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ISRAEL’S HOPE ENCOURAGED:
THE WORK OF JESUS CHRIST AS AN ADVOCATE EXPLAINED:
THE ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICE:
THE WATER OF LIFE.
BY JOHN BUNYAN.
AUTHOR OF THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, AND THE HOLY WAR.
ARRANGED AND CLASSIFIED IN NATURAL ORDER, WITH INTRODUCTIONS AND NOTES.
BY J. NEWTON BROWN, INTRODUCTION.
FIFTY years after Bunyan’s death, flourished the excellent Doddridge, at the head of his Theological Academy at Northampton. Himself a Dissenter of the Evangelical school, a devout Christian, a fine critic, and a theological teacher of the most liberal spirit, it is not a little remarkable, that in his Lectures on Preaching, among the names of some fifty eminent English divines and practical writers, whom he critically characterizes and recommends, the Author of the Pilgrim’s Progress is not even mentioned!
In his Chapter “On the Use and Character of Practical Writers,” Doddridge says, “Let some practical writer be daily read. — Practical religion is important to ourselves; and a practical strain of preaching is important to our people. Read them at once with a view to your improvement as Christians, and as preachers.” And yet in this comprehensive, deliberate review of the practical writers of English Theology,JOHN BUNYAN found no place. Had it been the work of an enemy, we could well have borne it; but it was the strange oversight of a friend. Many of the names noticed by Doddridge as then popular, have now sunk into oblivion; while the name of\parBUNYAN has risen from temporary depression, and shines like the sun when he goeth forth in his strength.
Let the reader of our day open the pages of Shaw’s elegant “Outlines of English Literature,” — a work of the highest reputation — and the name of\parBUNYAN is found beside those ofCLARENDON andLOCKE, as one of the three chief ornaments of the literature of their age. “To the glory of England it must be said,” he remarks, “that the vernacular literature of no civilized nation, in ancient or modern times, can show so long and so splendid a list of men, rising from the humblest classes of citizens and eternalizing their own age, and their country’s greatness, by triumphs of valor, of wisdom, and of genius. Among these, not the least remarkable is John Bunyan, whose career was as extraordinary as his origin was low, or as his productions are inimitable and original.” “He appears to have gone through all the phases of transformation, from a careless and debauched peasant — into an eloquent and celebrated preacher, and an author of enduring reputation.”
Time is thus the touchstone of true genius. Nothing but real merit can endure this grand ordeal for a long course of years, amidst the fluctuations of taste, and the rapid multiplication of authors. And that merit must not only be real, but very superior, to keep any author popular through successive generations; or if for a time buried beneath a load of adverse prejudices, or obscured by new favorites in the literary world, to ensure him the certainty of a triumphant resurrection and the glory of an immortal life.
The first treatise in the volume,ISRAEL’ S HOPE ENCOURAGED, is one of the most beautiful and attractive works of its kind. It is founded on the last verse of the 130 Psalm ( <19D008> Psalm 130:8) — a Psalm on which Dr. Owen has lavished all the riches of his opulent mind. The two works may be very fitly compared together. Both are treasure-houses of Biblical exposition and Christian experience. Owen’s field is the largest; Bunyan’s is the most highly cultivated. Owen brings to his task all tile resources of disciplined scholarship; Bunyan the diligent use of his English Bible and Concordance.
Both aimed alike, with sincere tenderness and sympathy, to heal afflicted consciences by the rich balm of redemption prepared, in the Gospel. And both have succeeded; but of the two, it strikes us that Bunyan is by far the most clear, without shallowness; the most concise, with copiousness; the most beautiful and happy in language and illustration, without straining the terms of the sacred text, or omitting any thing essential to its sound and full exposition.
This work was not published in its Author’s lifetime. Mr. Robert Philip, in his Chronological Critique, has said, “It would be interesting to know when or where he wrote his ‘Israel’s Hope Encouraged;’ for although in one sense it may be referred to any period of his literary life, yet it is so clear and tender, that it evidently arose out of some wide and warm sympathy with spiritual despondency in his own circle.” Happily, however, there is a note of time in the work itself, which Mr. Philip has overlooked. The allusion to the troubles of the nation from the recent Popish Plot, fixes its composition in the year 1678. or soon after; not long subsequent therefore, to the successful publication of the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” the “Fear of God,” and the “Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ.” It richly deserves a place among these masterpieces. Bunyan might well close it by saying, “Does not all this make thy heart twitter for the mercy that is in God?”
