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from the Evil One: “He would not let me eat at quiet, but, forsooth, when I was set at the table, I must go thence to pray; I must leave my food now, and just now, so counterfeit holy would this devil be! When I was thus tempted, I should say in myself, ‘Now I am at meat, let me make an end.' 'No,' said he, you must do it now, or you will displease God and despise Christ.”” Thus was he distracted, imagining these things to be impulses from God, and that to withstand them was to disobey the Almighty; "and then,” says he, “ should I be as guilty because I did not obey a temptation of the devil, as if I had broken the law of God indeed.”
In this strange state of mind he had continued about a year, when one morning as he lay in bed, the wicked suggestion still running in his mind, “Sell Him, sell Him, sell Him, sell Him," as fast as a man could speak, and he answering as fast, not for thousands, thousands, thousands," till he was almost out of breath, . . he felt this thought pass through his heart, “Let him go if he will,” and it seemed to him that his heart freely consented thereto. “Oh,” he exclaims, “the diligence of Satan! oh the desperateness of man's heart! Now was the battle won, and down fell I, as a bird that is shot from the top of a tree, into great guilt and fearful despair. Thus, getting out of my bed, I went moping into the field, but God knows with as heavy a heart as mortal man, I think, could bear; where for the space
of two hours I was like a man bereft of life, and as now past all recovery, and bound over to eternal punishment.” Then it occurred to him what is said of Esau by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews,* how having sold his birthright, when he would afterwards have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for “he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” At the recollection of a better text,f the words of that disciple (blessed above all men) whom Jesus loved, he had for a while such relief that he began to conceive peace in his soul again ; “ and methought,” says he, “I saw as if the Tempter did leer and steal away from me as being ashamed of what he had done.” But this was only like a passing gleam of sunshine : the sound of Esau's fate was always in his ears ; his case was worse than Esau's, worse than David's; Peter's came nigher to it; yet * Chap. xii. 16, 17.
+ John i. 7.
Peter's was only a denial of his Master, this a selling of his Saviour:- he came therefore nearer to Judas than to Peter! And though he was yet sane enough to consider that the sin of Judas had been deliberately committed, whereas his, on the contrary, was “ against his prayer and striving,-in a fearful hurry, on a sudden,” the relief which that consideration brought was but little, and only for a while. The sentence concerning Esau, literally taken and more unhappily applied, fell like a hot thunderbolt upon his conscience; then should I, for whole days together, feel my very body, as well as my mind, to shake and totter under the sense of this dreadful judgment of God ;-such a clogging and heat also at my stomach, by reason of this my terror, that I was sometimes as if my breast-bone would split asunder." And then he called to mind how Judas burst asunder; and feared that a continual trembling like his was the very mark that had been set on Cain ; and thus did he “twist, and twine, and shrink" under a burden which so oppressed him, that he could “ neither stand, nor go, nor lie, either at rest or quiet."
This fatal sentence possessed him so strongly, that when thinking on the words in Isaiah,* “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins; return unto me, for I have redeemed thee;"_and when it seemed to his diseased imagination that this text called audibly and loudly after bim, as if pursuing him, so loudly as to make him, he says, look, as it were, over his shoulder, behind him, to see if the God of Grace were following him with a pardon in His hand ;-the echo of the same sentence still sounded in his conscience : and when he heard “ Return unto me, for I have redeemed thee, return, return,” articulated, as it seemed to him, with a loud voice, ... it was overpowered by the inward echo, “ He found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”
How little would some of the most frequent and contagious disorders of the human mind be understood, if a sufferer were not now and then found collected enough, even in the paroxysms of the disease, to observe its symptoms, and detail them afterwards, and reason upon them when in a state to discriminate between what had been real and what imaginary! Bunyan was
* Chap. xliv. 22.
never wholly in that state. He noted faithfully all that occurred in his reveries, and faithfully reported it; but there was one thing happened at this time, which, after an interval of twenty years, appeared to him, who was accustomed to what he deemed preternatural impressions, so much more preternatural than all his former visitings, that he withheld it from the first relation of his own life, and in a later and more enlarged account narrated it so cautiously as to imply more than he thought it prudent to express. Once," he
says, I was walking to and fro in a good man's shop, bemoaning of myself in my sad and doleful state; afflicting myself with self-abhorrence for this wicked and ungodly thought; lamenting also this hard hap of mine, for that I should commit so great a sin ; greatly fearing I should not be pardoned ; praying also in my heart, that if this sin of mine did differ from that against the Holy Ghost, the Lord would show it to me; and being now ready to sink with fear; suddenly there was as if there had rushed in at the window, the noise of wind upon me, but very pleasant, and as if I heard a voice speaking, * Didst ever refuse to be justified by the Blood of Christ ?' And withal
my whole life of profession past was in a moment opened to me, wherein I was made to see that designedly I had not. So my heart answered groaningly, “No!
