The Death of Faithful

Christian and Faithful in Vanity Fair

Written by John Bunyan
Taken and adapted from the “Young People’s Pilgrim’s Progress” 
Rewritten and modernized by, S. J. Reid, D.D., 

NOW Envy stood forth and said…

“My lord, this man, in spite of his name, is one of the vilest men in our country. He has no regard for prince or people, law or custom, but does all he can to fill other men with his disloyal notions, which he calls faith and holiness. And I myself heard him say that Christian faith and the customs of our town Vanity were opposed to one another, and would always be, by which saying, my lord, he not only condemns these customs, but us also who observe them.”

Next came Superstition, who said, “My lord, I do not know much about this man, nor do I want to know him. But this I do know, that he is a very bad man, for when I had a talk with him the other day in this town he said that our religion was such that it could by no means please God, which saying, my lord, simply means that we worship in vain, are yet in our sins, and shall at last be punished. This is all I have to say.”

Pickthank then came forward and said, “My lord, I have known this fellow for a long time, and have heard him say things he ought not to have said. He mocked our noble prince, Beelzebub, and spoke with great contempt Of his friends, whose names are Lord Old Man, the Lord Carnal Delight, the Lord Desire of Vain Glory, my old Lord Lechery, Sir Having Greedy, with all the rest of our noble friends. Besides, he has not been afraid to speak ill of you, my lord, who are now his judge, calling you an ungodly and bad man.”
When Pickthank had finished, the judge said to Faithful, “Thou runagate, heretic and traitor, have you heard what these honest gentlemen have said against you Faithful: “May I say a few words in my defense Judge? Sir, sir, you deserve to live no longer, but to be slain at once. But that all men may see how gentle we are towards you, let us hear what you, vile runagate, have to say. ”

Faithful: I say, then, in answer to Mr. Envy, that I never said anything but this: That what rules, or laws, or customs, or people, were flat against the Word of God, are opposed to the Christian faith. If I said what was wrong, convince me of my error and I will take it back. In reply to Mr. Superstition, let me say that in the worship of God there is required a divine faith. There can be no divine faith unless it is divinely revealed by the will of God. What is brought into the worship of God that was not divinely revealed is a human faith, and that faith will not profit to eternal life.

And as for Mr. Pickthank, I say that the prince of this town, with all his attendants, as already named, are more fit for hell than for this town and country and so may the Lord have mercy on me.” Then the judge said to the jury Gentlemen of the jury, you see this man, about whom so great an uproar has been made in this town. You have heard what these worthy gentlemen have said against him. You have heard his reply. It is now for you to hang him or save his life. But I think I must first instruct you in our laws. There was an act made in the days of Pharaoh the Great, a servant of our prince, against those of a different religion . In order that they might not increase too fast and become too strong for him, all their young children were thrown into the river. ‘There was another act made in the days of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, that all who did not fall down and worship his golden image should be thrown into a fiery furnace.  There was also an act made in the days of Darius, that if any called on any other god but him, they should be cast into the lions’ den. Now the prisoner at the bar has broken these laws, not only in thought, but also in word and deed.

Then the jury went into another room.

Their names were: Mr. Blindman, Mr. No-good, Mr. Malice, Mr. Love-lust, Mr. Live-loose, Mr. Heady Mr. High-mind, Mr. Enmity, Mr. Liar, Mr. Cruelty, Mr. Hate-light and Mr. Implacable. Among them elves they concluded to say that Faithful was guilty. Mr. Blind-man, the foreman, said, I see clearly that this man is a heretic.” Mr. No-good “Away with such a fellow from the earth.” Mr. Malice “Aye, for I hate the very looks of him.” Mr. Love-lust: “I could never endure him.” Mr. Live-loose: “Nor I, for he would ever condemn my way.” Mr. Heady “Hang him Hang him Mr. High-min d “A sorry scrub.” Mr. Enmity “My heart riseth against him.” Mr. Liar: “He is a rogue and a liar.” Mr. Cruelty “Hanging is too good for him.” Mr. Hate-light: “Let us dispatch him out-of-the-way.” Mr. Implacable “If I had all the world given to me I could not like him. Let us bring him in guilty of death.” And so they did, and he was taken from the place where he was to the place whence he came and put to a cruel death. They whipped him and beat him, and cut hi m with knives, and stoned him with stones, and, last of all, they burned him to ashes at the stake.

Thus, Faithful died.

Now there stood behind the crowd a chariot and a span of horses waiting for Faithful. As soon as he passed away he was taken into it, and was carried up through the clouds, with sound of trumpet, the nearest way to the Celestial City.

But as for Christian, he had a rest, and was put back into prison, where he stayed for a time. But he who rules all things so brought it about that at last Christian escaped them, and went on his way.

I will pray with the Spirit

Taken, adapted, and modernized from, “I WILL PRAY WITH THE SPIRIT AND WITH THE
UNDERSTANDING ALSO OR, A DISCOURSE TOUCHING PRAYER”
Written by, John Bunyan
Written from prison in 1662

holy-spirt-lg

Now to pray with the Spirit…

…for that is the praying man, and none else, who is to be accepted of God —it is for a man, as aforesaid, sincerely and sensibly, with affection, to come to God through Christ, etc.; which sincere, sensible, and affectionate coming must be by the working of God’s Spirit.

There is no man nor church in the world that can come to God in prayer, but by the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

“For through Christ we all have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). Therefore, Paul says, “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. And he that searches the hearts, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26,27). And because there is in this scripture so full a discovery of the spirit of prayer, and of man’s inability to pray without it; therefore, I shall in a few words comment upon it.

“For we.” Consider first the person speaking, even Paul, and, in his person, all the apostles. We apostles, we extraordinary officers, the wise master-builders, that have some of us been caught up into paradise (Romans 15:16; I Corinthians 3:10; II Corinthians 12:4). “We know not what we should pray for.” Surely there is no man but will confess, that Paul and his companions were as able to have done any work for God, as any pope or proud prelate in the church of Rome, and could as well have made a Common Prayer Book as those who at first composed this; as being not a whit behind them either in grace or gifts.

“For we know not what we should pray for.” We know not the matter of the things for which we should pray, neither the object to whom we pray, nor the medium by or through whom we pray; none of these things know we, but by the help and assistance of the Spirit. Should we pray for communion with God through Christ? should we pray for faith, for justification by grace, and a truly sanctified heart? none of these things know we. “For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God know no man, but the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:11). But here, alas! The apostles speak of inward and spiritual things, which the world knows not (Isaiah 29:11).

Again, as they know not the matter, etc., of prayer, without the help of the Spirit; so neither know they the manner thereof without the same; and therefore he adds, “We know not what we should pray for as we ought”; but the Spirit helps our infirmities, with sighs and groans which cannot be uttered. Mark here, they could not so well and so fully come off in the manner of performing this duty, as these in our days think they can. The apostles, when they were at the best, yea, when the Holy Spirit assisted them, yet then they were fain to come off with sighs and groans, falling short of expressing their mind, but with sighs and groans which cannot be uttered.

But here now, the wise men of our days are so well skilled as that they have both the manner and matter of their prayers at their finger-tips; setting such a prayer for such a day, and that twenty years before it comes. One for Christmas, another for Easter, and six days after that. They have also bounded how many syllables must be said in every one of them at their public exercises. For each saint’s day, also, they have them ready for the generations yet unborn to say. They can tell you, also, when you shall kneel, when you shall stand, when you should abide in your seats, when you should go up into the chancel, and what you should do when you come there. All which the apostles came short of, as not being able to compose so profound a manner; and that for this reason included in this scripture, because the fear of God tied them to pray as they ought.

“For we know not what we should pray for as we ought.” Mark this, “as we ought.” For the not thinking of this word, or at least the not understanding it in the spirit and truth of it, has occasioned these men to devise, as Jeroboam did, another way of worship, both for matter and manner, then is revealed in the Word of God (I Kings 12:26-33). But, says Paul, we must pray as we ought; and this WE cannot do by all the are, skill, and cunning device of men or angels. “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit”; no, further, it must be “the Spirit ITSELF” that helps our infirmities; not the Spirit and man’s lusts; what man of his own brain may imagine and devise, is one thing, and what they are commanded, and ought to do, is another. Many ask and have not, because they ask amiss; and so are never the nearer the enjoying of those things they petition for (James 4:3). It is not to pray at random that will put off God, or cause him to answer. While prayer is making, God is searching the heart, to see from what root and spirit it does arise (I John 5:14). “And he that searches the heart knows,” that is, approves only, the meaning “of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” For in that which is according to his will only, he hears us, and in nothing else. And it is the Spirit only that can teach us so to ask; it only being able to search out all things, even the deep things of God. Without which Spirit, though we had a thousand Common Prayer Books, yet we know not what we should pray for as we ought, being accompanied with those infirmities that make us absolutely incapable of such a work. Which infirmities, although it is a hard thing to name them all, yet some of them are these that follow.

First.

Without the Spirit man is so infirm that he cannot, with all other means whatsoever, be enabled to think one right saving thought of God, of Christ, or of his blessed things; and therefore he says of the wicked, “God is not in all his thoughts,” (Psalms 10:4); unless it be that they imagine him altogether such a one as themselves (Psalms 50:21). For “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil,” and that “continually” (Gen 6:5; 8:21). They then not being able to conceive aright of God to whom they pray, of Christ through whom they pray, nor of the things for which they pray, as is before showed, how shall they be able to address themselves to God, without the Spirit help this infirmity? Peradventure you will say, By the help of the Common Prayer Book; but that cannot do it, unless it can open the eyes, and reveal to the soul all these things before touched. Which that it cannot, it is evident; because that is the work of the Spirit only. The Spirit itself is the revealer of these things to poor souls, and that which does give us to understand them; wherefore Christ tells his disciples, when he promised to send the Spirit, the Comforter, “He shall take of mine and show unto you”; as if he had said, I know you are naturally dark and ignorant as to the understanding any of my things; though ye try this course and the other, yet your ignorance will still remain, the veil is spread over your heart, and there is none can take away the same, nor give you spiritual understanding but the Spirit. The Common Prayer Book will not do it, neither can any man expect that it should be instrumental that way, it being none of God’s ordinances; but a thing since the Scriptures were written, patched together one piece at one time, and another at another; a mere human invention and institution, which God is so far from owning of, that he expressly forbids it, with any other such like, and that by manifold sayings in his most holy and blessed Word. (See Mark 7:7, 8, and Colossians 2:16-23; Deuteronomy 12:30-32; Proverbs 30:6; Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18). For right prayer must, as well in the outward part of it, in the outward expression, as in the inward intention, come from what the soul does apprehend in the light of the Spirit; otherwise it is condemned as vain and an abomination, because the heart and tongue do not go along jointly in the same, neither indeed can they, unless the Spirit help our infirmities (Mark 7; Proverbs 28:9; Isaiah 29:13). And this David knew full well, which did make him cry, “Lord, open you my lips, and my mouth shall show forth your praise” (Psalms 51:15). I suppose there is none can imagine but that David could speak and express himself as well as others, no, as any in our generation, as is clearly manifested by his word and his works. Nevertheless, when this good man, this prophet, comes into God’s worship, then the Lord must help, or he can do nothing. “Lord, open you my lips, and” then “my mouth shall show forth your praise.” He could not speak one right word, except the Spirit itself gave utterance. “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself helps our infirmities.” But,

Second.

It must be a praying with the Spirit, that is, the effectual praying; because without that, as men are senseless, so hypocritical, cold, and unseemly in their prayers; and so they, with their prayers, are both rendered abominable to God (Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 18:11, 12; Isaiah 58:2, 3). It is not the excellency of the voice, nor the seeming affection, and earnestness of him that prays, that is anything regarded of God without it. For man, as man, is so full of all manner of wickedness, that as he cannot keep a word, or thought, so much less a piece of prayer clean, and acceptable to God through Christ; and for this cause the Pharisees, with their prayers, were rejected. No question but they were excellently able to express themselves in words, and also for length of time, too, they were very notable; but they had not the Spirit of Jesus Christ to help them, and therefore they did what they did with their infirmities or weaknesses only, and so fell short of a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of their souls to God, through the strength of the Spirit. That is the prayer that goes to heaven, that is sent thither in the strength of the Spirit. For,

Third.

Nothing but the Spirit can show a man clearly his misery by nature, and so put a man into a posture of prayer. Talk is but talk, as we use to say, and so it is but mouth-worship, if there be not a sense of misery, and that effectually too. O the cursed hypocrisy that is in most hearts, and that accompanies many thousands of praying men that would be so looked upon in this day, and all for want of a sense of their misery! But now the Spirit, that will sweetly show the soul its misery, where it is, and what is like to become of it, also the intolerableness of that condition. For it is the Spirit that does effectually convince of sin and misery, without the Lord Jesus, and so puts the soul into a sweet, sensible, affectionate way of praying to God according to his word (John 16:7-9).

Fourth.

If men did see their sins, yet without the help of the Spirit they would not pray. For they would run away from God, with Cain and Judas, and utterly despair of mercy, were it not for the Spirit. When a man is indeed sensible of his sin, and God’s curse, then it is a hard thing to persuade him to pray; for, says his heart, “There is no hope,” it is in vain to seek God (Jer 2:25; 18:12). I am so vile, so wretched, and so cursed a creature, that I shall never be regarded! Now here comes the Spirit, and stays the soul, helps it to hold up its face to God, by letting into the heart some small sense of mercy to encourage it to go to God, and hence it is called “the Comforter” (John 14:26).

Fifth.

It must be in or with the Spirit; for without that no man can know how he should come to God the right way. Men may easily say they come to God in his Son: but it is the hardest thing of a thousand to come to God aright and in his own way, without the Spirit. It is “the Spirit” that “searches all things, yea, the deep things of God” (I Corinthians 2:10). It is the Spirit that must show us the way of coming to God, and also what there is in God that makes him desirable: “I pray you,” says Moses, “show me now your way, that I may know you” (Exodus 33:13). And, He shall take of mine, and “show it unto you” (John 16:14).

Sixth.

