It was this glory of God, the sight and visions of this God of glory, that provoked Abraham to leave his country and kindred to come after God. The reason why men are so careless of and so indifferent about their coming to God, is because they have their eyes blinded — because they do not perceive his glory.
A DISCOURSE TOUCHING PRAYER
by John Bunyan..
Written In Prison, 1662. Published, 1663.
AFor we know not what we should pray for as we ought: C the Spirit C helpeth our infirmities@ (Rom. 8:26).
On Praying In The Spirit.
AI Will Pray With The Spirit, And I Will Pray With The Understanding Also@
C (1Co. 14:15).
PRAYER is an ORDINANCE of God, and that to be used both in public and private; yea, such an ordinance as brings those that have the spirit of supplication into great familiarity with God; and is also so prevalent in action, that it getteth of God, both for the person that prayeth, and for them that are prayed for, great things. It is the opener of the heart of God, and a means by which the soul, though empty, is filled. By prayer the Christian can open his heart to God, as to a friend, and obtain fresh testimony of God=s friendship to him.
The method that I shall go on in at this time shall be,
FIRST. To show you what true prayer is.
SECOND. To show you what it is to pray with the Spirit.
THIRD. What it is to pray with the Spirit and understanding also.
FOURTHLY. To make some short use and application of what shall be spoken.
I. What Prayer Is.
1. FIRST, What [true] prayer is. Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.
2. In this description are these seven things. First, It is a sincere; Second, A sensible; Third, An affectionate, pouring out of the soul to God, through Christ; Fourth, By the strength or assistance of the Spirit; Fifth, For such things as God hath promised, or, according to his word; Sixth, For the good of the church; Seventh, With submission in faith to the will of God.
1. Sincerity is such a grace as runs through all the graces of God in us, and through all the actings of a Christian, and hath the sway in them too, or else their actings are not any thing regarded of God,
a. Ps. 66:17-18; 16:1-4; Jer. 29:12-13.
b. The want of this made the Lord reject their prayers in Hosea 7:14.
2. Why? [B]ecause sincerity carries the soul in all simplicity toopen its heart to God, and to tell him the case plainly, without equivocation; to condemn itself plainly, without dissembling; to cry to God heartily, without complimenting.
3. It is not lip‑labour that it doth regard, for it is the heart that God looks at, and that which sincerity looks at, and that which prayer comes from, if it be that prayer which is accompanied with sincerity.
C. Sensible: It is not, as many take it to be, even a few babbling, prating, complimentary expressions, but a sensible feeling there is in the heart.
1. A sense of the want of mercy, by reason of the danger of sin.
a. 1 Sam. 1:10; Ps. 69:3; Ps. 38:8-10; Is. 38:14; Jer. 31:18; Matt. 26:75; Heb. 5:7.
b. And all this from a sense of the justice of God, the guilt of sin, the pains of hell and destruction. Ps. 116:3-4; Ps. 77:2; Ps. 38:6.
2. Sometimes there is a sweet sense of mercy received; encouraging, comforting, strengthening, enlivening, enlightening mercy . . .Ps. 103: 1‑5; Phil. 4: 6. A sensible thanksgiving, for mercies received, is a mighty prayer in the sight of God; it prevails with him unspeakably.
3. In prayer there is sometimes in the soul a sense of mercy to be received. This again sets the soul all on a flame. 2 Sam. 7:27; Gen. 32:10-11; Dan. 9:3-4.
D. Affectionate pouring out of the soul to God.
1. O! the heat, strength, life, vigour, and affection, that is in right prayer! Ps. 42:1; 119:20, 40, 174; 84: 2; Dan. 9:19; Lk. 22:44
2. When the affections are indeed engaged in prayer, then, then the whole man is engaged, and that in such sort, that the soul will spend itself to nothing, as it were, rather than it will go without that good desired, even communion and solace with Christ. And hence it isthat the saints have spent their strengths, and lost their lives, rather than gowithout the blessing (Psa. 69: 3; 38: 9, 10; Gen. 32:24, 26).
3. Again, It is a pouring out of the heart or soul. There is in prayer an unbosoming of a man=s self, an opening of the heart to God, an affectionate pouring out of the soul in requests, sighs, and groans. Ps. 38: 9; 42:2,4; 62:8; Dt. 4:29
4. Again, It is a pouring out of the heart or soul TO GOD. This showeth also the excellency of the spirit of prayer. It is the great God to which it retires. 1 Tim. 55; Ps. 71:1-5
5. THROUGH CHRIST. This through Christ must needs be added, or else it is to be questioned, whether it be prayer, though in appearance it be never so eminent or eloquent.
a. Christ is the way through whom the soul hath admittance to God, and without whom it is impossible that so much as one desire should come into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. Jn.14: 6, 13, 14; Dan. 9:17; Ps. 25:11;
b. This coming to God through Christ is the hardest part that is found in prayer. A man may more easily be sensible of his works, ay, and sincerely too desire mercy, and yet not be able to come to God by Christ. Heb. 11:6, Ex. 33:13;
c. This Christ, none but the Father can reveal. Matt. 11:27, 16:16. Ps. 18: 2; 27:1; 28:1; Gen. 15:1; Jn. 3:5,7; 1:12; Eph. 5:20, 1:6;
E. by the strength OR ASSISTANCE OF THE SPIRIT. . . if it be not in the strength and assistance of the Spirit, it is but like the sons of Aaron, offering with strange fire. Lev. 10:1-2; Rom. 8:26-27
F. FOR SUCH THINGS AS GOD HATH PROMISED, &c., (Mat. 6: 6‑8).
1. Prayer it is, when it is within the compass of God=s Word; and it is blasphemy, or at best vain babbling, when the petition is beside the book. Ps. 119:25‑28, 41, 42, 49, 58, 65, 74, 81, 82, 107, 147, 154, 169,170)
2. And indeed the Holy Ghost doth not immediately quicken and stir up the heart of the Christian without, but by, with, and through the Word, by bringing that to the heart, and by opening of that, whereby the man is provoked to go to the Lord, and to tell him how it is with him, and also to argue, and supplicate, according to the Word; . . . .Dan. 9:2-3; Matt. 26:53-54.
3. It is a praying then according to the Word and promise. The Spirit by the Word must direct, as well in the manner, as in the matter of prayer. 1 Cor. 14:15; Jer. 8:9
G. FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH. This clause reacheth in whatsoever tendeth either to the honour of God, Christ=s advancement, or his people=s benefit. John 17; Phil. 1: 9‑11; Eph. 1:16‑21; 3:14‑19; Col. 1: 9‑13.
