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.
hat being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 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. These things are good and profitable unto men.' Titus 3:7,8.
I shall not at this time discourse of every particular at large included in these words; but shall briefly fall upon those things that I judge most necessary for the people of God. Neither shall I need to make any great preamble to the words for their explication; they themselves being plain, and without that ambiguity that calleth for such a thing; the general scope being this, THAT THEY WHICH HAVE BELIEVED IN GOD SHOULD BE CAREFUL TO MAINTAIN GOOD WORKS.
But yet, to prosecute what I intend, with what clearness I may, I shall in a word or two make way for what is to be the main of this book.
'This is a faithful saying.' This; Which? Why, that which goeth before, namely, 'That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly.'
Why, 'That they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works.' The meaning is, that the way to provoke others to good works, is constantly in the evidence and demonstration of the spirit to show them the certainty of their [these believers] being by grace made heirs of eternal life.
From this scripture, therefore, I do gather these things observable.
FIRST, That good works do flow from faith. Yea,
SECOND, That every one that believeth should be careful that their works be good.
THIRD, That every believer should not only be careful that their works be good, and for the present do them, but should also be careful to maintain them; that is, they should carefully study to keep in a constant course of good works.
FOURTH, and lastly, That the best way to provoke both ourselves and others to this work, 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,' saith Paul, 'that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.'
FIRST.I begin with the first. That good works do flow from faith. This is evident divers ways.
First, From the impossibility of their flowing from any other thing; they must either flow from faith, or not at all: 'For whatsoever is not of faith, is sin' (Rom 14:23). And again, 'Without faith it is impossible to please him' (Heb 11:6). Every man by nature, before faith, is an evil and a corrupt tree; and a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit: 'Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?' (Matt 7:16,17). Now a man is made good by faith, and by that bringeth forth the fruits that are acceptable to God (Heb 11:4; Col 1:4-6).
Wherefore sinners, before faith, are compared to the wilderness, whose fruits are briars and thorns; and whose hearts are the habitation of dragons; that is, of devils  (Isa 35:6,7; Heb 6:7,8).
And hence again it is, that they are said to be Godless, Christless, Spiritless, faithless, hopeless; without the covenant of grace, without strength; enemies in their minds by wicked works, and possessed by the spirit of wickedness, as a castle by a conqueror (Eph 2:12; Jude 19; 2 Thess 3:2; Col 1:21; Luke 11:21).
Now, these things being thus, it is impossible that all the men under heaven, that are unconverted, should be able to bring forth one work rightly good; even as impossible, as for all the briars and thorns under heaven to bring forth one cluster of grapes, or one bunch of figs; for indeed they want the qualification. A thorn bringeth not forth figs, because it wanteth the nature of the fig-tree; and so doth the bramble the nature of the vine. Good works must come from a good heart. Now, this the unbeliever wanteth, because he wanteth faith; for it is that which purifieth the heart (Luke 6:45; Acts 15:9). Good works must come from love to the Lord Jesus; but this the unbeliever wanteth also, because he wanteth faith: For faith 'worketh by love,' and by that means doth good (Gal 5:6).
And hence again it is, that though the carnal man doth never so much which he calleth good, yet it is rejected, slighted, and turned as dirt in his face again; his prayers are abominable (Prov 15:8), his ploughing is sin (Prov 21:4), and all his righteousness as menstruous rags (Isa 64:6).
Thus you see that without faith there are no good works. Now then, to show you that they flow from faith: and that, For that FAITH is a principle of life, by which a Christian lives (Gal 2:19,20), a principle of motion, by which it walks towards heaven in the way of holiness (Rom 4:12; 2 Cor 5:7). It is also a principle of strength, by which the soul opposeth its lust, the devil, and this world, and overcomes them. 'This is the victory, even our faith' (1 John 5:4,5) Faith, in the heart of a Christian, is like the salt that was thrown into the corrupt fountain, that made the naughty waters good, and the barren land fruitful (2 Kings 2:19-22). Faith, when it is wrought in the heart, is like leaven hid in the meal, (Matt 13:33) or like perfume that lighteth upon stinking leather, turning the smell of the leather into the savour of the perfume; faith being then planted in the heart, and having its natural inclination to holiness. Hence it is that there followeth an alteration of the life and conversation, and so bringeth forth fruit accordingly. 'A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good' (Luke 6:45). Which treasure, I say, is this faith (James 2:5; 1 Peter 1:7). And therefore it is that faith is called 'the faith according to godliness,' (Titus 1:1) and the 'most holy faith' (Jude 20).
