20 December 2009

Live Upon Him in Your Distresses

Toward the end of Pilgrim's Progress, Christian and Hopeful find that they must cross a foreboding river if they are to get to the Gate. Halfway across the river Christian begins to lose heart. What follows is a moving passage from Bunyan on weathering the emotional and psychological storms of life with the gospel.

Then said Christian, Ah my friend, the sorrows of death have compassed me about, I shall not see the land that flows with milk and honey. And with that a great darkness and horror fell upon Christian, so that he could not see before him. Also here he in great measure lost his senses, so that he could neither remember, nor orderly talk of any of those sweet refreshments that he had met with in the way of his Pilgrimmage. But all the words that he spake still tended to discover that he had horror of mind, and heart-fears that he should die in that River, and never obtain entrance in at the Gate. Here also, as they that stood by perceived, he was much in the troublesome thoughts of the sins that he had committed both since and before he began to be a Pilgrim. . . .

Then said Hopeful, My Brother, you have quite forgot the Text, where it is said of the wicked, 'There is no band in their death, and their strength is firm, they are not troubled as other men, neither are they plagued like other men.' These troubles and distresses that you go through in these Waters are no sign that God hath forsaken you, but are sent to try you, whether you will call to mind that which heretofore you have received of his goodness, and live upon him in your distresses.

Then I saw in my Dream, that Christian was as in a muse a while. To whom Hopeful added this word, Be of good cheer, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole; and with that Christian brake out with a loud voice, Oh I see him again, and he tells me, When thou passest through the Waters, I will be with thee; and through the Rivers, they shall not overflow thee. Then they both took courage, and the Enemy was after that as still as a stone, until they were gone over. . . . Thus they got over.

--John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (Lake English Classics ed., 1906), 234-35

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