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guage of the great Poet of Heaven, Hell and Satan; for the thunder now, “winged with red lightning and impetuous rage,” had for a season spent his shafts, and ceased for a moment
"To bellow through the vast and boundless deep !"
Yea, says Bunyan, this was a kind of check for my proneness to desperation; a kind of threatening of me, if I did not, notwithstanding my sins, and the heinousness of them, venture my salvation upon the Son of God. But this providence was so strange, so wonderful to Bunyan, that for twenty years he could not make a judgment of it, would scarce dare give an opinion; only one thing he knew, it commanded a great calm in his soul; and another thing he knew, namely, that he lay not the stress of his salvation upon this wonderful interposition, of which he knew not what to say, but upon the Lord Jesus in the promise.
And here we see a remarkable trait in Bunyan's character, and that is, that with all the strength of his feelings and the glowing, restless power of his imagination, he was so entirely free from fanaticism, so unwilling, except compelled, to refer his experience to any thing like personal miraculous interpositions. He was exceedingly cautious to rest upon nothing, to trust in nothing, but for which he had the warrant of God's word. This, as we have seen, was what holy Mr. Gifford, as well as his own good sense, taught him; but there are few men who could have gone through Bunyan's experience, and not come out fanatics, certainly none without the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
And we see here in a striking manner the distinction between fanaticism and true piety. Fanaticism interprets according to its own vagaries, and not according to God's word; fanaticism leaves the word, and rises into its own wild spirit. Fanaticism interprets God's providences as miracles for self; it says, God is working miracles for me, I am the favored one of God, I have a special mission from God, and all my enemies are God's enemies. Then it proceeds to say, I belong to the true church, and all that do not go with me are of God's uncovenanted mercies, heathen, uncircumcised, fit only, if I can get the power, for fire-and-faggot application. This indeed is the convulsive, Romish stage of fanaticism, but so it proceeds. Self and intolerance, pride and cruelty, are its constituent elements. But now how different these characteristics of Bunyan; as fearful, almost, of daring to appropriate any of God's miraculous interpositions in his own behalf, as he was of hiding himself from God under a false refuge. All Bunyan's hallucinations, if you please to call them such, were against himself, and made him remarkably gentle and humble; so here Satan overdid his own work; but the hallucinations of fanaticism are all in behalf of self, and make the subject of them proud, self-righteous, and intolerant. Bunyan's conscience was as tender, as sensitive, as quick to the evil and pain of sin, as the apostle John's; and Bunyan was writing bitter things against himself, when he was full of love, tenderness, and deference to others; but fanaticism is always writing proud things concerning itself, and despising others Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one
a Pharisee, and the other a Publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself; God, I thank thee that I am not as other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican. I fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all that I possess. I belong to the true church. And the Publican standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast saying, God be merciful to me a sinner!
I have said that these blasphemies and unbelief were Satan's work, and not Bunyan's; and now let us see another material, which Satan's devilish ingenuity had to work upon in Bunyan's composition, indeed in the very constitution of all our minds. There is a morbid disposition in the mind, when in an anxious state, or under great trials, to fasten upon any evil imagination, or conjecture, or suggestion which it dreads greatly, and to clasp it as it were, and hold to it. There is a sort of feverish state of the mind, which holds these phantasms, as a fever does in the body. In such a state, evil suggestions, though rejected, have a most horrible pertinacity in cleaving to the mind; and the more the mind dreads them, and tries to avoid them, the more palpable they become. They really seem like fiends pursuing the soul, shouting over the shoulder, hissing in the ear.
And I say the more direct and intense efforts a man makes to reject and avoid them, the more palpable and fiend-like they become.
This is in part our very constitution, in the memory as well as imagination; for, let a man try to forget any dreadful thing, of which he hates the remembrance, and the more he tries to forget it, the
more surely he remembers it, the more he bodies it forth, and every thrust he makes at it causes it to glare up anew, reveals some new horror in it. Doubtless, his peculiarity in our mental constitution is destined to play a most terrific part in the punishment of men's sins in Eternity; for there can be nothing so dreadful as the remembrance of sin, and nothing, which men will strive with more intense earnestness to hide from and forget, than the recollection of their sins; and yet every effort they make at such forgetfulness only gives to such sins a more terrible reality, and makes them blaze up in a more lurid light to the conscience. Oh, if they could but be forgotten! But the more intense is the earnestness of this wish, the more impossible becomes the forgetfulness, the more terribly the dreaded evil stands out. There are cases even in this life, in which men would give ten thousand worlds, if they possessed them, could they only forget; but how much more in Eternity! The man that has committed a secret midnight murder, how often, think you, though perhaps not a human being suspects it, would he give the riches of the material universe, if he had them at command, could he but forget that one moment's crime. But it is linked to his very constitution, and every time he tries to cut the chain, he does but rattle and rouse the crime out of its new existence. Did my hearers ever see Allston's picture of the bloody hand! It is a revelation of the power of sin through the combined agency of imagination, memory, and conscience-sin, unrepented in the conscience, unpardoned in the soul.
Now all this Satan knew far better than Bunyan.
grave into a
Was not the lost archangel's own soul always and obstinately dwelling upon his own sins ? Could he but forget his fall, his once blessed state, his holiness, his happiness, it would be almost heaven to him! But no! he might fly from heaven, and fly to the utmost limits of an external hell; but he could not fly from himself.
“Me miserable! Which way shall I Aly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair ?
This is poetry, of the highest, sublimest kind; but it is not fiction; it is not deeper poetry than it is truth, terrific truth! It would seem as if Satan disgorged upon Bunyan the hell of his own soul more fully than ever he did upon any other mortal. Certainly, he made use of this morbid self-reproaching disposition of Bunyan's mind to the utmost. He plied him, vexed him, overwhelmed him with devilish suggestions, well knowing that Bunyan would start from them as if an adder stung him, and yet that they would possess a sort of fascinating, icy, paralyzing power, like that which dwells in the eye of a rattlesnake. Now, if Bunyan could but have had his attention turned away from the eye of the temptations, from the face of the Tempter, from the point of almost morbid lunacy, as it were, the horrid charm would be broken. If at this time, Bunyan's mind could have been strongly arrested and filled by a presentation of Christ crucified, Satan would have found himself quite unnoticed, and all his temptations unnerved; but he succeeded in getting the