Then fell with power that word of God upon me, * See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh This made a strange seizure upon my spirit ; it brought light with it, and commanded a silence in my heart of all those tumultuous thoughts that before did use, like masterless hell-hounds, to roar and bellow, and make a hideous noise within me.
It showed me also that Jesus Christ had yet a word of grace and mercy for me; that he had not, as I had feared, quite forsaken and cast off my soul. Yea, this was a kind of chide for my proneness to desperation; a kind of threatening of me, if I did not, notwithstanding my sins and the heinousness of them, venture my salvation upon the Son of God. But as to my determining about this strange dispensation, what it was I know not; or from whence it came I know not: I have not yet in twenty years' time been able to make a judgment of it; I thought then here what I should be loath to speak. But verily that sudden rushing wind was as if an angel had come upon
* Heb. xii. 25.
me; but both it and the salvation I will leave until the Day of Judgment. Only this I say, it commanded a great calm in my soul; it persuaded me there might be hope; it showed me, as I thought, what the sin unpardonable was; and that my soul had yet the blessed privilege to flee to Jesus Christ for mercy. But, I say, concerning this dispensation, I know not what yet to say unto it; which was also in truth the cause that at first I did not speak of it in the book. I do now also leave it to be thought on by men of sound judgment. I lay not the stress of my salvation thereupon, but upon the Lord Jesus, in the promise ; yet seeing I am here unfolding of my secret things, I thought it might not be altogether inexpedient to let this also show itself, though I cannot now relate the matter as there I did experience it.”
The “ savour" of this lasted about three or four days, and then he began to mistrust and to despair again. Struggling nevertheless against despair, he determined that, if he must die, it should be at the feet of Christ in prayer : and pray he did, though the saying about Esau was ever at his heart, “like a flaming sword, to keep the way of the Tree of Life, lest he should taste thereof and live.” “Oh,” he exclaims, “who knows how hard a thing I found it to come to God in prayer!” He desired the prayers of those whom he calls the people of God, meaning Mr. Gifford's little congregation, and the handful of persons within his circuit who were in communion with them: yet he dreaded lest they should receive this answer to their prayers in his behalf, “ Pray not for him, for I have rejected him.” He met indeed with cold consolation from an "ancient Christian," to whom he opened his case, and said he was afraid he had committed the sin against the Holy Ghost: this man, like one of Job's comforters, replied, he thought so too; but Bunyan comforted himself, by finding, upon a little further conversation, that this friend of his, “though a good man, was a stranger to much combat with the devil.” So he betook himself again to prayer, as well as he could, but in such a state of mind, that “the most free, and full, the gracious words of the Gospel" only made him the more miserable.
“ Thus was he always sinking whatever he could do."
“So one day I walked to a neighbouring town," he says, “and
sat down upon a settle in the street, and fell into a very deep pause about the most fearful state my sin had brought me to: and after long musing I lifted up my head, but methought I saw as if the sun that shineth in the heavens did grudge to give me light; and as if the very stones in the street, and tiles upon the houses, did band themselves against me. Methought that they all combined together to banish me out of the world. I was abhorred of them, and unfit to dwell among them, because I had sinned against the Saviour. Oh how happy now was every creature over I was ! for they stood fast and kept their station ; but I' was gone and lost !” In this mood, breaking out in the bitterness of his soul, he said to himself with a grievous sigh, 6 How can God comfort such a wretch ?” And he had no sooner said this, than, quick as the return of an echo, he was answered “This sin is not unto death.” He says, not that this seemed to be spoken audibly, but that it came to him with power, and sweetness, and light, and glory; that it was a release to him from his former bonds, and a shelter from his former storms. On the following evening this supportation, as he calls it, began to fail ; and under many fears, he had recourse to prayer, his soul crying with strong cries, “O Lord, I beseech Thee show me that Thou hast loved me with an everlasting love !" and like an echo the words returned upon him,* “I have loved thee with an everlasting love."
That night he went to bed in quiet ; and when he awoke in the morning, “it was fresh upon my soul,” he says, 66 and I believed it."
Being thus, though not without many misgivings, brought into 6 comfortable hopes of pardon,” the love which he bore towards his Saviour worked in him at this time “a strong and hot desire of revengement” upon himself, for the sin which he had committed ; and had it been the Romish superstition which Bunyan had imbibed, he might have vied with St. Dominic the Cuirassier, or the Jesuit Joam d'Almeida, in inflicting torments upon his own miserable body. A self-tormentor he continued still to be, vacillating between hope and fear; sometimes thinking that he was set at liberty from his guilt, sometimes that he had left himself “neither foot-hold nor hand-hold among all the stays and props in the precious word of life.” One day, when
* Jer. xxxi. 3.