With a word of direction to all backsliders.
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
Written in 1663, while imprisoned in Bedford Prison.
This was John Bunyan's third book during his first incarceration.
OF ADULTERY OR UNCLEANNESS.
ow I come in the last place to touch a word or two of adultery, and then to draw towards a conclusion. Adultery, it hath its place in the heart, among the rest of those filthinesses I mentioned before (Mark 7:21, 22) of which sin I observe two things.
1. That almost in every place where the apostle layeth down a catalogue of wickednesses, he layeth down adultery, fornication, and uncleanness in the front; as that in Mark 7:21, Romans 1:29, 1 Corinthians 6: 9, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Hebrews 12:16, James 2:11, 1 Peter 2:11, and 2 Peter 2:10. From this I gather that the sin of uncleanness is a very predominant and master sin, easy to overtake the sinner, as being one of the first that is ready to offer itself on all occasions to break the law of God.
2. I observe that this sin is committed unawares to many, even so soon as a man hath but looked upon a woman: 'I say unto you,' saith Christ, 'that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust,' or desire, 'after her, he hath committed adultery with her already in his heart' (Matt 5:28). This sin of uncleanness, I say, is a very taking sin; it is natural above all sins to mankind; as it is most natural, so it wants not tempting occasions, having objects for to look on in every corner: wherefore there is need of a double and treble watchfulness in the soul against it. It is better here to make a covenant with our eyes, like Job (Job 31:1) than to let them wander to God's dishonour, and our own discomfort.
There are these three things which discover a man or woman too much inclining to the uncleanness of their own hearts.
(1.) The first is a wanton eye, or an eye that doth secretly affect itself with such objects as are tickling of the heart with the thoughts of immodesty and uncleanness. Isaiah calls this a wanton eye: and Peter an eye full of adultery, that cannot cease from sin (2 Peter 2:14; Isa 3:16). This is that also which Christ calleth an evil eye, and John the lust of the flesh, and of the eyes, and doth defile those who are not very watchful over their own hearts (Mark 7:22; 1 John 2:16). This wanton eye is that which the most holy saints should take heed of, because it is apt to seize upon them also. When Paul bids Timothy beseech the young women to walk as becomes the gospel, he bids him do it with all purity (1 Tim 5:1, 2). As, who should say, Take heed that while thou instructest them to holiness, thou thyself be not corrupted with the lust of thy eye. O how many souls, in the day of God, will curse the day that ever they gave way to a wanton eye!
(2.) The second thing that discovereth one much inclining to the lusts of uncleanness, it is wanton and immodest talk; such as that brazen-faced whore in the 7th of the Proverbs had, or such as they in Peter, who allured 'through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error' (2 Peter 2:18). 'Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,' wherefore if we be saints, let us take heed, as of our eye, so of our tongue, and let not the lust of uncleanness, or of adultery, be once named among us, 'named among us as becometh saints' (Eph 5:3). Mark, 'Let it not be once named.' This implies, that the lusts of uncleanness are devilishly taking, they will both take the heart with eyes and tongue: 'Let it not be once named among you,' &c.
(3.) Another thing that bespeaks a man or woman inclining to wantonness and uncleanness, it is an adorning themselves in light and wanton apparel. The attire of an harlot is too frequently in our day the attire of professors; a vile thing, and argueth much wantonness and vileness of affections. If those that give way to a wanton eye, wanton words, and immodest apparel, be not whores, &c., in their hearts, I know not what to say. Doth a wanton eye argue shamefacedness? Doth wanton talk argue chastity? And doth immodest apparel, with stretched-out necks, naked breasts, a made speech, and mincing gaits, &c., argue mortification of lusts? If any say, that these things may argue pride as well as carnal lusts; well, but why are they proud? Is it not to trick up the body? And why do they with pride trick up the body, if it be not to provoke both themselves and others to lusts? God knoweth their hearts without their outsides: and we know their hearts by their outsides.
My friends, I am here treating of good works, and persuading you to fly those things that are hindrances to them: wherefore bear with my plainness when I speak against sin. I would strike it through with every word, because else it will strike us through with many sorrows (1 Tim 6:9, 10). I do not treat of good works as if the doing of them would save us, for we are justified by his grace, according to the hope of eternal life; yet our sins and evil works will lay us obnoxious to the judgments both of God and man. He that walketh not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel, is like to have his peace assaulted often, both by the devil, the law, death, and hell; yea, and is like to have God hide his face from him also, for the iniquity of his covetousness (Isa 57:17).
How can he that carrieth himself basely in the sight of men, think he yet well behaveth himself in the sight of God? And if so dim a light as is in man can justly count thee as a transgressor, how shall thy sins be hid from him whose 'eye-lids try the children of men?' (Psa 11:4).
It is true, faith without works justifies us before God (Rom 3:28; 4:5): yet that faith that is alone, will be found to leave us sinners in the sight both of God and man (James 2:18). And though thou addest nothing to that which saveth thee by what thou canst do, yet thy righteousness may profit the son of man; as also saith the text: but if thou shalt be so careless as to say, What care I for being righteous to profit others? I tell thee, that the love of God is not in thee (Job 35:8; 1 John 3:17; 1 Cor 13:1-3). Walk therefore in God's ways, and do them, for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear of all these statutes, and say, 'This great nation is a wise and understanding people' (Deu 4:6).
THIRD. Observe. Every believer should not only take heed that his works be good, and so for the present do them, but should carefully study to maintain them; that is, to keep in a continual exercise of them.
It is an easier matter to begin to do good, than it is to continue therein; and the reason is, there is not so much of a Christian's cross in the beginning of a work, as there is in a continual, hearty, conscientious practice thereof. Therefore Christians have need, as to be pressed to do good, so to continue the work. Man, by nature, is rather a hearer than a doer, Athenian like, continually listening after some new thing; seeing many things, but observing nothing (Acts 17:20; Isa 42:20). It is observable, that after Christ had divided his hearers into four parts, he condemned three of them for fruitless hearers (Luke 8:5-8). O it is hard continuing believing, continuing loving, continuing resisting all that opposeth; we are subject to be weary of well-doing (Gal 6:9). To pluck out right eyes, to cut off right hands and feet, is no pleasant thing to flesh and blood; and yet none but these shall have the promise of life; because none but these will be found to have the effectual work of God's grace in their souls (Matt 18:8, 9): 'If ye continue in my word, then are you my disciples' INDEED (Matt 24:13; John 8:31). And hence it is, that you find so many IFS in the Scripture about men's happiness; as, 'if children, then heirs;' and 'if ye continue in the faith;' and 'if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end' (Rom 8:17; Col 1:23; Heb 3:14). Not that their continuing in the way of God is the cause of the work being right; but the work being right causeth the continuance therein. As John saith in another place, 'They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, [saith he] they would, no doubt, have continued with us' (1 John 2:19). But I say, where the work of God indeed is savingly begun, even there is flesh, corruption, and the body of death to oppose it. Therefore should Christians take heed, and look that against these opposites they maintain a continual course of good works among men.
Besides, as there is that in our own bowels that opposeth goodness, so there is the tempter, the wicked one, both to animate these lusts, and to join with them in every assault against every appearance of God in our souls. And hence it is, that he is called the devil, the enemy, the destroyer, and him that seeks continually to devour us (1 Peter 5:8), I need say no more but this. He that will walk like a Christian indeed, as he shall find it is requisite that he continue in good works, so his continuing therein will be opposed; if therefore he will continue therein, he must make it his business to study how to oppose those that oppose such a life, that he may continue therein.
FOURTH. Now then to help in this, here fitly comes in the last observation, to wit, That the best way both to provoke ourselves and others to good works, it is to be often affirming to others the doctrine of justification by grace, and to believe it ourselves. 'This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works' (Titus 3:8).
I told you before, that good works must flow from faith: and now I tell you, that the best way to be fruitful in them, is to be much in the exercise of the doctrine of justification by grace; and they both agree; for as faith animates to good works, so the doctrine of grace animates faith. Wherefore, the way to be rich in good works, it is to be rich in faith; and the way to be rich in faith is to be conscientiously affirming the doctrine of grace to others, and believing it ourselves.
First, To be constantly affirming it to others. Thus Paul tells Timothy, that if he put the brethren in mind of the truths of the gospel, he himself should not only be a good minister of Christ, but should be nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine (1 Tim 4:6). It is the ordinance of God, that Christians should be often asserting the things of God each to others; and that by their so doing they should edify one another (Heb 10:24, 25;1 Thess 5:11).
The doctrine of the gospel is like the dew and the small rain that distilleth upon the tender grass, wherewith it doth flourish, and is kept green (Deu 32:2). Christians are like the several flowers in a garden, that have upon each of them the dew of heaven, which being shaken with the wind, they let fall their dew at each other's roots, whereby they are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of one another. For Christians to commune savourly of God's matters one with another, it is as if they opened to each other's nostrils boxes of perfume. Saith Paul to the church at Rome, 'I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you, by the mutual faith both of you and me' (Rom 1:11, 12). Christians should be often affirming the doctrine of grace, and justification by it, one to another.
