Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Life of John Bunyan by Edmund Venables, M.A.

Part 3 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

between the stairhead and the middle of the stairs, he resolved
that the best work he could do for God was to get Bunyan's books
printed and sell them - adding, "I have sold about 3,000"), and
others, a few years later, including one of the raciest of his
compositions, "The Heavenly Footman," bought by Doe of Bunyan's
eldest son, and, he says, "put into the World in Print Word for
Word as it came from him to Me."

At the time that death surprised him, Bunyan had gained no small
celebrity in London as a popular preacher, and approached the
nearest to a position of worldly honour. Though we must probably
reject the idea that he ever filled the office of Chaplain to the
Lord Mayor of London, Sir John Shorter, the fact that he is styled
"his Lordship's teacher" proves that there was some relation more
than that of simple friendship between the chief magistrate and the
Bedford minister. But the society of the great was never congenial
to him. If they were godly as well as great, he would not shrink
from intercourse, with those of a rank above his own, but his heart
was with his own humble folk at Bedford. Worldly advancement he
rejected for his family as well as for himself. A London merchant,
it is said, offered to take his son Joseph into his house of
business without the customary premium. But the offer was declined
with what we may consider an overstrained independence. "God," he
said, "did not send me to advance my family but to preach the
gospel." "An instance of other-worldliness," writes Dr. Brown,
"perhaps more consistent with the honour of the father than with
the prosperity of the son."

Bunyan's end was in keeping with his life. He had ever sought to
be a peacemaker and to reconcile differences, and thus had
"hindered many mishaps and saved many families from ruin." His
last effort of the kind caused his death. The father of a young
man in whom he took an interest, had resolved, on some offence,
real or supposed, to disinherit his son. The young man sought
Bunyan's mediation. Anxious to heal the breach, Bunyan mounted his
horse and took the long journey to the father's house at Reading -
the scene, as we have noticed, of his occasional ministrations -
where he pleaded the offender's cause so effectually as to obtain a
promise of forgiveness. Bunyan returned homewards through London,
where he was appointed to preach at Mr. Gamman's meeting-house near
Whitechapel. His forty miles' ride to London was through heavy
driving rain. He was weary and drenched to the skin when he
reached the house of his "very loving friend," John Strudwick,
grocer and chandler, at the sign of the Star, Holborn Bridge, at
the foot of Snow Hill, and deacon of the Nonconformist meeting in
Red Cross Street. A few months before Bunyan had suffered from the
sweating sickness. The exposure caused a return of the malady, and
though well enough to fulfil his pulpit engagement on Sunday, the
19th of August, on the following Tuesday dangerous symptoms
declared themselves, and in ten days the disease proved fatal. He
died within two months of completing his sixtieth year, on the 31st
of August, 1688, just a month before the publication of the
Declaration of the Prince of Orange opened a new era of civil and
religious liberty, and between two and three months before the
Prince's landing in Torbay. He was buried in Mr. Strudwick's
newly-purchased vault, in what Southey has termed the Campo Santo
of Nonconformists, the burial-ground in Finsbury, taking its name
of Bunhill or Bonehill Field, from a vast mass of human remains
removed to it from the charnel house of St. Paul's Cathedral in
1549. At a later period it served as a place of interment for
those who died in the Great Plague of 1665. The day after Bunyan's
funeral, his powerful friend, Sir John Shorter, the Lord Mayor, had
a fatal fall from his horse in Smithfield, and "followed him across
the river."

By his first wife, whose Christian name is nowhere recorded, Bunyan
had four children - two sons and two daughters; and by his second
wife, the heroic Elizabeth, one son and one daughter. All of these
survived him except his eldest daughter Mary, his tenderly-loved
blind child, who died before him. His wife only survived him for a
brief period, "following her faithful pilgrim from this world to
the other whither he was gone before her" either in 1691 or 1692.
Forgetful of the "deed of gift," or ignorant of its bearing,
Bunyan's widow took out letters of administration of her late
husband's estate, which appears from the Register Book to have
amounted to no more than, 42 pounds 19s. On this, and the proceeds
of his books, she supported herself till she rejoined him.

Bunyan's character and person are thus described by Charles Doe:
"He appeared in countenance to be of a stern and rough temper. But
in his conversation he was mild and affable, not given to loquacity
or much discourse in company, unless some urgent occasion required
it. Observing never to boast of himself or his parts, but rather
to seem low in his own eyes and submit himself to the judgment of
others. Abhorring lying and swearing, being just, in all that lay
in his power, to his word. Not seeming to revenge injuries; loving
to reconcile differences and make friendship with all. He had a
sharp, quick eye, with an excellent discerning of persons, being of
good judgment and quick wit. He was tall of stature, strong-boned,
though not corpulent; somewhat of a ruddy face, with sparkling
eyes, wearing his hair on his upper lip after the old British
fashion. His hair reddish, but in his later days time had
sprinkled it with grey. His nose well set, but not declining or
bending. His mouth moderately large, his forehead something high,
and his habit always plain and modest. Not puffed up in
prosperity, nor shaken in adversity, always holding the golden

We may add the portrait drawn by one who had been his companion and
fellow-sufferer for many years, John Nelson: "His countenance was
grave and sedate, and did so to the life discover the inward frame
of his heart, that it was convincing to the beholders and did
strike something of awe into them that had nothing of the fear of

The same friend speaks thus of Bunyan's preaching: "As a minister
of Christ he was laborious in his work of preaching, diligent in
his preparation for it, and faithful in dispensing the Word, not
sparing reproof whether in the pulpit or no, yet ready to succour
the tempted; a son of consolation to the broken-hearted, yet a son
of thunder to secure and dead sinners. His memory was tenacious,
it being customary with him to commit his sermons to writing after
he had preached them. A rich anointing of the Spirit was upon him,
yet this great saint was always in his own eyes the chiefest of
sinners and the least of saints."

An anecdote is told which, Southey says, "authenticates itself,"
that one day when he had preached "with peculiar warmth and
enlargement," one of his hearers remarked "what a sweet sermon he
had delivered." "Ay," was Bunyan's reply, "you have no need to
tell me that, for the devil whispered it to me before I was well
out of the pulpit." As an evidence of the estimation in which
Bunyan was held by the highly-educated, it is recorded that Charles
the Second expressed his surprise to Dr. Owen that "a learned man
such as he could sit and listen to an illiterate tinker." "May it
please your Majesty," Owen replied. "I would gladly give up all my
learning if I could preach like that tinker."

Although much of Bunyan's literary activity was devoted to
controversy, he had none of the narrowness or bitter spirit of a
controversialist. It is true that his zeal for what he deemed to
be truth led him into vehemence of language in dealing with those
whom he regarded as its perverters. But this intensity of speech
was coupled with the utmost charity of spirit towards those who
differed from him. Few ever had less of the sectarian temper which
lays greater stress on the infinitely small points on which all
true Christians differ than on the infinitely great truths on which
they are agreed. Bunyan inherited from his spiritual father, John
Gifford, a truly catholic spirit. External differences he regarded
as insignificant where he found real Christian faith and love. "I
would be," he writes, "as I hope I am, a Christian. But for those
factious titles of Anabaptist, Independent, Presbyterian, and the
like, I conclude that they come neither from Jerusalem nor from
Antioch, but from Hell or from Babylon." "He was," writes one of
his early biographers, "a true lover of all that love our Lord
Jesus, and did often bewail the different and distinguishing
appellations that are among the godly, saying he did believe a time
would come when they should be all buried." The only persons he
scrupled to hold communion with were those whose lives were openly
immoral. "Divisions about non-essentials," he said, "were to
churches what wars were to countries. Those who talked most about
religion cared least for it; and controversies about doubtful
things and things of little moment, ate up all zeal for things
which were practical and indisputable." His last sermon breathed
the same catholic spirit, free from the trammels of narrow
sectarianism. "If you are the children of God live together
lovingly. If the world quarrel with you it is no matter; but it is
sad if you quarrel together. If this be among you it is a sign of
ill-breeding. Dost thou see a soul that has the image of God in
him? Love him, love him. Say, 'This man and I must go to heaven
one day.' Serve one another. Do good for one another. If any
wrong you pray to God to right you, and love the brotherhood." The
closing words of this his final testimony are such as deserve to be
written in letters of gold as the sum of all true Christian
teaching: "Be ye holy in all manner of conversation: Consider
that the holy God is your Father, and let this oblige you to live
like the children of God, that you may look your Father in the face
with comfort another day." "There is," writes Dean Stanley, "no
compromise in his words, no faltering in his convictions; but his
love and admiration are reserved on the whole for that which all
good men love, and his detestation on the whole is reserved for
that which all good men detest." By the catholic spirit which
breathes through his writings, especially through "The Pilgrim's
Progress," the tinker of Elstow "has become the teacher not of any
particular sect, but of the Universal Church."


We have, in this concluding chapter, to take a review of Bunyan's
merits as a writer, with especial reference to the works on which
his fame mainly rests, and, above all, to that which has given him
his chief title to be included in a series of Great Writers, "The
Pilgrim's Progress." Bunyan, as we have seen, was a very copious
author. His works, as collected by the late industrious Mr. Offor,
fill three bulky quarto volumes, each of nearly eight hundred
double-columned pages in small type. And this copiousness of
production is combined with a general excellence in the matter
produced. While few of his books approach the high standard of
"The Pilgrim's Progress" or "Holy War," none, it may be truly said,
sink very far below that standard. It may indeed be affirmed that
it was impossible for Bunyan to write badly. His genius was a
native genius. As soon as he began to write at all, he wrote well.
Without any training, is he says, in the school of Aristotle or
Plato, or any study of the great masters of literature, at one
bound he leapt to a high level of thought and composition. His
earliest book, "Some Gospel Truths Opened," "thrown off," writes
Dr. Brown, "at a heat," displays the same ease of style and
directness of speech and absence of stilted phraseology which he
maintained to the end. The great charm which pervades all Bunyan's
writings is their naturalness. You never feel that he is writing
for effect, still less to perform an uncongenial piece of task-
work. He writes because he had something to say which was worth
saying, a message to deliver on which the highest interests of
others were at stake, which demanded nothing more than a
straightforward earnestness and plainness of speech, such as coming
from the heart might best reach the hearts of others. He wrote as
he spoke, because a necessity was laid upon him which he dared not
evade. As he says in a passage quoted in a former chapter, he
might have stepped into a much higher style, and have employed more
literary ornament. But to attempt this would be, to one of his
intense earnestness, to degrade his calling. He dared not do it.
Like the great Apostle, "his speech and preaching was not with
enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit
and in power." God had not played with him, and he dared not play
with others. His errand was much too serious, and their need and
danger too urgent to waste time in tricking out his words with
human skill. And it is just this which, with all their rudeness,
their occasional bad grammar, and homely colloquialisms, gives to
Bunyan's writings a power of riveting the attention and stirring
the affections which few writers have attained to. The pent-up
fire glows in every line, and kindles the hearts of his readers.
"Beautiful images, vivid expressions, forcible arguments all aglow
with passion, tender pleadings, solemn warnings, make those who
read him all eye, all ear, all soul." This native vigour is
attributable, in no small degree, to the manner in which for the
most part Bunyan's works came into being. He did not set himself
to compose theological treatises upon stated subjects, but after he
had preached with satisfaction to himself and acceptance with his
audience, he usually wrote out the substance of his discourse from
memory, with the enlargements and additions it might seem to
require. And thus his religious works have all the glow and
fervour of the unwritten utterances of a practised orator, united
with the orderliness and precision of a theologian, and are no less
admirable for the excellence of their arrangement than for their
evangelical spirit and scriptural doctrine. Originally meant to be
heard, they lose somewhat by being read. But few can read them
without being delighted with the opulence of his imagination and
impressed with the solemn earnestness of his convictions. Like the
subject of the portrait described by him in the House of the
Interpreter, he stands "like one who pleads with men, the law of
truth written upon his lips, the world behind his back, and a crown
of gold above his head."

These characteristics, which distinguish Bunyan as a writer from
most of his Puritan contemporaries, are most conspicuous in the
works by which he is chiefly known, "The Pilgrim's Progress," the
"Holy War," the "Grace Abounding," and we may add, though from the
repulsiveness of the subject the book is now scarcely read at all,
the "Life and Death of Mr. Badman."

One great charm of these works, especially of "The Pilgrim's
Progress," lies in the pure Saxon English in which they are
written, which render them models of the English speech, plain but
never vulgar, homely but never coarse, and still less unclean, full
of imagery but never obscure, always intelligible, always forcible,
going straight to the point in the fewest and simplest words;
"powerful and picturesque," writes Hallam, "from concise
simplicity." Bunyan's style is recommended by Lord Macaulay as an
invaluable study to every person who wishes to gain a wide command
over his mother tongue. Its vocabulary is the vocabulary of the
common people. "There is not," he truly says, "in 'The Pilgrim's
Progress' a single expression, if we except a few technical terms
of theology, that would puzzle the rudest peasant." We may, look
through whole pages, and not find a word of more than two
syllables. Nor is the source of this pellucid clearness and
imaginative power far to seek. Bunyan was essentially a man of one
book, and that book the very best, not only for its spiritual
teaching but for the purity of its style, the English Bible. "In
no book," writes Mr. J. R. Green, "do we see more clearly than in
'The Pilgrim's Progress' the new imaginative force which had been
given to the common life of Englishmen by their study of the Bible.
Bunyan's English is the simplest and homeliest English that has
ever been used by any great English writer, but it is the English
of the Bible. His images are the images of prophet and evangelist.
So completely had the Bible become Bunyan's life that one feels its
phrases as the natural expression of his thoughts. He had lived in
the Bible till its words became his own."

All who have undertaken to take an estimate of Bunyan's literary
genius call special attention to the richness of his imaginative
power. Few writers indeed have possessed this power in so high a
degree. In nothing, perhaps, is its vividness more displayed than
in the reality of its impersonations. The DRAMATIS PERSONS are not
shadowy abstractions, moving far above us in a mystical world, or
lay figures ticketed with certain names, but solid men and women of
our own flesh and blood, living in our own everyday world, and of
like passions with ourselves. Many of them we know familiarly;
there is hardly one we should be surprised to meet any day. This
life-like power of characterization belongs in the highest degree
to "The Pilgrim's Progress." It is hardly inferior in "The Holy
War," though with some exceptions the people of "Mansoul" have
failed to engrave themselves on the popular memory as the
characters of the earlier allegory have done. The secret of this
graphic power, which gives "The Pilgrim's Progress" its universal
popularity, is that Bunyan describes men and women of his own day,
such as he had known and seen them. They are not fancy pictures,
but literal portraits. Though the features may be exaggerated, and
the colours laid on with an unsparing brush, the outlines of his
bold personifications are truthfully drawn from his own experience.
He had had to do with every one of them. He could have given a
personal name to most of them, and we could do the same to many.
We are not unacquainted with Mr Byends of the town of Fair Speech,
who "always has the luck to jump in his judgment with the way of
the times, and to get thereby," who is zealous for Religion "when
he goes in his silver slippers," and "loves to walk with him in the
streets when the sun shines and the people applaud him." All his
kindred and surroundings are only too familiar to us - his wife,
that very virtuous woman my Lady Feigning's daughter, my Lord Fair-
speech, my Lord Time-server, Mr. Facingbothways, Mr. Anything, and
the Parson of the Parish, his mother's own brother by the father's
side, Mr. Twotongues. Nor is his schoolmaster, one Mr. Gripeman,
of the market town of Lovegain, in the county of Coveting, a
stranger to us. Obstinate, with his dogged determination and
stubborn common-sense, and Pliable with his shallow
impressionableness, are among our acquaintances. We have, before
now, come across "the brisk lad Ignorance from the town of
Conceit," and have made acquaintance with Mercy's would-be suitor,
Mr. Brisk, "a man of some breeding and that pretended to religion,
but who stuck very close to the world." The man Temporary who
lived in a town two miles off from Honesty, and next door to Mr.
Turnback; Formalist and Hypocrisy, who were "from the land of
Vainglory, and were going for praise to Mount Sion"; Simple, Sloth,
and Presumption, "fast asleep by the roadside with fetters on their
heels," and their companions, Shortwind, Noheart, Lingerafterlust,
and Sleepyhead, we know them all. "The young woman whose name was
Dull" taxes our patience every day. Where is the town which does
not contain Mrs. Timorous and her coterie of gossips, Mrs. Bats-
eyes, Mrs. Inconsiderate, Mrs. Lightmind, and Mrs. Knownothing,
"all as merry as the maids," with that pretty fellow Mr. Lechery at
the house of Madam Wanton, that "admirably well-bred gentlewoman"?
Where shall we find more lifelike portraits than those of Madam
Bubble, a "tall, comely dame, somewhat of a swarthy complexion,
speaking very smoothly with a smile at the end of each sentence,
wearing a great purse by her side, with her hand often in it,
fingering her money as if that was her chief delight;" of poor
Feeblemind of the town of Uncertain, with his "whitely look, the
cast in his eye, and his trembling speech;" of Littlefaith, as
"white as a clout," neither able to fight nor fly when the thieves
from Dead Man's Lane were on him; of Ready-to-halt, at first coming
along on his crutches, and then when Giant Despair had been slain
and Doubting Castle demolished, taking Despondency's daughter
Muchafraid by the hand and dancing with her in the road? "True, he
could not dance without one crutch in his hand, but I promise you
he footed it well. Also the girl was to be commanded, for she
answered the musick handsomely." In Bunyan's pictures there is
never a superfluous detail. Every stroke tells, and helps to the
completeness of the portraiture.

The same reality characterizes the descriptive part of "The
Pilgrim's Progress." As his characters are such as he must meet
with every day in his native town, so also the scenery and
surroundings of his allegory are part of his own every-day life,
and reproduce what he had been brought up amidst in his native
county, or had noticed in his tinker's wanderings. "Born and
bred," writes Kingsley, "in the monotonous Midland, he had no
natural images beyond the pastures and brooks, the town and country
houses, he saw about him." The Slough of Despond, with its
treacherous quagmire in the midst of the plain, into which a
wayfarer might heedlessly fall, with its stepping-stones half
drowned in mire; Byepathmeadow, promising so fair, with its stile
and footpath on the other side of the fence; the pleasant river
fringed with meadows, green all the year long and overshadowed with
trees; the thicket all overgrown with briars and thorns, where one
tumbled over a bush, another stuck fast in the dirt, some lost
their shoes in the mire, and others were fastened from behind with
the brambles; the high wall by the roadside over which the fruit
trees shot their boughs and tempted the boys with their unripe
plums; the arbour with its settle tempting the footsore traveller
to drowsiness; the refreshing spring at the bottom of Hill
Difficulty; all are evidently drawn from his own experience.
Bunyan, in his long tramps, had seen them all. He had known what
it was to be in danger of falling into a pit and being dashed to
pieces with Vain Confidence, of being drowned in the flooded
meadows with Christian and Hopeful; of sinking in deep water when
swimming over a river, going down and rising up half dead, and
needing all his companion's strength and skill to keep his head
above the stream. Vanity Fair is evidently drawn from the life.
The great yearly fair of Stourbridge, close to Cambridge, which
Bunyan had probably often visited in his tinker days, with its
streets of booths filled with "wares of all kinds from all
countries," its "shows, jugglings, cheats games, plays, fools,
apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind," its "great one
of the fair," its court of justice and power of judgment, furnished
him with the materials for his picture. Scenes like these he draws
with sharp defined outlines. When he had to describe what he only
knew by hearsay, his pictures are shadowy and cold. Never having
been very far from home, he had had no experience of the higher
types of beauty and grandeur in nature, and his pen moves in
fetters when he attempts to describe them. When his pilgrims come
to the Hill Difficulty and the Delectable Mountains, the difference
is at once seen. All his nobler imagery is drawn from Scripture.
As Hallam has remarked, "There is scarcely a circumstance or
metaphor in the Old Testament which does not find a place bodily
and literally in 'The Pilgrim's Progress,' and this has made his
imagination appear more creative than it really is."

It would but weary the reader to follow the details of a narrative
which is so universally known. Who needs to be told that in the
pilgrimage here described is represented in allegorical dress the
course of a human soul convinced of sin, struggling onwards to
salvation through the trials and temptations that beset its path to
its eternal home? The book is so completely wrought into the mind
and memory, that most of us can at once recall the incidents which
chequer the pilgrim's way, and realize their meaning; the Slough of
Despond, in which the man convinced of his guilt and fleeing from
the wrath to come, in his agonizing self-consciousness is in danger
of being swallowed up in despair; the Wicket Gate, by which he
enters on the strait and narrow way of holiness; the Interpreter's
House, with his visions and acted parables; the Wayside Cross, at
the sight of which the burden of guilt falls from the pilgrim's
back, and he is clothed with change of raiment; the Hill
Difficulty, which stands right in his way, and which he must
surmount, not circumvent; the lions which he has to pass, not
knowing that they are chained; the Palace Beautiful, where he is
admitted to the communion of the faithful, and sits down to meat
with them; the Valley of Humiliation, the scene of his desperate
but victorious encounter with Apollyon; the Valley of the Shadow of
Death, with its evil sights and doleful sounds, where one of the
wicked ones whispers into his ear thoughts of blasphemy which he
cannot distinguish from the suggestions of his own mind; the cave
at the valley's mouth, in which, Giant Pagan having been dead this
many a day, his brother, Giant Pope, now sits alone, grinning at
pilgrims as they pass by, and biting his nails because he cannot
get at them; Vanity Fair, the picture of the world, as St. John
describes it, hating the light that puts to shame its own self-
chosen darkness, and putting it out if it can, where the Pilgrim's
fellow, Faithful, seals his testimony with his death, and the
Pilgrim himself barely escapes; the "delicate plain" called Ease,
and the little hill, Lucre, where Demas stood "gentlemanlike," to
invite the passersby to come and dig in his silver mine; Byepath
Meadow, into which the Pilgrim and his newly-found companion stray,
and are made prisoners by Giant Despair and shut up in the dungeons
of Doubting Castle, and break out of prison by the help of the Key
of Promise; the Delectable Mountains in Immanuel's Land, with their
friendly shepherds and the cheering prospect of the far-off
heavenly city; the Enchanted Land, with its temptations to
spiritual drowsiness at the very end of the journey; the Land of
Beulah, the ante-chamber of the city to which they were bound; and,
last stage of all, the deep dark river, without a bridge, which had
to be crossed before the city was entered; the entrance into its
heavenly gates, the pilgrim's joyous reception with all the bells
in the city ringing again for joy; the Dreamer's glimpse of its
glories through the opened portals - is not every stage of the
journey, every scene of the pilgrimage, indelibly printed on our
memories, for our warning, our instruction, our encouragement in
the race we, as much as they, have each one to run? Have we not
all, again and again, shared the Dreamer's feelings - "After that
they shut up the Gates; which, when I had seen, I wished myself
among them," and prayed, God helping us, that our "dangerous
journey" - ever the most dangerous when we see its dangers the
least - might end in our "safe arrival at the desired country"?

"The Pilgrim's Progress" exhibits Bunyan in the character by which
he would have most desired to be remembered, as one of the most
influential of Christian preachers. Hallam, however, claims for
him another distinction which would have greatly startled and
probably shocked him, as the father of our English novelists. As
an allegorist Bunyan had many predecessors, not a few of whom,
dating from early times, had taken the natural allegory of the
pilgrimage of human life as the basis of their works. But as a
novelist he had no one to show him the way. Bunyan was the first
to break ground in a field which has since then been so
overabundantly worked that the soil has almost lost its
productiveness; while few novels written purely with the object of
entertainment have ever proved so universally entertaining.
Intensely religious as it is in purpose, "The Pilgrim's Progress"
may be safely styled the first English novel. "The claim to be the
father of English romance," writes Dr. Allon, "which has been
sometimes preferred for Defoe, really pertains to Bunyan. Defoe
may claim the parentage of a species, but Bunyan is the creator of
the genus." As the parent of fictitious biography it is that
Bunyan has charmed the world. On its vivid interest as a story,
its universal interest and lasting vitality rest. "Other
allegorises," writes Lord Macaulay, "have shown great ingenuity,
but no other allegorist has ever been able to touch the heart, and
to make its abstractions objects of terror, of pity, and of love."
Whatever its deficiencies, literary and religious, may be; if we
find incongruities in the narrative, and are not insensible to some
grave theological deficiencies; if we are unable without
qualification to accept Coleridge's dictum that it is "incomparably
the best 'Summa Theologiae Evangelicae' ever produced by a writer
not miraculously inspired;" even if, with Hallam, we consider its
"excellencies great indeed, but not of the highest order," and deem
it "a little over-praised," the fact of its universal popularity
with readers of all classes and of all orders of intellect remains,
and gives this book a unique distinction. "I have," says Dr.
Arnold, when reading it after a long interval, "always been struck
by its piety. I am now struck equally or even more by its profound
wisdom. It seems to be a complete reflexion of Scripture." And to
turn to a critic of very different character, Dean Swift: "I have
been better entertained and more improved," writes that cynical
pessimist, "by a few pages of this book than by a long discourse on
the will and intellect." The favourite of our childhood, as "the
most perfect and complex of fairy tales, so human and
intelligible," read, as Hallam says, "at an age when the spiritual
meaning is either little perceived or little regarded," the
"Pilgrim's Progress" becomes the chosen companion of our later
years, perused with ever fresh appreciation of its teaching, and
enjoyment of its native genius; "the interpreter of life to all who
are perplexed with its problems, and the practical guide and solace
of all who need counsel and sympathy."

The secret of this universal acceptableness of "The Pilgrim's
Progress" lies in the breadth of its religious sympathies. Rigid
Puritan as Bunyan was, no book is more completely free from
sectarian narrowness. Its reach is as wide as Christianity itself,
and it takes hold of every human heart because it is so intensely
human. No apology is needed for presenting Mr. Froude's eloquent
panegyric: "The Pilgrim, though in Puritan dress, is a genuine
man. His experience is so truly human experience that Christians
of every persuasion can identify themselves with him; and even
those who regard Christianity itself as but a natural outgrowth of
the conscience and intellect, and yet desire to live nobly and make
the best of themselves, can recognize familiar footprints in every
step of Christian's journey. Thus 'The Pilgrim's Progress' is a
book which when once read can never be forgotten. We too, every
one of us, are pilgrims on the same road; and images and
illustrations come back to us from so faithful an itinerary, as we
encounter similar trials, and learn for ourselves the accuracy with
which Bunyan has described them. Time cannot impair its interest,
or intellectual progress make it cease to be true to experience."
Dr. Brown's appreciative words may be added: "With deepest pathos
it enters into the stern battle so real to all of us, into those
heart-experiences which make up, for all, the discipline of life.
It is this especially which has given to it the mighty hold which
it has always had upon the toiling poor, and made it the one book
above all books well-thumbed and torn to tatters among them. And
it is this which makes it one of the first books translated by the
missionary who seeks to give true thoughts of God and life to
heathen men."

