A Brief Meditation for the Month

February 2021

Any reader interested in the English Puritans and their history will be familiar with the name of John Bunyan, the “Bedford tinker.” Although he never went to school, Bunyan is known in many parts of the Christian world for his unique literary works, in particular, “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” God has used this allegorical composition to help multitudes discover their real spiritual condition. It has been an instrument used to expose various forms of fraudulent religion while at the same time ministering relief and encouragement to anxious souls struggling on their pilgrimage towards heaven amidst temptations and satanic opposition.

John Bunyan (1628–1688) was recognized as a gifted gospel preacher, attracting hearers from every stratum of society. The learned Puritan theologian, John Owen, who listened to him with pleasure, is reputed to have said that he could gladly give all his learning for the sake of being able to preach and touch hearts “like that tinker.” Bunyan, however, was not permitted to exercise his ministry uninhibited. Opposed by those who believed he needed to be better educated, trained, and licenced by the Establishment before he could preach, Bunyan spent twelve years of his life in imprisonment. Unwilling to give an undertaking to refrain from preaching, he was returned several times to prison, suffering the pain of separation from his beloved wife and children. It was during his time of imprisonment, however, that Bunyan experienced the dreams which produced his remarkable books. These have been a source of spiritual benefit to multitudes of every age group around the world. There is no doubting that many would have profited from his preaching ministry had he not been so often prohibited from engaging in it. Still, although imprisonment prevented him from that particular service, his detention was the doorway to an exceedingly broader ministry. Through adversity, Bunyan not only grew spiritually in his own experience, but as a result of that, he became a channel of spiritual benefit to multitudes far beyond his limited locality and generation.

As we turn the pages of Scripture, we become acutely aware of how much we are indebted to a “great cloud of witnesses” whose personal experiences, like John Bunyan, are a source of so much spiritual inspiration and enrichment. When we take time to reflect, we discover that the most profitable experiences in the lives of many were during times of severe adversity. What, for example, would we learn from Joseph if we were unaware of his painful trials, disappointments, and discouragements throughout his life? How many of the tried children of God have been encouraged to patiently wait for God amidst their difficulties when they considered godly Job’s recorded experiences? What about David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel? How different the Book of Psalms would be if the psalmist had not passed through dark and turbulent days in his life. The trials of these saints were their training for greater usefulness. Above all others, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, suffered and endured beyond what any ever experienced. However, it was in the depths of indescribable suffering as he passed through impenetrable darkness of soul that the Son of God in our nature was procuring the greatest blessings for ruined, lost men without hope.

Dear child of God, you may be confronted with seemingly insurmountable difficulties or severe trials in your providences, but consider what personal profit there is in these for you, and how much more useful to others you may become as a consequence.

G. G. Hutton.