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mire him as he ought to be admired, it is necessary that we should be informed not only of the coarseness and brutality of his youth, but of the extreme ignorance out of which he worked his way, and the stage of burning enthusiasm through which he passed, -a passage not less terrible than that of his own Pilgrim in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. His ignorance, like the brutal manners from which he had now been reclaimed, was the consequence of his low station in life; but the enthusiasm which then succeeded, was brought on by the circumstances of an age in which hypocrisy was regnant, and fanaticism rampant throughout the land. "We intended not," says Baxter, "to dig down the banks, or pull up the hedge and lay all waste and common, when we desired the prelates' tyranny might cease." No; for the intention had been under the pretext of abating one tyranny, to establish a far severer and more galling in its stead: in doing this, the banks had been thrown down, and the hedge destroyed; and while the bestial herd who broke in rejoiced in the havoc, Baxter and other such erring though good men stood marvelling at the mischief, which never could have been effected, if they had not mainly assisted in it. The wildest opinions of every kind were abroad, "divers and strange doctrines," with every wind of which, men having no longer an anchor whereby to hold, were carried about and tossed to and fro. They passed with equal facility from strict puritanism to the utmost licence of practical and theoretical impiety, as antinomians or as atheists; and from extreme profligacy to extreme superstition in any of its forms. The poor man by whose conversation Bunyan was first led into "some love and liking of religion," and induced to read the Bible and to delight in it, became a Ranter, wallowed in his sins as one who was secure in his privilege of election; and finally, having corrupted his heart, perverted his reason, and seared his conscience, laughed at his former professions, persuaded himself that there was neither a future state for man, nor a God to punish or to save him, and told Bunyan that he had gone through all religions, and in this persuasion had fallen. upon the right at last!
Some of the Ranters' books were put into Bunyan's hands. Their effect was to perplex him: he read in them, and thought
upon them, and betook himself properly and earnestly thus to prayer—“ Lord, I am not able to know the truth from error: leave me not to my own blindness, either to approve of, or condemn this doctrine. If it be of God, let me not despise it; if it be of the Devil, let me not embrace it. Lord, I lay my soul in this matter only at thy feet; let me not be deceived, I humbly beseech thee!" And he was not deceived; for though he fell in with many persons who, from a strict profession of religion, had persuaded themselves that having now attained to the perfection of the Saints, they were discharged from all obligations of morality, and nothing which it might please them to do would be accounted to them as sin, neither their evil arguments nor their worse example infected him. "Oh," he says, "these temptations were suitable to my flesh, I being but a young man, and my nature in its prime; but God, who had, as I hope, designed me for better things, kept me in the fear of his name, and did not suffer me to accept such cursed principles. And blessed be God who put it in my heart to cry to him to be kept and directed, still distrusting mine own wisdom."
These people could neither corrupt his conscience nor impose upon his understanding; he had no sympathies with them. But one day when he was tinkering in the streets of Bedford, he overheard three or four poor women, who as they sat at a door in the sunshine were conversing about their own spiritual state. He was himself “a brisk talker in the matter of religion," but these persons were in their discourse "far above his reach." Their talk was about a new birth,-how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature,-how God had visited their souls with his love in the Lord Jesus,-with what words and promises they had been refreshed and supported against the temptations of the Devil,-how they had been afflicted under the assaults of the enemy, and how they had been borne up; and of their own wretchedness of heart, and of their unbelief, and the insufficiency of their own righteousness. "Methought," says Bunyan, "they spake, as if you did make them speak. They spake with such pleasantness of scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new world, as if they were 'people that dwelt alone, and were
not to be reckoned among their neighbours." He felt his own heart shake as he heard them; and when he turned away and went about his employment again, their talk went with him, for he had heard enough to convince him that he "wanted the true tokens of a true godly man," and to convince him also of the blessed condition of him that was indeed one.
He made it his business therefore frequently to seek the conversation of these women. They were members of a small Baptist congregation, which a Kentish man, John Gifford by name, had formed at Bedford. Gifford's history is remarkable ; he had been a major in the king's army, and continuing true to the cause after the ruin of his party, engaged in the insurrection of his loyal countrymen, for which he and eleven others were condemned to the gallows. On the night before the intended execution, his sister came to visit him: she found the centinels who kept the door asleep, and she urged him to take the opportunity of escaping, which he alone of the prisoners was able to attempt, for his companions had stupified themselves with drink. Gifford passed safely through the sleeping guard, got into the field, lay there some three days in a ditch till the great search for him was over, then by help of his friends was conveyed in disguise to London, and afterwards into Bedfordshire, where as long as the danger continued he was harboured by certain royalists of rank in that county. When concealment was no longer necessary, he came as a stranger to Bedford, and there practised physic; for in those days they who took upon themselves the cure of bodies, seem to have entered upon their practice with as little scruple concerning their own qualifications for it, as they who undertook the cure of souls: if there was but a sufficient stock of boldness to begin with, it sufficed for the one that they were needy, for the others that they were enthusiastic.
