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him, is doubtless a part of the secret of his perpetual originality and unsating freshness. Now, when men say repiningly, and in a temper which impeaches alike society and providence, that a lowly lot, with its necessary privations and its consequent ignorance, is a barrier, perpetual and insuperable, against usefulness and happiness and honor, we turn to the name and memory of Bunyan as an embodied denial of the impeachment, and as carolling forth their cheerful rebuke of such unmanly and ungodly plaints. With God's grace in the heart, and with the gleaming gates of his heaven brightening the horizon beyond the grave, we may be reformers; but it cannot be in the destructive spirit displayed by some who, in the prophet's language, amid darkness on the earth, "fret themselves, and curse their King and their God, and look upward.” Poverty cannot degrade, nor ignorance bedwarf, nor persecution crush, nor dungeon enthral the free, glad spirit of a child of God, erect in its regenerate strength, and rich in its eternal hopes and heritage. And this hopeful and elastic temperament colors and perfumes every treatise that Bunyan sent out even from the precincts of his prison. With a style sinewy as Cobbett’s, and simple and clear as Swift's; with his sturdy, peasant nature showing itself in the roundness and directness of his utterance, how little has he of their coarseness.
He was not, on the one hand, like Cobbett, an anarchist, or libeller ; but yet, on the other hand, as little was he ever a lackey, cringing at the gates of Power, or a train-bearer in the retinue of Fashion. Still less was he, like Swift, the satirist of his times
and of his kind, snarling at his rulers, and turning at last to gnaw, in venomous rage, his own heart. And yet he who portrayed the character of By-ends, and noted the gossipings of Mrs. Bats-eyes, lacked neither keenness of vision, nor niceness of hand, to have made him most formidable in satire and irony.
His present station in the literature of Britain affords an illustration, familiar and obvious to every eye, of God's sovereignty, and of the arrangements of Him “who seeth not as man seeth.” Had Pepys, or any other contemporary courtier that hunted for place and pension, or fluttered in levity and sin, in the antechambers of the later Stuarts, been asked, who of all the writers of the times were likely to go down to posterity among the lights of their age, how ludicrously erroneous would have been his apportionments of fame. Pepys might, from the Puritan education of his boyhood, have named Owen, Bates, and Baxter; or from the Conformist associations of his later years, have selected South, or Patrick, or Tillotson, as the religious writers who had surpassed all rivalry, or named a Walton or Castell, as having taken bonds of fame for the perpetuity of their influence. Had he known of Clarendon's preparations to become the historian of the Commonwealth and Restoration, or of Burnet's habits of preserving memoirs of the incidents and characters around him, he might have conjectured their probable honors in after-times. But in poetry he would have classed Dryden the royalist far above Milton the republican apologist of regicide; and might, aping the fashions of the palace, have preferred to either the author of Hu
dibras together with the lewd playwrights who were the delight of a shameless court--hailing the last as the most promising candidates for posthumous celebrity. How little could he have dreamed that among these Puritans and Non-conformists, whose unpopular cause he had himself deserted, and whom his royal masters Charles and James had betrayed, amerced, exiled, and incarcerated ; in those conventicles so closely watched and so sternly visited, which these persecuted confessors yet by stealth maintained; aye, and in those dungeons, whither the informer so often from these conventicles dragged them, British freedom had its truest guardians, and British literature some of its noblest illustrations. How little thought he that God had there, in his old and glorious school of trial, his “ hidden ones,” like Bunyan, whose serene testimony was yet to shine forth victorious over wrong and neglect, and reproach and ridicule, eclipsing so many contemporary celebrities, and giving to the homes and the sanctuaries of
land inhabit. ed by an English race, one of the names
men will not willingly let die.". How little could gilded and callous favorites of the palace have dreamed that their Acts of Uniformity and Five-mile Acts, and the like legislation of ecclesiastical proscription, were but rearing for the best men of the age, in the prisons where they had been immured, a Patmos, serene though stern, where the sufferer withdrew from man to commune with the King of kings. There the prisoned student was receiving for the churches new lessons of surpassing beauty and potency; and the confessor, pillaged by informers and bullied by judges,
and lamented in his own stricken household and desolate home, but only derided by his godless sovereign and heartless courtiers, yet often found himself compensated for every loss, when, like an earlier witness for the gospel of the Cross, enwrapped “ IN THE Spirit, ON THE LORD'S DAY." Such were the schools where Non-conformist piety received its temper, its edge, and its lustre. The story of Bunyan is, we say, one of the golden threads binding together into harmony and symmetry, what, seen apart, seem but fragmentary and incoherent influences—the track of a divine Providence controlling the fates and reputations of the
It is a Providence disappointing men's judgments and purposes, exalting the lowly and depressing the illustrious, rebuking despondency on the one hand and on the other curbing presumption, setting up one and putting down another. This is done even now and even here, as one of the many intimations which even time and earth present, of that final and universal reparation which is reserved for the general resurrection and the last judgment. Then the unforgetting and universal Sovereign will avenge all the forgotten of his people, nor leave unpunished one among the tallest and mightiest of his enemies. As the foreshadowing of this, there is often in this life what Milton has called, “a resurrection of character.” Seen in Bunyan and others on earth, it will be one day accomplished as to all the families of mankind. We pronounce too soon upon the apparent inequalities of fame and recompense around us; while we fail to take in the future as well as the present, and attempt to solve the mysteries of time without including in the field of our survey the retributions of that eternity which forms the selvage and hem of all the webs of earth. And we pronounce not only too soon but very superficially upon the inequalities of happiness in the lot of those who fear and those who scorn God; while we look mainly or merely to the outward circumstances of home and station and bodily well-being, but take no note of the inner and more enduring elements of felicity, supplied to the sufferer for Christ by the blended powers of conscience and of hope the one of them purified and pacified by the blood of the great sacrifice on Calvary; the other of them steadily and cheerfully soaring to the glories and rest of the mount Zion above. Faithful, in his cage, bearing the gibes and flouts of the rabble who thirsted for his blood, was one of the happiest men in all Vanity Fair, even ere the hour when his spirit mounted the fiery chariot that hurried him to his celestial home.
The style of Bunyan, it may be further said, is one of the countless and brilliant testimonials to the merit and power of our excellent received version of the Bible. Shut out, as Bunyan was, from direct contact with much other literature, he was most thoroughly conversant with the remains of prophets and apostles, embalmed in that venerable work. With those scriptures his mind was imbued, saturated, and tinged, through its whole texture and substance. Upon the phraseology and imagery and idioms of that book was formed his own vernacular style, so racy, glowing, and energetic-long indeed underrated and decried, but now beginning to re