It's hard not to like John Bunyan (1628-1688). Of all the Puritans, he's among my favorite. His Pilgrim's Progress, written during his imprisonment for preaching the gospel, is one of the most beloved and translated books of all time. (I highly recommend A Dangerous Journey, an adaptation of Pilgrim's Progress for kids.) John Owen, when asked by Charles II why he went to hear the uneducated Bunyan preach, famously said, "May it please your majesty, could I possess the tinker's abilities for preaching, I would willingly relinquish all my learning." He had an incredible gift for preaching to the heart. In my study for this weekend, I came across these gospel-laden treasures:
"To see a prince [earnestly ask] a beggar to receive a handout would be a strange sight; to see a king [earnestly ask] a traitor to accept his mercy would be a stranger sight than that; but to see God [earnestly ask] a sinner, to hear Christ say, 'I stand at the door and knock, with a heart full and a heaven full of grace to bestow on him that opens', this is such a sight as dazzles the eyes of angels." (Bunyan, Saved by Grace, in Works, 1:350)
When considering the unsearchable grace of God, in Jesus, seen most clearly on that first Good Friday, he wrote:
"O Son of God! Grace was in all the tears, grace came bubbling out of your side with your blood, grace came forth with every word of your sweet mouth. Grace came out where the whip smote you, where the thorns pricked you, where the nails and spear pierced you. O blessed Son of God! Here is grace indeed! Unsearchable riches of grace! Grace enough to make angels wonder, grace to make sinners happy, grace to astonish devils." (Bunyan, Saved by Grace, in Works, 1:346)
When reflecting on what it will be like for God's people to be with their God in the new heavens and the new earth, he wrote:
"Then shall we have perfect and everlasting visions of God and that blessed one his Son, Jesus Christ . . . Then shall our will and affections be ever in a burning flame of love to God and his Son Jesus Christ . . . Then will our conscience have that peace and joy that neither tongue nor pen of men or angels can express . . . Then will our memory be so enlarged to retain all things that happened to us in this world . . and how God made all work together for his glory and our good, to the everlasting ravishing of our hearts." (Bunyan, Saved by Grace, in Works, 1:341-42)
If anything, Bunyan teaches us that we will never plumb the unfathomable riches of the gospel (and its implications), but we should give it a try any way. There is nothing more worthy of our efforts, our reflection and our attention. If you're still looking for a church to join in celebrating Good Friday and Easter this week, you're invited to join us.