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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 fact, the orator, and the divine, this homely dialect, the dialect of plain working men, was perfectly sufficient. There is no book in our literature on which we would so readily stake the fame of the 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.
Cowper said, forty or fifty years ago, that he dared not name John Bunyan in his verse, for fear of raising a sneer. To our refined forefathers, we suppose, Lord Roscommon's Essay on Translated Verse,' and the Duke of Buckinghamshire's Essay on Poetry,' appeared to be compositions infinitely superior to the allegory of the preaching tinker. 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 minds which possessed the imaginative faculty in a very eminent degree. One of those minds produced the Paradise Lost,' the other the Pilgrim's Progress.'
78.-The Imitation of Christ.
[WILLIAM BEVERIDGE was born in 1638, at Barrow, in Leicestershire. He was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge; received various ecclesiastical preferments; and became Bishop of St. Asaph, in 1704. In 1708 he died. He was a divine of profound learning, of exemplary holiness, and of unwearied industry in the discharge of his pastoral duties. He was called, in his own time, "the great restorer and reviver of primitive piety." The following extract is from his admirable Private Thoughts upon Religion and a Christian Life']:
Hoping that all who profess themselves to be the friends and disciples of Jesus Christ desire to manifest themselves to be so by fol
lowing both his precepts and example, I shall give the reader a short narrative of his life and actions, wherein we may all see what true piety is, and what real Christianity requires of us; and may not content ourselves as many do, with being professors, and adhering to parties or factions amongst us, but strive to be thorough Christians, and to carry ourselves as such, by walking as Christ himself walked; which that we may know at least how to do, looking upon Christ as a mere man, I shall show how he did, and by consequence how we ought to carry ourselves both to God and man, and what graces and virtues he exercised all along for our example and imitation.
Now for our more clear and methodical proceeding in a matter of such consequence as this is, I shall begin with his behaviour towards men, from his childhood to his death.
Just, therefore, when he was a child of twelve years of age, it is par ticularly recorded of him, that he was subject or obedient to his parents, his real mother and reputed father *. It is true, he knew at that time that God himself was his Father, for, said he, "Wist ye not that I must be about my father's business?" And knowing God to be his Father, he could not but know likewise that he was infinitely above his mother; yea, that she could never have borne him, had not himself first made and supported her. Yet, howsoever, though as God he was Father to her, yet as man she was mother to him, and therefore he honoured and obeyed both her and him to whom she was espoused. Neither did he only respect his mother whilst he was here, but he took care of her too when he was going hence. Yea, all the pains he suffered upon the cross could not make him forget his duty to her that bore him; but seeing her standing by the cross, as himself hung on it, he committed her to the care of his beloved disciple, who took her to his own home." Now as our Saviour did, so are we bound to carry ourselves to our earthly parents, whatsoever their temper or condition be in this world. Though God hath blessed some of us perhaps with greater estates than ever he blessed them, yet we must not think ourselves above them, nor be at all the less respectful to them. Christ, we see, was infinitely above his mother, yet as she was his mother he was both subject and respectful to her. was not ashamed to own her as she stood by the cross, but, in the view
* Luke, ii. 51.
+ Luke, ii. 49.
John, xix. 27.
and hearing of all there present, gave his disciple a charge to take care of her, leaving us an example, that such amongst us as have parents provide for them if they need it, as for our children, both while we live and when we come to die.
And as he was to his natural so was he too to his civil parents, the magistrates under which he lived, submissive and faithful; for though, as he was God, he was infinitely above them in heaven, yet, as he was man, he was below them on earth, having committed all civil power into their hands, without reserving any at all for himself. So that, though they received their commission from him, yet now himself could not act without receiving a commission from them. And therefore, having no commission from them to do it, he would not intrench so much upon their privilege and power as to determine the controversy betwixt the two brethren contending about their inheritance. “Man,” saith he, "who made me a judge or a divider over you?"* And to show his submission to the civil magistrates as highly as possibly he could, rather than offend them he wrought a miracle to pay the tax which they had charged upon him †. And when the officers were sent to take him, though he had more than twelve legions of angels at his service to have fought for him if he had pleased, yet he would not employ them, nor suffer his own disciples to make any resistance. And though some of late days, who call themselves Christians, have acted quite contrary to our blessed Saviour in this particular, I hope better things of my readers, even that they will behave themselves more like Christ, who, though he was supreme governor of the world, yet would not resist, but submitted to the civil power which himself had entrusted men withal.
