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BUNYAN IN BEDFORD JAIL.
among three or four poor women sitting at a door in Bedford. So thankfully did they speak of what God, through Jesus Christ, had done for their souls, and so lovingly did they quote the Bible words, that Bunyan went away feeling as he had never felt before, and unable to think of anything but the conversation he had heard.
Thus, knot after knot, the bonds of sin were cut from his soul, and John Bunyan became a new man. About the year 1656 he commenced to preach in the villages of Bedfordshire, having already been for three years a member of a Baptist congregation.
With slight interruption he continued this good work until the Restoration, when he was arrested as a holder of conventicles, which were then declared unlawful. By Justice Win- 1660 gate he was committed to Bedford Jail, where, in spite of a noble effort made by his second wife to obtain his release, he remained for twelve years. Within a chamber of the old Swan Inn that faithful wife, with blushing face but undaunted heart, pleaded before the judges and the gentlemen of the shire for her prisoned husband. “Will your husband leave preaching ?” said Judge Twisden. “My lord,” said the noble woman,“ he dares not leave preaching so long as he can speak.” And so Bunyan lay in jail, bis wife and children weaving laces, upon which he fixed tags, to get them daily bread. Happily for us, his jailer was a kindhearted man, disposed to deal as gently as he could with his ward. Bunyan had two books with him—the Bible and “Fox's Book of Martyrs," which he studied constantly and deeply. He had also pen and ink, with liberty to use them; and thus it was that to these years of cell-life we owe our matchless allegory, The Pilgrim's Progress—the joy of childhood and the solace of old age —a book second only to the Bible. Towards the end of the twelve years the rigour of Bunyan's confinement was relaxed; he was allowed to go out into the town; and once he went to London. And through all he preached at every opportunity, often meeting his little flock under the silent stars, where the trees cast dark shadows
1672 upon the sleepy Ouse. His last year in jail is memorable for his ordination in the room of his old minister and friend, Mr. Gifford. Then, released by the aid of Barlow, Bishop of
THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS."
Lincoln, who knew him by his books and his preaching, he held his services in a barn at Bedford, which was purchased for £50, and fitted up as a chapel. There he laboured with voice and for sixteen years, often visiting London, where the churches
were always crowded to the doors when he preached. A 1688 journey under heavy rain from Reading to London brought
on a fever, of which he died in his sixty-first year. A
hundred years ago, a green decaying grave-stone, on which was inscribed in faint lettering, “Here lies John Bunyan," was pointed out in the cemetery at Bunhill Fields.
Macaulay's opinion of Bunyan is worth remembrance. In a fine review of Southey's edition, he says that “Bunyan is as decidedly the first of allegorists, as Demosthenes is the first of orators, or Shakspere the first of dramatists." The adventures of Christian need no description. They are told in plain, unvarnished English, which pretends to no excellence of style, and yet has a power that more polished language often lacks. Bunyan, a common working-man, had no thought of style as he wrote. All he desired was, to place vividly before his readers certain pictures, which he himself saw almost as clearly as if he had been Christian trudging on a real highway, instead of Bunyan writing within dark prison walls. And this he has done with such marvellous skill, that we, too, feel the green grass of the Delectable Mountains beneath our feet, and shudder as the awful darkness of the Valley of the Shadow of Death closes around us. First published in 1678, this wonderful book ran through ten editions in seven years. It has since been printed in countless thousands, and has been translated into all the chief tongues of earth.
The Holy War, which describes the siege and capture of the city of Mansoul by Diabolus, is another allegory from the pen of Bunyan, also written within his cell at Bedford.
THE VALLEY OF THE SIIADOW OF DEATH.
