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   Chapter 18 [FUTURE HAPPINESS NOT TO BE HOPED FROM A QUIET HARDENED DEATH.]

Works of John Bunyan — Complete By John Bunyan Characters: 19352

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


WISE. There is no judgment to be made by a quiet death, of the eternal state of him that so dieth. Suppose that one man should die quietly, another should die suddenly, and a third should die under great consternation of spirit, no man can judge of their eternal condition by the manner of any of these kinds of deaths. He that dies quietly, suddenly, or under consternation of spirit, may go to heaven, or may go to hell; no man can tell whether a man goes, by any such manner of death. The judgment, therefore, that we make of the eternal condition of a man must be gathered from another consideration, to wit, Did the man die in his sins? did he die in unbelief? did he die before he was born again? then he has gone to the devil and hell, though he died never so quietly. Again, Was the man a good man? had he faith and holiness? was he a lover and a worshipper of God by Christ according to his word? Then he is gone to God and heaven, how suddenly, or in what consternation of mind soever he died. But Mr. Badman was naught, his life was evil, his ways were evil, evil to his end. He therefore went to hell and to the devil, how quietly soever he died.

Indeed there is, in some cases, a judgment to be made of a man's eternal condition by the manner of the death he dieth. As, suppose now a man should murder himself, or live a wicked life, and after that die in utter despair; these men, without doubt, do both of them go to hell. And here I will take an occasion to speak of two of Mr. Badman's brethren, for you know I told you before that he had brethren, and of the manner of their death. One of them killed himself, and the other, after a wicked life, died in utter despair. Now, I should not be afraid to conclude of both these, that they went by and through their death to hell.

ATTEN. Pray tell me concerning the first, how he made away with himself?

WISE. Why, he took a knife and cut his own throat, and immediately gave up the ghost and died. Now, what can we judge of such a man's condition, since the scripture saith, 'No murderer hath eternal life,' &c., but that it must be concluded that such a one is gone to hell. He was a murderer, self-murderer; and he is the worst murderer, one that slays his own body and soul.[78] Nor do we find mention made of any but cursed ones that do such kind of deeds. I say, no mention made in Holy Writ of any others, but such that murder themselves.

And this is a sore judgment of God upon men, when God shall, for the sins of such, give them up to be their own executioners, or rather to execute his judgment and anger upon themselves. And let me earnestly give this caution to sinners. Take heed, Sirs, break off your sins, lest God serves you as he served Mr. Badman's brother; that is, lest he gives you up to be your own murderers.

ATTEN. Now you talk of this; I did once know a man, a barber, that took his own razor and cut his own throat, and then put his head out of his chamber window, to show the neighbours what he had done, and after a little while died.

WISE. I can tell you a more dreadful thing than this; I mean as to the manner of doing the fact. There was, about twelve years since, a man that lived at Brafield, by Northampton, named John Cox, that murdered himself; the manner of his doing of it was thus. He was a poor man, and had for some time been sick, and the time of his sickness was about the beginning of hay-time, and taking too many thoughts how he should live afterwards, if he lost his present season of work, he fell into deep despair about the world, and cried out to his wife the morning before he killed himself, saying, We are undone. But quickly after, he desired his wife to depart the room, because, said he, I will see if I can get any rest; so she went out; but he, instead of sleeping, quickly took his razor, and therewith cut up a great hole in his side, out of which he pulled and cut off some of his guts, and threw them, with the blood, up and down the chamber. But this not speeding of him so soon as he desired, he took the same razor and therewith cut his own throat. His wife, the hearing of him sigh and fetch his wind short, came again into the room to him, and seeing what he had done, she ran out and called in some neighbours, who came to him where he lay in a bloody manner, frightful to behold. Then said one of them to him, Ah! John, what have you done? Are you not sorry for what you have done? He answered roughly, It is too late to be sorry. Then, said the same person to him again, Ah! John, pray to God to forgive thee this bloody act of thine. At the hearing of which exhortation he seemed much offended, and in an angry manner said, Pray! and with that flung himself away to the wall, and so, after a few gasps, died desperately. When he had turned him of his back to the wall, the blood ran out of his belly as out of a bowl, and soaked quite through the bed to the boards, and through the chinks of the boards it ran pouring down to the ground. Some said that when the neighbours came to see him, he lay groping with his hand in his bowels, reaching upward, as was thought, that he might have pulled or cut out his heart. It was said, also, that some of his liver had been by him torn out and cast upon the boards, and that many of his guts hung out of the bed on the side thereof; but I cannot confirm all particulars; but the general of the story, with these circumstances above mentioned, is true. I had it from a sober and credible person, who himself was one that saw him in this bloody state, and that talked with him, as was hinted before.

