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There is yet one more of these Tinker's tetrasticks, penned in the margin, beside the account of Gardener's death:
the blood the blood that he did shed
the beginnes of his misere. Vol. iii. p. 527. These curious inscriptions must have been Bunyan's first attempts in verse; he had no doubt found difficulty enough in tinkering them to make him proud of his work when it was done; for otherwise he would not have written them in a book which was the most valuable of all his goods and chattels. In latter days he seems to have taken this book for his art of poetry, and acquired from it at length the tune and the phraseology of such verses as are there inserted,—with a few rare exceptions, they are of Robert Wisdom's school, and something below the pitch of Sternhold and Hopkins. But if he learnt there to make bad verses, he entered fully into the spirit of its better parts, and received that spirit into as resolute a heart as ever beat in a martyr's bosom. From the examples which he found there, and from the Scriptures which he perused with such intense devotion, he derived “ a rapture"
—that raising him from ignorance
- And knowledge of himself : And when the year after Gifford's death a resolution was passed by the Meeting that “ some of the brethren (one at a time) to whom the Lord may have given a gift, be called forth, and encouraged to speak a word in the church for mutual edification,” Bunyan was one of the persons so called upon.“ Some,” he says, “ of the most able among the Saints with us, . . I say, the most able for judgement and holiness of life, . . as they conceived did perceive that God had counted me worthy to understand something of his will in his holy and blessed Word; and had given me utterance in some measure to express what I saw to others for edification. Therefore they desired me, and that with much earnestness, that I would be willing at some times, to take in hand in one of the Meetings, to speak a word of exhortation unto them. The which though at the first it did much dash and abash my spirit, yet being still by them desired and intreated, I consented to their request; and did twice, at two several assemblies, (but in private) though with much weakness and infirmity, discover my gift amongst them; at which they not only seemed to be, but did solemnly protest, as in the sight of the great God, they were both affected and comforted, and gave thanks to the Father of Mercies for the grace bestowed on me."
In those days the supply of public news came so slowly and was so scanty when it came, that even the proceedings of so humble an individual as Bunyan became matter of considerable attention in the town of Bedford. His example drew many to the Baptist-Meeting, from curiosity to discover what had affected him there and produced such a change in his conversation. “When I went out to seek the Bread of Life, some of them,” he says, “ would follow, and the rest be put into a muse at home. Yea almost all the town, at first, at times would go out to hear at the place where I found good. Yea, young and old for a while had some reformation on them: also some of them perceiving that God had mercy upon me, came crying to Him for mercy too." Bunyan was not one of those enthusiasts who thrust themselves forward in confident reliance upon what they suppose to be an inward call. He entered upon his probation with diffidence and fear, not daring “ to make use of his gift in a public way;" and gradually acquired a trust in himself and a consciousness of his own qualifications, when some of those who went into the country to disseminate their principles and make converts, took him in their company. Exercising himself thus as occasion offered, he was encouraged by the approbation with which others heard him; and in no long time, “ after some solemn prayer, with fasting,” he was “more particularly called forth, and appointed to a more ordinary and public preaching, not only to, and amongst them that believed, but also to offer the Gospel to those who had not yet received the faith thereof."
The Bedford meeting had at this time its regular minister whose name was John Burton; so that what Bunyan received was a roving commission to itinerate in the villages round about; and in this he was so much employed that when in the ensuing year he was nominated for a deacon of the congregation, they declined electing him to that office, on the ground that he was too much engaged to attend to it. Having in previous training overcome his first diffidence, he now “ felt in his mind a secret pricking forward” to this ministry; not “ for desire of vain glory”, for he was even at that time “sorely afflicted” concerning his own eternal state, but because the scriptures encouraged him, by texts which ran continually in his mind, whereby “I was made,” he says, “ to see, that the Holy Ghost never intended that men who have gifts and abilities should bury them in the earth, but rather did command and stir up such to the exercise of their gift, and also did command those that were apt and ready, so to do.” Those gifts he had, and could not but be conscious of them; he had also the reputation of possessing them, so that people came by hundreds to hear him from all parts round about, though “ upon divers accounts;" some to marvel, and some perhaps to mock: but some also to listen, and to be “ touched with a conviction that they needed a Saviour.” “ But I first,” he says, “ could not believe that God should speak by me to the heart of any man, still counting myself unworthy; yet those who were thus touched would love me and have a particular respect for me: and though I did put it from me that they should be awakened by me, still they would confess it, and affirm it before the saints of God. They would also bless God for me (unworthy wretch that I am!) and count me God's instrument that shewed to them the way of salvation. Wherefore seeing them in both their words and deeds to be so constant, and also in their hearts so earnestly pressing after the knowledge of Jesus Christ, rejoicing that ever God did send me where they were; then I began to conclude it might be so that God had owned in his work such a foolish one as I, and then came that word of God to my heart with much sweet refreshment, * " the blessing of them that were ready to perish is come upon me; yea I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy.”
