The dying words of a man often define him. In those last hours of life what is truly important and meaningful reveal themselves, and the accumulated wisdom and experience of a person is expressed. The question should be asked by us, what would our last words to the world be like? John Bunyan, the famed author of Pilgrim’s Progress and early Baptist, was a man who lived and breathed Christ. He was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith and even his last days were spent traveling in service for God. He was caught in a storm and came down with an illness and fever that eventually took his life on August 31st 1688. These words below are recorded in the Miscellaneous Pieces of John Bunyan as his dying sayings:
Sin is the great block and bar to our happiness, the procurer of all miseries to man, both here and hereafter; take away sin, and nothing can hurt us; for death temporal, spiritual, and eternal, is the wages of it.
Sin, and man for sin, is the object of the wrath of God. How dreadful therefore must his case be who continues in sin; for who can bear and grapple with the wrath of God?
No sin against God can be little, because it is against the great God of heaven and earth; but if the sinner can find out a little God, it may be easy to find out little sins.
Sin turns all God’s grace into wantonness: it is the dare of his justice; the rape of his mercy; the jeer of his patience; the slight of his power; and the contempt of his love.
Take heed of giving thyself liberty of committing one sin, for that will lead thee to another; till by an ill custom it become natural.
To begin sin is to lay a foundation for a continuance; this continuance is the mother of custom, and impudence at last the issue.
The death of Christ giveth us the best discovery of ourselves; in what condition we were, so that nothing could help us but that; and the most clear discovery of the dreadful nature of our sins. For if sin be such a dreadful thing as to wring the heart of the Son of God, how shall a poor wretched sinner be able to bear it?
Nothing can render affliction so heavy as the load of sin; would you therefore be fitted for afflictions, be sure to get the burden of your sins laid aside, and then what afflictions soever you meet with will be very easy to you.
If thou canst hear and bear the rod of affliction which God shall lay upon thee, remember this lesson, thou art beaten that thou mayst be better.
The Lord useth his flail of tribulation to separate the chaff from the wheat.
The school of the cross is the school of light; it discovers the world’s vanity, baseness, and wickedness, and lets us see more of God’s mind. Out of dark affliction comes a spiritual light.
In times of affliction we commonly meet with the sweetest experiences of the love of God.
Did we heartily renounce the pleasures of this world, we should be very little troubled for our afflictions; that which renders an afflicted state so insupportable to many, is because they are too much addicted to the pleasures of this life; and so cannot endure that which makes a separation between them.
OF REPENTANCE AND COMING TO CHRIST
The end of affliction is the discovery of sin; and of that to bring us to the Saviour; let us therefore, with the prodigal, return unto him, and we shall find ease and rest.
A returning penitent, though formerly bad as the worst of men, may by grace become as good as the best.
To be truly sensible of sin, is to sorrow for displeasing of God: to be afflicted, that he is displeased by us more than that he is displeased with us.
Your intentions to repentance, and the neglect of that soul-saving duty, will rise up in judgment against you.
Repentance carries with it a divine rhetoric, and persuades Christ to forgive multitudes of sins committed against him.
Say not to thyself, to-morrow I will repent; for it is thy duty to do it daily.
The gospel of grace and salvation is above all doctrine the most dangerous, if it be received in word only by graceless men; if it be not attended with a sensible need of a Saviour, and bring them to him; for such men only as have the notion of it, are of all men most miserable; for by reason of their knowing more than heathens, this shall only be their final portion, that they shall have greater stripes.
Before you enter into prayer, ask thy soul these questions, 1. To what end, O my soul! art thou retired into this place? Art thou come to converse with the Lord in prayer? Is he present, will he hear thee? Is he merciful, will he help thee? Is thy business slight, is it not concerning the welfare of thy soul? What words wilt thou use to move him to compassion?
To make thy preparation complete, consider that thou art but dust and ashes; and he the great God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that clothes himself with light as with a garment; that thou art a vile sinner, and he a holy God; that thou art but a poor crawling worm, and he the omnipotent Creator.
In all your prayers, forget not to thank the Lord for his mercies.
When thou prayest, rather let thy heart be without words than thy words without heart.
Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.
The spirit of prayer is more precious than thousands of gold and silver.
Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.
OF THE LORD’S-DAYS, SERMONS, AND WEEK-DAYS
Have a special care to sanctify the Lord’s-day; for as thou keepest it, so will it be with thee all the week long.
Make the Lord’s-day the market for thy soul; let the whole day be spent in prayer, repetitions, or meditations; lay aside the affairs of the other parts of the week; let the sermon thou hast heard be converted into prayer: shall God allow thee six days, and wilt thou not afford him one?
In the church, be careful to serve God; for thou art in his eyes, and not in man’s.
Thou mayst hear sermons often, and do well in practising what thou hearest; but thou must not expect to be told in a pulpit all that thou oughtest to do, but be studious in reading the Scriptures, and other good books; what thou hearest may be forgotten, but what thou readest may better be retained.
Forsake not the public worship of God, lest God forsake thee; not only in public, but in private.
