THE CHURCH IN THE STORM.
IN one of those quarto pamphlets, which were the newspapers of the seventeenth century, there is an account of a tempest that, in the year of Bunyan's release, swept with unusual violence over the town of Bedford. It began with a great darkness which was soon exchanged for such vivid flashes of lightning "that the people of the adjacent places did believe the whole town of Bedford to be on a light flame." In the half hour during which it raged, the storm lifted great gates from off their hinges, whirled the goods of the tradesmen out of their shops, and the stacks of the farmers out of their fields. "Twenty of Justice Barber's stoutest Elms were torn up by the roots, and one great Tree was carried from beyond the river over our Paul's steeple." Some of the churches were "much damnified," stone walls were hurled to the ground, and "two houses tome down in an instant to the dreadful amazement of the spectators." This stern visitation, the story of which was duly attested at the end of the pamphlet by Mithnal the mayor, Gardener the recorder, Christy the lawyer, and Rush the waggoner, would probably have been accepted by the Church at Bedford, as nature's own symbol of that other storm through which they themselves had been passing during the years between the Restoration of 1660 and the Declaration of Indulgence of 1672. We have followed Bunyan's personal fortunes during this period, it may be well now to go back and see what was happening to his brethren in the church while he was spending his time in gaol.
It was but a trifling matter, perhaps, but it was a significant sign of altered times when the Corporation of Bedford, in