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And if it were held a sin for them to meet together and seek the face of God, and exhort one another to follow Christ, he would sin still.” They were now at a point. You confess the indictment then ? said the magistrate. He made answer—"This I confess : We have had many meetings together, both to pray to God, and to exhort one another; and we had the sweet comforting presence of the Lord among us for our encouragement; blessed be his name! There I confess myself guilty, and no otherwise.” Then said the magistrate, “ Hear your judgment ! You must be had back again to prison, and there lie for three months following; and at three months' end, if you do not submit to go to Church to hear divine service, and leave your preaching, you must be banished the realm. And if after such a day as shall be appointed you to be gone, you shall be found in this realm, or be found to come over again without special licence from the king, you must stretch by the neck for it: I tell you plainly." Bunyan resolutely answered, that if “ he were out of prison to-day, he would preach the Gospel again to-morrow, by the help of God!”
Back therefore he was taken; "and I can truly say," he says, “ I bless the Lord for it; that my heart was sweetly refreshed in the time of my examination, and also afterwards at my returning to the prison, so that I found Christ's words more than bare trifles, where he saith, * He will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gain
Three months elapsed, and the Clerk of the Peace then went to him by desire of the magistrate, to see if he could be persuaded to obedience. But Bunyan insisted that the law, being intended against those who designed to do evil in their meetings, did not apply to him. He was told that he might exhort his neighbours in private discourse, if he did not call together an assembly of people: this he might do, and do much good thereby, without breaking the law. But, said Bunyan, if I may do good to one, why not to two ? and if to two, why not to four, and so to eight, and so on ? Aye, said the Clerk, and to a hundred, I warrant you! Yes, Bunyan answered, I think I should not be forbidden to do as much good as I can. They then began to discuss the question, whether, under
* Luke xxi. 15.
say nor resist.'»
pretence of doing good, harm might not be done, by seducing the people; and Bunyan allowed that there might be many who designed the destruction of the Government: let them, he said, be punished, and let him be punished also, should he do any thing not becoming a man and a Christian ; if error or heresy could be proved upon him, he would disown it, even in the market-place; but to the truth, he would stand to the last drop of his blood. Bound in conscience he held himself to obey all righteous laws, whether there were a king or not; and if he offended against them, patiently to bear the penalty. And to cut off all occasion of suspicion, as touching the harmlessness of his doctrines, he would willingly give any one the notes of all his sermons, for he sincerely desired to live in peace, and to submit to the present authority. “But there are two ways of obeying," he observed ; "the one to do that which I in my conscience do believe that I am bound to do, actively; and where I cannot obey actively, there I am willing to lie down, and to suffer what they shall do unto me.” And here the interview ended, Bunyan thanking him for his “civil and meek discoursing," and breathing a wish that they might meet in Heaven.
Shortly afterwards the Coronation took place, and the proclamation which allowed persons to sue out a pardon during twelve months from that day, had the effect of suspending the proceedings against him, if any further were intended. When the assizes came, his wife presented a petition to the Judges, that they would impartially take his case into consideration. Sir Matthew Hale was one of these Judges, and expressed a wish to serve her if he could, but a fear that he could do her no good; and being assured by one of the Justices that Bunyan had been convicted, and was a hot-spirited fellow, he waved the matter. But the High Sheriff encouraged the poor woman to make another effort for her husband before they left the town; and accordingly, “ with a bashed face and a trembling heart," she entered the Swan Chamber, where the two Judges and many magistrates and gentry of the country were in company together. Trembling however as she was, Elizabeth Bunyan had imbibed something of her husband's spirit. She had been to London to petition the House of Lords in his behalf, and had been told by one whom
she calls Lord Barkwood, that they could do nothing, but that his releasement was committed to the Judges at these next assizes, and now I am come to you, she said, and you give neither releasement nor relief! And she complained to Hale, that he was kept unlawfully in prison, for the indictment was false, and he was clapped up before there were any proclamations against the meetings. One of the Judges then said he had been lawfully convicted. “ It is false," replied the woman “ for when they said to him, Do you confess the indictment? he said only this, that he had been at several meetings both when there was preaching the word and prayer, and that they had God's presence among them.” Will your husband leave preaching? said Judge Twisden; if he will do so, then send for him "My Lord," said she," he dares not leave preaching, as long as he can speak.”
