PREVIOUS CHAPTER - NEXT CHAPTER - HELP - FB - TWITTER - GR VIDEOS - GR FORUMS - GR YOUTUBE
BY JOHN BUNYAN ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR That Bunyan, who considered himself one of the most notorious of Jerusalem sinners, should write with the deepest earnestness upon this subject, is not surprising. He had preached upon it with very peculiar pleasure, and, doubtless, from many texts; and, as he says, ‘through God’s grace, with great success.’ It is not probable that, with his characteristic intensity of feeling, and holy fervor in preaching, he ever delivered the same sermon twice; but this was a subject so in unison with his own feelings and experience, that he must have dilated upon it with even unusual interest and earnestness. The marrow of all these exercises he concentrated in this treatise; and when his judgment was, by severe internal conflicts, fully matured — upon the eve of the close of his earthly pilgrimage, in the last year of his life, 1688 — he published it in a pocket volume of eight sheets. It was soon translated into several languages, and became so popular as to pass through ten editions in English by 1728.
The object of the author is fully explained in the title to his book. It is to display the riches of Divine grace and mercy to the greatest sinners — even to those whose conduct entitled them to be called ‘Satan’s colonels, and captains, the leaders of his people; and to such as most stoutly make head against the Son of God.’ It is to those who feel themselves to be such, and who make a proper estimate of their own characters, as in the sight of God, that the gracious proclamations of the gospel are peculiarly directed. They to whom much is forgiven, love much; and the same native energies which had been misdirected to promote evil, when sanctified and divinely guided, become a great blessing to the church, and to society at large.
Bunyan does not stoop to any attempt to reconcile the humbling doctrines of grace to the self-righteous pride of those who, considering themselves but little sinners, would feel contaminated by the company of those who had been such great sinners, although they were pardoned and sanctified by God. His great effort was directed to relieve the distress and despair of those who were suffering under deep convictions; still, his whole treatise shows that the doctrine of salvation by grace, of free gift, is no encouragement to sin that grace may abound, as some have blasphemously asserted. It is degrading to the pride of those who have not drunk so deeply of sin, to be placed upon a level with great sinners. But the disease is the same — in breaking one commandment, the whole law is violated; and, however in some the moral leprosy does not make such fearful ravages as in others, the slightest taint conveys moral, spiritual, and eternal death. ALL, whether young or old, great or small, must be saved by grace, or fall into perdition. The difference between the taint of sin, and its awfully developed leprosy, is given. Who so ready to fly to the physician as those who feel their case to be desperate? and, when cured, they must love the Savior most.
Comparatively little sins before conviction, when seen in the glass of God’s law, and in his holy presence, become great ones. Those who feel themselves to be great sinners, are peculiarly invited to the arms of the Savior, who saves to the uttermostALL that come unto him; and it is thus that peculiar consolation is poured in, and the broken heart is bound up.
We are then called by name, as Bunyan forcibly describes it, as men called by name before a court. ‘Who first cry out, “Here, Sir”; and then shoulder and crowd, and say, “Pray give way, I am called into the court.” This is thy case, wherefore say, “Stand away, devil, Christ calls me; stand away, unbelief, Christ calls me; stand away, all ye my discouraging apprehensions, for my Savior calls me to him to receive of his mercy.”’ ‘Wherefore, since Christ says come, let the angels make a lane, and let all men give place, that the Jerusalem sinner may come to Jesus Christ for mercy.’ How characteristic is this of the peculiarly striking style of Bunyan! How solemn his warnings! ‘The invitations of the gospel will be, to those who refuse them, the hottest coals in hell.’ His reasonings against despair are equally forcible: ‘‘Tis a sin to begin to despair before one sets his foot over the threshold of hell gate. What! despair of bread in a land that is full of corn! despair of mercy, when our God is full of mercy! when he goes about by his ministers, beseeching of sinners to be reconciled unto him! Thou scrupulous fool, where canst thou find that God was ever false to his promise, or that he ever deceived the soul that ventured itself upon him?’ This whole treatise abounds with strong consolation to those who are beset with fears, and who, because of these, are ready to give way to despair; it ought to be put into the hands of all such, let them belong to what party they may; for, like our author’s other books, nothing of a sectarian nature can be traced in it, except we so call the distinguishing truths of evangelical religion. There are some very interesting references to Bunyan’s experience and life, and one rather singular idea, in which I heartily concur; it is, that the glorified saints will become part of the heavenly hierarchy of angels, and take the places of those who fell from that exalted state ( Revelation 22:8,9).
To those whose souls are invaded by despair, or who fear that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost — to all who pant to have their faith strengthened, and hopes brightened, this little work is most earnestly and affectionately commended. GEORGE OFFOR.