THIS day is called the Lord's day, the day in which he rose from the dead. The Lord's day: every day, say some, is the Lord's day. Indeed this, for discourse' sake, may he granted; but strictly, no day can so properly be called the Lord's day, as this first day of the week; for that no day of the week, or of the year, has those hadges of the Lord's glory upon it, nor such divine grace put upon it, as his first day of the week.
There is nothing, as I know of, that bears this title but the Lord's supper, and this day. And since Christians count it an abuse to allegorize the first, let them also be ashamed to fantasticalize the last.
The Lord's day is doubtless the day in which he rose from the dead. To be sure, it is not the old seventh day; for from the day that he arose, to the end of the Bible, we find not that he did hang so much as one twist of glory upon that; but this day is beautified with glory upon glory, and that both by the Father and the Son, by the prophets, and those that were raised from the dead thereon: therefore this day must be more than the rest.
As for the seventh day, that is gone to its grave with the signs and shadows of the Old Testament. Yea, and has such a dash left upon it by apostolical authority, that is is enough to make a Christian fly from it for ever.2 Cor.3.
God the Father leaves such a stamp of divine note and honor upon this day, as he never before did leave upon any, where he saith to our Lord, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee;" still having respect to the first day of the week, for that and no other is the day here intended by the apostle: THIS DAY, saith God, is the day. "And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he saith on this wise, I will give thee the sure mercies of David;" wherefore he saith in another psalm, "Thou wilt not suffer thy Holy One to see corruption."
Now shall not Christians, when they read that God saith, THIS DAY, and that too with reference to a work done on it by him so full of delight to him, and so full of life and heaven to them, set also a mark upon it? "This was the day of God's pleasure," for that his Son did rise thereon; "and shall it not be the day of my delight in him?"
Shall kings and princes and great men set a mark upon the day of their birth and coronation, and expect that both subjects and servants should do them high honor on that day; and shall the day in which Christ was both begotten and born be a day contemned by Christians?
If God remembers it, well may I. If God says, and that with all gladness of heart, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee;" may not, ought not I also to set this day apart to sing the songs of my redemption in?
This day my redemption was finished.
This day my dear Jesus revived.
This day he was declared to be the Son of God with power.
Yea, this is the day in which the Lord Jesus finished a greater work than ever yet was done in the world; yea, a work in which the Father himself was more delighted than he was in making heaven and earth; and shall darkness and the shadow of death stain this day? Or shall a cloud dwell on this day? Shall God regard this day from above, and shall not his light shine upon this day? What shall be done to them that curse this day, and would not that the stars should give their light thereon? THIS DAY! after this day was come, God never, that we read of, made mention with delight of the old seventh-day Sabbath more.
"The woman which thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree." Gen.3. The woman was given for a help, not a hinderance; but Satan often maketh that to become our snare which God hath given us as a blessing.
"And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done?" Gen.3. What is this? God seems to speak as if he were astonished at the inundation of evil which the woman by her sin had overflowed the world withal. What is this that thou hast done? Thou hast undone thyself, thou hast undone thy husband, thou hast undone all the world; yea, thou hast brought a curse upon the whole creation, with an overplus of evils, plagues, and distresses.
What is this that thou hast done? Thou hast defiled thy body and soul, thou hast disabled the whole world from serving God; yea, moreover, thou hast let in the devil at the door of thy heart, and hast also made him the prince of the world. What is this that thou hast done? Ah, little, little do sinners know what they have done, when they have transgressed the law of the Lord.
As death and the curse came into the world by a woman, so also did life and health: "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman." Yea, to show how much those that came after did abhor the act of the mother, this sex, in the Old Testament, coveted children, if happily this or that woman might be the mother of the Saviour of the world. I will say again, that when the Saviour was come, woman rejoiced in him, before either man or angel. I read not that ever man did give unto Christ so much as one groat; but the women followed him and ministered unto him of their substance. It was a woman that washed his feet with tears, and a woman that anointed his body to the burial. They were women that wept when he was going to the cross; and women that followed him from the cross, and that sat by his sepulchre when he was buried. They were women that were first with him at his resurrection-morn, and women that brought tidings first to the disciples that he was risen from the dead. Women therefore are highly favored, and show by these things that they are sharers with us in the grace of life.
All the glory of this world, had not Adam had a wife, could not have completed this man's blessedness. He would yet have been wanting.
A master of a family and a mistress of the same are those that are entrusted of God with those under their tuition and care to be brought up for him, be they children or servants.
Look to it and consider with thyself whether thou hast done such duty and service for God in this matter, that, setting common facilities aside, thou canst with good conscience lift up thy face unto God; the which to be sure thou canst by no means do, if iniquity to the utmost be not banished out of thy house.
And will it not be a sad complaint that thy servant shall take up against thee before the Judge, at the last day, that he learnt the way to destruction in thy house, who art a professor? Servants, though themselves be carnal, expect, when they come into the house of professors, that there they shall see religion in spangling colors; but behold, when he enters thy door, he finds sin and wickedness there. There is pride instead of humility, and height of raillery instead of meekness and holiness of mind. He looked for a house full of virtue, and behold nothing but spider-webs; fair and plausible abroad, but like the sow in the mire at home.
"Bless me," saith such a servant, "are these the religious people? are these the servants of God, where iniquity is made so much of and is so highly entertained?"
And now is his heart filled with prejudice against all religion, or else he turns hypocrite like his master and mistress, wearing, as they, a cloak of religion to cover all abroad, while all is naked and shameful at home.
But perhaps thy heart is so hard and thy mind so united to the pleasing of thy vile affections, that thou wilt say, "What care I for my servant? I took him to do my work, not to train him up in religion." Well, suppose the soul of thy servant be thus little worth in thine eyes; yet what wilt thou say for thy children, who behold all thy ways, and are as capable of drinking up the poison of thy footsteps, as the swine is of drinking up swill: I say, what wilt thou do for them? Children will learn to be wicked of parents -- of professing parents soonest of all; they will be tempted to think all that they do is right. I say, what wilt thou say to this? Or art thou like the ostrich whom God hath deprived of wisdom, and hath hardened her heart against her young? Will it please thee, when thou shalt see that thou hast brought forth children to the murderer? or when thou shalt hear them cry, I learnt to go on in the paths of sin by the carriage of professing parents? If it was counted of old a sad thing for a man to bring forth children to the sword, as Ephraim did; what will it be for a man to bring up children for hell? Hos.9:13.
"And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters." He lived therefore to see the fruit of his good rule and government in the church, even to see his teachable and dedicated son caught up to God and to his throne.
A good encouragement to all rulers in the house of God, and also to all godly parents, to teach and rule in the fear of God; for that is the way to part with church-members and children with comfort; yea, that is the way, if we shall outlive them, to send them to heaven and to God before us.
If parents carry it lovingly towards their children, mixing their mercies with loving rebukes, and their loving rebukes with fatherly and motherly compassions, they are more likely to save their children than by being churlish and severe towards them. But if they do not save them, if their mercy do them no good, yet it will greatly ease them at the day of death to consider, I have done by love as much as I could to save and deliver my child from hell.
Let them that name the name of Christ depart from family-iniquity. There is a house-iniquity -- an iniquity that loves not to walk abroad, but to harbor within doors. This the holy man David was aware of; therefore he said that he would behave himself wisely, in a perfect way; yea, saith he, "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart."
Many that show like saints abroad, yet act the part of devils when they are at home by giving way to this house-iniquity. This iniquity meeteth the man and his wife at the very threshold of the door, and will not suffer them to enter, no, not with one foot into the house, in peace: but how far this is from walking together as heirs of the grace of life, is easy to be determined. Men should carry it in love to their wives, as Christ doth to his church; and wives should carry it to their husbands, as the church ought to carry it to her Saviour, Eph.5: 21-28; 1 Pet.3: 7; and until each relation be managed with respect to these things, this house-iniquity will be cherished there. Oh, God sees within doors as well as without, and will judge too for the iniquity of the house as well as for that more open.
A man's house and his conduct there do more bespeak the nature and temper of his mind than all public profession. If I were to judge of a man for my life, I would not judge of him by his open profession, but by his domestic behaviors.
Open profession is like a man's best cloak, which is worn by him when he walks abroad, and with many is made but little use of at home. But now what a man is at home, that he is indeed. There is abroad, my house, my closet, my heart; and my house, my closet, show most what I am: though not to the world, yet to my family and to angels.
To make religion and the power of godliness the chief of my designs at home, before those among whom God by a special hand has placed me, is that which is pleasing to God, and which obtaineth a good report of him. Genesis 18:17-19.
CHARACTER OF TALKATIVE. He talketh of prayer, of repentance, of faith, and of the new birth; but he knows but only to talk of them. I have been in his family, and have observed him both at home and abroad. His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savor. There is there neither prayer nor sign of repentance for sin; yea, the brute in his kind serves God far better than he. He is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion to all that know him: it can hardly have a good word in all that end of the town where he dwells, through him. Thus say the common people, that know him, "A saint abroad and a devil at home." His poor family find it so: he is such a churl, such a railer at, and so unreasonable with his servants, that they neither know how to do for or speak to him.
Domestic iniquity stands also in the disorders of children and servants. Children's unlawful carriage to their parents is a great house-iniquity, yea, and a common one too.2 Tim.3:2, 3.
Disobedience to parents is one of the sins of the last days. O it is horrible to behold how irreverently, how saucily, and malpertly, children, yea, professing children, at this day carry it to their parents; snapping and checking, curbing and rebuking them, as if they had never received their being by them, or had never been beholden to them for bringing them up; yea, as if the relation was lost, or as if they had received a dispensation from God to dishonor and disobey parents.
I will add, that this sin reigns in little and great; for not only the small and young, but men are disobedient to their parents; and indeed this is the sin with a shame, that men shall be "disobedient to parents." Where nowadays shall we see children that are come to men and women's estate, carry it as by the word they are bound, to their aged and worn-out parents? I say, where is the honor they should put upon them? Who speak to their aged parents with that due regard to that relation, to their age, to their worn-out condition, that becomes them? Is it not common nowadays for parents to be brought into bondage and servitude by their children; for parents to be under, and children above; for parents to be debased, and children to lord it over them?
This sin is, I fear, grown to such a height in some, as to make them weary of their parents, and of doing their duty to them. Yea, I wish that some be not murderers of fathers and mothers by their thoughts, while they secretly long after and desire their death, that the inheritance may be theirs, and that they may be delivered from obedience to their parents.1 Tim.1:9. This is a sin in the house, in the family; a sin that is kept close; but God sees it, and has declared his dislike against it, by an implicit threatening to cut them off that are guilty of it. Eph.5:1-3.
Many that have had very hopeful beginnings for heaven, have, by virtue of the mischiefs that have attended unlawful marriages, Deut.7:4,5; 2 Cor.6:14, miserably and fearfully miscarried. Soon after such marriages, conviction, the first step towards heaven, hath ceased; prayers, the next step towards heaven, have ceased; hungerings and thirstings after salvation, another step towards the kingdom of heaven, have ceased. In a word, such marriages have estranged them from the word, from their godly and faithful friends, and have brought them again into carnal company, among carnal friends, and also into carnal delights; where and with whom they have, in conclusion, both sinfully abode and miserably perished.
Servants are goers as well as comers: take heed that thou give them no occasion to scandal the gospel when they are gone, for what they observed thee unrighteously to do when they were with thee.
Though thy parents be never so low, and thou thyself never so high, yet he is thy father, and she thy mother, and they must be in thine eyes in great esteem.
BUNYAN'S DOMESTIC CHARACTER.
But notwithstanding these helps from God, I found myself a man encompassed with infirmities; the parting with my wife and poor children,[Footnote: Bunyan had four children, all by his first marriage. About 1658, some three years after his baptism, he married his second wife, the heroic Elizabeth. In 1660 he was first imprisoned.] hath often been to me in this place as the pulling the flesh from the bones; and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries, and wants that my poor family was like to meet with, should I be taken from them; especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all beside. Oh, the thoughts of the hardships which my poor blind one might undergo, would seem to break my heart in pieces. Poor child, thought I, what sorrow art thou like to have for thy portion in this world! thou must he beaten, must beg, suffer hunger, cold, nakedness, and a thousand calamities, though I cannot now endure the wind should blow upon thee. But yet, recalling myself, thought I, I must venture you all with God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you. Oh, I saw in this condition I was as a man who was pulling down his house upon the heads of his wife and children; yet, thought I, I must do it, I must do it: and now I thought on those two milch kine that were to carry the ark of God into another country, and to leave their calves behind them.1 Sam 6:10.
