The Strait Gate, –and that which makes it so strait.

Taken and adapted from, “The Strait Gate”
Written by John Bunyan

Heavens Open Gates

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‘Strive to enter in at the strait gate.’
— Luke 13:24

The straitness of this gate is not to be understood carnally, but mystically…

You are not to understand it, as if the entrance into heaven was some little pinching wicket; no, the straitness of this gate is quite another thing. This gate is wide enough for all them that are the truly gracious and sincere lovers of Jesus Christ, but so strait, as that not one of the other can by any means enter in: ‘Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord: this gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.’ (Psalm 118:19, 20) By this word, therefore, Christ Jesus hath showed unto us, that without due qualifications there is no possibility of entering into heaven; the strait gate will keep all others out. When Christ spake this parable, he had doubtless his eye upon some passage or passages of the Old Testament, with which the Jews were well acquainted.

I will mention two.

1. The place by which God turned Adam and his wife out of paradise. Possibly our Lord might have his eye upon that; for though that was wide enough for them to come out at, yet it was too strait for them to go in at. But what should be the reason of that? Why, they had sinned; and therefore God ‘placed at the east of that garden cherubims, and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.’ (Gen 3:24) The cherubims, and the flaming sword, they made the entrance too strait for them to enter in. Souls, there are cherubims and a flaming sword at the gates of heaven to keep the way of the tree of life; therefore none but them that are duly fitted for heaven can enter in at this strait gate; the flaming sword will keep all others out. ‘Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.’ (1 Cor. 6:9, 10)

2. Perhaps our Lord might have his eye upon the gates of the temple when he spoke this word unto the people; for though the gates of the temple were six cubits wide, yet they were so strait, that none that were unclean in anything might enter in thereat (Ezekiel 40:48), because there were placed at these gates, porters, whose office was to look that none but those that had right to enter might go in thither. And so it is written, Jehoiada set ‘porters at the gates of the house of the Lord, that none which was unclean in anything should enter in.’ (2 Chron. 23:19) Souls, God hath porters at the gates of the temple, at the gate of heaven; porters, I say, placed there by God, to look that none that are unclean in anything may come in thither. In at the gate of the church, none may enter now that are openly profane, and scandalous to religion; no, though they plead they are beloved of God: ‘What hath my beloved to do in mine house,’ saith the Lord, ‘seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many?’ (Jer. 11:15)

I say, I am very apt to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ had his thoughts upon these two texts, when he said the gate is strait: and that which confirms me the more in the things is this, a little below the text he saith, ‘There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of heaven, and you yourselves thrust out.’ (Luke 13:28) Thrust out, which signifies a violent act, resisting with striving those that would—though unqualified—enter. The porters of the temple were, for this very thing, to wear arms, if need were, and to be men of courage and strength, lest the unsanctified or unprepared should by some means enter in. We read, in the book of Revelations, of the holy city, and that it had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; but what did they do there? Why, amongst the rest of their service, this was one thing, that there might ‘in no wise enter in to it anything that defiles, or works abomination, or that makes a lie.’ (Rev 21:27)

Three things that make this gate so strait

1. There is sin.
2. There is the word of the law.
3. There are the angels of God.

1. There is sin; the sin of the profane, and the sin of the professor.

(1.) The sin of the profane. But this needs not be enlarged upon, because it is concluded upon at all hands, where there is the common belief of the being of God, and the judgment to come, that ‘the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.’ (Psalm 9:17)

(2.) But there is the sin of professors; or take it rather thus, there is a profession that will stand with an unsanctified heart and life. The sin of such will outweigh the salvation of their souls, the sin being the heaviest end of the scale; I say, that being the heaviest end which hath sin in it, they tilt over, and so are, notwithstanding their glorious profession, drowned in perdition and destruction; for none such hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God; therefore ‘let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience’; neither will a profession be able to excuse them. (Eph. 5:3–6) The gate will be too strait for such as these to enter in thereat. A man may partake of salvation in part, but not of salvation in whole. God saved the children of Israel out of Egypt, but overthrew them in the wilderness:—’I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.’ (Jude 5) So we see that, notwithstanding their beginning, ‘they could not enter in, because of unbelief.’ (Heb. 3:19)

2. There is the word of the law, and that will make the gate strait also.

None must go in thereat but those that can go in by the leave of the law; for though no man be, or can be, justified by the works of the law, yet unless the righteousness and holiness by which they attempt to enter into this kingdom be justified by the law, it is in vain once to think of entering in at this strait gate. Now the law justifieth not, but upon the account of Christ’s righteousness; if therefore thou be not indeed found in that righteousness, thou wilt find the law lie just in the passage into heaven to keep thee out. Every man’s work must be tried by fire, that it may be manifest of what sort it is. There are two errors in the world about the law; one is, when men think to enter in at the strait gate by the righteousness of the law; the other is, when men think they may enter into heaven without the leave of the law. Both these, I say, are errors; for as by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified; so without the consent of the law, no flesh shall be saved. ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, before one jot or tittle of the law shall fail, till all be fulfilled.’ He therefore must be damned that cannot be saved by the consent of the law. And, indeed, this law is the flaming sword that turns every way; yea, that lies to this day in the way to heaven, for a bar to all unbelievers and unsanctified professors; for it is taken out of the way for the truly gracious only. It will be found as a roaring lion to devour all others. Because of the law, therefore, the gate will be found too strait for the unsanctified to enter in. When the apostle had told the Corinthians that ‘the unrighteous should not inherit the kingdom of God,’ and that such were some of them, he adds, ‘But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.’ (1 Cor. 6:9–11) Closely concluding, that had they not been washed, and sanctified, and justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, the law, for their transgressions, would have kept them out; it would have made the gate too strait for them to enter in.

3. There are also the angels of God, and by reason of them the gate is strait.

The Lord Jesus calls the end of the world his harvest; and saith, moreover, that the angels are his reapers. These angels are therefore to gather his wheat into his barn, but to gather the ungodly into bundles to burn them. (Matt 13:39, 41, 49) Unless, therefore, the man that is unsanctified can master the law, and conquer angels; unless he can, as I may say, pull them out of the gateway of heaven, himself is not to come thither forever. No man goes to heaven but by the help of the angels—I mean at the Day of Judgment. For the Son of man ‘shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.’ (Matt 24:31) If those that shall enter in at the strait gate shall enter in thither by the conduct of the holy angels, pray when do you think those men will enter in thither, concerning whom the angels are commanded to gather them, to ‘bind them in bundles to burn them?’ This, therefore, is a third difficulty. The angels will make this entrance strait; yea, too strait for the unjustified and unsanctified to enter in thither.

Of the Backslider’s Return to Christ. And How the Returning Backslider is a Great Blessing…

Taken and adapted from, Christ a Complete Savior
Written by, John Bunyan.

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There are two things remarkable in the returning of a backslider to God by Christ.

1. The first is, he gives a second testimony to the truth of all things spoken of before.
2. He also gives a second testimony of the necessity of coming to God by Christ.

1. The returning again of the backslider gives a second testimony to the truth of man’s state being by nature miserable, of the vanity of this world, of the severity of the law, certainty of death, and terribleness of judgment to come.

His first coming told them so, but his second coming tells them so with a double confirmation of the truth. It is so, saith his first coming. Oh! it is so, saith his second. The backsliding of a Christian comes through the overmuch persuading of Satan and lust, that the man was mistaken, and that there was no such horror in the things from which he fled, nor so much good in the things to which he hasted. Turn again, fool, says the devil, turn again to thy former course; I wonder what frenzy it was that drove thee to thy heels, and that made thee leave so much good behind thee, as other men find in the lusts of the flesh and the good of the world. As for the law, and death, and an imagination of the day of judgment, they are but mere scarecrows, set up by politic heads, to keep the ignorant in subjection. Well, says the backslider, I will go back again and see; so, fool as he is, he goes back, and has all things ready to entertain him; his conscience sleeps, the world smiles, flesh is sweet, carnal company compliments him, and all that can be got is presented to this backslider to accommodate him. But, behold, he doth again begin to see his own nakedness, and he perceives that the law is whetting his axe. As for the world, he perceives it is a bubble; he also smells the smell of brimstone, for God hath scattered it upon his tabernacle, and it begins to burn within him. (Job 18:15) Oh! saith he, I am deluded; oh! I am ensnared. My first sight of things was true. I see it is so again. Now he begins to be for flying again to his first refuge; O God, saith he, I am undone, I have turned from thy truth to lies! I believed them such at first, and find them such at last. Have mercy upon me, O God!

This, I say, is a testimony, a second testimony, by the same man, as to the miserable state of man, the severity of the law, the emptiness of the world, the certainty of death, and the terribleness of judgment. This man hath seen it, and seen it again.

A returning backslider is a great blessing…

I mean intended to be so, to two sorts of men—

1. To the elect uncalled. 2. To the elect that are called, and that at present stand their ground. The uncalled are made to hear him, and consider; the called are made to hear him, and are afraid of falling. Behold, therefore, the mystery of God’s wisdom, and how willing he is that spectators should be warned and made take heed. Yea, he will permit that some of his own shall fall into the fire, to convince the world that hell is hot, and to warn their brethren to take heed that they slip not with their feet. I have often said in my heart that this was the cause why God suffered so many of the believing Jews to fall; to wit, that the Gentiles might take heed. (Rom 11:21) O, brethren! saith the backslider that is returned, did you see how I left my God? did you see how I turned again to those vanities from which some time before I fell? O! I was deluded, I was bewitched, I was deceived; for I found all things from which I fled at first still worse by far when I went to them the second time. Do not backslide. Oh! do not backslide the first ground of your departing from them was good; never tempt God a second time.

