As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctifiedin truth. 2 Corinthians 5:7
Christ Jesus set himself wholly apart for believers. We may say, ‘Lord, condemnation was yours, that justification might be mine; agony was yours, and victory mine; pain was yours, and ease is mine; stripes were yours, and healing mine; vinegar and gall were yours, that honey and sweet might be mine; the curse was yours, and the blessing mine; death was yours, and eternal life mine!’ If Jesus wholly set himself apart for believers, how reasonable it is for believers to set themselves apart for Christ. He left the highest enjoyments in his Father’s bosom, to set himself apart for death and suffering for you. Are you ready to leave the bosom of the best and sweetest enjoyments you have in this world to serve him? He did not refuse the worst and hardest part of service for you, even bleeding, groaning, and dying. O happy souls that are so engaged for Christ! Was he all for us, and shall we be nothing for him? All he did and all he suffered, he suffered for us. O then, ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship’ (Rom. 12:1). Let us say ‘For to me to live is Christ’ (Phil. 1:21). O that all who profess faith in Christ could subscribe to this: ‘If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord’ (Rom. 14:8). This is a Christian indeed! What is a Christian, but one dedicated to the Lord? Blessed exchange! Christ says; ‘All I have is yours’, and we say: ‘Though my person is vile, and not worthy of being accepted, but such as it is, it is yours. My soul with all and every faculty; my body, and every member of it; my gifts, tie, and al my talents are yours.’
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.