The Second Part of "The Pilgrim's Progress" partakes of the
character of almost all continuations. It is, in Mr. Froude's
words, "only a feeble reverberation of the first part, which has
given it a popularity it would have hardly attained by its own
merits. Christiana and her children are tolerated for the
pilgrim's sake to whom they belong." Bunyan seems not to have been
insensible of this himself, when in his metrical preface he thus
introduces his new work:

"Go now my little book to every place
Where my first Pilgrim has but shown his face.
Call at their door; if any say 'Who's there?'
Then answer thus, 'Christiana is here.'
If they bid thee come in, then enter thou
With all thy boys. And then, as thou know'st how,
Tell who they are, also from whence they came;
Perhaps they'll know them by their looks or name."

But although the Second Part must be pronounced inferior, on the
whole, to the first, it is a work of striking individuality and
graphic power, such as Bunyan alone could have written. Everywhere
we find strokes of his peculiar genius, and though in a smaller
measure than the first, it has added not a few portraits to
Bunyan's spiritual picture gallery we should be sorry to miss, and
supplied us with racy sayings which stick to the memory. The sweet
maid Mercy affords a lovely picture of gentle feminine piety, well
contrasted with the more vigorous but still thoroughly womanly
character of Christiana. Great-Heart is too much of an
abstraction: a preacher in the uncongenial disguise of a knightly
champion of distressed females and the slayer of giants. But the
other new characters have generally a vivid personality. Who can
forget Old Honesty, the dull good man with no mental gifts but of
dogged sincerity, who though coming from the Town of Stupidity,
four degrees beyond the City of Destruction, was "known for a cock
of the right kind," because he said the truth and stuck to it; or
his companion, Mr. Fearing, that most troublesome of pilgrims,
stumbling at every straw, lying roaring at the Slough of Despond
above a month together, standing shaking and shrinking at the
Wicket Gate, but making no stick at the Lions, and at last getting
over the river not much above wetshod; or Mr. Valiant for Truth,
the native of Darkland, standing with his sword drawn and his face
all bloody from his three hours' fight with Wildhead,
Inconsiderate, and Pragmatick; Mr. Standfast, blushing to be found
on his knees in the Enchanted Ground, one who loved to hear his
Lord spoken of, and coveted to set his foot wherever he saw the
print of his shoe; Mr. Feeblemind, the sickly, melancholy pilgrim,
at whose door death did usually knock once a day, betaking himself
to a pilgrim's life because he was never well at home, resolved to
run when he could, and go when he could not run, and creep when he
could not go, an enemy to laughter and to gay attire, bringing up
the rear of the company with Mr. Readytohalt hobbling along on his
crutches; Giant Despair's prisoners, Mr. Despondency, whom he had
all but starved to death - and Mistress Much-afraid his daughter,
who went through the river singing, though none could understand
what she said? Each of these characters has a distinct
individuality which lifts them from shadowy abstractions into
living men and women. But with all its excellencies, and they are
many, the general inferiority of the history of Christiana and her
children's pilgrimage to that of her husband's must be
acknowledged. The story is less skilfully constructed; the
interest is sometimes allowed to flag; the dialogues that interrupt
the narrative are in places dry and wearisome - too much of sermons
in disguise. There is also a want of keeping between the two parts
of the allegory. The Wicket Gate of the First Part has become a
considerable building with a summer parlour in the Second; the
shepherds' tents on the Delectable Mountains have risen into a
palace, with a dining-room, and a looking-glass, and a store of
jewels; while Vanity Fair has lost its former bad character, and
has become a respectable country town, where Christiana and her
family, seeming altogether to forget their pilgrimage, settled down
comfortably, enjoy the society of the good people of the place, and
the sons marry and have children. These same children also cause
the reader no little perplexity, when he finds them in the course
of the supposed journey transformed from sweet babes who are
terrified with the Mastiffs barking at the Wicket Gate, who catch
at the boughs for the unripe plums and cry at having to climb the
hill; whose faces are stroked by the Interpreter; who are
catechised and called "good boys" by Prudence; who sup on bread
crumbled into basins of milk, and are put to bed by Mercy - into
strong young men, able to go out and fight with a giant, and lend a
hand to the pulling down of Doubting Castle, and becoming husbands
and fathers. We cannot but feel the want of VRAISEMBLANCE which
brings the whole company of pilgrims to the banks of the dark river
at one time, and sends them over in succession, following one
another rapidly through the Golden Gate of the City. The four boys
with their wives and children, it is true, stay behind awhile, but
there is an evident incongruity in their doing so when the allegory
has brought them all to what stands for the close of their earthly
pilgrimage. Bunyan's mistake was in gratifying his inventive
genius and making his band of pilgrims so large. He could get them
together and make them travel in company without any sacrifice of
dramatic truth, which, however, he was forced to disregard when the
time came for their dismissal. The exquisite pathos of the
description of the passage of the river by Christian and Hopeful
blinds us to what may be almost termed the impossibility of two
persons passing through the final struggle together, and dying at
the same moment, but this charm is wanting in the prosaic picture
of the company of fellow-travellers coming down to the water's
edge, and waiting till the postman blows his horn and bids them
cross. Much as the Second Part contains of what is admirable, and
what no one but Bunyan could have written, we feel after reading it
that, in Mr. Froude's words, the rough simplicity is gone, and has
been replaced by a tone of sentiment which is almost mawkish.
"Giants, dragons, and angelic champions carry us into a spurious
fairyland where the knight-errant is a preacher in disguise. Fair
ladies and love-matches, however decorously chastened, suit ill
with the sternness of the mortal conflict between the soul and
sin." With the acknowledged shortcomings of the Second Part of
"The Pilgrim's Progress," we may be well content that Bunyan never
carried out the idea hinted at in the closing words of his
allegory: "Shall it be my lot to go that way again, I may give
those that desire it an account of what I am here silent about; in
the meantime I bid my reader - Adieu."

