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- BUNYAN CHARACTERS 3RD SERIES - 20/39 -


allowed to pry into the words of the Holy Ghost and to expound them to their best advantage. Honest anxiety for the welfare of his fellow-townsmen was Mr. Prywell's chief characteristic. Pry is another form of peer--to look narrowly, to look closely.' And God, says John Bunyan, would have it so.

2. 'A great lover of Mansoul,' 'always a lover of Mansoul'; again and again that is testified concerning Mr. Prywell. It was not love for the work that led Mr. Prywell to give up his days and his nights as his history tells us he did. Mr. Prywell ran himself into many dangerous situations both within and without the city, and he lost himself far more friends than he made by his devotion to his thankless task. But necessity was laid upon him. And what held him up was the sure and certain knowledge that his King would have that service at his hands. That, and his love for the city, for the safety and the deliverance of the city,--all that kept Mr. Prywell's heart fixed. Am I therefore your enemy? he would say to some who would have had it otherwise than the King would have it. But it is a good thing to be zealously affected in a work like mine, he would say, in self-defence and in self-encouragement. And then, though not many, there were always some in the city who said, Let him smite me and it shall be a kindness; let him reprove me and it shall be an excellent oil which shall not break my head. It was in Mansoul with Mr. Prywell as it was in Kidderminster with Richard Baxter, when some of his people said to one another, 'We will take all things well from one that we know doth entirely love us.' 'Love them,' said Augustine, 'and then say anything you like to them.' Now, that was Mr. Prywell's way. He loved Mansoul, and then he said many things to her that a false lover and a flatterer would never have dared to say.

3. Then, as the saying is, it goes without saying that 'Mr. Prywell was always a jealous man.' Great lovers are always jealous men, and Mr. Prywell showed himself to be a great lover by the great heat of his jealousy also. 'Vigilant,' says the excellent editress again; 'cautious against dishonour, reasonably mistrustful--low Latin zelosus, full of zeal. "And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts."' Now, it so happened that some of Mr. Prywell's most private and not at all professional papers--papers evidently, and on the face of them, connected with the state of the spy's own soul--came into my hands as good lot would have it just the other night. The moth-eaten chest was full of his old papers, but the pieces that took my heart most were, as it looked to me, actually gnashed through with his remorseful teeth, and soaked and sodden past recognition with his sweat and his tears and his agonising hands. But after some late hours over those remnants I managed to make some sense to myself out of them. There are some parts of the parchments that pass me; but, if only to show you that this arch-spy's so vigilant jealousy was not all directed against other people's bad hearts and bad habits, I shall copy some lines out of the old box. 'Have I penitence?' he begins without any preface. 'Have I grief, shame, pain, horror, weariness for my sin? Do I pray and repent, if not seven times a day as David did, yet at least three times, as Daniel? If not as Solomon, at length, yet shortly as the publican? If not like Christ, the whole night, at least for one hour? If not on the ground and in ashes, at least not in my bed? If not in sackcloth, at least not in purple and fine linen? If not altogether freed from all, at least from immoderate desires? Do I give, if not as Zaccheus did, fourfold, as the law commands, with the fifth part added? If not as the rich, yet as the widow? If not the half, yet the thirtieth part? If not above my power, yet up to my power?' And then over the page there are some illegible pencillings from old authors of his such as this from Augustine: 'A good man would rather know his own infirmity than the foundations of the earth or the heights of the heavens.' And this from Cicero: 'There are many hiding-places and recesses in the mind.' And this from Seneca: 'You must know yourself before you can amend yourself. An unknown sin grows worse and worse and is deprived of cure.' And this from Cicero again: 'Cato exacted from himself an account of every day's business at night'; and also Pythagoras,

'Nor let sweet sleep upon thine eyes descend Till thou hast judged its deeds at each day's end.'

And this from Seneca again: 'When the light is removed out of sight, and my wife, who is by this time aware of my practice, is now silent, I pass the whole of my day under examination, and I review my deeds and my words. I hide nothing from myself: I pass over nothing.' And then in Mr. Prywell's boldest and least trembling hand: 'O yes! many shall come from the east and the west and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, when many of the children of the kingdom shall be cast out. O yes.' Now, this 'O yes!' Miss Peacock tells us, is the Anglicised form of a French word for our Lord's words, Take heed how ye hear!

