In the ageless classic by John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress, is an oft-misunderstood piece of wisdom which it would be well for us to thoughtfully consider; more so now, as things go from bad to worse, and we see “The End” approaching. The passage in question pertains to the conversion of a soul, and the result of a true conversion on the spirit of a man. None of us can save himself or herself; we all need the Saviour, Jesus Christ. Without more ado, here is the quoted portion of Pilgrim’s Progress, pages 126 – 131, Eighth printing, 1964.
" Christian (CHR.). Then Christian began and said, "I will ask you a question. How came you to think at first of doing as you do now?"
Hopeful (HOPE.). "Do you mean, how came I at first to look after the good of my soul?"
CHR. "Yes, that is my meaning."
HOPE. "I continued a great while in the delight of those things which were seen and sold at our fair [Vanity Fair]; things which, as I believe now, would have (had I continued in them still) drowned me in perdition and destruction."
CHR. "What things were they?"
HOPE. "All the treasures and riches of the world. Also I delighted much in rioting, revelling, drinking, swearing, lying, uncleanness, Sabbath-breaking, and what not, that tended to destroy the soul. But I found at last, by hearing and considering of things that are divine, which indeed I heard of you, as also of beloved Faithful that was put to death for his faith and good living in Vanity Fair, 'That the end of these things is death.' [Romans 6:21] And that for these things' sake the wrath of God cometh 'upon the children of disobedience.' [Ephesians 5:6]
CHR. "And did you presently fall under the power of this conviction?"
HOPE. "No, I was not willing presently to know the evil of sin, nor the damnation that follows upon the commission of it, but endeavoured, when my mind at first began to be shaken with the Word, to shut mine eyes against the light thereof."
CHR. "But what was the cause of your carrying of it thus to the first workings of God's blessed Spirit upon you?"
HOPE. "The causes were, 1. I was ignorant that this was the work of God upon me. I never thought that by awakenings for sin, God at first begins the conversion of a sinner. 2. Sin was yet very sweet to my flesh, and I was loath to leave it. 3. I could not tell how to part with mine old companions, their presence and actions were so desirable unto me. 4. The hours in which convictions were upon me were such troublesome and such heart-affrighting hours that I could not bear, no not so much as the remembrance of them upon my heart."
CHR. "Then, as it seems, sometimes you got rid of your trouble."
HOPE. "Yes, verily, but it would come into my mind again; and then I should be as bad, nay worse, than I was before."
CHR. "Why, what was it that brought your sins to mind again?"
HOPE. "Many things, as,
1. If I did but meet a good man in the streets; or,
2. If I have heard any read in the Bible; or,
3. If my head did begin to ache; or,
4. If I were told that some of my neighbours were sick; or,
5. If I heard the bell toll for some that were dead; or,
6. If I thought of dying myself; or,
7. If I heard that sudden death happened to others;
8. But especially, when I thought of myself, that I must quickly come to judgement."
CHR. "And could you at any time with ease get off the guilt of sin when by any of these ways it came upon you?"
HOPE. "No, not latterly, for then they got faster hold of my conscience. And then, if I did but think of going back to sin (though my mind was turned against it) it would be double torment to me."
CHR. "And how did you do then?"
HOPE. "I thought I must endeavour to mend my life, for else, thought I, I am sure to be damned."
CHR. "And did you endeavour to mend?"
HOPE. "Yes, and fled from, not only my sins, but sinful company, too, and betook me to religious duties, as praying, reading, weeping for sin, speaking truth to my neighbours, &c. These things I did, with many others, too much here to relate."
CHR. "And did you think yourself well then?"
HOPE. "Yes, for a while; but at the last my trouble came tumbling upon me again, and that over the neck of all my reformations."
CHR. "How came that about, since you was now reformed?"
HOPE. "There were several things brought it upon me, especially such sayings as these, 'All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.' 'By the works of the law no man shall be justified.' 'When you have done all things, say we are unprofitable,' [Isaiah 64:6; Galatians 2:16; Luke 17:10] with many more the like. From whence I began to reason with myself thus: if all my righteousnesses are filthy rags, if by the deeds of the law, no man can be justified, and, if when we have done all, we are yet unprofitable, then 'tis but a folly to think of heaven by the law. I further thought thus: If a man runs an 100£ into the shopkeeper's debt, and after that shall pay for all that he shall fetch, yet his old debt stands still in the book uncrossed; for the which the shopkeeper may sue him, and cast him into prison till he shall pay the debt."
CHR. "Well, and how did you apply this to yourself?"
HOPE. "Why, I thought thus with myself. I have by my sins run a great way into God's book, and that my now reforming will not pay off that score; therefore I should think still under all my present amendments. But how shall I be freed from that damnation that I have brought myself in danger of by my former transgressions?"
CHR. "A very good application. But pray go on."
HOPE. "Another thing that hath troubled me, even since my late amendments, is that if I look narrowly into the best of what I do now, I still see sin, new sin, mixing itself with the best of that I do. So that now I am forced to conclude that notwithstanding my former fond conceits of myself and duties, I have committed sin enough in one duty to send me to hell, though my former life had been faultless."
CHR. "And what did you do then?"
HOPE. "Do! I could not tell what to do, till I brake my mind to Faithful, for he and I were well acquainted. And he told me that unless I could obtain the righteousness of a man that never had sinned, neither mine own nor all the righteousness of the world could save me."
CHR. "And did you think he spake true?"
HOPE. "Had he told me so when I was pleased and satisfied with mine own amendments, I had called him fool for his pains: but now, since I see my own infirmity, and the sin that cleaves to my best performance, I have been forced to be of his opinion."
CHR. "But did you think, when at first he suggested it to you, that there was such a man to be found, of whom it might justly be said that he never committed sin?"
HOPE. "I must confess the words at first sounded strangely, but after a little more talk and company with him, I had full conviction about it."
CHR. "And did you ask him what man this was, and how you must be justified by him?"
HOPE. "Yes, and he told me it was the Lord Jesus, that dwelleth on the right hand of the Most High. And thus, said he, you must be justified by him, even by trusting to what he hath done by himself in the days of his flesh, and suffered when he did hang on the tree. I asked him further how that man's righteousness could be of that efficacy, to justify another before God? And he told me he was the mighty God, and did what he did, and died the death also, not for himself, but for me, to whom his doings and the worthiness of them should be imputed, if I believed on him." [Hebrews 10; Romans 4; Colossians 1; 1 Peter 1]
CHR. "And what did you do then?"
HOPE. "I made my objections against my believing, for that I thought he was not willing to save me."
CHR. "And what said Faithful to you then?"
HOPE. "He bid me go to him and see. Then I said it was presumption, but he said no, for I was invited to come. Then he gave me a book of Jesus his inditing [sic: I believe it was meant 'inviting'], to encourage me the more freely to come. And he said concerning that book that every jot and tittle thereof stood firmer than heaven and earth. Then I asked him what I must do when I came. And he told me I must entreat upon my knees with all my heart and soul the Father to reveal him to me. Then I asked him further how I must make my supplication to him. And he said go and thou shalt find him upon a mercy-seat, where he sits all the year long to give pardon and forgiveness to them that come. I told him that I knew not what to say when I came, and he bid me say to this effect, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see that if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away. Lord, I have heard that thou art a merciful God, and hast ordained that Thy Son Jesus Christ should be the Saviour of the world; and, moreover, that Thou art willing to bestow Him upon such a poor sinner as I am (and I am a sinner indeed). Lord, take therefore this opportunity, and magnify Thy grace in the salvation of my soul, through Thy Son Jesus Christ. Amen."
CHR. "And did you do as you were bidden?"
HOPE. "Yes, over, and over, and over."
CHR. "And did the Father reveal His Son to you?"
HOPE. "Not at the first, nor second, nor third, nor fourth, nor fifth; no, nor at the sixth time neither."
CHR. "What did you do then?"
HOPE. "What! Why I could not tell what to do."
CHR. "Had you not thoughts of leaving off praying?"
Hope. "Yes, an hundred times, twice told."
CHR. "And what was the reason you did not?"
HOPE. "I believed that that was true which had been told me, to wit, that without the righteousness of this Christ, all the world could not save me. And therefore thought I with myself, if I leave off, I die; and I can but die at the throne of grace. And withal, this came into my mind, 'If it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, and will not tarry.' [Habakkuk 2:3] So I continued praying until the Father showed me His Son."
CHR. "And how was he revealed unto you?"
HOPE. "I did not see him with my bodily eyes, but with the eyes of mine understanding; and thus it was. One day I was very sad, I think sadder than at any one time in my life; and this sadness was through a fresh sight of the greatness and vileness of my sins. And as I was then looking for nothing but hell, and the everlasting damnation of my soul, suddenly, as I thought, I saw the Lord Jesus look down from heaven upon me, and saying, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.' [Acts 16:31]
"But I replied, 'Lord, I am a great, a very great sinner,' and he answered, 'My grace is sufficient for thee.' [2 Corinthians 12:9] Then I said, 'But, Lord, what is believing?' And then I saw from that saying, 'He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst,' [John 6:35] that believing and coming was all one, and that he that came, that is, run out in his heart and affections after salvation by Christ, he indeed believed in Christ. Then the water stood in mine eyes, and I asked further, 'But Lord, may such a great sinner as I am be indeed accepted of thee, and be saved by thee?' And I heard him say, 'And him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.' [John 6:37] Then I said, 'But how, Lord, must I consider of thee in my coming to thee, that my faith may be placed aright upon thee?' Then he said, 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes. He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. He loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. He is mediator between God and us. He ever liveth to make intercession for us.' [1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 10:4, 4:25; Revelation 1:5; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:25] From all which I gathered that I must look for righteousness in his person and for satisfaction for my sins by his blood; that what he did in obedience to his Father's law and in submitting to the penalty thereof was not for himself, but for him that will accept it for his salvation and be thankful. And now was my heart full of joy, mine eyes full of tears, and mine affections running over with love, to the name, people, and ways of Jesus Christ."
CHR. "This was a revelation of Christ to your soul indeed. But tell me particularly what effect this had upon your spirit?"
HOPE. "It made me see that all the world, notwithstanding all the righteousness thereof, is in a state of condemnation. It made me see that God the Father though he be just, can justly justify the coming sinner. It made me greatly ashamed of the vileness of my former life and confounded me with the sense of mine own ignorance. For there never came thought into mine heart before now that showed me so the beauty of Jesus Christ. It made me love a holy life, and long to do something for the honour and glory of the name of the Lord Jesus. I thought, that had I now a thousand gallons of blood in my body, I could spill it all for the sake of the Lord Jesus." "
Dear readers, my greatest prayer for all, is that this mighty work of grace may truly be done in each one of you who is not yet born again, and who reads this with a sincere and humble heart; that you would seek the Lord with ALL your heart, that your souls may be truly converted, and thereby saved from the wrath to come. For make no mistake, the wrath of God IS coming (and has begun) upon this world that is so totally given over to wickedness and filthy, abominable works! We can see God’s righteous judgment by the plagues (1), real or contrived (“corona virus”); by the disastrous weather that has been occurring all over the world, whether real or manipulated, which is also part of the plagues of judgment; and by the abject fear (2) that most are in (look how many willingly wear the face covering!!); and by the fact that so many are hardening themselves in their sins, in spite of what is happening around them, unwilling to repent of their evil deeds, and give glory to God. (3)
Furthermore, there is a wrong fear (which we see all around us) and a right fear — the fear of God. Please allow me to quote John Bunyan again: pages 137, 138:
” “HOPE. “I do believe…that fear tends much to men’s good, and to make them right [correct] at their beginning to go on pilgrimage.”
CHR. “Without all doubt it doth, if it be right. For so says the Word, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ ” [Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10]
HOPE. “How will you describe right fear?”
CHR. “True, or right, fear is discovered by three things.
“1. By its rise. It is caused by saving convictions for sin.
“2. It driveth the soul to lay fast hold of Christ for salvation.
“3. It begetteth and continueth in the soul a great reverence of God, his word and ways, keeping it tender, and making it afraid to turn from them to the right hand or to the left to anything that may dishonour God, break its peace, grieve the Spirit, or cause the enemy to speak reproachfully.”
“…Now the ignorant know not that such convictions that tend to put them in fear are for their good, and therefore they seek to stifle them.”
HOPE. “How do they seek to stifle them?”
CHR. “1. They think that those fears are wrought by the Devil (though indeed they are wrought of God) and thinking so, they resist them, as things that directly tend to their overthrow. 2. They also think that these fears tend to the spoiling of their faith (when alas for them, poor men that they are, they have none at all), and therefore they harden their hearts against them. 3. They presume they ought not to fear, and therefore, in despite of them, wax presumptuously confident. 4. They see that these fears tend to take away from them their pitiful old self-holiness, and therefore they resist them with all their might.” “
Dear readers, if you feel the Spirit’s convictions for sin in your own life, don’t try to stifle them, but embrace them and allow them to do the work they are meant to do! Save yourselves from this untoward generation! (Acts 2:40)
(1) Revelation 15:1 And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.
Luke 21:25-26 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
(2) 26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
(3) Revelation 9:20-21 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: 21 Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Revelation 16:9 And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.
But for those of us who have repented and been born again, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever, there is reason to hope! “The End” is not the end; it’s only the beginning of eternal life with our Saviour because we have eternal life abiding in us already!
Luke 21:27-28 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
Revelation 22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Until next time,