2. And as he gives us a second testimony, that the world and himself are so as at first he believed they were, so by this his returning he testifies that God and Christ are the same, and much more than ever he believed at first they were. This man has made a proof before and a proof after conviction of the evil of the one and good of the other. This man has made a proof by feeling and seeing, and that before and after grace received. This man God has set up to be a witness; this man is two men, has the testimony of two men, must serve in the place of two men. He knows what it is to be fetched from a state of nature by grace; but this all Christians know as well as he. Ay, but he knows what it is to be fetched from the world, from the devil, and hell, the second time; and that but few professors know, for few that fall away return to do again. (Heb 6:4–8) Ay, but this man is come again, wherefore there is news in his mouth, sad news, dreadful news, and news that is to make the standing saint to take heed lest he fall. The returning backslider, therefore, is a rare man, a man of worth and intelligence, a man to whom the men of the world should flock, and of whom they should learn to fear the Lord God. He also is a man of whom the saints should receive both caution, counsel, and strength in their present standing; and they should, by his harms, learn to serve the Lord with fear, and to rejoice with trembling. (1 Cor 10:6–13, Isa 51:11–13, Luke 22:32)

This man has the second time also had a proof of God’s goodness in his Christ unto him, a proof which the standing Christian has not—I would not tempt him that stands to fall; but the good that a returning backslider has received at God’s hands, and at the hand of Christ, is a double good, he has been converted twice, fetched from the world, and from the devil, and from himself twice; oh, grace! and has been made to know the stability of God’s covenant, the unchangeableness of God’s mind, the sure and lasting truth of his promise in Christ, and of the sufficiency of the merits of Christ, over and over.

The manner of a backslider’s return…

….Or the manner of this man’s coming to God by Christ I shall also speak a word or two. He comes as the newly-awakened sinner comes, and that from the same motives and the knowledge of things as he hath over and above (which he had as good have been without), that which the newly-awakened sinner has not; to wit, the guilt of his backsliding, which is a guilt of a worse complexion, of a deeper dye, and of a heavier nature than is any guilt else in the world. He is also attended with fears and doubts that arise from other reasons and considerations than do the doubts and fears of the newly-awakened man; doubts builded upon the vileness of his backsliding. He has also more dreadful scriptures to consider of, and they will look more wishfully in his face, yea, and will also make him take notice of their grim physiognomy, than has the newly-awakened man. Besides, as a punishment of his backsliding, God seems to withdraw the sweet influences of his Spirit, and as if he would not suffer him to pray, nor to repent any more, (Psa 51:11), as if he would now take all away from him, and leave him to those lusts and idols that he left his God to follow. Swarms of his new rogueries shall haunt him in every place, and that not only in the guilt, but in the filth and pollution of them. (Prov 14:14) None know the things that haunt a backslider’s mind, his new sins are all turned talking devils, threatening devils, roaring devils, within him. Besides, he doubts of the truth of his first conversion, consequently he has it lying upon him as a strong suspicion that there was nothing of truth in all his first experience; and this also adds lead to his heels, and makes him come, as to sense and feeling, more heavy and with the greater difficulty to God by Christ. As faithfulness of other men kills him, he cannot see an honest, humble, holy, faithful servant of God, but he is pierced and wounded at the heart. Ay, says he within himself, that man fears God, that man hath faithfully followed God, that man, like the elect angels, has kept his place; but I am fallen from my station like a devil. That man honoureth God, edifieth the saints, convinceth the world, and condemneth them, and is become heir of the righteousness which is by faith. But I have dishonoured God, stumbled and grieved saints, made the world blaspheme, and, for aught I know, been the cause of the damnation of many! These are the things, I say, together with many more of the same kind, that come with him; yea, they will come with him, yea, and will stare him in the face, will tell him of his baseness, and laugh him to scorn, all the way that he is coming to God by Christ—I know what I say!—and this makes his coming to God by Christ hard and difficult to him. Besides, he thinks saints will be aware of him, will be shy of him, will be afraid to trust him, yea, will tell his Father of him, and make intercession against him, as Elias did against Israel, (Rom 11:2), or as the men did that were fellow-servants with him that took his brother by the throat. (Matt 18:31) Shame covereth his face all the way he comes; he doth not know what to do; the God he is returning to, is the God that he has slighted, the God before whom he has preferred the vilest lust; and he knows God knows it, and has before him all his ways. The man that has been a backslider, and is returning to God, can tell strange stories, and yet such as are very true. No man was in the whale’s belly, and came out again alive, but backsliding and returning Jonah; consequently, no man could tell how he was there, what he felt there, what he saw there, and what workings of heart he had when he was there, so well as he.

How Does a Christian Keep His Heart Humble, and to Avoid Sin?

Taken and adapted from, “The Acceptable Sacrifice, or the Excellency of a Broken Heart Showing the Nature, Signs, and Proper Effects of a Contrite Spirit.” Being the last works of that eminent preacher and faithful minister of Jesus Christ, John Bunyan, of Bedford

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What should a Christian do, when God has broken his heart, to keep it tender?

Take heed that you choke not those convictions that at present do break your hearts,by laboring to put those things out of your minds which were the cause of such convictions; but rather nourish and cherish those things in a deep and sober remembrance of them. Think, therefore, with thyself thus, What was it that at first did wound my heart? And let that still be there, until, by the grace of God, and the redeeming blood of Christ, it is removed.

Shun vain company. The keeping of vain company has stifled many a conviction, killed many a desire, and made many a soul fall into hell, that once was hot in looking after heaven. A companion that is not profitable to the soul, is hurtful. ‘He that walks with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed’ (Prov 13:20).

Take heed of idle talk, that thou neither hear nor join with it. ‘Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceives not in him the lips of knowledge’ (Prov 14:7). ‘Evil communications corrupt good manners. And a fool’s lips are the snare of his soul.’ Wherefore take heed of these things (Prov 18:7; 1 Cor 15:33).

Beware of the least motion to sin, that it be not countenanced, lest the countenancing of that makes way for a bigger. David’s eye took his heart, and so his heart nourishing the thought, made way for the woman’s company, the act of adultery, and bloody murder. Take heed, therefore, brethren, ‘lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin’ (Heb 3:12, 13). And remember, that he that will rend the block, puts the thin end of the wedge first thereto, and so, by driving, does his work.

Take heed of evil examples among the godly; learn of no man to do that which the word of God forbids. Sometimes Satan makes use of a good man’s bad ways, to spoil and harden the heart of them that come after. Peter’s false doing had like to have spoiled Barnabas, yea, and several others more. Wherefore take heed of men, of good men’s ways, and measure both theirs and thine own by no other rule but the holy Word of God (Gal 2:11–13).

Take heed of unbelief, or atheistic thoughts; make no question of the truth and reality of heavenly things: for know unbelief is the worst of evils; nor can the heart be tender that nourishes or gives place unto it. ‘Take heed, therefore, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God’ (Heb 3:12). These cautions are necessary to be observed with all diligence, of all them that would, when their heart is made tender, keep it so. And now to come,

Labor after a deep knowledge of God to keep it warm upon thy heart; knowledge of his presence, that is everywhere. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?’ (Jer 23:24).

(1.) Knowledge of his piercing eye, that it runs to and fro through the earth, beholding in every place the evil and the good; that his eyes behold, and his eyelids try the children of men (Prov 15:3).
(2.) The knowledge of his power, that he is able to turn and dissolve heaven and earth into dust and ashes; and that they are in his hand but as a scroll or vesture (Heb 1:11, 12).
(3.) The knowledge of his justice, that the rebukes of it are as devouring fire (Heb 12:19).
(4.) The knowledge of his faithfulness, in fulfilling promises to them to whom they are made, and of his threatenings on the impenitent (Matt 5:18; 24:35; Mark 13:31).

Labor to get and keep a deep sense of sin in its evil nature, and in its soul-destroying effects upon thy heart…

…be persuaded, that it is the only enemy of God, and that none hate, or are hated of God, but through that.

(1.) Remember it turned angels into devils, thrust them down from heaven to hell.
(2.) That it is the chain in which they are held and bound over to judgment (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).
(3.) That it was for that that Adam was turned out of paradise; that for which the old world was drowned; that for which Sodom and Gomorrah was burned with fire from heaven; and that which cost Christ his blood to redeem thee from the curse it has brought upon thee; and that, if anything, will keep thee out of heaven for ever and ever.
(4.) Consider the pains of hell. Christ makes use of that as an argument to keep the heart tender; yea, to that end repeats and repeats, and repeats, both the nature and durableness of the burning flame thereof, and of the gnawing of the never dying worm that dwells there (Mark 9:43–48).

Consider of death, both as to the certainty of thy dying, and uncertainty of the time when. We must die, we must needs die; our days are determined—the number of our months are with God, though not with us; nor can we pass them, would we, had we them, give a thousand worlds to do it (2 Sam 14:14; Job 7:1; 14:1–5). Consider thou must die but once—I mean but once as to this world; for if thou, when thou goest hence, dost not die well, thou canst not come back again and die better. ‘It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment’ (Heb 9:27).

Consider also of the certainty and terribleness of the day of judgment, when Christ shall sit upon his great white throne, when the dead shall, by the sound of the trump of God, be raised up; when the elements, with heaven and earth, shall be on a burning flame; when Christ shall separate men one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; when the books shall be opened, the witnesses produced, and every man be judged according to his works; when heaven’s gate shall stand open to them that shall be saved, and the jaws of hell stand gaping for them that shall be damned (Acts 5:30–31; 10:42; Matt 25:31, 32, 34, 4; Rev 2:11; 1 Cor 15:51; Rev 20:12, 15; 2 Peter 3:7, 10, 12; Rom 2:2, 15, 16; Rev 22:12).

Consider, Christ Jesus did use no means to harden his heart against doing and suffering those sorrows which were necessary for the redemption of thy soul. No; though he could have hardened his heart against thee in the way of justice and righteousness, because thou hadst sinned against him, he rather awakened himself, and put on all pity, bowels, and compassion; yea, tender mercies, and did it. In his love and in his pity he saved us. His tender mercies from on high hath visited us. He loved us, and gave himself for us.

Learn, then, of Christ, to be tender of thyself, and to endeavor to keep thy heart tender to God-ward, and to the salvation of thy soul.

From Darkness into Light: Or, how God used the Giant “Despair” to shape the Life of John Bunyan. Part Two of Two.

Taken from, “Brave Men and Women”
Edited by, Osgood E. Fuller, Published in 1886
Biography written by, Thomas Babington Macaulay

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Counter-irritants are of as great use in moral as in physical diseases.

It should seem that Bunyan was finally relieved from the internal sufferings which had embittered his life by sharp persecution from without. He had been five years a preacher when the Restoration put it in the power of the Cavalier gentlemen and clergymen all over the country to oppress the Dissenters; and, of all the Dissenters whose history is known to us, he was, perhaps, the most hardly treated. In November, 1660, he was flung in to Bedford jail; and there he remained, with some intervals of partial and precarious liberty, during twelve years.

His persecutors tried to extort from him a promise that he would abstain from preaching; but he was convinced that he was divinely set apart and commissioned to be a teacher of righteousness, and he was fully determined to obey God rather than man. He was brought before several tribunals, laughed at, caressed, reviled, menaced, but in vain. He was facetiously told that he was quite right in thinking that he ought not to hide his gift; but that his real gift was skill in repairing old kettles. He was compared to Alexander the coppersmith. He was told that, if he would give up preaching,he should be instantly liberated. He was warned that, if he persisted in disobeying the law, he would be liable to banishment; and that if he were found in England after a certain time, his neck would be stretched. His answer was, “If you let me out to-day, I will preach again to-morrow.” Year after year he lay patiently in a dungeon, compared with which the worst prison now to be found in the island is a palace. His fortitude is the more extraordinary because his domestic feelings were unusually strong.

Indeed, he was considered by his stern brethren as somewhat too fond and indulgent a parent. He had several small children,and among them a daughter who was blind, and whom he loved with peculiar tenderness. He could not, he said,bear even to let the wind blow on her; and now she must suffer cold and hunger, she must beg, she must be beaten. “Yet,” he added, “I must, I must do it.” While he lay in prison,he could do nothing in the way of his old trade for the support of his family. He determined, therefore, to take up a new trade. He learned to make long tagged thread-laces; and many thousands of these articles were furnished by him to the hawkers. While his hands were thus busied, he had other employment for his mind and his lips. He gave religious instruction to his fellow-captives, and formed from among them a little flock, of which he was himself the pastor. He studied indefatigably the few books which he possessed. His two chief companions were the Bible and Fox’s ” Book of Martyrs.”

His knowledge of the Bible was such that he might have been called a living concordance; and on the margin of his copy of the “Book of Martyrs” are still legible the ill spelled lines of doggerel in which he expressed his reverence for the brave sufferers, and his implacable enmity to the mystical Babylon.

At length he began to write, and though it was some time before he discovered where his strength lay, his writings were not unsuccessful. They were coarse, indeed, but they showed a keen mother-wit, a great command of the homely mother-tongue, an intimate knowledge of the English Bible, and a vast and dearly bought spiritual experience. These writings, therefore,when the corrector of the press had improved the syntax and the spelling,were well received by the humbler class of Dissenters.

Much of Bunyan’s time was spent in controversy. He wrote sharply against the Quakers, whom he seems always to have held in utter abhorrence. It is, however, a remarkable fact that he adopted one of their peculiar fashions; his practice was to write, not “November” or “December,” but “eleventh month” and “twelfth month.”

He wrote against the liturgy of the Church of England. No two things, according to him, had less affinity than the form of prayer and the spirit of prayer. Those, he said with much point, who have most of the spirit of prayer are all to be found in jail; and those who have most zeal for the form of prayer are all to be found at the ale-house. The doctrinal articles, on the other hand, he warmly praised, and defended against some Arminian clergymen who had signed them. The most acrimonious of all his works is his answer to Edward Fowler, afterward bishop of Gloucester, an excellent man, but not free from the taint of Pelagianism.

Bunyan had also a dispute with some of the chiefs of the sect to which he belonged. He doubtless held with perfect sincerity the distinguishing tenet of that sect, but he did not consider that tenet as one of high importance, and willingly joined in communion with pious Presbyterians and Independents. The sterner Baptists, therefore, loudly pronounced him a false brother. A controversy arose which long survived the original combatants. In our own time the cause which Bunyau had defended with rude logic and rhetoric against Kiffin and Danvers was pleaded by Kobert Hall with an ingenuity and eloquence such as no polemical writer has ever surpassed.

During the years which immediately followed the Restoration Bunyan’s confinement seems to have been strict; but as the passions of 1660 cooled, as the hatred with which the Puritans had been regarded while their reign was recent gave place to pity, he was less and less harshly treated. The distress of his family, and his own patience, courage, and piety, softened the hearts of his persecutors. Like his own Christian in the cage, he found protectors even among the crowd of Vanity Fair. The bishop of the diocese, Dr. Barlow, is said to have interceded for him. At length the prisoner was suffered to pass most of his time beyond the walls of the jail, on condition, as it should seem, that he remained within the town of Bedford.

He owed his complete liberation to one of the worst acts of one of the worst governments that England has ever seen. In 1671 the Cabal was in power. Charles II had concluded the treaty by which he bound himself to set up the Roman Catholic religion in England. The first step which he took toward that end was to annul, by an unconstitutional exercise of his prerogative, all the penal statutes against the Roman Catholics; and in order to disguise his real design, he annulled at the same time the penal statutes against Protestant Non-conformists. Bunyan was consequently set at large. In the first warmth of his gratitude, he published a tract in which he compared Charles to that humane and generous Persian king who, though not himself blessed with the light of the true religion, favored the chosen people, and permitted them, after years of captivity, to rebuild their beloved temple. To candid men, who consider how much Bunyan had suffered, and how little he could guess the secret designs of the court, the unsuspicious thankfulness with which he accepted the precious boon of freedom will not appear to require any apology.

Before he left his prison he had begun the book which has made his name immortal. The history of that book is remarkable. The author was, as he tells us, writing a treatise in which he had occasion to speak of the stages of the Christian progress. He compared that progress, as many others had compared it, to a pilgrimage. Soon his quick wit discovered innumerable points of similarity which had escaped his predecessors. Images came crowding on his mind faster than he could put them into words: quagmires and pits, steep hills, dark and horrible glens, soft vales, sunny pastures; a gloomy castle, of which the courtyard was strewn with the skulls and bones of murdered prisoners town all bustle and splendor, like London on the Lord Mayor’s Day; and the narrow path, straight as a rule could make it,running on uphill and down hill, through city and through wilderness, to the Black River and the Shining Gate. He had found out –as most people would have said, by accident; as he would doubtless have said, by the guidance of Providence –where his powers lay. He had no suspicion, indeed, that he was producing a masterpiece.

He could not guess what place his allegory would occupy in English literature, for of English literature he knew nothing. Those who suppose him to have studied the “Fairy Queen,” might easily be confuted, if this were the proper place for a detailed examination of the passages in which the two allegories have been thought to resemble each other. The only work of fiction, in all probability, with which he could compare his pilgrim, was his old favorite, the legend of Sir Bevis of Southampton. He would have thought it a sin to borrow any time from the serious business of his life, from his expositions, his controversies, and his lace tags, for the purpose of amusing himself with what he considered merely as a trifle. It was only, he assures us, at spare moments that he returned to the House Beautiful, the Delectable Mountains, and the Enchanted Ground. He had no assistance. Nobody but himself saw a line till the whole was complete. He then consulted his pious friends. Some were pleased. Others were much scandalized. It was a vain story, a mere romance about giants, and lions, and goblins, and warriors, sometimes fighting with monsters, and sometimes regaled by fair ladies in stately palaces. The loose, atheistical wits at Will’s might write such stuff to divert the painted Jezebels of the court; but did it become a minister of the Gospel to copy the evil fashions of the world? There had been a time when the cant of such fools would have made Bunyan miserable. But that time was passed, and his mind was now in a firm and healthy state. He saw that in employing fiction to make truth clear and goodness attractive, he was only following the example which every Christian ought to propose to himself; and he determined to print.

The “Pilgrim’s Progress” stole silently into the world.

Not a single copy of the first edition is known to be in existence. The year of publication has not been ascertained. It is probable that during some months, the little volume circulated only among poor and obscure sectaries. But soon the irresistible charm of a book which gratified the imagination of the reader with all the action and scenery of a fairytale, which exercised his ingenuity by setting him to discover a multitude of curious analogies, which interested his feelings for human beings, frail like himself, and struggling with temptations from within and from without, which every moment drew a smile from him by some stroke of quaint yet simple pleasantry, and nevertheless left on his mind a sentiment of reverence for God and of sympathy for man, began to produce its effect. In Puritanical circles, from which plays and novels were strictly excluded, that effect was such as no work of genius, though it were superior to the “Iliad,” to “Don Quixote,” or to “Othello,” can ever produce on a mind accustomed to indulge in literary luxury.

In 1668 came forth a second edition, with additions; and then the demand became immense. In the four following years the book was reprinted six times. The eighth edition, which contains the last improvements made by the author, was published in 1682, the ninth in 1684, the tenth in 1685. The help of the engraver had early been called in, and tens of thousands of children looked with terror and delight on execrable copperplates, which represented Christian thrusting his sword into Apollyon or writhing in the grasp of Giant Despair. In Scotland and in some of the colonies, the Pilgrim was even more popular than in his native country. Bunyan has told us, with very parable on vanity, that in New England his Dream was the daily subject of the conversation of thousands, and was thought worthy to appear in the most superb binding. He had numerous admirers in Holland and among the Huguenots of France. “With the pleasure, however, he experienced some of the pains of eminence. Knavish booksellers put forth volumes of trash under his name, and envious scribblers maintained it to be impossible that the poor ignorant tinker should really be the author of the book which was called his.

He took the best way to confound both those who counterfeited him and those slandered him. He continued to work the gold-field which he had discovered, and to draw from it new treasures; not, indeed, with quite such ease and in quite such abundance as when the precious soil was still virgin, but yet with success which left all competition far behind. In 1684 appeared the second part of the “Pilgrim’s Progress.” It was soon followed by the “Holy War,” which, if the ” Pilgrim’s Progress” did not exist, would be the best allegory that ever was written.

