T H E
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
Published two years after Pilgrim's Progress.
[DEATH LEAVES HIM FOR A SEASON, AND HE RETURNS TO HIS SIN LIKE A SOW THAT HAS BEEN WASHED TO HER WALLOWING IN THE MIRE.]
ut verily, I am apt to think that one reason of his no more regarding or remembering of his sick-bed fears, and of being no better for them was some words that the doctor that supplied him with physic said to him when he was mending. For as soon as Mr. Badman began to mend, the doctor comes and sits him down by him in his house, and there fell into discourse with him about the nature of his disease; and among other things they talked of Badman's trouble, and how he would cry out, tremble, and express his fears of going to hell when his sickness lay pretty hard upon him. To which the doctor replied, that those fears and outcries did arise from the height of his distemper; for that disease was often attended with lightness of the head, by reason the sick party could not sleep, and for that the vapours disturbed the brain: but you see, Sir, quoth he, that so soon as you got sleep and betook yourself to rest, you quickly mended, and your head settled, and so those frenzies left you. And it was so indeed, thought Mr. Badman; was my troubles only the effects of my distemper, and because ill vapours got up into my brain? Then surely, since my physician was my saviour, my lust again shall be my god. So he never minded religion more, but betook him again to the world, his lusts and wicked companions: and there was an end of Mr. Badman's conversion.
ATTEN. I thought, as you told me of him, that this would be the result of the whole; for I discerned, by your relating of things, that the true symptoms of conversion were wanting in him, and that those that appeared to be anything like them, were only such as reprobates may have.
WISE. You say right, for there wanted in him, when he was most sensible, a sense of the pollution of his nature; he only had guilt for his sinful actions, the which Cain, and Pharaoh, and Saul, and Judas, those reprobates, have had before him (Gen 4:13,14; Exo 9:27; 1 Sam 15:24; Matt 27:3-5).
Besides, the great things that he desired, were to be delivered from going to hell, and who would, willingly? and that his life might be lengthened in this world. We find not, by all that he said or did, that Jesus Christ the Saviour was desired by him, from a sense of his need of his righteousness to clothe him, and of his Spirit to sanctify him. His own strength was whole in him, he saw nothing of the treachery of his own heart: for had he, he would never have been so free to make promises to God of amendment. He would rather have been afraid, that if he had mended, he should have turned with the dog to his vomit, and have begged prayers of the saints, and assistance from heaven upon that account, that he might have been kept from doing so. It is true he did beg prayers of good people, and so did Pharaoh of Moses and Aaron, and Simon Magus of Simon Peter (Exo 9:28; Acts 8:24). His mind also seemed to be turned to his wife and child; but, alas! it was rather from conviction that God had given him concerning their happy estate over his, than for that he had any true love to the work of God that was in them. True, some shows of kindness he seemed to have for them, and so had rich Dives when in hell, to his five brethren that were yet in the world: yea, he had such love as to wish them in heaven,that they might not come thither to be tormented (Luke 16:27,28).
ATTEN. Sick-bed repentance is seldom good for anything.
WISE. You say true, it is very rarely good for anything indeed. Death is unwelcome to nature, and usually when sickness and death visit the sinner; the first taking of him by the shoulder, and the second standing at the bed- chamber door to receive him; then the sinner begins to look about him, and to bethink with himself, these will have me away before God; and I know that my life has not been as it should, how shall I do to appear before God! Or if it be more the sense of the punishment, and the place of the punishment of sinners, that also is starting to a defiled conscience, now roused by death's lumbering at the door. And hence usually is sick-bed repentance, and the matter of it; to wit, to be saved from hell, and from death, and that God will restore again to health till they mend, concluding that it is in their power to mend, as is evident by their large and lavishing promises to do it. I have known many that, when they have been sick, have had large measures of this kind of repentance, and while it has lasted, the noise and sound thereof has made the town to ring again. But, alas! how long has it lasted? ofttimes scarce so long as until the party now sick has been well. It has passed away like a mist or a vapour, it has been a thing of no continuance. But this kind of repentance is by God compared to the howling of a dog. 'And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds' (Hosea 7:14).
ATTEN. Yet one may see by this the desperateness of man's heart; for what is it but desperate wickedness to make promise to God of amendment, if he will but spare them; and yet, so soon as they are recovered, or quickly after, fall to sin as they did before, and never to regard their promise more.
WISE. It is a sign of desperateness indeed; yea, of desperate madness (Deut 1:34,35). For, surely, they must needs think that God took notice of their promise, that he heard the words that they spake, and that he hath laid them up against the time to come; and will then bring out, and testify to their faces, that they flattered him with their mouth, and lied unto him with their tongue, when they lay sick, to their thinking, upon their death-bed, and promised him that if he would recover them they would repent and amend their ways (Psa 78:34-37). But thus, as I have told you, Mr. Badman did. He made great promises that he would be a new man, that he would leave his sins and become a convert, that he would love, &c. his godly wife, &c. Yea, many fine words had Mr. Badman in his sickness, but no good actions when he was well.