Because without the Spirit, though a man did see his misery, and also the way to come to God; yet he would never be able to claim a share in either God, Christ, or mercy, with God’s approbation. O how great a task is it, for a poor soul that becomes sensible of sin and the wrath of God, to say in faith, but this one word, “Father!” I tell you, however hypocrites think, yet the Christian that is so indeed finds all the difficulty in this very thing, it cannot say God is its Father. O! says he, I dare not call him Father; and hence it is that the Spirit must be sent into the hearts of God’s people for this very thing, to cry Father: it being too great a work for any man to do knowingly and believingly without it (Galatians 4:6). When I say knowingly, I mean, knowing what it is to be a child of God, and to be born again. And when I say believingly, I mean, for the soul to believe, and that from good experience, that the work of grace is wrought in him. This is the right calling of God Father; and not as many do, to say in a babbling way, the Lord’s prayer (so-called) by heart, as it lies in the words of the book. No, here is the life of prayer, when in or with the Spirit, a man being made sensible of sin, and how to come to the Lord for mercy; he comes, I say, in the strength of the Spirit, and cries Father.

That one word spoken in faith, is better than a thousand prayers, as men call them, written and read, in a formal, cold, lukewarm way.

O how far short are those people of being sensible of this, who count it enough to teach themselves and children to say the Lord’s prayer, the creed, with other sayings; when, as God knows, they are senseless of themselves, their misery, or what it is to be brought to God through Christ! Ah, poor soul! Study your misery, and cry to God to show you your confused blindness and ignorance, before you be so rife in calling God your Father, or teaching your children either so to say.

And know, that to say God is your Father, in a way of prayer or conference, without any experiment of the work of grace on your souls, it is to say you are Jews and are not, and so to lie.

You say, Our Father; God says, “You blaspheme!” You say you are Jew, that is, true Christians; God says, “You lie!” “Behold I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie” (Revelation 3:9). “And I know the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9). And so much the greater the sin is, by how much the more the sinner boasts it with a pretended sanctity, as the Jews did to Christ, in the 8th of John, which made Christ, even in plain terms, to tell them their doom, for all their hypocritical pretenses (John 8:41-45). And yet forsooth every cursed whoremaster, thief, and drunkard, swearer, and perjured person; they that have not only been such in times past, but are even so still: these I say, by some must be counted the only honest men, and all because with their blasphemous throats, and hypocritical hearts, they will come to church, and say, “Our Father!” No further, these men, though every time they say to God, Our Father, do most abominably blaspheme, yet they must be compelled thus to do. And because others that are of more sober principles, scruple the truth of such vain traditions; therefore they must be looked upon to be the only enemies of God and the nation: when as it is their own cursed superstition that does set the great God against them, and cause him to count them for his enemies (Isaiah 53:10). And yet just like to Bonner, that blood-red persecutor, they commend, I say, these wretches, although never so vile, if they close in with their traditions, to be good churchmen, the honest subjects; while God’s people are, as it has always been, looked upon to be a turbulent, seditious, and factious people (Ezra 4:12-16).

Therefore, give me leave a little to reason with you, you poor, blind, ignorant sot.

(1.) It may be your great prayer is to say, “Our Father which are in heaven,” etc. Do you know the meaning of the very first words of this prayer? Can you indeed, with the rest of the saints, cry, Our Father? Are you truly born again? Have you received the spirit of adoption? Do you see yourself in Christ, and can you come to God as a member of him? Or are you ignorant of these things, and yet dare you say, Our Father? Is not the devil your father? (John 8:44). And do you not do the deeds of the flesh? And yet dare you say to God, Our Father? No, are you not a desperate persecutor of the children of God? Have you not cursed them in your heart many a time? And yet do you out of your blasphemous throat suffer these words to come, even “our Father?” He is their Father whom you hate and persecute. But as the devil presented himself amongst the sons of God, (Job 1), when they were to present themselves before the Father, even our Father, so is it now; because the saints were commanded to say, Our Father, therefore all the blind ignorant rabble in the world, they must also use the same words, Our Father.

(2.) And do you indeed say, “Hallowed be your name” with your heart? Do you study, by all honest and lawful ways, to advance the name, holiness, and majesty of God? Does your heart and conversation agree with this passage? Do you strive to imitate Christ in all the works of righteousness, which God does command of you, and prompt you forward to?

It is so, if you be one that can truly with God’s allowance cry, “Our Father.” Or is God not the least of your thoughts all the day? And do you not clearly make it appear, that you are a cursed hypocrite, by condemning that with your daily practice, which you pretend in your praying with your dissembling tongue?

(3.) Wouldst you have the kingdom of God come indeed, and also his will to be done in earth as it is in heaven? No, notwithstanding, you according to the form, say, “Your kingdom come,” yet would it not make you ready to run mad, to hear the trumpet sound, to see the dead arise, and yourself just now to go and appear before God, to account for all the deeds you have done in the body? No, are not the very thoughts of it altogether displeasing to you? And if God’s will should be done on earth as it is in heaven, must it not be your ruin? There is never a rebel in heaven against God, and if he should so deal on earth, must it not whirl you down to hell? And so of the rest of the petitions. Ah! How sadly would even those men look, and with what terror would they walk up and down the world, if they did but know the lying and blaspheming that proceeds out of their mouth, even in their most pretended sanctity? The Lord awaken you, and teach you, poor souls, in all humility, to take heed that you be not rash and unadvised with your heart, and much more with your mouth! When you appear before God, as the wise man says, “Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter anything, (Eccl 5:2); especially to call God Father, without some blessed experience when you come before God. But I pass this.

Seventh.

It must be a praying with the Spirit if it be accepted, because there is nothing but the Spirit that can lift up the soul or heart to God in prayer: “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:1). That is, in every work for God, and especially in prayer, if the heart run with the tongue, it must be prepared by the Spirit of God. Indeed, the tongue is very apt, of itself, to run without either fear or wisdom: but when it is the answer of the heart, and that such a heart as is prepared by the Spirit of God, then it speaks so as God commands and does desire.

They are mighty words of David, where he says, that he lifts his heart and his soul to God (Psalms 25:1). It is a great work for any man without the strength of the Spirit, and therefore I conceive that this is one of the great reasons why the Spirit of God is called a Spirit of supplications, (Zechariah 12:10), because it is that which helps the heart when it supplicates indeed to do it; and therefore says Paul, “Praying with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). And so in my text, “I will pray with the Spirit.” Prayer, without the heart being in it, is like a sound without life; and a heart, without it be lifted up of the Spirit, will never pray to God.

Eighth.

As the heart must be lifted up by the Spirit, if it pray aright, so also it must be held up by the Spirit when it is up, if the heart continue to pray aright. I do not know what, or how it is with others’ hearts, whether they be lifted up by the Spirit of God, and so continued, or no: but this I am sure of,

First, That it is impossible that all the prayer-books that men have made in the world, should lift up, or prepare the heart; that is the work of the great God himself. And, in the second place, I am sure that they are as far from keeping it up, when it is up. And indeed here is the life of prayer, to have the heart kept with God in the duty. It was a great matter for Moses to keep his hands lifted up to God in prayer; but how much more then to keep the heart in it! (Exodus 17:12). The want of this is that which God complains of; that they draw nigh to him with their mouth, and honor him with their lips, but their hearts were far from him (Isaiah 29:13; Ezekiel 33), but chiefly that they walk after the commandments and traditions of men, as the scope of Matthew 15:8, 9 does testify. And verily, may I but speak my own experience, and from that tell you the difficulty of praying to God as I ought, it is enough to make your poor, blind, carnal men to entertain strange thoughts of me. For, as for my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so loth to go to God, and when it is with him, so loth to stay with him, that many times I am forced in my prayers, first to beg of God that he would take mine heart, and set it on himself in Christ, and when it is there, that he would keep it there. No, many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind, nor how to pray, I am so ignorant; only, blessed be grace, the Spirit helps our infirmities (Psalms 86:11).

O! the starting-holes that the heart has in the time of prayer; none knows how many byways the heart has, and back-lanes, to slip away from the presence of God. How much pride also, if enabled with expressions. How much hypocrisy, if before others. And how little conscience is there made of prayer between God and the soul in secret, unless the Spirit of supplication be there to help? When the Spirit gets into the heart, then there is prayer indeed, and not till then.

Ninth.

The soul that does rightly pray, it must be in and with the help and strength of the Spirit; because it is impossible that a man should express himself in prayer without it. When I say, it is impossible for a man to express himself in prayer without it, I mean, that it is impossible that the heart, in a sincere and sensible affectionate way, should pour out itself before God, with those groans and sighs that come from a truly praying heart, without the assistance of the Spirit. It is not the mouth that is the main thing to be looked at in prayer, but whether the heart is so full of affection and earnestness in prayer with God, that it is impossible to express their sense and desire; for then a man desires indeed, when his desires are so strong, many, and mighty, that all the words, tears, and groans that can come from the heart, cannot utter them: “The Spirit – helps our infirmities, – and makes intercession for us with [sighs and] groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

That is but poor prayer which is only discovered in so many words. A man that truly prays one prayer, shall after that never be able to express with his mouth or pen the unutterable desires, sense, affection, and longing that went to God in that prayer.

The best prayers have often more groans than words: and those words that it has are but a lean and shallow representation of the heart, life, and spirit of that prayer.

You do not find any words of prayer, that we read of, come out of the mouth of Moses, when he was going out of Egypt, and was followed by Pharaoh, and yet he made heaven ring again with his cry (Exodus 14:15). But it was inexpressible and unsearchable groans and cryings of his soul in and with the Spirit. God is the God of spirits, and his eyes look further than at the outside of any duty whatsoever (Numbers 16:22). I doubt this is but little thought on by the most of them that would be looked upon as a praying people (I Samuel 16:7).

The nearer a man comes in any work that God commands him to the doing of it according to his will, so much the more hard and difficult it is; and the reason is, because man, as man, is not able to do it. But prayer, as aforesaid, is not only a duty, but one of the most eminent duties, and therefore so much the more difficult: Therefore, Paul knew what he said, when he said, “I will pray with the Spirit.” He knew well it was not what others writ or said that could make him a praying person; nothing less than the Spirit could do it.

Tenth.

It must be with the Spirit, or else as there will be a failing in the act itself, so there will be a failing, yea, a fainting, in the prosecution of the work. Prayer is an ordinance of God, that must continue with a soul so long as it is on this side glory. But, as I said before, it is not possible for a man to get up his heart to God in prayer; so it is as difficult to keep it there, without the assistance of the Spirit. And if so, then for a man to continue from time to time in prayer with God, it must of necessity be with the Spirit.

Christ tells us, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1). And again tells us, that this is one definition of a hypocrite, that either he will not continue in prayer, or else if he do it, it will not be in the power, that is, in the spirit of prayer, but in the form, for a pretense only (Job 27:10; Matthew 23:14). It is the easiest thing of a hundred to fall from the power to the form, but it is the hardest thing of many to keep in the life, spirit, and power of any one duty, especially prayer; that is such a work, that a man without the help of the Spirit cannot so much as pray once, much less continue, without it, in a sweet praying frame, and in praying, so to pray as to have his prayers ascend into the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth.

Jacob did not only begin, but held it: “I will not let you go, unless you bless me” (Gen 32). So did the rest of the godly (Hosea 12:4). But this could not be without the spirit of prayer. It is through the Spirit that we have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18).

The same is a remarkable place in Jude, when he stirred up the saints by the judgment of God upon the wicked to stand fast, and continue to hold out in the faith of the gospel, as one excellent means thereto, without which he knew they would never be able to do it. Says he, “Building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20). As if he had said, Brethren, as eternal life is laid up for the persons that hold out only, so you cannot hold out unless you continue praying in the Spirit.

The great cheat that the devil and antichrist delude the world withal, it is to make them continue in the form of any duty, the form of preaching, of hearing, or praying, etc. These are they that have “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away” (II Timothy 3:5).

WHAT PRAYER IS

Taken, adapted, and modernized from, “I WILL PRAY WITH THE SPIRIT AND WITH THE
UNDERSTANDING ALSO OR, A DISCOURSE TOUCHING PRAYER”
Written by, John Bunyan
Written from prison in 1662

11289-mother-heartache-woman-sad.1200w.tn

FIRST, What [true] prayer is. Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.

In this description are these seven things.

First, It is a sincere; Second, A sensible; Third, An affectionate, pouring out of the soul to God, through Christ; Fourth, By the strength or assistance of the Spirit; Fifth, For such things as God has promised, or, according to his word; Sixth, For the good of the church; Seventh, With submission in faith to the will of God.

First. For the first of these, it is a SINCERE pouring out of the soul to God. Sincerity is such a grace as runs through all the graces of God in us, and through all the actions of a Christian, and has the sway in them too, or else their actions are not anything regarded of God, and so of and in prayer, of which particularly David speaks, when he mentions prayer. “I cried unto him,” the Lord “with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” my prayer (Psalms 66:17,18). Part of the exercise of prayer is sincerity, without which God looks not upon it as prayer in a good sense (Psalms 16:1-4). Then “ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13). The want of this made the Lord reject their prayers in Hosea 7:14, where he says, “They have not cried unto me with their heart,” that is, in sincerity, “when they howled upon their beds.” But for a pretense, for a show in hypocrisy, to be seen of men, and applauded for the same, they prayed. Sincerity was that which Christ commended in Nathaniel, when he was under the fig tree. “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.” Probably this good man was pouring out of his soul to God in prayer under the fig tree, and that in a sincere and unfeigned spirit before the Lord. The prayer that has this in it as one of the principal ingredients, is the prayer that God looks at. Thus, “The prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8).

And why must sincerity be one of the essentials of prayer which is accepted of God, but because sincerity carries the soul in all simplicity to open its heart to God, and to tell him the case plainly, without equivocation; to condemn itself plainly, without dissembling; to cry to God heartily, without complimenting. “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou has chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke” (Jeremiah 31:18). Sincerity is the same in a corner alone, as it is before the face of the world. It knows not how to wear two masks, one for an appearance before men, and another for a short snatch in a corner; but it must have God, and be with him in the duty of prayer. It is not lip-labor that it does regard, for it is the heart that God looks at, and that which sincerity looks at, and that which prayer comes from, if it be that prayer which is accompanied with sincerity.

