The Life of John Bunyan HTML version

Chapter 3
The Pilgrim, having now floundered through the Slough of Despond, passed
through the Wicket Gate, climbed the Hill Difficulty, and got safe by the Lions,
entered the Palace Beautiful, and was "had in to the family." In plain words,
Bunyan united himself to the little Christian brotherhood at Bedford, of which the
former loose- living royalist major, Mr. Gifford, was the pastor, and was formally
admitted into their society. In Gifford we recognize the prototype of the Evangelist
of "The Pilgrim's Progress," while the Prudence, Piety, and Charity of Bunyan's
immortal narrative had their human representatives in devout female members of
the congregation, known in their little Bedford world as Sister Bosworth, Sister
Munnes, and Sister Fenne, three of the poor women whose pleasant words on
the things of God, as they sat at a doorway in the sun, "as if joy did make them
speak," had first opened Bunyan's eyes to his spiritual ignorance. He was
received into the church by baptism, which, according to his earliest biographer,
Charles Doe "the Struggler," was performed publicly by Mr. Gifford, in the river
Ouse, the "Bedford river" into which Bunyan tells us he once fell out of a boat,
and barely escaped drowning. This was about the year 1653. The exact date is
uncertain. Bunyan never mentions his baptism himself, and the church books of
Gifford's congregation do not commence till May, 1656, the year after Gifford's
death. He was also admitted to the Holy Communion, which for want, as he
deemed, of due reverence in his first approach to it, became the occasion of a
temporary revival of his old temptations. While actually at the Lord's Table he
was "forced to bend himself to pray" to be kept from uttering blasphemies against
the ordinance itself, and cursing his fellow communicants. For three-quarters of a
year he could "never have rest or ease" from this shocking perversity. The
constant strain of beating off this persistent temptation seriously affected his
health. "Captain Consumption," who carried off his own "Mr. Badman,"
threatened his life. But his naturally robust constitution "routed his forces," and
brought him through what at one time he anticipated would prove a fatal illness.
Again and again, during his period of indisposition, the Tempter took advantage
of his bodily weakness to ply him with his former despairing questionings as to
his spiritual state. That seemed as bad as bad could be. "Live he must not; die he
dare not." He was repeatedly near giving up all for lost. But a few words of
Scripture brought to his mind would revive his drooping spirits, with a natural
reaction on his physical health, and he became "well both in body and mind at
once." "My sickness did presently vanish, and I walked comfortably in my work
for God again." At another time, after three or four days of deep dejection, some
words from the Epistle to the Hebrews "came bolting in upon him," and sealed
his sense of acceptance with an assurance he never afterwards entirely lost.
"Then with joy I told my wife, 'Now I know, I know.' That night was a good night to
me; I never had but few better. I could scarce lie in my bed for joy and peace and
triumph through Christ."