Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8
When death and hell are viewed in their darkest colours, if we have faith enough to see souls in heaven wearing their white robes, this is comfort enough, to know our souls do not die with the body. The soul’s eternity is an indelible principle stamped on the souls of men by the finger of God. It is not surprising that he who has his soul too linked to the body, does not know how to die and hates the thought of separation of the body and spirit. They hate to part with the body, which is their only blessing. But, regenerate spirits enjoy ties of sublime reflections about heaven, and are willing to leave the body. John saw the saints in their safety and rest under Christ’s protection and custody, under the shadow of his wings. He presents them to his Father, shelters them from accusation and condemnation, gathers them, as the hen her chicks, and is fully able to keep them from all distress. He will defend them from external and internal annoyance, and settle them in absolute peace with him in paradise. These meditations foster a true courageous resolution against the fear of death. We must set our minds on these heavenly realities, and often think of them. If there were an island on earth that would free our bodies and quiet our minds all our days, how would people covet to dwell on it. Christ is the believer’s strong tower, and he does not fear what death can do unto him. He looks to the exceeding eternal weight of glory. Write, O Christ, these meditations on our hearts! Imprint them in our memories and may all our days have frequent thoughts of them. Let our Comforter bring them to mind that we might cheerfully pass through the waters of Jordan to take possession of that land of delights without end. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
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.