Second. It is a sincere and SENSIBLE pouring out of the heart or soul. It is not, as many take it to be, even a few babbling, prating, complimentary expressions, but a sensible feeling there is in the heart. Prayer has in it a sensibleness of diverse things; sometimes sense of sin, sometimes of mercy received, sometimes of the readiness of God to give mercy, etc.

1     A sense of the want of mercy, by reason of the danger of sin. The soul, I say, feels, and from feeling sighs, groans, and breaks at the heart. For right prayer bubbles out of the heart when it is overpressed with grief and bitterness, as blood is forced out of the flesh by reason of some heavy burden that lies upon it (I Samuel 1:10; Psalms 69:3). David roars, cries, weeps, faints at heart, fails at the eyes, loses his moisture, etc., (Psalms 38:8-10). Hezekiah mourns like a dove (Isaiah 38:14). Ephraim bemoans himself (Jeremiah 31:18). Peter weeps bitterly (Matthew 26:75). Christ has strong crying and tears (Hebrews 5:7). And all this from a sense of the justice of God, the guilt of sin, the pains of hell and destruction. “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.” Then cried I unto the Lord (Psalms 116:3,4). And in another place, “My sore ran in the night” (Psalms 77:2). Again, “I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long” (Psalms 38:6). In all these instances, and in hundreds more that might be named, you may see that prayer carries in it a sensible feeling disposition, and that first from a sense of sin.

2    Sometimes there is a sweet sense of mercy received; encouraging, comforting, strengthening, enlivening, enlightening mercy, etc. Thus David pours out his soul, to bless, and praise, and admire the great God for his lovingkindness to such poor vile wretches. “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies; who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalms 103:1-5). And thus is the prayer of saints sometimes turned into praise and thanksgiving, and yet are prayers still. This is a mystery; God’s people pray with their praises, as it is written, “Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer, and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). A sensible thanksgiving, for mercies received, is a mighty prayer in the sight of God; it prevails with him unspeakably.

3    In prayer there is sometimes in the soul a sense of mercy to be received. This again sets the soul all on a flame. “Thou, O lord of hosts,” says David, “has revealed to your servant, saying I will build you a house; therefore has your servant found in his heart to pray – unto you” (II Samuel 7:27). This provoked Jacob, David, Daniel, with others—even a sense of mercies to be received—which caused them, not by fits and starts, nor yet in a foolish frothy way, to babble over a few words written in a paper; but mightily, fervently, and continually, to groan out their conditions before the Lord, as being sensible, sensible, I say, of their wants, their misery, and the willingness of God to show mercy (Genesis 32:10,11; Daniel 9:3,4).  A good sense of sin, and the wrath of God, with some encouragement from God to come unto him, is a better Common-prayer-book than that which is taken out of the Papistical mass-book, being the scraps and fragments of the devices of some popes, some friars, and I know not what.

Third. Prayer is a sincere, sensible, and an AFFECTIONATE pouring out of the soul to God. O! the heat, strength, life, vigor, and affection, that is in right prayer! “As the hart pants after the water-brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God” (Psalms 42:1). “I have longed after your precepts” (Psalms 119:40). “I have longed for your salvation” (verse 174). “My soul longs, yes, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cries out for the living God” (Psalms 84:2). “My soul breaks for the longing that it has unto your judgments at all times” (Psalms 119:20). Mark ye here, “My soul longs,” it longs, it longs, etc. O what affection is here discovered in prayer! The like you have in Daniel. “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for your own sake, O my God” (Daniel 9:19). Every syllable carries a mighty vehemence in it. This is called the fervent, or the working prayer, by James. And so again, “And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:44). Or had his affections more and more drawn out after God for his helping hand. O! How wide are the most of men with their prayers from this prayer, that is, PRAYER in God’s account!

Alas! The greatest part of men make no conscience at all of the duty; and as for them that do, it is to be feared that many of them are very great strangers to a sincere, sensible, and affectionate pouring out their hearts or souls to God; but even content themselves with a little lip-labor and bodily exercise, mumbling over a few imaginary prayers. When the affections are indeed engaged in prayer, then, then the whole man is engaged, and that in such sort, that the soul will spend itself to nothing, as it were, rather than it will go without that good desired, even communion and solace with Christ. And hence it is that the saints have spent their strengths, and lost their lives, rather than go without the blessing (Psalms 69:3; 38:9,10; Genesis 32:24,26).

All this is too, too evident by the ignorance, profaneness, and spirit of envy, that reign in the hearts of those men that are so hot for the forms, and not the power of praying. Scarce one of forty among them know what it is to be born again, to have communion with the Father through the Son; to feel the power of grace sanctifying their hearts: but for all their prayers, they still live cursed, drunken, whorish, and abominable lives, full of malice, envy, deceit, persecuting of the dear children of God. O what a dreadful after-clap is coming upon them! –which all their hypocritical assembling themselves together, with all their prayers, shall never be able to help them against, or shelter them from.

Again, It is a pouring out of the heart or soul. There is in prayer an unbosoming of a man’s self, an opening of the heart to God, an affectionate pouring out of the soul in requests, sighs, and groans. “All my desire is before you,” says David, “and my groaning is not hid from you” (Psalms 38:9). And again, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me” (Psalms 42:2,4). Mark, “I pour out my soul.” It is an expression signifying, that in prayer there goes the very life and whole strength to God. As in another place, “Trust in him at all times; ye people, – pour out your heart before him” (Psalms 62:8). This is the prayer to which the promise is made, for the delivering of a poor creature out of captivity and thralldom. “If from thence you shalt seek the Lord your God, you shalt find him, if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).

Again, It is a pouring out of the heart or soul TO GOD. This shows also the excellency of the spirit of prayer. It is the great God to which it retires. “When shall I come and appear before God?” And it argues, that the soul that thus prays indeed, sees an emptiness in all things under heaven; that in God alone there is rest and satisfaction for the soul. “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusts in God” (I Timothy 5:5). So says David, “In you, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be put to confusion. Deliver me in your righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline your ear to me, and save me. Be you my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: – for you are my rock and my fortress; deliver me, O my God, – out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. For you are my hope, O Lord God, you are my trust from my youth” (Psalms 71:1-5). Many in a wording way speak of God; but right prayer makes God his hope, stay, and all. Right prayer sees nothing substantial, and worth the looking after, but God. And that, as I said before, it does in a sincere, sensible, and affectionate way.

Again, It is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, THROUGH CHRIST. This through Christ must needs be added, or else it is to be questioned, whether it be prayer, though in appearance it be never so eminent or eloquent. Christ is the way through whom the soul has admittance to God, and without whom it is impossible that so much as one desire should come into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (John 14:6). “If ye shall ask anything in my name”; “whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13,14). This was Daniel’s way in praying for the people of God; he did it in the name of Christ. “Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of your servant, and his supplications, and cause your face to shine upon your sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake” (Daniel 9:17). And so David, “For your name’s sake,” that is, for your Christ’s sake, “pardon mine iniquity, for it is great” (Psalms 25:11). But now, it is not every one that makes mention of Christ’s name in prayer, that does indeed, and in truth, effectually pray to God in the name of Christ, or through him. This coming to God through Christ is the hardest part that is found in prayer. A man may more easily be sensible of his works, yes, and sincerely too desire mercy, and yet not be able to come to God by Christ. That man that comes to God by Christ, he must first have the knowledge of him; “for he that cometh to God, must believe that he is” (Hebrews 11:6). And so he that comes to God through Christ, must be enabled to know Christ. Lord, says Moses, “show me now your way, that I may know you” (Exodus 33:13).

This Christ, none but the Father can reveal (Matthew 11:27). And to come through Christ, is for the soul to be enabled of God to shroud itself under the shadow of the Lord Jesus, as a man covers himself under a something for safeguard (Matthew 16:16). Hence it is that David so often terms Christ his shield, buckler, tower, fortress, rock of defense, etc., (Psalms 18:2; 27:1; 28:1). Not only because by him he overcame his enemies, but because through him he found favor with God the Father. And so he says to Abraham, “Fear not, I am your shield,” etc., (Genesis 15:1). The man then that comes to God through Christ, must have faith, by which he puts on Christ, and in him appears before God. Now he that has faith is born of God, born again, and so becomes one of the sons of God; by virtue of which he is joined to Christ, and made a member of him (John 3:5,7; 1:12). And therefore, secondly he, as a member of Christ, comes to God; I say, as a member of him, so that God looks on that man as a part of Christ, part of his body, flesh, and bones, united to him by election, conversion, illumination, the Spirit being conveyed into the heart of that poor man by God (Ephesians 5:30). So that now he comes to God in Christ’s merits, in his blood, righteousness, victory, intercession, and so stands before him, being “accepted in his Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). And because this poor creature is thus a member of the Lord Jesus, and under this consideration has admittance to come to God; therefore, by virtue of this union also, is the Holy Spirit conveyed into him, whereby he is able to pour out himself, that is his soul, before God, with his audience. And this leads me to the next, or fourth particular.

Fourth. Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate, pouring out of the heart or soul to God through Christ, by the strength or ASSISTANCE OF THE SPIRIT. For these things do so depend one upon another, that it is impossible that it should be prayer, without there be a joint concurrence of them; for though it be never so famous, yet without these things, it is only such prayer as is rejected of God. For without a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart to God, it is but lip-labor; and if it be not through Christ, it falls far short of ever sounding well in the ears of God. So also, if it be not in the strength and assistance of the Spirit, it is but like the sons of Aaron, offering with strange fire (Lev 10:1,2). But I shall speak more to this under the second head; and therefore in the meantime, that which is not petitioned through the teaching and assistance of the Spirit, it is not possible that it should be “according to the will of God (Rom 8:26,27).

Fifth. Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart, or soul, to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Spirit, FOR SUCH THINGS AS GOD HATH PROMISED, etc., (Matthew 6:6-8). Prayer it is, when it is within the compass of God’s Word; and it is blasphemy, or at best vain babbling, when the petition is beside the book. David therefore still in his prayer kept his eye on the Word of God. “My soul,” says he, “cleaves to the dust; make me alive me according to your word.” And again, “My soul melts for heaviness, strengthen you me according unto your word” (Psalms 119:25-28; see also 41, 42, 58, 65, 74, 81, 82, 107, 147, 154, 169, 170). And, “remember your word unto your servant, upon which you have caused me to hope” (verse 49). And indeed the Holy Ghost does not immediately make me alive and stir up the heart of the Christian without, but by, with, and through the Word, by bringing that to the heart, and by opening of that, whereby the man is provoked to go to the Lord, and to tell him how it is with him, and also to argue, and supplicate, according to the Word; thus it was with Daniel, that mighty prophet of the Lord. He understanding by books that the captivity of the children of Israel was hard at an end; then, according unto that word, he makes his prayer to God. “I Daniel,” says he, “understood by books,” namely, the writings of Jeremiah, “the number of the years where the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, – that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face to the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:2, 3). So that I say, as the Spirit is the helper and the governor of the soul, when it prays according to the will of God; so it guided by and according to, the Word of God and his promise. Hence it is that our Lord Jesus Christ himself did make a stop, although his life lay at stake for it. I could now pray to my Father, and he should give me more than twelve legions of angels; but how then must the scripture be fulfilled that thus it must be? (Matthew 26:53,54). As who should say, were there but a word for it in the scripture, I should soon be out of the hands of mine enemies, I should be helped by angels; but the scripture will not warrant this kind of praying, for that says otherwise. It is a praying then according to the Word and promise. The Spirit by the Word must direct, as well in the manner, as in the matter of prayer. “I will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also” (I Corinthians 14:15). But there is no understanding without the Word. For if they reject the word of the Lord, “what wisdom is in them?” (Jeremiah 8:9).

Sixth. FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH. This clause reaches in whatsoever tends either to the honor of God, Christ’s advancement, or his people’s benefit. For God, and Christ, and his people are so linked together that if the good of the one be prayed for, to this purpose, the church, the glory of God, and advancement of Christ, must needs be included. For as Christ is in the Father, so the saints are in Christ; and he that touches the saints, touches the apple of God’s eye; and therefore pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and you pray for all that is required of you. For Jerusalem will never be in perfect peace until she be in heaven; and there is nothing that Christ does more desire than to have her there. That also is the place that God through Christ has given to her. He then that prays for the peace and good of Zion, or the church, does ask that in prayer which Christ has purchased with his blood; and also that which the Father has given to him as the price thereof. Now he that prays for this, must pray for abundance of grace for the church, for help against all its temptations; that God would let nothing be too hard for it; and that all things might work together for its good, that God would keep them blameless and harmless, the sons of God, to his glory, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. And this is the substance of Christ’s own prayer in John 17. And all Paul’s prayers did run that way, as one of his prayers does eminently show. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere, and without offence, till the day of Christ. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11). But a short prayer, you see, and yet full of good desires for the church, from the beginning to the end; that it may stand and go on, and that in the most excellent frame of spirit, even without blame, sincere, and without offence, until the day of Christ, let its temptations or persecutions be what they will (Ephesians 1:16-21; 3:14-19; Col 1:9-13).

Seventh. And because, as I said, prayer does SUBMIT TO THE WILL OF GOD, and say, ‘Thy will be done,’ as Christ has taught us (Matthew 6:10); therefore, the people of the Lord in humility are to lay themselves and their prayers, and all that they have, at the foot of their God, to be disposed of by him as he in his heavenly wisdom sees best. Yet not doubting but God will answer the desire of his people that way that shall be most for their advantage and his glory. When the saints therefore do pray with submission to the will of God, it does not argue that they are to doubt or question God’s love and kindness to them. But because they at all times are not so wise, but that sometimes Satan may get that advantage of them, as to tempt them to pray for that which, if they had it, would neither prove to God’s glory nor his people’s good. “Yet this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us; and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him,” that is, we asking in the Spirit of grace and supplication (I John 5:14,15). For, as I said before, that petition that is not put up in and through the Spirit, it is not to be answered, because it is beside the will of God. For the Spirit only knows that, and so consequently knows how to pray according to that will of God. “For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God know no man but the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:11).

But more of this hereafter.