Second, Good works must needs flow from faith, or no way; because that alone carrieth in it an argument sufficiently prevalent to win upon our natures, to make them comply with holiness.
Faith showeth us that God loveth us, that he forgiveth us our sins, that he accounteth us for his children, having freely justified us through the blood of his Son (Rom 3:24,25; 4; Heb 11:13; 1 Peter 1:8).
Faith receiveth the promise, embraceth it, and comforteth the soul unspeakably with it. Faith is so great an artist in arguing and reasoning with the soul, that it will bring over the hardest heart that it hath to deal with. It will bring to my remembrance at once, both my vileness against God, and his goodness towards me; it will show me, that though I deserve not to breathe in the air, yet that God will have me an heir of glory.
Now, there is no argument greater than this. This will make a man run through ten thousand difficulties, to answer God, though he never can, for the grace he hath bestowed on him.
Further, FAITH will show me how distinguishingly this love of God hath set itself upon me; it will show me, that though Esau was Jacob's brother, yet he loved Jacob (Mal 1:2). That though there were thousands more besides me that were as good as me, yet I must be the man that must be chosen.
Now this, I say, is a marvellous argument, and unspeakably prevaileth with the sinner, as saith the apostle: 'For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all; that they which live,' that is, by faith, 'should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again' (2 Cor 5:14,15). 'Love,' saith the wise man, 'is strong as death; Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned' (Song 8:6,7). Oh! when the broken, dying, condemned soul, can but see, by faith, the love of a tender-hearted Saviour, and also see what he underwent to deliver it from under that death, guilt, and hell, that now it feels and fears; which also it knoweth it hath most justly and highly deserved; 'Then bless the Lord, O my soul' (Psa 103:1,2,3); and 'What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits?' (Psa 116:1-14).
Thus is faith a prevailing argument to the sinner, whereby he is fetched off from what he was, and constrained to bend and yield to what before he neither would nor could (1 Cor 2:14; Rom 8:7).
And hence it is, that gospel obedience is called 'the obedience of faith,' as well as obedience to the faith (Rom 16:26). For it must be by the faith of Christ in my heart, that I submit to the word of faith in the Bible, otherwise all is to no profit: as saith the apostle, 'The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it' (Heb 4:2). For faith alone can see the reality of what the gospel saith; and so I say, argue over the heart to the embracing of it.
Third, Faith is such a grace, as will represent to the soul all things in their proper colours. It doth not, as doth unbelief and ignorance, show us all things out of order; putting darkness for light, and bitter for sweet; but will set every thing in its proper place before our eyes; God and Christ shall be with it, the chiefest good, the most lovely and amiable; a heavenly life shall be of greater esteem, and more desirable, than all the treasures of Egypt! Righteousness and sanctification will be the thing after which it will most vehemently press; because it seeth not only death and damnation as the fruits of sin, but sin also in itself, distinct from the punishment belonging to it, a detestable, horrible, and odious thing (Heb 11:25-27; Phil 3:7-12; Rom 12:9).
By faith we see that this world hath no abiding in it for us, nor no satisfaction if it were otherwise (Prov 3:35; Heb 11:15,16; 13:14; 1 Cor 7:9-31). And hence it is, that the people of God have groaned to be gone from hence, into a state that is both sinless and temptationless. And hence it is again that they have run through so many trials, afflictions, and adversities, even because of that love to holiness of life that faith being in their hearts did prompt them to, by showing them the worth and durableness of that which was good, and the irksomeness and evil of all things else (2 Cor 5:1-8; Heb 11:33-39).
Fourth, Faith layeth hold of that which is able to help the soul to bring forth good works: it layeth hold of, and engageth the strength of Christ, and by that overcometh that which oppresseth; 'I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me' (Phil 4:13).
In a word, a life of holiness and godliness in this world, doth so inseparably follow a principle of faith, that it is both monstrous and ridiculous to suppose the contrary. What, shall not he that hath life have motion! (Gal 2:20). He that hath by faith received the spirit of holiness, shall not he be holy? (Gal 3:2). and he that is called to glory and virtue, shall not he add to his faith virtue? (2 Peter 1:4,5). We are by faith made good trees, and shall not we bring forth good fruit? (Luke 6:43). They that believe are created in Christ Jesus unto good works; and God hath, before the world was, ordained that we should walk in them; and shall both our second creation, and God's fore ordination be made frustrate? (Eph 1:4; 2:10). Besides, the children of faith are the children of light, and of the day (1 Thess 5:5). Lights upon a hill, and candles on a candlestick, and shall not they shine? They are the salt of the earth, shall not they be seasoning? (Matt 5:13-16).
