Oh, that, you and I might get into the very heart of the Word of God, and get that Word into ourselves! As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf, and consume it, so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord; not crawl ever its surface, but eat right into it till we have taken it into our inmost parts. It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words, or to recollect the poetical expressions, or the historic facts; but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your very style is fashioned upon Scripture models, and, what is better still, your spirit is flavoured with the words of the Lord.
I would quote John Bunyan as an instance of what I mean. Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like reading the Bible itself. He had studied our Authorized Version, which will never be bettered, as I judge, till Christ shall come; he had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress— that sweetest of all prose poems— without continually making us feel and say, “Why, this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere; his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God. I commend his example to you, beloved, and, still more, the example of our Lord Jesus. If the Spirit of God be in you, he will make you love the Word of God; and, if any of you imagine that the Spirit of God will lead you to dispense with the Bible, you are under the influence of another spirit which is not the Spirit of God at all. I trust that the Holy Spirit will endear to you every page of this Divine Record, so that you will feed upon it yourselves, and afterwards speak it out to others.
—Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By God’s amazing grace, He revealed and expanded the doctrines of grace to me very early in my Christianity, in the mid to late 1980’s while attending Calvary Chapel of Honolulu while stationed at Pearl Harbor as a U.S. Navy diver. Two resources the Lord used tremendously to open my eyes to the blessedness of His grace was first, the famous sermon of Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”; and second, John Bunyan’s classic allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress.
(While my hands yet work to type, I would like to share this portion of my testimony, especially as it relates to Mr. Bunyan and Mr. Spurgeon. I will relate about my testimony and Mr. Edwards’ sermon at some other time, the Lord willing and if my hands work).
As a true infantile creature, as one born from above (John 3:3), I could not expound upon the doctrines of grace (what some will refer to often as the Five Points of Calvinism); and though the doctrines of grace were certainly real truths that were powerfully present and most certainly the foundational truths back of my salvation, they were still back of my salvation and not in the forefront of my thinking. Why in the world would one want them to be? I was most certainly saved. The Holy Spirit placed in me, supernaturally, a love for the His people, a love for His gospel, a love for His Scriptures, and most importantly, a love for His Christ. I spent time with Christ without analyzing my understanding of propositional truths. Did I come across them in the Bible as I read it? Sure did. Did I understand them? About as clearly as the disciples did! The Lord commented often about their little faith. Was I to expect that my faith would be any larger? Did my lack of understanding cause me to want leave Christ? Only my failings in faith and weakness in sin made me sometimes ashamed and want to hide from His presence; however, a lack of understanding never caused me to turn away form Him. As with His disciples, His blessed fellowship was far better than my lack of understanding, and therefore, if queried on His doctrine that was far over my head, I could say right along with His disciples, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69, ESV).
I walked with Jesus in a way that could only be Holy Spirit led, Holy Spirit imparted, and Holy Spirit anointed. As His conviction of my sin caused me to cry out (sometimes literally) before grace grabbed me and proved a right confession from my mouth and repentance in my soul; and my conversion of heart came after I had bent the knee before Christ on June 3, 1985, my past sins being certainly cleansed; my load was lightened and my step was light. I was enthralled with God’s love and overwhelmed that Jesus would save a wretch like me. I was mindful of sin, but it did not come with a rush of condemnation as it had when I was under conviction, especially in those last months before Christ saved me; it instead saddened me when sins were committed by others, and grieved me when I committed it, and something had to be done with those faults and failures. Every sin I committed and every righteous deed I omitted was a constant reminder that I needed to cling to His atoning favor to find strength in time of need, to cleave to Christ and be clothed in His righteousness as often as I could consciously recall Him; and one way that seemed to be done was by prayer and His Word.
I read the New Testament, the Psalms and the Proverbs completely through in only a few weeks after my conversion. I realized that there was much I didn’t understand; however, of that which was opened to me was incredible and exhilarating. When I got my first full Bible just a few days after I finished reading the New Testament Bro. V.L. gave me, I found a quiet place on the dive boat, when no one was there and prayed saying, “Lord, I know that I won’t understand everything that’s here. I am only a babe in your bosom. But I know this is your Word and if you would be pleased to open up as much as I am able to hold on to, please help me to walk according to what you reveal.” Oh, how shameful was my prayer for one who looks back to see that the Lord had opened up so much to me and I failed so miserably and often rebelled so appallingly, dishonoring Christ so senselessly. Oh, but on the other side of that truth, how His amazing grace cleanses from sin! Oh, the blessedness of an Advocate that defends! Oh, the security of a High Priest that pleads and a Sacrifice whose blood cleanses! and oh, such a glorious God who is faithful to forgive His people who confess and repent. But I digress.
