Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Bunyan-Burrough Debate > Kuenning dissertation, chapter 2
This literature review will begin with two 19th-century biographies: the important Bunyan biography by John Brown (1885), and the only 19th-century biography of Burrough, prepared for the 1850 volume of the Friends' Library anthology. Both of these briefly chronicle the debate, giving sample quotations and expressing pious wishes that the antagonists might have attained a better understanding.
The Philadelphia Orthodox Quaker editors of Friends' Library, William and Thomas Evans, in their 1850 Memoir of Edward Burrough,1 make no direct use of Bunyan's own writings, quoting from them only so much as may be found in Burrough. The expressions of both sides are somewhat toned down. For instance, where Bunyan, writing of the devil's strategy, says, "This is another of his lies wherewith he doth deceive poor sinners, bidding them follow the light that they brought into the world with them," Evans and Evans merely tell us that "Bunyan said 'Friends bade persons follow the light, that they brought into the world with them'." Correspondingly, in Burrough's reply to this point, they omit the words "of the devil" from "but this is the truth of God, and no lie of the devil."2 The selection of quotations seems, on the whole, calculated to reinforce the Orthodox cause in the 1827-28 Quaker separation into Hicksite and Orthodox branches, presenting Burrough as a defender of Quakerism against Bunyan's "unfounded accusations" of "a fancied unsoundness."3 Thus the final selection is Burrough's answer to the fourth of Bunyan's concluding queries:
Edward Burrough. "Yea, he is the very Christ of God, who was before the world was, by whom the world was made, who was made manifest from Mary's womb, and was persecuted to death by the Scribes and Pharisees, in whose steps thou treadest in asking subtle questions to ensnare the innocent, as they did."4
Bunyan's very next query, "5. Is that very man, with that very body, within you, yea, or no?" is pointedly omitted, along with Burrough's answer to it, as leading into much more difficult theological territory. Very little hint is given, indeed, that Burrough for his own part might have found Bunyan doctrinally unsound or had anything against him but his baseless attacks on Quakerism.
Adhering to a strictly chronological arrangement, the Evanses deal with two other writings by Burrough before turning to his second exchange with Bunyan. This time there are no sample quotations. Bunyan, previously called one "who misunderstanding or misrepresenting his antagonists, zealously beat the air in his attack on a fancied unsoundness,"5 is now described merely as "still unable to understand Quakerism."6 That Burrough might have contributed to this inability is cautiously suggested in words which on the surface continue to praise Burrough as the stalwart defender of the faith:
Edward was not long in following him through the press with an answer. . . . This reply set forth the doctrines of the Christian religion in words, which to one who was prepared to understand the language employed, and to give credit to the author for sincerity, would have been sufficient to establish the Scriptural soundness of Edward Burrough and his friends. But John Bunyan was not in a condition to perceive it, and it is probable that the closeness of the reproofs administered to him, had a tendency to blunt his appreciation of the force of the argument.7
We are thus given not only "the closeness of the reproofs" but "the language employed" as possible extenuations for Bunyan, as perhaps also the difficulty of giving "credit to the author for sincerity." By 1850 it would hardly do to make Bunyan too much of a villain; probably more Quakers at that date had read The Pilgrim's Progress, with some degree of appreciation, than had read any single work by Burrough, whose Memorable Works were not included in the rash of mid-19th-century reprints of early Quaker authors.
By 1885 Bunyan's biographer, John Brown, carries the ecumenical trend far enough to praise Burrough as "a fervent, earnest soul among the Quakers, who, six years later, sealed his testimony with his life in the gaol of Newgate." He also consults Burrough's writings directly rather than relying solely on Bunyan.8 He quotes little from them, however, beyond using them as a source for certain oral disputes between Bunyan and various Quakers in Bedford and Pavenham during 1656; it is only Bunyan whose theology he cares to explore, though even his work was "evidently thrown off at a heat." Brown finds in it only one theological theme:
a protest against what he thought the dangerous mysticism of Quaker teachings. There was really an historic Christ, Son of Mary and Son of God, as well as a spiritual Christ revealed in the soul. . . . He will have no spiritualising away into thin air of the facts of our Lord's life.9
Brown seems unaware of Bunyan's concern to "declare some of those lies which the devil persuades some of these men to believe," through which "the poor soul is most horribly carried away headlong, and thrown down violently under the curse of the law . . . and at the end of its life doth fall into the very belly of hell."10
Having found only one theological theme and not having treated it in depth, Brown naturally concludes that the whole conflict was due to misunderstandings:
One wishes that these two good men could have had a little free and friendly talk face to face. There would probably have been better understanding and fewer hard words, for they were really not so far apart as they thought. Bunyan believed in the inward light, and Burrough surely accepted an objective Christ. But failing to see each other's exact point of view, Burrough thunders at Bunyan, and Bunyan swiftly returns the shot.11
Brown's wishful prescription seems of course naive; Burrough was no more likely than the Quakers who visited Bedford before him to have "a little free and friendly talk" with Bunyan. But he is correct in observing that Bunyan and Burrough misunderstood their difference as a debate over whether Christ was within or without the Christian. Both believed Christ was in both places, while each believed the other was confining him to only one side of this mistaken dichotomy. Brown's work therefore represents an advance in the understanding of the debate, even though he does not see that Bunyan and Burrough differed over the content of Christ's activity both within and without.
