Gambar halaman

the three heavenly maidens, Prudence, Piety and Charity, whose discourse with Christian was so rich, who showed him the rarities of the House Beautiful, and who placed him for rest in a large upper chamber, whose windows opened to the sunrising; the name of the chamber was Peace, where he slept till break of day, and then he awoke and sang.

And now came a new and blessed era in his religious life, for this “holy Mr. Gifford” was a remarkable man, a man of deep piety and joy, and well prepared, by his own spiritual conflicts, to guide Bunyan through his. This man took Bunyan under his careful charge, and invited him to his house, where he could hear him converse with others about the dealings of God with their souls. This man was, indeed, the original of that delightful portrait of Evangelist in the Pilgrim's Progress, a character drawn from real life, being such an one as met Bunyan himself on his wandering way from the City of Destruction, “and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” Of this man, Bunyan afterwards says, “I sat under the ministry of holy Mr. Gifford, whose doctrine, by God's grace, was much for my stability. This man made it much his business to deliver the people of God from all those hard and unsound tests, that by nature we are prone to. He would bid us take special heed that we took not up any truth upon trust, as from this or that, or any other man or men; but cry mightily to God that he would convince us of the reality thereof, and set us down therein, by his own Spirit in the holy word ; for, said he, if you do otherwise, when temptation

comes, if strongly upon you, you not having received them with evidence from heaven, will find you want that help and strength now to resist, which once you thought you had.” This, Bunyan says, was. “as seasonable to my soul as the former and latter rain in their season. The Spirit of God led Bunyan to act according to these directions ; and this was, as we shall see, one great cause of his wonderful power in the scriptures.

Into this Baptist Church of Christ, under this holy pastor, Bunyan was received in the year 1653, when about twenty-five years of age. And now having traced him to this point, let me say a word in regard to that work, the Grace Abounding, from which I have drawn my illustrations of Divine Providence and grace in Bunyan's life. I cannot close without recommending it to the very careful perusal of all, who would have a deeper relish and more thorough understanding of the beauties of the Pilgrim's Progress. It is a marvellous book, and cannot but be a precious book to every soul that reads it with a sober, prayerful spirit. Its pages are, next to the Pilgrim's Progress, invaluable. It is condensed, severe, and naked in its style, beneath the pent fire of Bunyan's feelings, and the pressure of his conscience, forbidding him to seek for beauty. He says of it himself; “I could have stepped into a style much higher than this, in which I have here discoursed, and could have adorned all things more than I have seemed to do; but I dare not. God did not play in tempting of me; neither did I play when the pangs of hell caught hold upon me, wherefore I may not play in relating of them; but be plain

and simple, and lay down the thing as it was. He that liketh it, let him receive it; and he that doth not, let him produce a better.” The very extreme plainness of this work, adds to its power; never was the inward life of any being depicted with more vehement and burning language ; it is an intensely interesting description of the workings of a mind of the keenest sensibility and most fervid imagination, convinced of guilt, and fully awake to all the dread realities of eternity.

Sometimes, with all its plainness and solemnity, it is almost comic, like Luther's own humor, as in the dialogues of Bunyan's soul with the Tempter. It possesses, indeed, the elements of a great spiritual drama. The Faust of Goethe is not to be compared with it for truth and depth and vividness. There are but few actors, but those how solemn, how grand, how awful ! An immortal spirit, and its great adversary the devil, are in almost unceasing conflict; but such a stamp of reality, such discrimination, such flashing of lights, such crossing of the swords of Michael and of Satan, such a revelation of the power of divine truth, and of the blessed ministration of the Spirit of God, you can find nowhere else out of the Bible. It is a great battle; heaven and hell are contending; you have the gleam of armor, the roar of artillery, fire and smoke and blood-red vapor, in which ofttimes the combatants themselves are lost from your view.

You follow with intense interest the movements of Bunyan's soul. You seem to see a lonely bark driving across the ocean in a hurricane. By

the flashes of the lightning you can just discern her through the darkness, plunging and laboring fearfully in the midnight tempest, and you think that all is lost; but there again you behold her in the quiet sunshine ; or the moon and the stars look down upon her, as the wind breathes softly ; or in a fresh and favorable gale she flies across the flying waters. Now it is clouds and rain and hail and rattling thunder, storms coming down as sudden, almost, as the lightning; and now again her white sails glitter in heaven's light, like an Albatross in the spotless horizon. The last glimpse you catch of her, she is gloriously entering the harbor, the haven of eternal rest; yea, you see her like a star, that in the morning of eternity dies into the light of Heaven. Can there be any thing more interesting, than thus to follow the perilous course of an immortal soul, from danger to safety, from conflict to victory, from temptation to triumph, from suffering to blessedness, from the City of Destruction to the City of God!

Bunyan's genius I had almost said was created by his piety; the fervor and depth of his religious feelings formed its most important elements of power, and its materials to work upon. His genius also pursued a path dictated by his piety, and one that no other being in the world ever pursued before him. The light that first broke through his darkness was light from heaven. It found him, even that being who wrote the Pilgrim's Progress, coarse, profane, boisterous, and almost brutal. It shone before him, and with a single eye he followed it, till his native City of Destruction could no longer be seen in the

distance, till his moral deformities fell from him, and his garments became purity and light. The Spirit of God was his teacher; the very discipline of his intellect was a spiritual discipline; the conflicts that his soul sustained with the powers of darkness were the very sources of his intellectual strength.

Southey called the experience of this man, in one stage of it, a burning and feverish enthusiasm. The poet Cowper, in one of his beautiful letters to Lady Hesketh, after describing his own feelings, remarks, “What I have written would appear like enthusiasm to many, for we are apt to give that name to every warm affection of the mind in others, which we have not experienced in ourselves.” It would have been the truth, as well as the better philosophy, if Southey had said that the Spirit of God was preparing Bunyan, by that severe discipline, to send forth into the world the Pilgrim's Progress. And when he was at length prepared for the task, then an overruling Providence placed him, through the instrumentality of his own enemies, in the prison of Bedford to accomplish it.

Bunyan's imagination was powerful enough, in connection with his belief in God's superintending Providence, to array his inward trials with a sensible shape, and external events with a light reflected from his own experience; hopes and fears were friends and enemies, acting in concert with them, all things he met with in the world were friends or enemies likewise, according as they aided or opposed his spiritual life. He acted always under one character, the Christian soldier, realizing in his own

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »