Acacia John Bunyan - Online Library
By R E V.-G E O R G E
C H E E V E R
THE life of John Bunyan is a very precious record of the graceof God. No other man's history that ever lived is more worthy of study for this particularobject—to trace the workings of God's Spirit, in connection with the interpositionsof his providence, in carrying on in an individual soul the great work of sanctification,and through that soul, thus prepared, the great work of redemption for multitudes,even to the end of time. Men take a deep interest in exploring the sources of a greatriver, especially if they are mysterious, if they require you to traverse surprisingscenes and wonders of nature, vast deserts, great mountains, stupendous rapids andcataracts. And if the river is a fountain of life to millions, and of inexhaustiblefertility to grand regions, making them a granary almost for the world, then so muchthe deeper is the interest. And somewhat such is the feeling with which we tracethe course of divine love and providential mercy in the incidents and experiencesof such a child of God as Bunyan, out of whose genius and conflicts, under the inspirationof heavenly grace, it has pleased the Giver of all good to cause to flow forth ariver of the water of life for all generations.
Bunyan is better known by his own Pilgrim than most men, whose life has ever beendeemed worth writing, even by their memoirs: for we always identify him with Christianin the Pilgrim's Progress: and indeed there is no doubt that in making up the portraitof Christian, and tracing the history of his adventures, Bunyan drew at every stepfrom his own experience. He did this almost unconsciously, the perspective of hisown inward and external life being always before him as in a stereoscope. It is Bunyanthat we see at his first setting out from the City of Destruction; it is Bunyan inthe hands of Worldly Wiseman, and of Mr. Legality; Bunyan trembling beneath Sinai;Bunyan in the Slough of Despond; Bunyan groaning under his Burden; Bunyan at thefoot of the Cross; Bunyan arrayed by the three Shining Ones; Bunyan at the HouseBeautiful; Bunyan in the Valley of Humiliation; Bunyan in the conflict with Apollyon;Bunyan in Giant Despair's Castle; Bunyan on the Delectable Mountains; Bunyan in theLand Beulah; Bunyan at the River of death. And as a great many persons have gottenthe air of their theology more from Milton's "Paradise Lost" than fromthe Bible, so has it been with not a few in respect to their views and impressionsof the Christian pilgrimage, as taken at the most impressible period of the mind,heart, and imagination, from the pages of the Pilgrim's Progress. Yet, in this case,the Pilgrim's own course, experience, and theological belief are presented with suchsingular exactness of fidelity to the delineations in the pages of divine inspiration,that we are perfectly safe in submitting the minds of the youngest children to thisblessed influence. It is indeed the sweetest and the best book for children, themost instructive and fascinating, in the English language; and it forms a delightfulpreparation for the after reading of the Scriptures with a more serene and thoughtfulappreciation of their meaning.
Everything in Bunyan's life, before the writing of the Pilgrim's Progress, convergestowards and is at length concentrated in the production of that wonderful book. Probablythe Grace Abounding, as well as the Pilgrim's Progress, were written in the prison,as were some other of Bunyan's most remarkable works; but of all his books, the Pilgrim'sProgress was the one for the production of which God permitted Bunyan to be throwninto prison, and would not suffer him to be brought out till his purpose was accomplished.The grace of God abounding through all the previous life of Bunyan, studied and reviewedwith much prayer and meditation, while in that Den on which the Pilgrim says he lightedas he walked through the wilderness of this world, was a discipline by the DivineSpirit preparatory for that work, and the enforced leisure of the Den was the opportunityafforded for it. When he was thrown into prison in 1660 he was only thirty-two yearsold, as yet too young for such a work as that which was to be the great fruit ofhis genius; too young also as a Christian, though already so advanced in Christianexperience, for the composition of a work that might serve in every respect as atruthful guide to millions for salvation in all after ages.
Only thirty-two years of age, and thus withdrawn, in the very utmost vigour, joy,and pride of manhood, from the whole world and all its temptations, and hidden asin a pavilion of God's grace, though it was a den, a noisome jail, that God mightthere quietly employ him for his own glory and the world's good, in that record ofthe Christian pilgrimage which, outside the prison, there is not the least reasonto believe he ever would have traced! The thought of twelve years' imprisonment ina common jail, at such a time of life, is terrible. It would have been dreadful toBunyan could he have known how long it would be, when the doors closed upon him.
He was thrown into prison for preaching the gospel to the poor, in what was calledan unlawful assembly—that is, a meeting for prayer and the reading and hearing ofthe word of God, not gathered in a church of the Establishment. They were found withtheir Bibles in their hands, having just engaged in prayer for the divine blessing,and Bunyan was just about to have preached; and for this crime, as it was called,Bunyan was brought before the Justice, after having lain some days in prison, where,he says, "I begged of God that if I might do more good by being at liberty thanin prison, that then I might be set at liberty; but if not, his will be done. Andverily at my return I did meet my God sweetly in the prison again, comforting ofme, and satisfying me that it was his will and mind I should be there, where I liewaiting the good will of God, to do with me as he pleaseth, knowing that not onehair of my head can fall to the ground without the will of my Father which is inheaven. Let the rage and malice of man be never so great, they can do no more, norgo no further, than God permits them; but when they have done their worst, we knowall things shall work together for good to them that love God."
Now the judgment of the Justice, on which Bunyan was returned to prison, from whencehe did not come out for twelve years, was just this:—"You must be had back againto prison, and there lie for three months following; and at three months' end, ifyou do not submit to go to church and hear divine service, and leave your preaching,you must be banished the realm; and if after such a day as shall be appointed youto be gone, you shall be found in this realm, or be found to come over again withoutspecial license from the king, you must stretch by the neck for it, I tell you plainly.'"
Then Bunyan made answer, and it was as noble an answer to an unrighteous verdictand threat as is to be found in all human history:—"As to this matter, I amat a point with you; for if were out of the prison today, I would preach the gospelagain tomorrow, by the help of God."
Of course Bunyan must remain in prison unless his persecutors would yield, whichit was not likely they would do unless it pleased God to change their mind and heart,or to interpose by his gracious providence, as he really at length in his own goodtime did interpose, for Bunyan's deliverance. But under this judgment, he lay, yearafter year, "weighing and pausing, and praising again, the grounds and foundationof those principles for which he thus suffered; having not only at his trial assertedthem, but ever since, through all that tedious track of time, examined them in coldblood a thousand times, and found them good." This was his striking languagetowards the end of those twelve years of imprisonment, defying his judges "tofind anything in his writing or preaching to render him worthy of twelve years' imprisonment,or to be hanged or banished for ever, according to their tremendous sentence."He added this solemn declaration, that "rather than violate his faith and principlesby consenting that his soul should be governed in any of its approaches to God bythe superstitious inventions of this world, putting out his own eyes and committinghimself to the blind to lead him, he would lie there still, the Almighty God beinghis help and shield, and still suffer, if frail life might continue so long, eventill the moss should grow upon his eyebrows." Till the moss should grow uponhis eyebrows! No doubt the place was damp as it was gloomy, and the moss would havegathered on his brows had they been made of wood or stone; and nothing but the energiesof a powerful life, and that too sustained by the grace of God, could have kept Bunyan'shealth undestroyed, and his body from the grave, through that long and terrible confinement.But by the Spirit and the word the prison was made better to him than a palace, asit had been by the Spirit and the word that his inward agonising conflicts had beenmade a triumph and a glory.
He describes himself, at the end of twelve complete years of his imprisonment, asstill lying in jail, "waiting to see what God would suffer these men to do withhim." In truth the Pilgrim's Progress answers this question; and in the verynext sentence Bunyan goes on, describing his situation and experience in prison,—"Inwhich condition I have continued with much content through grace, but have met withmany turnings and goings upon my heart, both from the Lord, Satan, and my own corruptions;by all which, glory be to Jesus Christ, I have also received, among many things,much conviction, instruction, and understanding. I never find, in all my life, sogreat an inlet into the word of God as now. Those scriptures that I saw nothing inbefore, are made in this place and state to shine upon me. Jesus Christ also wasnever more real and apparent than now; here I have seen and felt him indeed."It was such seeing and feeling that prepared him more perfectly for the work forwhich God was thus dealing with him; and his consolations in Christ were so greatthat he often said, "Were it lawful I could pray for greater trouble, for thegreater comfort's sake."
Bunyan was born at Elstow in the year 1628, of poor and inconsiderable parents, butyet in his own life he recognises the divine hand, in that it pleased God to putit into the hearts of those parents to send their child to school, that he mightlearn to read and write according to the rate of other poor men's children; but againhe says that even that little learning he almost utterly lost through his absorbednessin the vanities, sports, and evil habits of his childhood. But even at nine yearsof age he thought much of his own guilt; and he says that in his boyhood he had butfew equals for cursing, lying, swearing, and blaspheming the holy name of God. Hadhe gone on in sins he would have been one of the greatest sinners the world eversaw; and until the age of eighteen years, he was actually the ringleader of the boysin all manner of ungodliness. His profaneness especially was so intense and dreadful,that profane and irreligious persons were shocked by it. He stood one day cursingand swearing, and playing the madman beneath a neighbour's shop window, when thewoman of the house, though herself, as Bunyan avers, a loose and ungodly wretch,declared that Bunyan's fury of cursing was such that it made her tremble to hearhim. She told him that he was the ungodliest fellow for swearing that ever she heardin all her life, and that he was enough to destroy the whole youth of the town, ifthey did but come in his company. This reproof, so coming, and from such a source,struck Bunyan with a sudden and irresistible conviction and shame. He stood silent,and hung down his head, and wished with all his heart that he might be a little childagain, that his father might teach him to speak without this wicked way of swearing.He was now nearly eighteen years old, and seemed hurrying as fast as he could goto destruction. But just at this time God began to snatch him from the ruin of hisvices; and the first step towards this reformation was his marriage. "My mercywas," says Bunyan, "to light upon a wife whose father was counted godly."She brought her husband, as their only marriage portion, two books which her fatherhad left her when he died, "The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven," and "ThePractice of Piety." Sometimes Bunyan and his wife would sit down and read inthe two volumes in company. They were very poor, not owning, Bunyan says, so muchas a dish or a spoon between them; but yet his marriage was the turning point inhis history, and the means of breaking him away from sins that would have been hisdestruction.
But the first real conviction of sin, the first time he really felt what guilt was,happened on the hearing of a sermon on the sin of sabbath-breaking. This had beena great sin with him; and under this sermon his conscience was aroused, and he wenthome with a great burden upon his spirit, believing that the preacher had made thatsermon expressly for him. Their, in the midst of a game of cat, he seemed to heara voice crying into his soul, "Wilt thou leave thy sins, and go to heaven; orhave thy sins, and go to hell?" He began to strive to keep all the ten commandments,making that his way of getting to heaven; and the neighbours were so struck withthe change that they praised him for it, so that he grew very self-complacent, thoughall the while utterly ignorant of Jesus Christ, and of the corruptions of his ownsinful nature. Yet he felt quite sure "that no man in England could please Godbetter than he."
While in this frame, he one day heard three or four poor women sitting at a doorin the sun, and talking about the things of God and heaven. This conversation grewout of an experience of which Bunyan knew nothing; it was to him a new language,and he was confounded. He had deemed himself a religious man, though the idea ofa new heart, or of there being any such thing necessary, had not entered into hishead. He knew nothing of the conflict in the heart against sin, nor of the powerof the Holy Spirit, nor of redemption by the blood of Christ. But these things werethe subjects of this conversation, and by it he was much perplexed, astounded, andcast down; and his heart began to shake and to misgive him in regard to his condition,for he perceived that he wanted all the tokens of a truly godly man.
Here was the very beginning of Bunyan's light and life; so true it is that, untilenlightened by the Divine Spirit, he that thinketh he knoweth anything, knoweth nothingyet as he ought to know; and so true it is that self-distrust and humility are thebeginning of wisdom.
Moreover, here again was visible in Bunyan the heart of the little child, the inward,inborn, and deep simplicity of his nature. Back again he goes to childhood, and waits,like a little child, on these poor women's heavenly conversation. The pride of hisnature just then seemed to be all gone, and the more he went into the company ofthese poor people, the more he questioned concerning his own condition; and he nowfound within himself, to his own astonishment, a tenderness of heart, and a fixednessof soul upon the things of the kingdom of heaven, and an openness to scriptural conviction,which prepared him to come to the word of God with a new vision. Every part of theBible, but especially the epistles of Paul, began now to be sweet and pleasant tohim. And now commenced that unequalled intensity and fervour of reading and meditation,in which all the powers of his being were absorbed for years in the study of thescriptures; all the while with importunate prayer to God, that he might know thetruth and the way to heaven and glory. He distrusted his own wisdom, so that whateverhe met of doctrine or example in others that was too hard for him, he betook himselfin earnest prayer to God, feeling that he was himself but a fool, and weaker thana babe.
But at this period it is in Bunyan's life that he enters, and we enter with him,upon a series of years of the most distressing experience. Doubtless God saw thatit was all requisite, that no one of these conflicts could be spared, though thesight is sometimes very strange to one looking on, the sight of a child of God permittedto be so terribly afflicted of the devil. As yet he cannot be considered a childof God, but is just finding out, to his amazement, that he is not such, not a Christian,that he knows nothing of true Christian experience. He is just beginning to run fromthe City of Destruction, and is crying, "Which way shall I flee?
He was now about nineteen years of age. From this time forward every step was takenby experience, and for the most part without any earthly guide or teacher. God atthis time especially suffered no one to lead him. There were wrong tendencies inhis own mind, which must be worked out in order to be corrected; there was to bea wrestling with native evils all the way, as well as a conflict with Satan, in orderthat Bunyan might grow, not in or by the conversation or theology of others, butin the knowledge of his own heart and of the wiles of the great adversary of thesoul, by the teachings and influences of the grace of God. Thus the Holy Spirit,by the word, was Bunyan's worked them out with as great originality almost as theapostles themselves; the language of Paul, in the relation of his own experience,being quite applicable to Bunyan's soul:— "Striving according to his working,that worketh in me mightily;" for mightily indeed did God work with Bunyan.It was severe experience that taught him to trust God's word as God had given it,and to wait upon God in his word, and not upon the impulses of his own soul. Thiswas Bunyan's danger, one of his most natural and hazardous temptations, from thefirst moment of his setting out from the City of Destruction, that of waiting uponhis own powers, and obeying them too implicitly. Bunyan himself, in looking back,saw that he himself, like Gideon, with the experiments of his fleeces, had temptedGod when he ought to have believed and ventured upon his word; and therefore didGod permit him to be surrounded with enemies and harassed with temptations; for heshould have believed his word, and not put an if either upon God's all-seeingnessor any of his promises.
It was many months of conflicting experience before Bunyan gained courage to breakhis mind to those poor people in Bedford, from whom he had gained the first ideaof the nature of true piety. When he did speak to them, they at once told Mr. Gilford,their faithful pastor, about his case, who conversed with him, and invited him tothe meetings where he was accustomed to converse with others, and where he oftengained more knowledge by listening, than he could by inquiries or directions addressedto his own soul. "This holy Mr. Gifford," as Bunyan calls him, was Bunyan'sEvangelist in the Pilgrim's Progress, and he taught Bunyan faithfully for years,and then received him into the visible fold of Christ on earth, the Baptist Churchin Bedford, in the year 1653.
For several years before this he had to pass through seasons of inward trial, terribleassaults by the great Tempter, and conflicts between faith and unbelief, in whichhis only weapons were the word of God and prayer, and which without doubt are describedin the passage of Christian through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and the dreadfulfight with Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation. "I saw," says Bunyan,in the review of these things twenty years afterwards, "that as God had in hishand all the providences and dispensations that overtook his elect, so he had hisland in all the temptations that they had to sin against him; not to animate themto wickedness, but to choose their temptations and troubles for them, and also toleave them for a time to such things only as might not destroy, but humble them;as might not put them beyond, but lay them in the way of, the renewing of his mercy."
But this beauty and loveliness of God's wisdom in choosing, refining, and purifyinghis people, Bunyan could not at this time see; and what added to his misery underthese besetments of Satan and boilings up of the mire of sin to devour him was, thathe found his heart so exceeding hard at times, that though he would have given athousand pounds for a tear, he could not shed one, and seemed to himself to haveno feeling—a very natural result, and almost inevitable, at intervals, of his greatexcess of feeling; for nature itself could not support such an interminable war.
In the midst of all these evils, let it not be supposed that Bunyan was driven, eitherby the fiend Apollyon or by his own heart, to the neglect of any spiritual duty orpossible means of grace set before him. He attended all the while, with great diligence,on the word of God and prayer, hoping still for mercy; although for the space ofa whole year his performance of these particular duties was the occasion of his sharpestdistress by reason of these temptations; and nothing can be a more convincing revelationof the anguish of his state, and the intolerableness of these temptations, than thefact that in attending upon the ordinances of God, though he would not be drivenfrom those duties, he was then most of all tortured with blasphemies. Whether hearingthe word, or reading it, or engaged in prayer, the enemy of his soul and the morbidterrors of his heart took those very opportunities to trouble him. They stood, asit were, in the very gates of Paradise—in the very lanes through which Bunyan mustpass to heaven—and thronged the passages with dreadful faces and with fiery arms.But though all these complicated evils brought his soul into great straits, so thathe was laid, as it were, at the mouth of hell, they did never, by reason of God'swatchful and sustaining grace, prevail with him to slacken his zeal for heaven andglory, or diminish his importunity in prayer, or turn him away from the sole objectof his life, the finding of his Saviour. Nay, in these fierce fires his resolutionsheavenward were rather confirmed and purified daily.
This long and terrible season of conflict and darkness was to Bunyan's own soul theValley of the Shadow of Death, of which he has presented so gloomy and powerful adelineation in the progress of his Pilgrim. A point most manifestly taken from hisown experience at this time, is that where he says that he took notice that now poorChristian was so confounded "that he did not know his own voice," and hadnot the discretion either to stop his ears, or to know from whence the blasphemies,that seemed uttered out of his own mind, really came.
Furthermore, there is at this period in Bunyan's experience the interesting eventof his meeting with the old tattered copy of Martin Luther's "Commentary onGalatians," in which, he says, he found his own condition so largely and profoundlyhandled, as if the book had been written out of his own heart. This was when he waslonging much to see some ancient godly man's experience; and indeed it was almostthe first human being that had met him to comfort him or direct him aright, exceptthose poor women at Bedford, and "holy Mr. Gifford," their pastor. AndBunyan is enforced to say, that he does prefer this book of Martin Luther upon theGalatians excepting the Holy Bible, before all the books that ever he has seen, asmost fit for a wounded conscience.
