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STORM IN THE WILDERNESS.
With dreadful faces throng'd, and fiery arms.
The Storm in the Wilderness.
(From “ Paradise Regained.")
So saying, he took (for still he knew his power
Environ’d thee; some howl’d, some yell’d, some shriek’d,
Johx OWEN, JOHN MILTON, and John BUNYAN;—with three such arrows in its quiver, English Nonconformity need not be ashamed, but may speak with all comers in the gate. And now that sectarian rivalry and rancour, as we fondly trust, are softening down, a certain measure of complacency may surely be forgiven to the party which claims such illustrious names; nor will the magnanimous Churchman entirely grudge to Puritanism reputations which, after all, are Christian and British still more truly than they are Baptist or Congregational. At the same time it says something for the generosity of English piety, and it says still more for the permanence of genius and goodness, as contrasted with denominational peculiarities, that now-a-days no theological collection is complete without Owen “On the Hebrews;” and “ Paradise Lost” and “ The Pilgrim's Progress” are as much at home in the library of an Episcopal palace as in the study of a Dissenting minister.
John Bunyan was born at Elstow, near Bedford, in 1628. His father was a brazier or tinker, and brought up his son as a craftsman of like occupation. There is no evidence for the gipsy origin of the house of Bunyan; and though extremely poor, John's father gave his son such an education as poor men could then obtain for their children. He was sent to school and taught to read and write.
There has been some needless controversy regarding Bunyan's early days. Some have too readily taken for granted that he was in all respects a reprobate; and others- the chief of whom is Dr Southey-have laboured to shew that there was little in the lad which any would censure, save the righteous
over much. The truth is, that, considering his rank of life, his conduct was not flagitious; for he never was a drunkard, a libertine, or a lover of sanguinary sports; and the profanity and Sabbath-breaking and heart-atheism which afterwards preyed on his awakened conscience are unhappily too frequent to make their perpetrator conspicuous. The thing which gave Bunyan any notoriety in the days of his ungodliness, and which made him afterwards appear to himself such a monster of iniquity, was the energy which he put into all his doings. He had a zeal for idle play, and an enthusiasm in mischief, which were the perverse manifestations of a forcible character, and which may have well entitled him to Southey's epithet“a blackguard.” The reader need not go far to see young Bunyan. Perhaps there is near your dwelling an Elstowa quiet hamlet of some fifty houses sprinkled about in the picturesque confusion, and with the easy amplitude of space, which give to an old English village its look of leisure and longevity. And it is now verging to the close of the summer's day. The daws are taking short excursions from the steeple, and tamer fowls have gone home from the darkening and dewy green. But old Bunyan's donkey is still browsing there, and yonder is old Bunyan's self-the brawny tramper dispread on the settle, retailing to the more clownish residents tap-room wit and roadside news. However, it is young Bunyan you wish to see. Yonder he is, the noisiest of the party, playing pitch-and-toss — that one with the shaggy eyebrows, whose entire soul is ascending in the twirling penny-grim enough to be the blacksmith's apprentice, but his singed garments hanging round him with a lank and idle freedom which scoms indentures; his energetic movements and authoritative vociferations at once bespeaking the ragamuffin ringleader. The penny has come down with the wrong side uppermost, and the loud execration at once bewrays young “Badman.” You have only to remember that it is Sabbath evening, and you
EARLY ADVENTURES AND DANGERS.
witness a scene often enacted on Elstow Green two hundred years ago.
The strong depraving element in Bunyan's character was ungodliness. He walked according to the course of this world, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and conscious of his own rebellion, he said unto God, “ Depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of Thy ways." The only restraining influence of which he then felt the power was terror. His days were often gloomy through forebodings of the wrath to come; and his nights were scared with visions, which the boisterous diversions and adventures of his waking day could not always dispel. He would dream that the last day had arrived, and that the quaking earth was opening its mouth to let him down to hell; or he would find himself in the
of fiends who were dragging him powerless away. And musing over these terrors of the night, yet feeling that he could not abandon his sins, in his despair of heaven his anxious fancy would suggest to him all sorts of strange desires. He would wish that there had been no hell at all; or that, if he must needs go thither, he might be a devil,“ supposing they were only tormentors, and I would rather be a tormentor than tormented myself.”
These were the fears of his childhood. As he grew older he grew harder. He experienced some remarkable providences, but they neither startled nor melted him. He once fell into the sea, and another time out of a boat into Bedford river, and either time had a narrow escape from drowning. One day in the field with a companion, an adder glided across their path. Bunyan's ready switch stunned it in a moment; but with characteristic daring, he forced open the creature's mouth, and plucked out the fangs—a foolhardiness which, as he himself observes, might, but for God's mercy, have brought him to his end. In the civil war he was "drawn” as a soldier to go to the siege of Leicester; but when ready to set out, a comrade