Conviction Strikes Again
While attending church services with his wife and children one Sunday, he heard a sermon on Sabbath breaking. This was a popular topic at the time, and professing Christians in those days were much more strict about how they spent their Sundays. Labor was forbidden (except, it seems, for mothers taking care for their families), as was dancing, whistling, and playing games.
Whether we agree with their beliefs or not, one thing is certain: this sermon convicted Bunyan. He had always spent his Sundays as he pleased, without a single thought as to how God felt about his life in general. He danced, whistled, swore, played games ... whatever he felt like. This time, however, he felt dreadful by the time the church service let out.
Standing on the green, in the middle of the game, it was like he heard a voice say to him, “Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven, or have they sins and go to hell?”
As John paused and thought on these words, the Devil came swiftly with a lie: with all the sin that John Bunyan had been involved in, it was too late to change his ways. Bunyan agreed with that thought, and decided that there was no use -- the Lord would never forgive him. He was deceived in believing this, though. There was hope for him, and thank the Lord he found out in time.
He went on with his game with as much energy as he could muster, and decided that since it was too late for him he would sin with even more gusto. Fortunately, this didn't last long. The sin did not make him feel any better.
After the aforementioned incident, John Bunyan met a local man that was also very religious. John enjoyed talking with him, and due to his influence began to read his Bible again. He preferred the historical books because New Testament books like the epistles or the Gospels didn't have much meaning to him -- at that time. He and his wife would read and study the Bible together, spending time discussing what they thought certain Scriptures meant. No doubt, having been raise in a Christian home, his wife was able to provide him with good information.
Although John felt that it was too late for him to repent, he decided to reform his life. In fact, he was able to reform his life so much that people thought he had gotten saved -- but he hadn't. He did work hard to keep the commandments of God as best he understood them, and when he would fail he would go to the Lord in prayer. People began to brag on him for his moral and religious behavior. John states that he even impressed himself, and said that at the time he sincerely believed he "pleased God as well as any man in England."
This outward reformation went on for about a year, but according to John Bunyan himself, if he had died during that time, he would not have gone to Heaven. Why? Because, John said, he had gone about to establish his own righteousness outside of God.
He did begin to worry a bit, though. While traveling with his repair business, he happened to land back in Bedford where the Lord was about to open his eyes.
TO BE CONTINUED
Sara McCaslin is an engineer, a computer scientist, and a freelance writer.