Bunyan’s Prison Poem and Comfort in Death

When John Bunyan was in prison in 1665 he wrote a poem called “Prison Meditations Directed to the Heart of Suffering Saints and Reigning Sinners.” Here’s a part of it I thought our readers would appreciate:

5. I am, indeed, in prison now
In body, but my mind
Is free to study Christ, and how
Unto me he is kind.

6. For though men keep my outward man
Within their locks and bars,
Yet by the faith of Christ I can
Mount higher than the stars.

7. Their fetters cannot spirits tame,
Nor tie up God from me;
My faith and hope they cannot lame,
Above them I shall be.

8. I here am very much refreshed
To think when I was out,
I preached life, and peace, and rest
To sinners round about.

9. My business then was souls to save,
By preaching grace and faith;
Of which the comfort now I have,
And have it shall till death.

John Bunyan, Bunyan’s Prison Meditations, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006), 66.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church, OPC
Hammond, WI

They Shall Come To Me (Bunyan)

In John 6:37 Jesus said, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (NIV). These words of Jesus convey a precious relatity and a comforting promise. They are well worth memorizing! Here’s how John Bunyan commented on these words in Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ. I’ve updated the language slightly for ease of reading:

[I conclude] that coming to Jesus Christ rightly is an effect of their being, by God, given to Christ beforehand. Note: They shall come. Who? Those that are given. They come, then, because they were given, “They were Yours, and You gave them Me.”

Now, this is indeed a singular comfort to those that are coming in truth to Christ, to think that the reason why they come is because they were given by the Father beforehand to him. Thus, then, may the coming soul reason with himself as he comes: “Am I coming, indeed, to Jesus Christ? This coming of mine is not to be attributed to me or my goodness, but to the grace and gift of God to Christ. God gave first me to him, and, therefore, has now given me a heart to come.”

John Bunyan, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, p. 254 (Works, Volume 1).

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002

Come to Christ – A Promise! (Bunyan)

 Jesus often called people to come to him for help, salvation, healing, and hope.  And the Lord promised that those who come will not be heavily burdened or cast aside: whoever comes to me I will never drive away (John 6:37 NIV).  Sometimes people might be hesitant to come to Jesus for various reasons.  They might be afraid that for some reason Jesus will not welcome them.  John Bunyan had an excellent discussion of this topic in his book, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ.  

“I will in no wise cast out.” For had there not been a proneness in us to “fear casting out,” Christ needed not to have, as it were, waylaid our fear, as he doth by this great and strange expression, “In no wise;” “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

There needed not, as I may say, such a promise to be invented by the wisdom of heaven, and worded at such a rate, as it were on purpose to dash in pieces at one blow all the objections of coming sinners, if they were not prone to admit of such objections, to the discouraging of their own souls. For this word, “in no wise,” cutteth the throat of all objections; and it was dropped by the Lord Jesus for that very end; and to help the faith that is mixed with unbelief. And it is, as it were, the sum of all promises; neither can any objection be made upon the unworthiness that thou findest in thee, that this promise will not assoil [absolve].

But I am a great sinner, sayest thou.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.

But I am an old sinner, sayest thou.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.

But I am a hard-hearted sinner, sayest thou.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.

But I am a backsliding sinner, sayest thou.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.

But I have served Satan all my days, sayest thou.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.

But I have sinned against light, sayest thou.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.

But I have sinned against mercy, sayest thou.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.

But I have no good thing to bring with me, sayest thou.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.

Thus I might go on to the end of things, and show you, that still this promise was provided to answer all objections, and doth answer them. But I say, what need it be, if they that are coming to Jesus Christ are not sometimes, yea, oftentimes, heartily afraid, “that Jesus Christ will cast them out?”

 John Bunyan, Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006), 279–280.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

When Sin Turns Into An Affliction (Bunyan)

 Israel’s complaining and grumbling began early on in the wilderness years. In fact, if my count is correct, they complained around 5 times in the first year or so after God rescued them from Egypt.  In one instance of their grumbling, God gave Israel what they whined for: meat to eat.  In fact, God said to Israel, “You will eat it [meat] for a whole month until you gag and are sick of it” (Num. 11:20 NLT).