Bunyan's second great allegorical work, "The Holy War," need not
detain us long. Being an attempt, and in the nature of things an
unsuccessful attempt, to clothe what writers on divinity call "the
plan of salvation" in a figurative dress, the narrative, with all
its vividness of description in parts, its clearly drawn characters
with their picturesque nomenclature, and the stirring vicissitudes
of the drama, is necessarily wanting in the personal interest which
attaches to an individual man, like Christian, and those who are
linked with or follow his career. In fact, the tremendous
realities of the spiritual history of the human race are entirely
unfit for allegorical treatment as a whole. Sin, its origin, its
consequences, its remedy, and the apparent failure of that remedy
though administered by Almighty hands, must remain a mystery for
all time. The attempts made by Bunyan, and by one of much higher
intellectual power and greater poetic gifts than Bunyan - John
Milton - to bring that mystery within the grasp of the finite
intellect, only render it more perplexing. The proverbial line
tells us that -

"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

Bunyan and Milton were as far as possible from being "fools"; but
when both these great writers, on the one hand, carry us up into
the Council Chamber of Heaven and introduce us to the Persons of
the ever-blessed Trinity, debating, consulting, planning, and
resolving, like a sovereign and his ministers when a revolted
province has to be brought back to its allegiance; and, on the
other hand, take us down to the infernal regions, and makes us
privy to the plots and counterplots of the rebel leaders and
hearers of their speeches, we cannot but feel that, in spite of the
magnificent diction and poetic imagination of the one, and the
homely picturesque genius of the other, the grand themes treated of
are degraded if not vulgarized, without our being in any way helped
to unravel their essential mysteries. In point of individual
personal interest, "The Holy War" contrasts badly with "The
Pilgrim's Progress." The narrative moves in a more shadowy region.
We may admire the workmanship; but the same undefined sense of
unreality pursues us through Milton's noble epic, the outcome of a
divinely-fired genius, and Bunyan's humble narrative, drawing its
scenes and circumstances, and to some extent its DRAMATIS PERSONAE,
from the writer's own surroundings in the town and corporation of
Bedford, and his brief but stirring experience as a soldier in the
great Parliamentary War. The catastrophe also is eminently
unsatisfactory. When Christian and Hopeful enter the Golden Gates
we feel that the story has come to its proper end, which we have
been looking for all along. But the conclusion of "The Holy War"
is too much like the closing chapter of "Rasselas" - "a conclusion
in which nothing is concluded." After all the endless vicissitudes
of the conflict, and the final and glorious victory of Emmanuel and
his forces, and the execution of the ringleaders of the mutiny, the
issue still remains doubtful. The town of Mansoul is left open to
fresh attacks. Diabolus is still at large. Carnal Sense breaks
prison and continues to lurk in the town. Unbelief, that "nimble
Jack," slips away, and can never be laid hold of. These,
therefore, and some few others of the more subtle of the
Diabolonians, continue to make their home in Mansoul, and will do
so until Mansoul ceases to dwell in the kingdom of Universe. It is
true they turn chicken-hearted after the other leaders of their
party have been taken and executed, and keep themselves quiet and
close, lurking in dens and holes lest they should be snapped up by
Emmanuel's men. If Unbelief or any of his crew venture to show
themselves in the streets, the whole town is up in arms against
them; the very children raise a hue and cry against them and seek
to stone them. But all in vain. Mansoul, it is true, enjoys some
good degree of peace and quiet. Her Prince takes up his residence
in her borders. Her captains and soldiers do their duties. She
minds her trade with the heavenly land afar off; also she is busy
in her manufacture. But with the remnants of the Diabolonians
still within her walls, ready to show their heads on the least
relaxation of strict watchfulness, keeping up constant
communication with Diabolus and the other lords of the pit, and
prepared to open the gates to them when opportunity offers, this
peace can not be lasting. The old battle will have to be fought
over again, only to end in the same undecisive result. And so it
must be to the end. If untrue to art, Bunyan is true to fact.
Whether we regard Mansoul as the soul of a single individual or as
the whole human race, no final victory can be looked for so long as
it abides in "the country of Universe." The flesh will lust
against the spirit, the regenerated man will be in danger of being
brought into captivity to the law of sin and death unless he keeps
up his watchfulness and maintains the struggle to the end.

And it is here, that, for purposes of art, not for purposes of
truth, the real failing of "The Holy War" lies. The drama of
Mansoul is incomplete, and whether individually or collectively,
must remain incomplete till man puts on a new nature, and the
victory, once for all gained on Calvary, is consummated, in the
fulness of time, at the restitution of all things. There is no
uncertainty what the end will be. Evil must be put down, and good
must triumph at last. But the end is not yet, and it seems as far
off as ever. The army of Doubters, under their several captains,
Election Doubters, Vocation Doubters, Salvation Doubters, Grace
Doubters, with their general the great Lord Incredulity at their
head, reinforced by many fresh regiments under novel standards,
unknown and unthought of in Bunyan's days, taking the place of
those whose power is past, is ever making new attacks upon poor
Mansoul, and terrifying feeble souls with their threatenings.
Whichever way we look there is much to puzzle, much to grieve over,
much that to our present limited view is entirely inexplicable.
But the mind that accepts the loving will and wisdom of God as the
law of the Universe, can rest in the calm assurance that all,
however mysteriously, is fulfilling His eternal designs, and that
though He seems to permit "His work to be spoilt, His power defied,
and even His victories when won made useless," it is but seeming, -
that the triumph of evil is but temporary, and that these apparent
failures and contradictions, are slowly but surely working out and
helping forward

"The one unseen divine event
To which the whole creation moves."