Many other such dreadful things might be told you, but these are enough, and too many too, if God, in his wisdom, had thought necessary to prevent them.

ATTEN. This is a dreadful story. And I would to God that it might be a warning to others, to instruct them to fear before God, and pray, lest he give them up to do as John Cox hath done. For surely self-murderers cannot go to heaven; and, therefore, as you have said, he that dieth by his own hands, is certainly gone to hell. But speak a word or two of the other man you mentioned.

WISE. What? of a wicked man dying in despair?

ATTEN. Yes, of a wicked man dying in despair.

WISE. Well then. This Mr. Badman's other brother was a very wicked man, both in heart and life; I say in heart, because he was so in life, nor could anything reclaim him; neither good men, good books, good examples, nor God's judgments. Well, after he had lived a great while in his sins, God smote him with a sickness, of which he died. Now in his sickness his conscience began to be awakened, and he began to roar out of his ill-spent life, insomuch that the town began to ring of him. Now, when it was noised about, many of the neighbours came to see him, and to read by him, as is the common way with some; but all that they could do, could not abate his terror, but he would lie in his bed gnashing of his teeth, and wringing of his wrists, concluding upon the damnation of his soul, and in that horror and despair he died; not calling upon God, but distrusting in his mercy, and blaspheming of his name.

ATTEN. This brings to my mind a man that a friend of mine told me of. He had been a wicked liver; so when he came to die, he fell into despair; and having concluded that God had no mercy for him, he addressed himself to the devil for favour, saying, Good devil, be good unto me.

WISE. This is almost like Saul, who being forsaken of God, went to the witch of Endor, and so to the devil for help (1 Sam 28). But, alas, should I set myself to collect these dreadful stories, it would be easy in little time to present you with hundreds of them. But I will conclude as I began; they that are their own murderers, or that die in despair, after they have lived a life of wickedness, do surely go to hell. And here I would put in a caution. Every one that dieth under consternation of spirit; that is, under amazement and great fear, do not therefore die in despair. For a good man may have this for his bands in his death, and yet go to heaven and glory (Psa 73:4). For, as I said before, he that is a good man, a man that hath faith and holiness, a lover and worshipper of God by Christ, according to his Word, may die in consternation of spirit; for Satan will not be wanting to assault good men upon their death-bed, but they are secured by the Word and power of God; yea, and are also helped, though with much agony of spirit, to exercise themselves in faith and prayer, the which he that dieth in despair can by no means do. But let us return to Mr. Badman, and enter further discourse of the manner of his death.

ATTEN. I think you and I are both of a mind; for just now I was thinking to call you back to him also. And pray now, since it is your own motion to return again to him, let us discourse a little more of his quiet and still death.

WISE. With all my heart. You know we were speaking before of the manner of Mr. Badman's death; how that he died still and quietly; upon which you made observation that the common people conclude, that if a man dies quietly, and as they call it, like a lamb, he is certainly gone to heaven; when, alas, if a wicked man died quietly, if a man that has all his days lived in notorious sin, dieth quietly; his quiet dying is so far off from being a sign of his being saved, that it is an uncontrollable proof of his damnation. This was Mr. Badman's case, he lived wickedly even to the last, and then went quietly out of the world; therefore Mr. Badman is gone to hell.