Bunyan’s place in society was now very different from what it had been. There had been a time when many Dissenting ministers, who could talk Latin and read Greek, had affected to treat him with scorn. But his fame and influence now far exceeded theirs. He had so great an authority among the Baptists that he was popularly called Bishop Bunyan. His episcopal visitations were annual. From Bedford he rode every year to London, and preached there to large and attentive congregations. From London he went his circuit through the country, animating the zeal of his brethren, collecting and distributing alms, and making up quarrels. The magistrates seem in general to have given him little trouble. But there is reason to believe that, in the year 1685, he was in some danger of again occupying his old quarters in Bedford jail. In that year, the rash and wicked enterprise of Monmouth gave the government a pretext for prosecuting the Non-conformists; and scarcely one eminent divine of the Presbyterian, Independent, or Baptist persuasion remained unmolested. Baxter was in prison; Howe was driven into exile; Henry was arrested.

Two eminent Baptists,with whom Bunyan had been engaged in controversy, were in great peril and distress. Danvers was in danger of being hanged, and Kiffin’s grandsons were actually hanged. The tradition is, that during those evil days, Bunyan was forced to disguise himself as a wagoner, and that he preached to his congregation at Bedford in a smock-frock, with a cart-whip in his hand. But soon a great change took place. James the Second was at open war with the Church, and found it necessary to court the Dissenters. Some of the creatures of the government tried to secure the aid of Bunyan. They probably knew that he had written in praise of the indulgence of 1672, and therefore hoped that he might be equally pleased with the Indulgence of 1687. But fifteen years of thought, observation, and commerce with the world had made him wiser. Nor were the cases exactly parallel. Charles was a professed Protestant; James was a professed papist. The object of Charles’s indulgence was disguised; the object of James’s indulgence was patent. Bunyan was not deceived. He exhorted his hearers to prepare themselves by fasting and prayer for the danger which menaced their civil and religious liberties, and refused even to speak to the courtier who came down to remodel the corporation [township] of Bedford, and who, as was supposed, had it in charge to offer some municipal dignity to the bishop of the Baptists.

Bunyan did not live to see the Revolution. In the Summer of 1688 he undertook to plead the cause of a son with an angry father, and at length prevailed on the old man not to disinherit the young one. This good work cost the benevolent intercessor his life. He had to ride through heavy rain. He came drenched to his lodgings on Snow Hill, was seized with a violent fever, and died in a few days. He was buried in Bunhill Fields; and the spot where he lies is still regarded by the Non-conformists with a feeling which seems scarcely in harmony with the stern spirit of their theology. Many Puritans, to whom the respect paid by Roman Catholics to the relics and tombs of saints seemed childish or sinful, are said to have begged with their dying breath that their coffins might be placed as near as possible to the coffin of the author of the ” Pilgrim’s Progress.”

The fame of Bunyan during his life, and during the century which followed his death, was indeed great, but was almost entirely confined to religious families of the middle and lower classes. Very seldom was he, during that time, mentioned with respect by any writer of great literary eminence. Young coupled his prose with the poetry of the wretched D’Urfey. In the “Spiritual Quixote,” the adventures of Christian are ranked with those of Jack the Giantkiller and John Hickathrift. Cowper ventured to praise the great allegorist, but did not venture to name him. It is a significant circumstance that, till a recent period, all the numerous editions of the “Pilgrim’s Progress” were evidently meant for the cottage and the servants’ hall. The paper, the printing, the plates were all of the meanest description. In general, when the educated minority and the common people differ about the merit of a book, the opinion of the educated minority finally prevails. The “Pilgrim’s Progress” is perhaps the only book about which, after the lapse of a hundred years, the educated minority has come over to the opinion of the common people.

0 king without a crown,
0 priest above the line
Whose course is through the ages down,
What wondrous eyes were thine !
As in the sea of glass,
So pictured in those eyes
Were all the things that come to pass
Beneath, above the skies ;
Between two worlds the way,
The sun, the cloud, the snares,
The pilgrim’s progress day by day,
The gladness God prepares.
Enough, enough this vision,
By thee built into story,
To crown thy life by Heaven’s decision,
With monumental glory.

 

From Darkness into Light: Or, how God used the Giant “Despair” to shape the Life of John Bunyan. Part One of Two.

Taken from, “Brave Men and Women”
Edited by, Osgood E. Fuller, Published in 1886
Biography written by, Thomas Babington Macaulay

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JOHN BUNYAN, the most popular religious writer in the English language,

was born at Elstow, about a mile from Bedford, in the year 1628. He may be said to have been born a tinker. The tinkers then formed a hereditary caste, which was held in no high estimation. They were generally vagrants and pilferers and were often confounded with the gypsies, whom, in truth, they nearly resembled. Bunyan’s father was more respectable than most of the tribe. He had a fixed residence, and was able to send his son to a village school, where reading and writing were taught.

The years of John’s boyhood were those during which the Puritan spirit was in the highest vigor all over England; and nowhere had that spirit more influence than in Bedfordshire. It is not wonderful, therefore, that a lad to whom nature had given a powerful imagination, and sensibility which amounted to a disease, should have been early haunted by religious terrors. Before he was ten, his sports were interrupted by fits of remorse and despair; and his sleep was disturbed by dreams of fiends trying to fly away with him.

As he grew older, his mental conflicts became still more violent. The strong language in which he described them has strangely misled all his biographers except Mr. Southey. It has long been an ordinary practice with pious writers to cite Bunyan as an instance of the supernatural power of divine grace to rescue the human soul from the lowest depths of wickedness. He is called in one book the most notorious of profligates; in another, the brand plucked from the burning. He is designated in Mr. Ivimey’s” History of the Baptists” as the depraved Bunyan, the wicked tinker of Elstow. Mr. Ryland, a man once of great note among the Dissenters, breaks out into the following rhapsody: “No man of common sense and common integrity can deny that Bunyan was a practical atheist, a worthless, contemptible infidel, a vile rebel to God and goodness, a common profligate, a soul-despising, soul-murdering, soul-damning, thoughtless wretch as could exist on the face of the earth. Now, be astonished, O heavens, to eternity! And wonder, O earth and hell, while time endures! Behold this very man become a miracle of mercy, a mirror of wisdom, goodness, holiness, truth, and love.” But whoever takes the trouble to examine the evidence, will find that the good men who wrote this had been deceived by a phraseology which, as they had been hearing it and using it all their lives, they ought to have understood better. There cannot be a greater mistake than to infer, from the strong expressions in which a devout man bemoans his exceeding sinfulness that he has led a worse life than his neighbors.

Many excellent persons, whose moral character from boyhood to old age has been free from any stain discernible to their fellow-creatures, have, in their autobiographies and diaries, applied to themselves, and doubtless with sincerity, epithets as severe as could be applied to Titus Gates or Mrs. Brownrigg. It is quite certain that Bunyan was, at eighteen, what, in any but the most austerely Puritan circles, would have been considered as a young man of singular gravity and innocence.

Indeed, it may be remarked that he, like many other penitents who, in general terms, acknowledged themselves to have been the worst of mankind, fired up and stood vigorously on his defense whenever any particular charge was brought against him by others. He declares, it is true, that he had let loose the reins on the neck of his lusts, that he had delighted in all transgressions against the divine law, and that he had been the ringleader of the youth of Elstow in all manner of vice. But, when those who wished him ill accused him of licentious amours, he called on God and the angels to attest his purity. No woman, he said, in heaven, earth, or hell could charge him with having ever made any improper advances to her. Not only had he been strictly faithful to his wife, but he had, even before marriage, been perfectly spotless. It does not appear from his own confessions, or from the railings of his enemies, that he ever was drunk in his life. One bad habit he contracted, that of using profane language; but he tells us that a single reproof cured him so effectually that he never offended again. The worst that can be laid to the charge of this poor youth, whom it has been the fashion to represent as the most desperate of reprobates, as a village Rochester, is that he had a great liking for some diversions, quite harmless in themselves, but condemned by the rigid precisians among whom he lived, and for whose opinion he had a great respect.

The four chief sins of which he was guilty were dancing, ringing the bells of the parish church, playing at tip-cat, and reading the “History of Sir Bevis of Southampton.” A rector of the school of Laud would have held such a young man up to the whole parish as a model. But Bunyan’s notions of good and evil had been learned in a very different school; and he was made miserable by the conflict between his tastes and his scruples.

When he was about seventeen, the ordinary course of his life was interrupted by an event which gave a lasting color to his thoughts. He enlisted in the Parliamentary army, and served during the decisive campaign of 1645. All that we know of his military career is that, at the siege of Leicester, one of his comrades, who had taken his post, was killed by a shot from the town. Bunyan ever after considered himself as having been saved from death by the special interference of Providence. It may be observed that his imagination was strongly impressed by the glimpse which he had caught of the pomp of war. To the last he loved to draw his illustrations of sacred things from camps and fortresses, from guns, drums, trumpets, flags of truce, and regiments arrayed, each under its own banner. His Greatheart, his Captain Boanerges, and his Captain Credence are evidently portraits, of which the originals were among those martial saints who fought and expounded in Fairfax’s army.

In a few months Bunyan returned home and married. His wife had some pious relations, and brought him as her only portion some pious books. And now his mind, excitable by nature, very imperfectly disciplined by education, and exposed, without any protection, to the infectious virulence of the enthusiasm which was then epidemic in England, began to be fearfully disordered. In outward things he soon became a strict Pharisee. He was constant in attendance at prayers and sermons. His favorite amusements were, one after another, relinquished, though not without many painful struggles. In the middle of a game at tip-cat he paused, and stood staring wildly upward with his stick in his hand. He had heard a voice asking him whether he would leave his sins and go to heaven, or keep his sins and go to hell; and he had seen an awful countenance frowning on him from the sky. The odious vice of bell-ringing he renounced; but he still for a time ventured to go to the church-tower and look on while others pulled the ropes. But soon the thought struck him that, if he persisted in such wickedness, the steeple would fall on his head; and he fled in terror from the accursed place. To give up dancing on the village green was still harder; and some months elapsed before he had the fortitude to part with this darling sin. When this last sacrifice had been made, he was, even when tried by the maxims of that austere time, faultless.

All Elstow talked of him as an eminently pious youth. But his own mind was more unquiet than ever. Having nothing more to do in the way of visible reformation, yet finding in religion no pleasures to supply the place of the juvenile amusements which he had relinquished, he began to apprehend that he lay under some special malediction; and he was tormented by a succession of fantasies which seemed likely to drive him to suicide or to Bedlam.

