HOPE. Yes, and fled from, not only my sins, but sinful company too, and betook me to religious duties, as praying, reading, weeping for sin, speaking truth to my neighbors, etc. These things did I, with many others, too much here to relate.
CHR. And did you think yourself well then?
HOPE. Yes, for a while; but at the last my trouble came tumbling upon me again, and that over the neck of all my reformations.
CHR. How came that about, since you were now reformed?
HOPE. There were several things brought it upon me, especially such sayings as these: "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Isa. 64:6. "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Gal. 2:16. "When ye have done all these things, say, We are unprofitable," Luke 17:10; with many more such like. From whence I began to reason with myself thus: If all my righteousnesses are as filthy rags; if by the deeds of the law no man can be justified; and if, when we have done all, we are yet unprofitable, then is it but a folly to think of heaven by the law. I farther thought thus: If a man runs a hundred pounds into the shopkeeper's debt, and after that shall pay for all that he shall fetch; yet if his old debt stands still in the book uncrossed, the shopkeeper may sue him for it, and cast him into prison, till he shall pay the debt.
CHR. Well, and how did you apply this to yourself?
HOPE. Why, I thought thus with myself: I have by my sins run a great way into God's book, and my now reforming will not pay off that score; therefore I should think still, under all my present amendments, But how shall I be freed from that damnation that I brought myself in danger of by my former transgressions?
CHR. A very good application: but pray go on.
HOPE. Another thing that hath troubled me ever since my late amendments, is, that if I look narrowly into the best of what I do now, I still see sin, new sin, mixing itself with the best of that I do; so that now I am forced to conclude, that notwithstanding my former fond conceits of myself and duties, I have committed sin enough in one day to send me to hell, though my former life had been faultless.
CHR. And what did you do then?
HOPE. Do! I could not tell what to do, until I broke my mind to Faithful; for he and I were well acquainted. And he told me, that unless I could obtain the righteousness of a man that never had sinned, neither mine own, nor all the righteousness of the world, could save me.
CHR. And did you think he spake true?
HOPE. Had he told me so when I was pleased and satisfied with my own amendments, I had called him fool for his pains; but now, since I see my own infirmity, and the sin which cleaves to my best performance, I have been forced to be of his opinion.
CHR. But did you think, when at first he suggested it to you, that there was such a man to be found, of whom it might justly be said, that he never committed sin?
HOPE. I must confess the words at first sounded strangely; but after a little more talk and company with him, I had full conviction about it.
CHR. And did you ask him what man this was, and how you must be justified by him?
HOPE. Yes, and he told me it was the Lord Jesus, that dwelleth on the right hand of the Most High. Heb. 10:12-21. And thus, said he, you must be justified by him, even by trusting to what he hath done by himself in the days of his flesh, and suffered when he did hang on the tree. Rom. 4:5; Col. 1:14; 1 Pet. 1:19. I asked him further, how that man's righteousness could be of that efficacy, to justify another before God. And he told me he was the mighty God, and did what he did, and died the death also, not for himself, but for me; to whom his doings, and the worthiness of them, should be imputed, if I believed on him.
CHR. And what did you do then?
HOPE. I made my objections against my believing, for that I thought he was not willing to save me.
CHR. And what said Faithful to you then?
HOPE. He bid me go to him and see. Then I said it was presumption. He said, No; for I was invited to come. Matt. 11:28. Then he gave me a book of Jesus' inditing, to encourage me the more freely to come; and he said concerning that book, that every jot and tittle thereof stood firmer than heaven and earth. Matt. 24:35. Then I asked him what I must do when I came; and he told me I must entreat upon my knees, Psa. 95:6; Dan. 6:10, with all my heart and soul, Jer. 29:12,13, the Father to reveal him to me. Then I asked him further, how I must make my supplications to him; and he said, Go, and thou shalt find him upon a mercy-seat, where he sits all the year long to give pardon and forgiveness to them that come. Exod. 25:22; Lev. 16:2; Num. 7:89; Heb. 4:16. I told him, that I knew not what to say when I came; and he bid say to this effect: God be merciful to me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see, that if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away. Lord, I have heard that thou art a merciful God, and hast ordained that thy Son Jesus Christ should be the Saviour of the world; and moreover, that thou art willing to bestow him upon such a poor sinner as I am-and I am a sinner indeed. Lord, take therefore this opportunity, and magnify thy grace in the salvation of my soul, through thy Son Jesus Christ. Amen.
