Human ecology

John Bunyan and election

"First to speak about my questioning my election, I found at this time that though I was very eager to find the way to heaven and glory, and though nothing could keep me from this, yet this question did so offend and discourage me that it was, especially sometimes, as if the very strength of my body had been taken away by the force and power thereof. Also this Scriptureseemed to me to trample upon all my desires: "It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy" (Romans 9:16). With this Scripture I could not tell what to do, for I clearly saw that unless God in His infinite grace and bounty had voluntarily chosen me to be a vessel of mercy, although I should desire and long and labor until my heart did break, it would be to no avail. Therefore these questions would stick with me: "How can you tell that you are elected? And what if you are not? What then?"

"O Lord," I cried, "what if I am not indeed?"

"Maybe you are not," said the tempter.

"It may be so indeed," thought I.

"Why then," said Satan, "you might as well stop now and strive no further; for if indeed you are not elected and chosen of God, there is no hope of your being saved, for 'It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy.'" By these things I was driven to my wits' end, not knowing what to say or how to answer these torments. Indeed, I little thought that Satan had thus assaulted me, but thought it was my own prudence thus to start the question. That the elect only obtained eternal life, I without scruple did heartily argee; but that I myself was one of them, there lay the question.

For several days I was greatly assaulted and perplexed, and was often, when I had been walking, ready to sink where I went from faintness of heart. But one dat, after I had been for many weeks oppressed and cast down with this, as I was now quite giving up the ghost of all my hopes of ever attaining life, this sentence fell with weight upon my spirit: "Look at the generations of old and see if ever any trusted in God and yet were confounded."

With that I was greatly enlightened and encouraged, for at that very instant it was expounded to me: "Begin at the beginning of Genesis, and read to the end of the Revelation, and see if you can find that there was ever any that trusted in the Lord but was confounded." So coming home, I presently went to my Bible to see if I cound find that saying, not doubting but to find it presently, for it was so fresh and with such strength and comfort to my spirit that it was as if it talked with me. Well, I looked but could not find it, yet it stayed with me.

Then I asked first one good man and then another, if they knew where it was located, but they knew of no such verse. At this I wondered that such a sentence should so suddenly and with such comfort and strength seize in my heart, and yet that none could find it, for I doubted not but that it was in the Holy Scriptures.

Thus I continued for more than a year but I could not find the place. At last, casting my eye upon the Apocryphal books, I found it in Ecclesiasticus 2:10. This at the first did somewhat daunt me, but because by this time I had more experience of the love and kindness of God, it troubled me less, especially when I considered that although it was not in those texts that we call holy and canonical, yet as much as this sentence was the sum and substance of many of the promises, it was my duty to take comfort in it. I bless God for that word, for it was of good to me. That word does still many times shine before my face."

(Bunyan, 1666:1993, pp.33-36)

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Created 2/5/00
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