Sir Matthew himself was not likely to be favourably impressed by this sort of pleading. But he listened sadly when she told him that there were four small children by the former wife, one of them blind; that they had nothing to live upon while their father was in prison, but the charity of good people ; and that she herself, “smayed” at the news when her husband was ap prehended, being but young and unaccustomed to such things, fell in labour, and continuing in it for eight days, was delivered of a dead child. Alas, poor woman! said Hale. But Twisden said poverty was her cloak, for he understood her husband was better maintained by running up and down a-preaching, than by following his calling. Sir Matthew asked what was his calling and was told that he was a tinker. Yes, observed the wife, and because he is a tinker and a poor man, therefore he is despised and cannot have justice. The scene ended in Sir Matthew's mildly telling her he was sorry he could do her no good; that what her husband had said was taken for a conviction, and that there was no other course for her, than either to apply to the king, or sue out his pardon, or get a writ of error, which would be the cheapest. She urged them to send for Bunyan, that he might speak for himself: his appearance however would rather have confirmed those in their opinions, who said that there was not such another pestilent fellow in the country, than have
moved the Judges in his favour. Elizabeth Bunyan concludes her account by saying, “ This I remember, that though I was somewhat timorous at my first entrance into the chamber, yet before I went out I could not but break forth into tears ; not so much because they were so hard-hearted against me and my husband, but to think what a sad account such poor creatures will have to give at the coming of the Lord."
No further steps for procuring his release were taken at this time; either because the means for defraying the legal expenses could not be raised; or, which is quite as probable, because it was certain that Bunyan, thinking himself in conscience bound to preach in defiance of the law, would soon have made his case worse than it then was. For he had fortunately a friend in the jailer, and was somewhat like a prisoner at large, being allowed to go whither he would, and return when he thought proper. He attended the meetings of the congregation to which he belonged, he was employed by them to visit disorderly members, he was often out in the night, and it is said that many of the Baptist congregations in Bedfordshire owe their origin to his midnight preaching. “I followed my wonted course," he says, "taking all occasions to visit the people of God, exhorting them to be stedfast in the faith of Jesus Christ, and to take heed that they touched not the Common Prayer, &c."--an &c. more full of meaning than that which occasioned the dishonest outcry against the &c. oath. So far did this liberty extend, that he went " to see the Christians at London,”-an indiscretion which cost the jailer a severe reproof, and had nearly cost him his place; and which compelled him to withhold any further indul. gence of this kind, "so," says Bunyan, “ that I must not now look out of the door." • They charged me,” he adds, " that I went thither to plot and raise divisions, and make insurrections, which God knows was a slander.” It was slanderous to charge him with plotting, or with traitorous intentions ; but in raising divisions he was, beyond all doubt, actively and heartily engaged. The man who distinguished a handful of Baptists in London as the Christians of that great metropolis, and who, when let out by favour from his prison, exhorted the people of God, as he calls them, to take heed that they touched not the Common Prayer,
was not employed in promoting unity, nor in making good subjects, however good his intentions, however orthodox his creed, however sincere and fervent his piety. Peace might be on his lips, and zeal for the salvation of others in his heart; but he was certainly at that time no preacher of good will, nor of Christian charity. And without reference to human laws, it may be affirmed, that the circumstances which removed this high-minded and hot-minded man from a course of dangerous activity, in which he was as little likely to acquire a tolerant spirit as to impart it, and placed him in confinement, where his understanding had leisure to ripen and to cool, was no less favourable for his moral and religious nature, than it has ultimately proved to his usefulness and his fame.
Nothing is more certain, than that the gratification which a resolute spirit feels in satisfying its conscience, exceeds all others; this feeling is altogether distinct from that peace of mind which under all afflictions abides in the regenerate heart; nor is it so safe a feeling, for it depends too much upon excitement, and the exaltation and triumph which it produces are akin to pride. Bunyan's heart had been kindled by the Book of Martyrs,-cold and insensible indeed must any heart be which could dwell without emotion upon those precious records of religious heroism! He had read in those records, with perfect sympathy, the passionate epistle which the Italian Martyr Pomponius Algerius addressed from prison to his friends. That Martyr was a student of Padua, and, in what in one sense may be called the golden age of literature, had been devoted to study from his childhood with ambitious diligence and the most hopeful success. “ To mitigate your sorrow which you take for me,” said this noble soldier of the noble Army, “I cannot but impart unto you some portion of my delectation and joys which I feel and find, to the intent that you may rejoice with me and sing before the Lord.— I have found a nest of honey and honey-comb in the entrails of a lion.-Behold, He that was once far from me, now is present with me: Whom once scarce I could feel, now I see more apparently : Whom once I saw afar off, now I behold near at hand: Whom once I hungered for, the same now approacheth, and reacheth His hand unto me. He doth comfort me, and heapeth me up with gladness; He ministereth strength