Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

Ten

AV

blished clergy fled from theirs through fear of death. But when men fled, who feared death more than God, then those men entered their places, who feared nothing but God. They came, those same persecuted and silenced clergy, when the court and parliament had removed to Oxford, and the hirelings had fled from their flocks, they came, in defiance of law and contagion, and ministered the bread of life to pale multitudes, at altars, from which they would have been driven with penal inflictions in the season of health. But this too must be stopped ; and therefore, by this very parliament sitting in Oxford, through fear of the plague in London, and to shut out those men, who entered with the Gospel where others dared not enter, a fresh penal law was enacted, by which, unless they would take an oath, that the Earl of Southampton declared in parliament no honest man could take, all non-conformist ministers were banished five miles from any city, town or borough, that sent menibers to Parliament, and five miles from any place whatsoever, where they had, at any time, in a number of years past, preached. This savage act produced, of course, great suffering, but it also called into exercise great endurance and patience, for Christ's sake. Ministers who would not sacrifice their duty to God and their people, and who had to be concealed at a distance, sometimes rode thirty or forty miles, to preach to their flocks in the night, fleeing again from their persecutors before the dawn of day.

In 1670, the barbarous Conventicle Act was renewed with still greater severity, the trial by jury Fear of h more places,

those -n the 1, and came, stered

from penal s too

par

the who

not nich, 1 of

in case of offenders was destroyed, no warrant to be reversed by reason of any default in the form, persons to be seized wherever they could be found, informers encouraged and rewarded, and justices punished, who would not execute the law. Archbishop Sheldon addressed a circular letter to all the bishops of his province, commanding them to take notice of all offenders, and to aid in bringing them to punishment. The Bishop of Peterborough declared publicly concerning this law, that “ It hath done its business against all fanatics, except the Quakers ; but when the parliament sits again, a stronger law will be made, not only to take away their lands and goods, but also to sell them for bond-slaves.The magistracy became, it has been truly remarked, under this law, an encouragement to evil doers, and a punishment of those who did well.

We shall pursue no further the history of political and ecclesiastical cruelty in this arbitrary persecuting reign. It is enough to make the very name of the union of church and state abhorred in the mind of every man, who has a spark of generosity or freedom in his composition. Thus much was absolutely necessary to illustrate the life of Bunyan, and the providence and grace of God in the age were God placed him. It was an age for the formation and intrepid action of great minds ; it was also an age for the development of apostolic piety, and endurance of suffering, on the part of men and ministers who chose to obey God rather than man. If great qualities and great capacities of virtue existed, there were great flames

nest

Eers

to try them ; sharp tools and terrible, to cut and polish the hidden jewels of the Saviour.

Into this age Bunyan was thrown; a great pearl, sunk in deep and troubled waters, out of which God's Spirit would, in due time, draw it, and place it in a setting, where its glorious lustre should attract the admiration of the world. There were along with him great men, and men of great piety, both in the established church and out of it. He was born in the village of Elstow, in the year 1628, thirty years after the death of Spenser, twelve years after the death of Shakspeare, when Milton was in his twentieth year, and three years before the birth of Dryden. Bunyan's life and times were also Baxter's, Baxter being but thirteen years the oldest. Bunyan died in 1688, Milton in 1674, Baxter in 1691. Owen was another contemporary, 1616–1683. John Howe was another, born 1630. Phillip Henry was another, born 1631. The sweet poet George Herbert should be named as another. Matthew Poole was another, born 1623. Thomas Goodwin was another, born in 1600. Lord Chief Justice Hale was another, born in 1609. Cudworth was born in 1617; Henry More was born in 1614, and died in 1687, a year before the death of Bunyan; Archbishop Usher and Bishop Hall both of them died in 1656. Taking these names together, you have a striking picture of the great richness of the age, both in piety and genius ; an ascending series of great minds and good men from every rank and party.

But, for complete originality of genius, Bunyan, all things considered, stands foremost amongst

cut and

at pearl,

which

place should e were

piety, . He

1628, welve Iilton efore

cimes -teen

en in conher,

them all. The form of his work, the nature of the subject, and its creation so completely ort of the depths of his own soul, unaided by learning or art, place it before every other uninspired production. Without the teaching of the Spirit of God, the genius of the poet, though he were Shakspeare himself, could no more have portrayed the inward life of the soul by external images and allegories, than a man born blind could paint the moon and the stars, the flowers, the forests, and the foliage. The education of Bunyan was an education for eternity, under the power of the Bible and the schooling of the Holy Spirit. This is all that the pilgrims in this world really need, to make them good, great, powerful. But, set aside the Bible, and in Bunyan's education there was not one of the elements, out of which the genius and learning of his contemporaries gathered strength and richness. Baxter was not, any more than Bunyan, a child of the universities; but Baxter's intellect was sharpened by a great exercise with the schoolmen ; though, even if this discipline had been entirely wanting in Baxter's development, the result, on the whole, might not have been less happy, nay, it might have been richer. He would not have preached with less fervor, nor less scriptural power and beauty ; and, though he might not have been so keen a disputant, so subtle a casuist, yet we cannot believe that his Saint's Rest would have lost one ray of its heavenly glory. Neither would the Pilgrim's Progress have gained in its beauty or its truth,-it would have lost in both,-had Bunyan's soul been steeped

was

31.

Oe

in that scholastic discipline, without which, the learned Selden used to say, a divine knows nothing logically ; just as if the Bible were not the best logic in the world ! Bunyan never heard of Thomas Aquinas, it is true, and he scarcely knew the philosophical meaning of the word Logic any more than a breathing child, whose pulse beats freely, knows the place of its heart, or the movement of its lungs ; but Bunyan wrote the Pilgrim's Progress, for all that; which, indeed, is itself the sweet logic of Celestial Love.

Bunyan's own life is an illustration of the guidance of Divine Providence, as clearly as his Pilgrim's Progress is a delineation of the work of the Divine Spirit. And perhaps the Providence of God, in the education of this man, may be traced quite as distinctly in the things from which he shut out Bunyan's soul, in order to prepare him for his mission, as in the influences by which he surrounded him. The fountains from which he was prevented drinking, though other men drank to the full, and almost worshipped the springs, it was better to keep sealed from his soul, if the pure river of the water of life was to flow through his pages. This peculiarity of his training fitted him to be one of the most original writers in the world. Almost the only books Bunyan ever read, at least before he wrote the Pilgrim's Progress, were the Bible, the Book of Martyrs, a copy of Luther on Galatians, and two volumes, the Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven, and the Practice of Piety, which formed the marriage portion of his wife. Fox's old Book of Martyrs had, next to the Bible, a great and thrilling power over Bunyan's spirit.

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »