TO his contemporaries Bunyan was known as the Nonconformist Martyr, and the greatest living Protestant preacher. To us he is mainly interesting through his writings, and especially through The Pilgrim's Progress. Although he possessed in a remarkable degree the gift of expressing himself in written words, he had himself no value for literature. He cared simply for spiritual truth, and literature in his eyes was only useful as a means of teaching it. Every thing with which a reasonable man could concern himself was confined within the limits of Christian faith and practice. Ambition was folly. Amusement was idle trifling in a life so short as man's, and with issues so far-reaching depending upon it. To understand, and to make others understand, what Christ had done, and what Christ required men to do, was the occupation of his whole mind, and no object ever held his attention except in connection with it. With a purpose so strict, and a theory of religion so precise, there is usually little play for imagination or feeling. Though we read Protestant theology as a duty, we find it as dry in the mouth as sawdust. The literature which would please must represent nature, and nature refuses to be bound into our dogmatic systems. No object can be pictured truly, except by a mind which has sympathy with it. Shakspeare no more hates Iago than Iago hates himself. He allows Iago to exhibit himself in his own way, as nature does. Every character, if justice is to be done to it, must be painted at its best, as it appears to itself; and a man impressed deeply with religious convictions is generally incapable of the sympathy which would give him an insight into what he disapproves and denies. And yet Bunyan, intensely religious as he was, and narrow as his theology was, is always human. His genius remains fresh and vigorous under the least promising conditions. All mankind being under sin together, he has no favourites to flatter, no opponents to misrepresent. There is a kindliness in his descriptions even of the Evil One's attacks upon himself.
The Pilgrim's Progress, though professedly an allegoric story of the Protestant plan of salvation, is conceived in the large, wide spirit of humanity itself. Anglo-Catholic and Lutheran, Calvinist and Deist can alike read it with delight, and find their own theories in it. Even the Ro-manist has only to blot out a few paragraphs, and can discover no purer model of a Christian life to place in the hands of his children. The religion of The Pilgrim's Progress is the religion which must be always and everywhere, as long as man believes that he has a soul and is responsible for his actions; and thus it is that, while theological folios once devoured as manna from Heaven now lie on the bookshelves dead as Egyptian mummies, this book is wrought into the mind and memory of every well-conditioned English or American child; while the matured man, furnished with all the knowledge which literature can teach him, still finds the adventures of Christian as charming as the adventures of Ulysses or Æneas. He sees there the reflexion of himself, the familiar features of his own nature, which remain the same from era to era. Time cannot impair its interest, or intellectual progress make it cease to be true to experience.
But The Pilgrim's Progress, though the best known, is not the only work of imagination which Bunyan produced; he wrote another religious allegory, which Lord Macaulay thought would have been the best of its kind in the world if The Pilgrim's Progress had not existed. The Life of Mr. Badman, though now scarcely read at all, contains a vivid picture of rough English life in the days of Charles II. Bunyan was a poet, too, in the technical sense of the word; and though he disclaimed the name, and though rhyme and metre were to him as Saul's armour to David, the fine quality of his mind still shows itself in the uncongenial accoutrements.
It has been the fashion to call Bunyan's verse doggerel; but no verse is doggerel which has a sincere and rational meaning in it. Goethe, who understood his own trade, says that the test of poetry is the substance which remains when the poetry is reduced to prose. Bunyan had infinite invention. His mind was full of objects which he had gathered at first-hand, from observation and reflection. He had excellent command of the English language, and could express what he wished with sharp, defined outlines, and without the waste of a word. The rhythmical structure of his prose is carefully correct. Scarcely a syllable is ever out of place. His ear for verse, though less true, is seldom wholly at fault, and, whether in prose or verse, he had the superlative merit that he could never v/rite nonsense. If one of the motives of poetical form be to clothe thought and feeling in the dress in which it can be most easily remembered, Bunyan's lines are often as successful as the best lines of Quarles or George Herbert. Who, for instance, could forget these?--
"Sin is the worm of hell, the lasting
Hell would soon lose its heat should sin expire;
Better sinless in hell than to be where
Heaven is, and to be found a sinner there."
Or these, on persons whom the world calls men of spirit:--
"Though you dare crack a coward's
Or quarrel for a pin,
You dare not on the wicked frown,
Or speak against their sin."
The Book of Ruth and the History of Joseph, done into blank verse, are really beautiful idylls. The substance with which he worked, indeed, is so good that there would be a difficulty in "spoiling it completely; but the prose of the translation in the English Bible, faultless as it is, loses nothing in Bunyan's hands, and if we found these poems in the collected works of a poet laureate, we should consider that a difficult task had been accomplished successfully. Bunyan felt, like the translators of the preceding century, that the text was sacred, that his duty was to give the exact meaning of it, without epithets or ornaments, and thus the original grace is completely preserved.
Of a wholly different kind, and more after Quarles's manner, is a collection of thoughts in verse, which he calls a book for boys and girls. All his observations ran naturally in one direction; to minds possessed and governed by religion, nature--be their creed what it may--is always a parable reflecting back their own views.
But how neatly expressed are these Meditations upon an Egg:--
"The egg's no chick by faling from
Nor man's a Christian till he's born again;
The egg's at first contained in the shell,
Men afore grace in sin and darkness dwell;
The egg, when laid, by warmth is made a chicken,
And Christ by grace the dead in sin doth quicken;
The egg when first a chick the shell's its prison,
So flesh to soul who yet with Christ is risen."
Or this, On a Swallow:--
"This pretty bird! Oh, how she flies
But could she do so if she had not wings?
Her wings bespeak my faith, her songs my peace;
When I believe and sing, my doubtings cease.
Though the Globe Theatre was, in the opinion of Nonconformists, "the heart of Satan's empire," Bunyan must yet have known something of Shakspeare. In the second part of The Pilgrim's Progress we find:--
"Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather."
The resemblance to the song in As You Like It is too near to be accidental:--
"Who doth ambition shun,
And loves to be in the sun;
Seeking the food he eats,
And pleased with what he gets,
Come hither, come hither, come hither.
Here shall be no enemy,
Save winter and rough weather."
Bunyan may, perhaps, have heard the lines, and the rhymes may have clung to him without his knowing whence they came. But he would never have been heard of outside his own communion, if his imagination had found no better form of expression for itself than verse.
His especial gift was for allegory, the single form of imaginative fiction which he would not have considered trivial, and his especial instrument was plain, unaffected Saxon prose. The Holy War is a people's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained in one. The Life of Mr. Badman is a didactic tale, describing the career of a vulgar, middle-class, unprincipled scoundrel.
These are properly Bunyan's "works," the results of his life, so far as it affects the present generation of Englishmen; and as they are little known, I shall give an account of each of them.
The Life of Badman is presented as a dialogue between Mr. Wiseman and Mr. Attentive. Mr. Wiseman tells the story, Mr. Attentive comments upon it. The names recall Bunyan's well-known manner. The figures stand for typical characters; but as the dramatis personœ of many writers of fiction, while professing to be beings of flesh and blood, are no more than shadows, so Bunyan's shadows are solid men, whom we can feel and handle.
Mr. Badman is, of course, one of the "reprobate." Bunyan considered theoretically that a reprobate may to outward appearance have the graces of a saint, and that there may be little in his conduct to mark his true character. A reprobate may be sorry for his sins, he may repent and lead a good life. He may reverence good men, and may try to resemble them; he may pray, and his prayers may be answered; he may have the spirit of God, and may receive another heart, and yet he may be under the covenant of works, and may be eternally lost. This Bunyan could say while he was writing theology; but art has its rules as well as its more serious sister, and when he had to draw a living specimen, he drew him as he had seen him in his own Bedford neighbourhood.
Badman showed from childhood a propensity for evil. He was so "addicted to lying that his parents could not distinguish when he was speaking the truth. He would invent, tell, and stand to the lies which he invented, with such an audacious face, that one might read in his very countenance the symptoms of a hard and desperate heart. It was not the fault of his parents; they were much dejected at the beginnings of their son; nor did he want counsel and correction, if that would have made him better; but all availed nothing."
Lying was not Badman's only fault. He took to pilfering and stealing. He robbed his neighbours' orchards. He picked up money if he found it lying about. Especially, Mr. Wiseman notes that he hated Sundays. "Reading Scriptures, godly conferences, repeating of sermons and prayers, were things that he could not away with." "He was an enemy to that day, because more restraint was laid upon him from his own ways than was possible on any other." Mr. Wiseman never doubts that the Puritan Sunday ought to have been appreciated by little boys. If a child disliked it, the cause could only be his own wickedness. Young Badman "was greatly given also to swearing and cursing." "He made no more of it" than Mr. Wiseman made "of telling his fingers." "He counted it a glory to swear and curse, and it was as natural to him as to eat, drink, or sleep." Bunyan, in this description, is supposed to have taken the picture from himself. But too much may be made of this. He was thinking, perhaps, of what he might have been if God's grace had not preserved him. He himself was saved. Badman is represented as given over from the first. Anecdotes, however, are told of contemporary providential judgments upon swearers, which had much impressed Bunyan. One was of a certain Dorothy Mately, a woman whose business was to wash rubbish at the Derby lead-mines. Dorothy (it was in the year when Bunyan was first imprisoned) had stolen twopence from the coat of a boy who was working near her. When the boy taxed her with having robbed him, she wished the ground might swallow her up if she had ever touched his money. Presently after, some children, who were watching her, saw a movement in the bank on which she was standing. They called to her to take care, but it was too late. The bank fell in, and she was carried down along with it. A man ran to help her, but the sides of the pit were crumbling round her: a large stone fell on her head; the rubbish followed, and she was overwhelmed. When she was dug out afterwards, the pence were found in her pocket. Bunyan was perfectly satisfied that her death was supernatural. To discover miracles is not peculiar to Catholics. They will be found wherever there is an active belief in immediate providential government.
Those more cautious in forming their conclusions will think, perhaps, that the woman was working above some shaft in the mine, that the crust had suddenly broken, and that it would equally have fallen in, when gravitation required it to fall, if Dorothy Mately had been a saint. They will remember the words about the Tower of Siloam. But to return to Badman.
His father, being unable to manage so unpromising a child, bound him out as an apprentice. The master to whom he was assigned was as good a man as the father could find: upright, God-fearing, and especially considerate of his servants. He never worked them too hard. He left them time to read and pray. He admitted no light or mischievous books within his doors. He was not one of those whose religion "hung as a cloke in his house, and
was never seen on him when he went abroad." His household was as well fed and cared for as himself, and he required nothing of others of which he did not set them an example in his own person.
This man did his best to reclaim young Badman, and was particularly kind to him. But his exertions were thrown away. The good-for-nothing youth read filthy romances on the sly. He fell asleep in church, or made eyes at the pretty girls. He made acquaintance with low companions. He became profligate, got drunk at ale-houses, sold his master's property to get money, or stole it out of the cash-box. Thrice he ran away and was taken back again. The third time he was allowed to go. "The House of Correction would have been the most fit for him, but thither his master was loath to send him, for the love he bore his father."
He was again apprenticed; this time to a master like himself. Being wicked, he was given over to wickedness. The ways of it were not altogether pleasant. He was fed worse and he was worked harder than he had been before; when he stole, or neglected his business, he was beaten. He liked his new place, however, better than the old. "At least, there was no godliness in the house, which he hated worst of all."
So far, Bunyan's hero was travelling the usual road of the Idle Apprentice, and the gallows would have been the commonplace ending of it. But this would not have answered Bunyan's purpose. He wished to represent the good-for-nothing character, under the more instructive aspect of worldly success, which bad men may arrive at as well as good, if they are prudent and cunning. Bunyan gives his hero every chance. He submits him from the first to the best influences; he creates opportunities for repentance at every stage of a long career--opportunities which the reprobate nature cannot profit by, yet increases its guilt by neglecting.
Badman's term being out, his father gives him money and sets him up as a tradesman on his own account. Mr. Attentive considers this to have been a mistake. Mr. Wiseman answers that, even in the most desperate cases, kindness in parents is more likely to succeed than severity, and, if it fails, they will have the less to reproach themselves with. The kindness is, of course, thrown away. Badman continues a loose blackguard, extravagant, idle, and dissolute. He comes to the edge of ruin. His situation obliges him to think; and now the interest of the story begins. He must repair his fortune by some means or other. The easiest way is by marriage. There was a young orphan lady in the neighbourhood, who was well off and her own mistress. She was a "professor," eagerly given to religion, and not so wise as she ought to have been. Badman pretends to be converted. He reforms, or seems to reform. He goes to meeting, sings hymns, adopts the most correct form of doctrine, tells the lady that he does not want her money, but that he wants a companion who will go with him along the road to Heaven. He was plausible, good-looking, and, to all appearance, as absorbed as herself in the one thing needful. The congregation warn her, but to no purpose. She marries him, and finds what she has done too late. In her fortune he has all that he wanted. He swears at her, treats her brutally, brings prostitutes into his house, laughs at her religion, and at length orders her to give it up. When she refuses, Bunyan introduces a special feature of the times, and makes Badman threaten to turn informer, and bring her favourite minister to gaol. The informers were the natural but most accursed products of the Conventicle Acts. Popular abhorrence relieved itself by legends of the dreadful judgments which had overtaken these wretches.
In St. Neots an informer was bitten by a dog. The wound gangrened, and the flesh rotted off his bones. In Bedford "there was one W. S." (Bunyan probably knew him too well), "a man of very wicked life, and he, when there seemed to be countenance given it, would needs turn informer. Well, so he did, and was as diligent in his business as most of them could be. He would watch at nights, climb trees, and range the woods of days, if possible to find out the meeters, for then they were forced to meet in the fields. Yea, he would curse them bitterly, and swore most fearfully what he would do to them when he found them. Well, after he had gone on like a Bedlam in his course awhile, and had done some mischief to the people, he was stricken by the hand of God. He was taken with a faltering in his speech, a weakness in the back sinews of his neck, that ofttimes he held up his head by strength of hand. After this his speech went quite away, and he could speak no more than a swine or a bear. Like one of them he would gruntle and make an ugly noise, according as he was offended or pleased, or would have anything done. He walked about till God had made a sufficient spectacle of his judgments for his sin, and then, on a sudden, he was stricken, and died miserably."
Badman, says Mr. Wiseman, "had malice enough in his heart" to turn informer, bat he was growing prudent and had an eye to the future. As a tradesman he had to live by his neighbours. He knew that they would not forgive him, so "he had that wit in his anger that he did it not." Nothing else was neglected to make the unfortunate wife miserable. She bore him seven children, also typical figures. "One was a very gracious child, that loved its mother dearly. This child Mr. Badman could not abide, and it oftenest felt the weight of its father's fingers. Three were as bad as himself. The others that remained became a kind of mongrel professors, not so bad as their father nor so good as their mother, but betwixt them both. They had their mother's notions and their father's actions. Their father did not like them because they had their mother's tongue. Their mother did not like them because they had their father's heart and life, nor were they fit company for good or bad. They were forced with Esau to join in affinity with Ishmael--to wit, to look out for a people that were hypocrites like themselves, and with them they matched and lived and died."
Badman; meanwhile, with the help of his wife's fortune, grew into an important person, and his character becomes a curious study. "He went," we are told, "to school with the devil, from his childhood to the end of his life." He was shrewd in matters of business, began to extend his operations, and "drove a great trade." He carried a double face. He was evil with the evil. He pretended to be good with the good. In religion he affected to be a freethinker, careless of death and judgment, and ridiculing those who feared them "as frighted with unseen bag-bears." But he wore a mask when it suited him, and admired himself for the ease with which he could assume whatever aspect was convenient. "I can be religious and irreligious," he said; "I can be anything or nothing. I can swear, and speak against swearing. I can lie, and speak against lying. I can drink, wench, be unclean, and defraud, and not be troubled for it. I can enjoy myself, and am master of my own ways, not they of me. This I have attained with much study, care, and pains." "An Atheist Badman was, if such a thing as an Atheist could be. He was not alone in that mystery. There was abundance of men of the same mind and the same principle. He was only an arch or chief one among them."
