Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

such symmetry and faithfulness, that it never tires in its examination, but discloses continually new meaning to the mind, and speaks to the heart of the Pilgrim volumes of mingled encouragement, warning, and instruction.

And how precious is the volume, which thus stores the nursery as well as the shelves of the theologian, with wholesome learning; which brings the divinest mysteries of grace into the quick conscience and soft heart of childhood, even before the understanding is prepared to receive and ponder their grave teachings! This is the point of Cowper's beautiful apostrophe to Bunyan.

O thou, whom, borne on fancy's eager wing,
Back to the season of life's happy spring,
I pleased remember, and while memory yet
Holds fast her office here, can ne'er forget;
Ingenious Dreamer! in whose well-told tale,
Sweet fiction and sweet truth alike prevail ;
Whose humorous vein, strong sense, and simple style,
May teach the gayest, make the gravest smile ;
Witty, and well employed, and like thy Lord,
Speaking in parables his slighted word;
I name thee not, lest so despised a name
Should move a sneer at thy deserved fame.
Yet e'en in transitory life's late day,
That mingles all my brown with sober gray,
Revere the man, whose Pilgrim marks the road
And guides the Progress of the soul to God;
"Twere well with most, if books that could engage
Their childhood, pleased them at a riper age;
The man, approving what had charmed the boy,
Would die at last in comfort, peace, and joy;
And not with curses on his heart, who stole
The gem of truth from his unguarded soul.

PROVIDENCE, GRACE,

AND GENIUS,

IN BUNYAN AND THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS.

Illustrations of Divine Providence in selecting Bunyan to write the Pilgrim's Pro

gress.-Weak things chosen to confound the mighty.-The Author of the Pilgrim's Progress selected not from the Establishment, but from without it.—Signal rebuke of ecclesiastical exclusiveness and hierarchical pretensions, in the Pilgrim's Progress and the Saint's Rest.-More of Bunyan's Divine Emblems.-Bunyan's release from prison. His release from life, and entrance into the Celestial City.-Dr. Scott's opinion of the Pilgrim's Progress.--Its entire freedom from Sectarianism.Its universality both in genius and piety. Comparison between Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and Edwards on the Religious Affections.—Bunyan and Spenser.-Survey of the Events, Characters, and Scenery in the Pilgrim's Progress. The splendor of its conclusion.

We meet in the life of Bunyan some of the most remarkable illustrations to be found any where on record, of the manner in which God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty, and base things of the world, and things which are despised, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are ; to abase the pride, and rebuke the pretensions of all human glory. Bunyan's preaching, which was the means of the conversion of so many souls, how utterly despised and counted like insanity was it, by all the wise, the noble, the esteemed of this world ! And Bunyan's Allegory, when it first appeared,

with how much contempt was it regarded, as a sort of story or ballad for the vulgar, by the lords, gentlemen, and ecclesiastics of the age. If any prophet in those days could have gone to the bishop and justices, under whose jurisdiction Bunyan was thrust into the common jail, and left twelve years in prison, and could have said, My lords, there is one John Bunyan, formerly a tinker, and now a tagged lace-maker in a cell in the prison of Bedford, imprisoned by your lordships for preaching the Gospel, who hath composed and published an allegory which shall work more to the accomplishment of God's councils, and to the establishment of sound piety and morality, and to the usefulness and glory of the literature of this kingdom, than all that your lordships, with all the preachers and authors in this civil and ecclesiastical circuit, shall have accomplished in your whole life-time; he would have been regarded as void of understanding, if not imprisoned for contempt of the higher authorities.

And yet, such a prophet would have spoken but the simple truth ; for into how many languages this book hath been translated, no man can tell, and how many editions it has passed through, still less many any man enumerate, nor how many souls it may have guided to eternal glory. It has gone almost wherever the Bible has gone, and has left the stamp of the best part of English literature, where neither Milton nor Shakspeare were ever heard of. Indeed, it may doubtless be said of Bunyan as of that woman of sacred memory in the New Testament, Wherever this Gospel shall

be preached in all the world, there shall that, which this man hath done for Christ, be told for a memorial of him. The alabaster-box of very precious ointment, which that woman poured upon the Savior's head was an unutterably precious offering, because her heart went with it; but this alabasterbox of genius and piety, the fruit of these twelve years' imprisonment, was the work, both the offering itself and the feelings with which it was offered, equally of Bunyan's heart, filled with love to the same Saviour. And wherever the Bible goes, doubtless, in all time, this book will follow it. As the book itself is an illustration of this

great principle of God's administration, so was his own selection of Bunyan as his instrument to do so mighty a work. Disregarding the claims of great establishments and mighty hierarchies, passing by the gorgeous state religions of the world and all their followers, passing the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the See of London, and the great consecrated shrines of applauded genius and piety, even the genius of Milton, and the pulpits of Jeremy Taylor, and Howe and Usher, and the wise and mighty and noble together, he entered the prison cell in Bedford, and poured this unction of his Spirit upon John Bunyan, and touched his lips alone with this hallowed fire, and dipped his pen alone in these colors of heaven. There were as great boasts, if not of the apostolical succession, at least of the Ecclesiastical Establishment, in those days as in this ; and God saw that a lordly hierarchy, and many a lordly bishop, were proclaiming to all the world this lie, that there could be no

lawful worship of God, and no true church of Christ, without a prayer book and prelatical consecration, without episcopacy, confirmation, and a liturgy; but all this was as wood, hay and stubble ; and Divine Providence selected, to make the brightest jewel of the age as a Christian, a minister, and a writer, a member of the then obscure, persecuted, and despised sect of Baptists. He took John Bunyan ; but he did not remove him from the Baptist church of Christ into what men said was the only true church ; he kept him shining in that Baptist candlestick all his life-time; for what is it to Christ whether a man be Baptist, Methodist, Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Independent, or Episcopalian, so he be but a true follower of the Saviour, so he lord it not over God's heritage, nor be guilty of schism in consigning to God's uncovenanted mercies, in defiance of all Christian charity, those whom the Saviour holds as dear as the apple of his eye? What are these sectarian shibboleths to Christ, if his people will but walk according to this rule, which was a text of favorite note with Bunyan, By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another ! My DISCIPLES, not members of this or that sectarian persuasion, be it Episcopal, Baptist, Presbyterian, or what not. My disciples, not Church-men, nor Paul's-men, nor Rome's men, but my DISCIPLES.

All gorgeous and prelatical establishments God passed by, and selected the greatest marvel and miracle of grace and genius in all the modern

age from the Baptist church in Bedford ! If this be not a rebuke and a refutation of that absurd moc

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »