'Let the peace of God rule in your hearts,--the peace of God that passeth all understanding.'--Paul.
John Bunyan is always at his very best in allegory. In some other departments of work John Bunyan has had many superiors; but when he lays down his head on his hand and begins to dream, as we see him in some of the old woodcuts, then he is alone; there is no one near him. We have not a few greater divines in pure divinity than John Bunyan. We have some far better expositors of Scripture than John Bunyan, and we have some far better preachers. John Bunyan at his best cannot open up a deep Scripture like that prince of expositors, Thomas Goodwin. John Bunyan in all his books has nothing to compare for intellectual strength and for theological grasp with Goodwin's chapter on the peace of God, in his sixth book in The Work of the Holy Ghost. John Bunyan cannot set forth divine truth in an orderly method and in a built-up body like John Owen. He cannot Platonize divine truth like his Puritan contemporary, John Howe. He cannot soar high as heaven in the beauty and the sweetness of gospel holiness like Jonathan Edwards. He has nothing of the philosophical depth of Richard Hooker, and he has nothing of the vast learning of Jeremy Taylor. But when John Bunyan's mind and heart begin to work through his imagination, then--
'His language is not ours. 'Tis my belief God speaks; no tinker hath such powers.'
1. In the beginning of his chapter on 'Speaking peace,' Thomas Goodwin tells his reader that he is going to fully couch all his intendments under a metaphor and an allegory. But Goodwin's reader has read and re-read the great chapter, and has not yet discovered where the metaphor and the allegory came in and where they went out. But Bunyan does not need to advertise his reader that he is going to couch his teaching in his imagination.
'But having now my method by the end, Still, as I pulled it came: and so I penned It down; until at last it came to be For length and breadth the bigness that you see.'
The Blessed Prince, he begins, did also ordain a new officer in the town, and a goodly person he was. His name was Mr. God's-peace. This man was set over my Lord Will-be-will, my Lord Mayor, Mr. Recorder, the subordinate preacher, Mr. Mind, and over all the natives of the town of Mansoul. Himself was not a native of the town, but came with the Prince from the court above. He was a great acquaintance of Captain Credence and Captain Good-hope; some say they were kin, and I am of that opinion too. This man, as I said, was made governor of the town in general, especially over the castle, and Captain Credence was to help him there. And I made great observation of it, that so long as all things went in the town as this sweet-natured gentleman would have them go, the town was in a most happy condition. Now there were no jars, no chiding, no interferings, no unfaithful doings in all the town; every man in Mansoul kept close to his own employment. The gentry, the officers, the soldiers, and all in place, observed their order. And as for the women and the children of the town, they followed their business joyfully. They would work and sing, work and sing, from morning till night; so that quite through the town of Mansoul now nothing was to be found but harmony, quietness, joy, and health. And this lasted all the summer. I shall step aside at this point and shall let Jonathan Edwards comment on this sweet-natured gentleman and his heavenly name. 'God's peace has an exquisite sweetness,' says Edwards. 'It is exquisitely sweet because it has so firm a foundation on the everlasting rock. It is sweet also because it is so perfectly agreeable to reason. It is sweet also because it riseth from holy and divine principles, which, as they are the virtue, so are they the proper happiness of man. This peace is exquisitely sweet also because of the greatness of the good that the saints enjoy, being no other than the infinite bounty and fulness of that God who is the Fountain of all good. It is sweet also because it shall be enjoyed to perfection hereafter.' An enthusiastic student has counted up the number of times that this divine word 'sweetness' occurs in Edwards, and has proved that no other word of the kind occurs so often in the author of True Virtue and The Religious Affections. And I can well believe it; unless the 'beauty of holiness' runs it close. Still, this sweet-natured gentleman will continue to live for us in his government and jurisdiction in Mansoul and in John Bunyan even more than in Jonathan Edwards.
2. 'Now Mr. God's-peace, the new Governor of Mansoul, was not a native of the town; he came down with his Prince from the court above.' 'He was not a native'--let that attribute of his be written in letters of gold on every gate and door and wall within his jurisdiction. When you need the governor and would seek him at any time or in any place in all the town and cannot find him, recollect yourself where he came from: he may have returned thither again. John Bunyan has couched his deepest instruction to you in that single sentence in which he says, 'Mr. God's-peace was not a native of the town.' John Bunyan has gathered up many gospel Scriptures into that single allegorical sentence. He has made many old and familiar passages fresh and full of life again in that one metaphorical sentence. It is the work of genius to set forth the wont and the well known in a clear, simple, and at the same time surprising, light like that. There is a peace that is native and natural to the town of Mansoul, and to understand that peace, its nature, its grounds, its extent, and its range, is most important to the theologian and to the saint. But to understand the peace of God, that supreme peace, the peace that passeth all understanding,--that is the highest triumph of the theologian and the highest wisdom of the saint. The prophets and the psalmists of the Old Testament are all full of the peace that God gave to His people Israel. My peace I give unto you, says our Lord also. Paul also has taken up that peace that comes to us through the blood of Christ, and has made it his grand message to us and to all sinful and sin-disquieted men. And John Bunyan has shown how sure and true a successor of the apostles of Christ he is, just in his portrait of this sweet-natured gentleman who was not a native of Mansoul, but who came from that same court from which Emmanuel Himself came. And it is just this outlandishness of this sweet-natured gentleman; it is just this heavenly origin and divine extraction of his that makes him sometimes and in some things to surpass all earthly understanding. 'I am coming some day soon,' said a divinity student to me the other Sabbath night, 'to have you explain and clear up the atonement to me.' 'I shall be glad to see you,' I said, 'but not on that errand.' No. Paul himself could not do it. Paul said that the atonement and the peace of it passed all his understanding. And John Bunyan says here that not the Prince only, but his officer Mr. God's-peace also, was not native to the town of Mansoul, but came straight down from heaven into that town--and what can the man do who cometh after two kings like Paul and Bunyan? I have not forgotten my Edwards where he says that the exquisite sweetness of this peace is perfectly agreeable to reason. As, indeed, so it is. And yet, if reason will have a clear and finished and all-round answer to all her difficulties and objections and fault-findings, I fear she cannot have it here. The time may come when our reason also shall be so enlarged, and so sanctified, and so exalted, that she shall be able with all saints to see the full mystery of that which in this present dispensation passeth all understanding. But till then, only let God's peace enter our hearts with God's Son, and then let our hearts say if that peace must not in some high and deep way be according to the highest and the deepest reason, since its coming into our hearts has produced in our hearts and in our lives such reasonable, and right, and harmonious, and peaceful, and every way joyful results.