Mr. Badman now took to speculation, which Bunyan's knowledge of business enabled him to describe with instructive minuteness. His adventures were on a large scale, and by some mistakes and by personal extravagance he had nearly ruined himself a second time. In this condition he discovered a means, generally supposed to be a more modern invention, of "getting money by hatfuls."
"He gave a sudden and great rush into several men's debts to the value of four or five thousand pounds, driving at the same time a very great trade by selling many things for less than they cost him, to get him custom and blind his creditors' eyes. When he had well feathered his nest with other men's goods and money, after a little while he breaks; while he had by craft and knavery made so sure of what he had that his creditors could not touch a penny. He sends mournful, sugared letters to them, desiring them not to be severe with him, for he bore towards all men an honest mind, and would pay them as far as he was able. He talked of the greatness of the taxes, the badness of the times, his losses by bad debts, and he brought them to a composition to take five shillings in the pound. His release was signed and sealed, and Mr. Badman could now put his head out-of-doors again, and be a better man than when he shut up shop by several thousands of pounds."
Twice or three times he repeated the same trick with equal success. It is likely enough that Bunyan was drawing from life, and perhaps from a member of his own congregation; for he says that "he had known a professor do it." He detested nothing so much as sham religion, which was put on as a pretence. "A professor," he exclaims, "and practise such villanies as these! Such an one is not worthy the name. Go, professors, go--leave off profession, unless you will lead your lives according to your profession. Better never profess than make profession a stalking-horse to sin, deceit, the devil, and hell."
Bankruptcy was not the only art by which Badman piled up his fortune. The seventeenth century was not so far behind us as we sometimes persuade ourselves. "He dealt by deceitful weights and measures. He kept weights to buy by, and weights to sell by; measures to buy by, and measures to sell by. Those he bought by were too big, and those he sold by were too little. If he had to do with other men's weights and measures, he could use a thing called sleight of hand. He had the art, besides, to misreckon men in their accounts, whether by weight or measure or money; and if a question was made of his faithful dealing, he had his servants ready that would vouch and swear to his look or word. He would sell goods that cost him not the best price by far, for as much as he sold his best of all for. He had also a trick to mingle his commodity, that that which was bad might go off with the least mistrust. If any of his customers paid him money, he would call for payment a second time, and if they could not produce good and sufficient ground of the payment, a hundred to one but they paid it again."
"To buy in the cheapest market, and sell in the dearest," was Mr. Badman's common rule in business. According to modern political economy, it is the cardinal principle of wholesome trade. In Bunyan's opinion it was knavery in disguise, and certain to degrade and demoralise every one who acted upon it. Bunyan had evidently
thought on the subject. Mr. Attentive is made to object:--
"But you know that there is no settled price set by God upon any commodity that is bought or sold under the sun; but all things that we buy and sell do ebb and flow as to price, like the tide. How then shall a man of tender conscience do, neither to wrong the seller, buyer, nor himself in the buying and selling of commodities?"