ATTEN. Well, but since you are upon it, and also so confident in it, to wit, that a man that lives a wick

ed life till he dies, and then dies quietly, is gone to hell; let me see what show of proof you have for this your opinion.

WISE. My first argument is drawn from the necessity of repentance. No man can be saved except he repents, nor can he repent that sees not, that knows not that he is a sinner; and he that knows himself to be a sinner will, I will warrant him, be molested for the time by that knowledge. this, as it is testified by all the scriptures, so it is testified by Christian experience. He that knows himself to be a sinner is molested, especially if that knowledge comes not to him until he is cast upon his death-bed; molested, I say, before he can die quietly. Yea, he is molested, dejected, and cast down, he is also made to cry out, to hunger and thirst after mercy by Christ, and if at all he shall indeed come to die quietly, I mean with that quietness that is begotten by faith and hope in God's mercy, to the which Mr. Badman and his brethren were utter strangers, his quietness is distinguished by all judicious observers by what went before it, by what it flows from, and also by what is the fruit thereof.

I must confess I am no admirer of sick-bed repentance, for I think verily it is seldom good of any thing. But I say, he that hath lived in sin and profaneness all his days, as Mr. Badman did, and yet shall die quietly, that is, without repentance steps in betwixt his life and death, he is assuredly gone to hell, and is damned.

ATTEN. This does look like an argument indeed; for repentance must come, or else we must go to hell-fire; and if a lewd liver shall, I mean that so continues till the day of his death, yet go out of the world quietly, it is a sign that he died without repentance, and so a sign that he is damned.

WISE. I am satisfied in it, for my part, and that from the necessity and nature of repentance. It is necessary, because God calls for it, and will not pardon sin without it. 'Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish?' (Luke 13:1-7). This is that which God hath said, and he will prove but a foolhardy man that shall yet think to go to heaven and glory without it. Repent, for 'the axe is laid unto the root of the trees, therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit,' but no good fruit can be where there is not sound repentance, shall be 'hewn down, and cast into the fire' (Matt 3:10). This was Mr. Badman's case, he had attending of him a sinful life, and that to the very last, and yet died quietly, that is, without repentance; he is gone to hell and is damned. For the nature of repentance, I have touched upon that already, and showed that it never was where a quiet death is the immediate companion of a sinful life; and therefore Mr. Badman is gone to hell.

Secondly. My second argument is drawn from that blessed word of Christ. While the strong man armed keeps the house, 'his goods are in peace,' till a stronger than he comes (Luke 11:21). But the strong man armed kept Mr. Badman's house, that is, his heart, and soul, and body, for he went from a sinful life quietly out of this world. The stronger did not disturb by intercepting with sound repentance betwixt his sinful life and his quiet death. Therefore Mr. Badman is gone to hell.

The strong man armed is the devil, and quietness is his security. The devil never fears losing of the sinner, if he can but keep him quiet. Can he but keep him quiet in a sinful life, and quiet in his death, he is his own. Therefore he saith, 'his goods are in peace'; that is, out of danger. There is no fear of the devil's losing such a soul, I say, because Christ, who is the best judge in this matter, saith, 'his goods are in peace,' in quiet, and out of danger.

ATTEN. This is a good one too; for, doubtless, peace and quiet with sin is one of the greatest signs of a damnable state.

WISE. So it is. Therefore, when God would show the greatness of his anger against sin and sinners in one word, he saith, They are 'joined to idols; let them alone' (Hosea 4:17). Let them alone, that is, disturb them not; let them go on without control; let the devil enjoy them peaceably, let him carry them out of the world unconverted quietly. This is one of the sorest of judgments, and bespeaketh the burning anger of God against sinful men. See also when you come home, the fourteenth verse of the fourth chapter of Hosea, 'I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom.' I will let them alone, they shall live and die in their sins. But,

Thirdly. My third argument is drawn from that saying of Christ, 'He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them' (John 12:40). There are three things that I will take notice of from these words.

