Slough of Despond

After Pliable left Christian to “tumble in the Slough of Despond alone” he was lifted out by one named “Help.” The narrator then steps out of his dream to say:

“Then I stepped to him that plucked him out, and said, Sir, wherefore, since over this place is the way from the City of Destruction to yonder Gate, is it that this plat [patch of ground –CD] is not mended, that poor travellers might go thither with more security? And he said unto me, This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore it is called the Slough of Despond; for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place: And this is the reason of the badness of this ground.”

To reiterate what Bunyan says of convictions from his Strait Gate:

“Be thankful, therefore, for convictions; conversion begins at conviction, though all conviction doth not end in conversion. It is a great mercy to be convinced that we are sinners, and that we need a Saviour; count it therefore a mercy, and that thy convictions may end in conversion, do thou take heed of stifling of them. It is the way of poor sinners to look upon convictions as things that are hurtful; and therefore they use to shun the awakening ministry, and to check a convincing conscience. Such poor sinners are much like to the wanton boy that stands at the maid’s elbow, to blow out her candle as fast as she lights it at the fire. Convinced sinner, God lighteth thy candle, and thou puttest it out; God lights it again, and thou puttest it out. Yea, “how oft is the candle of the wicked put out?” (Job 21:17)

At last, God resolveth he will light thy candle no more; and then, like the Egyptians, you dwell all your days in darkness, and never see light more, but by the light of hell-fire; wherefore give glory to God, and if he awakens thy conscience, quench not thy convictions. Do it, saith the prophet, “before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and he turn” your convictions “into the shadow of death, and make them gross darkness.” (Jer 13:16)

Bunyan’s “Help” describes further the “pre-conversion” Slough of Despond:

“True, there are by the direction of the Lawgiver, certain good and substantial steps, placed even through the very midst of this Slough; but at such time as this place doth much spue out its filth, as it doth against change of weather, these steps are hardly seen; or if they be, men through the dizziness of their heads, step besides; and then they are bemired to purpose, notwithstanding the steps be there; but the ground is good when they are once got in at the Gate.”

But as we shall see at some point in Bunyan’s Book-Book, the Lord willing, though the “post-conversion ground” be “good when they are once got in at the Gate” that does not necessarily preclude them from despairing imprisonment in Doubting Castle (Part 1), nor does it necessarily mean there are not certain regenerate post-conversion Pilgrims (in Bunyan’s benighted estimate) who perpetually carry a Slough of Despond within their minds (Part 2). Next Page

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