Monday, May 26, 2014

Bunyan's Sermon on Christ's Intercession

...or, possibly a booklet--because this is long, even for a Puritan sermon. I've included below just one small part of this sermon (but a good one!). You can find the rest here. Honestly, the whole thing is worth having a paper copy you can mark up.

(At least, so far I'd say it's worth it--I haven't finished it yet and I suppose it could turn south at any point.)

Bunyan has just begun a discussion of the sorts of people who come to Jesus Christ in His role as Intercessor. Namely, these are
1) "the newly awakened" (i.e. new believers--with "awakened" meaning people who have understood and been convinced of the truth of the Gospel);
2) returning backsliders (those believers who have wandered from the faith and are now repenting);
3) faithful Christians.
The following is Bunyan's discussion of how the first category of new believers are to understand what Jesus does for them as Intercessor. I've cleaned up this text a bit so that it's more readable for us modern folks--but only a bit, because I am not a monster. Or at least, not that kind of monster... Most of my changes have to do with structure (as with the bullet points in the first paragraph), not word usage. Also, rather than providing Scripture citations I've linked to the passage itself. Direct quotes are indented and linked, while references are only linked. I've also tried to explain [in brackets] uncommon words or odd usages of common words. Even with all of these changes, this passage (and the whole sermon) is so worth your time. As with any Puritan writing, patience and slowness bring the most rewards.

So, what has a newly awakened believer to do with Christ's intercession? We have to start with what it means to be "awakened" [begin Bunyan quote]:

"By 'awakened' I mean awakened thoroughly.  So awakened as to be made to see:
  • themselves, what they are; 
  • the world, what it is; 
  • the law, what it is; 
  • hell, what it is; 
  • death, what it is; 
  • Christ, what he is; 
  • and God, what he is; 
  • and also what judgment is. 
A man that will come to God by Christ aright must needs, precedent [prior] to his so coming, have a competent knowledge of things of this kind.

First, he must know himself, what a wretched and miserable sinner he is, before he will take one step forward in order to his coming to God by Christ. This is plain from a great many scriptures as that of the parable of the prodigal, that account of the three thousand, that of the jailer, and those of many more besides. The whole have no need of the physician. They were not the sound and whole, but the lame and diseased that came to him to be cured of their infirmities; and it is not the righteous, but the sinners that do well know themselves to be such that come to God by Christ.
It is not in the power of all the men on earth to make one man come to God by Christ, because it is not in their power to make men see their state by nature. And what should a man come to God for, that can live in the world without him? Reason says so, experience says so, the Scripture bears witness that so it is of a truth. It is a sight of what I am that must unroost [unseat] me, that must shake my soul and make me leave my present rest. No man comes to God by Christ but he that knows himself, and what sin hath done to him. That is the first.

Secondly, as he must know himself, and what a wretch he is; so he must know the world and what an empty thing it is. Cain did see himself, but saw not the emptiness of this world; and therefore instead of going to God by Christ, he went to the world, and there did take up to his dying day. The world is a great snare to the soul, even to the souls of awakened sinners, by reason of its big looks [its attractive appearance], and the fair promises that it makes to those that will please to entertain it. It will also make [pretend] as though it could do as much to the quieting of the spirit as either sermon, Bible, or preacher. Yes, and it has its followers ready at its heels continually to blow its applause abroad, saying
Who will show us any other good?
And though
this their way is their folly yet their posterity approveth their sayings. 
So that unless a man, under some awakenings, sees the emptiness of the world, he will take up in the good things thereof and not come to God by Christ. Many there be now in hell that can seal [testify] to this truth. It was the world that took awakened Cain, awakened Judas, awakened Demas. Yes, Balaam, though he had some kind of visions of God, yet was kept by the world from coming to him aright [properly]. See with what earnestness the young man in the gospel came to Jesus Christ, and that for eternal life. He ran to him, he kneeled down to him, and asked--and that before a multitude--
'Good master what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
And yet, when he was told that he could not come, for the world soon stepped betwixt that life and him, and persuaded him to take up in itself; and so, for aught [all] we know, he never looked after life more [again].

There are four things in the world that have a tendency to lull an awakened man asleep, if God also makes him not afraid of the world:
  1. There is the bustle and cumber [burden] of the world that will call a man off from looking after the salvation of his soul. This is intimated by the parable of the thorny ground. Worldly cumber is a devilish thing; it will hurry a man from his bed without prayer; to a sermon, and from it again, without prayer; it will choke prayer, it will choke the Word, it will choke convictions, it will choke the soul, and cause that awakening shall be to no saving purpose. 
  2. There is the friendship of this world, to which, if a man is not mortified, there is no coming for him to God by Christ. And a man can never be mortified to it unless he shall see the emptiness and vanity of it. Whosoever makes himself a friend of this world is the enemy of God. And how, then, can he come to him by Christ? 
  3. There are the terrors of the world, if a man stands in fear of them, he also will not come to God by Christ. The fear of man brings a snare. How many have, in all ages, been kept from coming to God aright by the terrors of the world? Yes, how many are there who to one's thinking have almost got to the gates of heaven, and have been scared and driven quite back again by nothing but the terrors of this world? This is that which Christ so cautioned his disciples about, for he knew it was a deadly thing. Peter also bids the saints beware of this as of a thing very destructive. 
  4. There is also the glory of the world, namely honors and greatness and preferments [recognition]--an absolute hindrance to convictions and awakenings.

          'How can ye believe,' says Christ, 'that receive honor one of another and seek not the honor that         cometh from God?'

    If therefore a man is not in his affections crucified to these, it will keep him from coming to God aright.
Thirdly, as a man must know himself (how vile he is), and know the world (how empty it is), so he must know the law--how severe it is; else he will not come to God by Jesus Christ, our Lord.
A man that is under awakenings is under a double danger of falling short of coming to God by Christ if he knows not the severity of the law. He is either in danger of slighting its penalty, or of seeking to make amends to it by doing good works; and nothing can keep him from splitting his soul upon one of these two rocks but a sound knowledge of the severity of the law.

  1. He is in danger of slighting the penalty. This is seen by the practice of all the profane in the world. Do they not know the law? Verily many of them can say the Ten Commandments without book [from memory.] But they do not know the severity of the law, and therefore when at any time awakenings come upon their consciences they strive to drive away the guilt of one sin by wallowing in the filth of another. But would they do thus if they knew the severity of the law? They would as soon eat fire. The severity of the law would be an intolerable, unsupportable burden to their consciences. It would drive them and make them fly for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them. 
  2. Or, if he slights not the penalty, he will seek to make amends to it by doing good works for the sins he has committed. This is manifest by the practice of the Jews and Turks and all that swerve on that hand--namely, to seek life and happiness by the law. Paul also was here before he met with Jesus in the way. This is natural to consciences that are awakened, unless also they have it given to see the true severity of the law. The which that you may do, if my mite will help, I will cast in for your conviction these four things [Bunyan is going to help us understand how severe the Law of God is]: 
  • The law charges you with its curse, for the pollution of your nature as well as for the defilements of your life; even and if you had never committed sinful acts, your pollution of nature must stand in the way of life, if you come not to God for mercy by Christ. 
  • The law takes notice of and charges you with its curse for sinful thoughts as well as for vile and sinful actions. The very thought of foolishness is sin, though it never breaks out into act, and will as surely merit the damnation of the soul as will the greatest transgression in the world. 
  • If now you could keep all the commandments, that will do you no good at all, because you have sinned first. 'And the soul that sins shall die.' Unless then you can endure the curse, and so in a legal way overcome it for the sins that you have committed, you are gone [condemned] if you come not to God by Christ for mercy and pardon. 
  • And never think of repentance thereby [as a way] to stop the mouth of the law. For the law calls not for repentance, but life; nor will it accept of any, should you mourn and weep for your sins till you have made a sea of blood with tears. This I say, you must know, or you will not come to God by Christ for life. For the knowledge of this will cause that you shalt neither slight the severity of the law, nor trust to the works thereof for life. Now, when you do neither of these, you [cannot help but] speed yourself to God by Christ for life; for now you hast no stay [support]; pleasures are gone, all hope in yourself is gone. You now die, and that is the way to live; for this inward death is, or feels like, a hunger-bitten stomach that cannot but crave meat and drink. Now it will be as possible for you to sleep with your finger in the fire as to forbear [give up] craving mercy so long as this knowledge remains.
Fourthly, as a man must know himself, the emptiness of this world, and the law of God, so it is necessary for him to know that there is a hell, and how insupportable the torments of it are; for all threatenings, curses, and determinations to punish in the next world will prove but fictions and scarecrows, if there be no woeful place, no woeful state, for the sinner to receive his wages in for sin when his days are ended in this world. Wherefore, this word 'saved' supposes such a place and state. He is able to save from hell, from the woeful place--from the woeful state--of hell them that come unto God by him.

