Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Ephesians 6:10
What methods should a Christian use in the battle of spiritual warfare to defy the enemy and vanquish him? Bring your lusts under the rule of your reason. Will you let your silly lust abuse you and become a traitor to your own soul? Will you allow your passion to rise in arms and grow unruly? Let your reason arise and take its place as master. What a silly thing is man in a passion. Nothing is more ridiculous and contemptible. If your lust overcomes reason, bid your conscience to do its work, and look to Scripture for support. If the love of God’s commands will not restrain you, let the terrors and the thunders of his threats persuade you. Draw the curtain of your heart open, and show it God’s majesty and ask it if it realizes that he is looking on. Tell your heart again and again that God will not be mocked. Seek to draw the stream of your lusts in a different direction. If it is vain-glory in the applause of men, think how ridiculous it would be for a criminal to please himself in the esteem of his fellow prisoners, and forget how guilty he is before the judge. If these means do not help, fall instantly to prayer. Throw yourself at his feet. Tell him you will not rise until he has given you a token for good. Perhaps sometimes you might add fasting with your prayer. When you have done this, rise up and buckle on the shield of faith. Clothe your soul with a heroic confidence in the power and faithfulness of your God, and in the name and majesty of the Lord of hosts to make battle with your lusts. God never fails the eyes of them that look up to him. His name is a strong tower. Cast your care upon him and expect the same pity that Jabesh-Gilead found from Saul: ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have deliverance’ (1 Sam. 11:9).
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.