On the week-day, when thou risest in the morning, consider, 1. Thou must die; 2. Thou mayst die that minute; 3. What will become of thy soul. Pray often. At night consider, 1. What sins thou hast committed; 2. How often thou hast prayed; 3. What hath thy mind been bent upon; 4. What hath been thy dealing; 5. What thy conversation; 6. If thou callest to mind the errors of the day, sleep not without a confession to God, and a hope of pardon. Thus, every morning and evening make up thy account with Almighty God, and thy reckoning will be the less at last.
OF THE LOVE OF THE WORLD
Nothing more hinders a soul from coming to Christ than a vain love of the world; and till a soul is freed from it, it can never have a true love for God.
What are the honours and riches of this world, when compared to the glories of a crown of life?
Love not the world, for it is a moth in a Christian’s life.
To despise the world is the way to enjoy heaven; and blessed are they who delight to converse with God by prayer.
What folly can be greater than to labour for the meat that perisheth, and neglect the food of eternal life?
God or the world must be neglected at parting time, for then is the time of trial.
To seek yourself in this life is to be lost; and to be humble is to be exalted.
The epicure that delighteth in the dainties of this world, little thinketh that those very creatures will one day witness against him.
It is not every suffering that makes a man a martyr; but suffering for the Word of God after a right manner; that is, not only for righteousness, but for righteousness’ sake; not only for truth, but out of love to truth; not only for God’s Word, but according to it: to wit, in that holy, humble, meek manner, as the Word of God requireth.
It is a rare thing to suffer aright, and to have my spirit in suffering bent against God’s enemy, sin. Sin in doctrine, sin in worship, sin in life, and sin in conversation.
Neither the devil, nor men of the world, can kill thy righteousness, or love to it, but by thy own hand; or separate that and thee asunder, without thy own act. Nor will he that doth indeed suffer for the sake of it, or out of love he bears thereto, be tempted to exchange it for the good will of the whole world.
I have often thought that the best of Christians are found in the worst times: and I have thought again, that one reason why we are not better is, because God purges us no more. Noah and Lot, who so holy as they in the time of their afflictions! and yet, who so idle as they in the time of their prosperity?
OF DEATH AND JUDGMENT
As the devil labours by all means to keep out other things that are good, so to keep out of the heart as much as in him lies, the thoughts of passing out of this life into another world; for he knows if he can but keep them from the serious thoughts of death, he shall the more easily keep them in their sins.
Nothing will make us more earnest in working out the work of our salvation than a frequent meditation of mortality; nothing hath a greater influence for the taking off our hearts from vanities, and for the begetting in us desires for holiness.
O! sinner, what a condition wilt thou fall into when thou departest the world; if thou depart unconverted, thou hadst better have been smothered the first hour thou wast born; thou hadst better have been plucked one limb from the other; thou hadst better have been made a dog, a toad, a serpent, than to die unconverted; and this thou wilt find true if thou repent not.
A man would be counted a fool to slight a judge before whom he is to have a trial of his whole estate. The trial we are to have before God is of otherwise importance; it concerns our eternal happiness or misery, and yet dare we affront him.
The only way for us to escape that terrible judgment is to be often passing a sentence of condemnation upon ourselves here.
When the sound of the trumpet shall be heard, which shall summon the dead to appear before the tribunal of God, the righteous shall hasten out of their graves with joy to meet their Redeemer in the clouds; others shall call to the mountains and hills to fall upon them, to cover them from the sight of their judge; let us, therefore, in time be posing ourselves which of the two we shall be.
OF THE JOYS OF HEAVEN
There is no good in this life but what is mingled with some evil: honours perplex, riches disquiet, and pleasures ruin health. But in heaven we shall find blessings in their purity, without any ingredient to imbitter; with everything to sweeten it.
O! who is able to conceive the inexpressible, inconceivable joys that are there! None but they who have tasted of them. Lord, help us to put such a value upon them here, that in order to prepare ourselves for them, we may be willing to forego the loss of all those deluding pleasures here.
How will the heavens echo for joy, when the bride, the Lamb’s wife, shall come to dwell with her husband for ever!
Christ is the desire of nations, the joy of angels, the delight of the Father; what solace then must the soul be filled with, that hath the possession of him to all eternity!
O! what acclamations of joy will there be, when all the children of God shall meet together, without fear of being disturbed by the anti-Christian and Cainish brood.
Is there not a time coming when the godly may ask the wicked, what profit they have in their pleasure? what comfort in their greatness? and what fruit in all their labour?
If you would be better satisfied what the beatifical vision means, my request is, that you would live holily and go and see.
OF THE TORMENTS OF HELL
Heaven and salvation is not surely more promised to the godly, than hell and damnation is threatened to, and shall be executed on, the wicked.
Oh! who knows the power of God’s wrath? None but damned ones.
Sinners’ company are the devil and his angels, tormented in everlasting fire with a curse.
Hell would be a kind of paradise, if it were no worse than the worst of this world.
As different as grief is from joy, as torment from rest, as terror from peace; so different is the state of sinners from that of saints in the world to come.