The believer is the alone man, by whom God showeth to the world the power of his grace, the operation of his people's faith, &c. The unbelievers read indeed of the power of grace; of the faith, hope, love, joy, peace, and sanctification of the heart of the Christian; but they feel nothing of that sin-killing operation that is in these things; these are to them as a story of Rome or Spain. Wherefore to show them in others, what they find not in themselves, God worketh faith, hope, love, &c., in a generation that shall serve him; and by them they shall see what they cannot find in themselves; and by this means they shall be convinced, that though sin, and the pleasures of this life, be sweet to them, yet there is a people otherwise minded; even such a people, that do indeed see the glory of that which others read of, and from that sight take pleasure in those things which they are most averse unto. To this, I say, are Christians called; herein is God glorified; hereby are sinners convinced; and by this the world condemned (1 Thess 4:7; 1 Peter 2:12; 3:1; Heb 11:7).
But if faith doth so naturally cause good works, what then is the reason that God's people find it so hard a matter to be fruitful in good works?
1. God's people are fruitful in good works according to the proportion of their faith; if they be slender in good works, it is because they are weak in faith. Little faith is like small candles, or weak fire, which though they shine and have heat; yet but dim shining and small heat, when compared with bigger candles and greater fire. The reason why Sardis had some in it whose works were not perfect before God, it was, because they did not hold fast by faith the word that they had formerly heard and received (Rev 3:1-3).
2. There may be a great mistake in our judging of our own fruitfulness. The soul that indeed is candid and right at heart, is taught by grace to judge itself, though fruitful, yet barren upon two accounts. (1.) When it compareth its life to the mercy bestowed upon it: for when a soul doth indeed consider the greatness and riches of the mercy bestowed upon it, then it must needs cry out, 'O wretched man that I am,' (Rom 7:24) for it seeth itself wonderfully to fall short of a conversation becoming one who hath received so great a benefit. (2.) It may also judge itself barren, because it falleth so far short of that it would attain unto, 'it cannot do the thing that it would' (Gal 5:17).
3. The heart of a Christian is naturally very barren; upon which, though the seed of grace, that is the fruitfullest of all seeds, be sown, yet the heart is naturally subject to bring forth weeds (Mat 15:19). Now, to have a good crop from such ground, doth argue the fruitfulness of the seed. Wherefore I conclude upon these three things, (1.) That the seed of faith is a very fruitful seed, in that it will be fruitful in so barren a soil. (2.) That faith is not beholden to the heart, but the heart to it, for all its fruitfulness. (3.) That therefore the way to be a more fruitful Christian, it is to be stronger in believing.
SECOND Now for the second thing, to wit, That every one that believeth should be careful that their works be good. This followeth from what went just before; to wit, That the heart of a Christian is a heart subject to bring forth weeds.
There is flesh as well as spirit in the best of saints: and as the spirit of grace will be always putting forth something that is good, so the flesh will be putting forth continually that which is evil. 'For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh' (Gal 5:17).
Now this considered, is the cause why you find so often in the Scriptures so many items and cautions to the Christians to look to their lives and conversations. As, 'Keep thy heart with all diligence' (Prov 4:23). 'Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong' (1 Cor 16:13). 'Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting' (Gal 6:7,8).
All works are not good that seem to be so. It is one thing for a man's ways to be right in his own eye, and another for them to be right in God's. Often 'that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God' (Prov 30:12; Luke 16:15).
Seeing corruption is not yet out of our natures, there is a proneness in us to build [even] upon the right foundation, wood, hay, and stubble, instead of gold and silver, and precious stones (1 Cor 3:11-15). How was both David the king, Nathan the prophet, and Uzza the priest, deceived, touching good works! (1 Chron 17:1-4; 13:9-11). Peter also, in both his defending his Master in the garden, and in dissuading of him from his sufferings, though both out of love and affection to his Master, was deceived touching good works. (Matt 16:22,23; John 18:10,11). Many have miscarried both as to doctrine, worship, and the prosecution of each.
