And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. Luke 19:9
If Christ with all of his benefits is yours by Good’s special application, what a day of mercies was the day of your conversion! What multitudes of choice blessings visit the converted soul in that day! In the day of salvation, Christ comes into the soul, and he does not come empty handed, but brings all the treasures of his wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Troops of mercies, yea, the best of mercies come with him. It is a day of singular gladness and joy to the heart of Christ when he is united to and received by the believing soul; it is the coronation day to a king. The coronation of Solomon, when the royal diadem was set upon his head and the people shouted for joy so that the earth did ring, is small in comparison with the joy of Christ’s heart, when poor souls consent to his government over their lives. They do, as it were, crown him with glory and honour, and make his heart glad. What a day of joy and gladness should it be to our hearts! How we should be transported with joy, to see the King from heaven, with all his treasures of grace and glory, bestowing himself freely and everlastingly upon us as our portion! No wonder Zacchaeus came down joyfully (Luke 19:6). No wonder the eunuch went home rejoicing (Acts 8:39). No wonder the jailer rejoiced, believing in God with all of his household (Acts 16:34). No wonder those who were converted ate their meals with gladness and praise to God (Acts 2:41, 46). No wonder there was great joy in Samaria (Acts 8:5, 8). It is no wonder we read of such joy accompanying Christ into the soul when we consider that in one day so many blessing meet together. All the kingdoms of this world, and their glory, cannot compare to it. Eternity will but suffice to bless God for the mercies of this one day.
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.