Sunday, April 23, 2006

John Bunyan from Prison

Bunyan was imprisoned for teaching the gospel in its purity to the poor, and for refusing conformity to national creeds and ceremonies. This was as absurd as it would be, to imprison such of the inhabitants of a country who refused to swear that all mankind were of one standard in height; sending those who had consciences to prison, until they pretended that they had grown taller or shorter, and were willing to take the oath. Mental decision must be formed on evidence. God can enlighten the mind to see that he alone can guide us to spiritual worship-that his will must be personally consulted, and unreservedly obeyed. Such a man feels that his soul’s salvation depends upon obedience to God, and not to man. If human laws send him to jail for refusing to disobey God, he will write upon the prison wall as William Prynne did upon that in the Tower, “The Lord heareth the poor, and despiseth not HIS prisoners.”

‘Christ’s presence hath my prison turn’d into
A blessed heaven; what then will it do
In heaven hereafter, when it now creates
Heav‘n in a dungeon; goals to courts translates?’
‘He is not bound whom Christ makes free; he,
Though shut close prisoner, chained, remains still free:
A godly man’s at large in every place,
Still cheerful, well content, in blessed case,
Unconquered; he a sacred heaven still bears
About within his breast.’…

These were the feelings of all Christ’s prisoners. Indomitable was the heroic spirit of Bunyan. He tells his persecutors their folly and their sin, even while suffering under their lash; and after more than twelve years’ incarceration, his free spirit is unsubdued. Again for sixteen years he enjoyed the sweets of liberty, and then re-published at all risks his proofs of the wickedness of persecution for conscience’ sake. There was no craft, nor guile, nor hypocrisy about his character, but a fearless devotion to the will of his God; and he became one of the most honoured of his saints.

Written by John Bunyan while imprisoned.

1. Friend, I salute thee in the Lord,
And wish thou may’st abound
In faith, and have a good regard
To keep on holy ground.

2. Thou dost encourage me to hold
My head above the flood,
Thy counsel better is than gold,
In need thereof I stood.

3. Good counsel’s good at any time,
The wise will it receive,
Though fools count he commits a crime
Who doth good counsel give.

4. I take it kindly at thy hand
Thou didst unto me write,
My feet upon Mount Zion stand,
In that take thou delight .

5. I am, indeed, in prison now
In body, but my mind
Is free to study Christ, and how
Unto me he is kind.

6. For though men keep my outward man
Within their locks and bars,
Yet by the faith of Christ I can
Mount higher than the stars.

7. Their fetters cannot spirits tame,
Nor tie up God from me;
My faith and hope they cannot lame,
Above them I shall be.

8. I here am very much refreshed
To think when I was out,
I preached life, and peace, and rest
To sinners round about.

9. My business then was souls to save,
By preaching grace and faith;
Of which the comfort now I have,
And have it shall till death.

This is just a sample of where John Bunyan's mind was while in prison -- it was on Christ!

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