These were no dry, dusty, dour church people -- these people had experienced something that changed them all the way through. It went deeper than how they lived outwardly. They had something John hadn’t experienced – a change that starts from the heart and works it way outward.
John Bunyan immediately began to wonder if his outwardly moral behavior was enough – he had not experienced anything like these ladies had. He had to go on his way, but something in him had changed: he longed to experience what these ladies had experienced, and as the days went by, he kept finding reasons that he needed to go to Bedford so that he could hear these ladies again.
Hunger and Thirst
John said that the more he heard them speak, the more worried he got about his own condition. However, he couldn’t seem to stay away – his heart was hungry to hear what they had to say. After a while the ladies let him join in the conversation, and answered his questions as best they could.
John Bunyan says that two things surprised him greatly. The firsts was that his heart became tender again, and soft – the hardness that had developed from years of pursuing sin with great relish was vanishing. The second thing was how the Scriptures they discussed took hold in his mind, and he could think about them while he was traveling or at work. The Lord was working in his heart
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” Mat. 7:14
John Bunyan interpreted his vision like this: to get to heaven there was only enough room for his soul and spirit to squeeze through -- there wouldn’t be enough room for him to squeeze through with his sins. In short, he couldn’t cling to his sins and make it to heaven. He accepted this truth, and was wiling to lay aside his sins.
The Devil wasn't ready to let John Bunyan go, so he began the first of many attacks on him. He informed Bunyan that he wasn't one of the elect. As John struggled with these doubts, the Lord spoke to him: “Look at the generations of old, and see; did ever any trust in God, and were confounded?” John Bunyan decided he would find out the answer to the question. Starting at Genesis and reading through Revelation, he read carefully and indeed saw that no one that trusted in God was turned away.
Next, he began to worry that it was too late for him – his “day of grace” had passed. He was very much tormented in mind and soul by this thought, but the Lord gave him a scripture:
“And the lord said to the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.“ Luke 14:23
To Bunyan, the words “that my house may be filled” spoke volumes to him – that meant that there was still room in the Lord’s house for him.
Bunyan struggled with this for a long time – in fact, Bunyan struggled harder than anyone else I have read about. There were so many things that the Devil brought against his ind, even trying to get him to doubt that Jesus was the only way – pointing out all the Muslims that believe in Mohammed.
Every doubt, question, fear, torment that the devil sent Bunyan’s way, the Lord brought him through. Bunyan lived the struggle he portrayed in Pilgrim’s Progress.
Just like Pilgrim, John Bunyan found the salvation he longed for – the burden of sin fell from off his back. He realized that it wasn’t a matter of how good he lived, but whether or not Jesus Christ was living in His heart. The only righteousness that is acceptable before God comes through Jesus Christ. The only way we can have that righteousness in our lives is by allowing Jesus into our lives, to live out His goodness and righteousness through us.
TO BE CONTINUED
Sara McCaslin is an engineer, a computer scientist, and a freelance writer.