I love how Christian replies to Apollyon when they face off in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. After Apollyon accuses Christian of a series of sins, he basically replies, “You’re right. But I’m actually even worse than that.” That disarming statement sets up the death blow:
- “You almost fainted when you first set out, when you almost choked in the Swamp of Despond.
- You also attempted to get rid of your burden in the wrong way, instead of patiently waiting for the Prince to take it off.
- You sinfully slept and lost your scroll,
- you were almost persuaded to go back at the sight of the lions, and
- when you talk of your journey and of what you have heard and seen, you inwardly desire your own glory in all you do and say.”
- “All this is true, and much more that you have failed to mention,” Christian agreed.
- “But the Prince whom I now serve and honor is merciful and ready to forgive.
- Besides, these infirmities possessed me while I was in your country, for there I allowed them to come in. But I have groaned under them, have been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon from my Prince.”
—John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come (ed. C. J. Lovik; Wheaton: Crossway, 2009), 89–90 (formatting added). Cf. my review and “The Pilgrim’s Progress for Children.”
This sounds like something Bunyan writes in The Jerusalem Sinner Saved (The Works of John Bunyan, 1:79–80 [formatting added]):
Satan is loath to part with a great sinner.
- ‘What, my true servant,’ quoth he, ‘my old servant, wilt thou forsake me now?
- Having so often sold thyself to me to work wickedness, wilt thou forsake me now?
- Thou horrible wretch, dost not know, that thou has sinned thyself beyond the reach of grace, and dost thou think to find mercy now?
- Art not thou a murderer, a thief, a harlot, a witch, a sinner of the greatest size, and dost thou look for mercy now?
- Dost thou think that Christ will foul his fingers with thee?
- It is enough to make angels blush, saith Satan, to see so vile an one knock at heaven-gates for mercy, and wilt thou be so abominably bold to do it?’
. . . [In reply]
- [The great sinner] granted the while charge to be true . . . .
- No [I did not despair] . . . .
- I am Magdalene, I am Zaccheus, I am the thief, I am the harlot, I am the publican, I am the prodigal, and one of Christ’s murderers; yea, worse than any of these;
- and yet God was so far off from rejecting of me, as I found afterwards, that there was music and dancing in his house for me, and for joy that I was come home unto him.
These exchanges remind me of “Before the Throne of God Above” (my favorite hymn):
When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see him there who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free,
For God, the Just, is satisfied to look on him and pardon me.
And this one:
Well may the accuser roar of sins that I have done.
I know them all and thousands more; Jehovah knoweth none.