3. Governor God's-peace had not many in the town of Mansoul to whom he could confide all his thoughts and with whom he could consult. But there were two officer friends of his stationed in the town with whom he was every day in close correspondence, viz., the Captain Credence and the Captain Good-hope. Their so close intimacy will not be wondered at when it is known that those three officers had all come in together with Emmanuel the Conqueror. Those three young captains had done splendid service, each at the head of his own battalion, in the days of the invasion and the conquest of Mansoul, and they had all had their present titles, and privileges, and lands, and offices, patented to them on the strength of their past services. The Captain Credence had all along been the confidential aide-de-camp and secretary of the Prince. Indeed, the Prince never called Captain Credence a servant at all, but always a friend. The Prince had always conveyed his mind about all Mansoul's matters first to Captain Credence, and then that confidential captain conveyed whatever specially concerned God's-peace and Good-hope to those excellent and trusty soldiers. Credence first told all matters to God's-peace and then the two soon talked over Good-hope to their mind and heart. Some say that the three officers, Credence, God's-peace, and Good-hope, were kin, adds our historian, and I, he adds, am of that opinion too. And to back up his opinion he takes an extract out of the Herald's College books which runs thus: 'Romans, fifteenth and thirteenth: Now, the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.' Some say the three officers were of kin, and I am of that opinion too.
4. On account both of his eminent services and his great abilities, the Prince saw it good to set Mr. God's-peace over the whole town. And thus it was that the governor's jurisdiction extended and held not only over the people of the town, but also over all the magistrates and all the other officers of the town, such as my Lord Will-be-will, my Lord Mayor, Mr. Recorder, Mr. Mind, and all. It needed all the governor's authority and ability to keep his feet in his office over all the other rulers of the town, but by far his greatest trouble always was with the Recorder. Old Mr. Conscience, the Town Recorder, had a very difficult post to hold and a very difficult part to play in that still so divided and still so unsettled town. What with all those murderers and man-slayers, thieves and prostitutes, skulkers and secret rebels, on the one hand, and with Governor God's-peace and his so unaccountable and so autocratic ways, on the other hand, the Recorder's office was no sinecure. All the misdemeanours and malpractices of the town,--and they were happening every day and every night,--were all reported to the Recorder; they were all, so to say, charged home upon the Recorder, and he was held responsible for them all; till his office was a perfect laystall and cesspool of all the scum and corruption of the town. And yet, in would come Governor God's-peace, without either warning or explanation, and would demand all the Recorder's papers, and proofs, and affidavits, and what not, it had cost him so much trouble to get collected and indorsed, and would burn them all before the Recorder's face, and to his utter confusion, humiliation, and silence. So autocratic, so despotic, so absolute, and not-to-be-questioned was Governor God's-peace. The Recorder could not understand it, and could barely submit to it; my Lord Mayor could not understand it, and his clerk, Mr. Mind, would often oppose it; but there it was: Mr. Governor God's-peace was set over them all.
5. But the thing that always in the long-run justified the governorship of Mr. God's-peace, and reconciled all the other officers to his supremacy, was the way that the city settled down and prospered under his benignant rule. All the other officers admitted that, somehow, his promotion and power had been the salvation of Mansoul. They all extolled their Prince's far-seeing wisdom in the selection, advancement, and absolute seat of Mr. God's-peace. And it would ill have become them to have said anything else; for they had little else to do but bask in the sun and enjoy the honours and the emoluments of their respective offices as long as Governor God's-peace held sway, and had all things in the city to his own mind. Now, it was on all hands admitted, as we read again with renewed delight, that there were no jars, no chiding, no interferings, no unfaithful doings in the town of Mansoul; but every man kept close to his own employment. The gentry, the officers, the soldiers, and all in place, observed their orders. And as for the women and children, they all followed their business joyfully. They would work and sing, work and sing, from morning till night, so that quite through the town of Mansoul now nothing was to be found but harmony, quietness, joy, and health. What more could be said of any governorship of any town than that? The Heavenly Court itself, out of which Governor God's-peace had come down, was not better governed than that. Harmony, quietness, joy, and health. No; the New Jerusalem itself will not surpass that. 'And this lasted all that summer.'
* LECTURE DELIVERED IN ST. GEORGE'S FREE CHURCH EDINBURGH