After I had lain in prison above seven weeks, the quarter-sessions were to be kept in Bedford, for the county thereof, unto which I was to be brought; and when my jailor had set me before those justices, there was a bill of indictment preferred against me. The extent thereof was as followeth: That John Bunyan, of the town of Bedford, labourer, being a person of such and such conditions, he hath (since such a time) devilishly and perniciously abstained from coming to church to hear Divine service, and is a common upholder of several unlawful meetings and conventicles, to the great disturbance and distraction of the good subjects of this kingdom, contrary to the laws of our sovereign lord the King, etc.
The Clerk. When this was read, the clerk of the sessions said unto me, What say you to this?
Bun. I said, that as to the first part of it, I was a common frequenter of the Church of God. And was also, by grace, a member with the people, over whom Christ is the Head.
Keelin. But, saith Justice Keelin (who was the judge in that court), do you come to church (you know what I mean); to the parish church, to hear Divine service?
Bun. I answered, No, I did not.
Keel. He asked me, Why?
Bun. I said, Because I did not find it commanded in the Word of God.
Keel. He said, We were commanded to pray.
Bun. I said, But not by the Common Prayer-Book.
Keel. He said, How then?
Bun. I said, With the Spirit. As the apostle saith, I will pray with the Spirit, and with the understanding. 1 Cor. xiv.15.
Keel. He said, We might pray with the Spirit, and with the understanding, and with the Common Prayer-Book also.
Bun. I said, that the prayers in the Common Prayer-Book were such as was made by other men, and not by the motions of the Holy Ghost, within our hearts; and as I said, the apostle saith, he will pray with the Spirit, and with the understanding; not with the Spirit and the Common Prayer-Book.
Another Justice. What do you count prayer? Do you think it is to say a few words over before or among a people?
Bun. I said, No, not so; for men might have many elegant, or excellent words, and yet not pray at all; but when a man prayeth, he doth, through a sense of those things which he wants (which sense is begotten by the Spirit), pour out his heart before God through Christ; though his words be not so many and so excellent as others are.
Justices. They said, That was true.
Bun. I said, This might be done without the Common Prayer-Book.
Another. One of them said (I think it was Justice Blundale, or Justice Snagg), How should we know that you do not write out your prayers first, and then read them afterwards to the people? This he spake in a laughing way.
Bun. I said, it is not our use, to take a pen and paper, and write a few words thereon, and then go and read it over to a company of people.
But how should we know it, said he?
Bun. Sir, it is none of our custom, said I.
Keel. But said Justice Keelin, It is lawful to use the Common Prayer, and such like forms: for Christ taught His disciples to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And further, said he, Cannot one man teach another to pray? Faith comes by hearing; and one man may convince another of sin, and therefore prayers made by men, and read over, are good to teach, and help men to pray.
While he was speaking these words, God brought that word into my mind, in the eighth of the Romans, at the 26th verse. I say, God brought it, for I thought not on it before: but as he was speaking, it came so fresh into my mind, and was set so evidently before me, as if the scripture had said, Take me, take me; so when he had done speaking,
Bun. I said, Sir, the scripture saith, that it is the spirit that helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with sighs and groanings which cannot be uttered. Mark, said I, it doth not say the Common Prayer-Book teacheth us how to pray, but the Spirit. And it is the Spirit that helpeth our infirmities, saith the apostle; he doth not say it is the Common Prayer-Book.
And as to the Lord's prayer, although it be an easy thing to say, Our Father, etc., with the mouth; yet there is very few that can, in the Spirit, say the two first words in that prayer; that is, that can call God their Father, as knowing what it is to be born again, and as having experience, that they are begotten of the Spirit of God: which if they do not, all is but babbling, etc.
Keel. Justice Keelin said that that was a truth.
Bun. And I say further, as to your saying that one man may convince another of sin, and that faith comes by hearing, and that one man may tell another how he should pray, etc., I say men may tell each other of their sins, but it is the Spirit that must convince them.
And though it be said that faith comes by hearing: yet it is the Spirit that worketh faith in the heart through hearing, or else they are not profited by hearing. Heb. iv.12.
And that though one man may tell another how he should pray: yet, as I said before, he cannot pray, nor make his condition known to God, except the Spirit help. It is not the Common Prayer-Book that can do this. It is the Spirit that showeth us our sins, and the Spirit that showeth us a Saviour, Jn. xvi.16, and the Spirit that stirreth up in our hearts desires to come to God, for such things as we stand in need of, Matt. xi.27, even sighing out our souls unto Him for them with groans which cannot be uttered. With other words to the same purpose. At this they were set.
Keel. But says Justice Keelin, What have you against the Common Prayer-Book?
Bun. I said, Sir, if you will hear me, I shall lay down my reasons against it.
