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COMPLETE WORKS OF JOHN BUNYAN.
BY REV. JOHN P. GULLIVER, D.D.,
The career of Bunyan is a marvel. It will repay the labour of a careful analysis by the rhetorician, the orator, the writer of fiction, the preacher, the Sabbath-school teacher and the Christian parent; for each of these may draw out from some portion of bis multifarious productions the secret of success in his own department of effort.
THE SUCCESS OF BUNYAN.
Bunyan was successful even in his wickedness. He styles himself, as Paul.did, “The chief of sinners.” In both cases the title was deserved, not so much on account of eminent
as of eminent ability and energy. All the natural qualities which afterward gave him power as a Christian preacher and writer were exhibited in his leadership in profanity, in revilings, and in all iniquity.
was successful as a Christian man, as a popular orator, as a practical religious writer, and to no small extent as a theologian. In some of these departments his sucCess has been most remarkable.
was an illiterate man. He was an ordinary mechanic"a tinker," as the parlance of the times termed him. Unlike the
The literary rank
of Bunyan. craftsmen of our nation and age, he had enjoyed only the most limited opportunity for education. Yet his language possesses some of the highest qualities known to rhetoric; his thought, even in his most abstract treatises, where it is cumbered with the system of minute subdivision then in vogue, is precise, discriminating, comprehensive, and at times profound; while the peculiar vitality of the Pilgrim's Progress and the Holy War has made them the delight alike of child and man, of the cottager and the king, of the cultured and the unlettered. If there is any book except King James' Bible which has a surer prospect than any other of a perinanent place in English literature, that book is Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Is it claiming too Duch if it is placed on an equality, in this respect, even with the Paradise Lost and the plays of Shakespeare?
In language, Bunyan certainly has the advantage, for he wrote in the dialect of the English Bible, which was the popular dialect of
Bu n yan's lanthe day, modified and elevated to suit the sacred use to which it was
applied. The words of Shakespeare already require a glossary. Much of his vocabulary, though by no means the whole of it, is destined to become as obsolete as that of Chaucer is now. But the most unlettered reader finds no obscurity clouding the words of Bunyan's allegories. They are taken from the very warp and woof of the English language, not merely as it was spoken at the time, but as it has been spoken since, and as it will continue to be spoken so long as the English Bible gives law to English speech. The words of the royal Milton, immortal as they will surely be among the learned, are growing yearly less intelligible to the people. But the words of Bunyan, aside from an occasional quaintness, are as easily understood by the English-speaking population of the world as they were the day they were written.
In other respects than in language it would be presumptuous to Bunyan's literary
compare Bunyan with the masters of English literature. His clas.
sical training was confined to Fox's "Book of Martyrs" and the Bible. His early reading was comprehended by “The Practice of Piety" and the “Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven"-two books which constituted the only marriage-portion of his wife. But the paucity of his resources only renders more wonderful the results he gained. If we consider literary success to consist in power over men,
be doubted whether Bunyan should not still be placed in the very front rank. The impersonations of Shakespeare will undoubtedly be as permanent as are the traits of the human nature which he has photographed. But it can be said, with equal truth, that the impersonations of Bunyan, rude and unfinished as they sometimes seem, will possess an interest so long as the process of man’s redemption from sin is a thing which ångels or men desire to look into. The classic machinery of Milton's visions, grand and impressive as it certainly is, begins to seem ponderous and unwieldy to the readers of our times, as if we were made the spectators of a tournament of medieval knights in iron armour. But the creations of the Interpreter's House, Doubting Castle, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and of the Land of Beulah, are as clear and fresh and beautiful to the readers of the nineteenth as to those of the sixteenth century.
The literary immortality which has been an object of intense ambition to many of the most gifted men of the race has been gained, without a thought or an effort, by the humble story-teller of Bedford jail.
Similar remarks might be made concerning the theological rank Bunyan's theolog- of these writings. Not a despicable theologian in his graver homiical rank.
lies, Bunyan becomes almost an inspired prophet in his religious fiotions. The greatest of the systematic theologians will be left behind by the progress of the careful study of God's truth. But when Augustine and Calvin and Edwards have ceased to be recognized as authorities, the theology they taught, changed from the abstract to the concrete, will be studied and accepted in the simple adventures of Chris. tian and his family, in the deeds of Faithful and the experience of Hopeful, and in the wonderful sights of the Delectable Mountains.
That such anticipations concerning the literary “immortality” of The early success
these unique works of sanctified genius are not visionary, may bo of Bunyan's works.
safely argued from their immediate success at the time of their publication, and from the permanency of their high place in literature since. The sale which followed their first publication in England, amounting to more than one hundred thousand copies—an immense issue for the times—their republication in the infant colonies of New England, their speedy translation into the languages of the French, the Dutch, the Flemings, the Highland Scotch, and the Irish, is but the introduction of a career of influence and popularity to which, among ininspired writings, the works of Shakespeare present perhaps the only parallel in the history of literature.
Such a phenomenon in the world of letters, and such a power in the kingdom of Christ, challenge a scrutinizing examination alike from the critic and the Christian.
THE SPECIAL SUBJECT OF THIS ESSAY.
Our main inquiry in this essay will be for the causes of this success.
Inquiry for the
causes of Bunyan'e cle exhorter so formidable to the proud Episcopate of the realm that only the thick walls of the Bedford jail, under the sentence of the Bedford justices, sustained by no less a jurist than Sir Matthew Hale, could protect the English hierarchy against his sturdy blows?
Why should the refusal to use the “Book of Common Prayer”—a frequent and in most men a scarcely noticeable violation of the bigoted English statutes of the dayhave become a crime of such magnitude in Bunyan as to demand the expiation of a twelve years' imprisonment ?
What was the inspiration that made those twelve years an era in English literature, and endowed the Bedford jail with a literary celebrity not inferior to that of the Arno and the Avon? And what was the spell which, after his release, drew constant crowds to the dreamer's spacious chapel in Bedford ?
It is plain that the discovery of Bunyan's secret, if our analysis be delicate enough to catch and retain for examination a quality so spiritual, would render a most important service to all who, in any capacity, are seeking "to preach the gospel to every creature."
THE PREACHING OF BUNYAN COMPARED WITH THE PREACHING OF OUR
The writer who can at the same time inform the intellect and move the sensibilities, has reached the perfection of his art. The speaker who can “so speak” as to affect at once the scholar and the peasant, and to charm all classes of men by the same spell, is the consummate orator. Among the examples of such success, Jesus our Saviour stands unapproached. Of his merely human imitators, perhaps none has achieved so great and 80 permanent success as John BUNYAN. To analyze the style of the one and to determine the elements of his power will be to discover the secret of the
The solution of a other. Such an analysis, moreover, will give the solution of one of the most important questions of our era, viz.: How may the gospel be great question of O preached that men shall crowd to hear it, as they thronged the river banks in the days of John the Baptist, as they covered the mountain acclivities to listen to Jesus of Nazareth, and as they flocked to the spacious chapel in Bedford and hung entranced upon the lips of Bunyan? Contrary to a very common impression, it must be admitted that
Our Saviouradocour Saviour was eminently a doctrinal preacher. Whether his success
trinal preacher. were owing to this peculiarity, or whether he was successful in spite of it, no man can question the fact that instruction, and that in the deep things of Godin “ those things which,” as he himself says, “had been kept secret from the foundation of the world”—was his constant aim. That is a most superficial and unappreciative view of Christ's teaching which supposes it to have been wholly or chiefly confined to the sphere of practical ethics. From the Sermon on the Mount, which is a most compact and profound doctrinal discourse, to the conversation with Peter in the twenty-first ebapter wf John, which was a most acute analysis of the “evidences of regeneration,"
“his doctrine drops as the rain and distils as the dew.” Such themes as the origin of evil and its proper treatment, the nature, origin, and evidences of the new birth, the im. possibility of salvation by personal goodness, the necessity of faith to produce personal goodness, the mystery whereby Christ," being a man, made himself equal with God," the peculiarities of the kingdom of heaven as compared with human governments, the absolute, Divine control over free human acts, the essential unity of the believing soul and its Saviour, together with many another of the most profound and even metaphysical truths, such as are calling forth the liveliest denunciations of the sensational preacher of our era, were the themes of his daily discourse.
Nor need we hesitate to admit that this richness in doctrinal dis. Doctrine essential
cussion was a positive and even a prime element in his success, as it to all popular suc
must be in all permanent success in popular teaching, everywhere
and in every age. Truth is the natural pabulum of the human soul. From infancy to old age, among barbarians and philosophers, the inquiry is the same: “What is truth?" If the feelings are moved, or the will is determined, it is always by means of something thought-that is, through the intellect. Even the fancies of the poetical preacher are attractive only through their verisimilitude. Christ gave to the famishing minds about him this bread of life in rich abundance, and they who ate of it never knew hunger again.
