318. Having made profession of the glorious gospel of Christ a long time, and preached the same about five years, I was apprehended at a meeting of good people in the country, among whom, had they let me alone, I should have preached that day, but they took me away from amongst them, and had me before a justice; who, after I had offered security for my appearing at the next sessions, yet committed me, because my sureties would not consent to be bound that I should preach no more to the people.
… 326. [Another conviction] was to live upon God that is invisible, as Paul said in another place; the way not to faint is to “Look not on the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal,” 2 Cor. iv. 18. And thus I reasoned with myself, If I provide only for a prison, then the whip comes at unawares, and so doth also the pillory. Again, if I only provide for these, then I am not fit for banishment: Farther, if I conclude that banishment is the worst, then if death comes I am surprised: So that I see, the best way to go through sufferings is to trust in God through Christ, as touching the world to come; and as touching this world, to count the grave my house, to make my bed in darkness; to say to corruption, Thou art my father, and to the worm, Thou art my mother and sister: that is, to familiarize these things to me.
… 327. But notwithstanding these helps, I found myself a man encompassed with infirmities; the parting with my wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place as the pulling the flesh from the bones, and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries, and wants that my poor family was like to meet with should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all beside. Oh! the thoughts of the hardship I thought my poor blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces.”
John Bunyan is among one of the most well known Christian authors, most famous for Pilgrim’s Progress. He was a Puritan preacher in 17th century England. He suffered several bouts of imprisonment because of his preaching of the gospel against the wishes of the state. Apparently during one of the periods, he was allowed occasional visits to his family.
This book, which reads like a diary, shows the great lengths that Bunyan was willing to go to to preach the gospel. It appears he even may have had some choice of punishment. But the word that struck me in this reading is child. There’s some 13800 appearances of the word child in my database of sermons. I’m not claiming to have read all the paragraphs therein, but this one struck me. We see a parent’s grief over being away from his children. He describes having to leave his family after one of these furloughs as if the flesh were being pulled from his bones. He expresses special sadness for the weakest child, one who is blind. Any parent or those who’ve loved children can feel the sadness of the fears he has. All this he is suffering because of his convictions for the gospel.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, we thank you for the witness of people like John Bunyan. We pray for the repentance and softening of heart of anyone who would abuse or imprison someone for their beliefs, any prisoner of conscience. At the same time, we are thankful that despite the abuses, the jailors let him write such wonderful books for us to read. We pray for the families of people in prison, and the special kinds of suffering they may face. Open our eyes and hearts to ways to help the children of those in prison. AMEN.