Gifford was at that time leading a profligate and reckless life, like many of his fellow sufferers whose fortunes had been wrecked in the general calamity: he was a great drinker, a gambler, and oaths came from his lips with habitual profaneness. Some of his actions indeed are said to have evinced as much extravagance of mind, as wickedness of heart; and he hated the Puritans so heartily for the misery which they had brought upon the
nation, and upon himself in particular, that he often thought of killing a certain Anthony Harrington, for no other provocation than because he was a leading man among persons of that description in Bedford. For a heart and mind thus diseased there is but one cure; and that cure was vouchsafed at a moment when his bane seemed before him. He had lost one night about fifteen pounds in gambling; a large sum for one so circumstanced; the loss made him furious, and "many desperate thoughts against God" arose in him, when looking into one of the books of Robert Bolton, what he read in it startled him into a sense of his own condition. He continued some weeks under the weight of that feeling; and when it past away, it left him in so exalted and yet so happy a state of mind, that from that time till within few days of his death, he declared-" he lost not the light of God's countenance,-no, not for an hour." And now he inquired after the meetings of the persons whom he had formerly most despised; and "being naturally bold, would thrust himself again and again into their company, both together and apart." They at first regarded him with jealousy; nor when they were persuaded that he was sincere, did they readily encourage him in his desire to preach; nor after he had made himself acceptable as a preacher, both in private and public trials, were they forward to form themselves into a distinct congregation under his care; "the more ancient professors being used to live, as some other good men of those times, without regard to such separate and close communion." At length, eleven persons, of whom Anthony Harrington was one, came to that determination and chose him for their pastor: the principle upon which they entered into this fellowship one with another, and afterwards admitted those who should desire to join them, being Faith in Christ and Holiness of life, without respect to any difference in outward or circumstantial things.
The poor women whose company Bunyan sought after he had listened to their talk, were members of Gifford's little flock. The first effect of his conversation with them was, that he began to look into the Bible with new eyes, and "indeed was never out of it," either by reading or meditation. He now took delight in St. Paul's Epistles, which before he "could not away with ;" and
the first strong impression which they made upon him was, that he wanted the gifts of wisdom and knowledge of which the Apostle speaks, and was doubtful whether he had faith or not; yet this was a doubt which he could not bear, being certain that if he were without faith, he must perish. Being "put to his plunge" about this, and not as yet consulting with any one, he conceived that the only means by which he could be certified, was by trying to work a miracle; a delusion which he says the Tempter enforced and strengthened, by urging upon him those texts of scripture that seemed to look that way. One day as he was between Elstow and Bedford, the temptation was hot upon him that he should put this to the proof, by saying "to the puddles that were in the horse-pads, Be dry; and to the dry places, Be ye puddles. And truly one time I was going to say so indeed; but just as I was about to speak, this thought came in my mind, 'But go under yonder hedge, and pray first that God would make you able.' But when I had concluded to pray, this came hot upon me, that if I prayed, and came again, and tried to do it, and yet did nothing notwithstanding, then to be sure I had no faith, but was a cast-away, and lost. Nay, thought I, if it be so I will not try yet, but will stay a little longer."
About this time the happiness of his poor acquaintance whom he believed to be in a sanctified state, was presented to him, he says, in a kind of vision,-that is, it became the subject of a reverie, a waking dream,-in which the germ of the Pilgrim's Progress may plainly be perceived: "I saw," he says, "as if they were on the sunny side of some high mountain, there refreshing themselves with the pleasant beams of the sun, while I was shivering and shrinking in the cold, afflicted with frost, snow, and dark clouds. Methought also betwixt me and them, I saw a wall that did compass about this mountain: now through this wall my soul did greatly desire to pass; concluding, that if I ́could, I would even go into the very midst of them, and there also comfort myself with the heat of their sun. About this wall I thought myself to go again and again, still prying as I went, to see if I could find some way or passage by which I might enter therein; but none could I find for some time. At the last I saw, as it were, a narrow gap, like a little door-way, in the wall,