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BUNYAN AND HIS TIMES.
Historical sketch of the period.-Bunyan's contemporaries.-His boyhood and con
victions of sin.—The Providence and Grace of God illustrated in his life and conversion.—The characters he met with.-His Evangelist.-His spiritual and intellectual discipline. Necessity of experimental piety, for a full appreciation and understanding of the Pilgrim's Progress.
If a man were to look about the world, or over all the world's history, for that one of his race, in whose life there should be found the completest illustration of the providence and grace of God, he could hardly fix upon a more perfect instance, than that of John Bunyan. The detailed biography of this man I shall not attempt to present, in so short a sketch as that to which I must of necessity confine myself. But there are points in his life, where the Divine Providence is unfolded so gloriously, and junctures where the Divine grace comes out so clearly and so brightly, that nothing could be more simple, beautiful, and deeply interesting, than their illustration. On some of these points I shall dwell, premising, in order to a right view of them, a rapid but important glance at the age in which he lived.
It was an age of great revolutions, great excitement, great genius, great talent; great extremes
both in good and evil; great piety and great wickedness; great freedom and great tyranny and oppression. Under Cromwell there was great liberty and prosperity ; under the Charleses there was great oppression and disgrace. Bunyan's life, continuing from 1628 to 1688, embraces the most revolutionary and stirring period in English history. There pass before the mind within this period the oppressive reign of Charles First; the characters of Laud and Strafford; the star chamber, and the king's tyrannical men, courts, and measures; the noble defence of liberty in the house of Commons; Hampden and Pym; the war between the King and Parliament; the king's defeat, and death upon the scaffold ; the glorious protectorate of Cromwell, few years, but grand and prosperous, a freedom and prosperity united, such as England had never known; then comes the hasty, unconditional restoration of a Prince who cared for nothing but his own pleasure, the dissolute, tyrannical reign of Charles Second, one of the most promising, lying, unprincipled, worthless, selfish, corrupted and corrupting kings that ever sat upon the throne of England; in the terribly severe language of the Edinburgh Review, a king, “who superseded the reign of the saints by the reign of strumpets; who was crowned in his youth with the Covenant in his hand, and died with the Host sticking in his throat, after a life spent in dawdling suspense between Hobbism and Popery”; a king and a reign, of which one of the grand climacterics in wickedness embraced the royal murders of the noble patriots Russell and Algernon Sydney; immortal be their names, and honored ever be