When you are driven by your sins, and feel that there is no hope…

Taken, modernized, and adapted from, “THE SAINTS’ KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST’S LOVE; OR, THE UNSEARCHABLE RICHES OF CHRIST”
Written by John Bunyan

01

“…Sin sometimes is most afflicting to the conscience,

Even while the soul is beholding the overspreading nature of it power. But yet even here our conscience doesn’t stop the sin, but oft-times through the power and prevalence of its malignancy, the soul is driven with it, as a ship by a mighty tempest, or as a rolling thing before the whirlwind: driven, I say, from God, and from all hopes of his mercy, as far as the east is from the west, or as the ends of the world are asunder. Hence it is supposed by the prophet, that for and by sin they may be driven from God to the utmost part of heaven (Deuteronomy 30:4); and that is a sad thing, a sad thing, I say, to a gracious man. “Why,” says the prophet to God, “Are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” (Psalms 22:1).

Sometimes a man, yes, even a man of God, is, as he believes, so far off from God, that he believes that God can neither help him, nor hear him, in his is a dismal state. “And you Have removed my soul,” “far off from peace: I forgot prosperity” (Lamentations 3:17). This is the state sometimes of the godly, and that not only with reference to their being removed by persecutions, or from the good times and the gospel-seasons, which are their delight, and the desire of their eyes; –but also with reference to their faith and hope in their God. They think themselves beyond the reach of his mercy.

Wherefore in answer to this conceit the Lord asks, saying, “Is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem?” (Isaiah 50:2). And again, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1). Wherefore God says again, “If any of them be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord your God gather you, and from thence will he fetch you” (Deuteronomy 30:4).

God has a long arm, and he can reach a great way further than we can conceive (Nehemiah 1:9): When we think his mercy is clean gone, and that ourselves are free among the dead, and of the number that he remembers no more, even then he can reach us, and cause us to stand before him. He could reach Jonah, though in the belly of hell (Jonah 2); and he can reach you, even when you think your way is hid from the Lord, and your judgment passed on from God.

But what a reach there is in the mercy of God, how far it can extend itself.If I take the wings of the morning,” said David, “and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall your hand lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalms 139:9,10). I will gather them from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, says he: That is, from the utmost corners.

This therefore should encourage them that for the present cannot stand, but that do fly before their guilt and sin: Them that feel no help nor stay from sin and their just guilt, but who go on in their thinking, every day driven by the power of temptation, and feeling yet driven farther off from God, and from the hope of obtaining of his mercy to their salvation…

Poor creature, I will not now ask you how you came into this condition, or how long this has been your state; but I will say before you, and I beg you to hear me, “O the length of the saving arm of God!” As yet you are still within the reach;

But do not go about to measure arms with God, as some good men are apt to do: I mean, don’t you conclude, that because you canst not reach God by your short stump, that he therefore cannot reach you with his long arm.

Look again, “Have you an arm like God” (Job 40:9), an arm like his for length and strength?

It becomes you, when you cannot perceive that God is within the reach of your arm, then to believe that you are within the reach of his; for it is a long arm, and none knows how long.

SIGNS OF THE SINNER BEING PAST GRACE

Taken and adapted from, “The Barren Fig Tree: The Doom and Downfall of the Fruitless Professor”
Showing, that the day of grace may be past with him long before his life is ended. The signs also by which such miserable mortals may be known.
Written by John Bunyan, of “Pilgrims Progress”

fig-tree-yvonne-ayoub

[This is a very solemn and searching treatise, and I know that it will not sit well with many professing Christians today. Most will not finish this piece because it will be too disquieting to the mind; too disagreeable to their spiritual digestion. They would desire to only have gentle milk.  For there are many that wish to embrace only the goodness and the “lightness” of the Gospel, little realizing, that the Gospel light shines most brightly and most diligently into the doom and gloom of sin, and to the troubled conscience. Why, you may well ask? it is because men wish only to see themselves in the good; either that they are successful in whatever station of life they are occupied, or in the acquirement of wealth, however they may have so attained it. But here, Bunyan strips all that away. And by pure biblical application, endeavors to demonstrate the danger and impending doom of those who may have perhaps tasted of the grace of God, but have not embraced the Gospel fully. 

Do not seek to critique this passage contextually upon its incidental thoughts, as you would dissect part of some small object under a microscope, –though in context Bunyan’s thoughts would well withstand such an examination. Instead, look at this passage as upon the whole, letting it sweep through you, as with a spiritual broom, cleaning into the darker corners of your conscience, and let it work upon you, causing you, like the Disciples to ask, “Lord is it I?” If you do so, then perhaps you will be successful in uncovering some hidden idol –some idol carefully preserved and put away. But do not stop at its examination, take this idol out and immediately give it to the Lord.

And if, by some action of Providence, you are reading this work, and do not know if whether or not you are in the family of God, do not wait, confess all sins before God, –everything. And then, let the Lord Jesus heal you from your grievous sins, and all manner of darkness that inhabits you, and let him keep you unto Himself.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” –MWP]

SIGNS OF THE SINNER BEING PAST GRACE

Now, then, to show you, by some signs, how you may know that the day of grace is ended, or near to ending, with the barren professor; and after that thou shalt cut it down. He that hath stood it out against God, and that hath withstood all those means for fruit that God hath used for the making of him, if it might have been, a fruitful tree in his garden, he is in this danger; and this indeed is the sum of the parable. The fig-tree here mentioned was blessed with the application of means, had time allowed it to receive the nourishment; but it outstood, withstood, overstood all, all that the husbandman did, all that the vine-dresser did.

But let me distinctly to particularize in four or five particulars.

First sign. The day of grace is like to be past, when a professor hath withstood, abused, and worn out God’s patience, then he is in danger; this is a provocation; then God cries, ‘Cut it down.’ There are some men that steal into a profession nobody knows how, even as this fig-tree was brought into the vineyard by other hands than God’s; and there they abide lifeless, graceless, careless, and without any good conscience to God at all. Perhaps they came in for the loaves, for a trade, for credit, for a blind; or it may be to stifle and choke the checks and grinding pangs of an awakened and disquieted conscience. Now, having obtained their purpose, like the sinners of Sion, they are at ease and secure; saying like Agag, ‘Surely the bitterness of death is past’ (1 Sam 15:22); I am well, shall be saved, and go to heaven. Thus in these vain conceits they spend a year, two, or three; not remembering that at every season of grace, and at every opportunity of the gospel the Lord comes seeking fruit. Well, sinner, well, barren fig-tree, this is but a coarse beginning: God comes for fruit.

  1. What have I here? saith God; what a fig-tree is this, that hath stood this year in my vineyard, and brought me forth no fruit? I will cry unto him, Professor, barren fig-tree, be fruitful! I look for fruit, I expect fruit, I must have fruit; therefore bethink thyself! At these the professor pauses; but these are words, not blows, therefore off goes this consideration from the heart. When God comes the next year, he finds him still as he was, a barren, fruitless cumber-ground. And now again he complains, here are two years gone, and no fruit appears; well, I will defer mine anger. ‘For my name sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off,’ as yet (Isa 48:9). I will wait, I will yet wait to be gracious. But this helps not, this hath not the least influence upon the barren fig-tree. Tush, saith he, here is no threatening: God is merciful, he will defer his anger, he waits to be gracious, I am not yet afraid (Isa 30:18). O! how ungodly men, that are at unawares crept into the vineyard, how do they turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness! Well, he comes the third year for fruit, as he did before, but still he finds but a barren fig-tree; no fruit. Now, he cries out again, O thou dresser of my vineyard, come hither; here is a fig-tree hath stood these three years in my vineyard, and hath at every season disappointed my expectation; for I have looked for fruit in vain; ‘Cut it down,’ my patience is worn out, I shall wait on this fig-tree no longer.
  1. And now he begins to shake the fig-tree with his threatenings: Fetch out the axe! Now the axe is death; death therefore is called for. Death, come smite me this fig-tree. And withal the Lord shakes this sinner, and whirls him upon a sick-bed, saying, Take him, death, he hath abused my patience and forbearance, not remembering that it should have led him to repentance, and to the fruits thereof. Death, fetch away this fig-tree to the fire, fetch this barren professor to hell! At this death comes with grim looks into the chamber; yea, and hell follows with him to the bedside, and both stare this professor in the face, yea, begin to lay hands upon him; one smiting him with pains in his body, with headache, heart-ache, back-ache, shortness of breath, fainting, qualms, trembling of joints, stopping at the chest, and almost all the symptoms of a man past all recovery. Now, while death is thus tormenting the body, hell is doing with the mind and conscience, striking them with its pains, casting sparks of fire in thither, wounding with sorrows, and fears of everlasting damnation, the spirit of this poor creature. And now he begins to bethink himself, and to cry to God for mercy; Lord, spare me! Lord, spare me! Nay, saith God, you have been a provocation to me these three years. How many times have you disappointed me? How many seasons have you spent in vain? How many sermons and other mercies did I, of my patience, afford you? but to no purpose at all. Take him, death! O! good Lord, saith the sinner, spare me but this once; raise me but this once. Indeed I have been a barren professor, and have stood to no purpose at all in thy vineyard; but spare! O spare this one time, I beseech thee, and I will be better! Away, away you will not; I have tried you these three years already; you are naught; if I should recover you again, you would be as bad as you were before. And all this talk is while death stands by. The sinner cries again, Good Lord, try me this once; let me get up again this once, and see if I do not mend. But will you promise me to mend? Yes, indeed, Lord, and vow it too; I will never be so bad again; I will be better. Well, saith God, death, let this professor alone for this time; I will try him a while longer; he hath promised, he hath vowed, that he will amend his ways. It may be he will mind to keep his promises. Vows are solemn things; it may be he may fear to break his vows. Arise from off they bed. And now God lays down his axe. At this the poor creature is very thankful, praises God, and fawns upon him, shows as if he did it heartily, and calls to others to thank him too. He therefore riseth, as one would think, to be a new creature indeed. But by that he hath put on his clothes, is come down from his bed, and ventured into the yard or shop, and there sees how all things are gone to sixes and sevens, he begins to have second thoughts, and says to his folks, What have you all been doing? How are all things out of order? I am I cannot tell what behind hand. One may see, if a man be but a little a to side, that you have neither wisdom nor prudence to order things. And now, instead of seeking to spend the rest of his time to God, he doubleth his diligence after this world. Alas! all must not be lost; we must have provident care. And thus, quite forgetting the sorrows of death, the pains of hell, the promises and vows which he made to God to be better; because judgment was not now speedily executed, therefore the heart of this poor creature is fully set in him to do evil.
  1. These things proving ineffectual, God takes hold of his axe again, sends death to a wife, to a child, to his cattle, ‘Your young men have I slain, – and taken away your horses’ (Amos 4:9,10). I will blast him, cross him, disappoint him, and cast him down, and will set myself against him in all that he putteth his hand unto. At this the poor barren professor cries out again, Lord, I have sinned; spare me once more, I beseech thee. O take not away the desire of mine eyes; spare my children, bless me in my labours, and I will mend and be better. No, saith God, you lied to me last time, I will trust you in this no longer; and withal he tumbleth the wife, the child, the estate into a grave. And then returns to his place, till this professor more unfeignedly acknowledgeth his offence (Hosea 5:14,15). At this the poor creature is afflicted and distressed, rends his clothes, and begins to call the breaking of his promise and vows to mind; he mourns and prays, and like Ahab, awhile walks softly at the remembrance of the justness of the hand of God upon him. And now he renews his promises: Lord, try me this one time more; take off thy hand and see; they go far that never turn. Well, God spareth him again, sets down his axe again. ‘Many times he did deliver them, but they provoked him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity’ (Psa 106:43). Now they seem to be thankful again, and are as if they were resolved to be godly indeed. Now they read, they pray, they go to meetings, and seem to be serious a pretty while, but at last they forget. Their lusts prick them, suitable temptations present themselves; wherefore they turn to their own crooked ways again. ‘When he slew them, then they sought him, and they returned and inquired early after God’; ‘nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongue’ (Psa 78:34-36).
  1. Yet again, the Lord will not leave this professor, but will take up his axe again, and will put him under a more heart- searching ministry, a ministry that shall search him, and turn him over and over; a ministry that shall meet with him, as Elijah met with Ahab, in all his acts of wickedness, and now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees. Besides, this ministry doth not only search the heart, but presenteth the sinner with the golden rays of the glorious gospel; now is Christ Jesus s set forth evidently, now is grace displayed sweetly; now, now are the promises broken like boxes of ointment, to the perfuming of the whole room! But, alas! there is yet no fruit on this fig-tree. While his heart is searching, he wrangles; while the glorious grace of the gospel is unveiling, this professor wags and is wanton, gathers up some scraps thereof; ‘Tastes the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come’; ‘drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon him’ (Heb 6:3-8; Jude 4). But bringeth not forth fruit meet for him whose gospel it is; ‘Takes no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart’ (2 Kings 10:31). But counteth that the glory of the gospel consisteth in talk and show, and that our obedience thereto is a matter of speculation; that good works lie in good words; and if they can finely talk, they think they bravely please God. They think the kingdom of God consisteth only in word, not in power; and thus proveth ineffectual this fourth means also.
  1. Well, now the axe begins to be heaved higher, for now indeed God is ready to smite the sinner; yet before he will strike the stroke, he will try one way more at the last, and if that misseth, down goes the fig-tree! Now this last way is to tug and strive with this professor by his Spirit. Wherefore the Spirit of the Lord is now come to him; but not always to strive with man (Gen 6:3). Yet a while he will strive with him, he will awaken, he will convince, he will call to remembrance former sins, former judgments, the breach of former vows and promises, the misspending of former days; he will also present persuasive arguments, encouraging promises, dreadful judgments, the shortness of time to repent in; and that there is hope if he come. Further, he will show him the certainty of death, and of the judgment to come; yea, he will pull and strive with this sinner; but, behold, the mischief now lies here, here is tugging and striving on both sides. The Spirit convinces, the man turns a deaf ear to God; the Spirit saith, Receive my instruction and live, but the man pulls away his shoulder; the Spirit shows him whither he is going, but the man closeth his eyes against it; the Spirit offereth violence, the man strives and resists; they have ‘done despite unto the Spirit of grace’ (Heb 10:29). The Spirit parlieth a second time, and urgeth reasons of a new nature, but the sinner answereth, No, I have loved strangers, and after them I will go (Amos 4:6-12). At this God’s fury comes up into his face: now he comes out of his holy place, and is terrible; now he sweareth in his wrath they shall never enter into his rest (Heb 3:11). I exercised towards you my patience, yet you have not turned unto me, saith the Lord. I smote you in your person, in your relations, in your estate, yet you have not returned unto me, saith the Lord. ‘In thy filthiness is lewdness, because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged; thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I cause my fury to rest upon thee’ (Eze 24:13). ‘Cut it down, why doth it cumber the ground?’

