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The Acceptable Sacrifice: Chapter 7 - The Use

By John Bunyan

      Let us now, then, make some use of this doctrine. As,

      FIRST USE. From the truth of the matter, namely, that the man who is truly come to God has had his heart broken, his heart broken in order to his coming to him. And this shows us what to judge of the league that is between sin and the soul, to wit, that it is so firm, so strong, so inviolable, as that nothing can break, disannul, or make it void, unless the heart be broken for it. It was so with David, yea, his new league with it could not be broken until his heart was broken.

      It is amazing to consider what hold sin has on some men's souls, spirits, will, and affections. It is to them better than heaven, better than God, than the soul, ay, than salvation; as is evident, because, though all these are offered them upon this condition, if they will but leave their sins, yet they will choose rather to abide in them, to stand and fall by them. How sayest thou, sinner? Is not this a truth? How many times hast thou had heaven and salvation offered to thee freely, wouldst thou but break thy league with this great enemy of God? Of God, do I say; if thou wouldst but break this league with this great enemy of thy soul? but couldst never yet be brought unto it; no, neither by threatening nor by promise couldst thou ever yet be brought unto it.

      It is said of Ahab he sold himself to work wickedness: and in another place, yea, 'for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves' (1 Kings 21:25; Isa 50:1). But what is this iniquity? Why, a thing of nought; nay, worse than nought a thousand times; but because nought is as we say nought, therefore it goes under that term, where God saith again to the people, 'Ye have sold yourselves for nought' (Isa 52:3). But, I say, what an amazing thing is this, that a rational creature should make no better a bargain; that one that is so wise in all terrene things, should be such a fool in the thing that is most weighty? And yet such a fool he is, and he tells every one that goes by the way that he is such an one, because he will not break his league with sin until his heart is broken for it. Men love darkness rather than light. Ay, they make it manifest they love it, since so great a proffer will not prevail with them to leave it.

      SECOND USE. Is this a truth, that the man that truly comes to God in order thereto has had his heart broken? then this shows us a reason why some men's hearts are broken; even a reason why God breaks some men's hearts for sin; namely, because he would not have them die in it, but rather come to God that they might be saved? Behold, therefore, in this how God resolved as to the saving of some men's souls! He will have them, he will save them, he will break their hearts, but he will save them; he will kill them, that they may live; he will wound them, that he may heal them. And it seems by our discourse that now there is no way left but this; fair means, as we say, will not do; good words, a glorious gospel, entreatings, beseeching with blood and tears, will not do. Men are resolved to put God to the utmost of it; if he will have them he must fetch them, follow them, catch them, lame them; yea, break their bones, or else he shall not save them.

      Some men think an invitation, an outward call, a rational discourse, will do; but they are much deceived, there must a power, an exceeding great and mighty power, attend the Word, or it worketh not effectually to the salvation of the soul. I know these things are enough to leave men without excuse, but yet they are not enough to bring men home to God. Sin has hold of them, they have sold themselves to it; the power of the devil has hold of them, they are his captives at his will; yea, and more than all this, their will is one with sin, and with the devil, to be held captive thereby: and if God gives not contrition, repentance, or a broken heart, for sin, there will not be no not so much as a mind in man to forsake this so horrible a confederacy and plot against his soul (2 Tim 2:24, 25).

      Hence men are said to be drawn from these breasts, that come, or that are brought to him (Isa 26:9; John 6:44). Wherefore John might well say, 'Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us!' Here is cost bestowed, pains bestowed, labour bestowed, repentance bestowed; yea, and an heart made sore, wounded, broken, and filled with pain and sorrow, in order to the salvation of the soul.

      THIRD USE. This then may teach us what estimation to set upon a broken heart. A broken heart is such as God esteems, yea, as God counts better than all external service: a broken heart is that which is in order to salvation, in order to thy coming to Christ for life. The world know not what to make of it, nor what to say to one that has a broken heart, and therefore do despise it, and count that man that carries it in his bosom a moping fool, a miserable wretch, an undone soul: 'But a broken and a contrite spirit, O God, thou wilt not despise'; a broken heart takes thine eye, thy heart: thou choosest it for thy companion, yea, has given thy Son a charge to look well to such a man, and has promised him thy salvation, as has afore been proved.

      Sinner, hast thou obtained a broken heart? has God bestowed a contrite spirit upon thee? He has given thee what himself is pleased with; he has given thee a cabinet to hold his grace in; he has given thee a heart that can heartily desire his salvation, an heart after his own heart, that is, such as suits his mind. True, it is painful now, sorrowful now, penitent now, grieved now; now it is broken, now it bleeds, now, now it sobs, now it sighs, now it mourns and crieth unto God. Well, very well; all this is because he hath a mind to make thee laugh; he has made thee sorry on earth that thou mightest rejoice in heaven. 'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted., Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall laugh' (Matt 5:4; Luke 6:21).

      But, soul, be sure thou hast this broken heart. All hearts are not broken hearts, nor is every heart that seems to have a wound, a heart that is truly broken. A man may be cut to, yet not into the heart; a man may have another, yet not a broken heart (Acts 7:54; 1 Sam 10:9). We know there is a difference betwixt a wound in the flesh and a wound in the spirit; yea, a man's sin may be wounded, and yet his heart not broken: so was Pharaoh's, so was Saul's, so was Ahab's; but they had none of them the mercy of a broken heart. Therefore, I say, take heed; every scratch with a pin, every prick with a thorn, nay, every blow that God giveth with his Word upon the heart of sinners, doth not therefore break them. God gave Ahab such a blow that he made him stoop, fast, humble himself, gird himself with and lie in sackcloth, which was a great matter for a king, and go softly, and yet he never had a broken heart (1 Kings 21:27, 29). What shall I say? Pharaoh and Saul confessed their sins, Judas repented himself of his doings, Esau sought the blessing, and that carefully with tears, and yet none of these had a heart rightly broken, or a spirit truly contrite; Pharaoh, Saul, and Judas, were Pharaoh, Saul, and Judas still; Esau was Esau still; there was no gracious change, no thorough turn to God, no unfeigned parting with their sins, no hearty flight for refuge, to lay hold on the hope of glory, though they indeed had thus been touched (Exo 10:16; 1 Sam 26:21; Matt 27:3; Heb 12:14-17).

      The consideration of these things call aloud to us to take heed, that we take not that for a broken and a contrite spirit that will not go for one at the day of death and judgment. Wherefore, seeking soul, let me advise thee, that thou mayest not be deceived as to this thing of so great weight.

      First. To go back towards the beginning of this book, and compare thyself with those six or seven signs of a broken and contrite heart, which there I have, according to the Word of God, given to thee for that end; and deal with thy soul impartially about them.

      Second. Or, which may and will be great help to thee if thou shalt be sincere therein, namely, to betake thyself to the search of the Word, especially where thou readest of the conversion of men, and try if thy conversion be like, or has a good resemblance or oneness with theirs. But in this have a care that thou dost not compare thyself with those good folk of whose conversion thou readest not, or of the breaking of whose heart there is no mention made in Scripture; for all that are recorded in the Scripture for saints have not their conversion, as to the manner or nature of it, recorded in the Scripture.

      Third. Or else, do thou consider truly of the true signs of repentance which are laid down in Scripture; for that is the true effect of a broken heart, and of a wounded spirit. And for this see Matthew 3:5, 6; Luke 18:13, 19:8; Acts 2:37-40, &c., 16:29, 30, 19:18, 19; 2 Corinthians 7:8-11.

      Fourth. Or else, take into consideration how God has said, they shall be in their spirits that he intends to save. And for this read these scriptures: (1.) That in Jeremiah 31, 'They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them' &c. (v 9). (2.) Read Jeremiah 50:4, 5: 'In those days, and in that time, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.' (3.) Read Ezekiel 6:9: 'And they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives, because I am broken with their whorish heart, which have departed from me, and with their eyes, which go a-whoring after their idols: and they shall loathe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations.' (4.) Read Ezekiel 7:16: 'But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every one for his iniquity.' (5.) Read Ezekiel 20:43: 'And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed.' (6.) Read Ezekiel 37:31: 'Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.' (7.) Read Zechariah 12:10: 'And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.'

