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Oh! it hath been with such power and heavenly evidence upon my own soul, while I have been laboring to unfold it, to demonstrate it, and to fasten it upon the consciences of others, that I could not be contented with saying, I believe and am sure; methought I was more than sure, if it be lawful to express myself so, that those things which there I asserted were true.”
Bunyan from time to time, even in his preaching, experienced the assaults of his old adversary. “ Sometimes,” he says, “I have been violently assaulted with thoughts of blasphemy, and strongly tempted to speak the words with my mouth before the congregation.” He was also tempted to “ pride and liftings up of heart,” but it was his every day portion to be so let into the evil of his own heart, and still made to see such a multitude of corruptions and infirmities therein, that it “ caused hanging down of the head under all his gifts and attainments.” Moreover Bunyan had experience on this point from the word of God, which greatly chastened and humbled his spirit. “I have had also,” says he, “ together with this, some notable place or other of the word presented before me, which word hath contained in it some sharp and piercing sentence concerning the perishing of the soul, notwithstanding gifts and parts ; as, for instance, that hath been of great use to me, Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.
“A tinkling cymbal is an instrument of music with which a skilful player can make such melodious
and heart-inflaming music, that all who hear him play can scarcely hold from dancing; and yet behold the cymbal hath not life, neither comes the music from it, but because of the art of him that plays therewith ; so then the instrument at last may come to naught and perish, though in times past such music hath been made
it. “ Just thus I saw it was, and will be, with them that have gifts, but want saving grace; they are in the hand of Christ as the cymbal in the hand of David ; and as David could with the cymbal make that mirth in the service of God as to elevate the hearts of the worshippers, so Christ can use these gifted men, as with them to affect the souls of his people in the church ; yet when he hath done all, hang them by, as lifeless, though sounding cymbals.
“ This consideration, therefore, together with some others, were, for the most part, as a maul on the head of pride, and desire of vain-glory. What, thought I, shall I be proud because I am a sounding brass ? Is it so much to be a fiddle ? Hath not the least creature that hath life more of God in it than these? Besides, I knew it was love should never die, but these must cease and vanish; so I concluded a little grace, a little love, a little of the true fear of God is better than all the gifts; yea, and I am fully convinced of it that it is possible for souls that can scarce give a man an answer, but with great confusion as to method; I say it is possible for them to have a thousand times more grace, and to be more in the love and favor of the Lord, than some who, by the virtue of the gift of knowledge, can deliver themselves like angels.”
BUNYAN IN PRISON.
Hlustrations of the Times of Bunyan. -Results of the spirit of persecution. The Puri
tans driven to America.–Baxter in the Parliamentary Army. The multiplicity of Sects, and Milton's opinion thereon.-Bedford Jail, and Bunyan in it, with his little child.— The Plague in London, and the persecuting King and Court in Oxford. Bunyan's conference with the Justice's Clerk.-Interview of Bunyan's wife with the Judges.- Bunyan's prison employments.-Suggestion and pursuit of the Pilgrim's Progress.
In a former lecture, I have briefly sketched the principal movements of intolerance and persecution during the reign of those English monarchs who bore the name of Charles. In order the better to illustrate that persecuting spirit, which from the reign of James, passed into this, and the glorious issues that grew out of it, through that Omnipotent Prerogative, whereby the Divine Being causes the wrath of man to praise him, we will call up several great separate scenes from the past, with the actors in them ; to note which will be better for our purpose, than would be a whole volume of historical dissertations. The first scene is in the great era of 1620, jast eight years before the birth of Bunyan. It is a lowering winter's day; on a coast rock-bound and perilous, sheeted with ice and snow, hovers a small vessel, worn and weary, like a bird
with wet plumage, driven in a storm from its nest, and timidly seeking shelter. It is the Mayflower, thrown on the bosom of Winter. The very sea is freezing; the earth is as still as the grave, covered with snow, and as hard with frost, as iron ; there is no sign of a human habitation ; the deep forests have lost their foliage, and rise over the land like a shadowy congregation of skeletons. Yet there is a band of human beings on board that weatherbeaten vessel, and they have voluntarily come to this savage coast to spend the rest of their lives, and to die there. Eight thousand miles they have struggled across the ocean, from a land of plenty and comfort, from their own beloved country, from their homes, firesides, friends, to gather around an altar to God in the winter, in the wilderness! What does it all mean? It marks to a noble mind the invaluable blessedness of FREEDOM TO WORSHIP God! It means, that religious oppression is worse to bear, more hard, more intolerable to a generous mind, more insufferable to an upright conscience, than the war of the elements, than peril and nakedness, than cold and hunger, than dens and caves of the earth, than disease and the loss of friends, and the tomahawks of savage enemies! These men have fled from religious oppression ; the hand of power has attempted to grasp and bind the conscience; and conscience, and an undying religious faith, have borne these men into the wilderness to worship God as freely as the air that breathes God's praises.
So noble, so grand, so holy, was the national birth of the best part of these United States of
America! Well may we glory in the name of Pu
It is a synonyme for all that is holy in piety, unbending in moral rectitude, patient in selfdenial, illustrious in patriotism, precious in liberty and truth. But the virtues of our Puritan ancestors, in their development, at least, grew out of oppression; they were good out of evil, the wrath of man turned into the praise of God. It was the touch of the iron sceptre of the Stuarts, laid upon that sacred thing a pure, enlightened, religious conscience, and upon that sacred possession, a chosen, conscientious religious faith and worship, that brought to pass all this glory; it was the tyranny of an Established Church, the daring usurpation by the King of England of the prerogative of Christ as the head of his people, that planted on this continent the germ both of civil and religious liberty, the elements of the purest religious faith, and of the freest political institutions in the world !
This is one of the most remarkable instances on record, of the overruling sovereignty of God in its blessed purposes, by the instrumentality of his own enemies. The persecution, which in England threw John Bunyan into prison to write the Pilgrim's Progress, drove those holy men and women out of England into the wilderness, to form an asylum of liberty and religion for the whole world. It was one of King James' sayings, no Bishop, no King; and here in this land, under the oppression of James, a church without a bishop and a government without a king, secured and established that charter of civil and religious freedom, which king and prelate had alike violated and destroyed.