H. SUBMIT TO THE WILL OF GOD, and say, Thy will be done, as Christ hath taught us (Mat. 6:10); therefore the people of the Lord in humility are to lay themselves and their prayers, and all that they have, at the foot of their God, to be disposed of by him as he in his heavenly wisdom seeth best. . . . 1 John. 5:14-15; 1 Cor. 2:11
II. What It Is To Pray With The Spirit.
A. SECOND. I will pray with the Spirit. Now to pray with the Spirit C for that is the praying man, and none else, so as to be accepted of God C it is for a man, as aforesaid, sincerely and sensibly, with affection, to come to God through Christ, &c.; which sincere, sensible, and affectionate coming must be by the working of God=s Spirit.
1. There is no man nor church in the world that can come to God in prayer, but by the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Eph. 2:18; Rom. 8:26-27.
2. Consider first the person speaking, even Paul, and, in his person, all the apostles. We apostles, we extraordinary officers, the wise master‑builders, that have some of us been caught up into paradise (Rom. 15:16; 1Co. 3:10; 2Co. 12: 4).
3. AFor we know not what we should pray for.@ We know not the matter of the things for which we should pray, neither the object to whom we pray, nor the medium by or through whom we pray; none of these things know we, but by the help and assistance of the Spirit. Should we pray for communion with God through Christ? should we pray for faith, for justification by grace, and a truly sanctified heart? none of these things know we. 1 Cor. 2:11; Is. 29:11.
4. AFor we know not what we should pray for as we ought.@ Mark this, Aas we ought.@ For the not thinking of this word, or at least the not understanding it in the spirit and truth of it, hath occasioned these men to devise, as Jeroboam did, another way of worship, both for matter and manner, than is revealed in the Word of God (1Ki. 12:26‑33). But, saith Paul, we must pray as we ought; and this WE cannot do by all the art, skill, and cunning device of men or angels. Jam. 4: 3;1Jo. 5:14.
B. The infirmities we suffer when pray:
1. First. Without the Spirit man is so infirm that he cannot, with all other means whatsoever, be enabled to think one right saving thought of God, of Christ, or of his blessed things; and therefore he saith of the wicked, AGod is not in all his thoughts,@ (Psa. 10: 4; 50:21; Gen. 6: 5; 8:21). They then not being able to conceive aright of God to whom they pray, of Christ through whom they pray, nor of the things for which they pray, as is before showed, how shall they be able to address themselves to God, without the Spirit help this infirmity? . . . Mar. 7: 7, 8; Col. 2:16‑23; Deu. 12:30‑32; Pro. 28:9; Deu. 4: 2; Rev. 22:18; Is. 29:13: Ps. 51:15.
2. Second. It must be a praying with the Spirit, that is, the effectual praying; because without that, as men are senseless, so hypocritical, cold, and unseemly in their prayers; and so they, with their prayers, are both rendered abominable to God (Mat. 23:14; Mar. 12:40; Luk. 18:11, 12; Isa. 58: 2, 3). . . . That is the prayer that goeth to heaven, that is sent thither in the strength of the Spirit. For,
3. Third. Nothing but the Spirit can show a man clearly his misery by nature, and so put a man into a posture of prayer. Talk is but talk, as we use to say, and so it is but mouth‑worship, if there be not a sense of misery, and that effectually too. . . . For it is the Spirit that doth effectually convince of sin and misery, without the Lord Jesus, and so puts the soul into a sweet, sensible, affectionate way of praying to God according to his word (Joh. 16: 7‑9).
4. Fourth. If men did see their sins, yet without the help of the Spirit they would not pray. For they would run away from God, with Cain and Judas, and utterly despair of mercy, were it not for the Spirit. When a man is indeed sensible of his sin, and God=s curse, then it is a hard thing to persuade him to pray; for, saith his heart, AThere is no hope,@ it is in vain to seek God. Jer. 2:25; 18:12 . . . Joh. 14:26.
5. Fifth. It must be in or with the Spirit; for without that no man can knowhow he should come to God the right way 1Co. 2:10; Exo. 33:13 Joh. 16:14.
6. Sixth. Because without the Spirit, though a man did see his misery, and also the way to come to God; yet he would never be able to claim a share in either God, Christ, or mercy, with God=s approbation. O how great a task is it, for a poor soul that becomes sensible of sin and the wrath of God, to say in faith, but this one word, AFather!@ I tell you, however hypocrites think, yet the Christian that is so indeed finds all the difficulty in this very thing, it cannot say God is its Father. O! saith he, I dare not call him Father; and hence it is that the Spirit must be sent into the hearts of God=s people for this very thing, to cry Father: it being too great a work for any man to do knowingly and believingly without it (Gal. 4: 6). When I say knowingly, I mean, knowing what it is to be a child of God, and to be born again. And when I say believingly, I mean, for the soul to believe, and that from good experience, that the work of grace is wrought in him. This is the right calling of God Father; and not as many do, to say in a babbling way, the Lord=s prayer (so called) by heart, as it lieth in the words of the book. No, here is the life of prayer, when in or with the Spirit, a man being made sensible of sin, and how to come to the Lord for mercy; he comes, I say, in the strength of the Spirit, and crieth Father. That one word spoken in faith, is better than a thousand prayers, as men call them, written and read, in a formal, cold, lukewarm way. Rev. 3: 9; 2:9; John. 8:41‑45 Isa. 53:10; Ezr. 4:12‑16. Therefore give me leave a little to reason with thee, thou poor, blind, ignorant sot.
a. It may be thy great prayer is to say, AOur Father which art in heaven,@ &c. Dost thou know the meaning of the very first words of this prayer? Canst thou indeed, with the rest of the saints, cry, Our Father? Art thou truly born again? Hast thou received the spirit of adoption? Dost thou see thyself in Christ, and canst thou come to God as a member of him? Or art thou ignorant of these things, and yet darest thou say, Our Father? Is not the devil thy father? (Joh. 8:44).
b. And dost thou indeed say, AHallowed be thy name@ with thy heart? Dost thou study, by all honest and lawful ways, to advance the name, holiness, and majesty of God? Doth thy heart and conversation agree with this passage?
c. Wouldst thou have the kingdom of God come indeed, and also his will to be done in earth as it is in heaven? Nay, notwithstanding, thou according to the form, sayest, Thy kingdom come, yet would it not make thee ready to run mad, to hear the trumpet sound, to see the dead arise, and thyself just now to go and appear before God, to reckon for all the deeds thou hast done in the body? Nay, are not the very thoughts of it altogether displeasing to thee? And if God=s will should be done on earth as it is in heaven, must it not be thy ruin? There is never a rebel in heaven against God, and if he should so deal on earth, must it not whirl thee down to hell? . . . Ecc. 5: 2.