William C. Braithwaite's standard history The Beginnings of Quakerism gives two pages to the debate.12 He knows Bunyan's side only through Burrough's, for not only is his close paraphrase of Bunyan's concerns limited to those statements which Burrough reproduces, but he follows Burrough in one of his slight misquotations of Bunyan: "It doth not shew the Soul a Saviour or Deliverer" for Bunyan's "neither doth it show the soul a Saviour, or deliver (for that is the work of the Spirit) from the curse."13 He seems unaware that Bunyan set his criticisms of Quakerism in the context of a positive statement of his own theology, and that Bunyan's charge that the Quakers would not own Christ without them was not new in the Vindication but had appeared already in Some Gospel Truths Opened.
Nevertheless Braithwaite does succeed in stating the gist of Bunyan's critique of the Quaker doctrine of the Light:
By turning the mind within to the light which convinces of sin, and closing with something within, the poor soul might be carried headlong to Hell, for the devil might thus be counterfeiting the work of grace.
The discussion is thus advanced by the recognition of a real soteriological difference existing alongside the misleading arguments over Christ within and Christ without.
As an early proponent of the Rufus Jones school of Quaker historiography, Braithwaite has a rather inexact concept of early Quaker theology. From Burrough he quotes two sample paragraphs, one which "makes short work of" Bunyan's distinction between the Light and the Spirit and one "which is a fair specimen of his impassioned, rhetorical style." Burrough's work, which "no one now reads," does not impress him except for its "indomitable courage and a natural eloquence"; he turns immediately to Nayler, who "deserves a place before Burrough if the quality of his work is to be the test."
Elisabeth Brockbank's short biography of Burrough gives a seven-page chapter to Bunyan's relations with Quakers, focusing on his debate with Burrough.14 Though she quotes Bunyan's works directly, she tends to dismiss him with the negative stereotypes provided by the Rufus Jones school, as its positive stereotypes also distort her picture of Burrough and Fox. The debate represents "the age-old fundamental cleavage between the priest and the prophet, the evangelical and the mystic," as if priest were equivalent to evangelical or prophet to mystic, and unlike Brown she does not recognize the inadequacy of framing the debate in terms of "the distinction between the historic Christ, and the inward and spiritual presence of Christ."15 Her characterization of Bunyan is trite and shallow:
Bunyan's tradition was the prevalent one of fear. He believed in the doctrine of original sin, not inward light. He expected voices, but they were the voices of Satan, and his evil spirits. Bunyan assigned the voices he heard to the Devil and the atmosphere of expectation from God that was as life-breath to the Seekers and Spiritual Reformers was unknown to him.16
Brockbank makes a point of acknowledging that Burrough "was put in the wrong" by unreliable information from Bedfordshire Quakers that Bunyan was paid for his preaching, a new addition to the study of the debate. She also singles out one point of Quaker doctrine which Bunyan either could not grasp or would not acknowledge, that the Light "enlightened the conscience but was different from it."
Due apparently to a copying error, the following erroneous quotation, printed without attribution, gives the impression of being from Bunyan:
'Burrough says that the Spirit of Christ doth nothing (mark!) within man to justification. . . . O horrid blindness! not to be paralleled. . . .'17
This is in fact a quotation from Burrough and ought to begin "John Bunion said the 30. of the 11. month" instead of "Burrough says"; what it attributes to Bunyan is an oral report and not a quotation from Bunyan's published writings. The concluding exclamation and the parenthetical "mark!" are Burrough's.18
Brockbank's biography as a whole is rather novelistic and resorts too often to imaginative reconstruction.
Maurice Creasey's Early Quaker Christology gives ten pages to the debate as one of three examples of contemporary theological criticisms of early Quakerism (the other two critics being John Owen and Henry More).19 Unfortunately the theological sensitivity evident in other portions of this work tends to lapse in this section, as Creasey fails to see much substance in Bunyan's criticisms, even referring to Bunyan's "four or five foot long" argument as a "puerile objection."20
As Creasey tells it, Bunyan objected to Quaker doctrine because he
understood the Quaker emphasis upon the necessity of an inward experience of the contemporary presence and power of Christ as a denial, or at least a disparagement, of the historic Person and work. For him, inward and outward seemed necessarily to be in opposition: and it is clear that he could see no connection between the revelatory and redemptive work of the historic Christ on the one hand and the age long activity of the Spirit of God as it sensitized to truth and prompted to duty upon the other.21
This reproduces, in kinder terms, Burrough's view of Bunyan's position. Creasey's idea that Bunyan "could see no connection between" the historic and the inward simply ignores or rejects Bunyan's testimony to the contrary.22 The problem, this study will argue, is not that Bunyan sees no connection but that he and Burrough see the connection differently.
