Christian: Then, as it seems, sometimes you got rid of your trouble.
Hopeful: Yes, verily, but it would come into my mind again, and then I should be as bad, nay, worse, than I was before.
Christian: Why, what was it that brought your sins to mind again?
Hopeful: Many things; as,
- If I did but meet a good man in the streets; or,
- If I have heard any read in the Bible; or,
- If mine head did begin to ache; or,
- If I were told that some of my neighbors were sick; or,
- If I heard the bell toll for some that were dead; or,
- If I thought of dying myself; or,
- If I heard that sudden death happened to others;
- But especially, when I thought of myself, that I must quickly come to judgment.
Christian: And could you at any time, with ease, get off the guilt of sin, when by any of these ways it came upon you?
Hopeful: No, not I, for then they got faster hold of my conscience; and then, if I did but think of going back to sin, (though my mind was turned against it), it would be double torment to me.
Though Hopeful initially rejected the gospel and resisted the conviction that was weighing upon his conscience, God continued to pursue him. He remembered his own mortality and frailty. He was reminded of his sinfulness and failing before God. He could not escape thoughts of the coming judgment. These reminders were all around him:
- When he heard about or saw someone doing what was right and good
- When he heard the Word of God read or mentioned
- When he became ill or heard of others who were ill
- When he heard about someone who died, especially if the death was tragic or unexpected (or unjust as it was with Faithful in Vanity Fair)
- When he thought that he would die and stand before God in judgment
Though he tried to put thoughts of death, judgment, and God out of his mind, all of these things were aimed at his conscience. God would not let him alone to rest comfortably in his sin.
Many in our day are feeling the pangs of conscience like Hopeful, but they have yet to turn to Christ and find rest and relief. Hopeful’s testimony offers encouragement and instruction as we pray for friends and family who are still clinging to sin and resisting grace.
1) We need to remember that our lives are on display. We need to walk before others with integrity, loving what is right and good, and doing what is right and good.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).
Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear (1 Peter 3:1–2).
2) We need to be bold in speaking the Word of God, even to unbelievers. The Word of God is the Word of life!
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life (John 5:24).
Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48).
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:14–17).
3) We need to trust in God’s good purposes even through times of difficulty and hardship. God often uses trials and sickness to remind us of our own frailty and need for Him. But God’s good purposes may well extend beyond ourselves. God can use tragedy, sickness, even death, as a means of grace to bring conviction to others and cause others to ponder the state of their soul. Our trials may be the very means that God is using to draw friends and family to Himself. He indeed works all things together for good, to those who love Him, “to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Let us live so that our lives, even in the midst of trials, help and not hinder others to look to Christ and find hope in the gospel.
We need to pray for those around us who are resisting God’s Word, who are hesitating or outright rejecting the truth. Pray that God will not leave them to their sin, but will use all means necessary to pursue and draw them to Himself. And pray that God’s “means” would include even us as He providentially directs our lives for our good and the good of others around us.
A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
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The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.