This, we apprehend, is the original of just that beautiful incident recorded in theprogress of Christian through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, where, when Christianhad travelled in this disconsolate condition some considerable time, he thought heheard the voice of a man as going before him, saying, "Though I walk throughthe valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me."This, doubtless, was Luther's voice; and by it Bunyan perceived that some otherswho feared God might be in this valley as well as himself, and that God was withthem, though in that dark and dismal state; and, therefore, might also be with him,although by reason of the darkness, smoke, flames, and rushing evil creatures, hecould not then perceive it. King David had been there also, and Bunyan refers tohis experience in the 69th Psalm, when he cried, "Deliver me out of the mire,and let me not sink; let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deepwaters. Let not the water-flood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up,and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me." These footprints and voices ofLuther and of David were a joy to Bunyan's soul.
And now the storm began to lighten, and the day to break. The water-spouts ceasedbursting, and at brief intervals the sun shone down through a bright promise, asthrough a rift in the thunder-rolling clouds over the waste of waters. "Hints,touches, and short visits of mercy," says Bunyan, "though very sweet atpresent, yet they lasted not, but, like to Peter's sheet, were of a sudden caughtup again to heaven." "But at length," says he, "the temptationwas removed, and I was put into my right mind again, as other Christians were. Andwhereas, before, I lay continually trembling at the mouth of hell, now methoughtI was got so far therefrom that I could not, when I looked back, scarce discern it."And now he felt as if he had evidence from heaven of his salvation, with many goldenseals thereon, in manifestations of divine grace, all hanging in his sight.
And now indeed he enjoyed sweet disclosures of his Saviour's love and comfort ofhis promises, and was led from truth to truth by the Spirit of God, and was gainingan experience of grace, which itself again was speedily to be tried so as by fire,and strengthened by renewed temptations. For such was the course of God with thischosen vessel of his grace, as when a workman, with a set of vases intended to beof exquisite rareness and beauty, prepares the figures of his pictures upon themslowly one by one, and carefully cornpletes them; first gives one set of colours,then burns it in; then another set, and burns that; and so on, till all the figuresand designs are finished: so the colours that were now fresh in Bunyan's Christianexperience must be burnt in; and such was the course of God with him from revelationsto temptations, and from temptations to revelations.
During his seasons of conflict and gloom some terrible passages of scripture troubledBunyan so exceedingly, that he hardly dared come up to them to examine them evenin prayer. The passage concerning Esau selling his birthright, and finding no placeof repentance, was one of them: which Bunyan at length, by divine grace, was enabledto meet and conquer by that other sweet passage, "My grace is sufficient forthee." How cautiously and modestly he speaks after twenty years, and with whataffecting simplicity and beauty, of the meeting of these passages, and the triumphof the promise: "Truly," says he, "I am apt to think it was of God;for the word of the law and wrath must give place to the word of life and grace,because, though the word of condemnation be glorious, yet the word of life and salvationdoth far exceed in glory; and Moses and Elias must both vanish, and leave Christand his saints alone."
And now, out of this conquest came to Bunyan, as a divine hand with leaves from thetree of life, that other comprehensive promise, on which his soul ought to have restedfrom the outset: "Him that cometh unto me, I will in nowise cast out.""Oh, the comfort I had," says Bunyan, "from this word, 'in nowise;'as who should say, 'By no means, for nothing whatever he hath done." And inthe light, power, and sweetness with which this promise was now revealed to Bunyan,we have the origin and peculiarity of the admirable little work of his, Come, andWelcome, to Jesus Christ—a work written, like the Pilgrim's Progress itself, outof his own heart, and produced by this very conflict with Apollyon. "Oh, whatdid I see in that blessed 6th of John! 'Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wisecast out.' If ever Satan and I did strive for any word of God in all my life, itwas for this good word of Christ; he at one end, and I at the other. Oh, what workwe made! It was for this in John, I say, that we did so tug and strive; he pulledand I pulled, but, God be praised, I overcame him; I got sweetness from it."And always the sweetness that Bunyan so obtained from the word of God (of which hegives this almost ludicrous account out of the deep vein of humour in his character),with all passages thus fought for, were the source of great power to him, and wereput to great use. "They were the nest of honey," as he said afterwards,"in the dead conquered lion."
And now, having got this fortress and vantage-ground in his possession, and a solidcomfort in Christ, out of which he could sally forth against his enemies, Bunyanbegan to take heart so far as to come up and examine both his own sin and those terriblescriptures under which he had so long lain trembling, and afraid even to questionthem. But his perils and the anguish of his wounds had made him very critical, andcarefully and critically did he now look at the nature, both of his own sin, andof those dreadful texts that had well-nigh slain him with despair. And now he foundon drawing near to them, and looking them in the face, as a child of God, from thebosom of the promise, that they were not so grim and terrible in reality, but, rightlyUnderstood, were in agreement with the promise, and not against it. So after thisthorough and believing examination, the thunder of the tempest was all gone, andonly a few big scattered drops now and then fell upon him, though still the verymemory of the thunder and the flames was fearful.
And now indeed the hand came to Bunyan with leaves from the tree of life, as he hasso sweetly de scribed it in the Pilgrim's Progress after Christian's fight with Apollyon,and he was refreshed with heavenly refreshments. He now found Christ made unto hissoul, of God, his wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption Christ, inall his exaltation and glory, was now the subject of his thoughts, the object ofhis affections, the life of his soul. He was loosed from his afflictions and irons,his temptations fled away, the dreadful scriptures of God left off troubling him,and he went rejoicing in the grace and love of God. And out of this joy and peaceit was, after such long and fearful conflicts, that he gained courage to be at length,in the year 1653, propounded to the Baptist church of Christ in Bedford, by whosemembers he was received into a fellowship greatly valued by him in the order andordinances of Christ in the gospel. "Twas glorious to me," says Bunyan,"to see his exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of all his benefits, andthat because now I could look from myself to him, and would reckon that all thosegraces of God that now were green on me, were yet but like those cracked groats andfourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is intheir trunks at home. Oh, I saw my gold was in my trunk at home, in Christ my Lordand Saviour. Now Christ was all—all my righteousness, all my sanctification, andall my redemption."
These periods were the seasons in which Bunyan gained that knowledge of the scripturesand of the human heart, and of the wiles of the great adversary of souls, and thatdeep, rich, original, powerful experience in the things of the Spirit of God, whichprepared him to write such works as the Pilgrim's Progress; the History of the Townof Mansoul; the Come, and Welcome, to Jesus Christ; and the Jerusalem Sinner Saved.His comfort and joy, as well as his knowledge, he always gained directly from theword of God, ministered by the Holy Spirit in his heart; and in his seasons of darknessand sore conflict, he was always labouring after a resting-place in the word, followinghard after God, wrestling in prayer, and though faint, pursuing, still subject togreat alternations of feeling, but always following on to know the Lord.