CHR. And did you do as you were bidden?
HOPE. Yes, over, and over, and over.
CHR. And did the Father reveal the Son to you?
HOPE. Not at the first, nor second, nor third, nor fourth, nor fifth, no, nor at the sixth time neither.
CHR. What did you do then?
HOPE. What? why I could not tell what to do.
CHR. Had you not thoughts of leaving off praying?
HOPE. Yes; an hundred times twice told.
CHR. And what was the reason you did not?
HOPE. I believed that it was true which hath been told me, to wit, that without the righteousness of this Christ, all the world could not save me; and therefore, thought I with myself, if I leave off, I die, and I can but die at the throne of grace. And withal this came into my mind, "If it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, and will not tarry." Hab. 2:3. So I continued praying until the Father showed me his Son.
CHR. And how was he revealed unto you?
HOPE. I did not see him with my bodily eyes, but with the eyes of my understanding, Eph. 1:18,19; and thus it was. One day I was very sad, I think sadder than at any one time in my life; and this sadness was through a fresh sight of the greatness and vileness of my sins. And as I was then looking for nothing but hell, and the everlasting damnation of my soul, suddenly, as I thought, I saw the Lord Jesus looking down from heaven upon me, and saying, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Acts 16:31.
But I replied, Lord, I am a great, a very great sinner: and he answered, "My grace is sufficient for thee." 2 Cor. 12:9. Then I said, But, Lord, what is believing? And then I saw from that saying, "He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst," John 6:35, that believing and coming was all one; and that he that came, that is, that ran out in his heart and affections after salvation by Christ, he indeed believed in Christ. Then the water stood in mine eyes, and I asked further, But, Lord, may such a great sinner as I am be indeed accepted of thee, and be saved by thee? And I heard him say, "And him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." John 6:37. Then I said, But how, Lord, must I consider of thee in my coming to thee, that my faith may be placed aright upon thee? Then he said, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." 1 Tim. 1:15. He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes. Rom.10:4, and chap. 4. He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. Rom. 4:25. He loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. Rev. 1:5. He is the Mediator between God and us. 1 Tim. 2:5. He ever liveth to make intercession for us. Heb. 7:25. From all which I gathered, that I must look for righteousness in his person, and for satisfaction for my sins by his blood: that what he did in obedience to his Father's law, and in submitting to the penalty thereof, was not for himself, but for him that will accept it for his salvation, and be thankful. And now was my heart full of joy, mine eyes full of tears, and mine affections running over with love to the name, people, and ways of Jesus Christ.
CHR. This was a revelation of Christ to your soul indeed. But tell me particularly what effect this had upon your spirit.
HOPE. It made me see that all the world, notwithstanding all the righteousness thereof, is in a state of condemnation. It made me see that God the Father, though he be just, can justly justify the coming sinner. It made me greatly ashamed of the vileness of my former life, and confounded me with the sense of mine own ignorance; for there never came a thought into my heart before now that showed me so the beauty of Jesus Christ. It made me love a holy life, and long to do something for the honor and glory of the name of the Lord Jesus. Yea, I thought that had I now a thousand gallons of blood in my body, I could spill it all for the sake of the Lord Jesus.
I saw then in my dream, that Hopeful looked back, and saw Ignorance, whom they had left behind, coming after. Look, said he to Christian, how far yonder youngster loitereth behind.
CHR. Aye, aye, I see him: he careth not for our company.
HOPE. But I trow it would not have hurt him, had he kept pace with us hitherto.
CHR. That is true; but I warrant you he thinketh otherwise.
HOPE. That I think he doth; but, however, let us tarry for him. (So they did.)
Then Christian said to him, Come away, man; why do you stay so behind?
