Hopeful Tells of His Conversion by John Bunyan
All the passages below are taken from John Bunyan’s book, “Pilgrim’s Progress.” It was first published in 1678. The present book is a complete and unabridged edition translated from the original 17th century text and further annotated into modern English by L. Edward Hazelbaker and published in 1998. This is the easiest and clearest translation to read and understand.
I SAW THEN IN my dream that they traveled until they entered into a certain country whose air naturally tended to make anyone drowsy who was a stranger to it. Here, Hopeful began to be very listless and sleepy. He therefore said to Christian, “I’m now beginning to grow so drowsy I can scarcely hold my eyes open. Let’s lie down here and take a nap.”
“By no means,” said Christian, “lest by sleeping we never wake again.”
“Why, my Brother?” asked Hopeful, “Sleep is sweet to the laboring man.1 We can be refreshed if we take a nap.”
“Don’t you remember,” said Christian, “that one of the Shepherds told us to beware—of the Enchanted Ground? What he meant was that we should beware of sleeping. `So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.’”2
“I acknowledge my error,” responded Hopeful, “and if I’d been here alone, by sleeping I would’ve run the danger of death. I see it’s true that the Wise Man said, `Two are better than one.3 To this moment your company has been of great benefit to me, and you’ll receive a good return for your work.”
“Now then,” said Christian, “to prevent drowsiness in this place, let’s have a good discussion.”4
“Gladly,” said Hopeful.
Then Christian asked, “Where shall we begin?”
“Where God began with us,” answered Hopeful. “But you begin if you would like.”
“First I’ll sing you this song,” said Christian.
When Saints do sleepy grow, let them come hither,
And hear how these two Pilgrims talk together,
Yea, let them learn of them in any wise
Thus to keep ope’ their drowzy slumb’ring eyes;
Saints Fellowship if it be manag’d well,
Keeps them awake, and that in spite of Hell.
Then Christian said, “I’ll ask you a question. How did you at first come to think of doing as you now do?”
Hopeful responded, “Do you mean, how I at first came to look after the good of my soul?”
“Yes,” answered Christian, “that’s what I mean.”
Hopeful explained, “I continued for a long time in the enjoyment of those things that were seen and sold at the Vanity Fair, things that I now believe would have plunged me into ruin and destruction had I continued in them.”5
“What things were those?” questioned Christian.
“All the treasures and riches of the world,” answered Hopeful. “Also, I enjoyed orgies, carousing, drinking, swearing, lying, impurity, Sabbath-breaking, and so on—those things that tended to destroy the soul.6 But I finally found by hearing and considering the things that are divine—which I heard from you and also from dear Faithful, who was put to death for his faith and good living in the Vanity Fair—that `those things result in death!’7 ‘For because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.’”8
“And did you immediately fall under the power of this conviction?” asked Christian.
“No,” said Hopeful. “I wasn’t willing to recognize at once the evil of sin or the damnation that follows one’s committing it. When my mind at first began to be shaken by the Word, I tried to shut my eyes against its light.”9
“But what was the reason you responded like that until God’s blessed Spirit began to move you?” inquired Christian.
Hopeful listed the causes: “First—I was ignorant that this was the work of God upon me. I never thought that God begins the conversion of sinners by awakening them to sin. Second—sin was still very sweet to my sinful nature, and I hated to leave it. Third—I didn’t know how to part with my old companions, for their presence and actions were so desirable to me. Fourth—the times in which I felt the convictions were such troublesome and heart-frightening hours that I couldn’t bear them, even the remembrance of them upon my heart.”
“Then, as it seems, sometimes you got rid of your trouble,” said Christian.
“Yes, of course,” said Hopeful, “but it would come into my mind again, and then I would be as bad—no, even worse—than I was before.”
“Why?” inquired Christian. “What was it that brought your sins to mind again?”
“Many things,” answered Hopeful, “such as: One—if I just met a good man in the streets; or, two—if I heard anyone read from The Bible; or, three—if my head began to ache; or, four—if I’d been told some of my neighbors were sick; or, five—if I heard the bell toll for those who were dead; or, six—if I thought of dying myself; or, seven—if I heard that sudden death happened to others; but especially, eight—when I thought of myself, that I must soon arrive at judgment.”
Christian then asked, “And could you ever easily get rid of the guilt of sin when it came upon you through any of these things?”
“No, not toward the end of that time,” said Hopeful, “for then they got a firmer grip of my conscience. Then if I just thought of going back to sin—though my mind was turned against it—it would bring me twice the torment.”
“And what did you do then?” asked Christian.
Hopeful then said, “I thought, `I must try to mend my life or else I’m sure to be damned.”‘
“And did you try to mend it?” asked Christian.
“Yes,” answered Hopeful. “I fled from not only my sins but also sinful company. And I began performing religious duties, such as praying, reading, weeping for sin, speaking truth to my neighbors, and so forth. I did these things and also many others too many to relate now.”
“And did you think well of yourself then?” asked Christian.
“Yes, for a while,” said Hopeful, “but my trouble finally came tumbling down upon me again, despite all of my makeovers.”
“How did that happen, since you were then reformed?” asked Christian.
“There were several things that caused them to fall upon me,” responded Hopeful, “especially such sayings as these: all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;10 by observing the law no one will be justified;11 when you have done everything you were told to do, you should say `We are unworthy servants;’12 and with many more like those. From these I began to reason with myself, If all my righteous acts are filthy rags, if by observing the Law no man can be justified, and if when we’ve done everything we’re still unworthy, then it’s just foolishness to think of Heaven through the Law.”
Hopeful continued, “I further thought that if a man runs a hundred dollars into a store owner’s debt and then pays for everything he purchases thereafter, yet his old debt is still in the book, and the store owner may sue him and have him cast into prison until his debt is paid.”
“Very well,” said Christian. “And how did you apply this to yourself?”
“Why, I thought like this to myself,” answered Hopeful. “Through my sins, I’ve run a great way into God’s Book, and now, my reforming will not pay off that debt. Therefore, I should still consider—even after the recent mending of my ways—how I can be freed from the danger of that damnation that I’ve brought myself by my former transgressions.”13
“A very good application,” said Christian, “but please, go on.”
Hopeful then said, `Another thing that has troubled me even since the recent changing of my ways, is that if I look narrowly into the best of what I now do, I still see sin, new sin, mixing itself with the best of what I do. Now I’m forced to conclude that in spite of my former fond conceited view of myself and my duties, I’ve committed enough sin in one act to send me to Hell, even if my former life had been faultless.”
“And what did you do then?” asked Christian.
“Do!” exclaimed Hopeful, “I couldn’t tell what to do until I shared my thoughts with Faithful. He and I were well acquainted, and he told me that unless I could obtain the righteousness of a Man who had never sinned, neither my own nor all the righteousness of the world could save me.”
“And did you think he spoke the truth?” asked Christian.
Hopeful responded, “Had he told me that when I was pleased and satisfied with my own changes I’d made in my life, I would’ve called him a fool for his effort. But now, since I see my own weakness and the sin that cleaves to my best deed, I’ve been forced to be of his opinion.”
Christian then said, “But when Faithful first suggested it to you, did you think there was such a Man to be found of whom it could be truly said that He never committed sin?”14
“I must confess,” said Hopeful, “that at first the words sounded strange, but after a little more conversation and company with him, I was fully convinced.”
“And did you ask him who this Man was,” asked Christian, “and how you must be justified by Him?”
“Yes,” answered Hopeful, “and he told me it was the Lord Jesus, who dwells on the right hand of the Most High.15 And Faithful said this: `You must be justified by Him, even by trusting in what He himself did during His life on earth as He suffered when He was hanging on the Tree.’16 I asked him further how that Man’s righteousness could be so powerful as to be able to justify another person before God. And he told me He was the Mighty God,17 and did what He did, and also died the death not for himself, but for me to whom His works—and the worthiness of them—would be ascribed if I believed on Him.”18
“And what did you do then?” inquired Christian.
“I stated my objections against believing,” said Hopeful, “because I thought He would not be willing to save me.”
“And what did Faithful say to you then?” returned Christian.
“He said I should go to Him and see,” answered Hopeful. “I said it would be presumptuous on my part, but he said no, for I was invited to come.19Then he gave me a Book of the words of Jesus to encourage me to feel better about going. Concerning that Book he said the smallest letter and the least stroke of the pen in it stood firmer than Heaven and earth.20 I then asked him what I must do when I arrived, and he told me I must ask the Father upon my knees,21 with all my heart and soul, to reveal Him to me.22 Then I asked him further how I must make my prayer to Him, and he said, `Go, and you will find Him upon a Mercy Seat,” where He sits all year long to give pardon and forgiveness to those who come.’ I told him I didn’t know what to say when I arrived, and he told me to speak to this effect:
“`God be merciful to me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see that if His righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away. Lord, I have heard that You are a merciful God and have ordained that Your Son Jesus Christ should be the Savior of the world; and moreover, that you are willing to bestow on such a poor sinner as I am-and I am a sinner indeed-Lord. Take therefore this opportunity, and magnify Your grace in the salvation of my soul through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.’” 24
“And did you do as you were told?” asked Christian.
