This final assignment (paragraphs 300-339 & Conclusion) in Grace Abounding takes us within sight of the Celestial City, whereby we discover clearer views of ourselves and greater longings to enjoy unbroken communion with our dear Savior.
The last two paragraphs in the Conclusion afford us such inspiring vistas, in the form of seven abominations magnificently ordered by God’s wisdom for the saint’s good far beyond what anyone would ever imagine possible:
- I find to this day seven abominations in my heart: (1) Inclinings to unbelief. (2) Suddenly to forget the love and mercy that Christ manifesteth. (3) A leaning to the works of the law. (4) Wanderings and coldness in prayer. (5) To forget to watch for that I pray for. (6) Apt to murmur because I have no more, and yet ready to abuse what I have. (7) I can do none of those things which God commands me, but my corruptions will thrust in themselves, ‘When I would do good, evil is present with me.’
- These things I continually see and feel, and am afflicted and oppressed with; yet the wisdom of God doth order them for my good. (1) They make me abhor myself. (2) They keep me from trusting my heart. (3) They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness. (4) They show me the necessity of fleeing to Jesus. (5) They press me to pray unto God. (6) They show me the need I have to watch and be sober. (7) And provoke me to look to God, through Christ, to help me, and carry me through this world. Amen.
It seems that Bunyan is ending with a seven-fold exposition of the illustration he employed in the preface addressed to his children:
I have sent you here enclosed, a drop of that honey, that I have taken out of the carcase of a lion (Judg. 14:5-9). I have eaten thereof myself also, and am much refreshed thereby. (Temptations, when we meet them at first, are as the lion that roared upon Samson; but if we overcome them, the next time we see them, we shall find a nest of honey within them.) The Philistines understand me not.
I think it was Thomas Brooks in Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices who cited someone by the name of Hooper as saying: “Lord, I am hell, but you are heaven.” The believer who, by grace, comes to perceive the plague of his heart will heartily agree with Hooper’s assessment as well as Bunyan’s, and those lessons well-learned will send the soul regularly to Jesus, emptied of all self-righteousness and resolutions to do better; for apart from Him, we can do nothing. So it isn’t surprising that the person who knows himself and his desperate, daily need of the Savior becomes keenly aware of the need for prayer.
I remember how John Piper (sorry for the citation of a current author on this dead theologians blog!) compared prayer to air support. Ground troops on the battlefield call in air support via walkie-talkies. The “shock and awe” that the air support brings is stunning. So it is when the humble soul calls upon the Lord for aid against enemies too strong for him. The strongest believer is no match for either the flesh, the world, or Satan, much less all three combined, wherein is the saint’s constant conflict. And the “shock and awe” that ensues in response to prayers for aid all flow from Mount Zion, which Bunyan also referred to in paragraph 5 of the Conclusion:
- Of all tears, they are the best that are made by the blood of Christ; and of all joy, that is the sweetest that is mixed with mourning over Christ. Oh! it is a goodly thing to be on our knees, with Christ in our arms, before God. I hope I know something of these things.
I hope I know something of these things as well, although far more infrequently than I would like. It is truly a taste of heaven to be simultaneously so convicted of sin and so assured of the forgiveness and acceptance of God that tears of joy flow profusely down the face and all you can say is GLORY as His presence seems to saturate the heart. At times like that, one can enthusiastically join John Newton’s retort in the face of every accusing dart hurled by the evil one:
Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
By Satan sorely pressed,
By war without and fears within,
I come to Thee for rest.
Be Thou my Shield and hiding Place,
That, sheltered by Thy side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
And tell him Thou hast died!
Glory be to Him, through whom grace is ever abounding!