Reader,—The painful and industrious author of this book has already given you a faithful and very moving relation of the beginning and middle of the days of his pilgrimage on earth; and since there yet remains somewhat worthy of notice and regard, which occurred in the last scene of his life, the which for want of time, or fear some over censorious people should impute it to him as an earnest coveting of praise from men, he has not left behind him in writing. Wherefore, as a true friend and long acquaintance of Mr. Bunyan's, that his good end may be known, as well as his evil beginning, I have taken upon me, from my knowledge, and the best account given by other of his friends, to piece this to the thread too soon broke off, and so lengthen it out to his entering upon eternity.
He has told you at large of his birth and education; the evil habits and corruptions of his youth; the temptations he struggled and conflicted so frequently with; the mercies, comforts, and deliverances he found; how he came to take upon him the preaching of the Gospel; the slanders, reproaches, and imprisonments that attended him; and the progress he notwithstanding made by the assistance of God's grace, no doubt to the saving of many souls. Therefore take these things as he himself hath methodically laid them down in the words of verity; and so I pass on to what remains.
After his being freed from his twelve years' imprisonment and upwards, for nonconformity, wherein he had time to furnish the world with sundry good books, &c, and by his patience to move Dr. Barlow, the then Bishop of Lincoln, and other churchmen, to pity his hard and unreasonable sufferings, so far as to stand very much his friends in procuring his enlargement, or there perhaps he had died, by the noisomeness and ill usage of the place. Being now, I say, again at liberty, and having through mercy shaken off his bodily fetters, for those upon his soul were broken before by the abounding grace that filled his heart, he went to visit those that had been a comfort to him in his tribulation, with a Christianlike acknowledgment of their kindness and enlargement of charity; giving encouragement by his example, if it happened to be their hard haps to fall into affliction or trouble, then to suffer patiently for the sake of a good conscience, and for the love of God in Jesus Christ towards their souls; and by many cordial persuasions, supported some whose spirits began to sink low, through the fear of danger that threatened their worldly concernment, so that the people found a wonderful consolation in his discourse and admonitions.
As often as opportunity would admit, he gathered them together, though the law was then in force against meetings, in convenient places, and fed them with the sincere milk of the Word, that they might grow up in grace thereby. To such as were anywhere taken and imprisoned upon these accounts, he made it another part of his business to extend his charity, and gather relief for such of them as wanted .
He took great care to visit the sick, and strengthen them against the suggestions of the tempter, which at some times are very prevalent; so that they had cause for ever to bless God, who had put it into his heart, at such a time to rescue them from the power of the roaring lion, who sought to devour them; nor did he spare any pains or labour in travel, though to the remotest countries, where he knew or imagined any people might stand in need of his assistance, insomuch that some, by these visitations that he had made, which were two or three every year, some, though in a jeering manner no doubt, gave him the epithet of Bishop Bunyan, whilst others envied him for his so earnestly labouring in Christ's vineyard; yet the seed of the Word be all this while sowed in the hearts of his congregation, watered with the grace of God, brought forth in abundance, in bringing disciples to the church of Christ.
Another part of his time he spent in reconciling differences, by which he hindered many mischiefs, and saved some families from rain; and in such fallings-out he was uneasy till he found a means to labour a reconciliation, and become a peacemaker, on whom a blessing is promised in holy writ; and indeed, in doing this good office, he may be said to sum up his days, it being the last undertaking of his life, as will appear in the close of this paper.