The second sign. That such a professor is almost, if not quite, past grace, is, when God hath given him over, or lets him alone, and suffers him to do anything, and that without control, helpeth him not either in works of holiness, or in straits and difficulties. ‘Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone’ (Hosea 4:17). Woe be to them when I depart from them. I will laugh at their calamities, and will mock when their fear cometh (Prov 1:24-29).

Barren fig-tree, thou hast heretofore been digged about, and dunged; God’s mattock hath heretofore been at thy roots; gospel-dung hath heretofore been applied to thee; thou hast heretofore been strove with, convinced, awakened, made to taste and see, and cry, O the blessedness! Thou hast heretofore been met with under the word; thy heart hath melted, thy spirit hath fallen, thy soul hath trembled, and thou hast felt something of the power of the gospel. But thou hast sinned, thou hast provoked the eyes of his glory, thy iniquity is found to be hateful, and now perhaps God hath left thee, given thee up, and lets thee alone. Heretofore thou wast tender; thy conscience startled at the temptation to wickedness, for thou wert taken off from ‘the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 2:20-22). But that very vomit that once thou wert turned from, now thou lappest up– with the dog in the proverb–again; and that very mire that once thou seemedst to be washed from, in that very mire thou now art tumbling afresh. But to particularize, there are three signs of a man’s being given over of God.

  1. When he is let alone in sinning, when the reins of his lusts are loosed, and he given up to them. ‘And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient: being filled with all unrighteousness’ (Rom 1:28,29). Seest thou a man that heretofore had the knowledge of God, and that had some awe of Majesty upon him: I say, seest thou such an one sporting himself in his own deceivings, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and walking after his own ungodly lusts? (Rom 1:30-31). His ‘judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and his damnation slumbereth not’ (2 Peter 2:13). Dost thou hear, barren professor? It is astonishing to see how those that once seemed ‘sons of the morning,’ and were making preparations for eternal life, now at last, for the rottenness of their hearts, by the just judgment of God, to be permitted, being past feeling, to give ‘themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness’ (Eph 4:18,19). A great number of such were in the first gospel-days; against whom Peter, and Jude, and John, pronounce the heavy judgment of God. Peter and Jude couple them with the fallen angels, and John forbids that prayer be made for them, because that is happened unto them that hath happened to the fallen angels that fell, who, for forsaking their first state, and for leaving ‘their own habitation,’ are ‘reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day’ (Jude 5,6; 2 Peter 2:3-8). Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? (1.) These are beyond all mercy! (2.) These are beyond all promises! (3.) These are beyond all hopes of repentance! (4.) These have no intercessor, nor any more share in a sacrifice for sin! (5.) For these there remains nothing but a fearful looking for of judgment! (6.) Wherefore these are the true fugitives and vagabonds, that being left of God, of Christ, of grace, and of the promise, and being beyond all hope, wander and straggle to and fro, even as the devil, their associate, until their time shall come to die, or until they descend in battle and perish!
  1. Wherefore they are let alone in hearing. If these at any time come under the word, there is for them no God, no savour of the means of grace, no stirrings of heart, no pity for themselves, no love to their own salvation. Let them look on this hand or that, there they see such effects of the word in others as produceth signs of repentance, and love to God and his Christ. These men only have their backs bowed down alway (Rom 11:10). These men only have the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, to this very day. Wherefore as they go to the place of the Holy, so they come from the place of the Holy, and soon are forgotten in the places where they so did (Eccl 8:10). Only they reap this damage, ‘They treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God’ (Rom 2:3-5). Look to it, barren professor!
  1. If he be visited after the common way of mankind, either with sickness, distress, or any mind of calamity, still no God appeareth, no sanctifying hand of God, no special mercy is mixed with the affliction. But he falls sick, and grows well, like the beast; or is under distress, as Saul, who when he was engaged by the Philistines was forsaken and left of God, ‘And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem, and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets’ (1 Sam 28:4-6). The Lord answered him no more; he had done with him, cast him off, and rejected him, and left him to stand and fall with his sins, by himself. But of this more in the conclusion: therefore I here forbear.
  1. These men may go whither they will, do what they will; they may range from opinion to opinion, from notion to notion, from sect to sect, but are steadfast nowhere; they are left to their own uncertainties, they have not grace to establish their hearts; and though some of them have boasted themselves of this liberty, yet Jude calls them ‘wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever’ (Jude 13). They are left, as I told you before, to be fugitives and vagabonds in the earth, to wander everywhere, but to abide nowhere, until they shall descend to their own place, with Cain and Judas, men of the same fate with themselves (Acts 1:25).

A third sign that such a professor is quite past grace is, when his heart is grown so hard, so stony, and impenetrable, that nothing will pierce it. Barren fig-tree, dost thou consider? a hard and impenitent heart is the curse of God! A heart that cannot repent, is instead of all plagues at once; and hence it is that God said of Pharaoh, when he spake of delivering him up in the greatness of his anger, ‘I will at this time,’ saith he, ‘send all my plagues upon thine heart’ (Exo 9:14).

To some men that have grievously sinned under a profession of the gospel, God giveth this token of his displeasure; they are denied the power of repentance, their heart is bound, they cannot repent; it is impossible that they should ever repent, should they live a thousand years. It is impossible for those fall-aways to be renewed again unto repentance, ‘seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame’ (Heb 6:4-6). Now, to have the heart so hardened, so judicially hardened, this is as a bar put in by the Lord God against the salvation of this sinner. This was the burden of Spira’s complaint, ‘I cannot do it! O! how I cannot do it!’

This man sees what he hath done, what should help him, and what will become of him; yet he cannot repent; he pulled away his shoulder before, he stopped his ears before, he shut up his eyes before, and in that very posture God left him, and so he stands to this very day. I have had a fancy, that Lot’s wife, when she was turned into a pillar of salt, stood yet looking over her shoulder, or else with her face towards Sodom; as the judgment caught her, so it bound her, and left her a monument of God’s anger to after generations (Gen 19:26).

We read of some that are seared with a hot iron, and that are past feeling; for so seared persons in seared parts are. Their conscience is seared (1 Tim 4:2). The conscience is the thing that must be touched with feeling, fear, and remorse, if ever any good be done with the sinner. How then can any good be done to those whose conscience is worse than that? that is, fast asleep in sin (Eph 4:19). For that conscience that is fast asleep, may yet be effectually awakened and saved; but that conscience that is seared, dried, as it were, into a cinder, can never have sense, feeling, or the least regret in this world. Barren fig-tree, hearken, judicial hardening is dreadful! There is a difference betwixt that hardness of heart that is incident to all men, and that which comes upon some as a signal or special judgment of God. And although all kinds of hardness of heart, in some sense may be called a judgment, yet to be hardened with this second kind, is a judgment peculiar only to them that perish; hardness that is sent as a punishment for the abuse of light received, for a reward of apostacy. This judicial hardness is discovered from that which is incident to all men, in these particulars:–

  1. It is a hardness that comes after some great light received, because of some great sin committed against that light, and the grace that gave it. Such hardness as Pharaoh had, after the Lord had wrought wondrously before him; such hardness as the Gentiles had, a hardness which darkened the heart, a hardness which made their minds reprobate. This hardness is also the same with that the Hebrews are cautioned to beware of, a hardness that is caused by unbelief, and a departing from the living God; a hardness completed through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:7, &c). Such as that in the provocation, of whom God sware, that they should not enter into his rest. It was this kind of hardness also, that both Cain, and Ishmael, and Esau, were hardened with, after they had committed their great transgressions.
  1. It is the greatest kind of hardness; and hence they are said to be harder than a rock, or than an adamant, that is, harder than flint; so hard, that nothing can enter (Jer 5:3; Zech 7:12).
  1. It is a hardness given in much anger, and that to bind the soul up in an impossibility of repentance.
  1. It is a hardness, therefore, which is incurable, of which a man must die and be damned. Barren professor, hearken to this.

A fourth sign that such a professor is quite past grace, is, when he fortifies his hard heart against the tenor of God’s word (Job 9:4, etc.) This is called hardening themselves against God, and turning of the Spirit against them. As thus, when after a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus, and of the doctrine that is according to godliness, they shall embolden themselves in courses of sin, by promising themselves that they shall have life and salvation notwithstanding. Barren professor, hearken to this! This man is called, ‘a root that beareth gall and wormwood,’ or a poisonful herb, such an one as is abominated of God, yea, the abhorred of his soul. For this man saith, ‘I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination’ or stubbornness ‘of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst’; an opinion flat against the whole Word of God, yea, against the very nature of God himself (Deut 29:18,19). Wherefore he adds, ‘Then the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy, shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in God’s book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven’ (Deut 19:20).

Yea, that man shall not fail to be effectually destroyed, saith the text: ‘The Lord shall separate that man unto evil, out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant’ (Deut 19:21). He shall separate him unto evil; he shall give him up, he shall leave him to his heart; he shall separate him to that or those that will assuredly be too hard for him.

Now this judgment is much effected when God hath given a man up unto Satan, and hath given Satan leave, without fail, to complete his destruction. I say, when God hath given Satan leave effectually to complete his destruction; for all that are delivered up unto Satan have not, nor do not come to this end. But that is the man whom God shall separate to evil, and shall leave in the hands of Satan, to complete, without fail, his destruction.

Thus he served Ahab, a man that sold himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord. ‘And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also; go forth, and do so’ (1 Kings 21:25, 22:20-22). Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail; do thy will, I leave him in thy hand, go forth, and do so.

Wherefore, in these judgments the Lord doth much concern himself for the management thereof, because of the provocation wherewith they have provoked him. This is the man whose ruin contriveth, and bringeth to pass by his own contrivance: ‘I also will choose their delusions’ for them; ‘I will bring their fears upon them’ (Isa 66:4). I will choose their devices, or the wickednesses that their hearts are contriving of. I, even I, will cause them to be accepted of, and delightful to them. But who are they that must thus be feared? Why, those among professors that have chosen their own ways, those whose soul delighteth in their abominations. Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved: for this cause God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

‘God shall send them.’ It is a great word! Yea, God shall send them strong delusions; delusions that shall do: that shall make them believe a lie. Why so? ‘That they all might be damned,’ every one of them, ‘who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (2 Thess 2:10- 12).

There is nothing more provoking to the Lord, than for a man to promise when God threateneth; for a man to delight of conceit that he shall be safe, and yet to be more wicked than in former days, this man’s soul abhorreth the truth of God; no marvel, therefore, if God’s soul abhorreth him; he hath invented a way contrary to God, to bring about his own salvation; no marvel, therefore, if God invent a way to bring about this man’s damnation: and seeing that these rebels are at this point, we shall have peace; God will see whose word will stand, his or theirs.

A fifth sign of a man being past grace is, when he shall at this scoff, and inwardly grin and fret against the Lord, secretly purposing to continue his course, and put all to the venture, despising the messengers of the Lord. ‘He that despised Moses’ law, died without mercy; – of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?’ &c. (Heb 10:28). Wherefore, against these despisers God hath set himself, and foretold that they shall not believe, but perish: ‘Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in nowise believe, though a man declare it unto you’ (Acts 13:41).

After that thou shalt cut it down.

Thus far we have treated of the barren fig-tree, or fruitless professor, with some signs to know him by; whereto is added also some signs of one who neither will nor can, by any means, be fruitful, but they must miserably perish. Now, being come to the time of execution, I shall speak a word to that also; ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’

PROPOSITION SECOND: The death or cutting down of such men will be dreadful.

Christ, at last, turns the barren fig-tree over to the justice of God, shakes his hands of him, and gives him up to the fire for his unprofitableness. ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’

Two things are here to be considered:

First. The executioner; thou, the great, the dreadful, the eternal God. These words, therefore, as I have already said, signify that Christ the Mediator, through whom alone salvation comes, and by whom alone execution hath been deferred, now giveth up the soul, forbears to speak one syllable more for him, or to do the least act of grace further, to try for his recovery; but delivereth him up to that fearful dispensation, ‘to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb 10:31).

Second. The second to be considered is, The instrument by which this execution is done, and that is death, compared here to an axe; and forasmuch as the tree is not felled at one blow, therefore the strokes are here continued, till all the blows be struck at it that are requisite for its felling: for now cutting time, and cutting work, is come; cutting must be his portion till he be cut down. ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’ Death, I say, is the axe, which God often useth, therewith to take the barren fig-tree out of the vineyard, out of a profession, and also out of the world at once. But this axe is now new ground, it cometh well-edged to the roots of this barren fig-tree. It hath been whetted by sin, by the law, and by a formal profession, and therefore must, and will make deep gashes, not only in the natural life, but in the heart and conscience also of this professor: ‘The wages of sin is death,’ ‘the sting of death is sin’ (Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 15:56). Wherefore death comes not to this man as he doth to saints, muzzled, or without his sting, but with open mouth, in all his strength; yea, he sends his first-born, which is guilt, to devour his strength, and to bring him to the king of terrors (Job 18:13,14).

But to give you, in a few particulars, the manner of this man’s dying.

  1. Now he hath his fruitless fruits beleaguer him round his bed, together with all the bands and legions of his other wickedness. ‘His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins’ (Prov 5:22).
  1. Now some terrible discovery of God is made out unto him, to the perplexing and terrifying of his guilty conscience. ‘God shall cast upon him, and not spare’; and he shall be ‘afraid of that which is high’ (Job 27:22; Eccl 12:5).
  1. The dark entry he is to go through will be a sore amazement to him; for ‘fears shall be in the way’ (Eccl 12:5). Yea, terrors will take hold on him, when he shall see the yawning jaws of death to gape upon him, and the doors of the shadow of death open to give him passage out of the world. Now, who will meet me in this dark entry? how shall I pass through this dark entry into another world?
  1. For by reason of guilt, and a shaking conscience, his life will hang in continual doubt before him, and he shall be afraid day and night, and shall have no assurance of his life (Deut 28:66,67).
  1. Now also want will come up against him; he will come up like an armed man. This is a terrible army to him that is graceless in heart, and fruitless in life. This WANT will continually cry in thine ears, Here is a new birth wanting, a new heart, and a new spirit wanting; here is faith wanting; here is love and repentance wanting; here is the fear of God wanting, and a good conversation wanting: ‘Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting’ (Dan 5:27).
  1. Together with these standeth by the companions of death, death and hell, death and evils, death and endless torment in the everlasting flames of devouring fire. ‘When God cometh up unto the people he will invade them with his troops’ (Hab 3:16).

