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which opened towards the sunrising ?” And who, looking back to the green spots in his childish experiences, does not bless the good Tinker of Elstow?
And who, that has re-perused the Story of the Pilgrim at a maturer age, and felt the plummet of its truth sounding in the deep places of the soul, has not reason to bless the author for some timely warning or grateful encouragement? Where is the scholar, the poet, the man of taste and feeling, who does not, with Cowper,
“ Even in transitory life's late day,
Revere the man whose Pilgrim marks the road,
We have just been reading, with no slight degree of interest, that simple but wonderful piece of autobiography, entitled “GRACE ABOUNDING TO THE CHIEF OF SINNERS," from the pen of the author of Pilgrim's Progress. It is the record of a journey more terrible than that of the ideal Pilgrim ; “ truth stranger than fiction ;” the painful upward struggling of a spirit from the blackness of despair and blasphemy, into the high, pure air of Hope and Faith. More earnest words were never written. It is the entire unveiling of a human heart; the tearing off of the fig-leaf covering of its sin. The voice which speaks to us from these old pages seems not so much that of a denizen of the world in
which we live, as of a soul at the last solemn confessional. Shorn of all ornament, simple and direct as the contrition and prayer of childhood, when for the first time the Spectre of Sin stands by its bedside, the style is that of a man dead to self-gratification, careless of the world's opinion, and only desirous to convey to others, in all truthfulness and sincerity, the lesson of his inward trials, temptations, sins, weaknesses, and dangers; and to give glory to Him who had mercifully led him through all, and enabled him, like his own Pilgrim, to leave behind the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the snares of the Enchanted Ground, and the terrors of Doubting Castle, and to reach the land of Beulah, where the air was sweet and pleasant, and the birds
sang and the flowers sprang up around him, and the Shining Ones walked in the brightness of the not distant Heaven. In the introductory pages he says: “I could have dipped into a style higher than this in which I have discoursed, and could have adorned all things more than here I have seemed to do; but I dared not. God did not play in tempting me; neither did I play when I sunk, as it were, into a bottomless pit, when the pangs of hell took hold on me ; where. fore, I may not play in relating of them, but be plain and simple, and lay down the thing as it was.”
This book, as well as “ Pilgrim's Progress," was
written in Bedford prison, and was designed especially for the comfort and edification of his “ children, whom God had counted him worthy to beget in faith by his ministry." In his introduction he tells them, that, al. though taken from them, and tied up, “ sticking, as it were, between the teeth of the lions of the wilderness,"? he once again, as before, from the top of Shemer and Hermon, so now, from the lion's den and the mountain of leopards, would look after them with fatherly care and desires for their everlasting welfare. “If,” said he," you have sinned against light ; if you are tempted to blaspheme ; if you are drowned in despair; if you think God fights against you; or if Heaven is hidden from your eyes, remember it was so with
father. But out of all the Lord delivered me.”
He gives no dates; he affords scarcely a clew to his localities ; of the man, as he worked, and ate, and drank, and lodged, of his neighbors and contemporaries, of all he saw and heard of the world about him, we have only an occasional glimpse, here and there, in his narrative. It is the story of his inward life only that he relates. What had time and place to do with one who trembled always with the awful consciousness of an immortal nature, and about whom fell alternately the shadows of hell and the splendors of heaven? We gather, indeed, from his record, that he was not an idle
on-looker in the time of England's great struggle for freedom, but a soldier of the Parliament, in his young years, among the praying sworders and psalm-singing pikemen, the Greathearts and Holdfasts whom he has immortalized in his allegory ; but the only allusion which he makes to this portion of his experience is by way of illustration of the goodness of God in preserv. ing him on occasions of peril.
He was born at Elstow, in Bedfordshire, in 1628 ; and, to use his own words, “ his father's house was of that rank which is the meanest and most despised of all the families of the land.” His father was a tinker, and the son followed the same calling, which necessarily brought him into association with the lowest and most depraved classes of English society. The estimation in which the tinker and his occupation were held, in the seventeenth century, may be learned from the quaint and humorous description of Sir Thomas Overbury. “The tinker,” saith he, “is a movable, for he hath no abiding in one place; he seems to be devout, for his life is a continual pilgrimage, and sometimes, in humility, goes barefoot, therein making necessity a virtue ; he is a gallant, for he carries all his wealth upon his back; or a philosopher, for he bears all his substance with him. He is always furnished with a song, to which his hammer, keeping tune,
proves that he was the first founder of the kettle-drum; where the best ale is, there stands his music most upon crotchets. The companion of his travel is some foul, sun-burnt quean, that, since the terrible statute, has recanted gipsyism, and is turned pedlaress. So marches he all over England, with his bag and baggage ; his conversation is irreprovable, for he is always mending. He observes truly the statutes, and therefore had rather steal than beg. He is so strong an enemy of idleness, that in mending one hole he would rather make three than want work; and when he hath done, he throws the wallet of his faults behind him. His tongue is very voluble, which, with canting, proves him a linguist. He is entertained in every place, yet enters no farther than the door, to avoid suspicion. To conclude, if he escape Tyburn and Banbury, he dies a beggar.”
Truly, but a poor beginning for a pious life was the youth of John Bunyan. As might have been expected, he was a wild, reckless, swearing boy, as his father doubtless was before him. " It was my delight," says he, to be taken captive by the devil. I had few equals, both for cursing and swearing, lying and blaspheming." Yet, in his ignorance and darkness, his powerful imagination early lent terror to the reproaches of conscience. He was scared, even in childhood, with dreams of hell and apparitions of devils. Troubled