Second, As they should be thus doing, so they should live in the power of it themselves; they should by faith suck and drink in this doctrine, as the good ground receiveth the rain; which being done, forthwith there is proclaimed good works. Paul to the Colossians saith thus, 'We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and love to all the saints; for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you.' But how long ago? Why, 'since the day ye heard it, [saith he,] and knew the grace of God in truth' (Col 1:3-6).
Apples and flowers are not made by the gardener; but are an effect of the planting and watering. Plant in the sinner good doctrine, and let it be watered with the word of grace; and as the effect of that, there is the fruits of holiness, and the end everlasting life (Rom 6:22).
Good doctrine is the doctrine of the gospel, which showeth to men, that God clotheth them with the righteousness of his Son freely, and maketh him with all his benefits over to them; by which free gift the sinner is made righteous before God; and because he is so, therefore there is infused a principle of grace into the heart, whereby it is both quickened, and bringing forth fruit (Rom 3:21-26; 1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21; John 1:16).
Now then, seeing good works do flow from faith, and seeing faith is nourished by an affirming of the doctrine of the gospel, &c., take here these few considerations from the doctrine of the gospel, for the support of thy faith, that thou mayest be indeed fruitful and rich in good works.
Consider 1. The whole Bible was given for this very end, that thou shouldest both believe this doctrine, and live in the comfort and sweetness of it: 'For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope' (Rom 15:4; John 20:31).
Consider 2. That therefore every promise in the Bible is thine, to strengthen, quicken, and encourage thy heart in believing.
Consider 3. That there is nothing that thou dost, can so please God as believing; 'The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy' (Psa 147:11). They please him, because they embrace his righteousness, &c.
Consider 4. That all the withdrawings of God from thee, are not for the weakening, but for the trial of thy faith; and also, that whatever he suffers Satan, or thy own heart to do, it is not to weaken faith (Job 23:8- 10; 1 Peter 1:7).
Consider 5. That believing is that which will keep in thy view the things of heaven and glory; and that at which the devil will be discouraged, sin weakened, and thy heart quickened and sweetened (Heb 11:27; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9; Eph 6:16; Rom 15:13).
Consider lastly, By believing, the lover of God is kept with warmth upon the heart, and that this will provoke thee continually to bless God for Christ, for grace, for faith, hope, and all these things, either in God, or thee, that doth accompany salvation (2 Cor 2:14; Psa 103:1-3).
Third, The doctrine of the forgiveness of sins received by faith, will make notable work in the heart of a sinner, to bring forth good works.
But, Forasmuch as there is a body of death and sin in every one that hath the grace of God in this world; and because this body of death will be ever opposing that which is good, as the apostle saith (Rom 7:21), therefore take these few particulars further, for the suppressing that which will hinder a fruitful life.
1. Keep a continual watch over the wretchedness of thy own heart, not to be discouraged at the sight of thy vileness, but to prevent its wickedness; for that will labour either to hinder thee from doing good works, or else will hinder thee in the doing thereof; for evil is present with thee for both these purposes. Take heed then, that thou do not listen to that at any time, but deny, though with much struggling, the workings of sin to the contrary.
2. Let this be continually before thy heart, that God's eye is upon thee, and seeth every secret turning of thy heart, either to or from him: 'All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do' (Heb 4:13).
3. If thou deny to do that good which thou oughtest, with what thy God hath given thee; then consider, that though he love thy soul, yet he can chastise; First, Thy inward man with such troubles, that thy life shall be restless and comfortless. Secondly, And can also so blow upon thy outward man, that all thou gettest shall be put in a bag with holes (Psa 89:31-33; Hag 1:6). And set the case he should licence but one thief among thy substance, or one spark of fire among thy barns, how quickly might that be spent ill, and against thy will, which thou shouldest have spent to God's glory, and with thy will; and I tell thee further, that if thou want a heart to do good when thou hast about thee, thou mayest want comfort in such things thyself from others, when thine is taken from thee. See Jude 1:6, 7.
4. Consider, that a life full of good works is the only way, on thy part, to answer the mercy of God extended to thee; God hath had mercy on thee, and hath saved thee from all thy distresses; God hath not stuck to give thee his Son, his Spirit, and the kingdom of heaven. Saith Paul, 'I beseech you therefore by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service' (Rom 12:1; Matt 18:32, 33).
5. Consider, that this is the way to convince all men, that the power of God's things hath taken hold of thy heart I speak to them that hold the head  and say what thou wilt, if thy faith be not accompanied with a holy life, thou shalt be judged a withered branch, a wording professor, salt without savour, and as lifeless as a sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal (John 15; Matt 13:1 Cor 13:1, 2). For, say they, show us your faith by your works, for we cannot see your hearts (James 2:18). But I say on the contrary, if thou walk as becomes thee who art saved by grace, then thou wilt witness in every man's conscience, that thou art a good tree; now thou leavest guilt on the heart of the wicked (1 Sam 24:16, 17). Now thou takest off occasion from them that desire occasion; and now thou art clear from the blood of all men (2 Cor 11:12; Acts 20:26, 31-35). This is the man also that provoketh others to good works. The ear that heareth such a man shall bless him; and the eye that seeth him shall bear witness to him. 'Surely,' saith David, 'he shall not be moved for ever: The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance' (Heb 10:24; Job 29:11; Psa 112: 6).
6. Again, The heart that is fullest of good works, hath in it at least room for Satan's temptations. And this is the meaning of Peter, where he saith, 'Be sober, be vigilant;' that is, be busying thyself in faith and holiness, 'because, your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour' (1 Peter 5:8). 'He that walketh uprightly, walketh safely; and they that add to faith, virtue; to virtue, knowledge; to knowledge, temperance; to temperance, brotherly kindness; and to these charity; and that abounds therein, he shall neither be barren nor unfruitful; he shall never fall; but so an entrance shall be ministered to him abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 1:5-10; Prov 10:9).
7. The man who is fullest of good works, he is fittest to live and fittest to die: 'I am now,' at any time, 'ready to be offered,' saith fruitful Paul (2 Tim 4:6). Whereas he that is barren, he is neither fit to live, nor fit to die: to die, he himself is convinced he is not fit, and to live God himself saith he is not fit; 'cut him down, why doth he cumber the ground?' (Luke 8:7).
Lastly, Consider, to provoke thee to good works, thou shalt have of God when thou comest to glory, a reward for everything thou dost for him on earth. Little do the people of God consider, how richly God will reward, what from a right principle and to a right end, is done for him here; not a bit of bread to the poor, not a draught of water to the meanest of them that belong to Christ, or the loss of a hair of your head, shall in that day go without its reward (Luke 14:13, 14; Matt 10:42).
'For our light affliction,' and so all other pieces of self-denial, 'which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory' (2 Cor 4:17). I tell thee, Christian, be but rich in good works, and thou shalt have more than salvation; thy salvation thou hast freely by grace through Christ, without works (Eph 2:8-10), but now being justified and saved, and as the fruits hereof, renewed by the Holy Ghost; after this, I say, thou shalt be rewarded for every work that proved good; 'For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister' (Heb 6:10; 1 Cor 3:14). Moses counted the reward that he was to have, for a short suffering with the people of God, of greater worth than the treasures of Egypt, the smiles of the king, or the honour of his kingdom (Heb 11:25- 27). In a word, let the disappointments that do, and shall most surely befall the fruitless professors, provoke thee to look with all diligence to thy standing. For,
1. Such a one is but deceived and disappointed touching the work of grace he supposeth to be in his heart; he thinks he is a Christian, and hath grace, as faith, hope, and the like, in his soul, yet no fruits of these things manifest themselves in him; indeed his tongue is tipt with a talk and tattle of religion. Poor man, poor empty man! Faith without works is dead; thy hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost; thy gifts with which thy soul is possessed, are but such as are common to reprobates; thou art therefore disappointed; God reputes thee still but wicked, though thou comest and goest to the place of the Holy (James 2:19, 20; Job 11:20; 1 Cor 13:1-3).
2. Therefore all thy joy and comfort must needs fall short of saving comfort, and so leave thee in the suds notwithstanding; thy joy is the joy of the Pharisees (John 5:35), and thy gladness as that of Herod (Mark 6:20), and the longest time it can last, it is but a Scripture-moment (Job 20:5). Alas! in all thy gladness and content with thy religion, thou art but like the boy that plays with brass instead of gold; and with counters instead of that which will go for current coin. Thus, 'if a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth [or disappoints] himself' (Gal 6:3).
3. This is not all, but look thou certainly for an eternal disappointment in the day of God; for it must be; thy lamp will out at the first sound the trump of God shall make in thine ears; thou canst not hold up at the appearance of the Son of God in his glory; his very looks will be to thy profession as a strong wind is to a blinking candle, and thou shalt be left only to smoke.