What if, as you suggest, the sober Dr. Owen, though he told me and others, at first, he would write an epistle to my book, ("Peaceable Principles and True,") yet waved it afterwards; this was also to my advantage; because it was the earnest solicitations of several of you that at that time stopped his hand: and perhaps it was more for the glory of God that truth should, go naked into the world, than as seconded by so mighty an armor-bearer as he.
The truth is of that nature, that the more it is opposed, the more glory it appears in; and the more the adversary objects against it, the more it will clear itself.
There belongs to every true notion of truth, a power; the notion is the shell, the power the kernel and life.
It is impossible that a carnal heart should conceive of the weight that truth lays upon the conscience of a believer. They see nothing, alas, nothing at all but a truth; and, say they, Are you such fools as to stand groaning to bear up that, or what is contained therein? They see not the weight, the glory, the weight of glory, that is in a truth of God; and therefore they laugh at them that will count it worth the while to endure so much to support it from falling to the ground.
Truths are often delivered to us, like wheat in full ears, to the end we should rub them out before we eat them, and take pains about them, before we have the comfort of them.
I could, were I so pleased, use higher-strains,
Should all be forced their brains to lay aside,
Words easy to be understood do often hit the mark, when high and learned ones do only pierce the air. He also that speaks to the weakest, may make the learned understand him; when he that striveth to be high, is not only for the most part understood but of a sort, but also many times is neither understood by them nor by himself.
THE OLD AND NEW DISPENSATIONS.
There is as great a difference between their dispensation and ours for comfort, as there is between the making of a bond with a promise to seal it, and the actual sealing. It was made indeed in their time, but it was not sealed until the blood was shed on Calvary.
THE PILGRIM IN NEW ENGLAND.
My Pilgrim's book has travelled sea and land;
NOTICES OF BUNYAN.
THIS wonderful book, [the Pilgrim's Progress,] while it obtains admiration from the most fastidious critics, is loved by those who are too simple to admire it. Dr. Johnson, all whose studies were desultory, and who hated, as he said, to read books through, made an exception in favor of the Pilgrim's Progress. That work, he said, was one of the two or three which he wished longer. In every nursery the Pilgrim's Progress is a greater favorite than Jack the Giant-killer. Every reader knows the strait and narrow path as well as he knows a road in which he has gone backward and forward a hundred times. This is the highest miracle of genius -- that things which are not should be as though they were, that the imaginations of one mind should become the personal recollections of another. Cowper said, forty or fifty years ago, that he dared not name John Bunyan in his verse, for fear of moving a sneer. We live in better times; and we are not afraid to say, that though there were many clever men in England during the latter half of the seventeenth century, there were only two great creative minds. One of those minds produced the Paradise Lost, the other the PILGRIM'S PROGRESS.
The style of Bunyan is delightful to every reader, and invaluable as a study to every person who wishes to obtain a wide command over the English language. The vocabulary is the vocabulary of the common people. There is not an expression, if we except a few technical terms of theology, which would puzzle the rudest peasant. We have observed several pages which do not contain a single word of more than two syllables. Yet no writer has said more exactly what he meant to say. For magnificence, for pathos, for vehement exhortation, for subtle disquisition, for every purpose of the poet, the orator, and the divine, this homely dialect, the dialect of plain working-men, was sufficient. There is no book in our literature on which we could so readily stake the fame of the old unpolluted English language -- no book which shows so well how rich that language is in its own proper wealth, and how little it has been improved by all that it has borrowed. T. B. Macaulay -- Essays.
