clouds; Me. thought also, betwixt me and them, I saw a wall that did com. pass about this mountain : now through this wall my soul did greatly desire to pass ; concluding, that if I could, I would even go into the very midst of them, and there also comfort myself with the heat of their sun.
“ About this wall I bethought myself, to go again and again, still prying as I went, to see if I could find some way or pas.
sage, by which I might enter therein; but none could I find for some time: At the last, I saw, as it were, a narrow gap, like a little door-way in the wall, through which I attempted to pass : Now the passage being very strait and narrow, I made many efforts to get in, but all in vain, even until I was well nigh quite beat out, by striving to get in: at last, with great sideling, my shoulders, and my whole body got in : then I was exceedingly glad, went and sat down in the midst of them, and so was comforted with the light and heat of their sun.
“ Now this mountain and wall, &c, was thus made out to me: The mountain signified the church of the living God : the sun that shone thereon, the comfortable shining of his merciful face on them that were therein ; the wall I thought was the word, that did make separation between the Christians and the world ; and the gap which was in the wall, I thought, was Jesus Christ, who is the way to God the Father. For Jesus said in his reply to Thomas, • I am the way and the truth and the life, no man cometh to the Father but by me. Be. cause strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.' John xiv.; Matt. vii. 14. But forasmuch as the passage was wonderful narrow, even so narrow that I could not with but great difficulty, enter in thereat, it showed me, that none could enter into life but those that were in downright earnest, and unless also they left that wicked world behind them; for here was only room for body and soul, but not for body and soul and sin.
“ This resemblance abode upon my spirit many days; all which time I saw myself in a forlorn and sad condition, but yet was provoked to a vehement hunger and a desire to be one of that number that did sit in the sunshine : Now also should I pray wherever I was ; whether at home or abroad, in house
that of the fifty-first Psalm, 0 Lord, consider my distress;' for as yet I knew not where it was.”
It will not lessen the impression made by this “ dream and the interpretation thereof," to notice how naturally it grew out of the real interview he had with the poor women in the street at Bedford. They were sitting " in the sun,” when he first saw them ; and accordingly they appear in vision on the sunny side of a high mountain. The "wall" also, is just a material form of the ignorance and fear he felt, whilst listen. ing to them: and the “ narrow gap,” just the slight glimpse he