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THIS volume, composed of Bunyan'sDEVOTIONAL WORKS, is designed, in the order originally indicated, to follow his Awakening and Inviting Works.
It will meet the wants of all new-born souls. It will instruct them by just degrees in the nature, manner, medium, and encouragement’s of Prayer. It will begin at the beginning, and lead them on, step by step, in a devout and happy intercourse with God, through Jesus Christ, animated and guided by the Holy Spirit of Adoption, advancing to the highest conceivable elevation of faith, hope, and love; and ending in “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
Devotion is the highest element of our nature. Its corruption into Superstition and Idolatry is the most mournful feature in the History of Mankind. Its renovation by grace is the most glorious result of the work of Jesus Christ. This will be felt yet on earth, when, according to prophecy, “all the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Him.” Psalm 22:27. “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities; and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying,LET US GO SPEEDILY TO PRAY BEFORE THE LORD OF HOSTS; I will go also.” Zechariah 8:20,21.
In that day, as well as now, we are sure this volume will be welcome.
It consists of five distinct works — The Spirit of Prayer; The Saint’s Privilege and Profit; The Desire of the Righteous Granted; The Unsearchable Riches of Christ; and Paul’s Departure and Crown, or the Way to Live, so as to be always Ready to Die. For the first time these are combined in this order, with reference to a common aim. So far as we know, only the first has previously appeared in any American edition. It will be our object in this brief Introduction to throw all the light we have been able to collect from different sources, upon the origin and character of each.
The first, which is styledTHE SPIRIT OF PRAYER, was written by Bunyan in 1663, the third year of his cruel imprisonment in Bedford jail. It seems to have been called forth by the “Act of Uniformity” of Charles II, issued on Bartholomew’s Day, August 24th, the preceding year — that infamous St.
Bartholomew’s of England, only less cruel than the bloody St.
Bartholomew’s of France, a century before, because it shed less innocent blood. (See Note, page 55.) Robert Philip justly remarks on this treatise, “As extempore prayer was then a State crime, so no one can wonder, however much he may regret, that the Prayer Book came in for some of that odium, which odious means of enforcing it created.” Besides, “wanton and impious prejudices were then rampant, against all avowed dependence upon the Holy Spirit for help in prayer. It is due to Bunyan’s catholic spirit, to place his work on Prayer in this light. It is full of wise and warm appeals on the spirit of prayer, and quite as severe against extempore parade, as against heartless formality.”
The second, calledTHE SAI NT’ S PRI VILE GE AND PROFIT; or,THE THRONE OF GRACE DIS COVERED , was written at a later period, but savors of the same divine unction, and displays even superior insight. It teems with brilliant Thought, fresh from the heart, while Fancy acts as a handmaid in the imperial train of Faith. Its grand characteristics are Evangelical Instruction and Encouragement. Never was the Throne of Grace, before or since, so fully opened by an uninspired hand, to the most guilty, unworthy, and self-condemned.
The third,THE,DESIRE OF THE RIGHTEOUS GRANTED, is one of the twelve valuable works left in manuscript at the time of Bunyan’s death. It is numbered 51, in Doe’s Catalogue; but as it has no preface, nor other note of time, we have no certain means of determining the year of its composition.
It is, however, a work of great merit. Its style of thought is rich and massive. It contains a profound philosophy of mind. Its expositions of Scripture, and of the human heart, are singularly clear and just. Its practical discriminations are admirable. Its dialogues, with objecting or inquiring souls, are full of vivacity, tenderness, and wisdom. Almost every page sparkles with spiritual aphorisms, solid, brilliant, and precious as diamonds.
The illustrations are uncommonly felicitous. We give a specimen or two from these rare mines. “Some men’s desires are narrow upwards, and wide downwards; narrow as to God, but wide for the world. But it is not so with the righteous. The temple that Ezekiel saw in his vision was still widest upwards; it spread itself towards heaven. So is the church, and so is the righteous, and so are their desires.” Again, “A full purse and a lean soul, is a sign of a great curse. ‘He gave them their desires, but sent leanness into their soul.’ Take heed of that. Many, while they were lean in estates, had fat souls: but the fattening of their estates, has made their souls as to good, as lean as a rake.”
The fourth, onTHE UNSEA RCHABLE RIC HES OF CHRI ST is in a still higher strain.
It belongs to the same class as the preceding; and immediately follows it as No. 52; in Doe’s Catalogue. It is probable they were written near together. Yet they have little resemblance except in their common tendency to encourage enlarged and holy desires in Prayer. The sources of encouragement are widely different. The former draws it from experience, reason, and the promises of Scripture; the later from the loftiest views of the Divine Attributes, and especially from the incomprehensible greatness of the Love of Christ. Every conceivable form and degree of discouragement, from without and from within, is met and overwhelmed from this commanding position. The tempter is confronted from a height which he can neither scale nor turn. The tempted soul is taught how to rise, as on the wings of eagles, to this lofty position; there to “triumph in Christ;” and in the confidence inspired by His transcendent and changeless love, to smile at the impotent malice of earth and hell, and to prosecute the work of holiness and usefulness “without fear.” Take a single sentence. “Fear and trembling as to misery hereafter, can flow but from what we know, feel, or imagine; but the text speaks of a love that is beyond what we can know, feel, or imagine, even of a ‘love that passeth knowledge;’ consequently of a love that goes beyond all these.”
The last treatise,PAUL’ S DEPAR TURE AND CROWN, is little known in this country. The only clue to its date is found in its immediate object, which is to inspire courage under existing persecution; and to urge Christians, by every salutary counsel and stirring motive, to do up their daily work, so as to be at any moment ready for death. As Robert Philip remarks, “Bunyan evidently feared at the time that Martyrdom awaited some of his people, as well as himself.” This inclines us to fix its date, in 1660, just before his imprisonment in Bedford jail. It is such a strain as might have well cheered his own “Faithful” at Vanity Fair. It is a fitting, practical close to this glorious volume; which will be found worthy, in all respects, of its predecessors, and of its Author; and, we trust, will soon become ‘familiar and endeared as household words,’ by the name ofBUNYAN’ S DEVOT IONAL WORKS. J. N. B.
Philadelphia, Feb. 22, 1851.