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comes, if strongly upon you, you not having received them with evidence from heaven, will find you want that help and strength now to resist, which once you thought you had.” This, Bunyan says, was " as seasonable to my soul as the former and latter rain in their season.” The Spirit of God led Bunyan to act according to these directions; and this was, as we shall see, one great cause of his wonderful power in the scriptures.
Into this Baptist Church of Christ, under this holy pastor, Bunyan was received in the year 1653, when about twenty-five years of age. And now having traced him to this point, let me say a word in regard to that work, the Grace Abounding, from which I have drawn my illustrations of Divine Providence and grace in Bunyan's life. I cannot close without recommending it to the very careful perusal of all, who would have a deeper relish and more thorough understanding of the beauties of the Pilgrim's Progress. It is a marvellous book, and cannot but be a precious book to every soul that reads it with a sober, prayerful spirit. Its pages are, next to the Pilgrim's Progress, invaluable. It is condensed, severe, and naked in its style, beneath the pent fire of Bunyan's feelings, and the pressure of his conscience, forbidding him to seek for beauty. He says of it himself; “I could have stepped into a style much higher than this, in which I have here discoursed, and could have adorned all things more than I have seemed to do; but I dare not. God did not play in tempting of me; neither did I play when the pangs of hell caught hold upon me, wherefore I may not play in relating of them; but be plain
and simple, and lay down the thing as it was. He that liketh it, let him receive it ; and he that doth not, let him produce a better.” The very extreme plainness of this work, adds to its power; never was the inward life of any being depicted with more vehement and burning language ; it is an intensely interesting description of the workings of a mind of the keenest sensibility and most fervid imagination, convinced of guilt, and fully awake to all the dread realities of eternity.
Sometimes, with all its plainness and solemnity, it is almost comic, like Luther's own humor, as in the dialogues of Bunyan's soul with the Tempter. It possesses, indeed, the elements of a great spiritual drama. The Faust of Goethe is not to be compared with it for truth and depth and vividness. There are but few actors, but those how solemn, how grand, how awful! An immortal spirit, and its great adversary the devil, are in almost unceasing conflict; but such a stamp of reality, such discrimination, such flashing of lights, such crossing of the swords of Michael and of Satan, such a revelation of the power of divine truth, and of the blessed ministration of the Spirit of God, you can find nowhere else out of the Bible. It is a great battle ; heaven and hell are contending; you have the gleam of armor, the roar of artillery, fire and smoke and blood-red vapor, in which ofttimes the combatants themselves are lost from your view.
You follow with intense interest the movements of Bunyan's soul. You seem to see a lonely bark driving across the ocean in a hurricane. By
the flashes of the lightning you can just discern her through the darkness, plunging and laboring fearfully in the midnight tempest, and you think that all is lost; but there again you behold her in the quiet sunshine ; or the moon and the stars look down upon her, as the wind breathes softly; or in a fresh and favorable gale she flies across the flying waters. Now it is clouds and rain and hail and rattling thunder, storms coming down as sudden, almost, as the lightning ; and now again her white sails glitter in heaven's light, like an Albatross in the spotless horizon. The last glimpse you catch of her, she is gloriously entering the harbor, the haven of eternal rest; yea, you see her like a star, that in the morning of eternity dies into the light of Heaven. Can there be any thing more interesting, than thus to follow the perilous course of an immortal soul, from danger to safety, from conflict to victory, from temptation to triumph, from suffering to blessedness, from the City of Destruction to the City of God!
Bunyan's genius I had almost said was created by his piety; the fervor and depth of his religious feelings formed its most important elements of power, and its materials to work upon. His genius also pursued a path dictated by his piety, and one that no other being in the world ever pursued before him. The light that first broke through his darkness was light from heaven. It found him, even that being who wrote the Pilgrim's Progress, coarse, profane, boisterous, and almost brutal. It shone before him, and with a single eye he followed it, till his native City of Destruction could no longer be seen in the
distance, till his moral deformities fell from him, and his garments became purity and light. The Spirit of God was his teacher; the very discipline of his intellect was a spiritual discipline; the conflicts that his soul sustained with the powers of darkness were the very sources of his intellectual strength.
Southey called the experience of this man, in one stage of it, a burning and feverish enthusiasm. The poet Cowper, in one of his beautiful letters to Lady Hesketh, after describing his own feelings, remarks, “What I have written would appear like enthusiasm to many, for we are apt to give that name to every warm affection of the mind in others, which we have not experienced in ourselves.” It would have been the truth, as well as the better philosophy, if Southey had said that the Spirit of God was preparing Bunyan, by that severe discipline, to send forth into the world the Pilgrim's Progress. And when he was at length prepared for the task, then an overruling Providence placed him, through the instrumentality of his own enemies, in the prison of Bedford to accomplish it.
Bunyan's imagination was powerful enough, in connection with his belief in God's superintending Providence, to array his inward trials with a sensible shape, and external events with a light reflected from his own experience; hopes and fears were friends and enemies, acting in concert with them, all things he met with in the world were friends or enemies likewise, according as they aided or opposed his spiritual life. He acted always under one character, the Christian soldier, realizing in his own
conflicts and conquests the progress of his own Pilgrim. Therefore his book is a perfect reality in oneness as a whole, and in every page a book not of imagination and shadows, but of realities experienced. To those who have never set out on this pilgrimage, nor encountered its dangers, it is interesting, as would be a book powerfully written of travels in an unknown romantic land. Regarded as a work of original genius simply, without taking into view its spiritual meaning, it is a wonder to all, and cannot cease to be. Though a book of personification and allegory, it enchants the simplest child, as powerfully, almost, as the story of Aladdin and his lamp, or the adventures of Sindbad the Sailor, or the history of Robinson Crusoe himself. It is interesting to all who have any taste for poetical beauty, in the same manner as Spenser's Fairy Queen, or we might mention, especially for the similar absorbing interest we take in all that happens to the hero, the Odyssey of Homer.
And yet its interest for the imagination is in reality the smallest portion of its power; and it will be pleasing to the imagination just in proportion as the mind of the reader has been accustomed to interpret the things of this life by their connection with another, and by the light that comes from that world to this. A reader who has not formed this habit, nor ever felt that he is a stranger and pilgrim in a world of temptations and snares, can see but half the beauty of such poetry as fills this work, because it cannot make its appeal to his own experience; for him there is nothing within, that tells more certainly than any process of judgment or criticism the truth and sweet