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THE GREAT DREAMER.
Many of the readers of the “Child's Companion” have read the “ Pilgrim's Progress,” and many others have heard of that delightful story. Perhaps they would now like to hear about the man that wrote it two hundred years ago.
If they have read the wonderful dream, they will enjoy a peep at the dreamer ; and if not, this peep at John Bunyan may make them wish to learn more about his pilgrim's long rough journey, with its happy end.
Three years after Charles I. came to the British throne, John Bunyan was born at Elstow, a village in Bedfordshire. His parents were poor, and, with a very scanty education, he grew up a great boy, with broad forehead and piercing eye, ever foremost in the rude games of those times, but foremost too in many sins, which caused him much alarm and sorrow in his after life. For the present pleasure of sin is not more certain than the pain that follows hard after.
As he grew older he learned his father's trade, that of a tinker, and travelled up and down the country with his tools on his back, ready to do a job of work for any one who had broken things to mend and a few pence to pay. But when Bunyan was about seventeen years of age he entered the army, for at that time all England was in arms, though not against a foreign foe; and that saddest of wars, civil war, was laying the land bare and raising the heart and hand of brother against brother. He was chosen to serve at the siege of Leicester; but when just ready to march for that town,
a comrade offered to go instead, and, having taken the place which John Bunyan should have occupied as sentinel among the besiegers, the poor fellow was killed by a musket-shot in the head. But this providence did not awaken John's soul; he still went on in sin. For some time he remained in the army, having in the meantime married a young woman, who, though very poor like himself, was much better in other respects; and whose only fortune, two good books which her father had given her on his death-bed, proved more useful than many a larger marriage portion might have been. These books were read over and over again ; and, though John Bunyan still loved to do wrong, the voice of conscience often disturbed him, and sometimes spoke so loudly that he would stop and look up to know if such words as these were really coming from the sky, “Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell ?"
Once more he wandered as a tinker through the streets of Bedford; and, as he sauntered slowly along one day, in a very unhappy state of mind, he overheard three or four women talking while sitting at a doorway. They were talking about Jesus, about his great love in coming to die for poor sinners like them; and Bunyan heard from their lips the good news, that if we believe on him with all our heart, God will forgive us for his sake, and, what is more, treat us as his chil. dren and make us holy by his own Spirit. This unexpected message of grace sank down in the soul of the poor tinker, and, though Satan tempted him sadly by whispering, “Leave off seeking to be saved ; return to your old ways," the golden chain of heavenly truth
and love was too strong to be broken even by the tempter's art, and, as link after link fastened itself round his heart, John Bunyan learned, as he tells us himself, to read the Bible with " new eyes," and became a better and happier man. One evening when the day's toil was ended, the footsore wanderer strayed into a humble meeting where a good pastor was explaining to his flock a verse from God's own word, which told of Christ's love to those he has redeemed. Two simple words fixed themselves in Bunyan's mind, "my love;" and for many days after, as he pondered over the thought that Jesus really loved him, he could not restrain his joy from bursting out into a song. Some time afterwards he was urged to go and tell others about God's message of love, and the people of Bedford flocked by hundreds to hear him. He was now twenty-eight years old, and for five years he laboured night and day to do good to his fellow countrymen by pointing out to them the way to be saved.
One winter's evening the fire blazed brightly in a farmer's large, comfortable kitchen ; one neighbour after another dropped in until the room was crowded, for they expected John Bunyan to be there. But when he arrived, the farmer's face grew sad as he told him he had heard that if they held any more meetings, the constable and his men might perhaps take him away to prison, because very severe laws had been lately passed against those who thus joined together to worship God. But John Bunyan was no coward; he began his sermon, and before it was finished, the constable appeared with a warrant or written order for his arrest; and, scarcely allowing the humble friends to have a
parting word, he hurried off their beloved teacher to Bedford jail.
This prison stood on the old bridge that spanned the river Ouse, and like other prisons of the time had stone walls, iron bars, and narrow, cold, damp, comfortless cells. For twelve years one of these cells was John Bunyan's home; here he wrote his “ Pilgrim's Progress.” During those long years his brave fe mad many efforts for his release, and several times he was brought into court and pleaded his cause before the judges : still no liberty came. But though they might fetter his hands or feet, they could not chain his mind, and, free as the lark, it rose heavenward in sunshine and in
song. Now let us walk softly to the door of his cell and jook in. That is Bunyan sitting at the table near the grated window, and the little girl by his side is his daughter; but she does not see the prison bars, nor miss the bright daylight that shines outside, for she is blind. Look, he is making tagged laces, and when several dozen are finished, he will send them to his wife that she may sell them to be able to buy bread for her. self and their four children. Or perhaps his jailer, who is very kind, will allow him to breathe the air at the prison door, where, still firmly chained, he may stand with his loved little one asking the passers-by to make a purchase.
How dark it grows ! the day's work is done, the blind girl must go home for the night; but look, before she sets out, her father puts his arms round her and they both kneel in prayer; then with a parting kiss he sends her by the rough hands of the jailer to her mother.