Now all these changeful experiences, thus far related, seem to have characterisedthe discipline of Bunyan up to a year or more after the time of his uniting withthe church, say, up to the year 1655. At this time, the knowledge of his character,and the glowing freshness and power with which he spoke of his failings to his fellow-christiansled some of the most experienced and judicious among them to persuade him sometimesto attempt a word of exhortation in their social Christian meetings. The very thoughtof this at first terrified Bunyan; but after some entreaty he consented to make thetrial, and did begin accordingly, though in much weakness and trembling, in one ortwo private assemblies. Then by degrees, when some of the more experienced of thebrethren went into the country to teach, they took Bunyan along with them; and ashis gifts were more and more developed and known in these little exercises, the churchat length prevailed with him to consent to a more particular appointment to the workof the ministry; and so, after solemn prayer with fasting, having been manifestlyprepared by the Holy Spirit for such a work, he was more particularly called forthand appointed to a more ordinary and public preaching of the word. He was consciousof a call of God within him, by the Divine Spirit and by the holy scriptures, towhich he yielded, and by which he was guided. Yet he was at this very time greatlydistressed with the fiery darts of the wicked one concerning his own eternal state;though this temptation and experience only served to quicken his compassion for othersouls, and, instead of turning him away from the endeavour to alarm and save them,greatly animated him in that work, pressed him onwards, and gave him power in it.
In this way Bunyan went on preaching without molestation for the space of five orsix years, till the month of November, 1660. On the 12th of that month the hand ofstate and church tyranny was laid upon him, and he was cast into prison for presumingto preach without prelatical ordination, and to pray without the prayer-book. Godnow had more for him to do in prison than he had ever done in the open air; he wasnow to be a greater preacher than ever, though in a very different way. The periodprevious to the year 1660 might be called the chronology of Bunyan's experiences;the period after that year the chronology of his works. The Whole history might beset down as in a tablet, thus, beginning with the starting-point from the City ofDestruction:--
1628. The natural man, John Bunyan, was born.
1646. He was married, and his awakening began.
1647. An external reformation from his vices for about a year.
1648. A great year. His first lessons from the company of poor and godly women sitting in the sun. His intense study of the whole Bible commenced. His encounter with the books and men of the Ranters; his trials about faith, and his temptation to work a miracle. His year's study to find the passage in the Apocrypha. His many months of fear, fainting, and fire, and then the first disclosure of his mind to those poor women of Bedford, and their introduction of him to "holy Mr. Gifford."
1649. His first view of the love of Christ, followed by the great storm of about a year's continuance, and the temptation as to the being of a God.
1650. The meeting with Luther, the deliverance into the liberty of Christ, and the light of the word, followed by the temptation to sell Christ, for the space of a year.
1651. The conflict and agony after this temptation.
1652. The gradual and triumphant deliverance therefrom.
1653. The union with the visible church of Christ.
1654. Great conflicts renewed for three-fourths of a year, with sicknesses, despondencies, and triumphs.
1655. His ordination by the church to the work of the gospel ministry.
1656./1657. His preaching from the experience of guilt and of fire, as a man in chains to men in chains, out of compassion and alarm for souls.
1658/1659/1660. His preaching of Christ's grace and righteousness from the fire of love and the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1660. His lighting upon the Den in the prison of Bedford, and his discipline from God there, preparatory to the Dream of the Pilgrim's Progress.
And now was Bunyan hidden in God's pavilion, and left alone with God. Now he wasat leisure for just as much of divine meditation as a heart filled with the Spiritwould thirst after. Now he could say, My feet stand upon Mount Zion. My body, indeed,is in prison, but my mind is free to study Christ, and the unsearchable riches ofhis infinite, everlasting love. Mine enemies may draw their bolts and bars aroundme, but by faith I rise above them, and soar beyond the stars; they cannot fetterthe wings of faith and hope; they cannot bind me from my God.
It was not for the want of the circumstances of gloom and suffering that Bunyan'sprison years were so happy to him and so glorious for the world; nay, if he had remainedin those circumstances a little longer, doubtless life would have given way underthe pressure of evil: but it was because of the abundant ministration of the wondrouslove of God; it was because, by the revelations of Christ to his soul, "as thesufferings of Christ abounded in him, so his consolation also abounded by Christ."That is a great text realised Bunyan concerning the God of all comfort, "Whocomforteth us all in our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which arein any trouble by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."So was Bunyan comforted. In all his life he never had such a period of continued,and sometimes ecstatic revelations and experiences, of light, peace, and joy. Inmany respects it was, almost all the way, as the Land Beulah, beyond the Valley ofthe Shadow of Death, out of the reach of Giant Despair, Doubting Castle not so muchas to be seen, the sun shining night and day, the air sweet and pleasant, continuallythe birds singing, every day the flowers blooming. The existence of such a periodof spiritual enjoyment might have been surely inferred from the nature of the worksknown to have been the fruit of Bunyan's imprisonment; the Pilgrim's Progress itselfcould have come only from a serenity and sweetness of religious experience, shining,with the play of celestial rainbows intermingled, like an evening sunset after astorm. And so Bunyan says, in his own rugged and homely but expressive verses:—
"The prison very sweet to me
Hath been since I came here;
And so would also hanging be,
If God would there appear.
Here dwells good conscience, also peace,
Here be my garments white;
Here, though in bonds, I have release
From guilt, which else would bite."
But with all this he had an intermingling of many "turnings and goings uponhis heart" from Satan and his own corruptions—those seven abominations thathe speaks of, beginning with unbelief; the Diabolonians that would still dwell inthe town of Mansoul—by which things he was continually humbled. It was still, asof old, his every day's portion "to be let into the evil of my own heart, andstill made to see such a multitude of corruptions and infirmities therein, that ithath caused hanging down of the head under all my gifts and attainments."
While Bunyan was thus suffering for Christ, yet enjoying Christ's presence and writingfrom the fullness of his love in prison, a great multitude of his nonconformist brethrenwere passing through the fires without. It was a period of peril, persecution, andgreat tribulation for such as kept an independent conscience and were faithful toGod's word. The Act of Uniformity being passed the 13th of May, 1662, all ministerswere ejected from their livings, and silenced, who would not conform to the establishedhierarchy, who would not declare their unfeigned assent and consent to all and everythingcontained and prescribed in and by the Book of Common Prayer, administration of thesacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the Church. Manton, Owen, Bates, Calamy,Howe, and Baxter, were among the number of those who, in this grand struggle forprinciple, liberty, and the honour of Christ, as Mr. Orme most justly describes it,would not submit to the decrees of an ecclesiastical despotism, nor, in the sacredmatter of prayer and supreme obedience to Christ, be subject to ordinances afterthe commandments and doctrines of men. They obeyed the inspired injunction, and,at whatever cost, stood fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.