Oh the alteration that will befall a foolish virgin! She thought she was happy, and that she should have received happiness with those that were right at the heart; but behold the contrary, her lamp is going out, she is now to seek for saving grace, when the time of grace is over? Her heaven she thought of, is proved a hell, and her god is proved a devil. God hath cast her out of his presence, and claps the door upon her. She pleads her profession, and the like, and she hath for her answer repulses from heaven. 'So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish; whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web. He shall lean upon his house but it shall not stand; he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure' (Matt 25:1-10; Luke 8:25, 26; Job 8:13-15).
Take heed therefore; thy soul, heaven, and eternity, lies at stake; yea, they turn either to thee or from thee upon the hinge of thy faith; if it be right, all is thine: if wrong, then all is lost, however thy hopes and expectations are to the contrary: 'For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of unbelief.  For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briars is REJECTED, and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned' (Gal 5:6; Eph 5:3-6; Heb 6:7, 8).
But what shall I do, who am so cold, slothful, and heartless, that I cannot find any heart to do any work for God in this world? Indeed time was when his dew rested all night upon my branches, and when I could with desire, with earnest desire, be doing and working for God; but, alas! now it is otherwise.
If this be true, thy case is sad, thou art to be pitied; the Lord pity thee. And for thy recovery out of this condition, I would give thee no other counsel than was given to Ephesus when she had lost her first love.
1. 'Remember,' saith Christ, 'from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works,' &c. (Rev 2:5).
Mark: Thy first work is to enter into a serious considering, and remembrance from whence thou art fallen. Remember that thou hast left thy God, the stay of thy soul, and him without whom there is no stay, comfort, or strength, for thee either to do or suffer anything in this world: 'Without me,' saith he, 'ye can do nothing' (John 15:5). A sad condition; the remembrance of this, for certain, is the first step to the recovering a backsliding heart; for the right remembrance of this doth bring to mind what loss that soul hath sustained that is in this condition, how it hath lost its former visits, smiles, and consolations of God. When thy conscience was suppled with the blood of thy Saviour; when every step thou tookest was, as it were, in honey and butter; and when thy heart could meditate terror with comfort (Job 29:2-6; Isa 33:14- 19). Instead of which, thou feelest darkness, hardness of heart, and the thoughts of God are terrible to thee (Psa 77:3). Now God never visits thee; or if he doth, it is but as a wayfaring man, that tarrieth but for a night (Jer 14:8, 9).
This also brings to mind how the case is altered with thee, touching thy confidence in God for thy future happiness, how uncertain thou now art of thy hopes for heaven, how much this life doth hang in doubt before thee (Deu 28:65, 66).
2. 'Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent.' These are words well put together; for a solid considering of what I have lost in my declining, will provoke in my heart a sorrow, and godly heaviness, whereby I shall be forced to bemoan my condition, and say, 'I will go and return to my first husband, for then was it better with me than now' (Hos 2:7). And believe it, the reason of God's standing off from giving the comfortable communion with himself, it is that thou mightest first see the difference between sticking close to God, and forsaking of him; and next, that thou mightest indeed acknowledge thy offence, and seek his face (Hos 5:15). He taketh no pleasure in thy forlorn condition; he had rather thou shouldest have him in thy bosom, only he will have it in his own way. 'He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; [then] he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light' (Job 33:27, 28).
3. 'Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.'
As there should be a remembering and a repenting so there should be a hearty doing our first works; a believing as before, a laying hold of the things of heaven and glory, as at the first; for now is God returned to thee, as before (Zech 1:16). And though thou mayest, through the loss of thy locks, with Samson, be weak at the first, yet, in short time, thy hair will grow again; that is, thy former experience will in short space be as long, large, and strong, as in the former times. Indeed at the first thou wilt find all the wheels of thy soul rusty, and all the strings of thine heart out of tune; as also when thou first beginnest to stir, the dust and filth of thy heart will, like smoke, trouble thee from that clear beholding the grace of thy God, and his love to thy soul; but yet wait, and go on, and though thou findest thyself as unable to do anything as thou formerly couldest; yet I say, up, and be doing, and the Lord will be with thee; for he hath not despised the day of thy small things (1 Chron 22:16; Zech 4:10).
I know thou wilt be afflicted with a thousand temptations to drive thee to despair, that thy faith may be faint, &c. But against all them set thou the word of God, the promise of grace, the blood of Christ, and the examples of God's goodness to the great backsliders that are for thy encouragement recorded in the scriptures of truth; and remember, that turning to God after backsliding, is the greatest piece of service thou canst do for him, and the greatest honour thou canst bring to the blood of Christ; and know farther, that God, to show his willing reception of so unworthy a creature, saith, there shall be joy in heaven at thy conversion to him again (Luke 15:7, 10).