But how will this man die? Can his heart now endure, or can his hands be strong? (Eze 22:14).

(1.) God, and Christ, and pity, have left him. Sin against light, against mercy, and the long-suffering of God, is come up against him; his hope and confidence now lie a-dying by him, and his conscience totters and shakes continually within him!

(2.) Death is at his work, cutting of him down, hewing both bark and heart, both body and soul asunder. The man groans, but death hears him not; he looks ghastly, carefully, dejectedly; he sighs, he sweats, he trembles, but death matters nothing.

(3.) Fearful cogitations haunt him, misgivings, direful apprehensions of God, terrify him. Now he hath time to think what the loss of heaven will be, and what the torments of hell will be: now he looks no way but he is frighted.

(4.) Now would he live, but may not; he would live, though it were but the life of a bed-rid man, but he must not. He that cuts him down sways him as the feller of wood sways the tottering tree; now this way, then that, at last a root breaks, a heart-string, an eye-string, sweeps asunder.

(5.) And now, could the soul be annihilated, or brought to nothing, how happy would it count itself, but it sees that may not be. Wherefore it is put to a wonderful strait; stay in the body it may not, go out of the body it dares not. Life is going, the blood settles in the flesh, and the lungs being no more able to draw breath through the nostrils, at last out goes the weary trembling soul, which is immediately seized by devils, who lay lurking in every hole in the chamber for that very purpose. His friends take care of the body, wrap it up in the sheet or coffin, but the soul is out of their thought and reach, going down to the chambers of death.

I had thought to have enlarged, but I forbear. God, who teaches man to profit, bless this brief and plain discourse to thy soul, who yet standest a professor in the land of the living, among the trees of his garden. Amen.

Coming To Christ: Not By the Power of Man, But By the Drawing of the Father

Taken and adapted from, “Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ” A Plain and Profitable Discourse on John 6:37. Showing the cause, truth, and manner of the coming of a sinner to Jesus Christ; with his happy reception and blessed entertainment.
Written by John Bunyan, 1681.
Edited for modern English and thought

Cranach_the_Younger,_Lucas_-_Christ_and_the_adulteress

“And they shall come which were ready to perish”
– Isaiah 27:13

FIRST OBSERVATION. First, then, coming to Christ is not by the will, wisdom, or power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father. This observation stands on two parts.

First. The coming to Christ is not by the will, wisdom, or power of man;

Second. But by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father.

That the text carries this truth in its bosom, you will find if you look into the explanation of the first part thereof before. I shall, therefore, here follow the method propounded, to show,

First. That coming to Christ is not by the will, wisdom, or power of man. This is true, because the Word positively says it does not.

  1. The Bible completely denies it to be by the will of man. “Not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man” (John 1:13). And again, “It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs” (Romans 9:16).
  2. The Bible denies it to be of the wisdom of man, as is manifest from these considerations:

(1) In the wisdom of God it pleased him, that the world by wisdom should not know him. Now, if by their wisdom they cannot know him, it follows, by that wisdom, they cannot come unto him; for coming to him is not before, but after some knowledge of him (1 Corinthians 1:21; Acts 13:27; Psalms 9:10).

(2) The wisdom of man, in God’s account, as to the knowledge of Christ, is reckoned foolishness. “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20). And again, “The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 2:14). If God has made foolish the wisdom of this world; and again, if the wisdom of this world is foolishness with him, then verily it is not likely that a sinner should become so prudent as to come to Jesus Christ, especially if you consider,

(3) That the doctrine of a crucified Christ, and so of salvation by him, is the very thing that is counted foolishness to the wisdom of the world. Now, if the very doctrine of a crucified Christ be counted foolishness by the wisdom of this world, it cannot be that, by that wisdom, a man should be drawn out in his soul to come to him (1 Corinthians 3:19; 1:18, 23).

(4) God counted the wisdom of this world one of his greatest enemies; therefore, by that wisdom no man can come to Jesus Christ. For it is not likely that one of God’s greatest enemies should draw a man to that which best of all pleases God, as coming to Christ does. Now, that God counts the wisdom of this world one of his greatest enemies, is evident,

(a) For that it casts the greatest contempt upon his Son’s undertakings, as is before proved, in that it counts his crucifixion foolishness; though that is one of the highest demonstrations of Divine wisdom (Ephesians 1:7,8).

(b) Because God has threatened to destroy it, and bring it to nothing, and cause it to perish; which surely he would not do, was it not an enemy, would it direct men to, and cause them to close with Jesus Christ (Isaiah 29:14; 1 Corinthians 1:19).

(c) He has rejected the foolishness of the world from helping in the ministry of his Word, —as a fruitless business, and a thing that comes to nothing (1 Corinthians 2:4, 6, 12, 13).

(d) Because it causes to perish, those that seek it, and pursue it (1 Corinthians 1:18, 19).

(e) And God has proclaimed, that if any man will be wise in this world, he must be a fool in the wisdom of this world, and that is the way to be wise in the wisdom of God. “If any man seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:18- 20).

  1. Coming to Christ is not by the power of man. This is evident partly,

(1) From that which goes before. For man’s power in the putting forth of it, in this matter, is either stirred up by love, or sense of necessity; but the wisdom of this world neither gives man love to, or sense of a need of, Jesus Christ; therefore, his power lies still for that reason.

(2) What power has he that is dead, as every natural man spiritually is, even dead in trespasses and sins? Dead, even as dead to God’s New Testament things as he that is in his grave is dead to the things of this world. What power has he, then, whereby to come to Jesus Christ? (John 5:25; Ephesians 2:1; Col 2:13).

(3) God forbids the mighty man’s glorying in his strength; and says positively, “By strength shall no man prevail;” and again, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord” (Jer. 9:23, 24; 1 Sam 2:9; Zech. 4:6; 1 Corinthians 1:27- 31).

(4) Paul acknowledges that man, no, converted man, of himself, has not the sufficiency of power in himself to think a good thought; if not to do that which is least, for to think is less than to come; then no man, by his own power, can come to Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 2:5).

(5) Hence we are said to be made willing to come, by the power of God; to be raised from a state of sin to a state of grace, by the power of God; and to believe, that is to come, through the exceeding working of his mighty power (Psalms 110:3; Col 2:12; Ephesians 1:18, 20; Job 23:14). But this needed not, if either man had power or will to come; or so much as graciously to think of being willing to come, of themselves, to Jesus Christ.

Second, I should now come to the proof that the coming to Christ is only by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father.

  1. It is expressly said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him” (John 6:44). By this text, there is not only insinuated that in man is want of power, but also of will, to come to Jesus Christ: they must be drawn; they come not if they be not drawn. And observe, it is not man, no, nor all the angels in heaven, that can draw one sinner to Jesus Christ. No man comes to me, except the ones which the Father, who has sent me, draws.
  2. Again, “No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:65). It is a heavenly gift which makes a man come to Jesus Christ.
  3. Again, “It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that has heard, and has learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (John 6:45).

Use and Application of the First Observation

Use First. Is it so? Is coming to Jesus Christ not by the will, wisdom, or power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? Then they are to blame that cry up the will, wisdom, and power of man, as things sufficient to bring men to Christ.

There are some men who think they may not be contradicted, when they plead for the will, wisdom, and power of man in reference to the things that are of the kingdom of Christ; but I will say to such a man, he never yet came to understand, that himself is what the Scripture teaches concerning him; neither did he ever know what coming to Christ is, by the teaching, gift, and drawing of the Father. He is such a one that has set up God’s enemy in opposition to him, and that continues in such acts of defiance; and what his end, without a new birth, will be, the Scripture teaches also; but we will pass this.

Use Second. Is it so? Is coming to Jesus Christ by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? And why is it you? Why not another? O that the glory of electing love should rest upon thy head, and that the glory of the exceeding grace of God should take hold of thy heart, and bring you to Jesus Christ!

Use Third. Is it so, that coming to Jesus Christ is by the Father, as aforesaid? Then this should teach us to set a high esteem upon them that indeed are coming to Jesus Christ; I say, an high esteem on them, for the sake of him by virtue of whose grace they are made to come to Jesus Christ.

We see that when men, by the help of human abilities, do arrive at the knowledge of, and bring to pass that which, when done, is a wonder to the world, how he that did it, is esteemed and commended; yes, how are his wits, parts, industry, and unweariedness in all admired, and yet the man, as to this, is but of the world, and his work the effect of natural ability; the things also attained by him end in vanity and vexation of spirit. Further, perhaps in the pursuit of these his achievements, he sins against God, wastes his time vainly, and at long- run loses his soul by neglecting of better things; yet he is admired! But I say, if this man’s parts, labor, diligence, and the like, will bring him to such applause and esteem in the world, what esteem should we have of such a one that is by the gift, promise, and power of God, coming to Jesus Christ?

  1. This is a man with whom God is, in whom God works and walks; a man whose motion is governed and steered by the mighty hand of God, and the effectual working of his power. Here is a man!
  2. This man, by the power of God’s might, which works in him, is able to cast a whole world behind him, with all the lusts and pleasures of it, and to charge through all the difficulties that men and devils can set against him. Here is a man.
  3. This man is travelling to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, and to an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, to God the Judge of all, and to Jesus. Here is a man!
  4. This man can look upon death with comfort, can laugh at destruction when it cometh, and longs to hear the sound of the last trump, and to see his Judge coming in the clouds of heaven. Here is a man indeed!

Let Christians, then, esteem each other as such. I know you do it; but do it more and more. And that you may, consider these two or three things. (1) These are the objects of Christ’s esteem (Matt 12:48, 49; 15:22- 28; Luke 7:9). (2) These are the objects of the esteem of angels (Dan 9:12; 10:21, 22; 13:3, 4; Hebrews 2:14). (3) These have been the objects of the esteem of heathens, when but convinced about them (Daniel 5:10, 11; Acts 5:15; 1 Corinthians 14:24, 25). “Let each [of you, then,] esteem [each] other better than themselves” (Phil 2:2).

Use Fourth. Again, is it so, that no man comes to Jesus Christ by the will, wisdom, and power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? Then this shows us how horribly ignorant of this such are, who make the man that is coming to Christ the object of their contempt and rage. These are also unreasonable and wicked men; men in whom is no faith (2 Thessalonians 3:2). Sinners, did you but know what a blessed thing it is to come to Jesus Christ, and that by the help and drawing of the Father, they do indeed come to him; you would hang and burn in hell a thousand years, before you would turn your spirits as you do, against him that God is drawing to Jesus Christ, and also against the God that draws him.

But, faithless sinner, let us a little expostulate the matter. What has this man done against you, that is coming to Jesus Christ? Why do you make him the object of thy scorn? Does his coming to Jesus Christ offend you? Does his pursuing of his own salvation offend you? Does his forsaking of his sins and pleasures offend you?

Poor coming man! “Shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?” (Exodus 8:26).

But, I say, why offended at this? Is he ever the worse for coming to Jesus Christ, or for his loving and serving of Jesus Christ? Or is he ever the more a fool, for flying from that which will drown you in hell fire, and for seeking eternal life? Besides, pray, Sirs, consider it; this he does, not of himself, but by the drawing of the Father. Come, let me tell you in your ear, you that will not come to him thyself, and him that would, you hinder –

  1. You shall be judged for one that has hated, maligned, and reproached Jesus Christ, to whom this poor sinner is coming.
  2. You shall be judged, too, for one that has hated the Father, by whose powerful drawing this sinner does come.
  3. You shall be taken and judged for one that has done despite to the Spirit of grace in him that is, by its help, coming to Jesus Christ. What do you say now? Wilt you stand by thy doings? Wilt you continue to contemn and reproach the living God? Do you think you that you shall weather it out well enough at the Day of Judgment? “Can your heart endure, or can your hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with you,” saith the Lord? (Ezekiel 22:14, John 15:18- 25; Jude 15; 1 Thessalonians 4:8).

Use Fifth. Is it so, that no man comes to Jesus Christ by the will, wisdom, and power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? Then this shows us how it comes to pass, that weak means are so powerful as to bring men out of their sins to a hearty pursuit after Jesus Christ.

When God bid Moses to speak to the people, he said, “I will give you counsel, and God shall be with you” (Exodus 18:19). When God speaks, when God works, who can stop it? None, none; and then the work goes on! Elias threw his mantle upon the shoulders of Elisha; and what a wonderful work followed! When Jesus fell in with the crowing of a cock, what work was there! O when God is in the means, then shall that means – be it never so weak and contemptible in itself – work wonders (1 Kings 19:19; Matt 26:74,75; Mark 14:71,72; Luke 22:60- 62). The world understood not, nor believed, that the walls of Jericho should fall at the sound of rams’ horns; but when God will work, the means must be effectual. A word weakly spoken, spoken with difficulty, in temptation, and in the midst of great contempt and scorn, works wonders, if the Lord thy God will say so too.

Use Sixth. Is it so? Doth no man come to Jesus Christ by the will, wisdom, and power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? Then here is room for Christians to stand and wonder at the effectual working of God’s providences, that he has made use of, as means to bring them to Jesus Christ.

For although men are drawn to Christ by the power of the Father, yet that power puts forth itself in the use of means: and these means are divers, sometimes this, sometimes that; for God is at liberty to work by which, and when, and how he will; but let the means be what they will, and as contemptible as may be, yet God that commanded the light to shine out of darkness, and that out of weakness can make strong, can, nay, does oftentimes make use of very unlikely means to bring about the conversion and salvation of his people. Therefore, you that are come to Christ – and that by unlikely means – stay yourselves, and wonder, and, wondering, magnify almighty power, by the work of which the means has been made effectual to bring you to Jesus Christ.

