Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
by John Bunyan
Having made profession of the glorious Gospel of
Christ a long time, and preached the same about five years,
I was apprehended at a meeting of good people in the country;
among whom had they let me alone I should have preached that
day; but they took me away from amongst them, and had me
before a justice; who, after I had offered security for my appearing
the next sessions, yet committed me, because my sureties would not
consent to be bound, that I should preach no more to the
At the sessions after, I was indicted for an upholder
and maintainer of unlawful assemblies and conventicles, and for not
conforming to the national worship of the Church of England; and
after some conference there with the justices, they taking my plain
dealing with them for a confession, as they termed it, of the indictment,
did sentence me to a perpetual banishment, because I refused to conform.
So being again delivered up to the jailer's hands, I was had home to
prison, and there have lain now complete twelve years, waiting to see
what God would suffer these men to do with me.
In which condition I have continued with much content, through grace;
but have met with many turnings and goings upon my heart, both from the
Lord, Satan, and my own corruptions: by all which, glory be to Jesus
Christ, I have also received, among many things, much conviction, instruction,
and understanding; of which at large I shall not here discourse; only give you
a hint or two, a word that may stir up the godly to bless God and to pray
for me; and also to take encouragement, should the case be their own, not
to fear what man can do unto them.
I never had in all my life so great an inlet into the word of God as now.
Those Scriptures that I saw nothing in before, are made in this place and
state to shine upon me. Jesus Christ also was never more real and apparent
than now: here I have seen and felt him indeed. Oh that word! "We have
not preached unto you cunningly devised fables;" and that, "God raised
Christ from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might
be in God," were blessed words unto me, in this my imprisoned condition.
These three or four Scriptures also have been great refreshments in this
condition to me, (John 14:1-4; John 16:33; Col 3:3-4; Heb 12:22-24).
So that sometimes, when I have been in the savour of them, I have been
able "to laugh at destruction, and to fear neither the horse nor his rider."
I have had sweet sights of the forgiveness of my sins in this place, and
of my being with Jesus in another world. Oh the Mount Sion,
the heavenly Jerusalem, the innumerable company of angels and
God the Judge of all, and the spirits of just men made perfect,
and Jesus, have been sweet unto me in this place! I have seen that
here, which I am persuaded I shall never, while in this world, be
able to express. I have seen a truth in this Scripture, "Whom
having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not,
yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory."
I never knew what it was for God to stand by me at all turns,
and at every offer of Satan to afflict me, etc., as I have found him
since I came in hither; for look how fears have presented themselves,
so have supports and encouragements; yea, when I have started,
even as it were at nothing else but my shadow, yet God, as
being very tender of me, hath not suffered me to be molested,
but would, with one Scripture or another, strengthen me against
all, insomuch that I have often said, "Were it lawful, I could pray
for greater trouble, for the greater comfort's sake."
Before I came to prison, I saw what was a-coming; and had
especially two considerations warm upon my heart. The first was,
how to be able to encounter death, should that be here my portion.
For the first of these, that Scripture was great information to me,
namely, to pray to God "to be strengthened with all might, according
to his glorious power, unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness."
I could seldom go to prayer before I was imprisoned, but for not so
little as a year together, this sentence, or sweet petition, would, as it
were, thrust itself into my mind, and persuade me, that if ever I would
go through long suffering I must have patience, especially if I would
endure it joyfully.
As to the second consideration, that saying was of great use to me,
"But we had the sentence of death in ourselves that we might not trust in
ourselves, but in God that raiseth the dead." By this Scripture I was
made to see, that if ever I would suffer rightly, I must first pass a sentence
of death upon every thing that can properly be called a thing of this life;
even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyments,
and all as dead to me, and myself as dead to them.
The second was, to live upon God that is invisible; as Paul said in
another place, the way not to faint is, "to look not at the things which
are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are
seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." And thus
I reasoned with myself: If I provide only for a prison then the whip comes
unawares; and so doth also the pillory. Again, if I only provide for these,
then I am not fit for banishment. Further, if I conclude that banishment is
the worst, then if death come I am surprised. So that I see the best way
to go through sufferings, is to trust in God through Christ, as touching the
world to come; and as touching this world, to "count the grave my house,
to make my bed in darkness, and to say to corruption, Thou art my father;
and to the worm, Thou art my mother and sister;" that is, to familiarize
these things to me.
But notwithstanding these helps, I found myself a man encompassed
with infirmities. The parting with my wife and poor children hath often
been to me, in this place, as the pulling the flesh from my bones;
and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these mercies,
but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many
hardships, miseries, and wants that my poor family was likewise to
meet with; especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart
than all I had beside. Oh! the thoughts of the hardships I thought
my blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces.
Poor child, thought I, what sorrow art thou like to have for thy
portion in this world! Thou must be beaten, must beg, suffer hunger,
cold, nakedness, and a thousand calamities, though I cannot now
endure the wind should blow upon thee. But yet recalling myself,
thought I, I must venture you all with God, though it goeth to the
quick to leave you. Oh! I saw in this condition I was as a man who
was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children;
yet thought I, I must do it, I must do it. And now I thought on those
two milch kine that were to carry the ark of God into another country,
to leave their calves behind them.
But that which helped me in this temptation was divers considerations,
of which three in special here I will name. The "first" was, the consideration
of those two Scriptures, "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them
alive, and let thy widows trust in me:" and again, "The Lord said, Verily,
it shall go well with thy remnant: verily, I will cause the enemy to entreat
thee well in the time of evil," etc.