1. The first is, that there can be no conversion to God where the eye is darkened, and the heart hardened. The eye must first be made to see, and the heart to break and relent under and for sin, or else there can be no conversion. 'He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart, lest they should see, and understand and' so 'be converted.' And this was clearly Mr. Badman's case; he lived a wicked life, and also died with his eyes shut, and heart hardened, as is manifest, in that a sinful life was joined with a quiet death; and all for that he should not be converted, but partake of the fruit of his sinful life in hell-fire.

2. The second thing that I take notice of from these words is, that this is a dispensation and manifestation of God's anger against a man for his sin. When God is angry with men, I mean, when he is so angry with them, this among many is one of the judgments that he giveth them up unto, to wit, to blindness of mind, and hardness of heart, which he also suffereth to accompany them till they enter in at the gates of death. And then, and there, and not short of then and there, their eyes come to be opened.[79] Hence it is said of the rich man mentioned in Luke, 'He died, and in hell he lifted up his eyes' (Luke 16:22). Implying that he did not lift them up before; he neither saw what he had done, nor whither he was going, till he came to the place of execution, even into hell. He died asleep in his soul; he died besotted, stupefied, and so consequently for quietness like a child or lamb, even as Mr. Badman did. This was a sign of God's anger; he had a mind to damn him for his sins, and therefore would not let him see nor have a heart to repent for them, lest he should convert; and his damnation, which God had appointed, should be frustrate. 'Lest they should be converted, and I should heal them.'

3. The third thing I take notice of from hence is, that a sinful life and a quiet death annexed to it is the ready, the open, the beaten, the common highway to hell: there is no surer sign of damnation than for a man to die quietly after a sinful life. I do not say that all wicked men that are molested at their death with a sense of sin and fears of hell do therefore go to heaven, for some are also made to see, and are left to despair, not converted by seeing, that they might go roaring out of this world to their place. But I say there is no surer sign of a man's damnation than to die quietly after a sinful life; than to sin and die with his eyes shut; than to sin and die with an heart that cannot repent. 'He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart' (John 12:40). No not so long as they are in this world, 'Lest they should see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them' (Acts 28:26,27; Rom 2:1-5).

God has a judgment for wicked men; God will be even with wicked men. God knows how to reserve the ungodly to the day of judgment to be punished (2 Peter 2). And this is one of his ways by which he doth it. Thus it was with Mr. Badman.

4. Fourthly, it is said in the book of Psalms, concerning the wicked, 'There are no bands in their death, but their strength is firm' (Psa 73:4-6). By no bands he means no troubles, no gracious chastisements, no such corrections for sin as fall to be the lot of God's people for theirs; yea, that many times falls to be theirs at the time of their death. Therefore he adds concerning the wicked, 'They are not in trouble [then] as other men, neither are they plagued like other men'; but go as securely out of the world as if they had never sinned against God, and put their own souls into danger of damnation. 'There is no bands in their death.' They seem to go unbound, and set at liberty out of this world, though they have lived notoriously wicked all their days in it. The prisoner that is to die at the gallows for his wickedness, must first have his irons knocked off his legs; so he seems to go most at liberty, when indeed he is going to be executed for his transgressions. Wicked men also have no bands in their death, they seem to be more at liberty when they are even at the wind-up of their sinful life, than at any time besides.

Hence you shall have them boast of their faith and hope in God's mercy when they lie upon their death-bed; yea, you shall have them speak as confidently of their salvation as if they had served God all their days; when the truth is, the bottom of this their boasting is because they have no bands in their death. Their sin and base life comes not into their mind to correct them, and bring them to repentance; but presumptuous thoughts, and a hope and faith of the spider's, the devil's, making, possesseth their soul, to their own eternal undoing (Job 8:13,14).

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