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takest : for therefore only art thou fit, because thou feelest so sensibly thy unfitness, unworthiness, vileness, wretchedness.
The sorer and heavier thy burden is, the rather thou shouldst come. It is such as thou, whom Christ here specially aims at, invites and accepts.” From such views of Christ's gracious intentions, and especially from clear views of the precious blood of atonement, Gifford was soon led into both joy and peace in believing. So fully did he come to Christ, that the “ rest” of his soul was never disturbed afterwards. He entered into such rest, or as Dr. Southey well calls it, “so exalted and yet so happy a state of mind, that from that time till within a few days of his death, he declared he lost not the light of God's countenance—no not for an hour."-Southey's Випуап.
One of Gifford's first steps after his conversion, was, to seek the company and fellowship of the Puritans, whom he had “ hated so heartily.” This is not so wonderful as his betaking himself to read Bolton, whilst that hatred was exasperated by the frenzy of atheistical despair. It was only natural now, that he should bring forth fruits meet for repentance, by blessing those whom he had so often and bitterly cursed, Besides, where, but amongst the Puritans, could he have found men suited to his new tastes ? These were now virtuous and holy; and he sought for their gratification only at “the meetings of the persons whom he had formerly most despised;" a plain proof that he ceased to think, that the Puritans had brought “ much misery upon the nation, or on himself in particular.” Thus he changed his mind on this point; and evidently be. cause he saw the utter injustice of his former suspicions. He had hated the Puritans for the reason Dr. Southey assigns ; but now he loved them, because he found that reason to be (what it still is) a more prejudice of education, or a partypretence. It was the long and systematic oppression of Puritanism by the Crown and the Mitre, that created the indignant reaction of popular opinion and feeling, which brought misery upon the nation.
The Bedford Puritans were very shy of Gifford's first advances to them. Like the disciples at Jerusalem with Saul of Tarsus, “ they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.” But although both shunned and repulsed by them at first, he persevered in courting their fellowship. He seems even to have thrust himself upon them again and again, before he could gain a hearing from them in public or private. And even when he had convinced them of his sin. cerity, they were very slow in encouraging his wish to preach, and still slower in calling him to be their pastor. He carried his point, however, by perseverance, in both objects; and was remarkably useful. What Izaak Walton says of Dr. Donne, may be said of Gifford, “None was so like St. Augustine before his conversion; nor so like St. Ambrose after it.” On his death-bed he could say with Donne, and with equal truth, “I have quieted the consciences of many that groaned' under a wounded spirit.”—Preface to Donne's Sermons, by IZAAK WALTON.
Bunyan himself says of " holy Mr. Gifford,” as he well calls him, “This man made it his business to deliver the people of God from all those hard and unsound tests, that by nature we are prone to.” So far, therefore, he was evidently an invaluable friend to Bunyan, although at first his distress increased under him. It would have done so, in some form, under any spiritual guide ; for he was a self-tormentor, as well as a tempted man. Conder says, that “ Gifford had not penetration enough to discover the character of the extraordinary man thus brought under his notice.” If this mean that he could not discern Bunyan's genius, it is only necessary to say that his genius had not then shown itself; and that Gifford was not looking for gifts, but for marks of grace. If, however, it mean, that he had not penetration enough to discover the extraordinary twists of Bunyan's mind, it is only too true; and proves that he was no physician, whatever he may have been as a surgeon.
Bunyan's friends, indeed, were all as ignorant of his malady as himself. They neither saw nor suspected anything in his case, but temptation and the power of conscience; and, accordingly, suggested nothing to him but spiritual consolation.
This, of course, he both needed and deserved from them : but he needed also medical treatment, and more interesting employment than tinkering. I do not know that he was as poor a hand at mending old kettles, as Carey was at making new shoes ; but he was as evidently out of his element. His craft gave neither pleasure nor play to his sea-like restlessness of mind, and but little bracing to his nerves, except when he was walking his rounds : and the clink of the hammer, and the rasp of the file, irritated them more than his exercise could counteract. He wanted, although he knew it not, something to do, which would have expended the surplus energy of his
mind, or absorbed his attention during the greater part of every day, or compelled him to think about others as well as himself. Had Gifford set him to teach the poor children of Elstow to read the Bible on the Sabbath evenings or morn. ings, as well as set him to the study of his own heart and experience, Bunyan would have plunged into the work, and thus lost sight of himself for the time, in the pleasure of doing good. But it is useless to regret now, except in order to warn others against thinking of themselves only, and against living only to think. We shall soon see that when Bunyan began to preach and write for the benefit of others, he soon got over his personal fears.
