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John Bunyan

MR. JOHN BUNYAN’S DYING SAYINGS

OF SIN.

Sin is the great block and bar to our happiness, the procurer of all miseries to man, both here and hereafter: take away sin and nothing can hurt us: for death, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, is the wages of it.

Sin, and man for sin, is the object of the wrath of God. How dreadful, therefore, must his case be who continues in sin! For who can bear or grapple with the wrath of God?

No sin against God can be little, because it is against the great God of heaven and earth; but if the sinner can find out a little God, it may be easy to find out little sins.

Sin turns all God’s grace into wantonness; it is the dare of his justice, the rape of his mercy, the jeer of his patience, the slight of his power, and the contempt of his love.[24]

Take heed of giving thyself liberty of committing one sin, for that will lead thee to another; till, by an ill custom, it become natural.

To begin a sin, is to lay a foundation for a continuance; this continuance is the mother of custom, and impudence at last the issue.

The death of Christ giveth us the best discovery of ourselves, in what condition we were, in that nothing could help us but that; and the most clear discovery of the dreadful nature of our sins. For if sin be so dreadful a thing as to wring the heart of the Son of God, how shall a poor wretched sinner be able to bear it?

OF AFFLICTION.

Nothing can render affliction so insupportable as the load of sin: would you, therefore, be fitted for afflictions, be sure to get the burden of your sins laid aside, and then what afflictions soever you may meet with will be very easy to you.

If thou canst hear and bear the rod of affliction which God shall lay upon thee, remember this lesson—thou art beaten that thou mayest be better.

The Lord useth his flail of tribulation to separate the chaff from the wheat.

The school of the cross is the school of light; it discovers the world’s vanity, baseness, and wickedness, and lets us see more of God’s mind. Out of dark affliction comes a spiritual light.

In times of affliction we commonly meet with the sweetest experiences of the love of God.

Did we heartily renounce the pleasures of this world, we should be very little troubled for our afflictions; that which renders an afflicted state so insupportable to many is because they are too much addicted to the pleasures of this life, and so cannot endure that which makes a separation between them.

OF REPENTANCE AND COMING TO CHRIST.

The end of affliction is the discovery of sin, and of that to bring us to a Saviour. Let us therefore, with the prodigal, return unto him, and we shall find ease and rest.

A repenting penitent, though formerly as bad as the worst of men, may, by grace, become as good as the best.

To be truly sensible of sin is to sorrow for displeasing of God; to be afflicted that he is displeased by us more than that he is displeased with us.

Your intentions to repentance, and the neglect of that soul-saving duty, will rise up in judgment against you.

Repentance carries with it a Divine rhetoric, and persuades Christ to forgive multitudes of sins committed against him.

Say not with thyself, To-morrow I will repent; for it is thy duty to do it daily.

The gospel of grace and salvation is above all doctrines the most dangerous, if it be received in word only by graceless men; if it be not attended with a sensible need of a Saviour, and bring them to him. For such men as have only the notion of it, are of all men most miserable; for by reason of their knowing more than heathens, this shall only be their final portion, that they shall have greater stripes.

OF PRAYER.

Before you enter into prayer, ask thy soul these questions—1. To what end, O my soul, art thou retired into this place? Art thou not come to discourse the Lord in prayer? Is he present; will he hear thee? Is he merciful; will he help thee? Is thy business slight; is it not concerning the welfare of thy soul? What words wilt thou use to move him to compassion?

To make thy preparation complete, consider that thou art but dust and ashes, and he the great God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that clothes himself with light as with a garment; that thou art a vile sinner, he a holy God; that thou art but a poor crawling worm, he the omnipotent Creator.

In all your prayers forget not to thank the Lord for his mercies.

When thou prayest, rather let thy hearts be without words, than thy words without a heart.

Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.

The spirit of prayer is more precious than treasures of gold and silver.

Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.

OF THE LORD’S DAY, SERMONS, AND WEEK DAYS.

Have a special care to sanctify the Lord’s day; for as thou keepest it, so it will be with thee all the week long.

Make the Lord’s day the market for thy soul; let the whole day be spent in prayer, repetitions, or meditations; lay aside the affairs of the other part of the week; let thy sermon thou hast heard be converted into prayer: Shall God allow thee six days, and wilt not thou afford him one?

In the church, be careful to serve God; for thou art in his eyes, and not in man’s.

Thou mayest hear sermons often, and do well in practicing what thou hearest; but thou must not expect to be told thee in a pulpit all that thou oughtest to do, but be studious in searching the Scriptures, and reading good books; what thou hearest may be forgotten, but what thou readest may better be retained.

Forsake not the public worship of God, lest God forsake thee, not only in public, but in private.

In the week days, when thou risest in the morning, consider, 1. Thou must die. 2. Thou mayest die that minute. 3. What will become of thy soul. Pray often. At night consider, 1. What sins thou hast committed. 2. How often thou hast prayed. 3. What hath thy mind been bent upon. 4. What hath been thy dealing. 5. What thy conversation. 6. If thou callest to mind the errors of the day, sleep not without a confession to God, and a hope of pardon. Thus every morning and evening make up thy accounts with Almighty God, and thy reckoning will be the less at last.

OF THE LOVE OF THE WORLD.

Nothing more hinders a soul from coming to Christ, than a vain love of the world; and till a soul is freed from it, it can never have a true love for God.

What are the honours and riches of this world, when compared to the glories of a crown of life?

Love not the world; for it [the love of the world] is a moth in a Christian’s life.

To despise the world is the way to enjoy heaven; and blessed are they who delight to converse with God by prayer.

What folly can be greater than to labour for the meat that perisheth, and neglect the food of eternal life?

God or the world must be neglected at parting time, for then is the time of trial.

To seek yourself in this world is to be lost; and to be humble is to be exalted.

The epicure that delighteth in the dainties of this world, little thinketh that those very creatures will one day witness against him.

OF SUFFERING.

It is not every suffering that makes a martyr, but suffering for the Word of God after a right manner; that is, not only for righteousness, but for righteousness’ sake; not only for truth, but out of love to truth; not only for God’s Word, but according to it: to wit, in that holy, humble, meek manner, as the Word of God requireth.

It is a rare thing to suffer aright, and to have my spirit in suffering bent only against God’s enemy, sin; sin in doctrine, sin in worship, sin in life, and sin in conversation.

The devil, nor men of the world, can kill thy righteousness, or love to it but by thy own hand; or separate that and thee asunder without thy own act. Nor will he that doth indeed suffer for the sake of it, or out of love he bears thereto, be tempted to exchange it, for the good will of all the world.

I have often thought that the best of Christians are found in the worst of times. And I have thought again that one reason why we are no better, is because God purges us no more. Noah and Lot, who so holy as they in the time of their afflictions? And yet who so idle as they in the time of their prosperity?

OF DEATH AND JUDGMENT.

As the devil labours by all means to keep out other things that are good, so to keep out of the heart as much as in him lies, the thoughts of passing from this life into another world; for he knows if he can but keep them from the serious thoughts of death, he shall the more easily keep them in their sins.

Nothing will make us more earnest in working out the work of our salvation, than a frequent meditation of mortality; nothing hath greater influence for the taking off our hearts from vanities, and for the begetting in us desires after holiness.

O sinner, what a condition wilt thou fall into when thou departest this world; if thou depart unconverted, thou hadst better have been smothered the first hour thou wast born; thou hadst better have been plucked one limb from another; thou hadst better have been made a dog, a toad, a serpent, than to die unconverted, and this thou wilt find true if thou repent not.

A man would be counted a fool to slight a judge, before whom he is to have a trial of his whole estate.[25] The trial we have before God is of otherguise importance,[26] it concerns our eternal happiness or misery; and yet dare we affront him?

The only way for us to escape that terrible judgment, is to be often passing a sentence of condemnation upon ourselves here. When the sound of the trumpet shall be heard, which shall summon the dead to appear before the tribunal of God, the righteous shall hasten out of their graves with joy to meet their Redeemer in the clouds; others shall call to the hills and mountains to fall upon them, to cover them from the sight of their Judge; let us therefore in time be posing[27] ourselves which of the two we shall be.

OF THE JOYS OF HEAVEN.

There is no good in this life but what is mingled with some evil; honours perplex, riches disquiet, and pleasures ruin health. But in heaven we shall find blessings in their purity, without any ingredient to embitter, with everything to sweeten them.

O! who is able to conceive the inexpressible, inconceivable joys that are there? None but they who have tasted of them. Lord, help us to put such a value upon them here, that in order to prepare ourselves for them, we may be willing to forego the loss of all those deluding pleasures here.

How will the heavens echo of joy, when the Bride, the Lamb’s wife, shall come to dwell with her husband for ever?