7. Seventh. It must be a praying with the Spirit if it be accepted, because there is nothing but the Spirit that can lift up the soul or heart to God in prayer: AThe preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord@. Pro. 16: 1. Ps. 25:1; Zech. 12:10; Eph. 6:18.
8. Eighth. As the heart must be lifted up by the Spirit, if it pray aright, so also it must be held up by the Spirit when it is up, if it continue to pray aright. I do not know what, or how it is with others= hearts, whether they be lifted up by the Spirit of God, and so continued, or no: but this I am sure of, First, That it is impossible that all the prayer‑books that men have made in the world, should lift up, or prepare the heart; that is the work of the great God himself. And, in the second place, I am sure that they are as far from keeping it up, when it is up. And indeed here is the life of prayer, to have the heart kept with God in the duty. Ex. 17:12 Isa. 29:13; Ezekiel 33 Mat. 15: 8, 9; Ps. 86:11 . . . . When the Spirit gets into the heart, then there is prayer indeed, and not till then.
9. Ninth. The soul that doth rightly pray, it must be in and with the help and strength of the Spirit; because it is impossible that a man should express himself in prayer without it. When I say, it is impossible for a man to express himself in prayer without it, I mean, that it is impossible that the heart, in a sincere and sensible affectionate way, should pour out itself before God, with those groans and sighs that come from a truly praying heart, without the assistance of the Spirit. It is not the mouth that is the main thing to be looked at in prayer, but whether the heart is so full of affection and earnestness in prayer with God, . . .Rom. 8:26; Ex. 14:15; Num. 16:22; 1 Sam. 16:7. . . .The best prayers have often more groans than words: and those words that . . . The nearer a man comes in any work that God commands him to the doingof it according to his will, so much the more hard and difficult it is; and the reason is, because man, as man, is not able to do it.
10. Tenth. It must be with the Spirit, or else as there will be a failing in the act itself, so there will be a failing, yea, a fainting, in the prosecution of the work. Prayer is an ordinance of God, that must continue with a soul so long as it is on this side glory. But, as I said before, it is not possible for a man to get up his heart to God in prayer; so it is as difficult to keep it there, without the assistance of the Spirit. And if so, then for a man to continue from time to time in prayer with God, it must of necessity be with the Spirit. Christ tells us, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luk. 18: 1; Job. 27:10; Mat. 23:14 Genesis 32; Hos. 12: 4; Eph. 2:18; Jude 1:20). As if he had said, Brethren, as eternal life is laid up for the persons that hold out only, so you cannot hold out unless you continue praying in the Spirit. The great cheat that the devil and antichrist delude the world withal, it is to make them continue in the form of any duty, the form of preaching, of hearing, or praying, &c. These are they that have Aa form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away@ (2Ti. 3: 5).
Here followeth the third thing; to wit,
III. What It Is To Pray With The Spirit And With The Understanding.
A. THIRD. And now to the next thing, what it is to pray with the Spirit, and to pray with the understanding also. 1 Cor. 14: 3, 4, 12, 19, 24, 25. It is expedient then that the understanding should be occupied in prayer, as well as the heart and mouth: AI will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also.@ That which is done with understanding, is done more effectually, sensibly, and heartily, as I shall show farther anon, than that which is done without it; which made the apostle pray for the Colossians, that God would fill them Awith the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding@ (Col. 1: 9). And for the Ephesians, that God would give unto them Athe spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him@ (Eph. 1:17). And so for the Philippians, that God would make them abound Ain knowledge, and in all judgment@ (Php. 1: 9). A suitable understanding is good in everything a man undertakes, either civil or spiritual; and therefore it must be desired by all them that would be a praying people. In my speaking to this, I shall show you what it is to pray with understanding.
B. Understanding is to be taken both for speaking in our mother‑tongue, and also experimentally. I pass the first, and treat only on the second.
1. First. To pray with understanding, is to pray as being instructed by the Spirit in the understanding of the want of those things which the soul is to pray for . . . . (Rev. 3:16, 17). Men without understanding may say the same words in prayer as others do; but if there be an understanding in the one, and none in the other, there is, O there is a mighty difference in speaking the very same words! The one speaking from a spiritual understanding of those things that he in words desires, and the other words it only, and there is all.
2. Second. Spiritual understanding espieth in the heart of God a readiness and willingness to give those things to the soul that it stands in need of. David by this could guess at the very thoughts of God towards him. Ps. 40: 5; Mat. 15:22‑28).
a. And understanding of the willingness that is in the heart of God to save sinners, there is nothing will press the soul more to seek after God, and to cry for pardon, than it.
b. If a man should see a pearl worth an hundred pounds lie in a ditch, yet if he understood not the value of it, he would lightly pass it by: but if he once get the knowledge of it, he would venture up to the neck for it. So it is with souls concerning the things of God: if a man once get an understanding of the worth of them, then his heart, nay, the very strength of his soul, runs after them, and he will never leave crying till he have them. . . . Mat. 20:29‑31.
3. Third. The understanding being spiritually enlightened, hereby there is the way, as aforesaid, discovered, through which the soul should come unto God; which gives great encouragement unto it.
4. Fourth. The enlightened understanding sees largeness enough in the promises to encourage it to pray; which still adds to it strength to strength.
5. Fifth. The understanding being enlightened, way is made for the soul to come to God with suitable arguments, sometimes in a way of expostulation, as Jacob (Gen. 32: 9). Sometimes in way of supplication, yet not in a verbal way only, but even from the heart there is forced by the Spirit, through the understanding, such effectual arguments as moveth the heart of God. . . .Jer. 31:18‑20. Isa. 66: 2.
6. Sixth. An understanding well enlightened is of admirable use also, both as to the matter and manner of prayer. He that hath his understanding well exercised, to discern between good and evil, and in it placed a sense either of the misery of man, or the mercy of God; that soul hath no need of the writings of other men to teach him by forms of prayer. For as he that feels the pain needs not to be taught to cry O! even so he that hath his understanding opened by the Spirit needs not so to be taught of other men=s prayers, as that he cannot pray without them. Psa. 116: 3, 4; 38: 1‑ 12.
7. Seventh. It is necessary that there be an enlightened understanding, to the end that the soul be kept in a continuation of the duty of prayer.
a. The people of God are not ignorant how many wiles, tricks, and temptations the devil hath to make a poor soul, who is truly willing to have the Lord Jesus Christ, and that upon Christ=s terms too; I say, to tempt that soul to be weary of seeking the face of God, and to think that God is not willing to have mercy on such a one as him. Isa. 49:14; 40:27; 8:17; 40:1; Gen. 32:25‑27; Luk. 18: 1‑6.
b. Alas, how many poor souls are there in the world, that truly fear the Lord, who, because they are not well informed in their understanding, are oft ready to give up all for lost, upon almost every trick and temptation of Satan! Hab. 2: 3.