(FROM "THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS.") I saw then in my dream, so far as this valley reached, there was, on the right hand, a very deep ditch; that ditch it is into which the blind have led the blind in all ages, and have both there miserably perished. Again, behold. on the left
SPECIMEN OF BUNYAN'S PROSE.
hand, there was a very dangerous quag, into which even if a good man falls, le finds no bottom for his feet to stand on : into that quag King David once did fall, and had no doubt therein been smothered, had not He that is able plucked him out. The pathway was here also exceeding narrow, and therefore good Christian was the more put to it: for when he sought, in the dark, to shun the ditch on the one hand, he was ready to tip over into the mire on the other; also, when he sought to escape the mire, without great carefulness he would be ready to fall into the ditch. Thus he went on, and I heard him here sigh bit. terly; for besides the danger mentioned above, the pathway here was so dark, that oft-times when he lifted up his foot to set forward, he knew not where, or upon what, he should set it next. About the midst of the valley I perceived the mouth of Hell to be; and it stood also hard by the way-side. And ever and anon the flame and smoke would come out in such abundance, with sparks and hideous noises, that he was forced to put up his sword, and betake himself to another weapon, called all-prayer. So he cried, in my hearing, () Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Thus he went on a great while, yet still the flames would be reaching towards him. Also he heard doleful voices, and rushings to and fro; so that sometimes he thought he should be torn to pieces or trodden down like mire in the streets.
No name stands higher in the history of our theological literature than that of Richard Baxter, the great Puritan divine. Born in 1615 at Rowdon, a village in Shropshire, he passed, after some desultory work at school, and a course of private theological study, into the ministry of the Church of England. During the nine months after his ordination, which took place when he was twentythree, he held the mastership of the Free Grammar School at
Dudley. Then, having acted as curate of Bridgenorth 1640 for a while, he settled down in 1640 in the parish of
Kidderminster, where his untiring devotion to his flock,
and the deep earnestness of his sermons, soon won for him a considerable name. Already some of those oaths, which worked such fatal mischief in the Church at that day, had crossed the path of Baxter; but he had passed them by unheeded. So long as his conscience told him that he was rightly doing his Christian work, he troubled himself little to obey every letter of the ritual laid down for his observance.
The Civil War then broke out; and although he was the friend of monarchy, his religious leanings caused him to side with the Parliament. He became a chaplain in the Roundhead army, followed his regiment through many scenes of blood, and yet always preserved the character of a peace-maker, as befitted a true soldier of the Cross. Standing midway between two extremes of conflicting opinion, he incurred, as such good men have often
SECEDES FROM THE NATIONAL CHURCH.
incurred, the suspicion of both parties. While he loved royalty, he disliked the conduct of the King; but, for all his dislike, it was with a heart full of sorrow that he beheld the discrowned head of Charles degraded to a bloody death. And when the throne lay overturned in the tempest of Revolution, the pastor of Kidderminster, standing face to face with the great Oliver himself, dared, with a noble courage, to lift his voice in defence of that ancient monarchy, which has ever been the glory of the land. Meek and moderate though he was, and much as he loved peace,
was too good and too honest a man to bate one jot of the principles which he held dearer than life or fame.
Soon after the Restoration, Clarendon tried to tempt him with an offer of the bishopric of Hereford; but he steadily refused this and other golden baits. Baxter was a Trimmer in religion as in politics; he loved the name, for he held it to be synonymous with “peacemaker.” Believing that Episcopacy was in many respects a good and lawful system, he yet sided with the Presbyterians in denying the absolute need of ordination by a bishop. And he further agreed with the Presbyterians in adopting the Bible as the sole guide of man in faith and conduct. Accordingly, when the Act of Uniformity was passed in 1662, this good man had no resource but to leave the bosom of the National 1662 Church. Taking shelter at Acton in Middlesex, he spent several years in active literary work, suffering heavy penalties more than once for his strict adherence to the simple worship, which he believed to be right and true in the sight of God. We cannot follow him through the trials of those troubled years. After the Indulgence of 1672 bis life was chiefly spent in London, where he preached and wrote with incessant industry. There were many days and weeks when his pulpit was silent; for the Nonconformists, among whom he was a leader, were ground from time to time to the very dust by the infatuated Stuarts. But his pen was always busy; and at length it goaded his enemies into open war.
A passage in his Commentary on the New Testament, complaining bitterly of the sufferings inflicted on the Dissenters, was held to be