To say that the writings of Bunyan, the most attractive religious Bunyan also a doc
teacher of modern times, are distinguished for their wealth of doctrinal preacher.
trinal truths, is to repeat what every reader, even of his most popular works, well knows. In his three great religious dramas, the Pilgrimages of Christian and Christiana and the Holy War, every character is a personified fact, and every incident is a vitalized doctrine. No man can thoroughly understand the Pilgrim's Progress without becoming an accomplished theologian. The power of the book is largely due to this fact. As a story, it has no plot. Its characters are simple enough for a nursery tale. Its fancies are quaint, and even rude. The playwright and the bookmonger would ridicule an author who should expect success with the public by the use of such simple machinery. Yet the Pilgrim's Progress is successful, more successful, certainly in popular impressiveness, than even the plays of Shakespeare, to which, in some respects, it bears a marked resemblance, but to which, in all the requisites for dramatic impression, except the single one now under discussion, it would be preposterous to compare it. The peculiar power of the book is to be found in its presentation of truth. The doetrines bristle along its pages like cannon upon the walls of a citadel. The attention of the reader is constantly aroused by a strong, bold, and almost explosive utterance of the successive truths of evangelical Christianity, reinforced, almost uniformly, by a seriptural reference, and expressed with such unquestionable common sense as to silence cavil before it can be spoken.
The opening scene gives vividly a contrast between justification by faith and by works, which is equal in polemic power to a dozen controversial treatises. In the progo ress of the allegory all the great doctrines, from total depravity then urrection, are clearly set forth, with the omission of scarcely a shade or a phat which has any practical adaptation or value. The reader is constantly stimulated by ni si discoveries. He adds, from each page, something to his store of thought on the pr fiunt and mightiest themes which can engage the human mind. He is not only entustined, but he is conscious of being instructed. His pleasure is accompanied with greinue the author, for the work, for himself as engaged in the best culture both of mind and heart, ană for the system of Christian doctrine which shines out so clearly and gloriously from the simple narrative he is reading.
In these particulars a marked similarity is to be traced between the writings of Bun. yan and the teachings of the "Great Teacher."
Modern preachers who specially aim at popularity usually seek it Jesus a popular by avoiding doctrine, especially in its more profound and analytic preacher. forms. Our Saviour, as we have seen, as well as the humble preacher of Bedford, while preaching the doctrines, attained an unparalleled degree and permanence of popularity.
How was this accomplished? The inquiry is a vital one. Upon its solution the question of the success of the Church in preaching the gospel to the world which lieth in wickedness depends. Now, if we look at the manner of the teaching of Christ, as we
manner of have already examined its matter, we shall observe, first, that the
Christ's teaching truth he uttered was spoken with precision, so that he was never
The manner of obliged to retract or amend his words. It was spoken, also, plainly,
precise, except in cases when he chose to give an esoteric cast to his lan
plain, impressive. guage, in order to communicate to his disciples instructions which the multitude were not prepared to receive. Never was the apparatus of language so skilfully used to bring the conclusions of metaphysical philosophy and the direct revelations of the heavenly Father within the reach of the humblest intellect.
It was spoken impressively also. The words which he uttered were words of grace, of a rare and exceeding beauty—so that men “wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." They were concrete words. An abstract truth was seldom presented
Christ's language alone, but generally in its combination with some familiar, every-day object. The definition of neighbour is the story, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho." Evil is tares; good is wheat. The great perplexing problem of the permission of sin is solved by an ordinary farmer in an ordinary operation of agriculture. Instead of stating a philosophical problem and giving a philosophical solution, he turns to his hearers, and with a “But what think ye?” he proceeds to tell a simple story, in which the principle he would teach is involved, and then leaves the conclusion to their own discernment, only adding the caution, “He that hath ears to hear, let himn hear." But the great power of the preaching of Jesus was its personality.
Christ's It struck home. Men felt that they were dealing with one who under
personal. stood them. The Pharisees very often "perceived that he spake of them.” Sometimes a more promiscuous crowd were struck by a penetrative word as with a shock from an electric battery, and, “ being convicted by their own consciences, went out, one by one, beginning at the oldest, unto the last.” All his preaching showed that " he knew what was in man.” This personality was not only seen in appeals to the conscience. He touched the heart also. He was full of human sympathies. It is true that his keen analysis delighted the perplexed intellect, and that his clear illustrations made even "wayfaring" men, though fools in ignorance, exult in the possession of some grand truth which prophets and wise men had desired to see, but had not seen it. But it was his love, or to express the thought more pre
Christ's cisely, it was his broad, sympathetic humanity, that chiefly made great
humanity. multitudes follow him in the city and upon the mountain, across the sta and into the wilderness, held by a spell which they could hardly have defined, and yet were unable to resist. The word humanity is used rather than the word love, in this connection, because something more is meant than a simple feeling of tenderness or a desire to promote happiness. The word is used to designate sympathy with all human