What was the providence that God made use of as a means, either more remote or more near, to bring you to Jesus Christ? Was it the removing of thy habitation, the change of thy condition, the loss of relations, estate, or the like? Was it thy casting of your eye upon some good book, thy hearing of thy neighbor’s talk of heavenly things, the beholding of God’s judgments as executed upon others, or your own deliverance from them, or thy being strangely cast under the ministry of some godly man? O take notice of such providence or providences! They were sent and managed by mighty power to do you good. God himself, I say, has joined himself unto this chariot: yea, and so blessed it, that it failed not to accomplish the thing for which he sent it.

God blesses not to everyone his providences in this manner. How many thousands are there in this world, that pass every day under the same providences! But God is not in them, to do that work by them as he has done for thy poor soul, by his effectually working with them. O that Jesus Christ should meet you in this providence, that dispensation, or the other ordinance! This is grace indeed! At this, therefore, it will be thy wisdom to admire, and for this to bless God.

Give me leave to give you a taste of some of those providences that have been effectual, through the management of God, to bring salvation to the souls of his people.

(1) The first shall be that of the woman of Samaria. It must happen, that she must needs go out of the city to draw water, not before nor after, but just when Jesus Christ her Savior was come from far, and set to rest him, being weary, upon the well. What a blessed providence was this! Even a providence managed by the almighty wisdom, and almighty power, to the conversion and salvation of this poor creature. For by this providence was this poor creature and her Savior brought together, that blessed work might be fulfilled upon the woman, according to the purpose before determined by the Father (John 4).

(2) What providence was it that there should be a tree in the way for Zaccheus to climb, thereby to give Jesus opportunity to call that chief of the publicans home to himself, even before he came down therefrom (Luke 19).

(3) Was it not also wonderful that the thief, which you read of in the gospel, should, by the providence of God, be cast into prison, to be condemned even at that session that Christ himself was to die; nay, and that it should happen, too, that they must be hanged together, that the thief might be in hearing and observing of Jesus in his last words, that he might be converted by him before his death! (Luke 23).

(4) What a strange providence was it, and as strangely managed by God, that Onesimus, when he was run away from his master, should be taken, and, as I think, cast into that very prison where Paul lay bound for the Word of the gospel; that he might there be by him converted, and then sent home again to his master Philemon! Behold “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).

Nay, I have myself known some that have been made to go to hear the Word preached against their wills; others have gone not to hear, but to see and to be seen; nay, to jeer and flout others, as also to catch and carp at things. Some also to feed their adulterous eyes with the sight of beautiful objects; and yet God has made use even of these things, and even of the wicked and sinful proposals of sinners, to bring them under the grace that might save their souls.

Use Seventh. Doth no man come to Jesus Christ but by the drawing, &c., of the Father? Then let me here caution those poor sinners, that are spectators of the change that God has wrought in them that are coming to Jesus Christ, not to attribute this work and change to other things and causes.

There are some poor sinners in the world that plainly see a change, a mighty change, in their neighbors and relations that are coming to Jesus Christ. But, as I said, they being ignorant, and not knowing whence it comes and whither it goes, for “so is every one that is born of the Spirit,” (John 3:8), therefore they attribute this change to others causes: as melancholy; to sitting alone; to overmuch reading; to their going to too many sermons; to too much studying and musing on what they hear.

Also they conclude, on the other side, that it is for want of merry company; for want of physic; and therefore they advise them to leave off reading, going to sermons, the company of sober people; and to be merry, to go a gossiping, to busy themselves in the things of this world, not to sit musing alone, &c. But come, poor ignorant sinner, let me deal with you. It seems you art turned counsellor for Satan: I tell you for you know not what you do. Take heed of spending thy judgment after this manner; you judge foolishly, and say in this, to everyone that passes by, you are a fool. What! Do you count conviction for sin, mourning for sin, and repentance for sin, melancholy? This is like those that on the other side said, “These men are [drunk with] full of new wine,” &c. Or as he that said Paul was mad (Acts 2:13, 26:24). Poor ignorant sinner! Can you judge no better? What! Is sitting alone, pensive under God’s hand, reading the Scriptures, and hearing of sermons, &c., the way to be undone? The Lord open your eyes, and make you to see your error! You hast set thyself against God, you hast despised the operation of his hands, you are attempting to murder souls. What! Can you give no better counsel touching those whom God has wounded, than to send them to the ordinances of hell for help? You bid them be merry and lightsome; but do you not know that “the heart of fools is in the house of mirth?” (Eccl 7:4).

You bid them shun the hearing of thundering preachers; but is it not “better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools?” (Eccl 7:5). You bid them busy themselves in the things of this world; but do you not know that the Lord bids, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness?” (Matt 6:33). Poor ignorant sinner! Hear the counsel of God to such, and learn thyself to be wiser. “Is any afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms” (James 5:13). “Blessed is the man that hears me” (Proverbs 8:32). And hear for time to come, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). “Search the Scriptures” (John 5:39). “Give attendance to reading” (1 Tim 4:13). “It is better to go to the house of mourning” (Eccl 7:2,3).

And will you judge him that does thus? Art you almost like Elymas the sorcerer, that sought to turn the deputy from the faith? You seek to pervert the right ways of the Lord. Take heed lest some heavy judgment overtake you (Acts 13:8- 13). What! Teach men to quench convictions; take men off from a serious consideration of the evil of sin, of the terrors of the world to come, and how they shall escape the same? What! Teach men to put God and his Word out of their minds, by running to merry company, by running to the world, by gossiping? &c. This is as much as to bid them to say to God, “Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways;” or, “What is the Almighty that we should serve him? Or what profit have we if we keep his ways?” Here is a devil in grain! What! Bid man walk “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).

Two objections answered

Object. 1. But we do not know that such are coming to Jesus Christ; truly we wonder at them, and think they are fools.

Ans. Do you not know that they are coming to Jesus Christ? Then they may be coming to him, for aught you know; and why will you be worse than the brute, to speak evil of the things you know not? What! Are you made to be taken and destroyed? Must you utterly perish in your own corruptions? (2 Peter 2:12). Do you not know them? Let them alone then. If you cannot speak good of them, speak not bad. “Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nothing; but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest haply you be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5:38,39). But why do you wonder at a work of conviction and conversion? Know you not that this is the judgment of God upon you, “you despisers, to behold, and wonder, and perish?” (Acts 13:40, 41). But why wonder, and think they are fools? Is the way of the just an abomination to you? See that passage, and be ashamed, “He that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked” (Proverbs 29:27). Your wondering at them argues that you are strangers to yourselves, to conviction for sin, and to hearty desires to be saved; as also to coming to Jesus Christ.

Object. 2. But how shall we know that such men are coming to Jesus Christ?

Ans. Who can make them see that Christ has made blind? (John 2:8, 9). Nevertheless, because I endeavor thy conviction, conversion, and salvation, consider: Do they cry out of sin, being burthened with it, as of an exceeding bitter thing? Do they fly from it, as from the face of a deadly serpent? Do they cry out of the insufficiency of their own righteousness, as to justification in the sight of God? Do they cry out after the Lord Jesus, to save them? Do they see more worth and merit in one drop of Christ’s blood to save them, than in all the sins of the world to damn them? Are they tender of sinning against Jesus Christ? Is his name, person, and undertakings, more precious to them, than is the glory of the world? Is this word more dear unto them? Is faith in Christ (of which they are convinced by God’s Spirit of the want of, and that without it they can never close with Christ) precious to them? Do they savor Christ in his Word, and do they leave all the world for his sake? And are they willing, God helping them, to run hazards for his name, for the love they bear to him? Are his saints precious to them? If these things be so, whether you see them or no, these men are coming to Jesus Christ (Rom 7:914; Psalms 38:3- 8; Hebrews 6:18- 20; Isa 64:6; Phil 3:7,8; Psalms 54:1; 109:26; Acts 16:30; Psalms 51:7,8; 1 Peter 1:18,19; Rom 7:24; 2 Corinthians 5:2; Acts 5:41; James 2:7; Song 5:10- 16; Psalms 119; John 13:35; 1 John 4:7; 3:14; John 16:9; Rom 14:23; Hebrews 11:6; Psalms 19:10,11; Jeremiah 15:16; Hebrews 11:24- 27; Acts 20:22- 24; 21:13; Titus 3:15; 2 John 1; Ephesians 4:16; Philemon 7; 1 Corinthians 16:24).

WHY THE JUSTIFIED NEED AN INTERCESSOR

Taken and adapted from, “Christ A Complete Saviour”
Written by John Bunyan

Jesus_prays_and_The_Cross

I.  Are they that are justified by Christ’s blood such as have need yet to be saved by his intercession? Then from hence it follows that justification will stand with imperfection. It doth not therefore follow that a justified man is without infirmity; for he that is without infirmity—that is, perfect with absolute perfection, has no need to be yet saved by an act yet to be performed by a mediator and his mediation.

When I say, justification will stand with imperfection, I do not mean that it will allow, countenance, or approve thereof; but I mean there is no necessity of our perfection, of our personal perfection, as to our justification, and that we are justified without it; yea, that that, in justified persons, remains. Again; when I say that justification will stand with imperfection, I do not mean that in our justification we are imperfect; for in that we are complete; ‘we are complete in him’ who is our justice. (Col 2:10) If otherwise, the imperfection is in the matter that justifieth us, which is the righteousness of Christ. Yea, and to say so would conclude that wrong judgment proceedeth from him that imputeth that righteousness to us to justification, since an imperfect thing is imputed to us for justification. But far be it from any that believe that God is true to imagine such a thing; all his works are perfect, there is nothing wanting in them as to the present design.

[Quest.] But what then do we mean when we say, justification will stand with a state of imperfection?

Answ. Why, I mean that justified men are yet sinners in themselves, are yet full of imperfections; yea, sinful imperfections. Justified Paul said, ‘I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.’ (Rom 7:18) While we are yet sinners, we are justified by the blood of Christ. Hence, again, it is said, ‘he justifieth the ungodly.’ (Rom 4:5, 5:8, 9) Justification, then, only covereth our sin from the sight of God; it maketh us not perfect with inherent perfection. But God, for the sake of that righteousness which by his grace is imputed to us, declareth us quit and discharged from the curse, and sees sin in us no more to condemnation.

And this is the reason, or one reason, why they that are justified have need of an intercessor—to wit, to save us from the evil of the sin that remains in our flesh after we are justified by grace through Christ, and set free from the law as to condemnation.

Therefore, as it is said, we are saved; so it is said, ‘He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.’ The godly, for now we will call them the godly, though there is yet abundance of sin in them, feel in themselves many things even after justification by which they are convinced they are still attended with personal, sinful imperfections.

(1.) [Imperfect in their feelings and inclinations.]— They feel unbelief, fear, mistrust, doubting, despondings, murmurings, blasphemies, pride, lightness, foolishness, avarice, fleshly lusts, heartlessness to good, wicked desires, low thoughts of Christ, too good thoughts of sin, and, at times, too great an itching after the worst of immoralities.

(2.) They feel in themselves an aptness to incline to errors, as to lean to the works of the law for justification; to question the truth of the resurrection and judgment to come; to dissemble and play the hypocrite in profession and in performance of duties; to do religious duties rather to please man than God, who tries the heart.

(3.) They feel an inclination in them, in times of trial, to faint under the cross, to seek too much to save themselves, to dissemble the known truth for the obtaining a little favor with men, and to speak things that they ought not, that they may sleep in a whole skin.

(4.) They feel wearisomeness in religious duties, but a natural propensity to things of the flesh. They feel a desire to go beyond bounds both at board, and bed, and bodily exercise, and in all lawful recreation.

(5.) They feel in themselves an aptness to take the advantage of using of things that are lawful, as food, raiment, sleep, talk, estates, relations, beauty, wit, parts, and graces, to unlawful ends. These things, with many more of the like kind, the justified man finds and feels in himself, to his humbling and often casting down; and to save him from the destroying evil of these, Christ ever liveth to make intercession for him.

[Imperfect in their graces.]—Again; the justified man is imperfect in his graces, and therefore needeth to be saved by the intercession of Christ from the bad fruit that that imperfection yields.

Justifying righteousness is accompanied with graces—the graces of the Spirit. Though these graces are not that matter by and through which we are justified, nor any part thereof, that being only the obedience of Christ imputed to us of mere pleasure and good will; but, I say, they come when justification comes. (Rom 9) And though they are not so easily discerned at the first, they show forth themselves afterwards. But I say, how many soever they are, and how fast soever they grow, their utmost arrivement here is but a state short of perfection. None of the graces of God’s Spirit in our hearts can do their work in us without shortness, and that because of their own imperfections, and also because of the oppositions that they meet with from our flesh.

(1.) Faith, which is the root-grace, the grand grace, its shortness is sufficiently manifest by its shortness of apprehension of things pertaining to the person, offices, relations, and works of Christ, now in the heavenly place for us. It is also very defective in its fetching of comfort from the Word to us, and in continuing of it with us, when at any time we attain unto it; in its receiving of strength to subdue sin, and in its purifyings of the heart, though indeed it doth what it doth in reality, yet how short is it of doing of it thoroughly? Oftentimes, were it not for supplies by virtue of the intercession of Christ, faith would fail of performing its office in any measure. (Luke 22:31, 32)

(2.) There is hope, another grace of the Spirit bestowed upon us; and how often is that also, as to the excellency of working, made to flag? ‘I shall perish,’ saith David; ‘I am cut off from before thine eyes,’ said he. (Psa 31:22) And now where was his hope, in the right gospel discovery of it? Also all our fear of men, and fears of death, and fears of judgment, they arise from the imperfections of hope. But from all those faults Christ saves us by his intercessions.

(3.) There is love, that should be in us as hot as fire. It is compared to fire, to fire of the hottest sort; yea, it is said to be hotter than the coals of juniper. (Cant 8:6, 7) But who finds this heat in love so much as for one poor quarter of an hour together? Some little flashes, perhaps, some at some times may feel, but where is that constant burning of affection that the Word, the love of God, and the love of Christ call for? yea, and that the necessities of the poor and afflicted members of Christ call for also. Ah! love is cold in these frozen days, and short when it is at the highest.