One of his counsellors must have been a very weak man : for he gave in at once to the absurd fear, that Bunyan had 6 sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost.” “I told him all my case,” he says, “ and also, that I was afraid I had committed the unpardonable sin.' He said, he thought so too. Here, therefore, I had but cold comfort.” And yet, this man was an “antient Christian,” by report! Young as Bunyan was, however, he had sense enough to see that a man, who could take this for granted, so readily and coolly, was anything but a wise man. 6 Talking a little more with him,” he says, “I found him, though a good man, a stranger to much combat with the devil. Wherefore I went again to God for mercy still, as well as I could.”
His other counsellors, at this time, were both kinder and wiser. 66 They would pity me," he says, “and would tell me of the promises.” What else could they do? The pity of Chris. tians, and the promises of God, had lifted them over their own fears, and would have placed his feet upon a rock too, had his head or his nerves been like theirs. Christian sympathy, and the same promises, did so eventually and effectually, when he became calm enough to appreciate them. Even before that, Gifford's doctrine contributed much to his 6 stability” in holy principles and habits, although not in hope or peace.
He heard also at this time a preacher, who comforted him a little by grafting upon the CANTICLES, according to the fashion of that day, truths which, as Dr. Southey justly says, “ he might have found in every page of the Gospel, had there not been a mist before his understanding.”
I thus characterize as well as enumerate Bunyan's first guides in the dreary wilderness of temptation, that the reader may not wonder too much at either his mistakes, or his terrors.
There was no GREAT-Heart, although many a good-heart, amongst his fellow pilgrims then. Besides, he was not always frank with them. I mean, he was equally afraid to tell them all his wo, and to hear all their opinion. Not, however, that he suspected them of any prejudice or want of sympathy: but he imagined at times, that God had said to them, “ Pray not for him, for I have rejected him.” “ I thought,” he says, “ that God had whispered this to some of them ;-only they durst not tell me, neither durst I ask them of it, for fear if it should be so, it would make me quite beside myself.” Poor Bunyan! Thy contemporaries, Milton, Owen, Baxter, and Jeremy Tay. lor, ought to have been the friends. And had they known thee, they would.
BUNYAN'S RELAPS E S.
BUNYAN's relapses in religion were neither slight nor short; but none of them were practical. Even when his heart lost all relish and desire for spiritual things, his conscience was all alive and quivering with the hatred of sin. He himself was struck with this strange anomaly in his character ; and I point it out, to prove that a man may believe his “ heart to be innately and wholly wicked,” and yet hate and avoid sin, only the more on that very account ;—just as a man who believes himself to be radically consumptive, may avoid stimulants.
When Bunyan reviewed this contrast between the hardness of his heart and the tenderness of his conscience, he used a comparison peculiarly his own ; but which none of his biographers have ventured to explain. “My hinder parts,” he says, 6 were inward, all the while.” He refers to the position of the twelve oxen of brass, under the molten sea of the temple. 6. The sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward.” 2 Chron. iv. 4. Only their majestic front was seen, under the lily-wreathed brim of the magnificent laver. This emblem he explains and applies with great point, in his 66 Temple Spiritualized.” Its application to himself he states thus in his “Grace Abounding,” “0, how gingerly (cautiously) dia I then go, in all I did or said! I durst not take a pin, or stick, though not so big as a straw : for my conscience now was sore, and would start at every touch. I could not now tell how to speak my words, for fear I should misplace them, I found myself as in a miry bog, that shook if I did but stir.”
Such his conscience remained, even whilst the following relapses went on in his heart. “My heart would not be moy. ed to mind that which was good. It began to be careless both of my soul and heaven, and to work at a rate it never did before. Now I evidently found, that lusts and corruptions put forth themselves within me, in wicked thoughts and desires which I did not regard (notice) before. My heart would now continually hang back, both to and in every duty ; and was as a clog on the leg of a bird, to hinder it from flying. Nay,