When, in the late reign, liberty of conscience was unexpectedly given and indulged to Dissenters of all persuasions, his piercing wit penetrated the veil, and found that it was not for the Dissenters' sakes they were so suddenly freed from the persecutions that had long lain heavy upon them, and set in a manner on an equal foot with the Church of England, which the papists were undermining, and about to subvert. He foresaw all the advantages that could redound to the Dissenters would have been no more than what Polyphemus, the monstrous giant of Sicily, would have allowed Ulysses,—viz., that he would eat his men first, and do him the favour of being eaten last. For although Mr. Bunyan, following the examples of others, did lay hold of this liberty, as an acceptable thing in itself, knowing God is the only Lord of conscience, and that it is good at all times to do according to the dictates of a good conscience, and that the preaching the glad tidings of the Gospel is beautiful in the preacher : yet in all this he moved with caution and a holy fear, earnestly praying for the averting the impending judgments which he saw, like a black tempest, hanging over our heads for our sins, and ready to break in upon us, and that the Ninevites' remedy was now highly necessary. Hereupon he gathered his congregation at Bedford, where he mostly lived, and had lived and spent the greatest part of his life; and there being no convenient place to be had for the entertainment of so great a confluence of people as followed him upon the account of his teaching, he consulted with them for the building of a meeting-house, to which they M2
made their voluntary contributions with all cheerfulness and alacrity; and the first time he appeared there to edify, the place was so thronged that many were constrained to stay without, though the house was very spacious, every one striving to partake of his instructions that were of his persuasion, and shew their good-will towards him, by being present at the opening of the place; and here he lived in much peace and quiet of mind, contenting himself with that little God had bestowed upon him, and sequestering himself from all secular employments, to follow that of his call to the ministry; for as God said to Moses, He that made the lips and heart can give eloquence and wisdom, without extraordinary acquirements in a uersity.
During these things there were regulators sent into all cities and towns corporate to new model the government in the magistracy, &c, by turning out some and putting in others. Against this Mr. Bunyan expressed his zeal with some weariness, as foreseeing the bad consequence that would attend it, and laboured with his congregation to prevent their being imposed on in this kind; and when a great man in those days, coming to Bedford upon some such errand, sent for him, as it is supposed, to give him a place of public trust, he would by no means come at him, but sent his excuse.
When he was at leisure from writing and teaching, he often came up to London, and there went among the congregations of the nonconformists, and used his talent to the great good-liking of the hearers; and even some to whom he had been misrepresented, upon the account of his education, were convinced of his worth in knowledge in sacred things, as perceiving him to be a man of sound judgment, delivering himself plainly and powerfully, insomuch that many who came spectators for novelty, rather than to be edified and improved, went away well satisfied with what they heard, and wondered as the Jews did at the apostles, viz., whence this man should have these things; perhaps not considering that God more immediately assists those that make it their business industriously and cheerfully to labour in his vineyard.
Thus he spent his latter years in imitation of his great Lord and Master, the ever blessed Jesus; he went about doing good, so that the most prying critic, or even malice herself, is defied to find, even upon the narrowest search or conversation, any sully or stain upon his reputation, with which he may be justly charged; and this we note as a challenge to those that have the least regard for him or them of his persuasion, and have one way or other appeared in the front of those that oppressed him; and for the turning whose hearts, in obedience to the commission and commandment given him of God, he frequently prayed, and sometimes sought a blessing for them, even with tears, the effects of which they may peradventure, though undeservedly, have found in their persons, friends, relations, or estates; for God will hear the prayer of the faithful, and answer them, even for them that vex them, as it happened in the case of Jacob's praying for the three persons that had been grievous in their reproaches against him, even in the day of his sorrow.
But yet let me come a little nearer to particulars and periods of time, for the better refreshing the memories of those that knew his labour and sufferings, and for the satisfaction of all that shall read this book.
After he was sensibly convicted of the wicked state of his life, and converted, he was baptized into the congregation, and admitted a member thereof, viz., in the year 1655, and became speedily a very zealous professor; but, upon the return of King Charles to the crown in 1660, he was, the 12th of November, taken as he was edifying some good people that were got together to hear the Word, and confined in Bedford gaol for the space of six years, till the act of indulgence to dissenters being allowed, he obtained his freedom, by the intercession of some in trust and power that took pity on his sufferings; but, within six years afterwards, he was again taken up, viz., in the year 1666, and was then confined for six years more, when the gaoler took such pity of his rigorous suffering, that he did as the Egyptian gaoler did to Joseph, put all the care and trust in his hand. When he was taken this last time he was preaching on these words, viz., "Dost thou believe the Son of God 1" And this imprisonment continued six years; and when this was over, another short affliction, which was an imprisonment of half a year, fell to his share. During these confinements he wrote these following books: viz., Of Prayer by the Spirit; The Holy City's Resurrection; Grace Abounding; Pilgrim's Progress, the first part.