Christ, therefore, often insinuates [inserts] the truth of a hell in his invitations to the sinners of this world to come to him; as where he tells them they shall be saved if they do, [but] they shall be damned if they do not. As if he had said, "There is a hell--a terrible hell!--and they that come to me I will save them from it; but they that come not, the law will damn them in it." Therefore that you may indeed come to God by Christ for mercy, believe there is a hell, a woeful, terrible place! Hell is God's creature, 'he has made it deep and large!' The punishments are by the lashes of his wrath, which will issue from his mouth like a stream of burning brimstone, ever kindling itself upon the soul. You must know this by the Word, and fly from it; or [else] you shall know it by your sins and lie and cry in it.

I might enlarge [expand this point]; but if I did I should be swallowed up; for we are while here no more able to set forth the torments of hell, than we are while here to set forth the joys of heaven. Only this may (and ought!) to be said: that as God is able to save, so [he is able] to cast into hell. And [just] as he is able to make heaven sweet, pleasurable, and glorious beyond thought, so he is able to make the torments of hell so exquisite, so hot, so sharp, so intolerable, that no tongue can utter it--no not the damned in hell themselves. If you love your soul, slight [disdain] not the knowledge of hell; for that and the law are the spurs which Christ uses to prick [drive] souls forward to himself. What is the cause that sinners can play so delightfully with sin? It is that they forget that there is a hell for them to descend into for their so doing, when they go out of this world. For here usually he gives a stop to our sinful course; we perceive that hell has opened her mouth before us. Lest you should forget, I beseech you another time to retain a knowledge of hell in your understanding and apply the burning hot thoughts thereof to your conscience. This is one way to make you gather up you heels [stand up] and mend your pace [run faster] in coming to Jesus Christ and to God the Father by him.

Fifthly, it is also necessary that he that comes to God by the Lord Jesus, should know what death is, and the uncertainty of its approaches upon us.

Death is, as I may call it, the 'feller'--the 'cutter down.' Death is that which puts a stop to a further living here, and that which lays man where it finds him. If he is in the faith in Jesus, it lays him down there to sleep till the Lord comes; if he be not in the faith, it lays him down in his sins until the Lord comes. Again if you have some beginnings that look like good, and death should overtake you before those beginnings are ripe, your fruit will wither and you will fall short of being gathered into God's barn. Some men are 'cut off like the tops of the ears of corn' and some are even nipped by death in the very bud of their spring; but the safety is when a man is ripe, and shall be gathered to his grave as a shock of corn to the barn in its season.

Now if death should surprise and seize you before you are fit [ready] to die, all is lost. For there is no repentance in the grave, or rather, as the wise man has it,
'Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.' 
Death is God's sergeant, God's bailiff, and he arrests in God's name when he comes, but seldom gives warning before he claps us on the shoulder; and when he arrests us, though he may stay a little while and give us leave to pant [panic] and tumble and toss ourselves for a while upon a bed of languishing, yet at last he will prick our bladder and let out our life, and then our soul will be poured upon the ground-- yea into hell, if we are not ready and prepared for the life everlasting. He that does not watch for, and is not afraid lest death should prevent him, will not make haste to God by Christ. What Job said of temporal afflictions, such a one will death be if you are not aware:
'When I looked for good, then evil came... The day of affliction prevented me.'
If you look (or begin to look) for good, and the day of death shall cut you off before you have found that good which you were looking for, all is lost--soul, life, heaven and all. Wherefore it is convenient that you conclude that the grave is your house, and that you make your bed once a day in the grave; also that you say unto corruption
'Thou art my father; and to the worm, Thou art my mother and my sister.'
I say, be acquainted with the grave and death. The fool puts the evil day far away, but the wise man brings it nigh [near]. Better to be ready to die seven years before death comes, than want one day, one hour, one moment, one tear, one sorrowful sigh at the remembrance of the ill-spent life that I have lived. This, then, is that which I admonish you of: namely, that you know death, what it is, and what it does when it comes. Also, that you consider well the danger that death leaves that man in to whom he comes before he is ready and prepared to be laid by it in the grave.