Keel. He said I should have liberty; but first, said he, let me give you one caution; take heed of speaking irreverently of the Common Prayer-Book; for if you do so, you will bring great damage upon yourself.
Bun. So I proceeded, and said, My first reason was, because it was not commanded in the Word of God, and therefore I could not use it.
Another. One of them said, Where do you find it commanded in the Scripture, that you should go to Elstow, or Bedford, and yet it is lawful to go to either of them, is it not?
Bun. I said, To go to Elstow, or Bedford, was a civil thing, and not material, though not commanded, and yet God's Word allowed me to go about my calling, and therefore if it lay there, then to go thither, etc. But to pray, was a great part of the Divine worship of God, and therefore it ought to be done according to the rule of God's Word.
Another. One of them said, He will do harm; let him speak no further.
Keel. Justice Keelin said, No, no, never fear him, we are better established than so; he can do no harm; we know the Common Prayer- Book hath been ever since the apostles' time, and it is lawful for it to be used in the church.
Bun. I said, Show me the place in the epistles, where the Common Prayer-Book is written, or one text of Scripture, that commands me to read it, and I will use it. But yet, notwithstanding, said I, they that have a mind to use it, they have their liberty; that is, I would not keep them from it; but for our parts, we can pray to God without it. Blessed be His name!
With that, one of them said, Who is your God? Beelzebub? Moreover, they often said, that I was possessed with the spirit of delusion, and of the devil. All which sayings I passed over; the Lord forgive them! And further, I said, Blessed be the Lord for it; we are encouraged to meet together, and to pray, and exhort one another; for, we have had the comfortable presence of God among us. For ever blessed be His holy name!
Keel. Justice Keelin called this pedler's French, saying, that I must leave off my canting. The Lord open his eyes!
Bun. I said that we ought to exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day, etc.
Keel. Justice Keelin said that I ought not to preach; and asked me where I had my authority? with other such like words.
Bun. I said that I would prove that it was lawful for me, and such as I am, to preach the Word of God.
Keel. He said unto me, By what Scripture?
Bun. I said, By that in the first epistle of Peter, chap. iv.10, 11, and Acts xviii., with other Scriptures, which he would not suffer me to mention. But said, Hold; not so many, which is the first?
Bun. I said this: As every man hath received the gift, even so let him minister the same unto another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God, etc.
Keel. He said, Let me a little open that Scripture to you: As every man hath received the gift; that is, said he, as every one hath received a trade, so let him follow it. If any man have received a gift of tinkering, as thou hast done, let him follow his tinkering. And so other men their trades. And the divine his calling, etc.
Bun. Nay, sir, said I, but it is most clear, that the apostle speaks here of preaching the Word; if you do but compare both the verses together, the next verse explains this gift what it is, saying, if any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God. So that it is plain, that the Holy Ghost doth not so much in this place exhort to civil callings, as to the exercising of those gifts that we have received from God. I would have gone on, but he would not give me leave.
Keel. He said, We might do it in our families, but not otherways.
Bun. I said, If it was lawful to do good to some, it was lawful to do good to more. If it was a good duty to exhort our families, it was good to exhort others; but if they held it a sin to meet together to seek the face of God, and exhort one another to follow Christ, I should sin still; for so we should do.
Keel. He said he was not so well versed in Scripture as to dispute, or words to that purpose. And said, moreover, that they could not wait upon me any longer; but said to me, Then you confess the indictment, do you not? Now, and not till now, I saw I was indicted.
Bun. I said, This I confess, we have had many meetings together, both to pray to God, and to exhort one another, and that we had the sweet comforting presence of the Lord among us for our encouragement; blessed be His name therefore. I confessed myself guilty no otherwise.
Keel. Then, said he, bear your judgment. You must be had back again to prison, and there lie for three months following; and at three months' end, if you do not submit to go to church to hear Divine service, and leave your preaching, you must be banished the realm: and if, after such a day as shall be appointed you to be gone, you shall be found in this realm, etc., or be found to come over again without special licence from the king, etc., you must stretch by the neck for it, I tell you plainly: and so he bid my jailor have me away.
Bun. I told him, as to this matter, I was at a point with him; for if I were out of prison to-day, I would preach the Gospel again to- morrow, by the help of God.
Another. To which one made me some answer: but my jailor pulling me away to be gone, I could not tell what he said.
Thus I departed from them; and I can truly say, I bless the Lord Jesus Christ for it, that my heart was sweetly refreshed in the time of my examination, and also afterwards, at my returning to the prison. So that I found Christ's words more than bare trifles, where He saith, I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay, nor resist. Luke xxi.15. And that His peace no man can take from us.
Thus have I given you the substance of my examination. The Lord make this profitable to all that shall read or hear it. Farewell.