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It sootheth every bitter smart
By its all-healing power ;
For faith it wakes once more.
Then I forget my sins straightway,
As though I nought had done ; “Lie still in Me," then dost Thou say ;
“Look not to self, My son!”
How can it be, Lord ? still I say;
May it deception be?
Thy curse is earned by me.
No: Jesus, Thou dost ne'er deceive :
Thy blood speaks peace to me; The Holy Ghost doth witness give
I'm freely loved by Thee.
Thee will I love with all my power,
Thou portion of my heart !
Thou my salvation art.
Away, O sin ! unknown remain :
When sprinkled with this blood, My love of sin dies soon again ;
My soul mounts up to God.
Ah, no! I can and will no more,
My Saviour, weary Thee :
Bind me eternally!
Oh! draw me closer to Thy heart,
My Jesus, nearer Thee;
My refuge mayst Thou be!
Come, all ye sinners ; come ye here,
All ye who weary be:
Come, enter and be free!
J. K. BY REV. H. BONAR, D.D.
OHN BUNYAN puts into the lips of his Pilgrim one of
the simplest statements of the Gospel to be found anywhere. It is in the conversation between
Pliable and Christian, not far from the beginning of the book.
“Do you think that the words of your Book are certainly true ?"
“ Yes, verily, for it was made by Him that cannot lie.” “Well said. What things are they?”
“There is an endless kingdom to be inhabited, and everlasting life to be given us that we may inhabit that kingdom for ever.”
“Well said; and what else ?”
“ There are crowns of glory to be given us, and garments that will make us shine like the sun in the firmament of heaven.”
“ This is very pleasant; and what else ?”
" There shall be no more crying nor sorrow; for He that is the owner of the place will wipe all tears from our
“The hearing of this is enough to ravish one's heart. But are these things to be enjoyed? How shall we get to be sharers thereof?”
“The Lord, the governor of the country, hath recorded that in this Book, the substance of which is that if we be truly willing to have it, He will bestow it upon us freely."
Never did that man of God state the glad tidings more purely and more freely than in that brief sentence. He does not discuss the quantity or quality of faith, the nature or the length of the process through which some would make a sinner pass before he is allowed to taste the peace of the Gospel. He speaks of no previous work of mortification as needful to qualify him for dealing with the Son of God. He sets aside all questions as to the depth of
penitence, the amount of earnestness, the purity of motive, the singleness of aim, the unselfishness of purpose required in each coming one to fit him for approaching the Saviour and His cross. He does not make Christian lay his hand on Pliable and say, But, my friend, there are great difficulties in the way; don't be in too great a haste to get to Christ; you must wait and humble yourself, and pass through several previous spiritual changes before you can hope to be received by Him. You must sit at the 'pool of ordinances' (as men call it) for months or years till, in some miraculous way, the Holy Spirit drop faith into you, or lift you up and put you into the pool." No, he does not thus mock the inquiring one. He points to the celestial city and says,
“Go in, go in! God is willing that you should enter and be blest."
No; Bunyan knew the Gospel too well to cast any such stumbling-blocks in the sinner's way. He knew the grace of Christ too thoroughly thus to restrict its freeness or to modify the love to the sinner contained in it. He speaks out in the fulness of his heart when he says, be truly willing to have it, He will bestow it upon us freely."
This certainly is good news! Yes, it is good news without any drawbacks, without any evasions, without any of the perversions or distortions of self-righteous man. It brings home salvation to each child of sin. It lays down eternal life at the door of every wanderer. It leaves every sinner without the possibility of excuse, without the shadow of a plea for one moment's delay. It corrects our self-righteous ideas of faith which regard it as some work to be performed because of which God accepts the sinner-some preliminary goodness which God reckons to us instead of our performance of the whole law. It brings out beautifully in a direct form the oft-repeated words of Christ: “Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life.”
Once when this point was pressed home upon an inquirer, the answer was only a troubled desponding look, followed
16 If we
up with the remark, " Ah, that is too free; it is too good news to be true.” That inquirer was bent on a preliminary course of preparation before venturing to sit quietly down beneath the shadow of the cross. It seemed incredible that salvation should be so absolutely free, and the way of access to God so direct and simple.
Yet John Bunyan's words do not exaggerate the freeness of the Gospel ; nor do they simplify faith too much. Man, in his self-righteousness, has raised up stumbling-blocks on the way to the cross in order to give the coming sinner something to perform, something to feel, something to undergo as qualifications for acceptance with God. These words sweep all these away, and place the sinner at once face to face with the cross, in full sight of, nay in close proximity to, the open gate.
“If we be willing to have it, He will bestow it upon us freely.” Where is distance now? It is done away. Where is boasting now? It is excluded. Where is self-righteousness ? Every motive to it is swept off. Where is doubting now? It is cast out. And where is merit or qualification now? All gone. There stands the cross, right before the sinner, in all its nearness and accessibility. There stands the open fountain, and round it, engraved in letters too plain to be misread or misunderstood: “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely !" Bunyan's gospel is based upon these blessed words. It not only breathes their spirit, but it utters them most explicitly under another figure of speech.
If any one objects to this way of putting the Gospel, let him look at these words just quoted. If he thinks them too simple, then his quarrel is not with Bunyan, but with Bunyan's Master. He did not speak at random. He meant what He said, and He said what He meant. Let us not explain away His gracious words, nor challenge His message, as fitted to mislead the sinner. If He had meant faith to be something mysterious, would He not have said so ? If He had wished to convey the idea that justification was not by faith alone, but by faith and something else added to make it more substantial, would He not have explained Himself, and not left the poor coming one under the delusion that faith, without any addition, was the link between him and the Saviour; or, as Luther used to express it in the words, “ Christ alone; faith alone.”
Let us take, then, the Pilgrim's gospel as it stands. Let us not mend or mutilate it. It is uttered in Bunyan's own artless way; it is the very echo of the artlessness of Scripture--the simplicity of Christ :
“Oh, how unlike the complex works of man,
Heaven's easy, artless, unencumbered plan !”
With this message we approach the sinner, and appeal to him in his far-off wanderings. With this Gospel we urge the inquirer and the doubter, entreating them to give up their self-righteous efforts to force themselves to do or to feel something which may recommend them to Christ and propitiate the favour of God. Remember, it all comes to this:
“If we be willing to have it, He will bestow it upon us freely."
Bell, Book, and Candle.
priests would try to cast out the devil and put
Bearing the mass-book, and carrying lighted candles in their hands, the priests advanced in procession, amid the tolling of the bell, to the place where the evil spirit was to be exorcised.
We do not believe in the efficacy of their method now, but it is nevertheless the shadow and symbol of a great truth. It is indeed by bell, book, and candle that Satan is to be