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morbid attention of Bunyan fixed on himself, and his own detestableness and diabolical malignity and blasphemy, and then he could fasten his serpent's fangs in him, and nothing but Christ by his word and Spirit ever did or could deliver him.
In regard to these temptations, Bunyan was sometimes just like a scared child, that thinks it sees a ghost, or like a timid person in a wood by twilight, that sees in the stump of a tree a man couched and lying in wait, and instead of daring to go boldly up to it, to see what it is, stands shivering and almost dead with terror. Who has not realized this in his own experience, timid or brave? And just so, Bunyan did not dare to go up to, and examine and look in the face, the shocking blasphemies, accusations, and wrathful passages, that Satan would be ever thrusting into his soul; but went cowering and shivering, and bowed down as a man in chains under the weight of them. There was a time when all that Satan said to him he seemed morbidly inclined to take upon trust; and if it were a fiery passage of God's word, so much the worse ; for instead of coming up to it as a child of God to see what it was, and whether it were really against him, he fled from it at once, as from the fiery, flaming sword in the gate to Eden. And nothing can be more curious, more graphic, more affecting in its interest, more childlike in its simplicity, than the manner in which Bunyan describes the commencement and progress of his recovery out of this state of condemnation and terror: how timidly and cautiously, and as it were by stealth, he began to look these dreadful passages in the
face, when they had ceased pursuing him ; standing at first afar off, and gazing at them, and then, as a child, that cannot get rid of its fears, slowly drawing near, and at length daring to touch them, and to walk around them, and to see their true position and meaning, but always conscious of their awful power.
If ever there was a man who knew to the full the meaning of that passage, The fiery darts of the Wicked One; and of that, The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing eren to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit; it was John Bunyan. You cannot possibly tell, except you read it for yourself, the conflicts that his soul sustained between opposing passages of scripture, wielded on the one side by the Spirit of God, and on the other by his soul's malignant adversary; the blessed Spirit holding out some sweet gracious, comprehensive promise, and then Satan flashing between it and Bunyan's soul the gleaming sword of a threat to keep him from it; and so, as I have said, the swords of Michael and of Satan are thus crossing and flashing continually in this protracted and fearful conflict.
There were two passages especially, that thus met and struggled for the mastery; and the one was that sweet promise, “My grace is sufficient for thee;" and the other that most tremendous passage in regard to Esad selling his birthright, and after finding no place of repentance. “Oh,” says Bunyan,
6 the combats and conflicts that I did meet with! As I strove to hold by this word of promise, that of Esau would fly in my face like light
ning. So my soul did hang as in a pair of scales, sometimes
and sometimes down; now in peace, and now again in terror. And I remember one day, as I was in divers frames of spirit, and considering that the frames were according to the nature of several scriptures that came in upon my mind, if this of grace, then I was quiet; but if that of Esau, then tormented. Lord, thought I, if both these scriptures should meet in my heart at once, I wonder which of them would get the better of me. So methought I had a longing mind that they might come both together upon me; yea, I desired of God they might. Well, about two or three days after, so they did indeed; they bolted both upon me at a time, and did work and struggle strongly in me for a while; at last that about Esau's birthright began to wax weak and withdraw, and vanish, and this about the sufficiency of grace prevailed with power and joy. And as I was in a muse about this thing, that scripture came in upon me, Mercy rejoiceth over judgment. This was a wonderment to me, yet truly I am apt to think it was of God, for the word of the law and wrath must give place to the word of life and grace ; because, though the word of condemnation be glorious, yet the word of life and salvation doth far exceed in glory. Also, that Moses and Elias must both vanish, and leave Christ and his saints alone."
Now we may call this a conceit, if we please, but to some minds this use of scripture is inimitably sweet and beautiful. Nor can there be any thing more beautiful than to see this soldier of Jesus Christ escaped from the perils of the con
flict, sitting down to trace, with so calm and skilful a hand, and a heart so believing, joyous and grateful, the evolutions and currents of the battle, the movements of his great Commander on the one side, and of his fierce Adversary on the other.
The consideration of Bunyan's temptations reveals to us three great secrets; the secret of his deep experimental knowledge of the power of God's word ; the secret of his great skill and power in preaching ; and the secret of his pure, idiomatic, energetic English style. Every step he took in the word of God was experimental. The Bible was his book of all learning; for years he studied it as for his life. No bewildered mariner, in a crazy bark on an unknown sea, amidst sunken reefs and dangerous shallows, ever pondered his chart with half the earnestness. It was as if life or death depended on every time he opened it, and every line he read. The scriptures were wonderful things unto him; he saw that the truth and verity of them were the keys of the kingdom of heaven ; those that the scriptures favor, they must inherit bliss; but those that they oppose and condemn must perish for evermore. “One sentence of the scripture did more afflict and terrify my mind, I mean those sentences that stood against me, as sometimes I thought they every one of them did, than an army of forty thousand men that might come against me. Wo be to him, against whom the scriptures bend themselves. This made me, with careful heart and watchful eye, with great fearfulness to turn over every leaf, and with much diligence mixed with trembling, to consider every
sentence, together with its natural force and latitude. Now would he leap into the bosom of that promise, that yet he feared did shut its heart against him. Now also I would labor to take the word as God hath laid it down, without restraining the natural force of one syllable thereof. Oh! what did I now see in that blessed sixth of John! "And him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.' Oh many a pull hath my heart had with Satan for that blessed sixth of John! A word, a word, to lean a weary soul upon, that it might not sink forever! It was that I hunted for! Yea, often when I have been making for the promise, I have seen as if the Lord would refuse my soul forever. I was often as if I had run upon the pikes, and as if the Lord had thrust at me, to keep me from him as with a flaming sword !"
Here we have the secret of Bunyan's experimental knowledge of the word of God; and this, coupled with the remembrance of the tenor of holy Mr. Gifford's instructions to take nothing upon trust, but to labor to be set down by the Spirit of God in the word of God, and how faithfully Bunyan made this his practice, shows us how he came to be so rooted and grounded in Divine Truth, so consummate a master in it, in its living beauty and harmony. He was led from truth to truth by the Divine Spirit ; every part of the gospel was thus revealed unto him; he could not express what he saw and felt of its glory, of the steadiness of Jesus Christ, the Rock of man's salvation, and of the power, sweetness, light and fitness of his word. It was as a fire and a hammer in his own soul, burn