Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

preacher. He maintained himself and his family by his trade as a brazier or tinker, the trade he had learned from his father. But he had a gift in speech, and he had passed through a profound religious experience which clarified his vision in spiritual things. From the

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

little Baptist church in Bedford which he attended he was

called " to preach. He was modest as to his own powers. But he had a message—the message of one who had passed through Doubting Castle and the Valley of the Shadow to view the Delectable Mountains and the City of All Delight. His creed was simple, but he believed it with his whole heart; it was the creed of Luther, and of John Knox. He believed that Protestant Christianity was true, and that mankind were perishing unless they saw it to be true. He says: “I preached

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

Facsimile of title-page of first edition (1678) of The Pilgrim's I'rogress"

I went myself in chains to preach to them in chains, and carried that fire in my own conscience that I persuaded them to beware of. I have gone full of guilt and terror to the pulpit door; God carried me on with a strong hand, for neither guilt nor hell could take me off.” Not another man in the United Kingdom could speak with such power. Bunyan preached in stables or in open fields, in any place where an audience could be gathered to hear him. He visited nearby towns, and his fame spread. In his later ministry morc than twelve hundred London working people gathered in the cold and dark of an early winter morning to hear him before going to their day's labor. m

what I felt

Shortly after the accession of Charles II in 1660 an act against non-conformists was revived which forbade religious meetings of any sect except the established church. Under this act Bunyan was arrested and brought to court. It was evident that the judge who presided at the trial wished if possible to avoid bringing him to prison. He was told that he might go free if he would promise to cease his preaching. This promise Bunyan refused to give. He was led away to Bedford jail, where he was held twelve years. Here he received no harsh treatment; he was allowed to see his friends and sometimes to go forth about the town. While in jail he made shoe-laces, by the sale of which he supported his family. The retirement of his life in prison was favorable to quiet thought; Bunyan heard a voice which said, “Look into thy heart and write." This gifted man while a prisoner in Bedford jail wrote “ Pilgrim's Progress," the best prose allegory ever written in English, and one of the three greatest allegories ever written in any language. As an allegory it may be ranked with Spenser's “Faery Queen” and Dante's “ Divine Comedy," and with no fourth. Thousands of people, both the learned and the unlettered, have read “ Pilgrim's Progress” with keen delight. Bunyan's meaning is clear even to the wayfaring man; his characters are not cold abstractions, but real, vital beings; they are ourselves projected by his powerful and penetrating imagination. The aptly chosen names sug est the reality of the characters themselves: Lord Hategood, Mr. Talkative (“the son of Saywell; he dwelt in Prating Row”), Mr. Feeblemind, Mr. Worldly Wiseman. We see Bunyan's humor, and his power in satire. So universal is the human appeal of " Pilgrim's Progress" that it has been translated into seventy-five different languages or dialects. It is noticeably free from sectarian bias; although written by a strong adherent of Protestantism, by the excision of a few short passages it has been made wholly acceptable in countries where the Roman Catholic is the prevailing faith.

“Grace Abounding,” “Pilgrim's Progress," "The Holy War," “ The Life and Death of Mr. Badman,” together with many sermons and pamphlets, make up the sum of Bunyan's writings. He passed the last sixteen years of his life in preaching, in visiting those sick or in trouble, in all ways seeking to do the work of his Master. He died in 1688 from a cold which came from exposure when he was on such an errand of mercy.

How could an unlettered tinker have been the author of such a masterpiece as “ Pilgrim's Progress"? In this, as in all his writings, Bunyan's style is simple, direct, forceful. His powerful imagination was ballasted by good common sensė. His soul had been torn by spiritual conflict; he felt keenly. He knew his Bible almost by heart; and the purity and beauty of his diction came direct from that Book of books. In simple sincerity he wrought the best that he knew.

QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. Where lies Bedfordshire on the outline map? 2. What is meant by a “religious experience”? 3. Do you think Bunyan sincere? 4. In a three-minute talk compare Bunyan with any modern revivalist

whom you have heard. 5. What was a “non-conformist”? (Refer to any history of England.) 6. What sort of book is “ Pilgrim's Progress "? Is it for children,

for adults, or for both? Will everyone derive a similar sort of satis

faction from it? 7. Give an outline of Bunyan's life. What do you know of Bunyan's

style? 8. What were the qualities that marked Bunyan's genius? 9. Tell what you know of the early education of Bunyan and any six

other men whose work we have been considering. 10. Write a five-hundred-word essay upon the various aspects of Puritan

literature.

Suggested Readings.—Read the Pilgrim's Progress even if it is for the second time. J. A. Froude's “Bunyan” in the English Men of Letters Series is a convenient and excellent study. Macaulay's Essay on Bunyan” is shorter, clearer, and more readable.

66

[ocr errors]

John Bungan

CHAPTER XVI

THE RESTORATION (1660-1685)

66

" The author of 'Hudibras,' the most brilliant satirical genius our country has ever produced.”—Chiambers' Encyclopedia.

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night :
God said “Let Newton be, and all was light.”

Роре. “ Locke's writings have diffused throughout the civilized world the love of civil liberty.Edinburgh Review.

WHEN, in 1660, the Stuart kings were restored to the throne of England, the nation was sick of the severity of the Puritans. The pendulum swung as far in the direction of license as it had previously gone in that of restraint. Macaulay describes in his own vigorous fashion what happened:

“ Then came those days, never to be recalled without a blush, the days of servitude without loyalty and sensuality without love, of dwarfish talents and gigantic vices, the paradise of cold hearts and · narrow minds, the golden age of the coward, the bigot, and the slave. The King cringed to his rival that he might trample on his people, sank into a viceroy of France, and pocketed, with complacent infamy, her degrading insults and her still more degrading gold. The government had just enough ability to deceive and just enough religion to persecute. The principles of liberty were the scoff of every grinning courtier and the Anathema Maranatha of every fawning dean. In every high place worship was paid to Charles and James, Belial and Moloch; and England propitiated those obscene and cruel idols with the blood of her best and bravest children. Crime succeeded to crime and disgrace to disgrace till the race accursed of God and man was a second time driven forth to wander on the face of the earth and to be a by-word and a shaking of the head to the nations."

In plain English, Charles II (1660-1685) was idle, careless, and dissipated; his successor, James II (1685–1688), was narrow, cruel, and unpopular; and both endeavored to subvert the liberty of the

« AnteriorContinuar »