When he first began to preach Bunyan endeavoured to work upon his hearers by alarming them; he dealt chiefly in Comminations, and dwelt upon the dreadful doctrine that the curse of God “ lays hold on all men as they come into the world, because of sin.” “ This part of my work,” says he, " I fulfilled with great sense: for the terrors of the law, and guilt for my transgressions, lay heavy upon my conscience. I preached what I felt,—what I smartingly did feel,--even that under which my poor soul did groan and tremble to astonishment. Indeed I have been as one sent to them from the dead. I went myself in chains, to preach to them in chains; and carried that fire in my own conscience, that I persuaded them to be aware of. I can truly say—that when I have been to preach, I have gone full of guilt and terror even to the pulpit door; and there it hath been taken off and I have been at liberty in my mind until I have done my work; and then immediately, even before I could get down the pulpit stairs, I have been as bad as I was before. Yet God carried me on; but surely with a strong hand, for neither guilt nor Hell could take me off my work." This is a case like that of the fiery old soldier John Haime who was one of Wesley's first lay preachers.
When he was in a happier state of mind, he took a different and better course“ still preaching what he saw and felt;" he then laboured “to hold forth our Lord and Saviour" in all his offices, relations and benefits unto the World ;-and “ to remove those false supports and props on which the world doth lean, and by them fall and perish.” Preaching however was not his only employment, and though still working at his business for a maintenance, he found time to compose a treatise against some of those heresies which the first Quakers poured forth so profusely in their overflowing enthusiasm. In that age of theological warfare, no other sectaries acted so eagerly upon the offensive. It seems that they came into some of
• Job xxix. 13.
the meetings which Bunyan attended to bear testimony against the doctrines which were taught there; and this induced him to write his first work, entitled “ Some Gospel Truths opened according to the Scriptures: or the Divine and Human Nature in Christ Jesus; His coming into the world; His Righteousness, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, Intercession and second coming to Judgement, plainly demonstrated and proved.” Burton prefixed to this treatise a commendatory epistle, bidding the reader not to be offended because the treasure of the Gospel was held forth to him in a poor earthen vessel by one who had neither the greatness nor the wisdom of this world to commend him. “Having had experience,” he says, “ with many other saints of this man's soundness in the faith, of his godly conversation, and his ability to preach the Gospel, not by human art, but by the Spirit of Christ, and that with much success in the conversion of sinners,—I say having had experience of this, and judging this book may be profitable to many others, as well as to myself, I thought it my duty upon this account to bear witness with my brother to the plain and simple, and yet glorious truths of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It may be asked, how is it possible that the man who wrote such illiterate and senseless verses in the margin of his Book of Martyrs, could have composed a treatise like this, about the same time, or shortly afterwards? To this it may be replied that if the treatise were seen in its original spelling it might have at first sight as tinkerly an appearance as the verses : but in those days persons of much higher station spelt quite as loosely, . . perhaps all who were not professionally scholars, . . for it was before the age of spelling books; and it may be believed that in most cases the care of orthography was left to the printers. And it is not to be concluded from Bunyan's wretched verses that he would write as wretchedly in prose; in versifying he was attempting an art which he had never learnt, and for which he had no aptitude; but in prose he wrote as he conversed and as he preached, using the plain straightforward language of common life. Burton may have corrected some vulgarisms, but other correction would not