John Bunyan- Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

John Bunyan (1628- 1688) is known more for his book- The Pilgrim’s Progress than for his book on the topic of grace which is discussed here- Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. 

To quote from another of his other book- ‘Saved By Grace’…

…”The words thus understood admit us these few conclusions:

  • 1. That God, in saving of the sinner, hath no respect to the sinner’s goodness; hence it is said he is frankly forgiven, and freely justified (Luke 7:42; Rom 3:24).
  • 2. That God doth this to whom and when he pleases, because it is an act of his own good pleasure (Gal 1:15,16).
  • 3. This is the cause why great sinners are saved, for God pardoneth “according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7).
  • 4. This is the true cause that some sinners are so amazed and confounded at the apprehension of their own salvation; his grace is unsearchable; and by unsearchable grace God oft puzzles and confounds our reason (Eze 16:62,63; Acts 9:6).
  • 5. This is the cause that sinners are so often recovered from their backslidings, healed of their wounds that they get by their falls, and helped again to rejoice in God’s mercy. Why, he will be gracious to whom he will be gracious, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion (Rom 9:15).

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‘It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy’ (Rom. 9.16).
With this scripture I could not tell what to do; for I evidently saw, that unless the great God, of His infinite grace and bounty, had voluntarily chosen me to be a vessel of mercy, though I should desire, and long and labour until my heart did break, no good could come of it. Therefore, this would still stick with me, How can you tell that you are elected? And what if you should not? How then?

Then I began to give place to the word, which, with power, did over and over make this joyful sound within my soul, Thou art my love, thou art my love; and nothing shall separate thee from my love; and with that, Rom 8.39 came into my mind. Now was my heart filled full of comfort and hope, and now I could believe that my sins should be forgiven me; yea, I was now so taken with the love and mercy of God, that I remember I could not tell how to contain till I got home; I thought I could have spoken of His love, and of His mercy to me, even to the very crows that sat upon the ploughed lands before me, had they been capable to have understood me; wherefore I said in my soul with much gladness, Well, I would I had a pen and ink here, I would write this down before I go any farther, for surely I will not forget this forty years hence; but alas! within less than forty days, I began to question all again; which made me begin to question all still.

I remember that one day, as I was travelling into the country and musing on the wickedness and blasphemy of my heart, and considering of the enmity that was in me to God, that scripture came in my mind, He hath ‘made peace through the blood of His cross’ (Col. 1.20). By which I was made to see, both again, and again, and again, that day, that God and my soul were friends by this blood; yea, I saw that the justice of God and my sinful soul could embrace and kiss each other through this blood. This was a good day to me; I hope I shall not forget it.

Many more vile and abominable things were in those days fomented by them, by which I was driven to a more narrow search of the Scriptures, and was, through their light and testimony, not only enlightened, but greatly confirmed and comforted in the truth; and, as I said, the guilt of sin did help me much, for still as that would come upon me, the blood of Christ did take it off again, and again, and again, and that too, sweetly, according to the Scriptures. O friends! cry to God to reveal Jesus Christ unto you; there is none teacheth like Him.

These words were to my soul like fetters of brass to my legs, in the continual sound of which I went for several months together. But about ten or eleven o’clock one day, as I was walking under a hedge, full of sorrow and guilt, God knows, and bemoaning myself for this hard hap that such a thought should arise within me; suddenly this sentence bolted in upon me, The blood of Christ remits all guilt. At this I made a stand in my spirit; with that, this word took hold upon me, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin’ (1 John 1.7).

Now I began to conceive peace in my soul, and methought I saw as if the tempter did leer and steal away from me, as being ashamed of what he had done. At the same time also I had my sin, and the blood of Christ thus represented to me, that my sin, when compared to the blood of Christ, was no more to it, than this little clot or stone before me, is to this vast and wide field that here I see. This gave me good encouragement for the space of two or three hours; in which time also, methought I saw, by faith, the Son of God, as suffering for my sins; but because it tarried not, I therefore sunk in my spirit, under exceeding guilt again.

But yet the tempter left me not; for it could not be so little as an hundred times that he that day did labour to break my peace. Oh! the combats and conflicts that I did then meet with as I strove to hold by this word; that of Esau would fly in my face like to lightning. I should be sometimes up and down twenty times in an hour, yet God did bear me up and keep my heart upon this world, from which I had also, for several days together, very much sweetness and comfortable hopes of pardon; for thus it was made out to me, I loved thee whilst thou wast committing this sin, I loved thee before, I love thee still, and I will love thee for ever.

But one day, as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven; and methought withal, I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants my righteousness, for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever (Heb. 13.8).


I never saw those heights and depths in grace, and love, and mercy, as I saw after this temptation. Great sins to draw out great grace; and where guilt is most terrible and fierce there the mercy of God in Christ, when showed to the soul, appears most high and mighty. When Job had passed through his captivity, he had ‘twice as much as he had before’ (Job 42.10). Blessed be God for Jesus Christ our Lord. Many other things I might here make observation of, but I would be brief, and therefore shall at this time omit them, and do pray God that my harms may make others fear to offend, lest they also be made to bear the iron yoke as I did.

Now was I as one awakened out of some troublesome sleep and dream, and listening to this heavenly sentence, I was as if I had heard it thus expounded to me: Sinner, thou thinkest that because of thy sins and infirmities I cannot save thy soul, but behold My Son is by Me, and upon Him I look, and not on thee, and will deal with thee according as I am pleased with Him. At this I was greatly lightened in my mind, and made to understand that God could justify a sinner at any time; it was but His looking upon Christ, and imputing of His benefits to us, and the work was forthwith done.

And as I was thus in a muse, that scripture also came with great power upon my spirit, ‘Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us,’ etc. (Tit. 3.5; II Tim. 1.9). Now was I got on high; I saw myself within the arms of grace and mercy; and though I was before afraid to think of a dying hour, yet now I cried, Let me die. Now death was lovely and beautiful in my sight; for I saw we shall never live indeed till we be gone to the other world. Oh, methought this life is but a slumber in comparison of that above; at this time also I saw more in those words, ‘Heirs of God’ (Rom. 8.17), than ever I shall be able to express while I live in this world. ‘Heirs of God’! God Himself is the portion of the saints. This I saw and wondered at, but cannot tell you what I saw.

These things I continually see and feel, and am afflicted and oppressed with; yet the wisdom of God doth order them for my good.
(1) They make me abhor myself.
(2) They keep me from trusting my heart.
(3) They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness.
(4) They show me the necessity of flying to Jesus.
(5) They press me to pray unto God.
(6) They show me the need I have to watch and be sober.
(7) And provoke me to look to God, through Christ, to help me, and carry me through this world. Amen.

 

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