To the names of Baxter and Howe must be added the name of a man far below them in station and in acquired knowledge, but in virtue their equal, and in genius their superior, John Bunyan. Bunyan had been bred a tinker, and had served as a private soldier in the parliamentary army. Early in his life he had been fearfully tortured by remorse for his youthful sins, the worst of which seem, however, to have been such as the world thinks venial. His keen sensibility and his powerful imagination made his internal conflicts singularly terrible. He fancied that he was under sentence of reprobation, that he had committed blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, that he had sold Christ, that he was actually possessed by a demon. Sometimes loud voices from heaven cried out to warn him. Sometimes fiends whispered impious suggestions in his ear. He saw visions of distant mountain-tops, on which the sun shone brightly, but from which he was separated by a waste of snow. He felt the devil behind him pulling his clothes. He thought, that the brand of Cain had been set upon him. He feared that he was about to burst asunder like Judas. His mental agony disordered his health. One day he shook like a man in the palsy. On another day he felt a fire within his breast. It is difficult to understand how he survived sufferings so intense and so long-continued. At length the clouds broke. From the depths of despair the penitent passed to a state of serene felicity. An irresistible impulse now urged him to impart to others the blessing of which he was himself possessed. He joined the Baptists, and became a preacher and writer. His education had been that of a mechanic. He knew no language but the English, as it was spoken by the common people. He had studied no great model of composition, with the exception -- an important exception undoubtedly -- of our noble translation of the Bible. His spelling was bad. He frequently transgressed the rules of grammar. Yet his native force of genius, and his experimental knowledge of all the religious passions, from despair to ecstasy, amply supplied in him the want of learning. His rude oratory roused and melted hearers who listened without interest to the labored discourses of great logicians and Hebraists. His works were widely circulated among the humbler classes. One of them, the Pilgrim's Progress, was in his own lifetime translated into several foreign languages. It was, however, scarcely known to the learned and polite, and had been during nearly a century the delight of pious cottagers and artisans before it was publicly commended by any man of high literary eminence. At length critics condescended to inquire where the secret of so wide and so durable a popularity lay. They were compelled to own that the ignorant multitude had judged more correctly than the learned, and that the despised little book was really a masterpiece. Bunyan is indeed as decidedly the first of allegorists as Demosthenes is the first of orators, or Shakspeare the first of dramatists. Other allegorists have shown equal ingenuity, but no other allegorist has ever been able to touch the heart, and to make abstractions objects of terror, of pity, and of love.
It may be doubted whether any English dissenter had suffered more severely under the penal laws than John Bunyan. Of the twenty-seven years which had elapsed since the Restoration, he had passed twelve in confinement. He still persisted in preaching; but that he might preach, he was under the necessity of disguising himself like a carter. He was often introduced into meetings through back doors with a smockfrock on his back, and a whip in his hand. If he had thought only of his own ease and safety, he would have hailed the indulgence with delight. He was now at length free to pray and exhort in open day. His congregation rapidly increased; thousands hung upon his words; and at Bedford, where he ordinarily resided, money was plentifully contributed to build a meeting-house for him. His influence among the common people was such that the government would willingly have bestowed on him some municipal office; but his vigorous understanding and his stout English heart were proof against all delusion and all temptation. He felt assured that the proffered toleration was merely a bait intended to lure the Puritan party to destruction; nor would he, by accepting a place for which he was not legally qualified, recognize the validity of the dispensing power. One of the last acts of his virtuous life was to decline an interview to which he was invited by an agent Of the government. T. B. Macaulay -- History of England.
The demeanor of Sir Matthew Hale in the case of John Bunyan, the author of the Pilgrim's Progress, shows him paying respect both to the rules of law and to the dictates of humanity. This wonderful man -- who, though bred a tinker, showed a genius little inferior to that of Dante -- having been illegally convicted by the court of Quarter-sessions, was lying in prison under his sentence in the jail of Bedford. Soon after the restoration of Charles II., the young enthusiast had been arrested while he was preaching at a meeting in a private house; and, refusing to enter into an engagement that he would preach no more, had been indicted as "a person who devilishly and perniciously abstained from coming to church to hear divine service, and a common upholder of unlawful meetings and conventicles, to the great disturbance and distraction of the good subjects of this realm."