“Yes, over and over and over,” answered Hopeful.
“And did the Father reveal His Son to you?” asked Christian.
“Not the first time,” said Hopeful, “or the second, or third, or fourth, or fifth, or at the sixth time either.”
“What did you do then?” asked Christian.
“What!” exclaimed Hopeful. “Why, I couldn’t tell what to do.”
“Didn’t you have thoughts of quitting your praying?” inquired Christian.
“Yes,” said Hopeful, “a hundred times over.”
“And why didn’t you?” asked Christian.
Hopeful answered, “I believed it was true what had been told me, that without the righteousness of this Christ all the world could not save me. Therefore, I thought to myself, `If I quit, I’ll die, and I can’t die except at the Throne of Grace.’ With that, this came into my mind: `Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.’25 So, I continued praying until the Father showed me His Son.”26
“And how was He revealed to you?” asked Christian.
“I didn’t see Him with my bodily eyes,” explained Hopeful, “but with the eyes of my heart.27 This is the way it was: One day I was very sad—sadder, I think, than any one time in my life. And this sadness was due to a fresh sight of the greatness and vileness of my sins. As I was then looking forward to nothing but Hell and the everlasting damnation of my soul, suddenly I thought I saw the Lord Jesus looking down from Heaven on me and saying, `Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”‘28
Hopeful continued, “But I replied, `Lord, I’m a great, very great sinner.’ And He answered, `My grace is sufficient for you.’29 Then I said, `But Lord, what is believing?’ And then I saw from the saying, `He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty,’30 that believing and coming was all one thing, and that he who came—that is, ran out in his heart and affections after salvation by Christ—indeed believed in Christ. Then tears stood in my eyes, and I asked further, `But, Lord, may such a great sinner as I am actually be accepted by You and be saved by You?’ And I heard Him say, `Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.’”31
Hopeful went on, “Then I said, `But how, Lord, should I think of You in my coming to You, so that my faith may be correctly placed upon You?’ Then He said, `Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’32 `He is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.’33 `He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.’34 `He loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood.’35 `He is the mediator between God and men.’36 `He always lives to intercede for them.’37 From all that, I gathered that I must look for righteousness in His person and for satisfaction for my sins to His blood. I also recognized that what He did in obedience to His Father’s Law—and in submitting to the penalty of it—was not for himself but for him who will accept it for his salvation and be thankful. And then my heart was full of joy; my eyes were full of tears, and my affections were running over with love for the name, people, and ways of Jesus Christ.”
“This was indeed a revelation of Christ to your soul,” said Christian. “But tell me particularly what effect this had on your spirit.”
Hopeful responded, “It made me see that, in spite of all the righteousness within it, all the world is in a state of condemnation. It made me see that God the Father, though He be just, can justly justify the coming sinner. It made me greatly ashamed of the vileness of my former life and confounded me with a sense of my own ignorance, for before then there never came a thought into my heart that so showed me the beauty of Jesus Christ. It made me love a holy life and long to do something for the honor and glory of the name of the Lord Jesus. Yes, I thought that if I’d had a thousand gallons of blood in my body, I could spill it all for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” (179-186)
1. Ecclesiastes 5:12
2. 1 Thessalonians 5:6
3. Ecclesiastes 4:9
4. Good discourse prevents drowsiness.
5. 1 Timothy 6:9
6. Romans 13:12-14; Galatians 5:19-21; I Peter 4:3.
7. Romans 6:21. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
8. Ephesians 5:6
9. John 3:19-21
10. Isaiah 64:6
11. Galatians 2:16
12. Luke 17:10
13. Revelation 20:11-12
14. Hebrews 4:14-15
15. Hebrews 10:12
16. Romans 4:25; 1 Peter 2:24.
17. Isaiah 9:6-7; Colossians 2:8-9; John 1:1-3.
18. Colossians 1:15-23; 1 Peter 1:3-12
19. Matthew 11:28
20. Matthew 5:18, 24:35
21. Psalm 95:6; Daniel 6:10
22. Jeremiah 29:12-13
23. Exodus 25:10-22, especially 17-22 (KJV); Leviticus 16:2; Numbers 7:89
24. Hebrews 4:16
25. Habakkuk 2:3
26. Galatians 1:15-16, 4:6; 1 John 5:20
27. Ephesians 1:18-21
28. Acts 16:31
29. 2 Corinthians 12:9
30. John 6:35
31. John 6:37
32. 1 Timothy 1:15
33. Romans 10:4
34. Romans 4:25. Romans 4
35. Revelation 1:5
36. 1 Timothy 2:5
37. Hebrews 7:25