Sixthly, you must also be made by your awakenings to see what Christ is. This is of absolute necessity; for how can or shall a man be willing to come to Christ that knows not what he is, what God has appointed him to do? He is the Saviour--every man will say so! But to sense, smell, and taste what saving is, and so to understand the nature of the office and work of a Saviour, is a rare thing, kept close [hidden] from most and known but by some. Jesus of Nazareth is the Saviour or the reconciler of men to God in the body of his flesh through death. This is he whose business in coming from heaven to earth was to save his people from their sins. Now, as was said, to know how he does this is that which is needful to be inquired into; for some say he does it one way, some that he does it another. It must be remembered that we are now speaking of the salvation of that man that from new or first awakenings is coming to God by Christ for life.

  1. Some say he does it by giving us precepts and laws to keep, that we might be justified thereby.
  2. Some say that he does it by setting himself a pattern for us to follow. 
  3. Some again hold that he does it by our following the light within. 
But you must take heed of [be warned against] all these, for he justifies us by none of these means, and you do need to be justified. I say, he justifies us not either by giving laws to us, or by becoming our example, or by our following him in any sense, but rather by his blood shed for us. His blood is not laws, nor ordinances, nor commandments, but a price--a redeeming price. He justifies us by bestowing upon us, not by expecting from us; he justifies us by his grace, not by our works. In a word, you must be well grounded in the knowledge of what Christ is, and how men are justified by him, or you will not come unto God by him. 

As you must know him, and how men are justified by him, so you must know the readiness that is in him to receive and to do for those what they need that come unto God by him. Suppose his merits were ever so efficacious [were enough, yet if it could be proved that there is a loathness [unwillingness] in him that these merits should be bestowed upon the coming ones, there would but few adventure [bother] to wait upon [serve] him. But now, as he is full, so he is free. Nothing pleases him better than to give what he has away; than to bestow it upon the poor and needy. And it will be convenient that you who are a coming soul should know this for your comfort to encourage you to come to God by him. Take two or three sayings of his for the confirming of what is now said. 
Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 
I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. 
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief.

Seventhly, as a man that would come to God by Christ must, antecedent to his so coming, know:
himself, what he is;
the world, how empty it is;
the law, how severe it is;
death, and what it is;
and Christ, and what he is; 
so also he must know God.
'He that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him.
God must be known, else how can the sinner propound him as his end [goal], his ultimate end? For so does every one that indeed comes to Christ aright [properly]. He comes to Christ because he is the way; he comes to God because he is the end. But, I say, if he knows him not, how can he propound him as the end? The end is that for the sake of which I propound to myself any thing, and for the sake of which I use any means. Now then, I would be saved--but why? Even because I would enjoy God. I use the means [Christ] to be saved; and why? Because I would enjoy God. I am sensible that sin has made me come short of the glory of God, and that Christ Jesus is he--the only 'he'--that can put me into a condition to obtain the glory of God; and therefore I come to God by him.

But, I say again, who will propound [declare] God for his end that knows him not, that knows him not aright? Yea, that knows him not to be worth being propounded as my end in coming to Jesus Christ; and he that thus knows him must know him to be above all, best of all, and him in whom the soul shall find that content, that bliss, that glory, and happiness that can by no means be found elsewhere. And, I say, if this be not found in God, the soul will never propound him to himself as the only, highest, and ultimate end in its coming to Jesus Christ. But it will propound something else, even what it shall imagine to be the best good--perhaps heaven, perhaps ease from guilt, perhaps to be kept out of hell, or the like. I do not say but a man may propound all these to himself in his coming to Jesus Christ; but if he propound these as his ultimate end, as the chiefest good that he seeks, if the presence and enjoyment of God--of God's glorious majesty--be not his chief design, he is not concerned in the salvation that is propounded in our text:
'He is able,' and so will 'save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him.'
What is heaven without God? What is ease without the peace and enjoyment of God? What is deliverance from hell without the enjoyment of God? The propounding, therefore, these and only these to yourself for your happiness in coming to Jesus Christ is a proposal not a hair's breadth higher than what a man without grace can propound. What or who is he that would not go to heaven? What or who is he that would not also have ease from the guilt of sin? And where is the man that chooses to go to hell? But many there be that cannot abide God; no, they like not to go to heaven, because God is there. If the devil had a heaven to bestow upon men, a vicious and a beastly heaven (if it be lawful thus to speak), I durst pawn my soul upon it [I am very certain], were it a thousand times better than it is, that upon a bare invitation the foul fiend would have twenty to God's one. They, I say, cannot abide God; nay, for all, the devil has nothing but a hell for them; yet how thick men go to him, but how thinly to God Almighty. The nature of God lies cross to the lusts of men. A holy God, a glorious holy God, an infinitely holy God--this spoils all. But to the soul that is awakened and that is made to see things as they are, to him God is what he is in himself: the blessed, the highest, the only eternal good, and he without the enjoyment of whom all things would sound but empty in the ears of that soul.

