[USE SEVENTH.]—Give me leave now in a word to give you a little advice.
1. Dost thou love thine own soul? then pray to Jesus Christ for an awakened heart, for a heart so awakened with all the things of another world, that thou mayest be allured to Jesus Christ. 2. When thou comest there, beg again for more awakenings about sin, hell, grace, and about the righteousness of Christ. 3. Cry also for a spirit of discerning, that thou mayest know that which is saving grace indeed. 4. Above all studies apply thyself to the study of those things that show thee the evil of sin, the shortness of man's life, and which is the way to be saved. 5. Keep company with the most godly among professors. 6. When thou hearest what the nature of true grace is, defer not to ask thine own heart if this grace be there. And here take heed—
(1.) That the preacher himself be sound, and of good life. (2.) That thou takest not seeming graces for real ones, nor seeming fruits for real fruits. (3.) Take heed that a sin in thy life goes not unrepented of; for that will make a flaw in thine evidence, a wound in thy conscience, and a breach in thy peace; and a hundred to one, if at last it doth not drive all the grace in thee into so dark a corner of thy heart, that thou shalt not be able, for a time, by all the torches that are burning in the gospel, to find it out to thine own comfort and consolation. 21
1 However homely this illustration, yet how striking. No family has been many years without that uneasy anxiety—earnest seeking the doctor to alleviate their sufferings, or those of a beloved relative, and then the trembling hope that "his excellent things" may produce the desired effect. Reader, have you had, at any time, equal anxiety for your soul's health and salvation? What has been the result?—Ed.
2 How delightfully but solemnly is this illustrated in the "Pilgrim's Progress." The wicket-gate, at the head of the way, at which the poor burdened sinner must knock and obtain an entrance by Christ the door. It may be like Mercy, with a trembling but sure hope. And then the glorious entrance into the Celestial City itself, after crossing the river which has no bridge. This was opened to Christian, but shut against Ignorance and against Turnaway of the Town of Apostasy.—Ed.
3 Much confusion appears to exist in the minds of many in reference to the "strait gate" mentioned in the text, as this passage is frequently introduced into exhortations to the unconverted. It is addressed exclusively to professors of religion—to those who profess to have set out for the Celestial City, and seems to say, Beware of the form of godliness without its power—of the profession without the possession! For, as old Mason truly said, "They fall deepest into hell that fall backward." The "striving" here alluded to refers to the whole course of the believers' life, with its end in view—"We labour to be accepted of him" "Give diligence," by adding to faith virtue, &c., "to make your calling and election sure; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:5-11)
4 How well does our unlettered author give the meaning of strive, agonize.—Ed.
5 Reader, while we bless God for being mercifully relieved from those bodily privations and sufferings through which our pilgrim fathers passed, forget not that Satan plies all his arts to allure our souls from the narrow path. If we are saved from tedious imprisonments in damp dungeons—if Antichrist has lost much of his power, the flatterer is ever at hand to entangle us in his net—the atheist is ever ready, by his derision and scorn, to drive us back to the City of Destruction.—Ed.
6 In the edition printed 1692, "an holiday saint" is used. Saints' days were holidays upon which the gayest dress was put on; but the outward affectation of religion in pious company is better expressed by "holiday suit," and I have followed all the modern editors in concluding that the word "saint" is a typographical error.—Ed.
7 See the character of By-ends and his companions in the "Pilgrim's Progress."
8 O how few professors feel that the judgment of man is as nothing in comparison with that of a heart-searching God. Thousands would tremble at the thought of outwardly committing these great crimes, but who inwardly, in spirit, are daily guilty of them before God. He who is kept by Divine power from spiritual sins, is alone safe from the commission of carnal sins.—Ed.