With such a treatment of Bunyan, Creasey's presentation of Burrough's response gives the impression that Burrough is doing little more than correcting some misconceptions about the orthodoxy of Quakerism. More difficult themes in Burrough, such as the doctrine of the heavenly flesh of Christ, do not appear. This latter is particularly unfortunate in that an exploration of an early form of this doctrine in Burrough could have shed further light on its later development, which Creasey does investigate in some detail, in writers such as George Keith, Robert Barclay, and Isaac Penington.
Creasey's account of the debate ends with the lament
that one who possessed such unrivalled insight into the spiritual pilgrimage of an awakened soul should have been so little able to discern his own real unity with the deep and genuinely evangelical concern of his Quaker opponents.23
The valid recognition that the debate contains much misunderstanding is thus exaggerated into a belief that it consisted solely of misunderstandings. The amount of "real unity" between Bunyan and Burrough will be tested in the present study after due allowance has been made for failures of communication.
Creasey provides some discussion of early Quaker terminology: his discussion of the Quaker meaning of "human" is helpful,24 but he is somewhat less successful with "person."25
Richard Bailey's New Light on George Fox and Early Quakerism,26 which does not cover the Bunyan-Burrough debate at all, is mentioned here because it brings the doctrine of heavenly flesh into the limelight. Bailey, having been "thoroughly schooled in radical Anabaptist thought where hints of the doctrine of celestial flesh can be found,"27 finds that "Fox believed that the inward dwelling Christ literally transformed and perfected the saints so that they became flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone."28 He acknowledges, however, that his work "is not a sophisticated theological study. . . . Rather theology is used to explain early Quaker behavior."29
According to Bailey, Fox's role in the Quaker movement advanced from "prophet" to "magus" to "avatar" under the influence of his idea of "celestial inhabitation." The same idea, however, carried only a step further by Nayler, led to the embarrassment of the entire movement by Nayler's triumphal entry into Bristol and the resulting scandal. As a result, Fox was forced to retreat from his own exalted claims for himself, and his doctrine was reshaped in less embarrassing ways by a new generation of Quaker leaders.
Bailey's work is suggestive of productive lines for further study, but is probably overstated at many points. Given his admission that he is using theology to explain behavior without first carefully studying the content of the theology itself, this is hardly surprising. One particularly noteworthy misreading is his statement that Fox referred to the glorified Christ inhabiting his saints as "a substance" (Bailey italicizes the word).30 In fact, in the passage cited, Fox's expression is "the substance,"31 which in Fox as in many other writers is a technical theological term synonymous with "antitype" and carries no suggestions of a chemical substance as it might to a modern reader.
The present study hopes to contribute to the investigation of the heavenly flesh idea in early Quakerism by looking in more detail at Burrough's formulation of it. (Oddly, Bailey lists Burrough among those Quaker leaders who took the celestial flesh idea less literally than did Fox.32 The present study does not find this to be so.) Only when the theological content of the doctrine has been adequately explored in several writers will it be possible to evaluate, develop, or modify Bailey's suggestions about early Quaker behavior with much confidence.
Christopher Hill's biography of Bunyan gives half of two chapters, totaling eight pages, to Bunyan's early relations with Quakers, including the debate with Burrough.33 The description of social conditions is vivid, but the choice of theological issues, as in most of the preceding works, appears to be guided more by the author's own concerns than by Bunyan's or Burrough's.
Hill presents Bunyan as primarily exercised about the breakdown of traditional religious and moral authority, especially that of the Bible, along with beliefs such as the second coming of Christ and the resurrection.34 Some of these topics do occur in the debate, but Bunyan gives them comparatively little emphasis and they become even less important as Burrough refuses to recognize them as points of difference. Such topics, rather than any real characteristics of Quakerism, are probably what Hill refers to when he says, "Bunyan came to hate Ranters and Quakers because he had so nearly been convinced by them."35 Hill speculates further, relying on a "no doubt" rather than textual evidence, that Bunyan was "even more indignant with Quaker disparagement of ministers who 'preach up sin',"36 apparently not understanding that what Quakers disparaged was not preaching on the existence of sin but preaching of an inescapable bondage to sin "for term of life."37 He does, however, accurately reproduce the initial part of one of Bunyan's accounts of the devil's strategy to keep souls from salvation.38
Hill correctly recognizes three of the social dynamics operating in the debate. One is Bunyan's failure to differentiate Quakers from Ranters, which he says Burrough is right to correct.39 Another is intersectarian rivalry due to the sudden expansion of Quakerism in Bedfordshire.40 The third is a fixation on semantics:
Neither Bunyan nor Burrough tried to understand the different ways in which the other used words like 'light' and 'Christ'; each accused the other of confusion for not using words in his sense.41
But the immediate continuation illustrates that Hill himself often fails to understand the usage of one or both participants:
Burrough claimed that at a meeting at Pavenham on 12 April 1656 Bunyan had said, 'there is nothing in me nor in any man to be taken notice of.' That sounds like an agreeable piece of modesty. But Burrough interpreted it to mean that Bunyan was 'a reprobate and without Christ in him, one that hath denied Christ in him, or else thinks Christ not worth taking notice of.'42
This does illustrate Hill's observation about semantic cross-purposes, but he is wrong about the "agreeable piece of modesty." As Bunyan explains his own meaning (while doubting that he actually uttered the words), it is theological: "there was nothing in me, as I was in my unregenerate estate; nor in any man else, in the same estate, that is worthy to be taken notice of for justification."43
Hill is also mistaken in reading Bunyan's dislike of Quakerism as class-based, possibly reading the demographics of modern British Quakerism into the 1650s when he has Bunyan "put them with the privileged, the educated elite who were almost certainly damned."44 What Hill takes for Bunyan's "gut reaction" to Quakerism of the 1650s, "I do know they are the poor that receive the Gospel,"45 is in fact Bunyan's acknowledgment of a principle first claimed by Burrough which Bunyan must try to keep him from using to advantage.46
A section on "Bunyan's anti-Quaker offensive" occupies eleven pages of Michael Mullett's literary biography of Bunyan.47 It includes an excellent summary of Bunyan's theology in Some Gospel Truths Opened. Within the space of three pages, Mullet explains how Bunyan's Luther-inspired gospel of justification by faith apart from works leads him to Calvinistic concepts of predestination and irresistible grace, the former being elaborated in terms of an eternal covenant of redemption between Father and Son, and how the terms of this covenant require an Anselmian incarnation of Christ as truly God and truly man in order to accomplish that satisfaction for sin which makes possible the justification of sinners by imputed righteousness.48 All the previously considered works pale by comparison.