After this career of bigotry and cruelty, on the part of church and state, had beenpursued to such an extent that it seemed as if the kingdom were given up of God toMoloch, there came forth most unexpectedly, in 1672, a royal declaration dispensingwith the penal laws against nonconformists. The twelve years' experience of hierarchicalcruelty began with Bunyan's release; and the one great event in the kingdom duringthat period, though then utterly unknown to any mortal in it save John Bunyan, andperhaps two or three obscure fellow-prisoners, had been the writing of the Pilgrim'sProgress—an event brought about through the instrumentality of those twelve years'persecutions!
Bunyan was forty-four years of age when he was released from prison in September,1672; and the next most memorable event of his life, after the Pilgrim's Progress,was that of the production and publication of the Holy War. This second great originalwork of Bunyan's genius and piety was published in 1682, the year in which the Pilgrim'sProgress had reached its eighth edition. The strongly-marked originality of his geniusis quite as striking in the Holy War as it is in the Pilgrim's Progress. Indeed,that work has no prototype in any language, nor any approximation to it. No dream,or vision, or fancy, or artful thought of mortal mind recorded, ever bore any resemblanceto it. Its personifications, its characters, its scenery, the warriors, banners,shields, and music of its contending armies, its changes of victory and defeat, arealtogether peculiar, and yet perfectly natural. There is in it an exquisite mixtureof solemnity and humour, of terror and of pathos. Its tracery of inward experiences,of immortal hopes and fears, of all the events and feelings of the Christian conflict,portrayed by the different faculties of the mind and states of the heart, set inhuman shape and living and acting before us, and all as the machinery and advancementof a great spiritual epic, are things of which we know no other example in any literature.
In truth, it is the pilgrimage from the City of Destruction to the City of Emmanuelreproduced under another form, as different from that of the Pilgrim's Progress,almost, as the Apocalypse of John is different from the Psalms of David, or as Edwards'"History of Redemption" is different from Doddridge's "Rise and Progressof Religion in the Soul." And yet it is the same pilgrimage, the same work traced,of the conversion and sanctification of fallen man. In the Holy War it is an abstractionof the race personified, and redemption carried on, the supernatural in the poembeing brought into the foreground; in the Pilgrim's Progress it is an individualselected, and toiling upwards from earth to heaven, nearly the whole space and interestbeing taken up with his movements. In both the Holy War and the Pilgrim's Progressthere is a combination of theology and experience most beautiful and instructive;but in the Holy War it is more the theological form, God working in you; in the Pilgrim'sProgress it is more the experimental form, man receiving and working under God'sgrace.
In the Holy War Bunyan shows himself a skilful metaphysician as well as theologian,in his apportionment of the provinces and operation of the understanding, the will,the conscience, the affections, in the profoundest work of metaphysics the mind ofman can ever be engaged in studying, that is, the process of the new creation ofthe soul in Christ Jesus. And indeed, the complications of the allegory are so deep,as it proceeds, that the ingenuity even of Bunyan's mind must have been tasked tosustain it; and yet, amidst all the minute threads of the web he is weaving, he isevidently never at a loss, never labouring, but always at ease; all is as spontaneous,as ready, as apparently unpremeditated, as Bunyan's own personal heart-work of prayerand praise. The book in this view is astonishing. Dealing as it does with such multitudinousabstractions, they are nevertheless presented and act their parts, not as by anyelaborate artificial arrangement, but as naturally as the characters in the Pilgrim'sProgress itself. It is a work that must have cost much greater labour than that moresimple and obvious allegory; but we have no revelation or record of the manner inwhich its conception or its execution went on in the mind of the writer. There isan exquisite vein of quiet humour, wit, and satire running through it, especiallythrough the last half, in the disclosure of the character and fate of the variouscrafty Diabolonians figuring in the town of Mansoul.
There are in the course of this work four separate periods and subjects:—First, thefall and ruin of the town by the wiles of the devil; Second, the conquest of it byEmmanuel, which is the work of conversion; Third, the falling away and backslidingof the town, and its wretched state in that condition; and, Fourth, its recoveryby divine grace, after long misery, and its final possession by the Prince. In allthese stages of the work there is wonderful skill and beauty in tracing both thelaw of sin and of death in our corrupt nature, and the law of the Spirit of lifein Christ Jesus—the soul dead in trespasses and sins, and the workings of truth andgrace to redeem it. What can be more admirable than the delineation of the varioustactics of Diabolus and his captains, and their management after the town was taken;their putting Captain Prejudice to keep guard at Ear-gate, and sixty men under himcalled Deaf-men; their imprisonment and darkening of the understanding; debauchingof the conscience, and appointing of new laws and officers; their pride in theirtwo great guns, High-mind and Heady; and the terrible armour of proof provided byDiabolus for the inhabitants of the town, from the headpiece to the hand-weapons.The account of the Recorder, Conscience, after the town was taken, with the terriblenoises with which he still made the whole town to shake when his fits were on him,is a fine passage. And when Emmanuel had laid siege to the town and was about totake it, the promises of reformation proposed by Diabolus if he would draw off hisforces, and afterwards the conditions of submission drawn out by Mr. Loath-to-stoop,with the attitudes of that man, are equally admirable. So likewise are the judicialtrials of Incredulity, Atheism, Hard-heart, Lustings, and others, the mayor, aldermen,and burgesses of the town while it was in Diabolus' possession.
One of the most instructive satirical passages in the whole book is that of the enlistmentof Tradition, Human-wisdom, and Man's-invention in the army of Emmanuel, when hiscaptains came to recover the town. These fellows came crossing over the country,and proper men they were, and men of courage and skill to appearance; and Boanergesbeing at first much taken with them, they were made captains under him in the Prince'sarmy: but in one of the very first brisk skirmishes, old Will-be-will, under Diabolus,out of the town, took them prisoners. Whereupon, when they had been put in ward andexamined, the Giant Diabolus asked them if they were willing to serve him againsttheir former captain. They then told him plainly that "they did not so muchlive by religion as by the fates of fortune, and that since his worship was willingto entertain them, they would most certainly be willing to serve him." Therenever was penned a more masterly hit at the folly of throwing the support of religionupon the testimony of human science, tradition, and mere external evidence.