"The mysteries and contradictions which the Christian revelation
leaves unsolved are made tolerable by Hope." To adopt Bunyan's
figurative language in the closing paragraph of his allegory, the
day is certainly coming when the famous town of Mansoul shall be
taken down and transported "every stick and stone" to Emmanuel's
land, and there set up for the Father's habitation in such strength
and glory as it never saw before. No Diabolonian shall be able to
creep into its streets, burrow in its walls, or be seen in its
borders. No evil tidings shall trouble its inhabitants, nor sound
of Diabolian drum be heard there. Sorrow and grief shall be ended,
and life, always sweet, always new, shall last longer than they
could even desire it, even all the days of eternity. Meanwhile let
those who have such a glorious hope set before them keep clean and
white the liveries their Lord has given them, and wash often in the
open fountain. Let them believe in His love, live upon His word;
watch, fight, and pray, and hold fast till He come.

One more work of Bunyan's still remains to be briefly noticed, as
bearing the characteristic stamp of his genius, "The Life and Death
of Mr. Badman." The original idea of this book was to furnish a
contrast to "The Pilgrim's Progress." As in that work he had
described the course of a man setting out on his course
heavenwards, struggling onwards through temptation, trials, and
difficulties, and entering at last through the golden gates into
the city of God, so in this later work his purpose was to depict
the career of a man whose face from the first was turned in the
opposite direction, going on from bad to worse, ever becoming more
and more irretrievably evil, fitter and fitter for the bottomless
pit; his life full of sin and his death without repentance; reaping
the fruit of his sins in hopeless sinfulness. That this was the
original purpose of the work, Bunyan tells us in his preface. It
came into his mind, he says, as in the former book he had written
concerning the progress of the Pilgrim from this world to glory, so
in this second book to write of the life and death of the ungodly,
and of their travel from this world to hell. The new work,
however, as in almost every respect it differs from the earlier
one, so it is decidedly inferior to it. It is totally unlike "The
Pilgrim's Progress" both in form and execution. The one is an
allegory, the other a tale, describing without imagery or metaphor,
in the plainest language, the career of a "vulgar, middle-class,
unprincipled scoundrel." While "The Pilgrim's Progress" pursues
the narrative form throughout, only interrupted by dialogues
between the leading characters, "Mr. Badman's career" is presented
to the world in a dialogue between a certain Mr. Wiseman and Mr.
Attentive. Mr. Wiseman tells the story, and Mr. Attentive supplies
appropriate reflections on it. The narrative is needlessly
burdened with a succession of short sermons, in the form of
didactic discourses on lying, stealing, impurity, and the other
vices of which the hero of the story was guilty, and which brought
him to his miserable end. The plainness of speech with which some
of these evil doings are enlarged upon, and Mr. Badman's indulgence
in them described, makes portions of the book very disagreeable,
and indeed hardly profitable reading. With omissions, however, the
book well deserves perusal, as a picture such as only Bunyan or his
rival in lifelike portraiture, Defoe, could have drawn of vulgar
English life in the latter part of the seventeenth century, in a
commonplace country town such as Bedford. It is not at all a
pleasant picture. The life described, when not gross, is sordid
and foul, is mean and commonplace. But as a description of English
middle-class life at the epoch of the Restoration and Revolution,
it is invaluable for those who wish to put themselves in touch with
that period. The anecdotes introduced to illustrate Bunyan's
positions of God's judgment upon swearers and sinners, convicting
him of a credulity and a harshness of feeling one is sorry to think
him capable of, are very interesting for the side-lights they throw
upon the times and the people who lived in them. It would take too
long to give a sketch of the story, even if a summary could give
any real estimate of its picturesque and vivid power. It is
certainly a remarkable, if an offensive book. As with "Robinson
Crusoe" and Defoe's other tales, we can hardly believe that we have
not a real history before us. We feel that there is no reason why
the events recorded should not have happened. There are no
surprises; no unlooked-for catastrophes; no providential
interpositions to punish the sinner or rescue the good man.
Badman's pious wife is made to pay the penalty of allowing herself
to be deceived by a tall, good-looking, hypocritical scoundrel. He
himself pursues his evil way to the end, and "dies like a lamb, or
as men call it, like a Chrisom child sweetly and without fear," but
the selfsame Mr. Badman still, not only in name, but in condition;
sinning onto the last, and dying with a heart that cannot repent.

Mr. Froude's summing up of this book is so masterly that we make no
apology for presenting it to our readers. "Bunyan conceals
nothing, assumes nothing, and exaggerates nothing. He makes his
bad man sharp and shrewd. He allows sharpness and shrewdness to
bring him the reward which such qualities in fact command. Badman
is successful; is powerful; he enjoys all the pleasures which money
can bring; his bad wife helps him to ruin, but otherwise he is not
unhappy, and he dies in peace. Bunyan has made him a brute,
because such men do become brutes. It is the real punishment of
brutal and selfish habits. There the figure stands - a picture of
a man in the rank of English life with which Bunyan was most
familiar; travelling along the primrose path to the everlasting
bonfire, as the way to Emmanuel's Land was through the Slough of
Despond and the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Pleasures are to be
found among the primroses, such pleasures as a brute can be
gratified by. Yet the reader feels that even if there was no
bonfire, he would still prefer to be with Christian."


(1) A small enclosure behind a cottage.

Book of the day: