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Print Version Main Index : Biographies : Life of John Bunyan Index : Page 11
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The Life of John Bunyan
by Edmund Venables, M.A.

CHAPTER II. - continued

It would be wearisome to follow Bunyan through all the mazes of his self-torturing illusions. Fierce as the storm was, and long in its duration - for it was more than two years before the storm became a calm - the waves, though he knew it not, in their fierce tossings which threatened to drive his soul like a broken vessel headlong on the rocks of despair, were bearing him nearer and nearer to the "haven where he would be." His vivid imagination, as we have seen, surrounded him with audible voices. He had heard, as he thought, the tempter bidding him "Sell Christ;" now he thought he heard God "with a great voice, as it were, over his shoulder behind him," saying, "Return unto Me, for I have redeemed thee;" and though he felt that the voice mocked him, for he could not return, there was "no place of repentance" for him, and fled from it, it still pursued him, "holloaing after him, 'Return, return!'" And return he did, but not all at once, or without many a fresh struggle. With his usual graphic power he describes the zigzag path by which he made his way. His hot and cold fits alternated with fearful suddenness. "As Esau beat him down, Christ raised him up." "His life hung in doubt, not knowing which way he should tip." More sensible evidence came. "One day," he tells us, "as I walked to and fro in a good man's shop" - we can hardly be wrong in placing it in Bedford - "bemoaning myself for this hard hap of mine, for that I should commit so great a sin, greatly fearing that I should not be pardoned, and ready to sink with fear, suddenly there was as if there had rushed in at the window the noise of wind upon me, but very pleasant, and I heard a voice speaking, 'Did'st ever refuse to be justified by the Blood of Christ?'" Whether the voice were supernatural or not, he was not, "in twenty years' time," able to determine. At the time he thought it was. It was "as if an angel had come upon me." "It commanded a great calm upon me. It persuaded me there might be hope." But this persuasion soon vanished. "In three or four days I began to despair again." He found it harder than ever to pray. The devil urged that God was weary of him; had been weary for years past; that he wanted to get rid of him and his "bawlings in his ears," and therefore He had let him commit this particular sin that he might be cut off altogether. For such an one to pray was but to add sin to sin. There was no hope for him. Christ might indeed pity him and wish to help him; but He could not, for this sin was unpardonable. He had said "let Him go if He will," and He had taken him at his word. "Then," he says, "I was always sinking whatever I did think or do." Years afterwards he remembered how, "in this time of hopelessness, having walked one day, to a neighbouring town, wearied out with his misery, he sat down on a settle in the street to ponder over his fearful state. As he looked up, everything he saw seemed banded together for the destruction of so vile a sinner. The "sun grudged him its light, the very stones in the streets and the tiles on the house-roofs seemed to bend themselves against him." He burst forth with a grievous sigh, "How can God comfort such a wretch as I?" Comfort was nearer than he imagined. "No sooner had I said it, but this returned to me, as an echo doth answer a voice, 'This sin is not unto death.'" This breathed fresh life into his soul. He was "as if he had been raised out of a grave." "It was a release to me from my former bonds, a shelter from my former storm." But though the storm was allayed it was by no means over. He had to struggle hard to maintain his ground. "Oh, how did Satan now lay about him for to bring me down again. But he could by no means do it, for this sentence stood like a millpost at my back." But after two days the old despairing thoughts returned, "nor could his faith retain the word." A few hours, however, saw the return of his hopes. As he was on his knees before going to bed, "seeking the Lord with strong cries," a voice echoed his prayer, "I have loved Thee with an everlasting love." "Now I went to bed at quiet, and when I awaked the next morning it was fresh upon my soul and I believed it."

These voices from heaven - whether real or not he could not tell, nor did he much care, for they were real to him - were continually sounding in his ears to help him out of the fresh crises of his spiritual disorder. At one time "O man, great is thy faith," "fastened on his heart as if one had clapped him on the back." At another, "He is able," spoke suddenly and loudly within his heart; at another, that "piece of a sentence," "My grace is sufficient," darted in upon him "three times together," and he was "as though he had seen the Lord Jesus look down through the tiles upon him," and was sent mourning but rejoicing home. But it was still with him like an April sky. At one time bright sunshine, at another lowering clouds. The terrible words about Esau "returned on him as before," and plunged him in darkness, and then again some good words, "as it seemed writ in great letters," brought back the light of day. But the sunshine began to last longer than before, and the clouds were less heavy. The "visage" of the threatening texts was changed; "they looked not on him so grimly as before;" "that about Esau's birthright began to wax weak and withdraw and vanish." "Now remained only the hinder part of the tempest. The thunder was gone; only a few drops fell on him now and then."

The long-expected deliverance was at hand. As he was walking in the fields, still with some fears in his heart, the sentence fell upon his soul, "Thy righteousness is in heaven." He looked up and "saw with the eyes of his soul our Saviour at God's right hand." "There, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, 'He wants my righteousness,' for that was just before Him. Now did the chains fall off from my legs. I was loosed from my affliction and irons. My temptations also fled away, so that from that time those dreadful Scriptures left off to trouble me. Oh methought Christ, Christ, there was nothing but Christ that was before mine eyes. I could look from myself to Him, and should reckon that all those graces of God that now were green upon me, were yet but like those crack-groats, and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, while their gold is in their trunks at home. Oh, I saw my gold was in my trunk at home. In Christ my Lord and Saviour. Further the Lord did lead me into the mystery of union with the Son of God. His righteousness was mine, His merits mine, His victory also mine. Now I could see myself in heaven and earth at once; in heaven by my Christ, by my Head, by my Righteousness and Life, though on earth by my body or person. These blessed considerations were made to spangle in mine eyes. Christ was my all; all my Wisdom, all my Righteousness, all my Sanctification, and all my Redemption."

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