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earnestly in prayer, this Scripture fastened on his heart: “O man, great is thy faith !” “even,” he says, as if one had clapped me on the back as I was on my knees before God.” At another time, when doubting whether the blood of Christ was sufficient to save his soul, and dreading lest that doubt should not be removed, the inward voice for which he listened sounded suddenly within his heart,* “ He is able.”—“But methought this word able was spoke loud unto me; it showed a great word; it seemed to be writ in great letters, and gave such a justle to my fear and doubt for the time it tarried with me, as I never had all my life, either before or after.” But it tarried only about a day. Next, when he was trembling in prayer under a fear that no word of God could help him, this part of a sentence darted in upon him, “My grace is sufficient.” A little while before he had looked at that very text, and thrown down the book, thinking it could not come near his soul with comfort: “then I thought it was not large enough for me-no, not large enough; but now it was as if it had arms of grace so wide that it could not only enclose me, but many more besides.” In such conflicts, he says, “peace would be in and out sometimes twenty times a-day; com. fort now, and trouble presently ; peace now, and before I could go a furlong, as full of fears and guilt as ever heart could hold. For this about the sufficiency of grace, and that of Esau's parting with his birthright, would be like a pair of scales within my mind; sometimes one end would be uppermost, and sometimes again the other, according to which would be my peace or troubles.” He prayed therefore to God for help to apply the whole sentence, which of himself he was not as yet able to do. He says, He
gave, that I gathered, but further I could not go, for as yet it only helped me to hope there might be mercy for me; “My grace is sufficient;' it answered his question that there was hope: but he was not contented, because for thee was left out, and he prayed for that also.
It was at a meeting with his fellow believers, when his fears again were prevailing, that the words for which he longed, according to his own expression, “broke in" upon
him, is sufficient for thee, my grace is sufficient for thee, my grace is sufficient for thee,-three times together. He was then as
* Heb, vii, 25.
though he had seen the Lord look down from Heaven upon
him “ through the tiles,” and direct these words to him. It sent him mourning home; it broke his heart, and filled him full of joy, and laid him low as the dust. And now he began to venture upon examining “those most fearful and terrible Scriptures," on which till now he scarcely dared cast his eyes (yea, and much ado a hundred times to forbear wishing them out of the Bible): he began “to come close to them, to read them and consider them, and to weigh their scope and tendency.” The result was a clear perception that he had not fallen quite away; that his sin, though devilish, had not been consented to, and put in practice, and that after deliberation-not public and open ; that the texts which had hitherto so appalled him were yet consistent with those which proffered forgiveness and salvation.
66 And now remained only the hinder part of the tempest, for the thunder was gone past; only some drops did still remain.” And when one day in the field, the words “ Thy righteousness is in Heaven” occurred to him, “methought withal,” he says, “I saw with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God's right hand, -there, I say, as my righteousness,-for my righteousness was Christ himself,* the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.' Then his chains fell off in very deed: he was loosed from his affliction, and his temptation fled away.
This was after two years and a half of incessant agitation and wretchedness. Bunyan thought he could trace the cause of this long temptation to a sin which he had committed, and to a culpable omission. He had, during the time when doubt and unbelief assailed him, tempted the Lord, by asking of Him a sign whereby it might appear that the secret thoughts of the heart were known to Him; and he had omitted, when praying earnestly for the removal of present troubles, and for assurances of faith, to pray that he might be kept from temptation. “This,"
“I had not done, and therefore was thus suffered to sin and fall. And truly this very thing is to this day of such weight and awe upon me, that I dare not, when I come before the Lord, go off my
knees until I entreat him for help and mercy against the temptations that are to come: and I do beseech thee, reader, that thou learn to beware of my negligence, by the affliction that
* Heb. xiii, 8.
for this thing I did, for days, and months, and years, with sorrow undergo.” Far more satisfactorily could he trace in himself the benefits which he derived from this long and dreadful course of suffering, under which a weaker body must have sunk, and from which it is almost miraculous that any mind should have escaped without passing into incurable insanity. Before that trial, his soul had been “perplexed with unbelief, blasphemy, hardness of heart, questions about the Being of God, Christ, the truth of the Word, and certainty of the world to come.” “ Then,”. he
says, I was greatly assaulted and tormented with atheism; but now the case was otherwise; now was God and Christ continually before my face, though not in a way of comfort, but in a way of exceeding dread and terror. The glory of the holiness of God did at this time break me to pieces ; and the bowels and compassion of Christ did break me as on the wheel; for I could not consider him but as a lost and rejected Christ, the remembrance of which was as the continual breaking of my bones. The Scriptures also were wonderful things unto me; I saw that the truth and verity of them were the keys of the kingdom of Heaven : those that the Scriptures favour, they must inherit bliss; but those that they oppose and condemn, must perish for evermore. Oh! one sentence of the Scripture did more afflict and terrify my mind, I mean those sentences that stood against me (as sometimes I thought they every one did),-more, I say, than an army of forty thousand men that might come against me. Woe be to him against whom the Scriptures bend themselves !"
