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times; to wit, to go to church twice a day, and that too with the foremost; and there should very devoutly both say and sing, as others did, yet retaining my wicked life; but withal I was so overrun with the spirit of superstition, that I adored, and that with great devotion, even all things, both the high place, priest,clerk, vestmentservice, and what else, belonging to the church ; counting all things holy that were therein contained, and especially the priest and clerk most happy, and without doubt greatly blessed.” “This conceit grew so strong in a little time upon my spirit, that, had I but seen a priest, though never so sordid and debauched in his life, I should find my spirit fall under him, reverence him, and knit unto him ; yea, I thought for the love I did bear unto them, supposing they were the ministers of God, I could have laid down at their feet, and have been trampled on by them ; their name, their garb and work did so intoxicate and bewitch me.'
This stage in Bunyan's experience is exceedingly curious and instructive; his mind seems to have been in that state of bondage, which we call priestridden; heartily as he afterwards hated the pope, it would not have taken much, at this time, to have carried him completely over to Rome. Had he lived in our day, with such an experience, he would assuredly have made what some might be disposed to call a thorough-going Puseyite. Such was the intoxicating effect of the glare of religious formalism upon his soul, that he adored, and that with great devotion, all things belonging to the church. Mark the phraseology, and see if it does not wonderfully cha
racterize some in our day. He did not adore God, but the church, and the things in it, and the forms of it, its altar, priest, clerk, vestments. Never was described more to the life that sentimental mixture of superstition and devotion, which, borrowing something from the Spirit, but bewildered and carried into ecstacies by the beauty of religious rites, rests in and worships, not the Saviour, but the form. In this state of mind, if Bunyan had seen a babe baptized, the holy water and the white robe of the priest, and the sign of the cross would have made a much deeper impression on his soul, than the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, named upon an immortal spirit. And now mark the intimate connection between this ecstatic reverence for priests and forms, and the belief that church membership, though merely by the apostolical succession of birth, constitutes salvation. Bunyan, finding in Scripture that the Israelites were once the peculiar people of God, concluded that if he could be found to have sprang from that race, his soul must needs be happy. He asked his father about it, but received an answer which destroyed all his hopes, for neither he nor his family were of the lineage of Israel.
It has been conjectured from this passage, that Bunyan's family were Gypsies, and that this was the reason why he asked his father if they were not descended from the Israelites, intending, if he found they were so descended, to have considered himself as belonging to the only true church, and all the rest of the world as entitled only to God's uncovenanted mercies, that is, to remediless perdition. There is no knowing to what extreme this
state of mind might have carried Bunyan, had it lasted. As it was, it gave him an insight into the nature, power and danger of formalism, which nothing else could have taught him, neither discipline nor instruction. For all this while, he says, I was not sensible of the danger and evil of sin; I was kept from considering that sin would damn me, whatsoever religion I followed, unless I was found in Christ; nay, I never thought of him, nor whether there were such an one or no.' There is no telling, I say, what might have been the end of this in Bunyan's soul ; but now comes,
A fourth point, specially illustrating the providence and grace of God, namely, a sermon which Bunyan heard on the holiness of the Sabbath, and the evil of breaking it. This ran directly athwart one of Bunyan's besetting sins ; for notwithstanding his thorough Churchism, he says he took much delight in all manner of vice, and did solace himself
especially therewith on the Sabbath day. He went home from this sermon to his dinner with a great load upon his conscience, but he soon shook it off, and after dinner went out with all zest to his sports and gaming. As suddenly as a miracle his convictions returned upon him. That very same day, , as he was “in the midst of a game of cat, and having struck it one blow from the hole, just as I was about to strike it the second time a voice did suddenly dart from heaven into my soul, which said, Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell ? At this I was put to an exceeding amaze; wherefore, leaving my cat upon the ground, I looked up to
heaven, and was as if I had seen with the eyes of my understanding, the Lord Jesus looking down upon me, as being very hotly displeased with me, and as if he did severely threaten me with some grievous punishment for these and other ungodly practices."
“ I had no sooner thus conceived in my mind, but suddenly this conclusion was fastened upon my spirit, (for the former hint did set my sins again before my face,) that I had been a great and grievous sinner, and that it was now too late for me to look after heaven; for Christ would not forgive me, nor pardon my transgressions. Then I fell to musing on this also; and while I was thinking of it, and fearing lest it should be so, I felt my heart sink in despair, concluding it was too late; and therefore I resolved in my mind to go on insin: for, thought I, if the case be thus, my state is surely miserable ; miserable if I leave my sins, and but miserable if I follow them; I can but be damned, and if I must be so, I had as good be damned for many sins, as damned for few. Thus I stood, in the midst of my play, before all that then were present; but yet I told them nothing; but I say, having made this conclusion, I returned desperately to my sport again. The good Lord, whose mercy is unsearchable, forgive my transgressions!”
We should like to see a picture by the hand of a master, representing Bunyan in the midst of his game of cat, arrested thus suddenly by the fire of conviction flashing up in his soul, and thrown into this appalling revery in the midst of his wondering companions, with the thoughts of his past life, and
of the coming judgment, flying through his awakened mind swifter than the lightning. What a scene was this, and how little could Bunyan's merry playmates have imagined the commotion in his soul! This rapid crowded moment must have been as a year to Bunyan; it was like those dreams, in which the soul lives a life-time in an hour. The words that were kindled with such power in Bunyan's conscience, that he seemed to hear them, may have been spoken to him in the very sermon to which he listened in the morning. But returning desperately from this dream of conscience to his sport, he shook off his convictions, resisted the Holy Ghost, and afterwards fell to cursing and swearing, and playing the madman at such a fearful rate, that even wicked people were astonished at him.
On one occasion, while he was garnishing his discourses, as he termed it, with oaths at the beginning and the end, an abandoned woman, who stood by, severely reproved him, and told his companions to quit his conversation, or he would make them as bad as himself. This strange and unexpected reproof of the bold blasphemer reached the child's heart, that still lived within him. He stood by the shop-window, and hung his head in silence; and the language, in which he has told the effect of this rebuke upon him, is a most exquisitely beautiful revelation of the simplicity of his nature, yet undestroyed amidst all his evil habits. “ While I stood there," says he, “I wished with all my heart that I might be a little child again, that my father might learn me to speak without this wicked way of swearing." He thought himself so accustomed to