At one time he took it into his head that all persons of Israelite blood would be saved, and tried to make out that he partook of that blood; but his hopes were speedily destroyed by his father, who seems to have had no ambition to be regarded as a Jew.

At another time, Bunyan was disturbed by a strange dilemma: “If I have not faith, I am lost; if I have faith, I can work miracles.” He was tempted to cry to the puddles between Elstow and Bedford, “Be ye dry,” and to stake his eternal hopes on the event.

Then he took up a notion that the day of grace for Bedford and the neighboring villages was passed; that all who were to be saved in that part of England were already converted; and that he had begun to pray and strive some months too late.

Then he was harassed by doubts whether the Turks were not in the right, and the Christians in the wrong. Then he was troubled by a maniacal impulse which prompted him to pray to the trees, to a broomstick, to the parish bull. As yet, however, he was only entering the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Soon the darkness grew thicker. Hideous forms floated before him. Sounds of cursing and wailing were in his ears. His way ran through stench and fire, close to the mouth of the bottomless pit. He began to be haunted by a strange curiosity about the unpardonable sin, and by a morbid longing to commit it.

But the most frightful of all the forms which his disease took was a propensity to utter blasphemy, and especially to renounce his share in the benefits of the redemption. Night and day, in bed, at table, at work, evil spirits, as he imagined, were repeating close to his ear the words, “Sell him! Sell him!” He struck at the hobgoblins; he pushed them from him; but still they were ever at his side. He cried out in answer to them, hour after hour, “Never, never! Not for thousands of worlds –not for thousands!” At length, worn out by this long agony, he suffered the fatal words to escape him, “Let him go, if he will.”

Then his misery became more fearful than ever. He had done what could not be forgiven. He had forfeited his part of the great sacrifice. Like Esau, he had sold his birthright, and there was no longer any place for repentance. “None,” he afterwards wrote, “knows the terrors of those days but myself.”

He has described his sufferings with singular energy, simplicity, and pathos. He envied the brutes; he envied the very stones in the street, and the tiles on the houses. The sun seemed to withhold its light and warmth from him. His body, though cast in a sturdy mold, and though still in the highest vigor of youth, trembled whole days together with the fear of death and judgment. He fancied that this trembling was the sign set on the worst reprobates, the sign which God had put on Cain. The unhappy man’s emotion destroyed his power of digestion. He had such pains that he expected to burst asunder like Judas, whom he regarded as his prototype.

Neither the books which Bunyan read nor the advisers whom he consulted were likely to do much good in a case like his. His small library had received a most unseasonable addition “the account of the lamentable end of Francis Spira. One ancient man of high repute for piety, whom the sufferer consulted gave an opinion which might well have produced fatal consequences. “I am afraid,” said Bunyan, “that I have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost.” “Indeed,” said the old fanatic,” I am afraid that you have.”

At length the clouds broke; the light became clearer and clearer, and the enthusiast, who had imagined that he was branded with the mark of the first murderer, and destined to the end of the arch-traitor, enjoyed peace and a cheerful confidence in the mercy of God.

Years elapsed, however, before his nerves, which had been so perilously over-strained, recovered their tone. When he had joined a Baptist Society at Bedford, and was for the first time admitted to partake of the Eucharist, it was with difficulty that he could refrain from imprecating destruction on his brethren while the cup was passing from hand to hand. After he had been some time a member of the congregation he began to preach; and his sermons produced a powerful effect. He was, indeed, illiterate; but he spoke to illiterate men. The severe training through which he had passed had given him such an experimental knowledge of all the modes of religious melancholy as he could never have gathered from books; and his vigorous genius, animated by a fervent spirit of devotion, enabled him not only to exercise a great influence over the vulgar, but even to extort the half-contemptuous admiration of scholars. Yet it was long before he ceased to be tormented by an impulse which urged him to utter words of horrible impiety in the pulpit.

End of Part One. 

Sinners Justified by Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness

 Written by John Bunyan

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My intention is to treat of justification, as it sets a man free or quit from sin, the curse and condemnation of the law in the sight of God, in order to eternal salvation. And that I may with the more clearness handle this point before you, I will lay down and speak to this proposition—

That there is no other way for sinners to be justified from the curse of the law in the sight of God, than by the imputation of that righteousness long ago performed by, and still residing with, the person of Jesus Christ.

The terms of this proposition are easy; yet if it will help, I will speak a word or two for explication.

  1. By a sinner, I mean one that has transgressed the law; for “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).
  2. By the curse of the law, I mean that sentence, judgment, or condemnation which the law pronounces against the transgressor (Gal. 3:10).
  3. By justifying righteousness, I mean that which stands in the doing and suffering of Christ when he was in the world (Rom. 5:19).
  4. By the residing of this righteousness in Christ’s person, I mean, it still abides with him as to the action, though the benefit is bestowed upon those that are his.
  5. By the imputation of it to us, I mean God’s making of it ours by an act of his grace that we by it might be secured from the curse of the law.
  6. When I say there is no other way to be justified, I cast away to that end the law, and all the works of the law as done by us.

First, let’s look at the justifying righteousness…

…which is the doing and suffering of Christ when he was in the world. This is clear, because we are said to be “justified by his obedience” (Rom. 5:19); by his obedience to the law. Hence he is said again to be the end of the law for that very thing—“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness,” etc. (Rom. 10:4). The end, what is that? Why, the requirement or demand of the law. But what is it? Why, righteousness, perfect righteousness (Gal. 3:10). Perfect righteousness, what to do? That the soul concerned might stand spotless in the sight of God (Rev. 1:5). Now this lies only in the doings and sufferings of Christ; for “by his obedience many are made righteous”; wherefore as to this Christ is the end of the law, that being found in that obedience, that becomes to us sufficient for our justification. Hence, we are said to be made righteous by his obedience; yea, and to be washed, purged, and justified by his blood (Heb. 9:14; Rom. 5:18, 19).

Secondly, that this righteousness still resides in and with the person of Christ…

…even then when we stand just before God thereby, is clear, for that we are said when justified to be justified “in him”—“In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified.” And again, “Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness,” etc. And again, “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us of God righteousness” (Isa. 45:24, 25; 1 Cor. 1:30).

Mark, the righteousness is still “in him,” not “in us”; even then when we are made partakers of the benefit of it, even as the wing and feathers still abide in the hen when the chickens are covered, kept, and warmed thereby.

For as my doings, though my children are fed and clothed thereby, are still my doings, not theirs, so the righteousness wherewith we stand just before God from the curse still resides in Christ, not in us. Our sins when laid upon Christ were yet personally ours, not his; so his righteousness when put upon us is yet personally his, not ours. What is it, then? Why, “he was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Thirdly, it is therefore of a justifying virtue only by imputation, or as God reckons it to us…

…even as our sins made the Lord Jesus a sinner—nay, sin, by God’s reckoning of them to him.

It is absolutely necessary that this be known of us; for if the understanding be muddy as to this, it is impossible that such should be sound in the faith; also in temptation, that man will be at a loss who looks for a righteousness for justification in himself, when it is to be found nowhere but in Jesus Christ. The apostle, who was his crafts-master as to this, was always “looking to Jesus,” that he “might be found in him” (Phil. 3:6-8), knowing that nowhere else could peace or safety be had.

And indeed this is one of the greatest mysteries in the world—namely, that a righteousness that resides with a person in heaven should justify me, a sinner, on earth.

Fourthly, therefore the law and the works thereof, as to this must by us be cast away…

…not only because they here are useless, but also they being retained are a hindrance. That they are useless is evident, for that salvation comes by another name (Acts 4:12). And that they are a hindrance, it is clear, for the very adhering to the law, though it be but a little, or in a little part, prevents justification by the righteousness of Christ (Rom. 9:31, 32).

What shall I say? As to this, the moral law is rejected, the ceremonial law is rejected, and man’s righteousness is rejected, for that they are here both weak and unprofitable (Rom. 8:2, 3; Gal. 3:21; Heb. 10:1-12). Now if all these and their works as to our justification are rejected, where but in Christ is righteousness to be found. Therefore that there is no other way for sinners to be justified from the curse of the law in the sight of God than by the imputation of that righteousness long ago performed by, and still residing with, the person of Jesus Christ.

I.  Men Are Justified before God while Sinners

Let us, then, now enter into the consideration of the first of these—namely, That men are justified from the curse of the law before God while sinners in themselves.

A.  The Mysterious Act of Our Redemption

That which I call, the mysterious act of our redemption, is Christ’s sufferings as a common person and as a sinner, though he always completely righteous.

That he suffered as a common person is true. By common, I mean one that presents the body of mankind in himself. This a multitude of Scriptures bear witness to, especially that fifth chapter to the Romans, where by the apostle he is set before us as the head of all the elect, even as Adam was once head of all the world. Thus he lived, and thus he died; and this was a mysterious act.

And that he should die as a sinner, when yet himself did “no sin, nor had any guile found in his mouth” made this act more mysterious (1 Pet. 1:19; 2:22; 3:18). That he died as a sinner is plain—“He hath made him to be sin. And the Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53). That, then, as to his own person he was completely sinless is also as truly manifest, and that by a multitude of Scriptures.

Now, I say, that Christ Jesus should be thus considered, and thus die, was the great mystery of God. Hence Paul tells us, that when he preached “Christ crucified,” he preached not only the “wisdom of God,” but the “wisdom of God in a mystery,” even his “hidden wisdom,” for, indeed, this wisdom is hidden, and kept close from the “fowls of the air” (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:7, 8; Job, 28:20, 21).

It is also so mysterious, that it goes beyond the understanding of all men, except those to whom an understanding is given of God to apprehend it (1 John 5:20). That one particular man should represent all the elect in himself, and that the most righteous should die as a sinner by the hand of a just and holy God, is a mystery of the greatest depth.

II.  Men Can Be Justified Only by the Righteousness of Christ

That the righteousness by which we stand just before God from the curse was performed by the person of Christ. Therefore this righteousness is inherent only in him.