4. 'A sober and a judicious man' it is said of Mr. Prywell also. To a certainty that. It could not be otherwise than that. For Mr. Prywell's office, its discoveries and its experiences, would sober any man. 'I am sprung from a country,' says Abelard, 'of which the soil is light, and the temper of the inhabitants is light.' So was it with Mr. Prywell to begin with. But even Abelard was sobered in time, and so was Mr. Prywell. Life sobered Abelard, and Mr. Prywell too; life's crooks and life's crosses, life's duties and life's disappointments, especially Mr. Prywell. 'The more narrowly a man looks into himself,' says A Kempis, 'the more he sorroweth.' Not sober-mindedness alone comes to him who looks narrowly into himself, but great sorrow of heart also. And if you are not both sobered in your mind and full of an unquenchable sorrow in your heart, O yes! attend to it, for you are not yet begun to be what God would have you to be. Dr. Newman, with all his mistakes and all his faults, was a master in two things: his own heart and the English language. And in writing home to his mother a confidential letter from college on his birthday, he confides to her that he often 'shudders at himself.' 'No,' he answered to his mother's fears and advices about food and air and exercise: 'No, I am neither nervous, nor in ill-health, nor do I study too much. I am neither melancholy, nor morose, nor austere, nor distant, nor reserved, nor sullen. I am always cheerful, ready and eager to join in any merriment. I am not clouded with sadness, nor absent in mind, nor deficient in action. No; take me when I am most foolish at home and extend mirth into childishness; yet all the time I am shuddering at myself.' There spake the future author of the immortal sermons. There spake a mind and a heart that have deepened the minds and the hearts of Christian men more than any other influence of the century; a mind and a heart, moreover, that will shine and beat in our best literature and in our deepest devotion for centuries to come. You must all know by this time another classical passage from the pen of another spiritual genius in the Church of England, that greatly gifted church. Let me repeat it to illustrate how sober-mindedness and great sorrow of heart always come to the best of men. 'Let any man consider that if the world knew all that of him which he knows of himself; if they saw what vanity and what passions govern his inside, and what secret tempers sully and corrupt his best actions; and he would have no more pretence to be honoured and admired for his goodness and wisdom than a rotten and distempered body is to be loved and admired for its beauty and comeliness. And, perhaps, there are very few people in the world who would not rather choose to die than to have all their secret follies, the errors of their judgments, the vanity of their minds, the falseness of their pretences, the frequency of their vain and disorderly passions, their uneasinesses, hatreds, envies, and vexations made known to the world. And shall pride be entertained in a heart thus conscious of its own miserable behaviour?' No wonder that Mr. Prywell was sober-minded! No wonder that Dr. Newman shuddered at himself! And no wonder that William Law chose strangling and the pond rather than that any other man should see what went on in his heart!

5. And as if all that were not enough, and more than enough, to commend Mr. Prywell to us--to our trust, to our confidence, and to our imitation--his royal certificate continues, 'One that looks into the very bottom of matters, and talks nothing of news, but by very solid arguments.' The very bottom of matters--that is, the very bottom of his own and other men's hearts. Mr. Prywell counts nothing else worth a wise man's looking at. Let fools and children look at the painted and deceitful surface of things, but let men, men of matters, and especially men of divine matters, look only at their own and other men's hearts. The very bottom of all matters is there. All wars, all policies, all debates, all disputes, all good and all evil counsels, all the much weal and all the multitudinous woe of Mansoul--all have their bottom in the heart; in the heart of God, or in the heart of man, or in the heart of the devil. The heart is the root of absolutely every matter to Mr. Prywell. He would not waste one hour of any day, or one watch of any night, on anything else. And it was this that made him both the extraordinarily successful scout he was, and the extraordinarily sober and thoughtful and judicious man he was. O yes, my brethren, the bottom of matters, when you take to it, will work the same change in you. 'Two things,' says one who had long looked at his own matters with Mr. Prywell's eyes--'two things, O Lord, I recognise in myself: nature, which Thou hast made, and sin, which I have added.' My brethren, that recognition, that discovery in yourselves, when it comes to you, will sober you as it has sobered so many men before you: when it comes to you, that is, about yourselves. That discovery made in yourselves will make you deep-thinking men. It will make common men and unlearned men among you to be philosophers and theologians and saints. It will work in you a thoughtfulness, a seriousness, a depth, an awe, a holy fear, and a great desire that will already have made you new creatures. When, in examining yourselves and in characterising yourselves, you come on what some clear-eyed men have come on in themselves, and what one of them has described as 'the diabolical animus of the human mind'--when you make that discovery in yourselves, that will sober you, that will humble you and fill you full of remorse and compunction. And if in God's grace to you, that were to begin to be wrought in you this week, there would be one, at any rate, eating of that bread next Lord's day, and drinking of that cup as God would have it.

6. 'A man that is no tattler, nor raiser of false reports, and that talks nothing of news, but by very solid arguments.' Mr. Prywell was more taken up with his own matters at home, far more than the greatest busybodies are with other men's matters abroad. His name, I fear, will still sound somewhat ill in your ears, but I can assure you all the ill for you lies in the sound. Mr. Prywell would not hurt a hair of your head: the truth is, he does not know whether there is a hair on your head or no. This man's name comes to him and sticks to him, not because he pries into your affairs, for he does not, and never did, but because he is so drawn down into his own. Mr. Prywell has no eye for your windows and he has no ear for your doors. If your servant is a leaky slave, Prywell, of all your neighbours, has no ear for his idle tales. This man is no eavesdropper; your evil secrets have only a sobering and a saddening and a silencing effect upon him. Your house might be full of skeletons for anything he would ever discover or remember.


BUNYAN CHARACTERS 3RD SERIES - 20/39

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