(Dr. Roger D. Duke brings us another excerpt from the writings of John Bunyan. Dr. Duke is cowriter with Phil Newton of “Venturing all on God: Piety in the Writings of John Bunyan.” This volume is one of in the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality series of Reformation Heritage Press and is slated for publication sometime in 2011.)
“WHAT IT IS TO BE OFFERED”
A Portion of Mr. Bunyan’s Exposition of 2 Timothy 4:6-8
Paul, by saying he was ‘to be offered,’ alludeth to some of the sacrifices that of old were under the law; and thereby signifieth to Timothy that his death and martyrdom for the gospel should be both sweet in the nostrils of God, and of great profit to his church in this world; for so were the sacrifices of old. Paul, therefore, lifts his eyes up higher than simply to look upon death, as it is the common fate of men; and he had good reason to do it, for his death was violent; it was also for Christ, and for his church and truth; and it is usual with Paul thus to set out the suffering of the saints, which they undergo for the name and testimony of Jesus. Yea, he will have our prayers a sacrifice; our praises, thanksgiving, and mortification, sacrifices; almsdeed, and the offering up of the Gentiles, sacrifices, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost; and here his death also must be for a sacrifice, and an acceptable offering to God (Heb 13:15,16; Rom 12:1,2, 15:16).
Peter also saith, We are priests ‘to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2:5). Of which sacrifices, it seems by Paul, the death of a Christian for Jesus’ sake must needs be counted one. Besides, Paul further insinuates this by some other sentences in his epistles; as by that in the epistle to the Colossians, where he saith, ‘I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his body’s sake, which is the church’ (Col 1:24). Not by way of merit, for so Christ alone, and that by once being offered himself, hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (Heb 10:10–14). But his meaning is, that as Christ was offered in sacrifice for his church as a Saviour, so Paul would offer himself as a sacrifice for Christ’s church, as a saint, as a minister, and one that was counted faithful. ‘Yea,’ saith he, ‘and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all’ (Phil 2:17). . . .
The sufferings of the saints are of a redeeming virtue . . . by their patient enduring and losing their blood for the word, they recover the truths of God that have been buried in Antichristian rubbish, from that soil and slur that thereby hath for a long time cleaved unto them; wherefore it is said, They overcame him, the beast, ‘by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death’ (Rev 12:11). They overcame him; that is, they recovered the truth from under his aspersions, and delivered it from all its enemies. David saith, ‘The words of the Lord are – as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times’ (Psa 12:6). What is this furnace of earth but the body of the saints of God, in which the Word is tried, as by fire in persecution, yea, ‘purified seven times’; that is, brought forth at last by the death of the Christians in its purity before the world. . . .
Learn thus much:
Learn[:] The judgment that is made of our sufferings by carnal men is nothing at all to be heeded; they see not the glory that is wrapped up in our cause, nor the innocence and goodness of our conscience in our enduring of these afflictions; they judge according to the flesh, according to outward appearance. For so, indeed, we seem to lie under contempt [sic], and to be in a disgraceful condition; but all things here are converted to another use and end. . . .
We learn also from hence, the reason why some in days before us have made light of the rage of the world; but they have laughed at destruction when it cometh (Job 5:21,22). And have gone forth to meet the armed men; and with Job’s war-horse, ‘mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted, neither turneth he back from the sword; the quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield, he said among the trumpets. (Job 39:22,25). . . . As Paul . . .saith, Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. . . .
Learn also in this to be confident, that thy sufferings have their sound and a voice before God and men. First, Before God, to provoke him to vengeance, ‘when he maketh inquisition for blood’ (Psa 9:12; Gen 4:9–11). The blood of Abel cried until it brought down wrath upon Cain; and so did the blood of Christ and his apostles, till it had laid Jerusalem upon heaps. Secondly, Thy blood will also have a voice before men, and that possibly for their good. The faithful Christian, in his patient suffering, knows not what work he may do for God; who knows but thy blood may be so remembered by thy children, neighbours, and enemies, as to convince them thou wert for the truth? Yea, who knows but their thoughts of thy resolution for Christ, in thy resisting unto blood, may have so good an effect upon some, as to persuade them to close with his ways? The three children in the fiery furnace made Nebuchadnezzar cry out there was no God like theirs! Indeed, this is hard labour, but be content, the dearer thou payest for it to win the souls of others, the greater will be thy crown, when the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall appear; and in the meanwhile, thy death shall be as a sacrifice pleasing to God and his saints
 John Bunyan, PAUL’S DEPARTURE AND CROWN Or An Exposition Upon 2 Timothy 4:6-8. This was excerpted from The Complete Works of John Bunyan, available from the E4 Group Electronic Software Library CD, internet http://www.freebiblesoftware.com/ The interested reader is also encouraged to see the on line library located at; http://www.mountzion.org/johnbunyan/text/bun-trinity.htm, for more of Bunyan’s works. “The Struggler,” dates Bunyan’s Paul’s Departure as part of the “second folio” dated 1692. See: http://truthinheart.com/EarlyOberlinCD/CD/Bunyan/OpenInBrowser.html
 The following serves as an introduction of sorts. The editor George Offor put forth in his edited version of Bunyan’s works.
An ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR
How great and glorious is the Christian’s ultimate destiny-a kingdom and a crown! Surely it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive what ear never heard, nor mortal eye ever saw? the mansions of the blest-the realms of glory- ‘a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ For whom can so precious an inheritance be intended? How are those treated in this world who are entitled to so glorious, so exalted, so eternal, and unchangeable an inheritance in the world to come? How do the heirs to immortality conduct themselves in such a prospect? An inheritance sure and certain-an absolute reversion which no contingency can possibly affect. All these are inquiries of the deepest interest-the most solemn importance. Above all, when we inquire as to our personal title to the heavenly mansions-Am I one of the heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ?-most intensely should this question agitate the soul, when we reflect that, unless we are entitled to this inestimable reversion, we must be plunged into the most awful, the most irretrievable and external torments! There is no middle way-no escape from hell, but by going to heaven. Is heaven reserved only for the noble and the learned, like Paul? God forbid! but, on the contrary, we hear the voice of the divinity proclaiming, ‘Not many wise men after the flesh-not many mighty-not many noble.’ ‘Thus saith the Lord, Heaven is my throne, the earth my footstool.’ He looketh upon the high and low-the learned and the noble-the mighty princes and the unlettered labourer; and then makes this wondrous declaration- ‘To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.’ The world will treat such humble ones as it treated the Lord of life and glory, with scorn, contempt, insult, robbery-death. They bear all with patience-return good for evil-are the followers of him who went about doing good-are known as living epistles, because they have been with Christ; they daily enjoy his guidance and protection, and in their desires after conformity to his image, they breathe the atmosphere of heaven. This is what the heir of glory strives after; but, alas! he has to encounter an evil heart, an ensnaring world, and the reproaches and revilings of his fellow-men, aided by satanic influence. Can we wonder, then, that he who is thus besieged, and believes that his work is finished, should, with Paul, be ready to depart and receive his rich inheritance? The lapse of time affects not the strong consolations of hope; as it was with Paul, so Bunyan felt. His longings after the heavenly manna abounded when the cold hand of death pressed upon his brow; his desire was ‘to be dissolved, and to be with Christ’; when his course of temple and relative duty was run, he waited for the messenger from the celestial city to conduct him home. Christian, are you actively engaged in fulfilling the duties of your course? or, in the humble hope that your course is accomplished, are you patiently waiting the heavenly messenger? If the Christian’s state is one of trial now, it was much more so in former times. We can have very little idea of the feelings of a dissenter from the religion of the State, like Paul, under the cruel Nero, or like Bunyan, under the debauched Charles the Second-both of them liable, without a moment’s warning, to be carried away to prison, or to be murdered, privately or publicly, for refusing submission to civil governors in matters of faith or worship. Although they possessed every loyal and patriotic feeling, they dared not obey those human laws which usurped the prerogatives of God, by interfering with divine worship. Their lives were in their hands; in the midst of imminent danger they boldly avowed the truth, and set us a noble example. Their intercourse with heaven was doubly sweet from the uncertainty of liberty and life. For them to live was Christ, and therefore they well knew the gain of dying. In proportion as temporal blessings were eminently doubtful, so spiritual and eternal benefits were precious.
This treatise was one of those ten excellent manuscripts found already prepared for the press, after the unexpected decease of its pious author. It bears the marks of having been composed, and perhaps preached, towards the end of his pilgrimage. Had his valuable life been spared a few months longer, this work would, very probably, have been enlarged, and the sub-divisions somewhat improved. The principal heads are now inserted as separate lines, to assist the reader in referring to its several parts; and notes are added to explain old words and customs, and, in some cases, to point out a few of the beautiful and striking passages with which it abounds. Many of these ought to be indelibly impressed upon our minds. ‘The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times’ . . . The question naturally arises-What is this ‘furnace of earth’ in which the Lord’s words are purified? Seven being the number of perfection, conveys the idea that it will be in the furnace until it appears perfectly refined. Bunyan considers that these earthen furnaces are the bodies of the saints. In the trials, troubles, and persecutions to which they are subjected, the Word bears them up triumphantly, so that the purity and excellency of the holy oracles conspicuously appears, like the trial of faith mentioned by Peter (1 Peter 1:7). Dr. Gill considers that these crucibles mean Christ and his ministers; while Bunyan, with his enlarged mind, identifies them with the whole of Christ’s followers. Some of these crucibles prove not to be genuine, and perish in the using, not being able to abide the fire. Such was the case with one of Mr. Bunyan’s friends. John Childs, who, for fear of persecution, conformed, became horror-stricken for the denial of his Master, and notorious for having destroyed himself.
In this treatise it is most affectionately impressed upon us to heap up treasures that will go with us into the unseen world, as of greater importance than those things which perish with the using. ‘A Christian, and spend thy time, thy strength, and parts,’ for that which maketh to itself wings and fleeth away! ‘Remember thou art a man of another world, a subject of a more noble kingdom-that of God, and of heaven. Make not heavenly things stoop to the world; but hoist up thy mind to the things that are above, and practically hold forth before all the world the blessed word of life.’ If death is the king of terrors to fallen humanity, still there are truths abounding with consolation, that when the Christian departs, the angels are ready, as in the case of Lazarus, to convey the happy spirit to Abraham’s bosom; the struggle is short, and then comes the reward. In this world we must have tribulation; but in heaven white robes, the palm of victory, and the conqueror’s crown, await the saints. Paul heard a voice which raised his soul above the fears of death, and gave him a desire to depart; its melodious sound invited him home-it was the voice of eternal truth, saying, ‘Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.’ George Offor.”