A.  The Righteousness that Justifieth Was Performed by Christ

Firstly, He is said to have purged our sins by himself—“When he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 1:2, 3). I have shewed that in Christ, for the accomplishing of righteousness, there was both doing and suffering; doing, to fulfill all the commands of the law; suffering, to answer its penalty for sin. This second is that which in this to the Hebrews is in special intended by the apostle, where he saith, he hath “purged our sins” (Heb. 9:14); that is, by his precious blood; for it is that alone can purge our sins, either out of the sight of God or out of the sight of the soul. Now this was done by himself, saith the apostle; that is, in or by his personal doings and sufferings. And hence it is that when God had rejected the offerings of the law, he said, “Lo, I come. A body hast thou prepared me, to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:5-8). Now by this will of God, saith the Scripture, we are sanctified. By what will? Why, by the offering up of the body of Jesus Christ, for that was God’s will, that thereby we might be a habitation for him; as he saith again—“Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate” (Heb. 13:12).

Secondly, As it is said, he hath purged our sins by himself, so it was by himself at once—“For by one offering hath he perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Now by this word “at once,” or by “one offering,” is cut off all those imaginary sufferings of Christ which foolish men conceive of; as, that he in all ages hath suffered, or suffereth for sin in us. No, he did this work but once: “Not that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entered into the holy place every year with the blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world,” in the time of Pilate, “hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:25, 26). Mark how to the purpose the Holy Ghost expresses it: he hath suffered but once; and that once, now; now once; now he is God and man in one person; now he hath taken the body that was prepared of God; now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; by the offering up of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Thirdly, It further appears, in that by his resurrection from the dead, the mercies of God are made sure to the soul, God declaring by that, as was said before, how well pleased he is by the undertaking of his Son for the salvation of the world: “And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give thee the sure mercies of David” (Acts 13:34). For Christ being clothed with man’s flesh, and undertaking for man’s sins, did then confirm all sure to us by his resurrection from the dead. So that by the rising of that man again, mercy and grace are made sure to him that hath believed on Jesus. Wherefore, from these things, together with what hath been discovered about his addressing himself to the work, I conclude “That men can be justified from the curse before God while sinners in themselves by no other righteousness than that long ago performed by the person of Christ.” Now the conclusion is true, from all show of contradiction; for the Holy Ghost saith, he hath done it; hath done it by himself, and that by the will of God, at once, even then when he took the prepared body upon him—“By the will of God we are sanctified, through the offering up of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

B.  The Righteousness which Justifieth Is Only Inherent in Christ

This being so, the second position is also manifest, namely: that the righteousness by which we stand just from the curse before God is only inherent in Jesus Christ—

For if he hath undertaken to bring in a justifying righteousness, and that by works and merits of his own, then that righteousness must of necessity be inherent in him alone, and ours only by imputation; and hence it is called, in that fifth to the Romans, the gift, the “gift of righteousness”; because neither wrought nor obtained by works of ours, but bestowed upon us, as a garment already prepared, by the mercy of God in Christ (Rom. 5:17; Isa. 11:10).

There are four things that confirm this for a truth—

First, This righteousness is said to be the righteousness of one, not of many; I mean of one properly and personally, as his own particular personal righteousness. The gift of grace, which is the gift of righteousness, it is “by one man, Jesus Christ. Much more they that receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men to justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:15-19). Mark, the righteousness of one, the obedience of one; the righteousness of one man, of one man, Jesus. Wherefore, the righteousness that justifieth a sinner, it is personally and inherently the righteousness of that person only who by works and acts of obedience did complete it, even the obedience of one, of one man, Jesus Christ; and so ours only by imputation. It is improper to say, Adam’s eating of the forbidden fruit was personally and inherently an act of mine. It was personally his, and imputatively mine; personally his, because he did it; imputatively mine, because I was then in him. Indeed, the effects of his personal eating is found in my person—to wit, defilement and depravity; the effects also of the imputation of Christ’s personal righteousness are truly found in those that are in him by electing love and unfeigned faith, even holy and heavenly dispositions: but a personal act is one thing, and the effects of that another. The act may be done by, and be only inherent in one; the imputation of the merit of the act, as also the effects of the same, may be in a manner universal, extending itself unto the most, or all. This the case of Adam and Christ doth manifest—the sin of one is imputed to his posterity; the righteousness of the other is reckoned the righteousness of those that are his.

Secondly, The righteousness by which we stand just before God from the curse is called “The righteousness of the Lord—the righteousness of God—the righteousness of Jesus Christ” etc. (Phil. 3:6-9); and that by way of opposition to the righteousness of God’s own holy law—“That I might be found in him, not having on my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Now by this opposition, as by what was said before, the truth is made exceeding clear; for by these words, “not having my own righteousness,” is not only excluded what qualifications we suppose to be in us, but the righteousness through which we stand just in the sight of God by them is limited and confined to a person absolutely distinct. Distinct, I say, as to his person and performances, who here is called God and Jesus Christ; as he saith also in the prophet Isaiah, “In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory” (Isa. 45:25; 54:17). In the Lord, not in the law; in the Lord, not in themselves. “And their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord”: of me, not of themselves; of me, not of the law. And again, “Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” Now, as I have already said, all this is to be understood of the righteousness that was fulfilled by acts and works of obedience, which the person of the Son of God accomplished in the days of his flesh in the world; by that man, I say, “The Lord our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6). Christ indeed is naturally and essentially righteousness; but as he is simply such, so he justifieth no man; for then he need not to bear our sins in his flesh, and become obedient in all points of the law for us; but the righteousness by which we stand just before God is a righteousness consisting of works and deeds, of the doings and sufferings of such a person who also is essentially righteousness. And hence, as before I have hinted, we are said to be justified by the obedience and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the doings and sufferings of the Son of God. And hence again it is that he first is called King of righteousness; that is, a King of righteousness as God-man, which of necessity supposeth his personal performances; and after that, “King of peace” (Heb. 7:1-3); for what he is naturally and eternally in his Godhead he is not to us, but himself; but what he is actively and by works, he is not to himself, but to us; so, then, he is neither King of righteousness nor of peace to us, as he is only the Eternal Son of the Father, without his being considered as our priest and undertaker —“He hath obtained,” by works of righteousness, “eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:12). So, then, the righteousness by which we stand just before God is a righteousness inherent (only) in Christ, because a righteousness performed by him alone.

Now that righteousness by which we stand just before God must be a righteousness consisting of personal performances; the reason is, because persons had sinned, this the nature of justice requireth, that “since by man came death, by man should come also the resurrection from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:21). The angels, therefore, for this very reason, abide under the chains of everlasting darkness, because he “took not hold on them” (Heb. 2:16, 17); that is, by fulfilling righteousness for them in their nature: that is a blessed word, to you—“To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11); to you, not to angels; to you is born a Saviour.

Thirdly, It is yet further evident that the righteousness by which we stand just before God from the curse is a righteousness inherent, not in us, but Christ; because it is a righteousness besides, and without the law itself. Now take away the law, and you take away the rule of righteousness. Again, take away the rule, and the act as to us must cease: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets” (Rom. 3:21). So, then, by such a righteousness we are justified as is not within the power of the law to command of us.

Question: But what law is that which hath not power to command our obedience in the point of our justification with God?

Answer: The moral law, or that called the ten commandments. Therefore we are neither commanded to love God, or our neighbour, as the means or part of our justifying righteousness; nay, he that shall attempt to do these things to be delivered from the curse thereby, by the Scripture is holden accursed of God: “As many as are of the works,” or duties, “of the law, are under the curse,” etc. (Gal. 3:10). Because we are justified not by that of the law, but by the righteousness of God without the law; that is, without its commanding of us, without our obedience to it: “Freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood” (Rom. 3:24, 25). This is the righteousness of God without the law; that is, without any of our obedience to the law. Wherefore the righteousness by which we stand just in the sight of God cannot be inherent in us, but in Christ the King thereof.

Fourthly, This is further made apparent by the capacity that God will consider that soul in to whom he imputeth justifying righteousness; and that is, “as one that worketh not,” as one that stands “ungodly in the judgment of the law” (Rom. 4:4, 5). But this I have handled before, and therefore shall pass it here.

To conclude: If any works of ours could justify us before God, they would be works after faith received; but it is evident that these do not; therefore the righteousness that justifies us from the curse before God is a righteousness inherent only in Christ.

That works after faith do not justify us from the curse in the sight of God is evident—

1. Because no works of the saints can be justified by the moral law, considering it as the law of works for life (Gal. 3:10). For this must stand a truth for ever—Whatsoever justifieth us must be justified by the moral law, for that is it that pronounceth the curse; unless, then, that curse be taken away by the work, the work cannot justify us before God (Rom. 3:21). But the curse cannot be taken away but by a righteousness that is first approved of by that law that so curseth; for if that shall yet complain for want of a full satisfaction, the penalty remaineth. This is evident to reason, and confirmed by the authority of God’s word, as hath been already proved; because the law, once broken, pronounceth death, expecteth death, and executeth the same on him that will stand to the judgment of the law; but no work of a believer is capable of answering this demand of the law; therefore none of his works can justify him before God; for the law, that notwithstanding complaineth.

2. No works of faith can justify us from the curse before God, because of the want of perfection that is in the greatest faith in us. Now if faith be not perfect, the work cannot be perfect; I mean, with that perfection as to please Divine justice. Consider the person, one that hath to do with God immediately by himself. Now, that faith is not capable of this kind of perfection it is evident, because when men here know most, they know but in part (1 Cor. 8:2; 13:12). Now he that knows but in part, can do but in part; and he that doth but in part, hath a part wanting in the judgment of the justice of God. So, then, when thou hast done all thou canst, thou hast done but part of thy duty, and so art short of justification from the curse by what thou hast done.

3. Besides, it looks too like a monster that the works of faith should justify us before God; because then faith is turned, as it were, with its neck behind it. Faith, in its own nature and natural course, respecteth the mercy of God through the Mediator Jesus Christ, and, as such, its virtue and excellency is to expect justification by grace through him; but by this doctrine faith is turned round about, and now makes a life out of what itself hath done: but methinks faith should be as noble as its fruits, that being the first, and they but the fruits of that.

Besides, seeing the work is only good because it floweth from faith, for faith purifieth the heart (Acts 15:9), therefore faith is it that justifies all its works. If, then, we be justified by either, it is by faith, and not by his works; unless we will say there is more virtue in the less than in the greater. Now what is faith but a believing, a trusting, or relying act of the soul? What, then, must it rely upon or trust in? Not in itself, that is without Scripture; not in its works, they are inferior to itself; besides, this is the way to make even the works of faith the mediator between God and the soul, and so by them thrust Christ out of doors; therefore it must trust in Christ; and if so, then no man can be justified from the curse before God by the works that flow from faith.

4. To put all out of doubt; the saint, when he hath done what he can to bring forth good works by faith, yet he dares not shew these works before God but as they pass through the Mediator Christ, but as they are washed in the blood of the Lamb. And therefore Peter saith, those sacrifices of ours that are truly spiritual are only then accepted of God (1 Pet. 2:5) when offered up by Jesus Christ. And therefore it is said again, that the prayers of the saints, which are the fruits of faith, come up before the throne of God through the angel’s hand (Rev. 8:3, 4), that is, through the hand of Christ, through his golden censer, perfumed with his incense, made acceptable by his intercession.

It is said in the book of the Revelation that it is granted to the bride, the Lamb’s wife, that she should be “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; which white linen is the righteousness of saints.” This fine linen, in my judgment, is the works of godly men, their works that sprang from faith. But how came they clean? How came they white? Not simply because they were the works of faith. But mark, “They washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; and therefore they stand before the throne of God” (Rev. 7:14, 15). Yea, therefore it is that their good works stand there too.

I conclude, then, “our persons are justified while we are sinners in ourselves.” Our works, even the works of faith, are no otherwise accepted but as they come through Jesus Christ, even through his intercession and blood. So, then, Christ doth justify both our person and works, not by way of approbation, as we stand in ourselves or works before God, but by presenting of us to his Father by himself, washing what we are and have from guilt in his blood, and clothing us with his own performances. This is the cause of our acceptance with God, and that our works are not cast forth of his presence.

AS IT PERTAINS TO GOD: What do we mean when we use the word, FEAR ???

Excerpts taken and adapted from, “A Treatise on the Fear of God.”
Written by John Bunyan

fear_god

 

Of this word “fear,” AS IT RESPECTETH GOD HIMSELF, who is the object of our fear…

By this word fear, as I said, we are to understand God himself, who is the object of our fear: For the Divine majesty goes often under this very name himself. This name Jacob called him by, when he and Laban chided together on Mount Gilead, after that Jacob had made his escape to his father’s house; “Except,” said he, “the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac had been with me, surely you would have sent me away now empty.” So again, a little after, when Jacob and Laban agree to make a covenant of peace each with other, though Laban, after the jumbling way of the heathen by his oath, puts the true God and the false together, yet “Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac” (Gen 31:42,53).[1]

By the fear, that is, by the God of his father Isaac. And, indeed, God may well be called the fear of his people, not only because they have by his grace made him the object of their fear, but because of the dread and terrible majesty that is in him. “He is a mighty God, a great and terrible, and with God is terrible majesty” (Dan 7:28, 10:17; Nehemiah 1:5, 4:14, 9:32; Job 37:22). Who knows the power of his anger? “The mountains quake at him, the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him” (Nahum 1:5, 6). His people know him, and have his dread upon them, by virtue whereof there is begot and maintained in them that godly awe and reverence of his majesty which is agreeable to their profession of him. “Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” Set his majesty before the eyes of your souls, and let his excellency make you afraid with godly fear (Isaiah 8:13).

There are these things that make God to be the fear of his people.

First. His presence is dreadful, and that not only his presence in common, but his special, yes, his most comfortable and joyous presence. When God comes to bring a soul news of mercy and salvation, even that visit, that presence of God, is fearful. When Jacob went from Beersheba towards Haran, he met with God in the way by a dream, in the which he apprehended a ladder set upon the earth, whose top reached to heaven; now in this dream, from the top of this ladder, he saw the Lord, and heard him speak unto him, not threateningly; not as having his fury come up into his face; but in the most sweet and gracious manner, saluting him with promise of goodness after promise of goodness, to the number of eight or nine; as will appear if you read the place. Yet I say, when he awoke, all the grace that discovered itself in this heavenly vision to him could not keep him from dread and fear of God’s majesty. “And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not’; and he was afraid and said, ‘How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven’” (Genesis 28:10-17).

At another time, to wit, when Jacob had that memorable visit from God, in which he gave him power as a prince to prevail with him; yes, and gave him a name, that by his remembering it he might call God’s favor the better to his mind; yet even then and there such dread of the majesty of God was upon him, that he went away wondering that his life was preserved (Gen 32:30). Man crumbles to dust at the presence of God; yea, though he shows himself to us in his robes of salvation. We have read how dreadful and how terrible even the presence of angels have been unto men, and that when they have brought them good tidings from heaven (Judges 13:22; Matt 28:4; Mark 16:5, 6). Now, if angels, which are but creatures, are, through the glory that God has put upon them, so fearful and terrible in their appearance to men, how much more dreadful and terrible must God himself be to us, who are but dust and ashes! When Daniel had the vision of his salvation sent him from heaven, for so it was, “O Daniel,” said the messenger, “a man greatly beloved”; yet behold the dread and terror of the person speaking fell with that weight upon this good man’s soul, that he could not stand, nor bear up under it. He stood trembling, and cries out, “O my lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength. For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? For as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me” (Dan 10:16-17). See you here if the presence of God is not a dreadful and a fearful thing; yea, his most gracious and merciful appearances; how much more then when he shows himself to us as one that dislikes our ways, as one that is offended with us for our sins?

And there are three things that in an eminent manner make his presence dreadful to us.

1. The first is God’s own greatness and majesty.

…the discovery of this, or of himself thus, even as no poor mortals are able to conceive of him, is altogether unsupportable. The man dies to whom he thus discovers himself. “And when I saw him,” says John, “I fell at his feet as dead” (Rev 1:17). It was this, therefore, that Job would have avoided in the day that he would have approached unto him. “Let not thy dread,” says he, “make me afraid. Then call you, and I will Answerer; or let me speak, and Answerer you me” (Job 13:21, 22). But why doth Job after this manner thus speak to God? Why! It was from a sense that he had of the dreadful majesty of God, even the great and dreadful God that keeps covenant with his people. The presence of a king is dreadful to the subject, yea, though he carries it never so condescendingly; if then there be so much glory and dread in the presence of the king, what fear and dread must there be, think you, in the presence of the eternal God?

2. When God gives his presence to his people.

…that his presence causes them to appear to themselves more what they are, than at other times, by all other light, they can see. “O my lord,” said Daniel, “by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me”; and why was that, but because by the glory of that vision, he saw his own vileness more than at other times. So again: “I was left alone,” says he, “and saw this great vision”; and what follows? Why, “and there remained no strength in me; for my comeliness was turned into corruption, and I retained no strength” (Dan 10:8, 16). By the presence of God, when we have it indeed, even our best things, our comeliness, our sanctity and righteousness, all do immediately turn to corruption and polluted rags. The brightness of his glory dims them as the clear light of the shining sun puts out the glory of the fire or candle, and covers them with the shadow of death. See also the truth of this in that vision of the prophet Isaiah. “Woe is me,” said he, “for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Why, what is the matter? How came the prophet by this sight? Why, says he, “mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa 6:5). But do you think that this outcry was caused by unbelief? No; nor yet begotten by slavish fear. This was to him the vision of his Savior, with whom also he had communion before (verses 2-5). It was the glory of that God with whom he had now to do, that turned, as was noted before of Daniel, his comeliness in him into corruption, and that gave him yet greater sense of the disproportion that was betwixt his God and him, and so a greater sight of his defiled and polluted nature.

3. Add to this the revelation of God’s goodness

…and it must needs make his presence dreadful to us; for when a poor defiled creature shall see that this great God hath, notwithstanding his greatness, goodness in his heart, and mercy to bestow upon him: this makes his presence yet the more dreadful. They “shall fear the Lord and his goodness” (Hosea 3:5). The goodness as well as the greatness of God doth beget in the heart of his elect an awful reverence of his majesty. “Fear you not me? Says the Lord; will you not tremble at my presence?” And then, to engage us in our soul to the duty, he adds one of his wonderful mercies to the world, for a motive, “Fear ye not me?” Why, who are you? He answers, Even I, “which have” set, or “placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it; and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?” (Jeremiah 5:22). Also, when Job had God present with him, making manifest the goodness of his great heart to him, what doth he say? How doth he behave himself in his presence? “I have heard of thee,” says he, “by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye sees thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5,6).

And what mean the tremblings, the tears, those breakings and shakings of heart that attend the people of God, when in an eminent manner they receive the pronunciation of the forgiveness of sins at his mouth, but that the dread of the majesty of God is in their sight mixed therewith? God must appear like himself, speak to the soul like himself; nor can the sinner, when under these glorious discoveries of his Lord and Savior, keep out the beams of his majesty from the eyes of his understanding. “I will cleanse them,” says he, “from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me, and I will pardon all their iniquities whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.” And what then? “And they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness, and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it” (Jeremiah 33:8, 9). Alas! there is a company of poor, light, frothy professors in the world, that carry it under that which they call the presence of God, more like to antics, than sober sensible Christians; yea, more like to a fool of a play, than those that have the presence of God. They would not carry it so in the presence of a king, nor yet of the lord of their land, were they but receivers of mercy at his hand. They carry it even in their most eminent seasons, as if the sense and sight of God, and his blessed grace to their souls in Christ, had a tendency in them to make men wanton: but indeed it is the most humbling and heart-breaking sight in the world; it is fearful. [2]

objection. But would you not have us rejoice at the sight and sense of the forgiveness of our sins?

