Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
by the author of Pilgrims Progress (1678)
… But one day, as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, ‘Thy righteousness is in heaven’; and methought withal, I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants my righteousness, for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever (Heb. 13.8).
Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations had fled away; so that, from that time, those dreadful scriptures of God [about judgment to come] left off to trouble me now; now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God. So when I came home, I looked to see if I could find that sentence, Thy righteousness is in heaven; but could not find such a saying, wherefore my heart began to sink again, only that was brought to my remembrance, He ‘of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption’ by this word I saw the other sentence true (1 Cor. 1.30).
For by this scripture, I saw that the man Christ Jesus, as He is distinct from us, as touching His bodily presence, so He is our righteousness and sanctification before God. Here, therefore, I lived for some time, very sweetly at peace with God through Christ; Oh, methought, Christ! Christ! there was nothing but Christ that was before my eyes, I was not only for looking upon this and the other benefits of Christ apart, as of His blood, burial, or resurrection, but considered Him as a whole Christ! As He in whom all these, and all other His virtues, relations, offices, and operations met together, and that as He sat on the right hand of God in heaven.[Heb. 12:1,2;Eph. 1:3]
It was glorious to me to see His exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of all His benefits, and that because of this: now I could look from myself to Him, and should reckon that all those graces of God that now were green in me, were yet but like those cracked groats and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is in their trunks at home! Oh, I saw my gold was in my trunk at home! In Christ, my Lord and Saviour! Now Christ was all; all my wisdom, all my righteousness, all my sanctification, and all my redemption.
Further, the Lord did also lead me into the mystery of union with the Son of God, that I was joined to Him, that I was flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bone, and now was that a sweet word to me in Ephesians 5.30. By this also was my faith in Him, as my righteousness, the more confirmed to me; for if He and I were one, then His righteousness was mine, His merits mine, His victory also mine. Now could I see myself in heaven and earth at once; in heaven by my Christ, by my head, by my righteousness and life, though on earth by my body or person [1 Cor. 6:17; John 15:1-5].
Now I saw Christ Jesus was looked on of God, and should also be looked on by us, as that common or public person, in whom all the whole body of His elect are always to be considered and reckoned; that we fulfilled the law by Him, rose from the dead by Him, got the victory over sin, death, the devil, and hell, by Him; when He died, we died; and so of His resurrection. ‘Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise,’ saith he (Isa. 26.19). And again, ‘After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight’ (Hos. 6.2); which is now fulfilled by the sitting down of the Son of Man on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, according to that to the Ephesians, He ‘hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 2.6).
Ah, these blessed considerations and scriptures, with many others of a like nature, were in those days made to spangle in mine eyes, so that I have cause to say, ‘Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness’ (Psalm 150.1,2) …
This excerpt is from paragraphs 229-235 of Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. The complete text is available online at CCEL.org. Thanks to David and Sue Thorpe for pointing out this section to the editor. For a consideration of the title, “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15), see this Grace Note.
 Perhaps an allusion to Psalm 85:11; Cf. Rom. 2:24; 5:1.
 Bunyan had been very upset by the apostasy passages in Hebrews 6:1-8; 10:26-39; 12:16. For a study on these texts see Grace Notes: “The Cure for Apostasy.”
(author of Pilgrim’s Progress) PUBLISHER’S FOREWORD: “… In Grace Abounding Bunyan describes his descent as “of a low and inconsiderable generation.” … his father was a traveling tinker, a mender of pots and pans … the occupation as somewhat like that of ‘village blacksmith.’ … In 1653 Bunyan joined the Puritan Free Church in Bedford, and in 1657 he took on his first assignment as a ‘field preacher.’ At this time there were scores of men, most with little education, who were preaching to Nonconformist audiences throughout England. With the restoration of Charles II to the throne, these preachers were suspect and subject to arrest. Refusing to refrain from preaching, Bunyan was arrested in 1660 and imprisoned–for more than eleven years.
Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, written during this imprisonment, is the spiritual autobiography of Bunyan, the traveling tinker who became the eminent preacher and author. It is in the genre of Augustine’s Confessions and Thomas a Kempis’s Imitation of Christ … Written in 1666, Grace Abounding chronicles Bunyan’s spiritual journey from a profane life filled with cursing, blasphemy, and Sabbath desecration to a new creation in Christ Jesus …
Grace Abounding is an autobiography that begins with guilt and despair and ends with a heart ‘full of comfort,’ a thankful heart for “grace abounding.” Those who have read both Grace Abounding and The Pilgrim’s Progress will realize that The Pilgrim’s Progress, in substantial measure, is the same life as that described in Grace Abounding, but in allegory rather than straightforward narrative.”