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THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS

JOHN BUNYAN  


Section 10

Talk of Christian and Hopeful - Temporary - the backslider - the land of Beulah - Christian and Hopeful pass the River - welcome to the Celestial city - Conclusion


 

 

RIGHT FEAR

So I saw in my dream that they went on apace before, and IGNORANCE he came hobbling after. Then said CHRISTIAN to his companion, "It pities me much for this poor man; it will certainly go ill with him at last."

Hope. Alas, there are abundance in our town in his condition: whole families, yea, whole streets (and that of pilgrims too); and if there be so many in our parts, how many, think you, must there be in the place where he was born?

Chr. Indeed the Word saith, "He hath blinded their eyes, lest they should see," etc. But now we are by ourselves, what do you think of such men? Have they at no time, think you, convictions of sin; and so, consequently, fears that their state is dangerous?

Hope. Nay, do you answer that question yourself; for you are the elder man.

Chr. Then I say sometimes (as I think) they may; but they, being naturally ignorant, understand not that such convictions tend to their good; and therefore they do desperately seek to stifle them, and presumptuously continue to flatter themselves in the way of their own hearts.

Hope. I do believe as you say, that fear tends much to men's good, and to make them right, at their beginning, to go on pilgrimage.

Chr. Without all doubt it doth, if it be right; for so says the Word, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.''

"And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." Job 28:28

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever." Psalm 111:10

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction." Proverbs 1:7

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." Proverbs 9:10

Hope. How will you describe right fear?

Chr. True, or right fear, is discovered by three things:

1. By its rise. It is caused by saving convictions for sin.
2. It drives the soul to lay fast hold of Christ for salvation.
3. It begets and continues in the soul a great reverence of God, His Word, and ways; keeping it tender, and making it afraid to turn from them, to the right hand or to the left; to anything that may dishonour God, break its peace, grieve the Spirit, or cause the enemy to speak reproachfully.

Hope. Well said; I believe you have said the truth. Are we now almost got past the Enchanted Ground?

Chr. Why, are you weary of this discourse?

Hope. No, verily; but that I would know where we are.

Chr. We have not now above two miles farther to go thereon. But let us return to our matter. Now the ignorant know not that such convictions that tend to put them in fear are for their good; and therefore they seek to stifle them.

Hope. How do they seek to stifle them?

Chr. 1. They think that those fears are wrought by the devil (though indeed they are wrought of God); and thinking so, they resist them, as things that directly tend to their overthrow.

2. They also think that these fears tend to the spoiling of their faith (when, alas for them, poor men that they are, they have none at all); and therefore they harden their hearts against them.

3. They presume they ought not to fear; and therefore, in despite of them, wax presumptuously confident.

4. They see that these fears tend to take away from them their pitiful old self holiness; and therefore they resist them with all their might.

Hope. I know something of this myself; for before I knew myself, it was so with me.


BACKSLIDING


Chr. Well, we will leave at this time our neighbour IGNORANCE by himself, and fall upon another profitable question.

Hope. With all my heart; but you shall still begin.

Chr. Well then, did you not know, about ten years ago, one TEMPORARY in your parts, who was a forward man in religion then?

Hope. Know him? Yes; he dwelt in Graceless, a town about two miles off to Honesty, and he dwelt next door to one TURNBACK

Chr. Right; he dwelt under the same roof with him. Well, that man was much awakened once. I believe that then he had some sight of his sins, and of the wages that was due thereto.

Hope. I am of your mind; for (my house not being above three miles from him) he would oft times come to me, and that with many tears. Truly, I pitied the man, and was not altogether without hope of him; but one may see it is not everyone that cries, "Lord, Lord !"

Chr. He told me once, that he was resolved to go on pilgrimage, as we do now; but all of a sudden he grew acquainted with one SAVE-SELF, and then he became a stranger to me.

Hope. Now, since we are talking about him, let us a little inquire into the reason of the sudden backsliding of him and such others.

Chr. I may be very profitable; but do you begin.

Hope. Well, then, there are in my judgment four reasons for it.

1. Though the consciences of such men are awakened, yet their minds are not changed; therefore, when the power of guilt wears away, that which provoked them to be religious ceaseth. Wherefore, they naturally turn to their own course again; even as we see the dog that is sick of what he hath eaten, so long as his sickness prevails, he vomits and casts up all; not that he doth this of a free mind (if we may say a dog has a mind), but because it troubles his stomach.; but now, when his sickness is over, and so his stomach eased, his desires being not at all alienate from his vomit, he turns him about and licks up all. And so it is true which is written, "The dog is turned to his own vomit again".  

"But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." 2 Peter 2:22

This, I say, being hot for heaven, by virtue only of the sense and fear of the torments of hell, as their sense of hell and the fear of damnation chills and cools, Ė so their desires for heaven and salvation cool also. So then it comes to pass, that when their guilt and fear are gone, their desires for heaven and happiness die and they return to their course again.

2. Another reason is, they have slavish fears that do overmaster them. I speak now of the fears that they have of men: "For the fear of man brings a snare".  

"The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe." Proverbs 29:25

So then, though they seem to be hot for heaven so long as the flames of hell are about their ears, yet when that terror is a little over, they betake themselves to second thoughts; namely, that 'tis good to be wise, and not to run (for they know not what) the hazard of losing all, or at least of bringing themselves into unavoidable and unnecessary troubles: and so they fall in with the world again.

3. The shame that attends religion lies also as a block in their way. They are proud and haughty, and religion in their eye is low and contemptible; therefore, when they have lost their sense of hell and wrath to come, they return again to their former course.

4. Guilt and to meditate terror are grievous to them; they like not to see their misery before they come into it. Though perhaps the sight of it first, if they loved that sight, might make them fly whither the righteous fly and are safe: but because they do, as I hinted before, even shun the thoughts of guilt and terror; therefore, when once they are rid of their awakenings about the terrors and wrath of God, they harden their hearts gladly, and choose such ways as will harden them more and more.

Chr. You are pretty near the business; for the bottom of all is, for want of a change in their mind and will. And therefore they are but like the felon that stands before the judge: he quakes and trembles, and seems to repent most heartily. But the bottom of all is, the fear of the halter, not of any detestation of the offence; as is evident, because, let but this man have his liberty, and he will be a thief, and so a rogue still; whereas if his mind was changed he would be otherwise.

Hope. Now I have showed you the reasons of their going back, do you show me the manner thereof.

Chr. So I will willingly:

1. They draw off their thoughts all that they may from the remembrance of God, death, and judgment to come.

2. Then they cast off by degrees private duties: as closet prayer, curbing their lusts, watching, sorrow for sin, and the like.

3. Then they shun the company of lively and warm Christians.

4. After that they grow cold to public duty: as hearing, reading, godly conference, and the like.

5. Then they begin to pick holes, as we say, in the coats of some of the godly; and that devilishly, that they may have a seeming colour to throw religion (for the sake of some infirmity they have spied in them) behind their backs.

6. Then they begin to adhere to, and associate themselves with, carnal, loose, and wanton men.

7. Then they give way to carnal and wanton discourses in secret; and glad are they if they can see such things in any that are counted honest, that they may the more boldly do it through their example.

8. After this they begin to play with little sins openly.

9. And then, being hardened, they show themselves as they are. Thus, being launched again into the gulf of misery, unless a miracle of grace prevent it, they everlastingly perish in their own deceivings.


The Pilgrim's Progress - the land of Beulah


 

The Pilgrim's Progress - Contents