But this led him to search the Bible, and dwell upon it with an earnestness and intensity which no determination of a calmer mind could have commanded. “This made me," he says,
66 with careful heart and watchful eye, with great fearfulness, to turn over every leaf, and with much diligence, mixed with trembling, to consider every sentence, together with its natural force and latitude. By this also I was greatly holden off my former foolish practice of putting by the Word of promise when it came into my mind; for now, though I could not suck that comfort and sweetness from the promises as I had done at other times, yea, like to a man a-sinking, I could catch at all I saw ; formerly I thought I might not meddle with the promise, unless I felt its comfort; but now ’t was no time thus to do, the Avenger of Blood
too hardly did pursue me.” If in the other writings of Bunyan, and especially in that which has made his name immortal, we discover none of that fervid language in which his confessions and self-examination are recorded, -none of those “ thoughts that breathe, and words that burn,”—none of that passion in which the reader so far participates as to be disturbed and distressed by it,- here we perceive how he acquired that thorough and familiar acquaintance with the Scriptures which in those works is manifested. “Now therefore was I glad,” he says, “ to catch at that Word, which yet I had no ground or right to own;
and even to leap into the bosom of that promise, that yet I feared did shut its heart against me. Now also I should labour to take the Word as God hath laid it down, without restraining the natural force of one syllable thereof. Oh! what did I now see in that blessed sixth of John, * 6 and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out! Now I began to consider with myself, that God hath a bigger mouth to speak with, than I had a heart to conceive with. I thought also with myself that He spake not His words in haste, or in an unadvised heat, but with infinite wisdom and judgment, and in very truth and faithfulness. I should in these days often, in my greatest agonies, even flounce toward the promise (as the horses do towards sound ground, that yet stick in the mire), concluding (though as one almost bereft of his wits through fear), On this I will rest and stay, and leave the fulfilling of it to the God of Heaven that made it.' Oh, many a
heart had with Satan for that blessed sixth of John! I did not now, as at other times, look principally for comfort (though, oh how welcome would it have been unto me !), but now a word, a word to lean a weary soul upon, that it might not sink for ever ! ’t was that I hunted for! Yea, often when I have been making to the promise, I have seen as if the Lord would refuse my soul for ever: I was often as if I had run upon the pikes, and as if the Lord had thrust at me to keep me from Him, as with a flaming sword !"
When Bunyan passed from this horrible condition into a state of happy feeling, his mind was nearly overthrown by the transition. “I had two or three times," he says, “at or about my deliverance from this temptation, such strange apprehensions of
* John vi. 37.
grace of God, that I could hardly bear up under it; it was so out of measure amazing when I thought it could reach me, that I do think, if that sense of it had abode long upon me, it would have made me uncapable of business.” He had not, however, yet attained that self-control which belongs to a sane mind; for after he had been formally admitted into fellowship with Gifford's little congregation, and had by him been baptized accordingly, by immersion, probably in the river Ouse (for the Baptists at that time sought rather than shunned publicity on such occasions), he was for nearly a year pestered with strange and villanous thoughts whenever he communicated at the meeting. These however left him. When threatened with consumption at one time, he was delivered from the fear of dissolution, by faith, and a strong desire of entering upon eternal life; and in another illness, when the thought of approaching death for a while overcame him, “ behold,” he says, " as I was in the midst of those fears, the words of the Angels carrying Lazarus into Abraham's bosom darted in upon me, as who should say, “So shall it be with thee when thou dost leave this world !' This did sweetly revive my spirits, and help me to hope in God; which when I had with comfort mused on a while, that Word fell with great weight upon my mind, 'O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?' At this I became both well in body and mind at once; for my sickness did presently vanish, and I walked comfortably in my work for God again.”
Gifford died in 1656,* having drawn up during his last illness an Epistle to his congregation, in a wise, and tolerant, and truly Christian spirit : he exhorted them to remember his advice, that when any person was to be admitted a member of their community, that person should solemnly declare that “union with Christ was the foundation of all Saints' communion,” and not merely an agreement concerning “any ordinances of Christ, or any judgment or opinion about externals :" and that such new members should promise that, “ through grace, they would walk in love with the church; though there should happen any difference in judgment about other things.” “Concerning separation from the church (the dying pastor pursued) about baptism, lay
[* September 21. Sutcliff's Address, p. 46, ed. 1788; and Ivimey's Life of Bunyan,' ed. 1825, p. 61. The 'Epistle' is printed in Sutcliff's Appendix.]