Christ is the desire of nations, the joy of angels, the delight of the Father; what solace then must that soul be filled with, that hath the possession of him to all eternity?

O! what acclamations of joy will there be, when all the children of God shall meet together, without fear of being disturbed by the antichristian and Cainish brood!

Is there not a time coming when the godly may ask the wicked what profit they have in their pleasure? what comfort in their greatness? and what fruits in all their labour?

If you would be better satisfied what the beatifical vision means, my request is that you would live holily, and go and see.

OF THE TORMENTS OF HELL.

Heaven and salvation is not surely more promised to the godly than hell and damnation is threatened to, and shall be executed on, the wicked.

When once a man is damned, he may bid adieu to all pleasures.

Oh! who knows the power of God’s wrath? none but damned ones.

Sinners’ company are the devil and his angels, tormented in everlasting fire with a curse.

Hell would be a kind of paradise if it were not worse than the worst of this world.

As different as grief is from joy, as torment from rest, as terror from peace; so different is the state of sinners from that of saints in the world to come.

[Licensed, September 10, 1688.]

 

FOOTNOTES:

1. The text from which he intended to preach was ‘Dost thou believe on the Son of God?’ (John 9:35). From this he intended to show the absolute need of faith in Jesus Christ; and that it was also a thing of the highest concern for men to inquire into, and to ask their own hearts, whether they had it or no. See Preface to his Confession of Faith.—Ed.

2. Justice Wingate.

3. ‘Chafe.’ See 2 Sam 17:8.—Ed.

4. A right Judas.—Ed.

5. ‘How little could Bunyan dream, that from the narrow cell in which he was incarcerated, and cut off apparently from all usefulness, a glory would shine out, illustrating the government and grace of God, and doing more good to man, than all the prelates of the kingdom put together had accomplished.’—Dr. Cheever.

6. It is easy to say a prayer, but difficult truly to pray. It is not length, not eloquence, that makes prayer. Though there be no more than ‘My Father!’ if the heart rise with it, that is prayer. ‘Prayer is an offering up of our DESIRES unto God.’—Ed.

7. It is not the spirit of a Christian to persecute any for their religion, but to pity them; and if they will turn, to instruct them.—Ed.

8. The statute under which Bunyan suffered is the 35th Eliz., cap. 1, re-enacted with all its rigour in the 16th Charles II, cap. 4, 1662; ‘That if any person, above sixteen years of age, shall forbear coming to church for one month, or persuade any other person to abstain from hearing Divine service, or receiving the communion according to law, or come to any unlawful assembly, conventicle, or meeting—every such person shall be imprisoned, without bail, until he conform, and do in some church make this open submission following:--I do humbly confess and acknowledge that I have grievously offended God in contemning his Majesty’s godly and lawful government and authority, by absenting myself from church, and from hearing Divine service, contrary to the godly laws and statutes of this realm. And in using and frequenting disordered and unlawful conventicles and assemblies, under pretence and colour of exercise of religion; and I am heartily sorry for the same. And I do promise and protest, that from henceforth I will, from time to time, obey and perform his Majesty’s laws and statutes, in repairing to the church and Divine services, and do my uttermost endeavour to maintain and defend the same. And for the third offence he shall be sent to the jail or house of correction, there to remain until the next sessions or assizes, and then to be indicted; and being thereupon found guilty, the court shall enter judgment of transportation against such offenders, to some of the foreign plantations (Virginia and New England only excepted), there to remain seven years; and warrants shall issue to sequester the profits of their lands, and to distrain and sell their goods to defray the charges of their transportation; and for want of such charges being paid, the sheriff may contract with any master of a ship, or merchant, to transport them; and then such prisoner shall be a servant to the transporter or his assigns; that is, whoever he will sell him or her to, for five years. And if any under such judgment of transportation shall escape, or being transported, return into any part of England, shall SUFFER DEATH as felons, without benefit of clergy.’ Notwithstanding this edict, mark well his words on the next leaf, ‘Exhorting the people of God to take heed, and touch not the Common Prayer.’ Englishmen, blush! This is now the law of the land we live in. Roman Catholics alone are legally exempted from its cruel operations, by an Act passed in 1844. The overruling hand of God alone saved the pious and holy Bunyan from having been legally murdered.—Ed.

