John Bunyan.

The greatness of the soul : and the unspeakableness of the loss thereof ; No way to heaven but by Jesus Christ ; The strait gate (Volume 2) online

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his all never so great, in exchange for his soul.

4. There is yet in the text an intimation that the soul is


sensible of the lastingness of the punishment, or else the
question rather argues a man unwary than considerate in
his offering-, as is supposed by Christ, so largely his all in
exchange for his soul.

But we will in this manner proceed no further, but take
it for ;^anted that the doctrine is good ; wherefore I shall
next inquire after what is contained in this truth. And,
first, that Grod has undertaken, and will accomplish, the
breaking of the spirits of all the world, either by his grace
and mercy to salvation, or by his justice and severity to

The damned soul under consideration is certainly sup-
posed, as by the doctrine, so by the text, to be utterly care-
less, and without regard of salvation, so long as the accept-
able time did last, and as the white flag that signifies terms
of peace did hang out ; and therefore it is said to be lost ;
but, behold, now it is careful, but now it is solicitous, but
now, " what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?"
He of whom you read in the gospel, that could mind to do
nothing in the days of the gospel but to find out how to be
clothed in purple and fine linen, and to fare sumptuously
every day, was by God brought so down, and laid so low
at last, that he could crouch, and cringe, and beg for one
small drop of water to cool his tongue (Luke, xvi. 19, 24) ;
a thing that but a little before he would have thought scorn
to have done, when he also thought scorn to stoop to the
grace and mercy of the gospeL But God was resolved to
break his spirit, and the pride of his heart, and to humble
his lofty looks, if not by his mercy, yet by his justice ; if
not by his grace, yet by hell-fire.

This he also threatens to bring upon the fool in the Pro-
verbs — " They shall call, they shall seek, they shall cry,"
Prov. I 22-32 ; Zecli. vii. 11-13. Who shall do so 1 The
answer is. They that sometimes scorned either to seek, or
call, or cry ; they that stopped their ears, that pulled away
their shoulders, and that refused to seek, or call, or cry to
Ood for mercy.

Sinner, careless sinner, didst thou take notice of this first


inference that I have drawn from my second doctrine ? If
thou didst, yet read it again ; it is this, " God has under-
taken, and will accomplish, the breaking of the spirits of
all the world, either by his grace and mercy unto salvation,
or by his justice and severity to damnation."

The reason for this is this : God is resolved to have the
mastery, he is resolved to have the victory. " Who will set
the briers and thorns against me in battle, I will go through
them and burn them together," Isa. xxvii. 4. I will march
against them. God is merciful, and is come forth into the
world by his Son, tendering of grace unto sinners b}^ the
gospel, and would willingly make a conquest over them for
their good by his mercy. Now he being come out, sinners
like briers and thorns do set themselves against him, and
will have none of his mercy. Well, but what says God ?
Saith he, " Then I will march on." I will go through them,
and burn them together. I am resolved to have the mas-
tery one way or another ; if they will not bend to me, and
accept of my mercy in the gospel, I will bend them and
break them by my justice in hell-fire. They say they will
not bend ; I say they shall ; now they shall know " whose
word shall stand, mine or theirs," Jer. xliv. 25-28. Where-
fore the apostle, ^^ hen he saw that some of the Corinthians
began to be unruly, and to do those things that did begin
to hazard them, saith, "Do ye provoke the Lord to jealousy ?
are ye stronger than he ?" (1 Cor. x. 20-22) ; as who should
say. My brethren, are you aware what you do 1 do you not
understand that God is resolved to have the mastery one way
or another ? and are you stronger than he ? If not, tremble
before him, or he will certainly have you under his feet —
" I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my
fury," Isa. Ixiii. 3. Thus he speaks of them that set them-
selves against him ; therefore beware. Now the reason of
this resolution of God, it flows from a determination in him
to make all his sayings good, and to verify them on the
consciences of sinners. And since the incredulous world will
not believe now, and fly from wrath, they shall shortly
believe and cry imder it ; since they will not now credit the


word before they see unto salvation, they shall be made to
credit it by sense and feeling unto damnation.

The second inference that I draw from my second doc-
trine is this : " That it is, and will be the lot of some to bow
and break before God too late, or when it is too late."

