« AnteriorContinua »
FROM THIS WORLD
TO THAT WHICH IS TO COME.
THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM.
By John Bunyan.
THE TEXT DIVIDED INTO CHAPTERS; WITH AN INTRODUCTION;
BY STEPHEN B. WICKENS.
For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
PUBLISHED BY CARLTON & PHILLIPS,
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1845, by G. LANE & C. B. TIPPETT, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New-York.
THE author of the Pilgrim's Progress was born at Elstow, a small village near Bedford, England, in 1628. His father, who was very poor, was a tinker, and brought up his sons, of whom he had several, to the same business, but of none of them is anything known except the subject of this notice.
Bunyan records with gratitude that his parents, notwithstanding their poverty, sent him to school," to learn to read and write, the which,” he adds, “I also attained according to the rate of other poor men's children, though to my shame I confess, I did soon forget that little I learnt, even almost utterly." Associating with wicked companions he was early initiated into profaneness, and, impelled by the natural energy of his character, he soon became a sort of ring-leader in all kinds of boyish vice and ungodliness. "From a child,” he says, "I had but few equals for cursing, lying, and blaspheming the name of God; yea, so settled and rooted was I in these things, that they became as a second nature to me."
But he was not suffered to pursue his vicious career without some checks of conscience, and warnings of the awful consequence of such a course of life. "Even in my childhood,” he says, “ the Lord did scare and affrighten me with fearful dreams. For often, after I have spent the day in sin, I have in my bed been greatly afflicted, while asleep, with the apprehensions of devils and wicked spirits, who still, as I then thought, laboured to draw me away with them, of which I could never be rid. Also I should at these years be greatly afflicted and troubled with the thoughts of the fearful torments of hell-fire, &c. These things, I say, when I was but a child, did so distress my soul, that then, in the midst of my childish sports and vanities, amidst my vain companions, I was often much cast down and afflicted in my mind
therewith, yet I could not let go my sins." The effect of these dreams was but slight and transient; and when after awhile they left him, and his apprehensions of future punishment wore off, he gave loose to the reins of his vicious propensities, and followed after sin more greedily than ever.
When about seventeen years old, the civil war then raging in England, he enlisted as a soldier in the parliamentary army. He was present at the siege of Leicester, where on one occasion he was drawn out to stand as sentinel, but another, offering himself, was sent in his place and soon after killed at his post. Twice also during his youth Bunyan was providentially preserved when in imminent danger of drowning. These mercies made little impression at the time, but were afterward remembered with thanksgiving.
Soon after quitting the army, and when only about nineteen years of age, by the advice of friends who thought it might have some effect in restraining his vicious course, he married; "and my mercy was," he says, "to light upon a wife whose father was counted godly. We came together as poor as poor might be, not having so much household stuff as a dish or spoon betwixt us both; yet this she had for her part, The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven, and The Practice of Piety, which her father had left her when he died. In these two books I would sometimes read with her, wherein I also found some things that were somewhat pleasing to me; but all this while I met with no conviction. She would also be often a telling me of what a godly man her father was, and how he would reprove and correct vice, both in his house and among his neighbours; and what a strict and holy life he lived, both in word and deed."
The reading of these books, and the admonitions of his wife, he tells us, begot in him "some desire to reform his vicious life, and fall in very eagerly with the religion of the times; to wit, to go to church twice a day, and that too with the foremost, and there very devoutly say and sing as others
yet still he felt no convictions of guilt, and could not give up his sins. Some time after, he was shamed out of his habit of profane swearing by a severe and unexpected reproof from a woman of notoriously bad character. He also began to take delight in reading some parts of the Bible, which led to further reformation in his outward conduct. His neighbours were amazed at this change "from prodigious profaneness to something like a moral life,” and began to commend him as a religious man; "yet," he says, "I was but a painted hypocrite. I was proud of my godliness, and thought I pleased God as well as any man in England."
From this self-righteous delusion he was awakened by hearing a few pious females converse on the subject of religion. Their talk was about a new birth-the work of God in their hearts-how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature-how God had visited their souls with his love in Christ Jesus-with what promises they had been comforted and supported against the temptations of the devil, &c. "At this," says Bunyan, "I felt my own heart began to shake, and mistrust my condition to be naught; for I saw that in all my thoughts about religion and salvation the new birth did never enter into my mind; neither knew I the comfort of the word and promise, nor the deceitfulness and treachery of my own wicked heart... I was greatly affected with their words, both because by them I was convinced that I wanted the true tokens of a truly godly man, and also because by them I was convinced of the happy and blessed condition of him that was such an one."
He was now, to use his own language, "in a flame to find the way to heaven and glory;" so intent was his mind on spiritual and eternal things, that "neither pleasures, nor profits, nor persuasions, nor threats, could make it let go its hold; it would then," he says, "have been as difficult for me to have taken my mind from heaven to earth, as I have found it often since to get it again from earth to heaven.”