Queries and Objections answered.
Query First. But what would you have us poor creatures to do that cannot tell how to pray? The Lord knows I know not either how to pray, or what to pray for.
Answer. Poor heart! thou canst not, thou complainest, pray. Canst thou see thy misery? Hath God showed thee that thou art by nature under the curse of his law? If so, do not mistake, I know thou dost groan and that most bitterly. I am persuaded thou canst scarcely be found doing any thing in thy calling, but prayer breaketh from thy heart. Have not thy groans gone up to heaven from every corner of thy house? (Rom. 8:26; Job 23:12.
Query Second. Yea, but when I go into secret, and intend to pour out my soul before God, I can scarce say anything at all.
1. Ah! Sweet soul! It is not thy words that God so much regards, as that he will not mind thee, except thou comest before him with some eloquent oration. His eye is on the brokenness of thine heart; and that it is that makes the very bowels of the Lord to run over. AA broken and a
contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise@ (Psa. 51:17).
2. The stopping of thy words may arise from overmuch trouble in thy heart. David was so troubled sometimes, that he could not speak. Psa. 77: 3, 4. But this may comfort all such sorrowful hearts as thou art, that though thou canst not through the anguish of thy spirit speak much, yet the Holy Spirit stirs up in thine heart groans and sighs, so much the more vehement: . . . Ex. 14:15.
3. If thou wouldst more fully express thyself before the Lord, study, first, Thy filthy estate; secondly, God=s promises; thirdly, The heart of Christ. Which thou mayest know or discern, (1.) By his condescension and bloodshed. (2.) By the mercy he hath extended to great sinners formerly, and plead thine own vileness, by way of bemoaning; Christ=s blood by way of expostulation; . . . Jer. 29:13.
Objection. But though you have seemed to speak against any other way of praying but by the Spirit, yet here you yourself can give direction how to pray.
Object. But if we do not use forms of prayer, how shall we teach our children to pray?
Answer. For to me it seems to be a better way for people betimes to tell their children what cursed creatures they are, and how they are under the wrath of God by reason of original and actual sin; also to tell them the nature of God=s wrath, and the duration of the misery; which if they conscientiously do, they would sooner teach their children to pray than they do. The way
that men learn to pray, it is by conviction for sin; and this is the way to make our sweet babes do so too. But the other way, namely, to be busy in teaching children forms of prayer, before they know any thing else, it is the next way to make them cursed hypocrites, and to puff them up with
pride. . . .Psa. 34:11; Act. 9:11.
Object. But we find that the disciples desired that Christ would teach them to pray, as John also taught his disciples; and that thereupon he taught them that form called the LORD=S PRAYER.
Object. But Christ bids pray for the Spirit; this implieth that men without the Spirit may notwithstanding pray and be heard. (See Luk. 11: 9‑13).
Question. Then would you have none pray but those that know they are the disciples of Christ?
IV. Use And Application.
A. USE First, A word of information.
1. Prayer is an ordinance of God, in which a man draws very near to God; and therefore it calleth for so much the more of the assistance of the grace of God to help a soul to pray as becomes one that is in the presence of him.
2. It is a shame for a man to behave himself irreverently before a king, but a sin to do so before God. And as a king, if wise, is not pleased with an oration made up with unseemly words and gestures, so God takes no pleasure in the sacrifice of fools. Ecc. 5: 1, 4; Psa. 51:17; Isa. 57:15.
3. Therefore for information, know that there are these five things that are obstructions to prayer, and even make void the requests of the creature.
a. When men regard iniquity in their hearts, at the time of their prayers before God. Ps. 66:18 Isa. 29:13; Eze. 33:31 Ps. 109: 7; 2Sa. 22:42.
b. When men pray for a show to be heard, and thought somebody in religion, and the like; these prayers also fall far short of God=s approbation, and are never like to be answered, in reference to eternal life.
i. There are two sorts of men that pray to this end.
I. Your trencher chaplains, that thrust themselves into great men=s families, pretending the worship of God, when in truth the great business is their own bellies;
II. Them also that seek repute and applause for their eloquent terms, and seek more to tickle the ears and heads of their hearers than anything else.
ii. These persons are discovered thus,
I. They eye only their auditory in their expressions.
II. They look for commendation when they have done.
III. Their hearts either rise or fall according to their praise or enlargement.
IV. The length of their prayer pleaseth them; and that it might be long, they will vainly repeat things over and over (Mat. 6: 7; Psa. 85: 8.
c. A third sort of prayer that will not be accepted of God, it is, when either they pray for wrong things, or if for right things, yet that the thing prayed for might be spent upon their lusts, and laid out to wrong ends. Jam. 4: 2‑ 4.
Object. But God hears some persons, though their hearts be not right with him, as he did Israel, in giving quails, though they spent them upon their lusts (Psa. 106:14).
Answer If he doth, it is in judgment, not in mercy. He gave them their desire indeed, but they had better have been without it, for he Asent leanness into their soul@ (Psa. 106:15). Woe be to that man that God answereth thus.
d. Another sort of prayers there are that are not answered; and those aresuch as are made by men, and presented to God in their own persons only, without their appearing in the Lord Jesus. Col. 3:17; John 14:13-14.
e. The last thing that hindereth prayer is, the form of it without the power. Pro. 28: 9; Hos. 7:14.
4. When therefore thou intendest, or art minded to pray to the Lord of heaven and earth, consider these following particulars.
a. Consider seriously what thou wantest. Do not, as many who in their words only beat the air, and ask for such things as indeed they do not desire, nor see that they stand in need thereof.
b. When thou seest what thou wantest, keep to that, and take heed thou pray sensibly.
Object. But I have a sense of nothing; then, by your argument, I must not pray at all.
1. If thou findest thyself senseless in some sad measure, yet thou canst not complain of that senselessness, but by being sensible there is a sense of senselessness. According to thy sense, then, that thou hast of the need of anything, so pray; (Luk. 8: 9; Psa. 39: 4Jer. 33: 3. But,
2. Take heed that thy heart go to God as well as thy mouth.
3. Take heed of affecting expressions, and so to please thyself with the use of them, that thou forget not the life of prayer.
1. And the first is, take heed thou do not throw off prayer, through sudden persuasions that thou hast not the Spirit, neither prayest thereby. It is the great work of the devil to do his best, or rather worst, against the best prayers. Isa. 65: 5; Zec. 3: 1.
2. As such sudden temptations should not stop thee from prayer, and pouring out thy soul to God; so neither should thine own heart=s corruptions hinder thee. (Let not thy corruptions stop thy prayers).Psa. 25:11.
B. USE Second. A word of encouragement. And therefore, secondly, to speak a word by way of encouragement, to the poor, tempted, and cast down soul, to pray to God through Christ. Though all prayer that is accepted of God in reference to eternal life must be in the Spirit C for that only maketh intercession for us according to the will of God, (Rom. 8:27) C yet because many poor souls may have the Holy Spirit working on them, and stirring of them to groan unto the Lord for mercy, though through unbelief they do not, nor, for the present, cannot believe that they are the people of God, such as he delights in; yet forasmuch as the truth of grace may be in them, therefore I shall, to encourage them, lay down further these few particulars.
1. [T]here is nothing that doth more prevail with God than importunity. Luk. 11: 8.
2. Another encouragement for a poor trembling convinced soul is to consider the place, throne, or seat, on which the great God hath placed himself to hear the petitions and prayers of poor creatures; and that is a Athrone of grace@ (Heb. 4:16). AThe mercy‑seat@ (Exo. 25:22).
3. As there is a mercy‑seat, from whence God is willing to commune with poor sinners; so there is also by his mercy‑seat, Jesus Christ, who continually besprinkleth it with his blood. Hence it is called Athe blood of sprinkling@ (Heb. 12:24). When the high‑priest under the law was to go into the holiest, where the mercy‑seat was, he might not go in Awithout blood@. Heb. 9: 7 . . Lev. 16:13‑17. But if from a sense of thy vileness thou do pour out thy heart to God, desiring to be saved from the guilt, and cleansed from the filth, with all thy heart; fear not, thy vileness will not cause the Lord to stop his ear from hearing of thee. Heb. 10:19, 20; Exo. 12:13.
C. USE Third. A word of reproof.
1. This speaks sadly to you who never pray at all. AI will pray,@ saith the apostle, and so saith the heart of them that are Christians. Thou then art not a Christian that art not a praying person. The promise is that every one that is righteous shall pray (Psa. 32: 6). Thou then art a wicked wretch that prayest not. Jacob got the name of Israel by wrestling with God (Genesis 32). Gal. 6:16; Jer. 10:25 . . . What wilt thou do when thou shalt be damned in hell, because thou couldst not find in thine heart to ask for heaven? Who will grieve for thy sorrow, that didst not count mercy worth asking for? I tell thee, the ravens, the dogs, &c., shall rise up in judgment against thee, for they will, according to their kind, make signs, and a noise for something to refresh them when they want it; but thou hast not the heart to ask for heaven, though thou must eternally perish in hell, if thou hast it not.
2. This rebukes you that make it your business to slight, mock at, and undervalue the Spirit, and praying by that. What will you do, when God shall come to reckon for these things? You count it high treason to speak but a word against the king, nay, you tremble at the thought of it; and yet in the meantime you will blaspheme the Spirit of the Lord. Is God indeed to be dallied with, and will the end be pleasant unto you? Did God send his Holy Spirit into the hearts of his people, to that end that you should taunt at it? Is this to serve God? And doth this demonstrate the reformation of your church? Nay, is it not the mark of implacable reprobates? O fearful! Can you not be content to be damned for your sins against the law, but you must sin against the Holy Ghost? Must the holy, harmless, and undefiled Spirit of grace, the nature of God, the promise of Christ, the Comforter of his children, that without which no man can do any service acceptable to the Father C must this, I say, be the burthen of your song, to taunt, deride, and mock at? If God sent Korah and his company headlong to hell for speaking against Moses and Aaron, do you that mock at the Spirit of Christ think to escape unpunished? Numbers 16; Heb. 10:29; Act. 5: 1‑8; 8:18-22; Mat. 12:31, with Mar. 3:28‑30.
3. As this is the doom of those who do openly blaspheme the Holy Ghost, in a way of disdain and reproach to its office and service: so also it is sad for you, who resist the Spirit of prayer, by a form of man=s inventing. A very juggle of the devil, that the traditions of men should be of better esteem, and more to be owned than the Spirit of prayer. What is this less than that accursed abomination of Jeroboam, which kept many from going to Jerusalem, the place and way of God=s appointment to worship; and by that means brought such displeasure from God upon them, as to this day is not appeased? (1Ki. 12:26‑33).
V. The Conclusion.
A. Believe that as sure as you are in the way of God you must meet with temptations.
B. The first day therefore that thou dost enter into Christ=s congregation, look for them.
C. When they do come, beg of God to carry thee through them.
D. Be jealous of thine own heart, that it deceive thee not in thy evidences for heaven, nor in thy walking with God in this world.
E. Take heed of the flatteries of false brethren.
F. Keep in the life and power of truth.
G. Look most at the things which are not seen.
H. Take heed of little sins.
I. Keep the promise warm upon thy heart.
J. Renew thy acts of faith in the blood of Christ.
K. Consider the work of thy generation.
L. Count to run with the foremost therein.
Grace be with thee.
Astronomy Divine, Augustine, Bunyan, Calvinism, Doctrines of Grace, Edward Taylor, Effectual Call, Election, Feeding the Five Thousand, John, John 6, John Calvin, John P. Meier, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Meditation, poem, Poetry, Puritan, Puritan Poetry
(The entire poem may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/astronomy-divine-1-edward-taylor/)
The background on Taylor’s meditation is the story of Jesus in John 6. The chapter begins with the feeding of the five thousand: A multitude was coming to Jesus. Jesus asks Philip how these people are to be fed. Philip does not know, because they do not have enough money to them all food. Andrew has found a boy with five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus prays and multiplies the original meal so that all have eaten to the full.
This story bears a relation to the overall frame of Jesus’ ministry promising a future marriage feast (Matthew 8:11-12; Luke 13:28-29; Mark 14:25). More importantly for purposes of Taylor’s poem (and the teaching recorded by John) is the relationship to the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, Communion (all of which designate the same event).
The meal breaks up when the people seek to make Jesus king:
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. John 6:15 (ESV)
Jesus and the disciples proceed that evening to the other side of the lake.
The next day, the Jesus run around the lake to see Jesus again. Jesus rebukes the people (the Gospel of John works through in great detail what it means to exercise true faith), because they wanted food alone:
26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” John 6:26–27 (ESV)
This concept will be developed at much greater length in discourse. It this theme which ends Taylor’s poem:
This Bread of Life dropped in thy mouth doth cry,
Eat, eat me, soul, and thou shalt never die.