Mr. Wiseman answers in the spirit of our old Acts of Parliament, before political economy was invented:--
"Let a man have conscience towards God, charity to his neighbours, and moderation in dealing. Let the tradesman consider that there is not that in great gettings and in abundance which the most of men do suppose; for all that a man has over and above what serves for his present necessity and supply serves only to feed the lusts of the eye. Be thou confident that God's eyes are upon thy ways; that He marks them, writes them down, and seals them up in a bag against the time to come. Be sure that thou rememberest that thou knowest not the day of thy death. Thou shalt have nothing that thou mayest so much as carry away in thy hand. Guilt shall go with thee if thou hast gotten thy substance dishonestly, and they to whom thou shalt leave it shall receive it to their hurt. These things duly considered, I will shew thee how thou should'st live in the practical part of this art. Art thou to buy or sell? If thou sellest, do not commend. If thou buyest, do not dispraise any otherwise but to give the thing that thou hast to do with its just value and worth. Art thou a seller, and do things grow cheap? set not thy hand to help or hold them up higher. Art thou a buyer, and do things grow dear? use no cunning or deceitful language to pull them down. Leave things to the Providence of God, and do thou with moderation submit to his hand. Hurt not thy neighbour by crying out, Scarcity, scarcity! beyond the truth of things. Especially take heed of doing this by way of a prognostic for time to come. This wicked thing may be done by hoarding up (food) when the hunger and necessity of the poor calls for it. If things rise, do thou be grieved. Be also moderate in all thy sellings, and be sure let the poor have a pennyworth, and sell thy corn to those who are in necessity; which thou wilt do when thou showest mercy to the poor in thy selling to him, and when thou undersellest the market for his sake because he is poor. This is to buy and sell with a good conscience. The buyer thou wrongest not, thy conscience thou wrongest not, thyself thou wrongest not, for God will surely recompense with thee."
These views of Bunyan's are at issue with modern science, but his principles and ours are each adjusted to the objects of desire which good men in those days, and good men in ours, have respectively set before themselves. If wealth means money, as it is now assumed to do, Bunyan is wrong, and modern science right. If wealth means moral welfare, then those who aim at it will do well to follow Bunyan's advice. It is to be feared that this part of his doctrine is less frequently dwelt upon by those who profess to admire and follow him, than the theory of imputed righteousness or justification by faith.
Mr. Badman, by his various ingenuities, became a wealthy man. His character as a tradesman could not have been a secret from his neighbours, but money and success coloured it over. The world spoke well of him. He became "proud and haughty," took part in public affairs, "counted himself as wise as the wisest in the country, as good as the best, and as beautiful as he that had the most of it." "He took great delight in praising himself, and as much in the praises that others gave him." "He could not abide that any should think themselves above him, or that their wit and personage should be by others set before his." He had an objection, nevertheless, to being called proud, and when Mr. Attentive asked why, his companion answered with a touch which reminds us of De Foe, that "Badman did not tell him the reason. He supposed it to be that which was common to all vile persons. They loved their vice, but cared not to bear its name." Badman said he was unwilling to seem singular and fantastical, and in this way he justified his expensive and luxurious way of living. Singularity of all kinds he affected to dislike, and for that reason his special pleasure was to note the faults of professors. "If he could get anything by the end that had scandal in it--if it did but touch professors, however falsely reported--oh, then he would glory, laugh and be glad, and lay it upon the whole party. Hang these rogues, he would say, there is not a barrel better herring in all the holy brotherhood of them. Like to like, quote the devil to the collier. This is your precise crew, and then he would send them all home with a curse."
Thus Bunyan developed his specimen scoundrel, till he brought him to the high altitudes of worldly prosperity; skilful in every villanous art, skilful equally in keeping out of the law's hands, and feared, admired, and respected by all his neighbours. The reader who desires to see Providence vindicated would now expect to find him detected in some crimes by which justice could lay hold, and poetical retribution fall upon him in the midst of his triumph. An inferior artist would certainly have allowed his story to end in this way. But Bunyan, satisfied though he was that dramatic judgments did overtake offenders in this world with direct and startling appropriateness, was yet aware that it was often otherwise, and that the worst fate which could be inflicted on a completely worthless person was to allow him to work out his career unvisited by any penalties which might have disturbed his conscience and occasioned his amendment. He chose to make his story natural, and to confine himself to natural machinery. The judgment to come Mr. Badman laughed at "as old woman's fable," but his courage lasted only as long as he was well and strong. One night, as he was riding home drunk, his horse fell, and he broke his leg. "You would not think," says Mr. Wiseman, "how he swore at first. Then, coining to himself, and finding he was badly hurt, he cried out, after the manner of such, Lord, help me! Lord, have mercy on me! good God, deliver me! and the like. He was picked up and taken home, where he lay some time. In his pain he called on God; but whether it was that his sin might be pardoned, and his soul saved, or whether to be rid of his pain," Mr. Wiseman "could not determine." This leads to several stories of drunkards which Bunyan clearly believed to be literally true. Such facts or legends were the food on which his mind had been nourished. They were in the air which contemporary England breathed.
