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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

On the way to the gallows There goes John Bunyan


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He might have been a blackguard

in that sense in which a youth, in a village, is termed a "young blackguard," for being the ringleader among the boys; or on account of his wearing a ragged coat, and carrying a hairy wallet on his shoulder, which, in a conventional sense, constitute any man, in Great Britain, a blackguard. Bunyan's sins were confined to swearing, cursing, blaspheming, and lying; and were rather intensely manifested by the impetuosity of his character, or vividly described by the sincerity of his piety, and the liveliness of his genius, than deeply rooted in his nature; for he shook off the habit of swearing, (and, doubtless, that of lying,) on being severely reproved for it, by a loose and ungodly woman. Three of the kindred vices mentioned, (and, we might add the fourth, lying,) more frequently proceed from the influence of bad example and habit, than from anything inherently vicious, in a youth with so many of the good points which characterized Bunyan. His youth was even marked by a tender conscience, and a strong moral feeling; for thus he speaks of himself in "Grace Abounding:" "But this I well remember, that though I could myself sin, with the greatest delight and ease, and also take pleasure in the vileness of my companions, yet, even then, if I had, at any time, seen wicked things in those who professed goodness, it would make my spirit tremble. As, once above all the rest, when I was in the height of vanity, yet hearing one swear that was reckoned for a religious man, it had so great
a stroke upon my spirit, that it made my heart ache." He was the subject of these experiences before he was ten years of age. It is unnecessary to speak of his dancing, ringing bells, and playing at tip-cat and hockey. Now, let us see what was Bunyan's _moral_ character. He was not a drunkard; and he says: "I know not whether there be such a thing as a woman breathing, under the copes of heaven, but by their apparel, their children, or by common fame, except my wife." And he continues: "Had not a miracle of precious grace prevented, I had laid myself open even to the stroke of those laws which bring some to disgrace and open shame, before the face of the world." The meaning of this is, evidently, that he never stole anything; but that it was "by a miracle of precious grace" he was prevented from doing it. In what sense, then, was Bunyan a blackguard? There was never such occasion for him to say of himself, what John Newton said of himself, as a criminal passed him, on the way to the gallows: "There goes John Bunyan, but for the grace of God." But such was the depth of Bunyan's piety, that hardly any one thought and spoke more disparagingly of himself than he did; although he would defend himself, with indignation, against unjust charges brought against him; for, however peaceable and humble he might be, he would turn most manfully upon his enemies, when they baited or badgered him. "It began, therefore, to be rumoured, up and down among the people, that I was a witch, a Jesuit, a highwayman, and the like. . . . . I also call those fools and knaves that have thus made it anything of their business to affirm any of these things aforesaid of me, namely, that I have been naught with other women, or the like. . . . My foes have missed their mark in this their shooting at me. I am not the man. I wish that they themselves be guiltless. If all the fornicators and adulterers in England were hanged up by the neck till they be dead, John Bunyan, _the object of their envy_, would be still alive and well." The style of his language even indicated the Gipsy; for English Gipsies, as Mr. Borrow justly remarks, speak the English language much better than the natives of the lower classes; for this apparent reason, that they have not the dialect of any particular part of England, which would be, were they always to have resided in a particular place. It must have been more so before the middle of the seventeenth century, upwards of a hundred years after the arrival of the Gipsies in England; for, in acquiring the English language, they would keep clear of many of the rude dialects that so commonly prevail in that country. But Bunyan's language was, doubtless, drawn principally from the Scriptures.


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