Mullett's grasp of Burrough's theology is inferior to his grasp of Bunyan's. For instance, he is too ready to read traditional Protestant meanings into some of Burrough's terms:
Burrough carefully explained his attachment to the Reformation keystone, the all-sufficiency of the Cross of Christ: 'nor is [salvation] wrought by any other, but by Jesus Christ fully and compleatly'.49
But Burrough's present tense here is significant, as compared with Bunyan's past tense and specified location ("he did it gloriously . . . by his death upon the cross, without the gates of Jerusalem")50 in the passage Burrough is answering. This study will argue that Burrough does not understand Bunyan's meaning here, so that his protest that Bunyan has slandered the Quakers on this point needs to be read carefully.
A number of details in Mullett's account require correction:
The polemical literature arising out of Bunyan's defence of his mission territory against the Quaker offensive gives a strong impression of interpersonal confrontations. These began when the Quaker controversialist Edward Burrough heard a sermon by Bunyan at Pavenham, Bedfordshire, in April 1656, followed by further addresses by Bunyan, John Burton and other church members in May.51
Burrough was not in fact present: "though I know not your faces, yet your spirit is tried & your generation is read at large, & your stature and countenance is clearly described to me. . . ."52
A coda to the work [Some Gospel Truths Opened] concerned the debate about preaching for fees, but this issue involved the stipendiary minister John Burton more than it did Bunyan himself. . . .53
Bunyan does not raise this subject in Some Gospel Truths Opened. Burrough forces him to deal with it in the Vindication by mistakenly accusing Bunyan himself of preaching for hire. The subsequent deflection of the charge onto Burton is Burrough's way of correcting his initial error.
Bunyan's emphasis on externality—his rejection of inner good conscience or of any inherent human capacity for righteousness—was reflected in his constantly repeated phrase about 'that blood that was shed without the gate', 'without' being his shorthand for the vicarious nature of redemption.54
The use of "without" in this biblical tag from Heb 13:12 is coincidental and unrelated to Bunyan's shorthand use of the same word. The difference may be seen in an instance where both usages occur close together, when Bunyan defines faith as "believing what another man hath done by himself, (Heb. i.2,3; Rom. v.15,) without us, on the cross, without the gates of Jersualem."55 It is the former phrase, "without us," which is commonly shortened to "without," as "within us" is shortened to "within." This is a standard usage in Quaker and anti-Quaker literature, not peculiar to Bunyan. Had Christ's blood been shed within the gates of Jerusalem it would have made no difference to Bunyan's argument for its externality.
In a savagely satiric passage, Bunyan derided the obsessive practices and prohibitions into which, he believed, the Quaker belief in the possibility of human righteousness might lead: 'Now . . . quakers are changed to the laws of the world . . . Now they must wear no hatbands; now they must live with bread and water.'56
The quotation inaccurately includes a clause that is not Bunyan's but was added by his 1691 editor to indicate the changed character of Quakerism. Following Bunyan's sentence, "Now he begins also to make them run through difficulties, and now like Baals Priests, they must lance themselves with knives, &c.," the following addition, lacking in Underwood's text, appears in Stebbing's: "Now, 1656. But now (1691) Quakers are changed to the laws of the world."57
'No picker of quarrels' in his extraordinarily self-deceptive assessment of himself, Burrough aimed sixteen of his writings against named opponents, and turned from his assault on Bunyan to an attack on 'Four and twenty Arguments' by Baxter.58
Burrough's writings against named opponents are, of course, replies to anti-Quaker pamphlets; Baxter's "Four and twenty Arguments" were such as "would hinder any reasonable man from being a Quaker." One who wishes evidence that Burrough was a "picker of quarrels" would do better to turn to writings in which Burrough himself starts the quarrel, such as the attack on his hometown priest in his earliest writing A Warning from the Lord to the Inhabitants of Underbarrow (1654). The statement that Burrough's reply to Baxter was next in sequence after his second reply to Bunyan seems to be based on the order of Burrough's Memorable Works, which is arranged only by year of publication and contains ten items dated 1657.