      Now all these are the fruits of the Spirit of God, and of the heart, when it is broken: wherefore, soul, take notice of them, and because these are texts by which God promiseth that those whom he saveth shall have this heart, this spirit, and these holy effects in them; therefore consider again, and examine thyself, whether this is the state and condition of thy soul. And that thou mayest do it fully, consider again, and do thou,

      1. Remember that here is such a sense of sin, and of the irksomeness thereof, as maketh the man not only to abhor that, but himself, because of that; this is worth the noting by thee.

      2. Remember again that here is not only a self-abhorrence, but a sorrowful kind mourning unto God, at the consideration that the soul by sin has affronted, contemned, disregarded, and set at nought, both God and his holy Word.

      3. Remember also that here are prayers and tears for mercy, with desires to be now out of love with sin for ever, and to be in heart and soul firmly joined and knit unto God.

      4. Remember also that this people here spoken of have all the way from Satan to God, from sin to grace, from death to life, scattered with tears and prayers, with weeping and supplication; they shall go weeping, and seeking the Lord their God.

      5. Remember that these people, as strangers and pilgrims do, are not ashamed to ask the way of those they meet with to Zion, or the heavenly country; whereby they confess their ignorance, as became them, and their desire to know the way to life: yea, thereby they declare that there is nothing in this world, under the sun, or this side heaven, that can satisfy the longings, the desire, and cravings of a broken and a contrite spirit. Reader, be advised, and consider of these things seriously, and compare thy soul with them, and with what else thou shalt find here written for thy conviction and instruction.

      FOURTH USE. If a broken heart and a contrite spirit be of such esteem with God, then this should encourage them that have it to come to God with it. I know the great encouragement for men to come to God is, for that there 'is a mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus' (1 Tim 2:5). This, I say, is the great encouragement, and in its place there is none but that; but there are other encouragements subordinate to that, and a broken and a contrite spirit is one of them: this is evident from several places of Scripture.

      Wherefore, thou that canst carry a broken heart and a sorrowful spirit with thee, when thou goest to God, tell him thy heart is wounded within thee, that thou hast sorrow in thy heart, and art sorry for thy sins; but take heed of lying.[15] Confess also thy sins unto him, and tell him they are continually before thee. David made an argument of these things, when he went to God by prayer. 'O Lord, ' saith he, 'rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.' But why so? O! says he, 'Thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh, because of thine anger: neither is there any rest in my bones, because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink, and are corrupt, because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and sore broken; I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee. My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light for mine eyes, it also is gone from me. My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore': and so he goes on (Psa 38:1-4, &c.).

      These are the words, sighs, complaints, prayers, and arguments of a broken heart to God for mercy; and so are they, 'Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me' (Psa 51:1-3).

      God alloweth poor creatures that can, without lying, thus to plead and argue with him. 'I am poor and sorrowful, ' said the good man to him, 'let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high' (Psa 69:29). Wherefore thou that hast a broken heart take courage, God bids thee take courage; say therefore to thy soul, 'Why are thou cast down, O my soul?' as usually the broken-hearted are. 'And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God.' 'I had fainted, ' if I had not been of good courage; therefore 'be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart' (Psa 42:11, 43:5, 27:12-14).

      But alas! the broken-hearted are far off from this; they faint; they reckon themselves among the dead; they think God will remember them no more: the thoughts of the greatness of God, and his holiness, and their own sins and vilenesses, will certainly consume them. They feel guilt and anguish of soul; they go mourning all the day long; their mouth is full of gravel and gall, and they are made to drink draughts of wormwood and gall; so that he must be an artist indeed at believing, who can come to God under his guilt and horror, and plead in faith that the sacrifices of God are a broken heart, such as he had; and that 'a broken and a contrite spirit God will not despise.'

      FIFTH USE. If a broken heart, if a broken and contrite spirit, is of such esteem with God, then why should some be, as they are, so afraid of a broken heart, and so shy of a contrite spirit?