In their hearts, the people of Israel craved, coveted, and longed for the things of Egypt.  This was such a deep heart issue that they wouldn’t listen to God’s word nor would they remember his promise and his provision.  John Bunyan commented on this deep-rooted sinful craving:

But now, how shall this man be reclaimed from this sin? How shall he be brought, wrought, and made, to be out of love with it? Doubtless it can be by no other means, by what we can see in the Word, but by the wounding, breaking, and disabling of the heart that loves sin, and by that means making sin a plague and gall unto the heart.

Sin may be made an affliction, and as gall and wormwood to them that love it; but the making of sin so bitter a thing to such a man, will not be done but by great and sore means.

Bunyan also told a story of a little girl in his town who used to chew on dirty cigar butts she found on the ground.  Her parents tried everything to get her to stop eating the butts – from kind promises to discipline – but nothing worked.  Finally, since nothing else was working, they listened to their doctor.  They took a bunch of dirty cigar butts, mixed them with warm milk, and made the girl drink it.  She took a sip and it made her so sick that she vomited.  After that, she never touched a cigar butt again!  The point is that God sometimes does that to his children when they are infatuated with sin.

Bunyan then wrote,

You love your sin, and neither rod nor good words will as yet reclaim you. Well, take heed; if you will not be reclaimed, God will make you a potion of your sin, which shall be so bitter to your soul, so irksome to your taste, so loathsome to your mind, and so afflicting to your heart, that it shall break your heart with sickness and grief, till sin be loathsome to you. I say, thus he will do if he loves you; if not, he will allow you to go on in your sinful course, and will let you go on eating your tobacco-pipe heads!

In other words,

God can tell how to make that loathsome to you on which you most set your evil heart. And he will do so, if he loves you; else, as I said, he will not make you sick by smiting you nor punish you for or when you commit whoredom, but will let you alone till the judgment-day, and call you to a reckoning for all your sins then.

When our hearts are so in love with the things of this world, so enraptured by sin, sometimes God makes us drink that sin like a nasty elixir which makes us sick to the heart.  When that happens, we must learn from Israel’s mistake and repent!  And we must thank God for making us taste the bitterness of sin now so we can escape its bitterness in eternity.  Finally, we should ask God for forgiveness, for the cleansing power of Christ’s blood, for his Spirit to help us fight sin, and for contentment with the lot God has given us.

The above edited quotes are found in John Bunyan, The Acceptable Sacrifice, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006), 707.

(NOTE: This is a repost from August, 2016).

Shane Lems

The Whole Curse Spent on Him (Bunyan)

Justification by an Imputed Righteousness One of the wonderful and comforting truths of the Christian faith is the fact that a sinner is justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  This truth is full of hope, peace, joy, happiness, and assurance.  One aspect of justification is what Scripture teaches about Christ suffering the curse of law-breaking in the place of his people (Gal. 3:13).  John Bunyan gave an excellent explanation of how Christ suffered the curse in our stead and completely freed us from it by doing so:

As we are said to suffer with him, so we are said to die, to be dead with him; with him, that is, by the dying of his body. ‘Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him’ (Rom 6:8). Wherefore he saith in other places, ‘Brethren, ye are become dead to the law by the body of Christ’; for indeed we died then to it by him. To the law that is, the law now has nothing to do with us; for that it has already executed its curse to the full upon us by its slaying of the body of Christ; for the body of Christ was our flesh: upon it also was laid our sin.

The law, too, spent that curse that was due to us upon him, when it condemned, killed, and cast him into the grave. Wherefore, it having thus spent its whole curse upon him as standing in our stead, we are exempted from its curse for ever; we are become dead to it by that body (Rom 7:4). It has done with us as to justifying righteousness. Nor need we fear its damning threats any more; for by the death of this body we are freed from it, and are for ever now coupled to a living Christ.

 John Bunyan, Justification by an Imputed Righteousness, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006), 304.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015