God is resolved, as I said, to have the mastery, and that
not only in a way of dominion and lordship in general (for
that he has now), but he is resolved to master — that is, to
break the spirit of the world, to make all men cringe and
crouch unto him, even those that now say " There is no
God ;" or, if there be, yet " What is the Almighty, that we
should serve him 1" Ps. xiv. 1 ; Job, xxi. 15; Mai. iii. 14.

This is little thought of by those that now harden their
hearts in wickedness, and that turn their spirit against God ;
but this they shall think of, this they must think of, this
God will make them think of, in that day (2 Pet. iii. 1-4),
at which day they also now do mock and deride, that the
scripture might be fulfilled upon them. And, I say, they
shall think then of those things, and break at heart, and
melt under the hand, and power, and majesty of the Al-
mighty ; for " As I live," saitli God, " every knee shall bow
to me ; every tongue shall confess to God," Isa. xlv. 23 ;
Rom. xiv. 10-12. And again, " The nations shall see, and
be confounded at all their might ; they shall lay their hand
upon their mouth, their ears shall be deaf ; they shall lick
the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of their holes
like worms, or creeping things of the earth ; they shall be
afraid of the Lord our God, and shall fear because of thee,"
Micah, vii. 16, 17.

For then they, will they, nill they, shall have to do with
God, though not with him as merciful, or as one that may
be entreated ; yet with him as just, and as devouring fire ;
yea, they shall see that face, and hear that voice, from
whom and from which the heavens and the earth shall fly
away, and find no place of stay, Heb. xii. last verse. And
by this appearance, and by such Avords of his mouth as he
then will speak to them, they shall begin to tremble, and
call for the rocks to fall upon them and cover them ; for



if these things will happen at the execution of inferior
judgments, what will be done, what effects will the last,
most dreadful, and eternal judgment have upon men's souls?

Hence you find that at the very first appearance of Jesus
Christ, the whole world begins to mourn and lament — " Every
eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him : and all
kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him," Rev. i. 7.
And therefore you also find them to stand at the door and
knock, saying, " Lord, Lord, open unto us," Luke, xiii. 25,
26 ; Matt. xxv. Moreover, you find them also desiring, yea,
also so humble in their desires as to be content with the
least degree of mercy — one drop, one drop upon the tip of
one's finger. What stooping, what condescension, what
humility is here ! All and every one of those passages
declare that the hand of God is upon them, and that the
Almighty has got the mastery of them, has conquered them,
broken the pride of their power, and laid them low, and
made them cringe and crouch unto him, bending the knee,
and craving of kindness.

Thus, then, will God bow, and bend, and break them ;
yea, make them bow, and bend, and break before him.
And hence also it is that they will weep, and mourn, and
gnash their teeth, and cry, and repent that ever they have
been so foolish, so wicked, so traitorous to their souls, and
such enemies of their own eternal happiness, as to stand
out in the day of their visitation in a way of rebellion
against the Lord.

But here is their hard hap, their dismal lot and portion,
that all these things must be when it is too late. It is,
and will be, the lot and hap of these to bow, bend, and
break too late, JVIatt. xxv.

You read, they come weeping and mourning, and with
tears ; they knock and cry for mercy ; but what did tears
avail ? Why, nothing ; for the door was shut. He answered
and said, " I know you not whence you are," Luke xiii.
26-28. But they repeat and renew their suit, saying, " We
have eat and drank in thy presence, and thou hast taught
in our streets." What now ? Why, he returns upon them


his first answer the second time, sayine^, " I tell you, I
know you not whence you are ; depart from me, all ye
workers of iniquity;" then he concludes, " There shall be
weeping and gnashing- of teeth, when you shall see Abra-
ham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the
kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out." They come
weeping, and go weeping away. They come to him weep-
ing, for they saw that he had conquered them ; but they
departed weeping, for they saw that he would damn them ;
yet, as we read in another place, they were very loath to
go from him, by their reasoning and expostulating with
him — " Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or thirsty,
or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not
minister unto thee ?" But all would not do ; here is no
place for change of mind, — " These shall go away into ever-
lasting punishment ; but the righteous into life eternal."
And now what would a man give in exchange for his soul ?
So that, as I said before, all is too late ; they mourn too late,
they repent too late, they pray too Ut3, and seek to make
an exchange for their soul too late.

" Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul V
Two or three things there may yet be gathered from these
words ; I mean, as to the desires of them that have lost
their souls, to make for them an exchange : " What shall
a man give in exchange ?" — w4iat shall, what would, yea,
wdiat would not a man, if he had it, give in exchange for
his soul ?

1. What would not a man — I mean, a man in the con-
dition that is by the text supposed some men are and will
be in — give in exchange to have another man's virtues in-
stead of his own vices ? " Let me die the death of the
righteous ;" let my soul be in the state of the soul of the
righteous — that is, with reference to his virtues, when I
die, " and let my last end be like his," Num. xxiii, 10. It
is a sport now to some to taunt, and squib, and deride at
other men's virtues ; but the day is coming when their
minds will be changed, and when they shall be made to
count those that have done those righteous actions and


duties which they have scoffed at, the only ])lessed men ;
yea, they shall wish their soul in the blessed possession of
those graces and virtues that those whom they hated were
accompanied with, and would, if they had it, give a whole
world for this change ; hut it will not now do, it is now
too late. What then shall a man give in exchange for his
soul ? And this is more than intimated in that tAventy-
fifth of jMatthew named before ; for you find by that text
how loath they were, or will be, to be counted for unright-
eous people — " Lord," say they, " when did we see thee an
hungered, or athirst, naked, or sick, and did not minister
unto thee '?" Now they are not willing to be of the number
of the wicked, though heretofore the ways of the righteous
were an abomination to them. But, alas! they are before
a just God, a just judge, a judge that will give every one
according to his ways ; therefore, " Woe to the soul of the
wicked now," Isa. iii. 11. It shall go ill with him, for
the reward of his hands shall be given him. Thus, there-
fore, he is locked up as to this ; he cannot now change his
vices for virtues, nor put himself nor his soul in the stead
of the soul of the saved ; so that it still and will for ever
abide a question unresolved, " Or what shall a man give in
exchange for his soul V I do not doubt but that a man's
state may be such in this world, that if he had it he would
give thousands of gold to be as innocent and guiltless in
the judgment of the law of the land as is the state of such
or such, heartily wishing that himself was not that he is ;
how much more then will men wish thus when they stand
ready to receive the last, their eternal judgment. " But
what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?"

2. As they would for the salvation of their souls be glad
to change away their vices for the virtues, their sins for the
good deeds, of others, so what would they not give to change
places now, or to remove from where now they are, into
paradise, into Abraham's bosom ?

But neither shall this be admitted ; the righteous must
have their inheritance to themselves — " Neither," said Abra-
ham, " can they pass to us, that would come from thence"


(Luke, xvi. 26); neither can they dwell in heaven that
would come from hell.

They then that have lost, or shall lose, their souls, are
bound^to their place, as well as to their sins. When Judas
went to hell, he went to his home, to his own place (Acts,
i. 25); and when the righteous go hence, they also go home
to their house, to their own place ; for the kingdom of
heaven is prepared for them. Matt. xxv. 34. Between
heaven and hell, "there is a great gulf fixed" (Luke xii.
32); that is, a strong passage ; there is a great gulf fixed.

What this gulf is, and how impassable, they that shall
lose their souls will know to their woe ; because it is fixed
there where it is on purpose to keep them in their torment-
ing place, so that they that would pass from hell to heaven
cannot. But I say, '•' Would they not change places 1
would they not have a more comfortable house and home
for their souls 1" Yes, verily, the text supposes it, and the
16th of Luke affirms it ; yea, and could they purchase for
their soul a habitation among the righteous, would they
not 1 Yes, they would give all the world for such a change.
What shall, what shall not a man, if he had it, if it would
answer his design, give in exchange for his soul 1