      I have observed that some men are as afraid of a broken heart, or that they for their sins should have their hearts broken, as the dog is of the whip. O! they cannot away with such books, with such sermons, with such preachers, or with such talk, as tends to make a man sensible of, and to break his heart, and to make him contrite for his sins. Hence they heap to themselves such teachers, get such books, love such company, and delight in such discourse, as rather tends to harden than soften; to make desperate in, than sorrowful for their sin. They say to such sermons, books, and preachers, as Amaziah said unto Amos, 'O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there, but prophesy not again any more at Bethel; for it is the king's chapel, and it is the king's court' (Amos 7:12, 13).

      But do these people know what they do? Yes, think they, for such preachers, such books, such discourses tend to make one melancholy or mad; they make us that we cannot take pleasure in ourselves, in our concerns, in our lives. But, O fool in grain![16] let me speak unto thee. Is it a time to take pleasure, and to recreate thyself in anything, before thou hast mourned and been sorry for thy sins? That mirth that is before repentance for sin will certainly end in heaviness. Wherefore the wise man, putting both together, saith that mourning must be first. There is 'a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance' (Eccl 3:4). What, an unconverted man, and laugh! Shouldst thou see one singing merry songs that is riding up Holborn to Tyburn, [17] to be hanged for felony, wouldst thou not count him besides himself, if not worse? and yet thus it is with him that is for mirth while he standeth condemned by the Book of God for his trespasses. Man! man! thou hast cause to mourn; yea, thou must mourn if ever thou art saved. Wherefore my advice is, that instead of shunning, thou covet both such books, such preachers, and such discourses, as have a tendency to make a man sensible of, and to break his heart for sin; and the reason is, because thou wilt never be as thou shouldst, concerned about, nor seek the salvation of thine own soul, before thou hast a broken heart, a broken and a contrite spirit. Wherefore be not afraid of a broken heart; be not shy of a contrite spirit. It is one of the greatest mercies that God bestows upon a man or a woman. The heart rightly broken at the sense of, and made truly contrite for transgression, is a certain forerunner of salvation. This is evident from those six demonstrations which were laid down to prove the point in hand, at first.

      And for thy awakening in this matter, let me tell thee, and thou wilt find it so, thou must have thy heart broken whether thou wilt or no. God is resolved to break ALL hearts for sin some time or other. Can it be imagined, sin being what it is, and God what he is, to wit, a revenger of disobedience, but that one time or other man must smart for sin? smart, I say, either to repentance or to condemnation. He that mourns not now, while the door of mercy is open, must mourn for sin when the door of mercy is shut.

      Shall men despise God, break his law, contemn his threats, abuse his grace, yea, shut their eyes when he says, See; and stop their ears when he says, Hear; and shall they so escape? No, no, because he called, and they refused; he stretched out his hand, and they regarded it not; therefore shall calamity come upon them, as upon one in travail; and they shall cry in their destruction, and then God will laugh at their destruction, and mock when their fear cometh. Then, saith he, 'they shall cry' (Prov 1:24-26). I have often observed that this threatening is repeated at least seven times in the New Testament, saying, 'There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth'; 'there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth' (Matt 8:12, 13:42, 50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30; Luke 13:28). There. Where? In hell, and at the bar of Christ's tribunal, when he comes to judge the world, and shall have shut to the door to keep them out of glory, that have here despised the offer of his grace, and overlooked the day of his patience. 'There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.' They shall weep and wail for this.

      There are but two scriptures that I shall use more, and then I shall draw towards a conclusion. One is that in Proverbs, where Solomon is counselling of young men to beware of strange, that is, of wanton, light, and ensnaring women. Take heed of such, said he, lest 'thou mourn at the last, ' that is, in hell, when thou art dead, 'when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof, and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ears to them that instructed me!' (Prov 5:11-13).

      The other scripture is that in Isaiah, where he says, 'Because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not. Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed; behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit' (Isa 65:13, 14).

      How many beholds are here! and every behold is not only a call to careless ones to consider, but as a declaration from heaven that thus at last it shall be with all impenitent sinners; that is, when others sing for joy in the kingdom of heaven, they, they shall sorrow in hell, and howl for vexation of spirit there.

