Monday, September 26, 2011

Bunyan's heart "softened by her [his wife's] tenderness and obedience"

Here is a sweet excerpt from the Memoirs of John Bunyan by George Offor that demonstrate the powerful influence of a godly wife:
"In this forlorn and miserable state, he was induced, by the persuasion of friends, under the invisible guidance of God, to enter into the marriage state. Such a youth, then only twenty years of age, would naturally be expected to marry some young woman as hardened as himself, but he made a very different choice. His earliest biographer says, with singular simplicity, 'his poverty, and irregular course of life, made it very difficult for him to get a wife suitable to his inclination; and because none that were rich would yield to his allurements, he found himself constrained to marry one without any fortune, though very virtuous, loving, and conformably obedient and obliging, being born of good, honest, godly parents, who had instructed her, as well as they were able, in the ways of truth and saving knowledge.'[45] The idea of his seeking a rich wife is sufficiently droll; he must have been naturally a persuasive lover, to have gained so good a helpmate. They were not troubled with sending cards, cake, or gloves, nor with the ceremony of receiving the visits of their friends in state; for he says, that 'This woman and I came together as poor as poor might be, not having so much household stuff as a dish or spoon betwixt us both.'[46] His wife had two books, The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven, and The Practice of Piety; but what was of more importance than wealth or household stuff, she had that seed sown in her heart which no thief could steal.[47] She enticed and persuaded him to read those books. To do this he by application 'again recovered his reading, which he had almost lost.' His wife became an unspeakable blessing to him. She presents a pattern to any woman, who, having neglected the apostolic injunction not to be unequally yoked, finds herself under the dominion of a swearing dare devil. It affords a lovely proof of the insinuating benign favour of female influence. This was the more surprising, as he says, 'the thoughts of religion were very grievous to me,' and when 'books that concerned Christian piety were read in my hearing, it was as it were a prison to me.' In spite of all obstacles, his rugged heart was softened by her tenderness and obedience, he 'keeping on the old course,'[48] she upon every proper season teaching him how her father's piety secured his own and his family's happiness. Here was no upbraiding, no snubbing, no curtain lectures; all was affectionate, amiable mildness. At first, he became occasionally alarmed for his soul's salvation; then with the thought of having sinned away the day of grace, he plunged again into sin with greediness; anon a faint hope of mercy would fill him with fear and trembling. But this leads us to the wondrous narrative of his new birth.

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