"I have read, in Mr. Clarke's Looking-glass for Sinners, Mr. Wiseman said, "that upon a time a certain drunken fellow boasted in his cups that there was neither heaven nor hell. Also, he said he believed that man had no soul, and that for his own part he would sell his soul to any that would buy it. Then did one of his companions buy it of him for a cup of wine, and presently the devil, in man's shape, bought it of that man again at the same price; and so, in the presence of them all, laid hold of the soul-seller, and carried him away through the air, so that he was no more heard of."
"There was one at Salisbury drinking and carousing at a tavern, and he drank a health to the devil, saying that if the devil would not come and pledge him, he could not believe that there was either God or devil. Whereupon his companions, stricken with fear, hastened out of the room; and presently after, hearing a hideous noise and smelling a stinking savour, the vintner ran into the chamber, and coming in he missed his guest, and found the window broken, the iron bars in it bowed and all bloody, but the man was never heard of afterwards."
These visitations were answers to a direct challenge of the evil spirit's existence, and were thus easy to be accounted for. But no devil came for Mr. Badman. He clung to his unfortunate, neglected wife. "She became his dear wife, his godly wife, his honest wife, his duck, his dear and all." He thought he was dying, and hell and all its horrors rose up before him. "Fear was in his face, and in his tossings to and fro he would often say, I am undone, I am undone; my vile life hath undone me!" Atheism did not help him. It never helped anyone in such extremities, Mr. Wiseman said, as he had known in another instance: --
"There was a man dwelt about twelve miles off from us," he said, "that had so trained up himself in his Atheistical notions, that at last he attempted to write a book against Jesus Christ and the Divine authority of the Scriptures. I think it was not printed. Well, after many days God struck him with sickness, whereof he died. So, being sick, and musing of his former doings, the book that be had written tore his conscience as a lion would tear a kid. Some of my friends went to see him; and as they were in his chamber one day, he hastily called for pen and ink and paper, which, when it was given to him, he took it and writ to this purpose: "I, such an one in such a town, must go to hell-fire for writing a book against Jesus Christ." He would have leaped out of the window to have killed himself, but was by them prevented of that, so he died in his bed by such a death as it was."
Badman seemed equally miserable. But death-bed repentances, as Bunyan sensibly said, were seldom of more value than "the howling of a dog." The broken leg was set again. The pain of body went, and with it the pain of mind. "He was assisted out of his uneasiness," says Bunyan, with a characteristic hit at the scientific views then coming into fashion, "by his doctor," who told him that his alarms had come "from an affection of the brain, caused by want of sleep;" "they were nothing but vapours and the effects of his distemper." He gathered his spirits together, and became the old man once more. His poor wife, who had believed him penitent, broke her heart, and died of the disappointment. The husband gave himself up to loose connections with abandoned women, one of whom persuaded him one day, when he was drunk, to make her a promise of marriage, and she held him to his word. Then retribution came upon him, with the coarse commonplace, yet rigid justice which fact really deals out. The second bad wife avenged the wrongs of the first innocent wife. He was mated with a companion "who could fit him with cursing and swearing, give him oath for oath, and curse for curse. They would fight, and fly at each other like cat and dog." In this condition-- for Bunyan, before sending his hero to his account, gave him a protracted spell of earthly discomforts--they lived sixteen years together. Fortune, who had so long favoured his speculations, turned her back upon him. Between them they "sinned all his wealth away," and at last parted "as poor as howlets."
Then came the end. Badman was still in middle life, and had naturally a powerful constitution; but his "cups and his queans" had undermined his strength. Dropsy came, and gout, with worse in his bowels, and "on the top of them all, as the captain of the men of death that came to take him away," consumption. Bunyan was a true artist, though he knew nothing of the rules, and was not aware that he was an artist at all. He was not to be tempted into spoiling a natural story with the melodramatic horrors of a sinner's death-bed. He had let his victim "howl" in the usual way, when he meant him to recover. He had now simply to conduct him to the gate of the place where he was to receive the reward of his iniquities. It was enough to bring him thither still impenitent, with the grave solemnity with which a felon is taken to execution.