Answer. Yes; but yet I would have you, and indeed you shall, when God shall tell you that your sins are pardoned indeed, “rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11). For then you have solid and godly joy; a joyful heart, and wet eyes, in this will stand very well together; and it will be so more or less. For if God shall come to you indeed, and visit you with the forgiveness of sins, that visit removes the guilt, but increases the sense of thy filth, and the sense of this that God hath forgiven a filthy sinner, will make thee both rejoice and tremble. O, the blessed confusion that will then cover thy face whilst you, even you, so vile a wretch, shalt stand before God to receive at his hand thy pardon, and so the first fruits of thy eternal salvation—”That you may remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth anymore because of thy shame (thy filth), when I am pacified toward thee for all that you hast done, says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 16:63). But,

Second Answer. As the presence, so the name of God, is dreadful and fearful: wherefore his name doth rightly go under the same title, “That you may fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD” (Deuteronomy 28:58). The name of God, what is that, but that by which he is distinguished and known from all others? Names are to distinguish by; so man is distinguished from beasts, and angels from men; so heaven from earth, and darkness from light; especially when by the name, the nature of the thing is signified and expressed; and so it was in their original, for then names expressed the nature of the thing so named. And therefore it is that the name of God is the object of our fear, because by his name his nature is expressed: “Holy and reverend is his name” (Psalm 111:9). And again, he proclaimed the name of the Lord, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:6,7).

Also his name, I am, YAHWEH, Jehovah, with several others, what is by them intended but his nature, as his power, wisdom, eternity, goodness, and omnipotency, etc., might be expressed and declared. The name of God is therefore the object of a Christian’s fear. David prayed to God that he would unite his heart to fear his name (Psalm 86:11). Indeed, the name of God is a fearful name, and should always be reverenced by his people: yea his “name is to be feared for ever and ever,” and that not only in his church, and among his saints, but even in the world and among the heathen—”So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all kings thy glory” (Psalm 102:15). God tells us that his name is dreadful, and that he is pleased to see men be afraid before his name. Yes, one reason why he executes so many judgments upon men as he doth, is that others might see and fear his name. “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun” (Isa 59:19; Mal 2:5).

The name of a king is a name of fear…

…”And I am a great king, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal 1:14). The name of master is a name of fear—”And if I be a master, where is my fear? Says the Lord” (v 6). Yes, rightly to fear the Lord is a sign of a gracious heart. And again, “To you that fear my name,” says he, “shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings” (Mal 4:2). Yes, when Christ comes to judge the world, he will give reward to his servants the prophets, and to his saints, “and to them that fear his name, small and great” (Rev 11:18). Now, I say, since the name of God is that by which his nature is expressed, and since he naturally is so glorious and incomprehensible, his name must needs be the object of our fear, and we ought always to have a reverent awe of God upon our hearts at any time whenever we think of, or hear his name, but most of all, when we ourselves do take his holy and fearful name into our mouths, especially in a religious manner, that is, in preaching, praying, or holy conference. I do not by thus saying intend as if it was lawful to make mention of his name in light and vain discourses; for we ought always to speak of it with reverence and godly fear, but I speak it to put Christians in mind that they should not in religious duties show lightness of mind, or be vain in their words when yet they are making mention of the name of the Lord—”Let everyone that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim 2:19).

Make mention then of the name of the Lord at all times with great dread of his majesty upon our hearts, and in great soberness and truth.

To do otherwise is to profane the name of the Lord, and to take his name in vain; and “the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.” Yes, God says that he will cut off the man that does it; so jealous is he of the honor due unto his name (Exodus 20:7; Lev 20:3). This therefore shows you the dreadful state of those that lightly, vainly, lyingly, and profanely make use of the name, this fearful name of God, either by their blasphemous cursing and oaths, or by their fraudulent dealing with their neighbor; for some men have no way to prevail with their neighbor to bow under a cheat, but by calling falsely upon the name of the Lord to be witness that the wickedness is good and honest; but how these men will escape, when they shall be judged, devouring fire and everlasting burnings, for their profaning and blaspheming of the name of the Lord, becomes them betimes to consider of (Jeremiah 14:14,15; Ezekiel 20:39; Exodus 20:7).[3] 

But,

Third Answer. As the presence and name of God are dreadful and fearful in the church, so is his worship and service. I say his worship, or the works of service to which we are by him enjoined while we are in this world, are dreadful and fearful things. This David conceives, when he says, “But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy, and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple” (Psalm 5:7). And again, says he, “Serve the Lord with fear.” To praise God is a part of his worship. But, says Moses, “Who is a God like unto thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11). To rejoice before him is a part of his worship; but David bids us “rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11). Yes, the whole of our service to God, and every part thereof, ought to be done by us with reverence and godly fear. And therefore let us, as Paul says again, “Cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12).

1. That which makes the worship of God so fearful a thing, is, for that it is the worship of GOD: all manner of service carries more or less dread and fear along with it, according as the quality or condition of the person is to whom the worship and service is done. This is seen in the service of subjects to their princes, the service of servants to their lords, and the service of children to their parents. Divine worship, then, being due to God, for it is now of Divine worship we speak, and this God so great and dreadful in himself and name, his worship must therefore be a fearful thing.

2. Besides, this glorious Majesty is himself present to behold his worshippers in their worshipping him. “When two or three of you are gathered together in my name, I am there.” That is, gathered together to worship him, “I am there,” says he. And so, again, he is said to walk “in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” (Rev 1:13). That is, in the churches, and that with a countenance like the sun, with a head and hair as white as snow, and with eyes like a flame of fire. This puts dread and fear into his service; and therefore his servants should serve him with fear.

3. Above all things, God is jealous of his worship and service. In all the ten words, he tells us not anything of his being a jealous God, but in the second, which respects his worship (Exodus 20). Look to yourselves therefore, both as to the matter and manner of your worship; “for I the Lord thy God,” says he, “am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.” This therefore doth also put dread and fear into the worship and service of God.

4. The judgments that sometimes God hath executed upon men for their want of godly fear, while they have been in his worship and service, put fear and dread upon his holy appointments.

  1. Nadab and Abihu were burned to death with fire from heaven, because they attempted to offer false fire upon God’s altar, and the reason rendered why they were so served, was, because God will be sanctified in them that come nigh him (Lev 10:1-3). To sanctify his name is to let him be thy dread and thy fear, and to do nothing in his worship but what is well-pleasing to him. But because these men had not grace to do this, therefore they died before the Lord.
  2. Eli’s sons, for want of this fear, when they ministered in the holy worship of God, were both slain in one day by the sword of the uncircumcised Philistines (see 1 Sam 2).
  3. Uzzah was smitten, and died before the Lord, for but an unadvised touching of the ark, when the men forsook it (1 Chronicles 13:9, 10).
  4. Ananias and Sapphira his wife, for telling a lie in the church, when they were before God, were both stricken dead upon the place before them all, because they wanted the fear and dread of God’s majesty, name, and service, when they came before him (Acts 5).

 This therefore should teach us to conclude, that, next to God’s nature and name, his service, his instituted worship, is the most dreadful thing under heaven. His name is upon his ordinances, his eye is upon the worshippers, and his wrath and judgment upon those that worship not in his fear. For this cause some of those at Corinth were by God himself cut off, and to others he has given the back, and will again be with them no more (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). [4]

This also rebukes three sorts of people.

1. Such as regard not to worship God at all; be sure they have no reverence of his service, nor fear of his majesty before their eyes. Sinner, you do not come before the Lord to worship him; you do not bow before the high God; you neither worship him in thy closet nor in the congregation of saints. The fury of the Lord and his indignation must in short time be poured out upon thee, and upon the families that call not upon his name (Psalm 79:6; Jeremiah 10:25).

2. This rebukes such as count it enough to present their body in the place where God is worshipped, not minding with what heart, or with what spirit they come thither. Some come into the worship of God to sleep there; some come thither to meet with their friends for a chat, and to get into the wicked fellowship of their vain companions. Some come thither to feed their lustful and adulterous eyes with the flattering beauty of their fellow-sinners. O what a sad account will these worshippers give, when they shall count for all this, and be damned for it, because they come not to worship the Lord with that fear of his name that became them to come in, when they presented themselves before him! [5]

3. This also rebukes those that care not, so they worship, how they worship; how, where, or after what manner they worship God. Those, I mean, whose fear towards God “is taught by the precept of men.” They are hypocrites; their worship also is vain, and a stink in the nostrils of God. “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” (Isa 29:13,14; Matt 15:7-9; Mark 7:6,7).[6] Thus I conclude this first thing, namely, that God is called our dread and fear.

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Footnotes

1. This is a very remarkable illustration of godly fear. Jacob does not swear by the omnipresence or omniscience of God—nor by his omnipotence—nor by his love or mercy in his covenant—nor by the God of Abraham, but by the “fear of his father Isaac”—the sole object of his adoration. A most striking and solemn appeal to Jehovah, fixing upon our hearts that Divine proverb, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”—the source of all happiness, both in time and in eternity.—Editor

2. It is of solemn importance that we feel the vast difference between holy and unholy familiarity with God. Has he adopted us into his family? Can we, by a new birth, say “Our Father?” Still he is in heaven, we on earth. He is infinite in purity; Holy, Holy, Holy is his name. We are defiled, and can only approach his presence in the righteousness of the Savior and Mediator. Then, O my soul, if it is thy bliss to draw near to the throne of grace with holy boldness, let it be with reverence and godly fear.—Editor

3. It is an awful thing to appeal to God for the truth of a lie! All appeals to God, not required by law, are worse than useless; they are wicked, and cast a doubt on the veracity of those who make them.—Editor

4. “To give the back”; to forsake, to depart, to treat with contempt. See Imperial Dictionary, vol. I. p. 145.—Editor

5. The genuine disciple “who thinks no evil” will say, Can this be so now? Yes, reader, it is. Some go to God’s house to worship their ease and forgetfulness in sleep; some for worldly purposes; some to admire the beauty of the frail body; but many to worship God in spirit and in truth. Reader, inquire to which of these classes you belong.—Editor

6. They worshipped God, not according to his appointment, but their own inventions—the direction of their false prophets, or their idolatrous kings, or the usages of the nations round about them. The tradition of the elders was of more value and validity with them than God’s laws by Moses. This our Savior applies to the Jews in his time, who were formal in their devotions, and wedded to their own inventions; and pronounces concerning them that in vain do they worship God. How many still in worship regard the inventions of man, and traditions of the church, more than the commands of God.—Editor