Moreover, although whilst he was here he was really not only the best but greatest man upon earth, yet he carried himself to others with that meekness, humility and respect, as if he had been the least: as he never admired any man for his riches, so neither did he despise any man for his poverty; poor men and rich were all alike to him. He was as lowly and respectful to the lowest, as he was to the highest that he conversed with: he affected no titles of honour, nor gaped after popular air, but submitted himself to the meanest services that he could, for the good of others, even to the washing his own disciples'
* Luke, xii. 14.
† Matt. xvii. 27.
Matt. xxvi. 52, 53.
feet, and all to teach us that we can never think too lowly of ourselves, nor do any thing that is beneath us; propounding himself as our example, especially in this particular: "Learn of me," saith he, "for I am meek and lowly in heart."*
His humility also was the more remarkable, in that his bounty and goodness to others was so great, for "he went about doing good."† Wheresoever you read he was, you read still of some good work or other he did there. Whatsoever company he conversed with, they still went better from him than they came unto him, if they came out of a good end. By him, as himself said, 'the blind received their sight, and the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, and the deaf heard, the dead were raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached unto them." Yea, it is observable, that we never read of any person whatsoever that came to him, desiring any kindness or favour of him, but he still received it, and that whether he was friend or foe. For indeed, though he had many inveterate and implacable enemies in the world, yet he bore no grudge or malice against them, but expressed as much love and favour for them as to his greatest friends. Insomuch, that when they had gotten him upon the cross, and fastened his hands and feet unto it, in the midst of all that pain and torment which they put him to, he still prayed for them §.
Oh! how happy, how blessed a people should we be, could we but follow our blessed Saviour in this particular! How well would it be with us, could we but be thus loving to one another, as Christ was to all, even his most bitter enemies! We may assure ourselves it is not only our misery, but our sin too, unless we be so. And our sin will be the greater, now we know our Master's pleasure, unless we do it. And therefore, let all such amongst us as desire to carry ourselves as Christ himself did, and as becometh his disciples in the world, begin here.
Be submissive and obedient both to our parents and governors, humble in our own sight, despise none, but be charitable, loving, and good to all; by this shall all men know that we are Christ's disciples indeed.
Having thus seen our Saviour's carriage towards men, we shall now consider his piety and devotion towards God: not as if it was possible for me to express the excellency and perfection of those religious acts
* Matt. xi. 29.
† Acts, x. 38.
Matt. xi. 5.
$ Luke, xxiii. 34.
which he performed continually within his soul to God, every one of his faculties being as entire in itself, and as perfect in its acts, as it was first made or designed to be. There was no darkness, nor so much as gloominess in his mind, no error nor mistake in his judgment, no bribery nor corruption in his conscience, no obstinacy nor perverseness in his will, no irregularity nor disorder in his affections, no spot, no blot, no blemish, not the least imperfection or infirmity in his whole soul. And, therefore, even whilst his body was on earth, his head and heart were still in heaven. For he never troubled his head nor so much as concerned himself about anything here below, any further than to do all the good he could, his thoughts being wholly taken up with considering how to advance God's glory and man's eternal happiness. And as for his heart, that was the altar on which the sacred fire of divine love was always burning, the flames whereof continually ascended up to heaven, being accompanied with the most ardent and fervent desires of, and delight in, the chiefest good.
But it must not be expected that I should give an exact description of that eminent and most perfect holiness which our blessed Saviour was inwardly adorned with and continually employed in; which I am as unable to express as desirous to imitate. But, howsoever, I shall endeavour to mind the reader in general of such acts of piety and devotion, which are particularly recorded, on purpose for our imitation.
First, therefore, it is observed of our Saviour, that "from a child he increased in wisdom as he did in stature." Where by wisdom we are to understand the knowledge of God and divine things. For our Saviour having taken our nature into his person, with all its frailties and infirmities as it is a created being, he did not in that nature presently know all things which were to be known. It is true, as God, he then knew all things as well as he had from all eternity; but we are now speaking of him as man, like one of us in all things except sin. But we continue some considerable time after we are born before we know anything, or come to the use of our reason; the rational soul not being able to exert or manifest itself until the natural phlegm and radical moisture of the body, which in infants is predominant, be so digested that the body be rightly qualified and its organs fitted for the soul to work upon and to make use of. And though our Saviour
* Luke, ii. 52.