Thomas Luxon in Literal Figures: Puritan Allegory and the Reformation Crisis in Representation devotes six pages to Bunyan's debate with Burrough.59 The book as a whole presents itself as an answer to
what appeared to be a very simple question: if John Bunyan's work, as has been generally supposed, represents a kind of literary flowering of English Puritanism, a Puritanism theologically rooted in Calvin and Luther as anglicized and popularized by the sectarian movements of the revolutionary years, then what is he doing writing allegory? No mode of discourse is more consistently vilified by Reformation authors from Tyndale to Milton than allegory.60
The answer is sought in a search for internal contradictions within Christianity, and especially Reformation Christianity, which allegedly drove Bunyan to use allegory to express multiple meanings that could not otherwise be held together.
The result may be fairly called a mare's nest, in that it completely misses the fact that for Bunyan himself the use of allegory was not a problem. He was indeed aware that his use of it was controversial for some of his coreligionists and that he therefore needed to defend its legitimacy. But he had this defense ready from the beginnings of his work as a writer. The well-known "Author's Apology for his Book" that introduces The Pilgrim's Progress is foreshadowed in Some Gospel Truths Opened:
Now let me give you a similitude, for it is warrantable, for both Christ and his apostles did sometimes use them, to the end, souls might be better informed. (John xv.1. 1 Cor. ix.24,25.) The similitude is this: Suppose there come into thine house a man that is naked, and without clothing, though he go out of thy house again well clothed, yet the same man that came in without clothing is the same man also that goes out of thy house, though very well clothed. Even so it is in this case; the Lord Jesus came into the womb of the Virgin, Spirit, (Matt. i.18;) but he came out of the womb clothed with a body, and went up into heaven again clothed with a body. Compare Luke xxiv.39, with Acts i.11, and ii.30,31.61
The "similitude" here is very brief, as is its defense, but the passage is enough to show both that Bunyan knew some of his readers would doubt that such figures were "warrantable" and that he had his justification ready: that "both Christ and his apostles did sometimes use them." Historically, therefore, the legitimacy of Puritan allegory should be investigated as a question explicitly debated among the Puritans themselves, and not as the unwitting result of a hidden tension within Bunyan's personal convictions and experience.
Luxon's treatment of Bunyan's debate with Burrough opens with this dubious claim:
From his earliest writings, Bunyan announces himself as one deeply troubled by what he called the problem of "words in general," by the intractability of language as an instrument for even the simplest kinds of communication, let alone for truth-telling. . . . In the waning years of the Age of Faith, the impossible Real of Christian logocentrism obtrudes its presence quite markedly, quite uncomfortably, and quite persistently. . . .
Bunyan and Burrough, we shall find, formulate the problem in almost the same words, but they finally agree upon no solution, and settle for reproducing the problem in their mutual accusation that each speaks words without "truth" and so cannot hear the words of the other, or for that matter, the Word of God, a human being's primary other.62
Seen in context, the quotation fragment "words in general" turns out to have nothing to do with any alleged problem on Bunyan's part about "the impossible Real of Christian logocentrism." He is rather accusing the Quakers of making it a habit "to utter themselves doubtfully":
Again, in page 7, thou wouldst make us believe that the Quakers do really and truly lay the Christ of God, God-man, for their foundation; saying, We prize the Lord Jesus Christ, God-man, to be precious to us, and to all that do believe, and have owned him to be the foundation, &c. Now, friend, this is fairly spoken; but by words in general we may be deceived, because a man may speak one thing with his mouth, and mean another thing in his heart; especially it is so with those that use to utter themselves doubtfully; therefore we will a little inquire what it is to lay Christ, God-man, for a foundation.63
Luxon misreads the phrase "words in general" as if Bunyan were generalizing about all words as potentially deceptive; in fact he is complaining that the particular words Burrough uses are glittering generalities chosen with intent to deceive.
Luxon goes on to describe how Bunyan and Burrough handle the alleged problem of "words in general":
Burrough's solution is his Quaker pledge to a silence he cannot keep; Bunyan's may be what he once termed his "fall" into allegory—always meaning something other than what he says.64
What Luxon calls Burrough's pledge to silence occurs in the "Epistle to the Reader" in Truth the Strongest:
Therefore seeing the unbelieving heart of John Bunion cannot believe me, when I speak the truth in justness, nor may I believe his Lies and Slanders, uttered in hypocrisie; what is laid down is left to thee, soberly to judge of betwixt us, while we are both silent.65
Although this reference to silence, standing as it does at the beginning of the work, may appear to render the rest of the pamphlet superfluous, it was as an introductory epistle probably written last. It summarizes passages such as these:
Mark these things, and let honest men judge, while both thou and I am silent, whether thy Doctrine, which denyes that which the Scripture affirms, or mine which bears witness to the same thing which the Scriptures speaks, be to be disowned, let an equal Line measure.
Reply, to sum up thy Lyes, and send them back to thee to seek them out, and an evidence for them, and the Querys, and my Answers shall stand, as they are to be judged of by honest men, while we are both silent in our own cause, they are to be seen at large in my first Book, The true faith of the Gospel contended for, &c. in the 26, 27, 28, pages.
The last of these, standing near the end of the whole work, would have been fresh in Burrough's mind when he wrote the introductory epistle. In each case the meaning is that Burrough believes he has made his case sufficiently, on the point at issue, in his first pamphlet. Repeating this theme in the opening epistle, Burrough means he believes the debate as a whole has gone far enough for readers to judge for themselves.
When Luxon suggests that Bunyan responded to the "problem of 'words in general'" with "what he once termed his 'fall' into allegory," he alludes to the introductory apologetic for The Pilgrim's Progress, in which Bunyan says that while writing something else he "fell suddenly into an allegory." Exactly how pejorative the term "fall" is for Luxon is hard to decide; he may mean no more than that Bunyan's adoption of allegory was "quite unintentional, not so much a solution to his dilemma as an experience of it."66 But even this goes too far as an interpretation of what "Bunyan presents"; Bunyan says nothing of a dilemma in the context, and means only that his use of allegory on this occasion was impulsive and extemporaneous, not that it was an inadvertent mistake.
Bunyan says that since this allegory threatened to grow out of proportion and overwhelm the book he was writing, he set it aside and completed it later as a separate book. But according to Luxon, the originally "intended discourse . . . is set aside and left unspoken, for it is unspeakable."67 Yet it probably was completed and published; Brown identifies it with The Strait Gate (1676) and Sharrock with The Heavenly Foot-Man (posthumous).68 The implication that a non-allegorical theological discourse was impossible for Bunyan is hard to take seriously in view of the corpus of his works.
Luxon's work is shot through with similarly fanciful readings of individual passages, often in contexts that seem dominated by an ideological agenda. For instance, Luxon's analysis of the role of women in The Pilgrim's Progress begins thus:
Though false professors and the deceitful hearts out of which they are generated make up Bunyan's largest class of threats to a true pilgrim's quest for reality, there is another class of "things this side the other world" that Bunyan's pilgrims must also fear. These are women. In the list of "all sorts of Vanity" to be found for sale at Vanity Fair, women are listed three times: "Whores, Bauds, Wives" (88). To be fair, the list also includes such "vanities" as "Husbands, Children, . . . Lives, Blood, Souls," but women are accorded special attention here by place and by number. To love such things is to love "what not."69
Consultation of the Oxford English Dictionary s.v. "bawd" reveals that in Bunyan's time this word more often meant a male prostitute (gigolo) than a loose woman. Such a meaning excellently suits Bunyan's context and makes his tetrad of "whores, bawds, wives, husbands" perfectly balanced, containing two items for sale to men and two to women, two for sale in the sense of literal commerce and two in the sense of marrying for money. And of course Bunyan's concluding "and what not" is nothing but an "etc." and not a characterization of the numerous preceding items. Whatever may be made of Bunyan's views on the social role of women, it is fallacious to appeal to this passage as evidence of an ontological sexism like that mentioned by George Fox, who once "met with a sort of people that held women have no souls, adding in a light manner, no more than a goose."70
T. L. Underwood deserves a major heading of his own, having contributed not only the Oxford University Press volume of Bunyan's Miscellaneous Works containing the debate material, but also a book-length study of 17th-century Baptist-Quaker theological conflict (based on his dissertation) which includes the Bunyan-Burrough debate among its sources.
As editor of Bunyan's side of the debate, Underwood provides a twenty-page introduction giving general background on Bunyan's preaching and the rise of Quakerism as well as more specific introductory material for Bunyan's two pamphlets.71 Much of his account of Quaker theology is unfootnoted and is probably summarized from his own research (see below). Nine pages on "Bunyan and the Quakers" provide helpful background information on various individuals and events in Bedfordshire in the 1650s.72 Underwood's outline of the logical structure of Some Gospel Truths Opened73 will be revised in this study on the basis of Bunyan's own textual division markers.
Underwood's notes to Bunyan's text accurately identify Bunyan's Calvinism as infralapsarian.74 They also provide selections from Burrough and occasionally from Fox, usually without comment, to help clarify Bunyan's meaning at various points in the Vindication.75 These are of course intended for the reader who is chiefly interested in Bunyan; an edition solely of Bunyan cannot provide enough such cross-references for a detailed study of the debate.
The text itself is printed with line numbers, to which the notes are keyed. Unfortunately the original pagination is not indicated, so that Burrough's references to page numbers in Bunyan are useless; but the loss is small, as there are only four of these.