The second treatise,THE WORK OF JESUS CHRIST AS AN ADVOCATE EXPLAINED, is a work of the same general tendency, but more specific in its character and design. It is eminently original. We know of no other extended treatise on the same topic. The Author was evidently aware of this, as appears from his Epistle to the Reader. “Of all the excellent offices which God the Father has conferred on Jesus Christ our Lord, this of his being an Advocate with him for us, is not the least, though (to the shame of saints it may be spoken) the blessed benefits, thereof have not with that diligence and fervent desire been inquired after as they ought... I believe some will thank God for what I have here said about it; but it will be chiefly those whose right and title to the kingdom of heaven and glory doth seem to themselves to be called in question by their enemy, at the bar of the Judge of all.”
Bunyan wrote this treatise, (which was published early in 1688, but a few months before his death,) in view of the lamentable religious decisions of the period. It was the year of the Revolution, which expelled James 2. from his abused power, and placed William and Mary on the English throne.
That memorable event, to which Protestant England owes so much, was yet future; but the period which preceded it, so fully described in our day by the vivid pen of Macaulay, was one of fearful moral corruption, political ferment, ecclesiastical change, and gloomy foreboding. Some whom Bunyan regarded as God’s children, had been, in the hour of temptation, so far drawn aside, as to overwhelm them with the apprehension that their guilt was unpardonable in the sight of God. “Wherefore” he adds, “it is more particularly for those that are at present, or that hereafter may be in this dreadful plight, that this my book is now made public.”
The same remarks apply to the following work, entitled “THE ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICE;OR THE EXCELLENCY OF ABROKEN HEART.” It was written near the same time and published the same year. It was the last great work of Bunyan’s genius, piety, and love. It occupied his last thoughts. He died, while it was passing through the press. This last fact we learn from the Preface, written by a well known minister of London, a fortnight after Bunyan’s funeral. “I assure the reader,” says Mr. Cokeyn, “that this whole book was not only prepared, but also put to press, by the Author himself; whom the Lord was pleased to remove before these sheets could be all wrought off.”
Mr. Cokeyn, in this Preface, adds his personal testimony to another fact, of much interest in Bunyan’s history, which we here transcribe in his own words. “What is here written, is but a transcript of his own heart. For God, who had much work for him to do always, was always hewing and hammering him by his word, and sometimes also by more than ordinary trials and desertions. The design was, the humbling and keeping him low in his own eyes. The truth is, as he himself sometimes acknowledged, he always needed the ‘thorn in the flesh; and God in mercy sent it to him, lest, under his extraordinary circumstances, he should be exalted above measure; which perhaps was the evil that did most easily beset him.”
These facts must give new interest to the treatise before us. More even than the fragment preserved of his Last Sermon, it breathes the tender and tranquil solemnity of the Author’s chastened spirit, on the verge of another world. In the fine language of Mr. Philip, “Bunyan thus ended his own Pilgrimage as he began it, by the sacrifice of a broken and contrite spirit.
But how differently it was presented at last, from what it was at first! Its first struggles at the altar were terrific; but its last quiverings were. all as gentle as they were humble; and its last flames, like those of Manoah’s sacrifice, fit for an angel to ascend in to heaven.”
It is singular that the last treatise in this volume, entitledTHE WATER OF LIFE, was a production of the same memorable year. Its tendency also, is the same; but its tone is more animated. His theme in part accounts for this.
His imagination kindles, as if in the Jasper Light of the Golden City, and amidst the glories that encircle its Throne. His mind works with a clearness like that of the Crystal River he describes, and with a vivacity of movement that shows how deeply his spirit had drunk into its refreshing streams. “This is Water of Life!” he exclaims. “This is the right Holy Water! All others are counterfeit. This never fails. It cures the most desperate melancholy. It dissolves doubts, though they have grown as hard as a stone in the heart!” But with this brief specimen, we must refer the reader to the treatise itself, which he quaintly says may be called, “Bunyan’s Bill of his Master’s Water of Life.”
Taken together, it is our opinion, that no volume of Bunyan hitherto issued, will be more delightful than this. Certainly none is more strongly stamped with the originality of his genius, the depth of his experience, and the mellowed tenderness of his sanctified heart. Designed for the establishment of hope, the revival of piety, and the relief of afflicted consciences, it wisely and gently leads us to the only true fountain of peace, strength, and consolation, opened of God inCHRIST. From beginning to end, it breathes the fresh sweet breath of Hope, and brings to the fainting spirit a heavenly balm, far richer than Gilead ever dropped from its healing trees. J. N. B.
Philadelphia, November 20, 1851.