In Hawaii in 1987, I heard someone mention The Pilgrim’s Progress and the name, John Bunyan, just stuck in my ear. I didn’t get it a copy of the allegory right away, but I kept hearing it over and over again until I saw a book one day with Bunyan’s name. It was The Pilgrim’s Progress so I picked it up. Men and brethren, it didn’t take long into that book to realize of whose life Mr. Bunyan was speaking: it was mine, of course. “This book was written in the seventeenth century! How could he possibly be grasping the content of my life so plainly?” thought I. That was me in the City of Destruction. It was clear as crystal to see the burden upon my back. I had slipped more than once in the slough of despond that last month before I came to the wicket gate, needing one of my evangelistic brethren to help me out to show me the way again. Though I was told the only way to salvation so many, many times, I had almost given up as I saw no gate, and often saw no wall at all. And when I walked through that gate and saw the cross, I wept for joy as the burden fell off my back with a refreshment upon my soul that gave me nearly no remembrance that ever a burden was there. I wept when Bunyan’s Christian was liberated of his immense burden. That was me. I was him. I stood before that cross and could only make out barely an outline of a figure of the cross as the light was that brilliant and that overwhelming. This I only saw with my minds eye, mind you; and though it shone in a brilliance that surpassed the sun in its strength at midday, I could see the blood streaked wood somehow; and somehow knowing that Christ’s blood alone is precious to cleanse and perfect forgive. Jesus Christ suffered the wrath of God that He did not owe or deserve, and believing that, I could repent of my sins; and I wanted Christ alone and nothing else.The wrath due to me as an enemy against God was removed.
I suppose that it was somewhere between my fifth and tenth reading of Part One that I finally figured out that this was not merely a description of my spiritual life, but it was a basic description of the Christian life in general.
Bunyan soon became my favorite Christian writer. The Holy Writ somehow seemed to make much more sense after having read Mr. Bunyan. Now, I know it is because, not only did he write using the Scriptures and quoted from them, he also wrote from the Scriptures; in other words, the Word of God was so much a part of him because He sought to be with Christ, walk with Christ, live with Christ, and live for Christ, by His Word, and that, through prayer. He, as Mr. Spurgeon certainly noted, is one whose blood is Bibline. Oh, that we may also have, by God’s grace, even a fraction of the Biblinity of Bunyan’s blood. And if we are to submit to Christ’s Spirit for such a portion and such a grace, it will not come apart from a heart vision of Christ; neither will it come apart from the soul’s testimony of the verity in every jot and tittle of God’s Word; nor will it come apart from the strength of humility to have tenacious veracity in earnest prayer so that vision in our heart exalts the Person and work of Christ above all else, and that it is done with a steadfast love and joy found through His Word. We will never walk in fulfilled Christian duty otherwise. We will nary take up our cross, deny self and follow Him except it be so.
I was not much of a reader of Mr. Spurgeon’s works until the day I read the quote of Mr. Spurgeon above, which is an excerpt from sermon no. 2644, delivered on Sunday evening, 25th of June in 1882, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The sermon was entitled, “The Last Words of Christ Upon the Cross.” I read that excerpt in the Philippines in 1993 and have now enjoyed no sparse readings of his works in the past seventeen years.
To know the Bible and quote the Bible is one thing; but to have the written Word course through our veins because the living Word dwelleth most certainly and undeniably in our hearts is the testimony of Christ for which we must cry out.
“Lord, may I never speak, or preach, or teach, or type another word, even the Word of God, unless Thou art truly overruling in my life. For Thou hast had envious, contentious, and pretentious men proclaim the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:15-18); and Thou has had donkeys open their mouths with reasonable speech to rebuke mad and greedy prophets (Numbers 22:27-31); and Lord, Thou, even Thou, hast had that donkey-rebuked prophet bring forth utterances of Thy will four times before the wicked hatred of Balak (Numbers 23, 24); and Lord, Thou hast said that even the rocks would cry out if these men in Jerusalem held their peace (Luke 19:40); and I believe Thou couldst make it so, if Thou shouldst desire it so. Lord, in our lives, be Thou exalted above the heavens and let Thy glory be over all the earth. Make Thine name great among Thy people. Make Thine people holy before Thy throne. Bring to Thyself glory for we have sinned greatly before Thee and have shamed the name of Jesus Christ. Lord sweep through the hearts of Thy people with a consuming fire and remove the high places we have erected in the groves of our hearts. We have turned the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving into blasphemies and vile horrors; shameful blasphemies, which are unspeakable and vile horrors, which are unthinkable. We have substituted Your testimony for television and Your witness for WiFi. We have replaced Your praises with PC’s and for ministry, we have Mac’s. I know they have a place, and that they are not objectionable in and of themselves, but we have convenience’d ourselves right out of the love whereby all men will know that we are Your disciples. Forgive me, Lord. Forgive us. Breathe back into your people an excellent Spirit; whereby faith is worked out through love; wherein life is found in only One, Jesus Christ the Righteous.”