      Wherefore, let me advise that you be not afraid of, but that you rather covet a broken heart, and prize a contrite spirit; I say, covet it now, now the white flag is hung out, now the golden sceptre of grace is held forth to you. Better mourn now God inclines to mercy and pardon, than mourn when the door is quite shut up. And take notice, that this is not the first time that I have given you this advice.

      USE SIXTH. Lastly, If a broken heart be a thing of so great esteem with God as has been said, and if duties cannot be rightly performed by a heart that has not been broken, then this shows the vanity of those peoples' minds, and also the invalidity of their pretended Divine services, who worship God with a heart that was never broken, and without a contrite spirit. There has, indeed, at all times been great flocks of such professors in the world in every age, but to little purpose, unless to deceive themselves, to mock God, and lay stumbling-blocks in the way of others; for a man whose heart was never truly broken, and whose spirit was never contrite, cannot profess Christ in earnest, cannot love his own soul in earnest; I mean, he cannot do these things in truth, and seek his own good the right way, for he wants a bottom for it, to wit, a broken heart for sin, and a contrite spirit.

      That which makes a man a hearty, an unfeigned, a sincere seeker after the good of his own soul, is sense of sin, and a godly fear of being overtaken with the danger which it brings a man into. This makes him contrite or repentant, and puts him upon seeking of Christ the Saviour, with heart-aching and heart-breaking considerations. But this cannot be, where this sense, this godly fear, and this holy contrition is wanting. Profess men may, and make a noise, as the empty barrel maketh the biggest sound; but prove them, and they are full of air, full of emptiness, and that is all.

      Nor are such professors tender of God's name, nor of the credit of that gospel which they profess; nor can they, for they want that which should oblige them thereunto, which is a sense of pardon and forgiveness, by the which their broken hearts have been replenished, succoured, and made to hope in God. Paul said, the love of Christ constrained him. But what was Paul but a broken-hearted and a contrite sinner? (Acts 9:3-6; 2 Cor 5:14). When God shows a man the sin he has committed, the hell he has deserved, the heaven he has lost; and yet that Christ, and grace, and pardon may be had; this will make him serious, this will make him melt, this will break his heart, this will show him that there is more than air, than a noise, than an empty sound in religion; and this is the man, whose heart, whose life, whose conversation and all, will be engaged in the matters of the eternal salvation of his precious and immortal soul.


      [14] 'Sin will at first, just like a beggar, crave One penny or one halfpenny to have;

      And if you grant its first suit, 'twill aspire From pence to pounds, and so will still mount higher To the whole soul!', Bunyan's Caution Against Sin., Ed.

      [15] This is faithful dealing. How many millions of lies are told to the All-seeing God, with unblushing effrontery, every Lord's day, when the unconcerned and careless, or the saint of God, happy, most happy in the enjoyment of Divine love, are led to say, 'Have mercy upon us miserable sinners.', Ed.

      [16] 'In grain' is a term used in dyeing, when the raw material is dyed before being spun or wove; the colour thus takes every grain, and becomes indelible. So with sin and folly; it enters every grain of human nature., Ed.

      [17] These frightful exhibitions, by drawing a criminal from Newgate to Tyburn to be executed, were of common occurrence until the reign of George III, when such numbers were put to death that it was found handier for the wholesale butchery to take place at Newgate, by a new drop, where twenty or thirty could be hung at once!! When will such brutalizing exhibitions cease?, Ed.

Back to John Bunyan index.

See Also:
   Chapter 1 - The Text Opened in the Many Workings of the Heart
   Chapter 2 - Doctrine, Assertion, Demonstration, and Conclusion
   Chapter 3 - What a Broken Heart, and a Contrite Spirit Is
   Chapter 4 - The Necessity There is that the Heart Must be Broken
   Chapter 5 - A Broken Heart is Esteemed by God
   Chapter 6 - Advantages of a Tender Heart
   Chapter 7 - The Use
   Chapter 8 - Objections Answered


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