The Pilgrim in Heavy Chains (For John Bunyan)

One day as I was passing into the field…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, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was 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…Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed.
(John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners)

I saw the Pilgrim burdened down
with chains around his legs and heart.
He clutched his ears with both his hands
and screamed for what he heard there.
“I am cursed,” he said to me,
“for daily I hear such vile things
against my name and against God
that I cannot look at Him.”

I saw the Pilgrim reach the hill
and cast his eyes towards the ground.
“If I see the hill,” he said, “it
makes the chains smart all the more for
when my heart leaps at the sight, it
pulls the chains more tight around me.”
So he did not dare look up for
all the beauty that was there.

I saw the Pilgrim reach the stream
of flowing blood where, grimacing,
he sat and cried and said to me,
“This is all I hope to find:
red streams where flow the worst of me
and all the death that I deserve.”
I saw the Pilgrim clutch his chains
and tighten them around himself.

I saw the heavens open up
and there descending like a flood
was one who, I saw, had been wounded
and His clothes were white, ablaze.
I heard the wounded one cry out,
“I am your righteousness. Come give
your chains to me.” And so he rose,
the Pilgrim, though I saw him frown

with doubt and hold his chains some more.
“Throw off your chains,” the fiery one said,
and then I saw the Pilgrim’s chains
drop off like scales, like autumn leaves;
and though I see him oft like me
with eyes cast down and heart sore red,
I know he bears those chains no more: I
trust this truth for both of us.

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