(4.) The grace of humility, when is it? who has a thimbleful thereof? Where is he that is ‘clothed with humility,’ and that does what he is commanded ‘with all humility of mind’? (1 Peter 5:5, Acts 20:19)

(5.) For zeal, where is that also? Zeal for God against sin, profaneness, superstition, and idolatry. I speak now to the godly, who have this zeal in the root and habit; but oh, how little of it puts forth itself into actions in such a day as this is!

(6.) There is reverence, fear, and standing in awe of God’s Word and judgments, where are the excellent workings thereof to be found? And where it is most, how far short of perfect acts is it?

(7.) Simplicity and godly sincerity also, with how much dirt is it mixed in the best; especially among those of the saints that are rich, who have got the poor and beggarly art of complimenting? For the more compliment, the less sincerity. Many words will not fill a bushel. But ‘in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin.’ (Prov 10:19) Plain men are thin come up in this day; to find a mouth without fraud and deceit now is a rare thing. Thus might one count up all the graces of the Spirit, and show wherein every one of them are scanty and wanting of perfection. Now look, what they want of perfection is supplied with sin and vanity; for there is a fullness of sin and flesh at hand to make up all the vacant places in our souls. There is no place in the souls of the godly but it is filled up with darkness when the light is wanting, and with sin so far forth as grace is wanting. Satan, also, diligently waiteth to come in at the door, if Careless has left it a little achare. But, oh! the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who ever liveth to make intercession for us, and that, by so doing, saves us from all the imperfect acts and workings of our graces, and from all the advantages that flesh, and sin, and Satan getteth upon us thereby.

[Imperfect in their Duties.]—Further, as Christ Jesus our Lord doth save us, by his intercession, from that hurt that would unavoidably come upon us by these, so also, by that we are saved from the evil that is at any time found in any or all our holy duties and performances that is our duty daily to be found in. That our duties are imperfect, follows upon what was discoursed before; for if our graces be imperfect, how can our duties but be so too?

(1.) Our prayers, how imperfect are they! With how much unbelief are they mixed! How apt is our tongue to run, in prayer, before our hearts! With how much earnestness do our lips move, while our hearts lie within as cold as a clod! Yea, and ofttimes, it is to be feared, we ask for that with out mouth that we care not whether we have or no. Where is the man that pursues with all his might what but now he seemed to ask for with all his heart? Prayer is become a shell, a piece of formality, a very empty thing, as to the spirit and life of prayer at this day. I speak now of the prayers of the godly. I once met with a poor woman that, in the greatest of her distresses, told me she did use to rise in the night, in cold weather, and pray to God, while she sweat with fears of the loss of her prayers and desires that her soul might be saved. I have heard of many that have played, but of few that have prayed, till they have sweat, by reason of their wrestling with God for mercy in that duty. But how poorly is it done in our days! We have so many foolish ways to lay out money, in toys and fools’ baubles for our children, that we can spare none, or very little, for the relief of the poor. Also, do not many give that to their dogs, yea, let it lie in their houses until it stinks so vilely that neither dog nor cat will eat it; which, had it been bestowed well in time, might have been a succour and nourishment to some poor member of Christ?

(3.) There is hearing of the Word; but, alas! the place of hearing is the place of sleeping with many a fine professor. I have often observed that those that keep shops can briskly attend upon a twopenny customer; but when they come themselves to God’s market, they spend their time too much in letting their thoughts to wander from God’s commandments, or in a nasty drowsy way. The heads, also, and hearts of most hearers are to the Word as the sieve is to water; they can hold no sermons, remember no texts, bring home no proofs, produce none of the sermon to the edification and profit of others. And do not the best take up too much in hearing, and mind too little what, by the Word, God calls for at their hands, to perform it with a good conscience?

(4.) There is faithfulness in callings, faithfulness to brethren, faithfulness to the world, faithfulness to children, to servants, to all, according to our place and capacity. Oh! how little of it is there found in the mouths and lives, to speak nothing of the hearts, of professors.

I will proceed no further in this kind of repetition of things; only thus much give me leave to say over again, even many of the truly godly are very faulty here. But what would they do if there were not one always at the right hand of God, by intercession, taking away these kind of iniquities?

II.  Are those that are justified by the blood of Christ such, after that, as have need also of saving by Christ’s intercession? From hence, then, we may infer, that as sin, so Satan will not give over from assaulting the best of the saints.

It is not justification that can secure us from being assaulted by Satan: ‘Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to have you.’ (Luke 22:31, 32) There are two things that do encourage the devil to set upon the people of God:—

(1.) He knows not who are elect; for all that profess are not, and, therefore, he will make trial, if he can get them into his sieve, whether he can cause them to perish. And great success he hath had this way. Many a brave professor has he overcome; he has cast some of the stars from heaven to earth; he picked one out from among the apostles, and one, as it is thought, from among the seven deacons, and many from among Christ’s disciples; but how many, think you, nowadays, doth he utterly destroy with his net?

(2.) If it so happeneth that he cannot destroy, because Christ, by his intercession, prevaileth, yet will he set upon the church to defile and afflict it. For (a), If he can but get us to fall, with Peter, then he has obtained that dishonour be brought to God, the weak to be stumbled, the world offended, and the gospel vilified and reproached. Or (b), If he cannot throw up our heels, yet, by buffeting of us, he can grieve us, afflict us, put us to pain, fright us, drive us to many doubts, and make our life very uncomfortable unto us, and make us go groaning to our Father’s house. But blessed be God for his Christ, and for that ‘he ever liveth to make intercession for us.’

III. Are those that are justified by the blood of Christ such as, after that, have need to be saved by Christ’s intercession? Then, hence I infer that it is dangerous going about anything in our own name and strength. If we would have helps from the intercession of Christ, let us have a care that we do what we do according to the word of Christ. Do what he bids us as well as we can, as he bids us, and then we need not doubt to have help and salvation in those duties by the intercession of Christ. ‘Do all,’ says the apostle, ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus.’ (Col 3:17) Oh, but then the devil and the world will be most of all offended! Well, well, but if you do nothing but as in his fear, by his Word, in his name, you may be sure of what help his intercession can afford you, and that can afford you much help, not only to begin, but to go through with your work in some good measure, as you should; and by that also you shall be secured from those dangers, if not temptations to dangers, that those that go out about business in their own names and strength shall be sure to meet withal.

IV. Are those that are justified by the blood of Christ such as, after that, have need of being saved by Christ’s intercession? Then, hence I infer again, that God has a great dislike of the sins of his own people, and would fall upon them in judgment and anger much more severely than he doth, were it not for Christ’s intercession. The gospel is not, as some think, a loose and licentious doctrine, nor God’s discipline of his church a negligent and careless discipline; for, though those that believe already have also an intercessor, yet God, to show his detestation against sin, doth often make them feel to purpose the weight of his fingers. The sincere, that fain would walk oft with God, have felt what I say, and that to the breaking of their bones full oft. The loose ones, and those that God loves not, may be utter strangers as to this; but those that are his own indeed do know it is otherwise.

‘You only have I known’ above all others, says God, ‘therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.’ (Amos 3:2) God keeps a very strict house among his children. David found it so, Haman found it so, Job found it so, and the church of God found it so; and I know not that his mind is ever the less against sin, notwithstanding we have an Intercessor. True, our Intercessor saves us from damning evils, from damning judgments; but he neither doth nor will secure us from temporal punishment, from spiritual punishment, unless we watch, deny ourselves, and walk in his fear. I would to God that those who are otherwise minded did but feel, for three or four months, something of what I have felt for several years together for base sinful thoughts! I wish it, I say, if it might be for their good, and for the better regulating of their understandings. But whether they obtain my wish or no, sure I am that God is no countenancer of sin; no, not in his own people; nay, he will bear it least of all in them. And as for others, however he may for a while have patience towards them, if, perhaps, his goodness may lead them to repentance; yet the day is coming when he will pay the carnal and hypocrites’ home with devouring fire for their offences.

But if our holy God will not let us go altogether unpunished, though we have so able and blessed an Intercessor, that has always to present God with, on our behalf, so valuable a price of his own blood, now before the throne of grace, what should we have done if there had been no day’s-man, none to plead for us, or to make intercession on our behalf? Read that text, ‘For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee; though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.’ (Jer 30:11) If it be so, I say, what had become of us, if we had had no Intercessor? And what will become of them concerning whom the Lord has said already, ‘I will not take up their names into my lips’? (Psa 16:4) ‘I pray not for the world.’ (John 17:9)

V. Are those that are already justified by the blood of Christ yet such as have need of being saved by his intercession? Then, hence, I infer that Christ is not only the beginner, but the completer of our salvation; or, as the Holy Ghost calls him, ‘the author and finisher of our faith,’ (Heb 12:2); or, as it calls him again, ‘the author of eternal salvation.’ (Heb 5:9) Of salvation throughout, from the beginning to the end, from first to last. His hands have laid the foundation of it in his own blood, and his hands shall finish it by his intercession. (Zech 4:9) As he has laid the beginning fastly, so he shall bring forth the headstones with shoutings, and we shall cry, Grace, grace, at the last, salvation only belongeth to the Lord. (Zech 4:7, Psa 3:8, Isa 43:11)

Many there be that begin with grace, and end with works, and think THAT is the only way. Indeed works will save from temporal punishments, when their imperfections are purged from them by the intercession of Christ; but to be saved and brought to glory, to be carried through this dangerous world, from my first moving after Christ till I set my foot within the gates of paradise, this is the work of my Mediator, of my high priest and intercessor; it is he that fetches us again when we are run away; it is he that lifteth us up when the devil and sin has thrown us down; it is he that quickeneth us when we grow cold; it is he that comforteth us when we despair; it is he that obtains fresh pardon when we have contracted sin; and he that purges our consciences when they are loaden with guilt. (Eze 34:16, Psa 145:14)

I know also, that rewards do wait for them in heaven that do believe in Christ, and shall do well on earth; but this is not a reward of merit, but of grace. We are saved by Christ; brought to glory by Christ; and all our works are no otherwise made acceptable to God but by the person and personal excellencies and works of Christ; therefore, whatever the jewels are, and the bracelets, and the pearls, that thou shalt be adorned with as a reward of service done to God in the world, for them thou must thank Christ, and, before all, confess that he was the meritorious cause thereof. (1 Peter 2:5, Heb 13:15) He saves us, and saves our services too. (Rev 5:9–14) They would be all cast back as dung in our faces, were they not rinsed and washed in the blood, were they not sweetened and perfumed in the incense, and conveyed to God himself through the white hand of Jesus Christ; for that is his golden-censer; from thence ascends the smoke that is in the nostrils of God of such a sweet savour. (Rev 7:12–14, 8:3, 4)

VI. Are those that are already justified by the blood of Christ, such as do still stand in need of being saved by his intercession? Then hence I infer again, that we that have been saved hitherto, and preserved from the dangers that we have met with since our first conversion to this moment, should ascribe the glory to Jesus Christ, to God by Jesus Christ. ‘I have prayed that thy faith fail not: I pray that thou wouldest keep them from the evil,’ is the true cause of our standing, and of our continuing in the faith and holy profession of the gospel to this very day. Wherefore we must give the glory of all to God by Christ: ‘I will not trust in my bow,’ said David, ‘neither shall my sword save me. But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah’! ‘He always causeth us to triumph in Christ.’ ‘We rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.’ (Psa 44:6–8, 2 Cor 2:14, Phil 3:3) Thus you see that, both in the Old and New Testament, all the glory is given to the Lord, as well for preservation to heaven as for justification of life. And he that is well acquainted with himself will do this readily; though light heads, and such as are not acquainted with the desperate evil that is in their natures, will sacrifice to their own net. But such will so sacrifice but a while. Sir Death is coming, and he will put them into the view of what they see not now, and will feed sweetly upon them, because they made not the Lord their trust. And therefore, ascribe thou the glory of the preservation of thy soul in the faith hitherto, to that salvation which Christ Jesus our Lord obtaineth for thee by his intercession.

VII. Are those that are already justified by the blood of Christ such as do still stand in need of being saved by his intercession? Then is this also to be inferred from hence, that saints should look to him for that saving that they shall yet have need of betwixt this and the day of their dissolution; yea, from henceforward, even to the day of judgment. I say, they should still look to him for the remaining part of their salvation, or for that of their salvation which is yet behind; and let them look for it with confidence, for that it is in a faithful hand; and for thy encouragement to look and hope for the completing of thy salvation in glory, let me present thee with a few things—

(1.) The hardest or worst part of the work of thy Saviour is over; his bloody work, his bearing of thy sin and curse, his loss of the light of his Father’s face for a time; his dying upon the cursed tree, that was the worst, the sorest, the hardest, and most difficult part of the work of redemption; and yet this he did willingly, cheerfully, and without thy desires; yea, this he did, as considering those for whom he did it in a state of rebellion and enmity to him.

(2.) Consider, also, that he has made a beginning with thy soul to reconcile thee to God, and to that end has bestowed his justice upon thee, put his Spirit within thee, and began to make the unweldable mountain and rock, thy heart, to turn towards him, and desire after him; to believe in him, and rejoice in him.

(3.) Consider, also, that some comfortable pledges of his love thou hast already received, namely, as to feel the sweetness of his love, as to see the light of his countenance, as to be made to know his power in raising of thee when thou wast down, and how he has made thee stand, while hell has been pushing at thee, utterly to overthrow thee.

(4.) Thou mayest consider, also, that what remains behind of the work of thy salvation in his hands, as it is the most easy part, so the most comfortable, and that part which will more immediately issue in his glory, and therefore he will mind it.

(5.) That which is behind is also more safe in his hand than if it were in thine own; he is wise, he is powerful, he is faithful, and therefore will manage that part that is lacking to our salvation well, until he has completed it. It is his love to thee that has made him that ‘he putteth no trust in thee’; he knows that he can himself bring thee to his kingdom most surely; and therefore has not left that work to thee, no, not any part thereof. (Job 5:18, 15:15)

Live in hope, then, in a lively hope, that since Christ is risen from the dead, he lives to make intercession for thee, and that thou shalt reap the blessed benefit of this twofold salvation that is wrought, and that is working out for thee, by Jesus Christ our Lord. And thus have we treated of the benefit of his intercession, in that he is able to save to the uttermost.