In the last year of his twelve years' imprisonment the pastor of the congregation at Bedford died, and he was chosen to the care of souls on the 12th of December, 1671. And in this his charge he often had disputes with scholars that came to oppose him, as supposing him an ignorant person; and though he argued plainly, and by scripture, without phrases and logical expressions, yet he nonplussed one who came to oppose him in his congregation, by demanding whether or no we had the true copies of the original Scriptures; and another, when he was preaching, accused him of uncharitableness, for saying, "it was very hard for most to be saved:" saying, by that he went about to exclude most of his congregation; but he confuted him and put him to silence with the parable of the stony ground, and other texts out of the 13th chapter of St. Matthew, in our Saviour's sermon out of a ship: all his methods being to keep close to the Scriptures, and what he found not warranted there, himself would not warrant nor determine, unless in such cases as were plain, wherein no doubts or scruples did arise.
But not to make any further mention of this kind, it is well known that this person managed all his affairs with such exactness as if he had made it his study, above all other things, not to give occasion of offence, but rather suffer many inconveniences, to avoid being never heard to reproach or revile any, what injury soever he received, but rather to rebuke those that did: and as it was in his conversation, so it is manifested in those books he has caused to be published to the world; where, like the archangel disputing with Satan about the body of Moses, as we find it in the Epistle of St. Jude, brings no railing accusation, but leaves the rebukers, those that persecuted him, to the Lord.
In his family he kept up a very strict discipline in prayer and exhortations; being in this like Joshua, as that good man expresses it, viz., Whatsoever others did, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord; and indeed a blessing waited on his labours and endeavours, so that his wife, as the Psalmist says, was like a pleasant vine upon the walls of his house, and his children like olive branches round his table, for so shall it be with the man that fears the Lord . And though by reason of the many losses he sustained by imprisonment, and spoil of his chargeable sickness, &c, his earthly treasure swelled not to excess, he always had sufficient to live decently and credibly; and with that he had the greatest of all treasures, which is content; for as the wise man says, That is a continual feast.
But where content dwells, even a poor cottage is a kingly palace; and this happiness he had all his life long; not so much minding this world, as knowing he was here as a pilgrim and stranger, and had no tarrying city, but looked for one not made with hands, eternal in the highest heavens. But at length, worn out with sufferings, age, and often teaching, the day of his dissolution drew near, and death, that unlocks the prison of the soid, to enlarge it for a more glorious mansion, put a stop to his acting his part on the stage of mortality; heaven, like earthly princes, when it threatens war, being always so kind as to call home its ambassadors before it be denounced, and even the last act or undertaking of his was a labour of love and charity. For it so falling out that a young gentleman, a neighbour of Mr. Bunyan's, happening to be in the displeasure of his father, and being much troubled in mind upon that account, and also for that he heard his father purposed to disinherit him, or otherwise deprive him of what he had to leave, he pitched upon Mr. Bunyan as a fit man to make way for his submission, and prepare his father to receive him; and he, as willing to do any good office as it could be requested, as readily undertook it; and so riding to Reading in Berkshire, he there used such pressing arguments and reasons against anger and passion, as also for love and reconciliation, that the father was mollified, and his bowels yearned to his son.
But Mr. Bunyan, after he had disposed all things to the best for accommodation, returning to London, and being overtaken with excessive rains, coming to his lodging extremely wet, fell sick of a violent fever, which he bore with much constancy and patience, and expressed himself as if he desired nothing more than to be dissolved and be with Christ, in that case esteeming death as gain, and life only a tedious delaying felicity expected; and finding his vital strength decay, having settled his mind and affairs, as well as the shortness of time and the violence of his disease would permit, with a constant and Christian patience, he resigned his soul into the hands of his most merciful Redeemer, following his Pilgrim from the City of Destruction to the New Jerusalem; his better part having been all along there, in holy contemplation, pantings, and breathings after the hidden manna and water of life, as by many holy and humble consolations expressed in his letters to several persons in prison, too many to be inserted at present. He died at the house of one Mr. Straddock, a grocer, at the Star, on Snow-hill, in the parish of St. Sepulchres, London, on the 12th of August, 1678, and in the sixtieth year of his age, after ten days' sickness, and was buried in the new buryiug-place, near the Artillery-ground; where he sleeps till the morning of the resurrection in hopes
of a glorious rising to an incorruptible immortality of joy and happiness, where no more trouble and sorrow shall afflict him, but all tears be wiped away, when the just shall be incorporated as members of Christ their head, and reign with him as kings and priests for ever.