In this plight, therefore, he went home, and restrained himself as long as he could, that his wife and children should not perceive his distress; but he could not be silent long, because that his trouble increased. Wherefore at length he brake his mind to his wife and children; and thus he began to talk to them: “O, my dear wife,” said he, “and you the children of my bowels, I, your dear friend, am in myself undone by reason of a burden that lieth hard upon me; moreover, I am certainly informed that this our city will be burnt with fire from heaven; in which fearful overthrow, both myself, with thee my wife, and you my sweet babes, shall miserably come to ruin, except (the which yet I see not) some way of escape can be found whereby we may be delivered.” At this his relations were sore amazed; not for that they believed that what he had said to them was true, but because they thought that some frenzy distemper had got into his head; therefore, it drawing towards night, and they hoping that sleep might settle his brains, with all haste they got him to bed. But the night was as troublesome to him as the day; wherefore, instead of sleeping, he spent it in sighs and tears. So when the morning was come, they would know how he did. He told them, “Worse and worse:” he also set to talking to them again; but they began to be hardened. They also thought to drive away his distemper by harsh and surly carriage to him; sometimes they would deride, sometimes they would chide, and sometimes they would quite neglect him. Wherefore he began to retire himself to his chamber to pray for and pity them, and also to condole his own misery; he would also walk solitarily in the fields, sometimes reading, and sometimes praying: and thus for some days he spent his time.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carnal Physick for a Sick Soul

Commentary and full references

This entire passage is an addition to the text of the first edition (1678) for the third edition (1679). There is an emphasis on the Man's love for and consideration of his wife and children. We know that Bunyan's imprisonment, along with other nonconformist ministers would bring considerable distress in separation from family, for whom we know he had a deep fondness. While likely an addition in response to criticism of his main character's journey away from loved ones, we can see here an expression of Bunyan's own feelings towards his family.

IN THIS PLIGHT/ HIS TROUBLE INCREASED - Puritan expectation was that awakening to one's sin would lead to an often extended period of spiritual distress under conviction.

HE COULD NOT BE SILENT LONG - it is the nature of the nonconformist religious spirit, and indeed the empowering work of the Spirit in Scripture, that confession is impelled. Protestant Christianity is a religion of the Word and words.

BRAKE HIS MIND/ IN HIMSELF - there is a distinctly interior mental experience of spiritual tumult that marks the man's experience, navigated in domestic space, without external or ecclesiastical instruments.

OF MY BOWELS - in keeping with use in the KJV, this expression stands for what we would today name his 'heart', the seat of the man's affections or emotions.

LIETH HARD UPON ME - the burden is referred to with allusion to Psalm 88:7, where it is God's 'wrath' that burdens the Psalmist, who is racked by cries to the Lord day and night in his affliction, which brings about separation from 'acquaintance' (Ps 88v8) and 'lover and friend' (v18).

OUR CITY WILL BE BURNED WITH FIRE FROM HEAVEN - the image conjures up the divine judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19, also other acts of judgment Exodus 9:33, Numbers 11:1-3,  ), as well as that promised for the Last Days (Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:5-7, 20:9). Notably Jesus rebukes his disciples who look to bring down fire from heaven (Luke 9:54). Certainly Bunyan's day runs full of fervent eschatological expectation. Most obvious for his original hearers would have been the recent Great Fire of London in 1666, which might be taken by the godly as judgment on Restoration England's moral and religious laxity. Fire was a continual hazard due to construction materials, however, and is not unique to London, see the impact of the 1613 town fire in Dorchester for reformed godliness, as recorded by David Underdown, Fire from Heaven. Life in an English Town in the Seventeenth Century.

OVERTHROWN- another allusion to Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 19:29 (KJV), see also 2 Peter 2:6 (KJV)

RUIN - a common Scriptural term, especially Isaiah 25:2 for the impact of divine judgment on a city; with Luke 6:49 focusing ruin as the fate of the house that is not built on the rock of Jesus' teaching, fitting Bunyan's domestic household emphasis here.

ESCAPE - Genesis 19:17-22, again alluding to Lot's prospects in fleeing Sodom.

SORE AMAZED, NOT FOR THAT THEY BELIEVED - echoes the phrasing describing Jesus' unbelieving disciples in the boat at the calming of the storm in Mark 6:51.

NIGHT WAS AS TROUBLESOME...SIGHS AND TEARS - an allusion to Ps 88 again, also Ps 6:6, 42:3.

WORSE AND WORSE - possible allusion to the sinner's fate in 2 Timothy 3:13

BEGAN TO BE HARDENED - Mark 6:52 ties the allusion to the amazement of unbelief noted by Bunyan earlier, also Acts 19:9 This hardening is both an attitude adopted and providentially allowed in its most obvious Scriptural instantiation in Egypt's Pharaoh (Exodus 9:34 and 9:35, cf. Romans 9:17-18).

HARSH AND SURLY CARRIAGE - referring to harsh behavior toward the man, this is the portion of text to which the marginal note of 'Carnal Physick to for a Sick Soul' is pointed. The sickness of soul points to Jesus' gospel reference to his own coming to those who are sick (Matthew 9:12, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31). The note is making clear that the man's suffering, while manifest physically and mentally is a spiritual one, which thus, carnal or fleshly medicine is simply unable to heal.

RETIRE TO HIS CHAMBER TO PRAY - Jesus calls for private 'closet' prayer, Matthew 6:6, and this practice is modelled by godly Puritans of the seventeenth century.

ALSO WALK SOLITARY IN THE FIELDS, SOMETIMES READING, SOMETIMES PRAYING - Psalm 107 speaks of Israel's affliction and crying to the Lord in the solitary way of the wilderness in which they wandered. Jesus is himself the model of withdrawal for solitary prayer (Mark 1:35). The ever combination of Bible reading and prayer - word in and words out - corresponds to the speaking under conviction that began the paragraph, and is a core feature of the Christian life Bunyan commends.

SOME DAYS - a further indication that this turmoil is not supposed by author or reader to issue in a sudden clean conversion moment but rather will be a prolonged process. Clearly an intervention is needed!