When the people hear Jesus, they ask what to do. He tells them to believe on him. They ask, Why should we believe you? When Moses led the people, it was because he got them food – manna in the wilderness.
32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:32–35 (ESV)
Taylor’s poem answers to this passage:
The Bread has come from heaven: In the first stanza, Taylor notes that the Bread has come to him from a “that bright throne” seen in an “astronomy divine”. Jesus says, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Another parallel between the poem and Jesus concerns the call of the Father to bring one to the Son (Jesus). In the sixth stanza, Taylor writes:
Did God mold up this Bread in heaven and bake
Which from his table came and to thine goeth?
Doth he bespeak thee thus, This soul Bread take.
Come eat thy fill of this thy God’s white loaf?
It’s food too fine for angels, yet come, take
And eat thy fill. It’s heaven’s sugar cake.
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— John 6:44–45 (ESV)
This passage is a key aspect of the “Doctrines of Grace” as understood within the Puritan, “Calvinistic”, “Augustinian” and refers to “effectual calling”. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains that the “effectual calling” is the internal call – it is the subjective experience of the desirability of the external call which goes to all persons:
What, then, is the difference between the external call and this call which has become effectual? And the answer must be that this call is an internal, a spiritual call. It is not merely something that comes to a person from the outside—it does that, of course, but in addition to that external call which comes to all, there is an internal call which comes to those who are going to be Christians, and it is an effectual call. The contrast, therefore, is between external, and internal and spiritual.
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God the Holy Spirit (Wheaton, IL: Crossways Books, 1997), 66.
This is a crucial point of Reformed Theology which is often misunderstood – and which would cause one to misunderstand Taylor’s poem. First, the human being has no claim or standing before God. This is the point of Taylor’s lines:
When that this bird of paradise put in
This wicker cage (my corpse) to tweedle praise
Had pecked the fruit forbade: and so did fling
Away its good; and lost its golden days;
It fell into celestial famine sore:
And never could attain a morsel more.
The human being, having rebelled against God, could no longer obtain any good. Second, humans being willing remain in rebellion against God – despite the offer of God. That is a great issue of the dispute between Jesus and the people with whom he was speaking. Indeed, at the end of this public conversation we read:
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. John 6:66 (ESV)
However, while most will turn away, for some, the call will be effective; that is, Christ will seem desirable. Taylor notes that by stating that he heard the call of God and the offer of Christ as:
It’s food too fine for angels, yet come, take
And eat thy fill. It’s heaven’s sugar cake.
In short, Taylor is not stating that he is better than any one else (which is often what is heard when the word “elect” is used) but rather that he has received grace, unmerited favor (note how often Taylor uses the language of “grace” throughout the poem).
 The story is also reported in the other Gospels. However, Taylor references the teaching of Jesus recorded in John 6 – which takes place after the miracle but also acts as a comment on the miracle.
 John P. Meier writes in his examination A Marginal Jew, vol. 2, “However, despite our galling inability to be specific, I think the criteria of multiple attestation and of coherence make it more likely than not that behind our Gospel stories of Jesus feeding the multitude lies some especially memorable communal meal of bread and fish, a meal with eschatological overtones celebrated by Jesus and his disciples with a large crowd by the Sea of Galilee. Whether something actually miraculous took place is not open to verification by means available to the historian. A decision pro or con will ultimately depend on one’s worldview, not on what purely historical investigation can tell us about this event” (966).
 John 6:15-21 records Jesus walking on the water, which does not play into Taylor’s poem.
 Mark records that the meal took place “in a deserted place” (Mark 8:35)
 Calvin writes of John 6:40:
But we have no right to break through the order and succession of the beginning and the end, since God, by his purpose, hath decreed and determined that it shall proceed unbroken. 145 Besides, as the election of God, by an indissoluble bond, draws his calling along with it, so when God has effectually called us to faith in Christ, let this have as much weight with us as if he had engraven his seal to ratify his decree concerning our salvation. For the testimony of the Holy Spirit is nothing else than the sealing of our adoption, (Romans 8:15.) To every man, therefore, his faith is a sufficient attestation of the eternal predestination of God, so that it would be a shocking sacrilege 146 to carry the inquiry farther; for that man offers an aggravated insult to the Holy Spirit, who refuses to assent to his simple testimony.
John Calvin, John, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), Jn 6:40.
72. Here, again, I was at a very great stand, not knowing what to do, fearing I was not called; for, thought I, if I be not called, what then can do me good? None but those who are effectually called, inherit the kingdom of heaven. But oh! how I now loved those words that spake of a Christian’s calling! as when the Lord said to one, ‘Follow me’, and to another, ‘Come after me’. And oh! thought I, that He would say so to me too, how gladly would I run after him!
John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), 42.
A View of Some Divine Truths, Biblical Counseling, Bunyan, Christopher Love, Edward Polhill, Interpreter's House, John Bunyan, Mortification, Pilgrim's Progress, Puritan, Strive, The Mortified Christian
Take this for your comfort: the disturbing and troubling of your heart by a sin argues that sin to be mortified more than unmortified, provided that as your sin stirs in your heart, so your resolutions and supplications against those sins stir in your heart, too. If sin fights against you, you must strive against it in resolutions and protestations against it.
Indeed, the heavenly country can only be obtained by striving. Bunyan provides such a picture at the Interpreter’s House:
Then the Interpreter took him, and led him up towards the door of the palace; and behold, at the door stood a great company of men, as desirous to go in, but durst not. There also sat a man at a little distance from the door, at a table-side, with a book and his inkhorn before him, to take the names of them that should enter therein; he saw also that in the doorway stood many men in armor to keep it, being resolved to do to the men that would enter, what hurt and mischief they could. Now was Christian somewhat in amaze. At last, when every man started back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man of a very stout countenance come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, “Set down my name, sir;” the which when he had done, he saw the man draw his sword, and put a helmet on his head, and rush towards the door upon the armed men, who laid upon him with deadly force; but the man, not at all discouraged, fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely. So after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, Matt. 11:12; Acts 14:22; he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the palace; at which there was a pleasant voice heard from those that were within, even of those that walked upon the top of the palace, saying,
“Come in, come in,
Eternal glory thou shalt win.”
So he went in, and was clothed with such garments as they. Then Christian smiled, and said, I think verily I know the meaning of this.