3. As the damned would change their own vices for
virtues, and the place where they are for that into which
they shall not come, so what would they give for a change
of condition 1 Yea, if an absolute change may not be ob-
tained, yet what would they give for the least degree of
mitigation of that torment which now they know will
without any intermission be, and that for ever and ever ]
" Tribulation and anguish, indignation and wrath" (Rom.
ii. 8, 9 ; 2 Thess. i. 7-10); the gnawing worm, and ever-
lasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from
the glory of his power, cannot be borne but with great
horror and grief ; no marvel then if these poor creatures
would for ease for their souls be glad to change their con-
ditions. Change !— with whom1 with an angel, with a
saint ; ay, with a dog or a toad ; for they mourn not, they
weep not, nor do they bear indignation of wrath ; they are


as if they had not been ; only the sinful soul abides in its
sins, in the place designed for lost souls, and in the condition
that wrath and indignation for sin and transgression hath
decreed them to abide for ever. And this brings me to the
conclusion, which is, " that seeing the ungodly do seek
good things too late," therefore, notwithstanding their seek-
ing, they must -still abide in their place, their sins, and their
tonnent — " For what can a man give in exchange for his
soul 1" Therefore God saith, that they there must still
abide and dwell, no exchange can be made, Isaiah 1, 11.
Ezek. xxxii. 25, 27, " This shall they have of mine hand,
they shall lie down in sorrow;" they shall lie down in it,
they shall make their bed there, there they shall lie. And
this is the bitter pill that they must swallow down at last ;
for after all their tears, their sorrows, their mournings,
their repentings, their wishings and wouldings, and all their
inventings and desires to change their state for a better,
they must lie doAvn in sorrow. The poor condemned man
that is upon the ladder or scaffold has, if one knew them,
many a long wish and long desire that he might come
down again alive, or that his condition was as one of the
spectators that are not condemned and brought thither to be
executed as he. How carefully also doth he look with his
failing eyes, to see if some comes not fi"om the king with a
pardon for him, all the while endeavouring to fumble away
as well as he can, and to prolong the minute of his execu-
tion. But at last, when he has looked, when he has
wished, when he has desired, and done whatever he can,
the blow with the axe, or turn with the ladder, is his lot,
so he goes off the scaffold, so he goes from among men ;
and thus it will be with those that we have under conside-
ration ; when all comes to all, and they have said, and
wished, and done what they can, the judgment must not
be reversed — they must lie down in sorrow.

They must, or shall lie do^^^l. Of old, when a man was
to be chastised for his fault, he was to lie do^^m to receive
his stripes ; so here, saith the Lord, they shall lie down —
" And it sliall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten,


the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten be-
fore his face," Deut. xxv. 2. And this lying down was to
1)? his lot after he had pleaded for himself what he could —
and the judge shall cause him to be beaten before his face,
while he is present to behold the execution of judgment ;
and thus it shall be at the end of the world ; the wicked
shall lie down and shall be beaten with many stripes in the
presence of Christ, and in the presence of the holy angels,
2 Thess i ; Rev. xiv. 10. .For there will be his presence,
not only at the trial as judge, but to see execution done,
nay, to do it himself by the pouring out, like a river, his
wrath as burning brimstone upon the soul of the lost and
cast-away sinner.

He shall lie down. These words imply that at last the
damned soul shall submit ; for to lie down is an act that
signifies submission, especially to lie down to be beaten. The
wicked shall be silent in darkness. When the malefactor
has said and wished all that he can, yet at last he submits,
is silent, and, as it were, helps to put his head into the halter,
or doth lay down his neck upon the block, 1 Sam. ii. 9. So
here it is said of the damned — " They shall lie down in
sorrow." There is also a place that saith, " These shall go
away into everlasting punishment," Matt. xxv. 46. To go, to
go to punishment is also an act of submission. Nov/ sub-
mission to punishment doth, or should, flow from full con-
viction of the merit of punishment ; and I think it is so to
be understood here — " For every mouth shall be stopped,
and all the world (of soul-losers) become guilty before
God," Romans, iii. 4, 19 ; Luke, xiii. 25-28 ; INIatthew,
xxv. 44. Every mouth shall be stopped, not at the be-
ginning of the judgment, for then they plead, and pray,
and also object against the judge ; but at the end, after
that by a judicial proceeding he shall have justified against
them his sayings, and have overcome these his judges, then
they shall submit, and also lie down in sorrow ; yea, they
shall go away to their punishment as those who know they
deserve it ; yea, they shall go away with silence. Now,

How they shall behave themselves in hell, I will not


here dispute ; whether in a way of rage and hlaspheiny,
and in rending and tearing of the name and just actions of
God towards them, or Avhether hy Avay of submission there ;
I say, though this is none of this task, yet a word or two,
if you please.

