John Bunyan, the world-renowned author of the Pilgrim's Progress, was never a drunkard or a libertine, but was given to profanity, Sabbath-desecration and "heart-atheism." Amidst his wicked career, he had many gloomy forebodings of the wrath to come; and his nights were often scared with visions, which the boisterous diversions of his waking day could not always dispel. He would occasionally dream that the last day had come, and that the quaking earth was opening its mouth to let him down to hell. As he grew older he grew harder. He married a pious wife, who had two books, The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven, and the Practice of Piety. He read these books, which had some effect upon him.
One day he heard a sermon on Sabbath-breaking, and it haunted his conscience throughout the day. When in the midst of the excitement of that afternoon's diversions, a voice seemed to dart from heaven into his soul, "Wilt thou leave thy sins, and go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell?" His arm, which was raised to strike a ball in play, was suddenly arrested, and looking up to heaven, he said, it appeared as if the Lord Jesus was looking down upon him in remonstrance and deep displeasure. He still continued on in sin, however, and ran into the delusion that repentance was now too late.
Another time, at a neighbor's window, cursing and swearing, the woman of the house protested that he made her tremble; that he was the ungodliest fellow for swearing that she had ever heard. The woman was herself a notoriously sinful character. This reproof, from so strange a quarter silenced him. He blushed before God, and stood with hanging head. From that time onward he ceased to swear, and people wondered at the change. He read the Bible, and his outward life underwent much reformation. He says of himself:
"I set the commandments before me for my way to heaven; which commandments I strove to keep, and, as I thought, did keep pretty well sometimes. I continued to live so a year, though I knew not Christ, nor grace, nor faith, nor love; and I was nothing but a poor painted hypocrite." He heard two pious women talk of their enjoyments in religion, which suggested to him a sort of waking vision, "I saw as if they were on the sunny side of some high mountain, there refreshing themselves in the pleasant beams of the sun, while I was shivering in the cold, afflicted with frost, snow, and dark clouds." He became an humbled sinner. "My inward and original pollution," says he, "was my plague and affliction. That I saw at a dreadful rate, always putting forth itself within me; and by reason of that I was more loathsome in my own eyes than a toad, and I thought I was so in God eyes too."
Years of despondency passed over him before he came to the enjoyment of peace with God. At last, Providence permitted a copy of Luther's Commentary on Galatians to fall into his hands. He says, "When I had but a little way perused the book, I found my condition in his experience so largely and profoundly handled, as if his volume had been written out of my heart. I became happy, and wished I might die quickly, and go to be with Him who had made His soul an offering for my sins. I felt love to Him as hot as fire; and now? as Job said, 'I thought I should die in my nest.'"
Bunyan was soon beset by fearful temptations, to give up Christ for the follies of life, but he resisted, manfully. On one occasion, while laboring under sore trial, these words came to his remembrance--"The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin," and "Thy righteousness is in heaven." The eye of faith saw at the same time Jesus Christ at God's right hand, "and there," he exclaimed, "is my righteousness. My righteousness is Jesus Christ Himself. 'He is made of God unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.'"--This truth was his peace with God.