I had also this consideration, that if I should now venture all for God,
I engaged God to take care of my concernments; but if I forsook him and
his ways, for fear of any trouble that should come to me or mine, then I
should not only falsify my profession, but should count also that my
concernments were not so sure, if left at God's feet, whilst I stood to
and for his name, as they would be, if they were under my own care,
though with the denial of the way of God. This was a smarting consideration,
and as spurs unto my flesh. That Scripture also greatly helped it to fasten
the more upon me, where Christ prays against Judas, that God would
disappoint him in his selfish thoughts, which moved him to sell his master.
Pray read it soberly. (Ps. 109:6-8, etc.)
I had also another consideration, and that was, the dread of the torments
of hell, which I was sure they must partake of, that for fear of the cross, do
shrink from their profession of Christ, his words and laws, before the sons of
men. I thought also of the glory he had prepared for those that in faith, and
love and patience, stood to his ways before them. These things, I say, have
helped me, when the thoughts of the misery that both myself and mine, might
for the sake of my profession, be exposed to, hath lain pinching on my mind.
When I have indeed conceited, that I might be banished for my profession,
then I have thought of that Scripture, "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder,
were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins,
and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was
not worthy;'' for all they thought they were too bad to dwell and abide amongst
them. I have also thought of that saying, "The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every
city, that bonds and afflictions abide me." I have verily thought, that my soul
and it have sometimes reasoned about the sore and sad estate of a banished
and exiled condition, how they are exposed to hunger, to cold, to perils, to
nakedness, to enemies, and a thousand calamities; and at last, it may be to
die in a ditch, like a poor, forlorn, and desolate sheep. But I thanked God,
hitherto I have not been moved by these most delicate reasonings, but rather
by them more approved my heart to God.
I will tell you a pretty business: I was once above all the rest, in a
very sad and low condition for many weeks, at which time also I being
but a young prisoner, and not acquainted with the laws, had this lain much
upon my spirit, "That my imprisonment might end at the gallows for aught
that I could tell." Now therefore Satan laid hard at me, to beat me out of
heart, by suggesting thus unto me: "But how if, when you come indeed to
die, you should be in this condition; that is, as not to savour the things of
God, nor to have any evidence upon your soul for a better state hereafter?"
for indeed at that time all the things of God were hid from my soul.
Wherefore, when I at first began to think of this, it was a great trouble to
me; for I thought with myself, that in the condition I now was, I was
not fit to die; neither indeed did think I could, if I should be called to it;
besides, I thought with myself, if I should make a scrambling shift to
clamber up the ladder, yet I should, either with quaking, or other symptoms
of fainting, give occasion to the enemy to reproach the way of God and
his people, for their timorousness. This therefore lay with great trouble
upon me; for methought I was ashamed to die with a pale face, and tottering
knees in such a case as this.
Wherefore I prayed to God, that he would comfort me, and give strength
to do and suffer what he should call me to. Yet no comfort appeared, but all
continued hid. I was also at this time so really possessed with the thought of
death; that oft I was as if on a ladder with a rope about my neck. Only this
was some encouragement to me, I thought I might now have an opportunity
to speak my last words unto a multitude which I thought would come to see
me die: and, thought I, if it must be so, if God will but convert one soul by
my last words, I shall not count my life thrown away, nor lost.
But yet all the things of God were kept out of my sight, and still the tempter
followed me with, "But whither must you go when you die? What will become
of you? Where will you be found in another world? What evidence have you
for heaven and glory, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified?"
Thus was I tossed for many weeks and knew not what to do: at last this
consideration fell with weight upon me, "That it was for the word and way
of God that I was in this condition; wherefore I was engaged not to flinch
an hair's breadth from it."
I thought also, that God might choose whether he would give me comfort
now, or at the hour of death; but I might not therefore choose whether I
would hold my profession or no. I was bound, but he was free; yea, it was
my duty to stand to his word, whether he would ever look upon me, or save
me at the last; wherefore, thought I, save the point being thus, I am for going on,
and venturing my eternal state with Christ, whether I have comfort here or no.
If God doth not come in, thought I, "I will leap off the ladder, even blindfold
into eternity; sink or swim, come heaven, come hell. Lord Jesus, if thou wilt
catch me, do; if not, I will venture for thy name."
I was no sooner fixed upon this resolution but the word dropped
upon me, "Doth Job serve God for naught?" As if the accuser had said,
"Lord, Job is no upright man; he serves thee for by-respects: hast thou
not made an hedge about him?" etc. But put forth now thine hand, and
touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. How now,
thought I, is this the sign of a renewed soul, to desire to serve God when
all is taken from him? Is he a godly man that will serve God for nothing rather
than give out? Blessed be God then, I hope I have an upright heart; for I am
resolved, God giving me strength, never to deny my profession, though I had
nothing at all for my pains. And as I was thus considering, that Scripture
was set before me, (Psalm 44:12, etc.). Now was my heart full of comfort, for
I hoped it was sincere. I would not have been without this trial for much; I
am comforted every time I think of it; and I hope I shall bless God forever,
for the teachings I have had by it. Many more of the dealings of God
towards me I might relate, "but these out of the spoils won in battle have
I dedicated to maintain the house of God."