Little do we know what is for our permanent good. Had Bunyan then been discharged and allowed to enjoy liberty, he no doubt would have returned to his trade, filling up his intervals of leisure with field-preaching; his name would not have survived his own generation, and he could have done little for the religious improvement of mankind. The prison-doors were shut upon him for twelve years. Being cut off from the external world, he communed with his own soul; and inspired by Him who touched Isaiah's hallowed lips with fire, he composed the noblest of allegories, the merit of which was first discovered by the lowly, but which is now lauded by the most refined critics, and which has done more to awaken piety and to enforce the precepts of Christian morality, than all the sermons that have been published by all the prelates of the Anglican church. Lord Campbell.
The Pilgrim's Progress is a book which makes its way through the fancy to the understanding and the heart. The child peruses it with wonder and delight; in youth we discover the genius which it displays; its worth is apprehended as we advance in years; and we perceive its merits feelingly in declining age. If it is not a well of English undefiled, to which the poet as well as the philologist must repair if they would drink of the living waters, it is a clear stream of current English, the vernacular of his age -- sometimes indeed in its rusticity and coarseness, but always in its plainness and its strength. Robert Southey.
No man of common-sense and common integrity can deny that Bunyan, the tinker of Elstow, was a practical atheist, a worthless contemptible infidel, a vile rebel to God and goodness, a common profligate. Now be astonished, O heaven, to eternity; and wonder, O earth and hell, while time endures. Behold this very man become a miracle of mercy, a mirror of wisdom, goodness, holiness, truth, and love. See his polluted soul cleansed and adorned by divine grace, his guilt pardoned, the divine law inscribed upon his heart, the divine image, or the resemblance of God's moral perfections impressed upon his soul. Mr. Ryland.
It has been the lot of John Bunyan, an unlettered artisan, to do more than one in a hundred millions of human beings, even in civilized society, is usually able to do. He has produced a work of imagination of such decided originality as not only to have commanded profound admiration on its first appearance, but amidst all changes of time and style and modes of thinking, to have maintained its place in the popular literature of every succeeding age, with the probability that, so long as the language in which it is written endures, it will not cease to be read by a great number of the youth of all future generations at that period of life when their minds, their imaginations, and their hearts are most impressible with moral excellence, splendid picture, and religious sentiment. It would be difficult to name another work of any kind in our native tongue, of which so many editions have been printed, of which so many readers have lived and died, the character of whose lives and deaths must have been more or less affected by its lessons and examples, its fictions and realities. James Montgomery.
I know of no book, the Bible excepted as above all comparison, which I, according to my judgment and experience, could so safely recommend as teaching and enforcing the whole saving truth, according to the mind that was in Christ Jesus, as the Pilgrim's Progress. It is in my conviction the best Summa Theologiae Evangelicae ever produced by a writer not miraculously inspired. Coleridge's Remains.
So great was Bunyan's popularity as a preacher, that an eyewitness says, when he preached in London, "If there were but one day's notice given, there would be more people come together to hear him preach than the meeting-house would hold. I have seen, to hear him preach, about twelve hundred at a morning lecture, by seven o'clock on a working-day, in the dark winter time." Charles Doe.
I hold John Bunyan to have been a man of incomparably greater genius than any of them, [the old English divines,] and to have given a far truer and more edifying picture of Christianity. His Pilgrim's Progress seems to be a complete reflection of Scripture, with none of the rubbish of the theologians mixed up with it. Thomas Arnold, D. D
O thou whom, borne on fancy's eager wing Back to the season of life's happy spring, I pleased remember, and while memory yet Holds fast her office here, can ne'er forget; Ingenious Dreamer! in whose weil-told tale, Sweet fiction and sweet truth alike prevail; Whose humorous vein, strong sense, and simple style, May teach the gayest, make the gravest smile; Witty, and well-employed, and like thy Lord, Speaking in parables his slighted word; I name thee not, lest so despised a name Should move a sneer at thy deserved fame; Yet e'en in transitory life's late day, That mingles all my brown with sober gray, Revere the man, whose Pilgrim marks the road And guides the Progress of the soul to God. Cowper