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thankful for it as great debtors; but they wanted to believe it too. is the elect children, or the adopted children, or the dear children of God, at the same time. If they thought at all of receiving the Gospel of the Kingdom as a little child, they meant not as such a little child as Christ selected and set up as a model, but as a child of God. As, indeed, one of the least, or even “ less than the least,” of all the spiritual and special children of the Kingdom ; but still, as one of them and not merely as an ordinary child.
It is not easy to expose this mistake, nor to expostulate against it, without seeming to undervalue or overlook what the Scriptures say about sonship, adoption, and election. It must be done however, at all hazards, if Bunyan's mistakes are to be explained, or not to be perpetuated. More than one half of all his difficulties and distractions arose from trying to receive the Kingdom of God as an elect child, instead of accepting its offered blessings as a little child. Besides, these blessings are not offered to men, as elected, or as adopted, or as converted; but to men as lost sinners, and unworthy creatures. Whatever, therefore, the sovereignty of God in show. ing mercy may be, those certainly do not honour it most or best who want to know their election, before they hope in His mercy. They may, indeed, mean well; but they judge ill, and even presume not a little. The unquestioning silence of a child is better homage to the Divine sovereignty, than this suspicious prying into the divine will. True; a child is igno. rant, and therefore unsuspecting. Equally true it is, how. ever, that there must be some wrong twist about the knowledge, which leads a man to be suspicious of the love of God. Such knowledge, to say the least of it, is not warranted to despise the child's ignorance.
But, it will be said by some, there is an Election of Grace; and, therefore, it is impossible for a man who believes this, not to ask the question Bunyan did-Am I elected ? Now there would certainly be some sense in this, if any answer could be got to the question. It is a very natural question, I grant: but it becomes both foolish and unnatural, to push or put it in the face of the notorious fact, that no man can answer it at all, and that God never will answer it beforehand. All that God has promised to do in this matter, is, to enable those who believe and obey the Gospel with child-like simplicity, to make their calling and election sure.
What then, it may be said, is the use of the doctrine, or the
design of it, in reference to those who are afraid to believe the Gospel for themselves ? It adds to their fears, and binders their faith, they say. True; and something else would just have the same effect upon them, if there were no such doc. trine in the Bible, so long as they do not set themselves to be as little children before God. It is to shut us up to a child. like spirit in asking and hoping for mercy, that God says he will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy. Every man must become a little child at the Mercy-seat, if he would be welcome there. No other temper suits it: and therefore God takes measures to make us child-like; and one of them is, the revelation of His soverignty, which says to us in plain terms. « You cannot force My will, nor find out My secrets, nor open the Lamb's Book of Life: will you then throw your. selves upon the good pleasure of my will, just as your little child would trust your good-will, when he had your word for what he wanted? You have My word for all the mercy you need; and until you take my paternal promise as a child would, you will get nothing more to warrant or encourage you to hope for mercy.”
This is evidently the spirit of the appeal made to us in the Gospel. And it is equally obvious, that we can do nothing better, indeed, nothing else to any good purpose, than just meet God's appeal as a child would. To do so, is real manli. ness, as well as godliness; real strength of mind, as well as true humility: for it is in this child-like temper, the Cherubim and Seraphim, Angels and Arch-angels, receive the commands and promises of God, at the Eternal Throne. Their highest reasonings, and noblest principles, and sublimest tastes, all re. solve themselves into the confiding simplicity of a little child. In this connexion, it is not childish to be child-like! He is childish in the worst sense, who thinks it beneath him to be. come a little child, when he listens to the Eternal Father. Gabriel does not think it beneath him, nor Michael unworthy of him.
It is somewhat curious, as well as lamentable, that neither Wesley nor Whitefield, saw, when they revived the doctrine of Regeneration, that a child-like spirit is what the Saviour chiefly means by the New Birth. The man who shall give currency to this fact, without lessening dependence on the grace of the Holy Spirit, will, like them, do good service to both the world and the Church. How can preachers on Regeneration answer to God or man, for quoting this maxim so seldom ?
WHILST Bunyan's mind was vibrating between hope and fear, in regard to the probability of his eventual conversion, he wisely resolved to open his mind to some of those Chris. tians upon whom he saw “the broad seal of Heaven.” He had not many such to choose amongst. “ He imparted his feelings,” says Dr. Southey, “ to those poor women whose conversation had first brought him into these perplexities and struggles.” This was not unnatural nor unwise. Their con. versation had convinced him, “ of the happy and blessed con. dition of a truly godly man.” Besides, they alone had mani. fested any deep interest in his spiritual welfare. Neither “our Parson,” nor any of his flock, had paid any attention to the reformed Tinker, beyond compliments to his reformation, al. though he worshipped only at Church, and must have been seen their from Sabbath to Sabbath, like Hannah in the Ta. bernacle at Shiloh, wearing all the marks “of a sorrowful spirit, and weeping sore.” However ill-qualified, therefore, the poor women at Bedford may have been to
“Minister to a mind diseased," they alone had manifested sympathy with Bunyan's mind when it was ignorant. They first talked at him, and then to him, whilst he was a self-conceited Pharisee ; and so wisely, that he soon took the place, the prayer, and the position of the Publican in the Temple. And now with equal wisdom, and more modesty, they did not trust themselves to answer his dark questions, when they saw his wounded spirit bleeding; but acquainted their Minister with his case.