Edward Polhill in A View of Some Divine Truths writes:
This plainly appears by comparing the heavenly rewards and the earthly man together. The rewards are at a great distance from sense. They lie in another world. The treasure is in heaven. The recompense is above. A red sea of death is to be passed through before we can come at it. The man, to whom the tender is made, is earthly, carnal, living by sense, wrapt in the veil of time; one like the infirm woman in the gospel, who is bowed together, and can in no wise lift up himself, no, not to a heaven of glory and blessedness freely offered unto him. He hangs in the clay of one earthly thing or other, and by bonds of strong concupiscence is fastened to this lower world; and, which is a prodigy in an immortal soul, he loves to be so, and thinks that it is good being here. A little earth with him, is better than heaven. Sensual pleasures out-relish the pure rivers above. O how unfit is such a man to close in with such a reward! How much work must be done to make him capable of it! The man must be unearthed and unbound from this lower world.
The concupiscential strings, which tie him thereunto, must be cut, that his soul may have a free ascent towards heaven. A precious faith must be raised up, that this world may appear, such as it is, a shadow, a figure, a nothing to make man happy; that heaven with its beatitudes may be realised and presented to the mind. A divine temper must be wrought, that he may be able to rend off the veil of time, and take a prospect of eternity; to put by all the world, and look into heaven. He must be a pilgrim on earth, living by faith, walking in holiness, every step preparing for, and breathing after the heavenly country. He must pray, work, strive, wrestle, watch, wait, serve God instantly, and all this to be rewarded in another world; without such a temper heaven will signify nothing, and without a Divine power such a temper cannot be had.
Hence St. Peter tells us, “That God hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible.” (1 Pet. 1:3, 4.) The lively hope, which takes hold upon the great reward, is not from the power of nature; no, it is from a divine generation, it is a heavenly touch from Christ risen and sitting at the right hand of majesty, from thence to do spiritual miracles, as upon earth he did corporeal. Hence St. Paul argues, “If you be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above.” (Col. 3:1.) The natural man, dead in sin, cannot seek them; only those who are spiritual and risen with Christ can do it. It is therefore from the Divine power and spirit, that men, naturally carnal and earthly, are made capable of closing with the heavenly and supernal rewards which are tendered in the gospel.
Edward Polhill, The Works of Edward Polhill (London: Thomas Ward and Co., 1844), 33.
The road of godliness through suffering runs narrow: complaints, despair, fear, faithlessness – sin of any kind lie close at hand. Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress must take a dangerously narrow path to survive the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
None know how to pass this Valley but the Lord, himself. Thus if we will pass safely we pass in the way marked by the Lord.
Edward Polhill in A Preparation for Suffering in an Evil Day writes that faith must take hold of the Lord and follow his pattern for the Christian to walk in holiness through suffering:
Faith looks to Christ as a pattern. He is not only a propitiation to be trusted in, but a pattern to be imitated by us. “He suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps,” (1 Pet. 2:21). Whom should we follow, but our Lord and Saviour? How can we spare our own blood, if we be washed in his? He drank up the bitter cup to the bottom, and shall we not take some drops of it? He bore the wrath of God for us, and shall we not bear the wrath of man for him? He learned obedience by the things which he suffered, and how much more should we poor creatures do so? He entered by suffering into glory; and why should we dream of another way thither? If we would be ready to suffer, let us look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame: let us consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest we be weary and faint in our minds, (Heb. 12:2, 3). The noble Alzearius, being asked how he could so patiently bear injuries, answered thus: I turn me to the injuries done to my Saviour.
Love provides some more false motives for mortification. One may seek to lay off a sin, not because sin is a wrong against a holy God. Rather, one may seek mortification to ease the conscience or to look good before others. In both instances, one may cease from a certain sin because it is too much for their conscience or too much for their company. One man may not sin because he cannot sleep well, another because he wants no bad press.
I knew a man once who committed serial acts of sexual immorality, which required him to lie to another woman on a consistent basis. I asked him whether this troubled his conscience. He stated that it “used to” but after awhile, he got used to it. Conscience is a door keeper, but conscience cannot bar the door. Given enough trouble, conscience will fold turn the heart over to its desires. Given enough trouble, conscience will eventually keep quiet. First Timothy 4:2 refers to such as those who “consciences are seared”.
The one who refuses to sin merely on the ground politics will end up like politicians, who are famous for being found out. No man or woman is perfect, and thus we should not be surprised to find error in another’s life. Moreover, such a discovery is a time for sorrow — not gloating. Yet, we must realize that even people with tremendous standing, people whose lives are under constant scrutiny, cannot restrain from sin even under the fear of exposure.
The only sure stay for sin is a life which seeks to glory God — who sees at all time, who knows all things, and who gives change from the heart outward. Only a life constrained by the love of Christ has a hope of mortifying sin (2 Cor. 5:14).
Love also proposes a final means of false opposition to sin: those who mortify sin “faintly and slowly”. These are people who truly do not want to be rid of their sin. Such a person is one who has not aimed for true mortification, and thus wants only the appearance of mortification. These are the children who are given a task against which they rebel. They may set off to clean their room or weed the garden, but as soon as they turn the corner their heals dig in and their pace slows.
These various false mortifiers will be found in counseling: They will come in all aflush because their husband will leave them or their conscience is troubled. You will speak with them, encourage them, pray for them, ease their conscience and seek to reconcile their marriage. Then when the trouble subsides, they will drift and then run to their former sin. They are like Pliable in Pilgrim’s Progress who very much want the Celestial City and yet have no sure sense of sin upon their back. They dislike the trouble of sin but do not hate the stain of sin. They want their sin — only without consequence.
When counseling look to see how diligently the counselee responds to spurs to mortification. If he responds slowly, then consider whether he is a false professor.
John Bunyan, Grace Abounding:
23. I had no sooner thus conceived in my mind, but suddenly this conclusion was fastened on my spirit, for the former hint did set my sins again before my face, that I had been a great and grievous sinner, and that it was now too late for me to look after heaven; for Christ would not forgive me, nor pardon my transgressions. Then I fell to musing upon this also; and while I was thinking on it, and fearing lest it should be so, I felt my heart sink in despair, concluding it was too late; and therefore I resolved in my mind I would go on in sin; for, thought I, if the case be thus, my state is surely miserable; miserable if I leave my sins, and but miserable if I follow then; I can but be damned, and if I must be so, I had as good be damned for many sins, as to be damned for few.
24. Thus I stood in the midst of my play, before all that then were present; but yet I told them nothing: but I say, I having made this conclusion, I returned desperately to my sport again; and I well remember, that presently this kind of despair did so possess my soul, that I was persuaded I could never attain to other comfort than what I should get in sin; for heaven was gone already, so that on that I must not think; wherefore I found within me a great desire to take my fill of sin, still studying what sin was set to be committed, that I might taste the sweetness of it; and I made as much haste as I could to fill my belly with its delicates, lest I should die before I had my desire; for that I feared greatly. In these things, I protest before God, I lie not, neither do I feign this sort of speech; these were really, strongly, and with all my heart, my desires; the good Lord, whose mercy is unsearchable, forgive me my transgressions .