IGNOR. I take my pleasure in walking alone, even more a great deal than in company, unless I like it the better.
Then said Christian to Hopeful, (but softly,) Did I not tell you he cared not for our company? But, however, said he, come up, and let us talk away the time in this solitary place. Then, directing his speech to Ignorance, he said, Come, how do you do? How stands it between God and your soul now?
IGNOR. I hope, well; for I am always full of good motions, that come into my mind to comfort me as I walk.
CHR. What good motions? Pray tell us.
IGNOR. Why, I think of God and heaven.
CHR. So do the devils and damned souls.
IGNOR. But I think of them, and desire them.
CHR. So do many that are never like to come there. "The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing." Prov. 13:4.
IGNOR. But I think of them, and leave all for them.
CHR. That I doubt: for to leave all is a very hard matter; yea, a harder matter than many are aware of. But why, or by what, art thou persuaded that thou hast left all for God and heaven?
IGNOR. My heart tells me so.
CHR. The wise man says, "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool." Prov. 28:26.
IGNOR. That is spoken of an evil heart; but mine is a good one.
CHR. But how dost thou prove that?
IGNOR. It comforts me in hopes of heaven.
CHR. That may be through its deceitfulness; for a man's heart may minister comfort to him in the hopes of that thing for which he has yet no ground to hope.
IGNOR. But my heart and life agree together; and therefore my hope is well-grounded.
CHR. Who told thee that thy heart and life agree together?
IGNOR. My heart tells me so.
CHR. "Ask my fellow if I be a thief." Thy heart tells thee so! Except the word of God beareth witness in this matter, other testimony is of no value.
IGNOR. But is it not a good heart that hath good thoughts? and is not that a good life that is according to God's commandments?
CHR. Yes, that is a good heart that hath good thoughts, and that is a good life that is according to God's commandments; but it is one thing indeed to have these, and another thing only to think so.
IGNOR. Pray, what count you good thoughts, and a life according to God's commandments?
CHR. There are good thoughts of divers kinds; some respecting ourselves, some God, some Christ, and some other things.
IGNOR. What be good thoughts respecting ourselves?
CHR. Such as agree with the word of God.
IGNOR. When do our thoughts of ourselves agree with the word of God?
CHR. When we pass the same judgment upon ourselves which the word passes. To explain myself: the word of God saith of persons in a natural condition, "There is none righteous, there is none that doeth good." It saith also, that, "every imagination of the heart of man is only evil, and that continually." Gen. 6:5; Rom. 3. And again, "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." Gen. 8:21. Now, then, when we think thus of ourselves, having sense thereof, then are our thoughts good ones, because according to the word of God.
IGNOR. I will never believe that my heart is thus bad.
CHR. Therefore thou never hadst one good thought concerning thyself in thy life. But let me go on. As the word passeth a judgment upon our hearts, so it passeth a judgment upon our ways; and when the thoughts of our hearts and ways agree with the judgment which the word giveth of both, then are both good, because agreeing thereto.
IGNOR. Make out your meaning.
CHR. Why, the word of God saith, that man's ways are crooked ways, not good but perverse; it saith, they are naturally out of the good way, that they have not known it. Psa. 125:5; Prov. 2:15; Rom. 3:12. Now, when a man thus thinketh of his ways, I say, when he doth sensibly, and with heart-humiliation, thus think, then hath he good thoughts of his own ways, because his thoughts now agree with the judgment of the word of God.
IGNOR. What are good thoughts concerning God?
CHR. Even, as I have said concerning ourselves, when our thoughts of God do agree with what the word saith of him; and that is, when we think of his being and attributes as the word hath taught, of which I cannot now discourse at large. But to speak of him with reference to us: then have we right thoughts of God when we think that he knows us better than we know ourselves, and can see sin in us when and where we can see none in ourselves; when we think he knows our inmost thoughts, and that our heart, with all its depths, is always open unto his eyes; also when we think that all our righteousness stinks in his nostrils, and that therefore he cannot abide to see us stand before him in any confidence, even in all our best performances.