Now, then, I advise you that have a mind to come to God by Christ, that you seek the knowledge of God:
'If thou seekest wisdom as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
And to encourage you yet further, he is so desirous of communion with men, that he pardons sins for that. Hence he is called not only loving, but 'love.'
'God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.'

Methinks, when I consider what glory there is at times upon the creatures, and that all their glory is the workmanship of God; oh Lord, I say, what is God himself? He may well be called the 'God of glory,' as well as the 'glorious Lord'; for as all glory is from him, so in him is an inconceivable well-spring of glory, of glory to be communicated to them that come by Christ to him. Wherefore, let the glory and love and bliss and eternal happiness that is in God allure you to come to him by Christ.

Eighthly, as you should--nay, must--have a good knowledge of all these, so you must have it [knowledge] of judgment to come. They that come to God by Christ are said to
'fly from the wrath to come;' to 'fly for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them.

The judgment to come is a warm thing to be thought of, an awakening thing to be thought of; it is called the eternal judgment, because it is and will be God's final conclusion with men. This day is called
'the great and notable day of the Lord,' the day that 'shall burn like an oven,
the day in which the angels shall gather the wicked together as tares in bundles to burn them; but the rest into his kingdom and glory. This day will be it in which all bowels of love and compassion shall be shut up to the wicked, and that in which the floodgates of wrath shall be opened, by which a plentiful reward shall be given to evil-doers, but glory to the righteous. This is the day in which men, if they could, would creep into the ground for fear; but because they cannot, therefore, they will call and cry to the mountains to fall upon them, but they shall not; therefore, they stand bound to bear their judgment.

This day will be the day of breaking up closet councils, cabinet councils, secret purposes, hidden thoughts; yea,
'God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing'
I say he shall do it then; for he will both
'bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the heart.' 
This is the day that is appointed to put them to shame and contempt that have, in this world, been bold and audacious in their vile and beastly ways. At this day, God will cover all such bold and brazen faces with shame. Now they will blush till the blood is ready to burst through their cheeks. Oh! the confusion and shame that will cover their faces while God is discovering to them what a vile, what a beastly, what an uncomely [unlovely], and what an unreasonable life they lived in the world. They shall see the contemned God, that fed them, that clothed them, that gave them life and limb, and that maintained their breath in their nostrils. But, Oh!, when they see the gulf before them, and all things ready to receive them in thither; then, they will know what sinning against God means!

And, I say, you that are coming to God by Christ must know this, and be well assured of this, or you will never come to God by him.

What of the glory of God shall be put upon them that do indeed come to him will also help in this spiritual journey, if it be well considered by you. But, perhaps, terror and unbelief will suffer [allow] you to consider but little of that. However, the things aforementioned will be goads [spurs], and will serve to prick [drive] you forward; and if they do so, they will be God's great blessing unto you, and that for which you will give him your thanks for ever.

Thus I have, in few words, spoken something as to the first sort of comers to God by Christ, namely of the coming of the newly-awakened man. And I say again, if any of the things afore-named be wanting, and are not with his heart, it is a question whether, notwithstanding all the noise that he may make about religion, he will ever come to God by Christ.

  1. If he knows not himself and the badness of his condition, wherefore [for what reason] should he come?
  2. If he knows not the world, and the emptiness and vanity thereof, wherefore should he come? 
  3. If he knows not the law, and the severity thereof, wherefore should he come? 
  4. If he knows not hell, and the torments thereof, wherefore should he come? 
  5. If he knows not what death is, wherefore should he come? 
  6. If he knows not the Father and the Son, how can he come? 
  7. And to know that there is a judgment to come is as necessary to his coming as most of the rest of the things propounded.
Coming to God by Christ is for shelter, for safety, for advantage, and for everlasting happiness. But he that knows not, that understands not, the things aforementioned, sees not this need of taking shelter, of flying for safety, of coming for advantage to God by Christ. I know there are degrees of this knowledge, and he that has it most warm upon him, in all likelihood, will make most haste; or, as David says, will haste his escape 
'from the windy storm and tempest,'
and he that sees least is in danger of being the loiterer, and so of losing the prize; for all that run do not obtain it,; all that fight do not win it; and all that strive for it have it not."

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