Underwood's important recent study of 17th-century Baptist-Quaker conflicts76 repeatedly draws on the Bunyan-Burrough debate without analyzing it separately from other works spread over a period of about half a century. The book is based on its author's 1965 University of London dissertation,77 and attempts a systematic coverage of the theological topics involved, including the doctrines of Scripture, the person of Christ, soteriology, eschatology, baptism and the Lord's supper, the church, and the specifically Quaker doctrine of the Light of Christ within. Added in the rewriting from dissertation to book is a new emphasis on primitivism, the desire to return to the earliest Christianity. Underwood rightly identifies this as a major theme of both Baptist and Quaker outlooks, and the Quakers' greater degree of primitivism as a major source of their differences.
However, several shortcomings can be identified in this work. First, Underwood's concept of primitivism is too dependent on Mircea Eliade's anthropological studies, in which return to a "Great Time" is accomplished by the abolition of a sense of history.78 This contributes to his belief that Quakers spiritualized away the historical, human Jesus in order to have a Christ whom they could experience as immediately as did the apostles. But the cyclically minded groups studied by Eliade do not provide an adequate parallel for early Quaker primitivism, set as it was in the apocalyptic excitement of revolutionary times and grounded in the belief that God was historically at work, as prophesied, to end the long night of apostasy.
Second, Underwood treats all his early Quaker sources as representing a single doctrinal position. To some extent this is inevitable in a survey treatment and merely needs to be supplemented by more detailed study. To some extent it is of course accurate, since the Quakers considered themselves a spiritually united body. However, scholars of seventeenth-century Quakerism have long recognized a distinction between the uneducated enthusiastic preachers of the 1650s and the later more sophisticated apologists who often appear in the debate literature Underwood cites from the 1670s. If one fails to recognize any nuances of doctrinal development from Fox, Nayler, and Burrough to Penn, Barclay, and Penington, one can create a composite theology which was in fact held by no one.
Third, Underwood treats doctrinal statements by Baptists and Quakers as operating on the same level of theological discourse. This is especially fallacious for uneducated Quakers such as Burrough in the apocalyptic 1650s. Precisely because of the greater degree of primitivism among the Quakers, one must reckon with the fact that preachers such as Burrough tried to step into the shoes of the biblical prophets and apostles, resulting in a style more aggressive, more poetic, more personally addressed, and more given to allusion than to quotation of scripture, as compared with the outlined discursive model of Puritan sermon with which Bunyan opens the debate. Seeing himself engaged in spiritual warfare using inspired words, Burrough was more likely to attack Bunyan's questions than to answer them, and more likely to demand documentation for Bunyan's mischaracterizations of Quakerism (or "lies and slanders") than to correct them, especially in the first round of the debate. This can be frustrating for the theological scholar, but it does not justify jumping to conclusions about how Burrough would have answered Bunyan's doctrinal questions if he had chosen to do so. In fact some answers do begin to emerge in Burrough's second contribution, but without detailed examination of each sequence of challenge and counter-challenge, or without a close familiarity with seventeenth-century Quaker idiom, the scholar is likely to miss them.
Fourth, perhaps because of the frustration just noted, or because of his own specialization in Bunyan, Underwood accepts too much of Bunyan's characterization of Quaker doctrine. This is just as fallacious as it would be to accept at face value Fox's or Burrough's characterizations of Puritan doctrine. This is particularly true of the statement, in Underwood's introductory chapter, that Quakers "apparently perceived Christ's ascension to have been into his saints rather than into a physical heaven as the Baptists believed."79 This is obviously derived from Bunyan's opening salvo, where the old Zwinglian argument against the physical presence of Christ's body in the eucharist is recycled to attack the Quaker doctrine of Christ within: "Now let the Adversaries shew by the Scriptures that there is any place in them called heaven, that is able to contain a man of some four or five foot long, the space of fifteen or sixteen hundred years; besides that, therefore, it must needs be that heaven without which is above the clouds and Stars."80 The actual Quaker position on this point, with its ramifications, will be the subject of chapter 7 of this study.
Despite the great improvement from the earliest studies cited to those of Mullett and Underwood, a more detailed investigation of the debate should be able to attain a deeper understanding of both the conduct of the debate and the rival theologies in conflict.
1. William Evans and Thomas Evans, A Memoir of the Life and Religious Labours of that Eminent Servant of Christ and Minister of the Gospel, Edward Burrough, compiled for the Friends' Library, in The Friends' Library; comprising Journals, Doctrinal Treatises, & Other Writings of Members of the Religious Society of Friends, ed. William and Thomas Evans, 14 (Philadelphia: Joseph Rakestraw, 1850), 380-491.
2. Ibid., 418.
4. Ibid., 420.
5. Ibid., 418.
6. Ibid., 420.
8. John Brown, John Bunyan: His Life, Times, and Work (London: Wm. Isbister, 1885; 3rd ed., 1887), 113-115.
9. Ibid., 113, 114.
10. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 16, 58 (appendix, 259, 312, col. 1).
11. Brown, John Bunyan, 114-115.
12. William C. Braithwaite, The Beginnings of Quakerism (2d ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955), 286-288.
