But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5
One of Satan’s devices to draw the soul into sin is to present the bait, and hide the hook; to present the golden cup, and hide the poison; to present the sweet, and the pleasure, but hide from the soul the wrath and misery that will certainly follow. By this device he took our first parents; he hides the hook – the shame, the wrath, and the loss that would certainly follow. There is an opening of the eyes of the mind to contemplation and joy, and the eyes of the body to shame and confusion. Satan promises the former, but intends the latter, and so cheats them – giving them an apple in exchange for a paradise. Satan promises the soul honour, pleasure, and profit, but pays the soul with greatest contempt, shame, and loss. Keep a great distance from sin (Rom. 12:9). Joseph did and stood. David drew near, and fell. Sin is the most infectious plague in the world. How few tremble at it and keep a distance from it! The seeming sweet that is in sin will quickly vanish, and lasting shame, sorrow, and terror will come in its place. When an asp stings a man, the poison little by little gets to the heart. So does sin; it may please a little at first, but it will pain the soul at last. Men must not think to dance and dine with the devil and then to sup with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. Sin will usher in the greatest and the saddest losses that can be upon our souls. It will usher in the loss of that divine favour that is better than life, and the loss of the joy that is unspeakable and full of glory, and the loss of the peace that passes understanding, and the loss of the divine influences by which the soul has been refreshed, quickened, raised, strengthened, and gladdened, and the loss of many outward desirable mercies, which otherwise that soul might have enjoyed.
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.