Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 1 Peter 1:8
As Christians, we should not enjoy just an ordinary level of cheerfulness; we should go way beyond those of the world both in quality and quantity. Our happiness should be sweeter, higher, and more constant than any carnal man. Consider the transcendent objects of our thoughts above all men. Consider your justification and sanctification through Christ. Do not even let a part of a day pass without such wonderful contemplation. Your soul deserves to have her breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and desserts as well as your body. Your precious time will glide swiftly and easily away, like a boat with the full wind and tide. All of your days can be holidays. There is no envy of Felix’s happiness, Festus’ festivity, and Dives’ bounty. Our life, as we enjoy spiritual blessings, is a kingly life. Yes, but it does not strip us of our joy when we stumble before God? Certainly those who daily keep watch will not run their ship against any dangerous rock. If they do, it will not lay there long. Your faith will set you to work, weeping bitterly before the Lord to find peace of conscience. As for ordinary sins, your faith will seek daily pardon and washing, with even greater effort than a Pharisee in washing his hands. Each day we take the red lines of Christ’s cross over the black lines of God’s debt book. And if God looks upon the handwriting against us, he sees the bill cancelled with the precious blood of his Son. Such blood is all-sufficient to cover, nullify, abolish, and wholly take away our sins in such a way that he neither sees, will see, nor can see them as sins and debts against us. Though we cannot enter into the joys of heaven while yet on earth, we certainly do rejoice in gospel joys now. It is enough now for us to secretly enjoy all of the colours of the gospel. They are beloved above all other joys and states.
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.