9 It is an awful fact that in every age of the church these "blundering raw-headed preachers" have abounded. It is a singular appellation to make use of to those who strut in black, and vainly pride themselves upon being descended from the apostles. Alas! how many are those whose hearts and heads are raw indeed as to any influences of vital religion, and whose whole ministry is calculated to mislead the souls of their fellow-sinners as to their eternal hopes. Reader, how solemn is our duty to examine what we hear by the unerring Word—to try all things, and hold fast that only which is good.—Ed.
10 More particularly in the "Jerusalem Sinner Saved"—"He that would be saved by Jesus Christ, through faith in his blood, cannot be counted for such," &c. The sin against the Holy Ghost is an abandonment of Christianity—"to crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." (Heb 6:6) Poor trembler, wouldst thou crucify the Son of God afresh? If thy conscience says, Never! never! thou hast not committed this unpardonable sin.—Ed.
11 The wedding garments being provided by the host, this man must have refused it, and insults his King by sitting among the guests in his ordinary apparel. O reader, before you take a seat at the Lord's table, take prayerful care to be clothed with the robe of righteousness, otherwise you will eat to your utter condemnation and may, after all, be cast into outer darkness.—Ed.
12 May these searching words make an indelible impression upon the heart of every reader. How striking, and alas! how true, is this delineation of character. Religious when in company with professors—profane when with the world; pretending to be a Christian on a Sunday; striving to climb with Christian the Hill Difficulty—every other day running down the hill with Timorous and Mistrust. Such may get to the bottom of the hill, and hide themselves in the world; but they can never lie concealed from God's anger, either in this world, or in the bottomless pit, whither they are hurrying to destruction.
"Sinner, O why so thoughtless grown? Why in such dreadful hast to die?"—Ed.
13 "Tend it," or attend to it. What madness does sin engender and foster! The trifles of time entirely occupy the attention, while the momentous affairs of eternity are put off to a more convenient opportunity.—Ed.
14 Lowth's translation of this passage in Isaiah 6:13 not only confirms Bunyan, but exhibits his view in a more prominent light:—"And though there be a tenth part remaining in it, even this shall undergo a repeated destruction; yet as the ilex and the oak, though cut down, hath its stock remaining, a holy seed shall be the stock of the nation."—Ed.
15 How solemn the thought—there is but little wheat in comparison with all the grass and vegetable produce of the earth; and in the harvest how much chaff and straw, which grew with the wheat, will be cast out! Well may it be said, Look to it, professors.—Ed.
16 The word "faith" was changed in 1737 for "repentance," which has been continued in subsequent editions; "faith" is right. Awakenings and repentance are classed together under the first head, and faith under the second.—Ed.
17 Many readers will cry out, Who then can be saved? Without charity, or the love of Christ in the heart, all faith and works are but dross. Love is the touchstone of faith and works—not to glorify ourselves, but him who has bought us with his own most precious blood. Carry the solemn inquiry to the throne of grace, Have I passed from death unto life? for whosoever thus liveth believeth in Christ, and amidst the fatal wreck of professors, he shall never die.—Ed.
18 "To doubt"; to suspect, make a question of, reconsider.—Ed.
19 When Talkative asked Faithful what difference there is between crying out against and abhorring sin, he answered, "O! a great deal; a man may cry out against sin of policy, but he cannot abhor it but by virtue of a godly antipathy against it. I have heard many cry out against sin in the pulpit, who yet can abide it well enough in the heart, house, and conversation."—Pilgrim's Progress.
20 Similar to By-ends who never strove for heaven against wind or weather; was most zealous when religion walked in his silver slippers, and walked with him in the streets, while the sun shone, and people applauded him.—Pilgrim's Progress.
21 The striving inculcated in this treatise reminds us of Hopkins' bold appeal to conscience. He says, "There must be a holy roughness and violence, to break through all that stands in our way; neither caring for allurements, nor fearing opposition, but by a pious obstinacy and frowardness, we must thrust away the one and bear down the other. This is the Christian who will carry heaven by force, when the whining pusillanimous professor, who only complains of difficulty, but never attempts to conquer it, will be for ever shut out!"—Ed.