During the last years of his life, and indeed from the time of his release out ofprison, and his entrance on the full responsibility of his pastorship to the periodof his death, Bunyan's labours, both as a preacher and writer, were incessant andexceedingly great. He mingled the vocations of a pastor and an author more successfullyand laboriously than any other man, except Baxter. "Here's sixty pieces of hislabours," Charles Doe quaintly remarks at the end of the catalogue of his books,published and unpublished; "and he was sixty years of age" :besides, "hemight have added with Paul in regard to no small region of country, "what comethupon me from without, the care of all the churches;" for in the care and loveof the people Bunyan had a diocese larger than a bishop's, preaching whenever hehad opportunity. A willing happy mind bore him on in all these labours; for his waslike a seraph's fire, and his ardent heavenly affections were as wings to his mind,instead of his mind having to labour in sustaining his affections. Preaching or writing,it was all with him a labour of love.
He often visited London, and in the region round about Bedford he was indefatigablein his circuits and preachings of the gospel. "At all times," it is a strikingand true remark of Mr. Phillip, "his character and talents commanded the venerationof all rabbles, except the rabble magistracy of the Restoration." We wonderat the treatment of men like Baxter by such creatures as Chief-justice Jeffries;but such creatures would have spit upon Jesus Christ himself had he been arraignedbefore them, and they supported by the countenance and applause of a crowned monarch.We have said that for the most part, in the evening of Bunyan's life, the enemy wasas still as a stone; yet, persecutors and informers are said to have often searchedfor him, especially about the close of Charles' reign, but God preserved him. Hisreputation as a preacher and writer had grown so great, that in London the placeof preaching would not hold half the crowds that flocked to hear him. His friendlyand affectionate admirer and brother minister, Charles Doe, says that he had seenabove twelve hundred persons to hear him at a morning lecture on a working-day indark winter-time, and three thousand at a town's-end meeting-house, where he hadalmost to go upon men's shoulders to get into the pulpit.
Bunyan's style, so far as it was not a tendency born in him, grew out of his habitualand exclusive familiarity with the English Bible. It is a triumphant example of thepower of that one book, if the Spirit of God goes with it, to educate and arm themind. Bunyan thought nothing of this; it never entered into his head to imagine whilehe was studying the Bible as for his life, with such intense, incessant, protracted,and fiery earnestness, that he was thus acquiring a native mastery over the purestforms of the English language, such as the foremost minds in the nation might envy.He sought an infinitely higher object; but seeking first the kingdom of God and hisrighteousness, all other things were added to him. While the spirit of the Bibletook possession of his inmost being, the idiomatic beauty of its English translationentered into his soul, and attended every movement, every expression of his thoughtsand feelings; it fell upon his imagination as a mantle, it was diffused around hismind as an atmosphere: he found in it a dialect exactly suited to the simplicityof his nature.
And, indeed, a childlike being, such as he was, will always speak and write in simplesweet Saxon, the language of home and of childhood. Childlike natures in literaturehave ever done this, as in the cases of Goldsmith, Cowper, and Burns. Bunyan's styleis a thing of such unconscious ease, propriety, and unelaborate grace—the thoughtto which he wishes to give expression he conveys in such plain unassuming words,intelligible by all classes, with such purity of conversational phrases, and suchfine natural idioms—that it flows like the music and turnings of a running brook,along which you are wandering in a green Pasture, or among the woods in spring. Besidesthis, his language has at times no small degree of imaginative power, and his pagesare sometimes flashing with the quick and graphic light of whole pictures presentedin a single sentence.
Bunyan was only thirty-two years of age when he was thrown into prison. He must havebeen somewhere about the fortieth year of his life when he composed the Pilgrim'sProgress; and he was probably about fifty-four years of age when he wrote the HolyWar—a work which develops a fire of imagination and invention undiminished, a mostprofound knowledge of the human heart under the workings of divine grace, and thesame simplicity and purity of style characterising all his productions.
The Jerusalem Sinner Saved, which is one of his best minor works, was one among thenumerous publications of the last year of his life, in 1688, although he had preachedthe substance of it many years and many times before. That work is the only one inwhich he illustrates his subject by a reference to the exceeding sinfulness of hisown early life. "I infected," says he, "all the youth of the townwhere I was born with all manner of youthful vanities. The neighbours counted meso; my practice proved me so; wherefore Christ Jesus took me first, and taking mefirst, the contagion was much allayed all the town over. When God made me sigh, theywould hearken, and inquiringly say, What is the matter with John? They also gavetheir various opinions of me; but, as I said, sin failed and cooled as to his fullcareer. When I went out to seek the bread of life, some of them would follow, andthe rest be put into a muse at home. Yea, almost the town, at first, at times wouldgo out to hear at the place where I found good; yea, young and old for a while hadsome reformation on them; also some of them, perceiving that God had mercy on me,came crying to him for mercy too." From beginning to end this sovereignty andfullness of the divine mercy, by which the Redeemer delights to save "the biggestsinners," whomsoever he will, was a favourite subject with Bunyan. No wonderthat it was, for the glory of God's sovereign grace had never been more remarkablydisplayed than in the example of Bunyan's own conversion. The power of Bunyan, bothas a preacher and a writer, like that also of Luther, lay in his own deep experienceof the things of God. It was thus that he knew so thoroughly God's word, and hadthe comfort of such immutable certainty in it. "When a man has this certainty,"says Luther, "he has overcome the Serpent: but if he be doubtful of the doctrine,it is for him very dangerous to dispute with the devil." Bunyan's disputes withthe devil drove him continually to God's word, and then God's word prepared him andgave him the victory in his conflicts with the devil. Bunyan could say with Luther,"I have grounded my preaching upon the literal word; he that pleases may followme; he that will not may stay. I call upon St. Peter, St. Paul, Moses, and all thesaints, to say whether they ever fundamentally comprehended one single word of Godwithout studying it over and over and over again."
