For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:26
In worldly concerns, men discern their opportunities, and are careful to improve them before they are past. The farmer is careful to plough his ground and sow his seed in the seed in the proper season. When the harvest is come, he will not sleep away the time, or the crop will soon be lost. How careful and eagle-eye is the merchant to improve opportunities to enrich himself! How apt are men to be alarmed at the appearance of danger to their worldly estate! O how they stir themselves inn such a case to avoid the threatened calamity! But if we consider how men generally conduct themselves in things on which their wellbeing infinitely depends, how vast is the difference. In these things, how cold, lifeless, and negligent most are. How few among the multitudes are wise! What a need there is for a constant repetition of admonition and counsel, to keep the heart from falling asleep! How many objections are made! O how difficulties are magnified, and how soon is the mind discouraged! How unaware men are of the need to improve their time for their spiritual interest, and their welfare in another world! How hardly convinced are men of the uncertainly of life and its enjoyments! We have abundant instructions to lead and conduct us in the paths of righteousness. They are abundantly set before us in the Word of God. Scripture is adapted to the faculties of mankind, to greatly enlighten the mind. We have far greater means to assist us to be wise in eternal things as real, it cannot be for lack of sufficient evidence of their truth which is manifested by the clearest evidence.
Makers of Puritan History
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.