But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7
The blood of Christ purges us from our sin, and no truth belonging to the mystery of the gospel is more plainly asserted: ‘He has freed us from our sins by his blood’ (Rev. 1:5). And, everyone who has an actual interest in the blood of Christ has a real purification from the future defilements of sin also. The Holy Spirit communicates the purifying virtue of the blood of Christ unto our souls and consciences, whereby we are freed from shame, and have boldness towards God. His blood has a double consideration: not only atonement and reconciliation, but also purging and sanctification. He offered himself not just to make atonement, but also to sanctify us by the sprinkling of his blood. It is by faith we receive the purifying virtue and influences of the blood of Christ. Faith is the grace whereby we constantly cleave unto him. If the woman who touched his garment in faith obtained virtue from him to heal her issue of blood, shall not those who cleave unto him to heal her issue of blood, shall not those who cleave unto him continually derive virtue from him for the healing of their ongoing spiritual defilements? By faith the lusts and corruptions which might defile us are mortified, subdued, and gradually worked out of our minds. All actual defilements spring from the remainder of defiling lusts working in us. Faith seeks to subdue these by obtaining fresh supplies of the Spirit and grace from Jesus Christ. Faith considers two motives to stir up our utmost diligence to prevent the defilements of sin. First, it seeks to participate in the excellent promises of God. Considering these brings a strong encouragement to the souls of believers to seek after universal purity and holiness (2 Cor. 7:1). Secondly, faith considers the future enjoyments of God in glory, which cannot be ours without our being purified from sin (Heb. 12:14).
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.