"As his life was full of sin," says Mr. Wiseman, "so his death was without repentance. He had not, in all the time of his sickness, a sight and a sense of his sins; but was as much at quiet as if he had never sinned in his life; he was as secure as if he had been sinless as an angel. When he drew near his end, there was no more alteration in him than what was made by his disease upon his body. He was the self-same Mr. Badman still, not only in name but in condition, and that to the very day of his death and the moment in which he died. There seemed not to be in it to the standers-by so much as a strong struggle of nature. He died like a lamb, or, as men call it, like a chrisom child, quietly and without fear."
To which end of Mr. Badman Bunyan attaches the following remarks: "If a wicked man, if a man who has lived all his days in notorious sin, dies quietly, his quiet dying is so far from being a sign of his being saved that it is an incontestable proof of his damnation. No man can be saved except he repents; nor can he repent that knows not that he is a sinner: and he that knows himself to be a sinner will, I warrant him, be molested for his knowledge before he can die quietly. I am no admirer of sick-bed repentance; for I think verily it is seldom good for anything. But I see that he that hath lived in sin and pro-faneness all his days, as Badman did, and yet shall die quietly--that is, without repentance steps in between his life and his death--is assuredly gone to hell. When God would show the greatness of his anger against sin and sinners in one word, He saith, Let them alone! Let them alone--that is, disturb them not. Let them go on without control. Let the devil enjoy them peaceably. Let him carry them out of the world, unconverted, quietly. This is the sorest of judgments. I do not say that all wicked men that are molested at their death with a sense of sin and fear of hell do therefore go to heaven; for some are made to see and are left to despair. But I say there is no surer sign of a man's damnation than to die quietly after a sinful life--than to sin and die with a heart that cannot repent. The opinion, therefore, of the common people of this kind of death is frivolous and vain."
So ends this very remarkable story. It is extremely interesting, merely as a picture of vulgar English life in a provincial town, such as Bedford was when Bunyan lived there. The drawing is so good, the details so minute, the conception so unexaggerated, that we are disposed to believe that we must have a real history before us. But such a supposition is only a compliment to the skill of the composer. Bunyan's inventive faculty was a spring that never ran dry. He had a manner, as I said, like De Foe's, of creating the allusion that we are reading realities, by little touches such as "I do not know;" "He did not tell me this;" or the needless introduction of particulars irrelevant to the general plot such as we always stumble on in life, and writers of fiction usually omit. Bunyan was never prosecuted for libel by Badman's relations, and the character is the corresponding contrast to Christian in The Pilgrim's Progress, the pilgrim's journey being in the opposite direction to the other place. Throughout we are on the solid earth, amidst real experiences. No demand is made on our credulity by Providential interpositions, except in the intercalated anecdotes which do not touch the story itself. The wicked man's career is not brought to the abrupt or sensational issues so much in favour with ordinary didactic tale-writers. Such issues are the exception, not the rule, and the edifying story loses its effect when the reader turns from it to actual life, and perceives that the majority are not punished in any such way. Bunyan conceals nothing, assumes nothing, and exaggerates nothing. He makes his bad man sharp and shrewd. He allows sharpness and shrewdness to bring him the rewards which such qualities in fact command. Badman is successful, he is powerful; he enjoys all the pleasures which money can buy; his bad wife helps him to ruin, but otherwise he is not unhappy, and he dies in peace. Bunyan has made him a brute, because such men do become brutes. It is the real punishment of brutal and selfish habits. There the figure stands: a picture of a man in the rank of English life with which Bunyan was most familiar, travelling along the primrose path to the everlasting bonfire, as the way to Emmanuel's Land was through the Slough of Despond and the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Pleasures are to be found among the primroses, such pleasures as a brute can be gratified by. Yet the reader feels that, even if there was no bonfire, he would still prefer to be with Christian.
Next: Chapter VIII. The Holy War