“ About this time I began,” he says, “ to break my mind to those poor people in Bedford, and to tell them my condition : which, when they heard, they told Mr. Gifford of me, who him. self also took occasion to talk with me, and was willing to be well persuaded of me, though, I think, from little grounds. But he invited me to his house, where I should hear him con. fer with others about the dealings of God with their souls.”
“ This course," says Dr. Southey, “ was little likely to compose a mind so agitated.” But why not? What likelier course could the minister have adopted, than introducing Bun. yan to hear the experience of other anxious inquirers, and to share the encouragement addressed to them? It is not fair to judge of this course by its results, in Bunyan's case. It did well for many, although not for him; and it did not fail with him for the reason which Dr. Southey assigns. He says, that Bunyan's “spiritual Physician, in persuading him that his heart was innately and wholly wicked, had well nigh made him believe that it was hopelessly and incurably so. False notions of that corruption of our nature, which it is almost as perilous to exaggerate as to dissemble, had laid upon him a burthen heavy as that with which his own Christian begins his pilgrimage.” Now it is certainly the fact that the interviews between Bunyan and Gifford led the former to regard his heart as “innately and wholly wicked;" and therefore it is highly probable that the latter said so. What else could he say, if he spoke as the Oracles of God speak on this subject? It is, however, utterly improbable that Gifford said a word which had any tendency to make or lead Bunyan to believe his heart to be “ hopelessly or incurably” wicked. Gifford was the last man in the world, to have taught or taken this view of Bunyan's case. Dr. Southey might have seen this to be the fact even from his own pieture of Gifford. He had been a far worse man both in heart and life than the Tinker; and was therefore altogether unlikely, now that he was a good man, to lead him to think himself incurably bad. Like John Newton, it was impossible he could despair of any one, after the change wbich took place in his own heart. · Gifford's history is remarkable ; and as he was, no doubt, the original of EVANGELIST in the Pilgrim's Progress, it deserves to be perpetuated. He was a Kentish man, and con. cerned in the rising of that county for the King. He had held the rank of Major in the royal army, and was a thorough cavalier in politics and profligacy. He was, however, soon apprehended, and, with eleven of his companions in arms, sentenced to be hanged. But on the night preceding his intended execution, his sister visited him in prison ; and finding the guards without fast asleep, and his fellow-prisoners dead drunk within, she urged him to escape for his life. He did
so, and reached the fields in safety. For nearly three days, however, he had to hide himself in a ditch, and to live upon water. Then by the help of his friends, he was sent in dis. guise to London. But that was no biding place then. He therefore made his way into Bedfordshire, and was concealed by some of the few great royalists in that county, until all danger was over. He then exchanged the sword for the lan. cet, and settled in Bedford as a medical man. This bold step may have been, as Dr. Southey thinks, impudent, or without any “ scruple concerning qualifications.” This was not un. common at the time. Medicine was the only Profession then, into which an old officer could thrust himself. As Gifford, however, had been a Major in the King's army, he must have been a man of some education, and may have been a man of some skill. But however this may be, he was a man of no principle, as to religion or morals. Ivimey says, he was “ abandoned to vice." Southey says, he was “ reckless and profligate; a great drinker and gambler; and oaths came from his lips with habitual profaneness. And he hated the Puritans so heartily for the misery they had brought upon the nation, and upon himself in particular, that he often thought of killing a certain Anthony Harrington, for no other provocation than because he was a leading man among persons of that descrip. tion in Bedford.”
Gifford, although an habitual gambler, was seldom or never successful. One night he lost a large sum. It drove him almost mad. In his frenzy, he uttered daring words against God, and cherished darker thoughts. He was about to dare the worst, when his eye fell upon one of Bolton's works, which arrested both his purpose and his conscience effectually, It threw him into great distress for a short time : but eventually it led him to the Cross.
The passage in Bolton, which met the case of Gifford, was this :—“In the invitation of Christ to all that labour and are heavy laden, to come to Him for rest to their souls, there is no exception of sins, times, nor places. And if thou shouldst reply, Yea, but alas, I am the unworthiest man in the world to draw near unto so holy a God—to press into so pure a presence-to expect upon the sudden such glorious, spiritual, and heavenly advancement. Most impure, abominable and beastly wretch that I am readier far to sink into the bottom of hell, by the unsupportable weight of my manifold heinous sins! I say then, the text tells thee plainly, that thou mightily mis.