Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13
How can we recognize when a temptation has come to its hour? A temptation has come to its hour when it is restless, urgent, and arguing. It is a time of battle, and sin will give the soul no rest. Satan sees his advantage, the convergence of his forces, and knows that he must prevail, or be hopeless forever. Satan pushes this opportunity and time of advantage with special pleas and promises. He has taken some ground in his arguments so far, and seeks to exert his ground further. He reminds us of a full pardon after the sin. He realizes that if he does not win now he will lose the opportunity. When Satan had prepared all the events against Christ, it was the hour of darkness. When a temptation presses in upon us through our imagination and reason, and when opportunities, solicitations, and advantages press us on the outside, we may know that the hour of its power has come. A temptation has also come to its hour when it brings both fear and allurements together to work with greater force. These came together in King David when he planned the murder of Uriah. There was the fear of his sin being found out, and also the continued pleasure and enjoyment with Bathsheba. Men sometimes are carried into sin just by the love of it, but they often continue in it because of the fear of the consequences that might appear by repentance and full disclosure. Our Saviour teaches us the ways to prevent our entering into temptation, and there are two: ‘Watch’ and ‘Pray’. To watch means to be on guard, to take heed, and to consider the ways the enemy might seek to approach us and entangle us in his baits and methods. The second direction is to pray. This important duty is known to all. These two duties are the whole expression of faith to protect us from temptation.
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.