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THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER This treatise was written in 1663, while Bunyan was a prisoner in Bedford jail. He here explains the cause of his long imprisonment, and that of thousands more in those unhappy times. It is well to remember that Bunyan was the first sufferer for conscience’ sake under Charles II. J. N.
B. There are few petitions more comprehensive and important than this, Thy kingdom come. It embraces the progress and effectual power of the gospel in all the world — the fulfillment of a thousand prophecies — the consummation of all the holy hopes awakened in human bosoms in all ages, by the word of God. J.N.B. Only the year before this was written, in consequence of the Act of Uniformity (1662), nearly two thousand of the best ministers in England had been silenced. Their only crime was a conscientious refusal to subscribe (ex animo ) their “assent and consent to all and every thing contained in the Book of Common-Prayer.” Now, be it remembered, that this Book contains not only Forms of Prayer, but the Offices of Baptism, Confirmation, Burial, and Ordination, which involve doctrines obnoxious to the consciences of a great part of Protestant Christendom to this day, even of those who have no objection to a liturgy. So objectionable were they then, that according to the careful computation of Jeremiah White, no less than sixty thousand persons in England alone, (not to mention Scotland,) chose to suffer all the penalties of the law rather than comply with them. No wonder that the soul of Bunyan was stirred within him at an imposition of human authority, which not only silenced a godly ministry, but crowded the common jails of England with myriads of her worthiest citizens, whose only crime “had this extent, no more.” His remonstrance is the appeal of outraged humanity, the solemn cry of martyrdom! “I am sorry to say,” says Defoe, in speaking of the death of the celebrated Baptist, Thomas Delaune, author of the “Plea for Non-Conformists,” “he is one of near eight thousand Protestant Dissenters, that perished in prison in the days of that merciful prince King Charles II.” — J. N. B.
J.N.B. The context seems to settle this as the true meaning. “That ye being rooted and grounded in love , may be able to comprehend, etc., and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God .” So John says, “He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God,” J.N.B. was the case with some of them. — Dionysius the venerable judge of Areopagus, Damaris a lady of distinction, and others who constituted the first Christian church in Athens. Noble first fruits of Attica to God and to the Lamb! J.N.B. This argument is very ingenious, pious, and modest, and the supposition it supports not unnatural. Some of the Greek Fathers held a kindred opinion. Yet the objections here mentioned, seem stronger than the evidence in its favor, even in the view of Bunyan himself, as appears from what follows. And it seems impossible to reconcile it with the declared fact, that Christ triumphed over principalities and powers “by his cross,” or with the Savior’s expiring words, “It is finished!” J. N. B.