Doubtless they will not be mute there ; they will cry,
and wail, and gnash their teeth, and perhaps too sometimes
at God ; but I do not think but that the justice they have
deserved, and the equal administration of it upon them,
will for the most part prevail with them to rend and tear
themselves, to acquit and justify God, and to add fuel to
their fire by concluding themselves in all the fault, and
that they have sufficiently merited this just damnation ;
for it would seem strange to me that just judgment among
men shall terminate in this issue, if God should not justify
himself in the conscience of all the damned. But as here
on earth, so he will let them know that go to hell that he
liath not done without a cause, a sufficient cause, all that
he hath done in damning of them, Ezek. xiv. 23.

I come now to make some use and application of the
whole. And,

1. If the soul be so excellent a thing as we have made it
appear to be, and if the loss thereof be so great a loss, then
here you may see who they are that are those extravagant
ones ; I mean, those that are such in the highest degree.
Solomon tells us of a great waster, and saith also, that he
that is slothful in his business " is brother to such an one,"
Prov. xviii. 9. Who Solomon had his eye upon, or who it
was that he counted so great a waster, I cannot tell ; but
I will challenge all the world to shew me one for wasting
and destroying may be compared to him that for the lusts
and pleasures of this life will hazard the loss of his soul.
JMany men will be so profuse, and will spend at that pro-
digal rate, that they will bring a thousand pounds a year
to five hundred, and five hundred to fifty, and some also
will bring that fifty to less than ninepence ; but what is
this to him that shall never leave losing until he has lost
his soul ? I have heard of some who would throw away a


farm, a good estate, upon the trundling of one single bowl ;
but what is this to the casting a\vay the soul 1 I say,
what is this to the loss of the soul, and that for less than
the trundling of a bowl 1 Nothing can for badness be
compared to sin ; it is the vile thing, it cannot have a worse
name than its own ; it is worse than the vilest man, than
the vilest of beasts ; yea, sin is worse than the devil him-
self, for it is sin, and sin only, that hath made the devils
devils ; and yet for this, for this vile, this abominable
thing, some men, yea, most men, will venture the loss of
their soul ; yea, they will mortgage, pawn, and set their
souls to sale for it, Jer. xliv. 4. Is not this a great waster ?
doth not this man deserve to be ranked among the extra-
vagant ones 1 What think you of him wdio when he
tempted the wench to uncleanness said to her, " If thou
wilt venture thy body, I will venture my soul V Was
not here like to be a fine bargain, think you ? or was not
this man like to be a gainer by so doing 1 This is he that
prizes sin at a higher rate than he doth his immortal soul ;
yea, tliis is he that esteems a quarter of an hour's pleasure
more than he fears everlasting damnation. What shall I
say ? This man is minded to give more to be damned, than
God requires he should give to be saved ; is not this an ex-
travagant one ? " Be astonished, ye heavens ! at this,
and be ye horribly afraid !" Jer. ii. 9 — 12. Yea, let all the
angels stand amazed at the unaccountable prodigality of
such an one.

Object. 1. But some may say, I cannot believe that
God will be so severe as to cast away into hell-fire an im-
mortal soul for a little sin.

Ansio. — I know thou canst not believe it, for if thou
couldst, thou wouldst sooner eat fire than run this hazard ;
and hence all they that go down to the lake of fire are
called the unbelievers ; and the Lord shall cut thee (that
makest this objection) asunder, and shall appoint thee thy
portion w^ith such, except thou believe the gospel, and re-
pent, Luke, xii, 46.

Object. 2. But surely, though God should be so angry


at the beginning, it cannot in time but grieve him to see
and liear souls roaring in hell, and that for a little sin.

Answ. — Whatsoever God doth, it abideth for ever,
(Eccles. iii. 14) ; he doth nothing in a passion, or in an
angry fit ; he proceedeth with sinners by the most perfect

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