9. The contemptible and mad insurrection to which Mr. Cobb refers, was the pretext for fearful sufferings to the Dissenters throughout the kingdom. It is thus narrated by Bishop Burnet, 1660:--‘The king had not been many days at Whitehall, when one Venner, a violent fifth-monarchy man, who thought it was not enough to believe that Christ was to reign on earth, and to put the saints in possession of the kingdom, but added to this that the saints were to take the kingdom themselves. He gathered some of the most furious of the party to a meeting in Coleman Street. There they concerted the day and the manner of their rising, to set Christ on his throne, as they called it. But withal they meant to manage the government in his name, and were so formal that they had prepared standards and colours, with their devices on them, and furnished themselves with very good arms. But when the day came, there was but a small appearance, not exceeding twenty. However, they resolved to venture out into the streets, and cry out, No king but Christ. Some of them seemed persuaded that Christ would come down and head them. They scoured the streets before them, and made a great progress. Some were afraid, and all were amazed at this piece of extravagance. They killed a great many, but were at last mastered by numbers; and were all either killed or taken and executed.—(Burnet’s Own Times, 1660, vol. i. p. 160).—Ed.

10. The third section of 16th Charles II, cap. 4, also enacts, ‘That any person above sixteen years old, present at any meeting under pretence of exercise of religion, in other manner than is allowed by the liturgy or practice of the Church of England, where there shall be present five persons or more above those of the household, upon proof thereof made, either by confession of the party, or oath of witness, or notorious evidence of the fact; the offence shall be recorded under the hands of two justices, or the chief magistrate of the place, which shall be a perfect conviction.’—Ed.

11. As Wicliffe wrote in Latin, and his words were of great rarity, it may excite inquiry how poor Bunyan was conversant with is opinions. This is easily solved. Foxe gives a translation of Wicliffe’s doctrines in his Martyrology, the favourite book of Bunyan.—Ed.

12. April 23, 1661.

13. See page 56, and note there.

14. It is very probable that his persecutors knew the heroic spirit of this young woman, and were afraid to proceed to extremities, lest their blood-guiltiness should be known throughout the kingdom, and public execration be excited against them. Such a martyr’s blood would indelibly and most foully have stained both them and their families to the latest generation.—Ed.

15. ‘Smayed,’ an obsolete contraction of ‘dismayed.’—Ed.

16. Bunyan is silent upon the death of his first wife and marriage to the second; in fact he forgets his own domestic affairs in his desire to record the Lord’s gracious dealings with his soul. It is not his autobiography, but his religious feelings and experience, that he records.—Ed.

17. ‘Chafed,’ excited, inflamed, angry.—Ed.

18. This is a beautiful specimen of real Christian feeling; nothing vindictive, although such cruel wrongs had been perpetrated against her beloved husband.—Ed.

19. Nothing daunted by the cruel Statute which was then in force, Bunyan acted exactly as Peter and John did under similar circumstances, "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). If I suffer death for it, I am bound to speak the warning words of truth, "Touch not the unclean thing."—Ed.

20. Application was made to Bishop Barlow, through Dr. Owen, to use his powerful influence in obtaining liberty for this Christian captive; but he absolutely refused to interfere. See Preface to Owen’s Sermons, 1721. Bunyan, upon his petition, heard by the king in council, was included in the pardon to the imprisoned and cruelly-treated Quakers. Whitehead, the Quaker, was the honoured instrument in releasing him.—Introduction to Pilgrim’s Progress, Hanserd Knollys Edition.—Ed.

21. See an authentic copy of this Royal Declaration, and observations upon it, in the Introduction to the Pilgrim’s Progress, published by the Hanserd Knollys Society, 1847.—Ed.

22. All these letters, and nearly all his autographs, have disappeared. Of his numerous manuscripts, books, and letters, not a line is now known to exist. If discovered, they would be invaluable.—Ed.

23. Strongly does the departure of Bunyan, on his ascent to the celestial city, remind us of Rev 14:13, ‘And I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth. Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.’ What an exchange! From incessant anxious labour; from sighing and sorrow; from corruption and temptation; to commence an endless life of holiness and purity, rest and peace. To be with and like his Lord! His works have followed, and will follow him, till time shall be no more.—Ed.

24. Among these truly remarkable sayings, so characteristic of our great author, this of the fearful nature of sin is peculiarly striking; it is worthy of being imprinted on every Christian’s heart, to keep alive a daily sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin.—Ed.

25. Judges in those days were often biased by personal feelings, and in some cases even by bribes.—Ed.

26. ‘Otherguise importance’; another manner of importance.—Ed.

27. ‘Posing,’ questioning closely, putting to a stand.—Imperial Dictionary.—Ed.