IGNOR. Do you think that I am such a fool as to think that God can see no further than I; or that I would come to God in the best of my performances?
CHR. Why, how dost thou think in this matter?
IGNOR. Why, to be short, I think I must believe in Christ for justification.
CHR. How! think thou must believe in Christ, when thou seest not thy need of him! Thou neither seest thy original nor actual infirmities; but hast such an opinion of thyself, and of what thou doest, as plainly renders thee to be one that did never see the necessity of Christ's personal righteousness to justify thee before God. How, then, dost thou say, I believe in Christ?
IGNOR. I believe well enough, for all that.
CHR. How dost thou believe?
IGNOR. I believe that Christ died for sinners; and that I shall be justified before God from the curse, through his gracious acceptance of my obedience to his laws. Or thus, Christ makes my duties, that are religious, acceptable to his Father by virtue of his merits, and so shall I be justified.
CHR. Let me give an answer to this confession of thy faith.
1. Thou believest with a fantastical faith; for this faith is nowhere described in the word.
2. Thou believest with a false faith; because it taketh justification from the personal righteousness of Christ, and applies it to thy own.
3. This faith maketh not Christ a justifier of thy person, but of thy actions; and of thy person for thy action's sake, which is false.
4. Therefore this faith is deceitful, even such as will leave thee under wrath in the day of God Almighty: for true justifying faith puts the soul, as sensible of its lost condition by the law, upon flying for refuge unto Christ's righteousness; (which righteousness of his is not an act of grace by which he maketh, for justification, thy obedience accepted with God, but his personal obedience to the law, in doing and suffering for us what that required at our hands;) this righteousness, I say, true faith accepteth; under the skirt of which the soul being shrouded, and by it presented as spotless before God, it is accepted, and acquitted from condemnation.
IGNOR. What! would you have us trust to what Christ in his own person has done without us? This conceit would loosen the reins of our lust, and tolerate us to live as we list: for what matter how we live, if we may be justified by Christ's personal righteousness from all, when we believe it?
CHR. Ignorance is thy name, and as thy name is, so art thou: even this thy answer demonstrateth what I say. Ignorant thou art of what justifying righteousness is, and as ignorant how to secure thy soul, through the faith of it, from the heavy wrath of God. Yea, thou also art ignorant of the true effects of saving faith in this righteousness of Christ, which is to bow and win over the heart to God in Christ, to love his name, his word, ways, and people, and not as thou ignorantly imaginest.
HOPE. Ask him if ever he had Christ revealed to him from heaven.
IGNOR. What! you are a man for revelations! I do believe, that what both you and all the rest of you say about that matter, is but the fruit of distracted brains.
HOPE. Why, man, Christ is so hid in God from the natural apprehensions of the flesh, that he cannot by any man be savingly known, unless God the Father reveals him to him.
IGNOR. That is your faith, but not mine, yet mine, I doubt not, is as good as yours, though I have not in my head so many whimsies as you.
CHR. Give me leave to put in a word. You ought not so slightly to speak of this matter: for this I will boldly affirm, even as my good companion hath done, that no man can know Jesus Christ but by the revelation of the Father: yea, and faith too, by which the soul layeth hold upon Christ, (if it be right,) must be wrought by the exceeding greatness of his mighty power, Matt. 11:27; 1 Cor. 12:3; Eph. 1:17-19; the working of which faith, I perceive, poor Ignorance, thou art ignorant of. Be awakened, then, see thine own wretchedness, and fly to the Lord Jesus; and by his righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, (for he himself is God,) thou shalt be delivered from condemnation.
IGNOR. You go so fast I cannot keep pace with you; do you go on before: I must stay a while behind.
Then they said,
"Well, Ignorance, wilt thou yet foolish be,
To slight good counsel, ten times given thee?
And if thou yet refuse it, thou shalt know,
Ere long, the evil of thy doing so.
Remember, man, in time: stoop, do not fear:
Good counsel, taken well, saves; therefore hear.
But if thou yet shalt slight it, thou wilt be
The loser, Ignorance, I'll warrant thee."