25. And I am very confident, that this temptation of the devil is more than usual amongst poor creatures than many are aware of, even to overrun their spirits with a scurvy and seared frame of heart, and benumbing of conscience; which frame,he stilly and slily supplieth with such despair, that though not much guilt attendeth the soul, yet they continually have a secret conclusion within them, that there is no hopes for them; for they have loved sons, ‘therefore after them they will go’ (Jer. 2.25; 18.12).
Meditation and surprise (Bunyan on Eph. 3:18-19):
BREADTH, and LENGTH, and DEPTH, and HEIGHT, are words that in themselves are both ambiguous, and to wonderment; ambiguous, because unexplained, and to wonderment, because they carry in them an unexpressible something; and that something that which far out-goes all those things that can be found in this world. The Apostle here was under a spiritual surprise, for while meditating and writing, he was caught: The strength and glory of the truths that he was endeavouring to fasten upon the people to whom he wrote, took him away into their glory, beyond what could to the full be uttered. Besides, many times things are thus expressed, on purpose to command attention, a stop and pause in the mind about them; and to divert, by their greatness, the heart from the world, unto which they naturally are so inclined. Also, truths are often delivered to us, like wheat in full ears, to the end we should rub them out before we eat them, and take pains about them, before we have the comfort of them
In his Miscellanies Jonathan Edwards asks the following question,
Ques. What rational ground of comfort is it that Christ has overcome the world? Ans. When we are maliciously and spitefully used by this world, it tends to make us despise its malice, to think that our Head and Husband has overcome it for us, as much as if we had done it ourselves; so that we need no more regard its malice or scorn than the malice of a conquered enemy, conquered by ourselves, [that is,] by our Head, which is all one. All the power of the world to hurt us is taken away by Christ, which would not have been taken away if it had not been for what Christ did on earth. So likewise, what he did took away the power of death and the devil; so that neither of them [is] able to hurt us so by worldly afflictions and likewise, what he did took away the power of death and the devil; so wicked men. It is certainly a rational ground of comfort, to think that our enemies have now no power to hurt us, and also that our Spouse has taken away this power. His resisting the temptations of the world and devil was an overcoming of them; because if he had not, the power of the world and devil would have remained unto this day, and we under their power irrecoverably.
Edwards Collected Works, vol. 13, entry d, d. OF THE COMFORT ARISING FROM CHRIST OVERCOMING THE WORLD, DEATH AND THE DEVIL, ETC.
A great power in the pain of this life is the belief that the accusation is true: that we are deserving of the hatred; that we must bear this shame. What we must learn is that the hatred of the world is the hatred of our master; that our shame has been carried away by Christ.
But what of the shame and hatred which flows from our own sin? Did Jesus not die for all and not some of our sin? Are we not inconsistent in our faith? And what is the great insult hurled at the believer? Hypocrite! Yes. We do fail our Lord. We are like Christian in the Valley of Humiliation: We are attacked for our sins under the accusation that we will not be accepted by God due to our sins. But did not Jesus die for these sins also?
You see even in our sins, the malice is directed to our master. Let us see that the true battle is his-not ours. We when we fail, let us fly to him. In the words of Richard Sibbes, “believe Christ rather than the devil,”
“We must know for our comfort that Christ was not anointed to this great work of Mediator for lesser sins only, but for the greatest, if we have but a spark of true faith to lay hold on him. Therefore, if there be any bruised reed, let him not make an exception of himself, when Christ does not make an exception of him. `Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden’ (Matt. 11:28). Why should we not make use of so gracious a disposition? We are only poor for this reason, that we do not know our riches in Christ. In time of temptation, believe Christ rather than the devil. Believe truth from truth itself. Hearken not to a liar, an enemy and a murderer” (Bruised Reed, Chapter 7).
Consider slowly the testimony of David in Psalm 6. Note how he tells God of the pain felt in correction. But he also addresses his enemies who bring such pain upon him. A good exercise would be to copy out the Psalm one verse at a time and ponder each point in a journal. Use something to help you rightly understand the point (Spurgeon’s Treasury of David would be an excellent starting point). As you journal, consider the application to your own soul and circumstance. Let the meditation feed your prayers.
This is an important meditation for all persons who have grown weary with opposition from the world. Matthew 11:25-30; Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16.
The section on the Pilgrim’s Progress on the Valley of Humiliation makes for a good illustration: The real goal of Satan in our sin is not merely our stumbling but our giving up and turning back. He accuses us on the ground that we do not merit salvation. In this, he is right. We do not merit salvation. But, Christ has merited salvation on our behalf. Christ has overcome the world. Therefore, never let us despair over our weakness. Rather, like children let us fly to the champion and protector of our souls and rest in his strength.
Text: As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a
den, and laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream.
Overview of the Passage:
The introductory sentences are very important for an understanding of the entire book: The book is written by a pilgrim about a pilgrim, for all Christians are pilgrims walking through a wilderness. Unless these basic concepts are well understood, we will miss the point of this book. More importantly, we will miss a fundamental truth of the Christian life.
Most Americans have a terribly misguided understanding about being a “pilgrim”. To us, a “pilgrim” is a thankful, oddly pious person eating far too much in late November. The word “pilgrim” has all sorts of comfortable connotations (to the extent it has any meaning at all). A more informed person knows that “pilgrims” are people who travel to some place for some sort of religious purpose: a sort of spiritual vacationer. To some people, the word might have a medieval tinge and sound like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and the pilgrims in that story trading stories.
Remember that John Bunyan inhabited a very different world, particularly a different mental world than most people. Bunyan’s mental world was informed by the Bible. When Bunyan used the word “pilgrim” he was not only thinking in 17th Century terms, he was thinking in biblical terms. For Bunyan, the word “pilgrim” had a very precise biblical reference.
The 11th chapter of Hebrews, sometimes called the Great Hall of Faith (or something similar), recounts great men and women of the Old Testament and gives examples of how their faith caused them to act in very heroic ways (faith, in the Bible, is never a matter of wishy-belief that something is probably true; “faith” is always an idea that controls every other thought and
Beginning in verse 8, the chapter discusses Abraham, Isaac & Jacob living in a country which was not their own, in the words of the King James Bible it was a “strange country”. Verse 13 reads, “These all died in faith not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and
pilgrims on the earth.” Thus, to get the idea, you need to think of someone who is very much not at home. For example, modern translations of this passage use the phrase “strangers and exiles” (ESV, NASB) or “aliens and strangers” (NIV). To be a pilgrim is to be very much not at home.