T H E
THE THIRD EDITION,
In which is added,
A N S W E R
to those grand objections
that lie in the way of the them that would believe:
for the comfort of them that
fear they have sinned against
T H E - H O L Y - G H O S T.
By J O H N.B U N Y A N, of Bedford.
L O N D O N,
Printed for Elizabeth Smith,
at the Hand and Bible, on London Bridge, 1691.
Reprinted three years after John Bunyan's death.
GOOD NEWS FOR THE VILEST OF MEN; OR, A HELP FOR DESPAIRING SOULS.
'BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM.' LUKE 24:47.
HE whole verse runs thus: 'And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, 'beginning at Jerusalem.'
The words were spoken by Christ, after he rose from the dead, and they are here rehearsed after an historical manner, but do contain in them a formal commission, with a special clause therein. The commission is, as you see, for the preaching of the gospel, and is very distinctly inserted in the holy record by Matthew and Mark. 'Go - teach all nations,' &c. (Matt 28:19) 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature' (Mark 16:15). Only this clause is in special mentioned by Luke, who saith, that as Christ would have the doctrine of repentance and remission of sins preached in his name among all nations, so he would have the people of Jerusalem to have the first proffer thereof. Preach it, saith Christ, in all nations, but begin at Jerusalem.
The apostles, then, though they had a commission so large as to give them warrant to go and preach the gospel in all the world, yet by this clause they were limited as to the beginning of their ministry; they were to begin this work at Jerusalem. "Beginning at Jerusalem.'
Before I proceed to an observation upon the words, I must, but briefly, touch upon two things: namely, FIRST, Show you what Jerusalem now was. SECOND, Show you what it was to preach the gospel to them.
FIRST, Jerusalem is to be considered either, First , With respect to the descent of her people; or, Second , With respect to her preference and exaltation; or, Third , With respect to her present state, as to her decays.
First , As to her descent, she was from Abraham, [by] the sons of Jacob, a people that God singled out from the rest of the nations, to set his love upon them.
Secondly , As to her preference or exaltation, she was the place of God's worship, and that which had in and with her the special tokens and signs of God's favour and presence, above any other people in the world. Hence, the tribes went up to Jerusalem to worship; there was God's house, God's high-priest, God's sacrifices accepted, and God's eye, and God's heart perpetually (Psa 76:1,2, 122; 1 Kings 9:3). But,
Thirdly , We are to consider Jerusalem also in her decays; for, as she is so considered, she is the proper object of our text, as will be further showed by and by.
Jerusalem, as I told you, was the place and seat of God's worship, but now decayed, degenerated, and apostatized. The Word, the rule of worship, was rejected of them, and in its place they had put and set up their own traditions: they had rejected, also, the most weighty ordinances, and put in the room thereof their own little things (Matt 15; Mark 7). Jerusalem was therefore now greatly backslidden, and become the place where the truth and true religion were much defaced.
It was also now become the very sink of sin and seat of hypocrisy, and gulf where true religion was drowned. Here also now reigned presumption, and groundless confidence in God, which is the bane of souls. Amongst its rulers, doctors, and leaders, envy, malice, and blasphemy vented itself against the power of godliness, in all places where it was espied; as also against the promoters of it; yea, their Lord and Maker could not escape them.
In a word, Jerusalem was now become the shambles, the very slaughter- shop for saints. This was the place wherein the prophets, Christ, and his people, were most horribly persecuted and murdered. Yea, so hardened at this time was this Jerusalem in her sins, that she feared not to commit the biggest, and to bind herself, by wish, under the guilt and damning evil of it; saying, when she had murdered the Son of God, 'His blood be on us, and on our children.' And though Jesus Christ did, both by doctrine, miracles, and holiness of life, seek to put a stop to their villanies, yet they shut their eyes, stopped their ears, and rested not, till, as was hinted before, they had driven him out of the world. Yea, that they might, if possible, have extinguished his name, and exploded his doctrine out of the world, they, against all argument, and in despite of heaven, its mighty hand, and undeniable proof of his resurrection, did hire soldiers to invent a lie, saying, his disciples stole him away from the grave; on purpose that men might not count him the Saviour of the world, nor trust in him for the remission of sins.
They were, saith Paul, contrary to all men: for they did not only shut up the door of life against themselves, but forbade that it should be opened to any else. 'Forbidding us,' saith he, 'to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway' (1 Thess 2:14-16; Matt 23:35; 15:7-9; Mark 7:6-8; Matt 3:7-9; John 8:33,41; Matt 27:18; Mark 3:30; Matt 23:37; Luke 13:33,34; Matt 27:25; 20:11-16).
This is the city, and these are the people; this is their character, and these are their sins: nor can there be produced their parallel in all this world. Nay, what world, what people, what nation, for sin and transgression, could or can be compared to Jerusalem? especially if you join to the matter of fact the light they sinned against, and the patience which they abused. Infinite was the wickedness upon this account which they committed.
After all their abusings of wise men, and prophets, God sent unto them John Baptist, to reduce them, and then his Son, to redeem them; but they would be neither reduced nor redeemed, but persecuted both to the death. Nor did they, as I said, stop here; the holy apostles they afterwards persecuted also to death, even so many as they could; the rest they drove from them unto the utmost corners.
SECOND, I come not to show you what it was to preach the gospel to them. It was, saith Luke, to preach to them 'repentance and remission of sins' in Christ's name; or, as Mark has it, to bid them 'repent and believe the gospel' (Mark 1:15). Not that repentance is a cause of remission, but a sign of our hearty reception thereof. Repentance is therefore here put to intimate, that no pretended faith of the gospel is good that is not accompanied with it; and this he doth on purpose, because he would not have them deceive themselves: for with what faith can he expect remission of sins in the name of Christ, that is not heartily sorry for them? Or how shall a man be able to give to others a satisfactory account of his unfeigned subjection to the gospel, that yet abides in his impenitency?
Wherefore repentance is here joined with faith, in the way of receiving the gospel. Faith is that without which it cannot be received at all; and repentance that without which it cannot be received unfeignedly. When, therefore, Christ says, he would have a repentance and remission of sins preached in his name among all nations, it is as much as to say, I will that all men everywhere be sorry for their sins, and accept of mercy at God's hand through me, lest they fall under his wrath in the judgment; for, as I have said, without repentance, what pretence soever men have of faith, they cannot escape the wrath to come. Wherefore Paul said, God commands 'all men everywhere to repent,' (in order to their salvation): 'because he hath appointed a day, in the which he shall judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained' (Acts 17:31).
And now, to come to this clause, 'Beginning at Jerusalem'; that is, that Christ would have Jerusalem have the first offer of the gospel. 1. This cannot be so commanded because they had now any more right, of themselves, thereto, than had any of the nations of the world; for their sins had divested them of all self-deservings. 2. Nor yet because they stood upon the advance-ground with the worst of the sinners of the nations; nay, rather, the sinners of the nations had the advance-ground of them: for Jerusalem was, long before she had added this iniquity to her sin, worse than the very nations that God cast out before the children of Israel (2 Chron 33). 3. It must, therefore, follow, that this cause, 'Beginning at Jerusalem,' was put into this commission of mere grace and compassion, even from the overflowings of the bowels of mercy; for indeed they were the worst, and so in the most deplorable condition of any people under the heavens.
Whatever, therefore, their relation was to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacobhowever they formerly had been the people among whom God had placed his name and worship, they were now degenerated from God, more than the nations were from their idols, and were become guilty of the highest sins which the people of the world were capable of committing. Nay, none can be capable of committing of such pardonable sins as they committed against their God, when they slew his Son, and persecuted his name and Word.