“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” John 12:27-28
Hallowed be your name. Christ has taught us to make this the first petition in our prayers. We must learn that the glory of God is to be preferred before all other things. It should be the highest of our thoughts and endeavours. It should be preferred before what ever else is dear to us, yes before our very lives themselves. This was our Savior’s practice: ‘Though life is naturally dear; and the cup, which I am to drink, very bitter; and the wrath than I am to undergo, heavy and infinite; yet all these things are not so considerable to me as your glory; and therefore, though it will bring agonies, by death, by the cross, yet, Father, glorify your name.’ The same mind should dwell in us. We may pray for other things with limitations and restrictions; but for the glory of God, absolutely and simply. ‘Father, glorify your name; and if, in the counsel of your will and the course of your providence, it cannot be otherwise than by my suffering or sorrow, or death itself; yet, Father, even in this, glorify your name. Out of my very ruins, erect a trophy and monument to your praise. Be hallowed and sanctified, although at my cost, and with the loss of all.’ This petition is placed first to indicate that in the very beginning of our prayers, we ought to beg assistance form God, so as to perform holy duties that God may be glorified in them. In this petition for his glory, we beg three things of him: first, that such grace comes to us to enable us to glorify him secondly, that he would grant grace likewise for others in this matter; and thirdly, that od would be his almighty providence, direct and overrule all things, both good and evil, to advance his own glory. Thus, whatsoever falls out of his hand, we ought to cry; ‘Hallowed be your name in it!’
Are our civil and religious freedoms under threat? According to some social commentators we are living in very uncertain times in which the freedoms we have long enjoyed are coming under increasing pressure. The liberty we take so much for granted may not be as secure as we think.
When this book was first published there was little or no sign of such danger on the horizon. In 1960 the church may have taken her religious freedom for granted and perhaps had forgotten the price paid by those who had “fought for freedom of truth and conscience, freedom for life and worship, freedom both as citizens and Christians.” Today in the West the prospect facing the church may well be one of suffering for the sake of the gospel and of sharing the common experience of our fellow Christians in many other parts of the world.
This prospect makes the story of the four men told in this book all the more fascinating and relevant. In the seventeenth-century two Scottish Covenanters, Alexander Henderson and Samuel Rutherford, and two English Puritans, John Bunyan and Richard Baxter, were at the forefront in the struggle for liberty of conscience and freedom of worship. The story of their suffering and triumph, vividly told by a skilled biographer, enables the reader to visualize clearly both the problems which faced the church during that turbulent period of her history and the principles upon which our spiritual forefathers courageously took their stand. Of course, it would not be hard to point out their limitations and imperfections, their mistakes and failures; but they were fired by an inner nobility of motive and ideal which lifts them above petty criticism and gives them a lasting title to be known as men who were like Bunyan’s pilgrim, Valiant-for-Truth.