Again, Luther says—and the passage is interesting set over against the same experienceof Bunyan—"I did not learn my divinity at once, but was constrained by my temptationsto search deeper and deeper; for no man without trials and temptations can attaina true understanding of the holy scriptures. St. Paul had a devil that beat him withfists, and with temptations drove him diligently to study the holy scripture. I hadhanging on my neck the pope, the universities, all the deep-learned, and the devil;these hunted me into the Bible, wherein I sedulously read, and thereby, God be praised,at length attained a true understanding of it. Without such a devil we are but onlyspeculators of divinity, and according to our vain reasoning, dream that so and soit must be, as the monks and friars in monasteries do. The holy scripture of itselfis certain and true; God grant me grace to catch hold of its just use."
The vein of deep genuine humour that runs through Bunyan's character and writings,was the feature in which he greatly resembled Luther. That vein is visible sometimeseven in the most solemn of his works; and how truly has he said in explanation ofit—
"Some things are of that nature as to make
One's fancy chuckle while his heart doth ache."
It was the combination of an aching heart and a humorous fancy that produced thecomic ballad of "John Gilpin;" yet, had not the author been known, whowould not have denied the possibility that such a piece could have been written byCowper? The union of genuine rich humour with deep piety, and the chastened spontaneoususe of it under the guidance of a just judgment, are among the rarest manifestationsof intellectual power.
Bunyan was also a poet. What else, indeed, are the Pilgrim's Progress and the HolyWar, but true and noble poems? But even in the poetical form, and in effusions almostunpremeditated, the mind of this remarkable man exhibited a command of thought, imagery,and language, with a sweetness and nobleness of feeling, and a sense of rugged harmony,which, cultivated with one half the assiduity and fervour bestowed by Wordsworthupon the training and enriching of his imaginative and meditative faculties, wouldhave made a mighty poet. Indeed, there were fathomless depths of beauty in Bunyan'ssoul, beauty of thought, beauty of feeling, beauty of natural language; and whatwas better than all, no consciousness of it whatever, nor attempt after it, no morethan a bird, cutting the air with its wings, is conscious of its movements, or seeksto show its plumage. And the melodies that fell from him were such as to remind usof his own exquisitely beautiful description of the music heard by Christiana andher companions from the birds and the happy shepherd's boy in the Valley of Humiliation.
During the last year of his life, in 1686, Bunyan is said to have published six volumesof his writings—an industry that must have been produced by his foresight of impendingcalamities, and his earnest desire to get as much truth before the people as he couldwhile the times of quiet lasted. But the great and incessant labour thus occasionedmust have exhausted his strength, and prepared his frame for the attack of that suddendisease by which his life was terminated. In the midst of this activity in preachingand publishing, he was called upon to go to Reading on a mission of reconciliationbetween an offended father and an anxious son. From this labour of harmony and love,in which he was successful, he returned to London on horseback in the rain; and onarriving at the house of his friend Mr. Strudwick, was seized with a violent fever.The time had come when Bunyan himself must realise that last scene through whichthe imagination of the dreamer had conducted the children of God in so enchantinga manner in the Pilgrim's Progress. The fear of death is quite taken away in hisbeautiful descriptions of the passing of Christiana and her children over the river;and just so, when he himself came to pass over, the gloom was all gone.
Bunyan had been twice married during his own pilgrimage. His first wife he himselfattended clown to the River of Death, and witnessed, it can hardly be doubted, sosweet a departure of her spirit, that it may have been her experience, as well ashis own confidence in Christ, which dictated the bright closing scenes of the SecondPart of the Pilgrim's Progress. God gave to him his first wife to be with him inhis setting out from the City of Destruction, and at the Slough of Despond, and inhis conflicts with Apollyon, and his passage through the Valley of the Shadow ofDeath, and in all his severe temptations up to the earliest exercise of his ministry.The same kind and watchful Providence allotted to him a second wife, to act thatnoble part recorded of her in the processes of his trial with such high, heroic courageand Christian firmness, and to bless and comfort him in his imprisonment, and toshare in the happiness of his release and the success of his labours. But now heseemed about to die alone; though surrounded by friends, yet away from his belovedfamily. The time had come when he too must go down to the river.
There is a collection of his dying thoughts and sayings. They are certainly his thoughts,whether uttered in his last illness, or expressed in his previous life. But we wouldrather choose, for describing, the picture of his dying moments, a few of the sweetrealities recorded at the close of his immortal allegory, as attendant on the deathof the righteous who die in the Lord. Indeed, nothing could give a more correct viewof Bunyan's dying than his own account of the pilgrim Standfast in the River of Death.
The day drew on that he must be gone, for the whole of his illness was but littlemore than a week's duration, and it ended the last day of August, 1688. "Sothe road was full of people to see him take his journey. But behold, all the banksbeyond the river were full of horses and chariots, which were come down from aboveto accompany him to the city gate. Now, there was a great calm at that time in theriver, wherefore, when he was about half way in, he stood awhile and talked to hiscompanions that had waited upon him thither; and he said, 'This river has been aterror to many; yea, the thoughts of it also have frightened me. Now, methinks, Istand easy; my foot is fixed upon that on which the feet of the priests that barethe ark of the covenant stood, while Israel went over this Jordan. Cold indeed arethe waters, but the thoughts of all that awaits me at the other side are as a glowingcoal at my heart. I see myself now at the end of my journey; my toilsome days areended. I am going to see that head that was crowned with thorns, and that face thatwas spit upon for me. I have formerly lived by hearsay and faith; but now I go whereI shall live by sight, and shall be with Him in whose company I delight myself. Ihave loved to hear my Lord spoken of, and wherever I have seen the print of his shoein the earth, there I have coveted to set my foot too. His name has been to me asa civet-box, yea, sweeter than all perfumes. His voice to me has been most sweet,and his countenance I have more desired than they that have most desired the lightof the sun. His words I did use to gather for my food, and for antidotes againstmy faintings. 'He has held me, and hath kept me from mine iniquities; yea, my stepshave been strengthened in his way."
"Now, while he was thus in discourse, his countenance changed, his 'strong manbowed under him;' and after he had said, 'Take me, for I am come unto Thee,"the Lord took him, and he ceased to be seen of men.
"But glorious it was to see how the open region was filled with horses and chariots,with trumpeters and pipers, with singers and players on stringed instruments, towelcome the pilgrims as they went up, and followed one another in at the beautifulGate of the City. And over it was written in letters of gold,
"BLESSED ARE THEY THAT DO HIS COMMANDMENTS THAT THEY MAY HAVE RIGHT TO THETREE OF LIFE, AND MAY ENTER IN THROUGH THE GATES INTO THE CITY."
GEORGE B. CHEEVER, D.D.
NEWTON PLACE, GLASGOW,