13. Burrough, The True Faith, 22; Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 64 (appendix, 323, cols. 1-2).
14. Elisabeth Brockbank, Edward Burrough: A Wrestler for Truth, 1634-1662 (London: Bannisdale Press, 1949), 104-111.
15. Ibid., 106.
16. Ibid., 108-9.
17. Ibid., 107; quotation marks and ellipses are Brockbank's.
18. Burrough, Truth the Strongest, 55 (appendix, 372, col. 4).
19. Maurice A. Creasey, Early Quaker Christology, with special reference to the Teaching and Significance of Isaac Penington 1616-1679: An Essay in Interpretation (D. Phil. thesis, University of Leeds, 1956; rpt. Manasquan, NJ: Catholic and Quaker Studies, n.d.), 148-157.
20. Ibid., 115.
21. Ibid., 152.
22. Bunyan, Vindication, 137 (appendix, 243, col. 3).
23. Creasey, Early Quaker Christology, 157.
24. Ibid., 92-96.
25. Ibid., 68-69.
26. Richard Bailey, New Light on George Fox and Early Quakerism: The Making and Unmaking of a God (San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1992).
27. According to the Foreword by Bailey's Doktorvater, John F. H. New; ibid., ii.
28. Ibid., 19.
29. Ibid., xvii.
30. Ibid., 94.
31. Fox, Works, 3:397.
32. Bailey, New Light on Fox, 82.
33. Christopher Hill, A Tinker and a Poor Man: John Bunyan and His Church, 1628-1688 (New York: Knopf, 1989), 79-87.
34. Ibid., 80-81, 83.
35. Ibid., 75.
36. Ibid., 83.
37. George Fox, The Journal of George Fox, ed. John L. Nickalls (London: Religious Society of Friends, 1975), 52; Fox, Works, 3:342.
38. Hill, A Tinker and a Poor Man, 85-86.
39. Ibid., 82.
40. Ibid., 80.
41. Ibid., 82.
43. Bunyan, Vindication, 209 (appendix, 370, col. 3).
44. Hill, A Tinker and a Poor Man, 86.
45. Ibid., 87.
46. Bunyan, Vindication, 145 (appendix, 258, col. 3).
47. Michael Mullett, John Bunyan in Context (Keele, Staffordshire: Keele University Press, 1996), 126-137.
48. Ibid., 129-132.
49. Ibid., 134-135, citing Burrough, Memorable Works, 137 (and noting that the page number is misprinted and should be 140) (appendix, 259, col. 2). Brackets are Mullett's.
50. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 17 (appendix, 259, col. 1).
51. Mullett, Bunyan in Context, 127.
52. Burrough, The True Faith, 3 (appendix, 242, col. 2).
53. Mullett, Bunyan in Context, 128.
54. Ibid., 132.
55. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 58 (appendix, 312, col. 1).
56. Mullett, Bunyan in Context, 132-133.
57. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 59; Bunyan, Entire Works (ed. Stebbing), 1:66. This addition has been omitted from the hypertext edition (appendix, 313, col. 1).
58. Mullett, Bunyan in Context, 137.
59. Thomas Luxon, Literal Figures: Puritan Allegory and the Reformation Crisis in Representation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 130-135.
60. Ibid., ix.
61. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 75-76 (appendix, 330, col. 1). This passage will be useful in the present study, not for its incidental use of a "similitude," but because in it Bunyan articulates a principle of exegetical method which he fails to apply consistently (below, 133-136).
62. Luxon, Literal Figures, 130-131.
63. Bunyan, Vindication, 140 (appendix, 252, col. 3).
64. Luxon, Literal Figures, 131.
65. Burrough, Truth the Strongest, unnumbered page with signature mark "A2" (appendix, 231, col. 4).
66. Luxon, Literal Figures, 171.
68. Brown, John Bunyan, 262; Roger Sharrock, ed., The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (London: Penguin, 1965), 387 n. 1.
69. Luxon, Literal Figures, 200.
70. Fox, Journal, 8-9. Fox "reproved them and told them that was not right, for Mary said, 'My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.'"
71. In Bunyan, Miscellaneous Works, 1:xv-xxxv.
72. Ibid., xxi-xxx.
73. Ibid., xxxi-xxxii.
74. Ibid., 387.
75. Ibid., 392-397.
76. T. L. Underwood, Primitivism, Radicalism, and the Lamb's War: The Baptist-Quaker Conflict in Seventeenth-century England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
77. T. L. Underwood, "The Controversy Between the Baptists and the Quakers in England, 1650-1689: A Theological Elucidation" (London: University of London, 1965). Pace Greaves and Forrest's Bunyan bibliography, the dissertation (like the book) does not include "a detailed analysis of Bunyan's dispute with Edward Burrough," but mines it for material in discussing the overall topic of Baptist-Quaker debates: Richard L. Greaves and James Forrest, editors, John Bunyan: A Reference Guide (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1982), 328.
78. Mircea Eliade, Myths, Dreams, and Mysteries: The Encounter Between Contemporary Faith and Archaic Realities, trans. Philip Mairet (London: Harvill Press; New York: Harper & Row, 1960).
79. Underwood, Primitivism, Radicalism, and the Lamb's War, 5.
80. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 78-79 (appendix, 332, col. 1).