First, For doctrine. Christ tells the Jews, that they taught for the doctrines of God the doctrines and traditions of men (Matt 15:9; Mark 7:7). As also, saith the apostle, They teach 'things they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake' (Titus 1:11).
Second, Also touching worship, we find how frequently men have mistaken, both for time, place, and matter, with which they worshipped.
1. For time. It hath been that which man hath devised, not which God hath commanded (1 Kings 12:32). They 'change the ordinance,' saith Isaiah, 24:5. They change God's 'judgments into wickedness,' saith Ezekiel 5:6.
2. For place. When they should have worshipped at Jerusalem, they worshipped at Bethel, at Gilgal and Dan, in gardens, under poplars and elms. (1 Kings 12:26-30; Hosea 4:13-15; Isa 65:2-5).
3. For the matter with which they worshipped. Instead of bringing according to the commandment, they brought the lame, the torn, and the sick; they would sanctify themselves in gardens, with swine's flesh and mice, when they should have done it at Jerusalem, with bullocks and lambs (Isa 66:17).
Third, Again, touching men's prosecuting their zeal for their worship, &c., that they do think right; how hot hath it been, though with no reason at all? Nebuchadnezzar will have his fiery furnace, and Darius his lions' den for Nonconformists (Dan 3:6; 6:7, &c.) Again, they have persecuted men even to strange cities; have laid traps and snares in every corner, to entrap and to entangle their words; and if they could at any time but kill the persons that dissented from them, they would think they did God good service (Acts 26:11; Luke 11:53,54; John 19:1,2). But what need we look so far from home, were it not that I would seal my sayings with truth. We need look no farther to affirm this position, than to the Papists and their companions. How many have they in all ages hanged, burned, starved, drowned, racked, dismembered, and murdered, both openly and in secret? and all under a pretence of God, his worship, and good works.  Thus you see how wise men and fools, saints and sinners, Christians and heathens, have erred in the business of good works; wherefore every one should be careful to see that their works BE good.
Now, then, to prevent, if God will, miscarriage in this matter, I shall propound unto you what it is for a work to be rightly good. First, A good work must have the word for its authority. Second, It must, as afore was said, flow from faith. Third, It must be both rightly timed and rightly placed. Fourth, It must be done willingly, cheerfully, &c.
First, It must have the word for its authority. Zeal without knowledge is like a mettled horse without eyes, or like a sword in a madman's hand; and there is no knowledge where there is not the word: for if they reject the word of the Lord, and act not by that, 'what wisdom is in them?' saith the prophet (Jer 8:9; Isa 8:20). Wherefore see thou have the word for what thou dost.
Second, As there must be the word for the authorising of what thou dost, so there must be faith, from which it must flow, as I showed you before: 'for whatsoever is not of faith is sin;' and 'without faith it is impossible to please God.' Now, I say, without the word there is no faith, (Rom 10:17, as without faith there is no good, let men's pretences be what they will.
Third, As it must have these two aforenamed, so also it must have, 1. Right time; and, 2. Right place.
1. It must be rightly timed. Every work is not to be done at the same time; every time not being convenient for such a work; There is a time for all things, and every thing is beautiful in its time (Eccl 3:11). There is a time to pray, a time to hear, a time to read, a time to confer, a time to meditate, a time to do, and a time to suffer. Now, to be hearing when we should be preaching and doing, that is, yielding active obedience to that under which we ought to suffer, is not good. Christ was very wary, that both his doings and sufferings were rightly timed (John 2:3,4; 13:1,2). And herein we ought to follow his steps. To be at plough in the field, when I should be hearing the word, is not good; and to be talking abroad, when I should be instructing my family at home, is as bad: 'Whoso keepeth the commandment, shall feel no evil thing: 'and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment' (Eccl 8:5). Good things mistimed, are fruitless, unprofitable, and vain.
2. As things must have their right time, so they must be rightly placed; for the misplacing of any work is as bad as the mistiming of it. When I say, things, if good, must be rightly placed, I mean, we should not give to any work more than the word of God alloweth it, neither should we give it less. Mint, anise, and cummin, are not so weighty matters as faith and the love of God; as in (Matt 23:23). For a pastor to be exercising the office of a deacon, instead of the office of a pastor, it is misplacing of works (Acts 6:2). For Martha to be making outward provision for Christ, when she should have sat at his feet to hear his word, was the misplacing a work; and for her sister to have done it at her request though the thing in itself was good had been her sin also (Luke 10:39-42). Now, to prevent the misplacing of good works,
(1.) They misplace them that set them in the room of Christ (Rom 10: 1-3).
(2.) They also misplace them that make them copartners with him (Rom 9:31,32; Acts 15:1). This is setting up our post by God's posts, and man's righteousness by the righteousness of Christ (Eze 43:7,8). These are said to be teachers of the law, not knowing what they say, nor whereof they affirm (1 Tim 1:7).
(3.) They also misplace works, who ascribe to a work of less moment that honour that belongeth to a work more noble. And such are (a) Those who count the ceremonial part of an ordinance as good as the doctrine and signification of it.  (b) Such who account the dictates and impulses of a mere natural conscience, as good, as high, and divine, as the leadings and movings of the Spirit of Christ. (c) Those also who count it enough to do something of what God hath commanded, and that something, possibly the least, instead of all, and the things more necessary and weighty. (d) They also much misplace them, who count things indifferent as high as those that are absolutely necessary in the worship of God. (e) But the grosser, who place men's traditions above them. (f) And they greatest of all, who put bitter for sweet, and darkness for light. All these things we must shun and avoid, as things absolutely obstructive to good works.
Wherefore touching good works; obedience is better than sacrifice; that is, to do things according to the word of God, is better than to do them according to my fancy and conceit (1 Sam 15:22). 'Wherefore, let all things be done decently and in order' (1 Cor 14:40).
Fourth, Again, as good works should be ordered and qualified, as before is touched, so they should be done from the heart, willingly, cheerfully, with simplicity and charity, according to what a man hath (1 John 5:3; 2 Cor 9:7; Rom 12:8; Col 3:12; 1 Cor 10:24; 2 Cor 8:12).
Farther, there are three things that a man should have in his eye in every work he doth. 1. The honour of God (1 Cor 6:20). 2. The edification of his neighbour (1 Cor 14:26). 3. The expediency or inexpediency of what I am to do (1 Cor 6:12). And always observe it, that the honour of God is wrapped up in the edification of thy neighbour; and the edification of thy neighbour in the expediency of what thou dost.
Again, if thou wouldst walk to the edification of thy neighbour, and so to God's honour, in the midst of thy observers, beware,
1st. That thou in thy words and carriages dost so demean thyself, that Christ in his precious benefits may be with clearness spoken forth by thee; and take heed, that thou dost not enter into doubtful points with them that are weak (Rom 15:1). But deal chiefly, lovingly, and wisely, with their consciences about those matters that tend to their establishment in the faith of their justification, and deliverance from death and hell. 'Comfort the feeble-minded,' confirm the weak (1 Thess 5:14).
2ndly. If thou be stronger than thy brother, take heed that thou do not that before him, that may offend his weak conscience; I mean, things that in themselves may be lawful. All that is lawful is not expedient; all that is lawful edifieth not (1 Cor 6:12). Wherefore here is thy wisdom and love, that thou in some things deny thyself for thy brother's sake. 'I will eat no flesh while the world standeth,' saith Paul, 'lest I make my brother to offend' (1 Cor 8:13). Wherefore have this faith to thyself before God (Rom 14:22). But if thou walk otherwise, know, thou walkest not charitably, and so not to edification, and so not to Christ's honour, but dost sin against Christ, and wound thy weak brother, for whom Christ died (Rom 14:15; 1 Cor 8:12). But I say, all this while keep thy eye upon the word; take heed of going contrary to that under any pretence whatever; for without the word, there is nothing to God's glory, nor thy brother's edification. Wherefore, walk 'wisely in a perfect way' (Psa 101:2, 3).
Having thus, in few words, showed you what are works rightly good, I beseech you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you put yourselves into a conscientious performance of them, that you may, while you live here, be vessels of honour, and fit for the master's use, and prepared to every good work (1 Tim 6:18). Study to approve things that are excellent, 'that you may be sincere, and without offence, until the day of Christ' (Phil 1:10). Covet communion with God: 'covet earnestly the best gifts' (1 Cor 12:31). Ah! we that are redeemed from among men (Rev 14:4), and that rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (Rom 5:2), we that look, I say, for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13), 'what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness' (2 Peter 3:11).
To conclude, for your farther edification, take a plain rehearsal of your several general duties and works, to which God engageth you in his word, according to your places, callings, and relations in this world;