An Application of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: Praying for a Burden

May 31, 2019 | by James M. Harrison

As one begins to travel along the Pilgrim’s progress with John Bunyan, one immediately encounters the pilgrim himself, named “Christian”. Christian, the reader discovers, is distraught and in despair, due to the burden which he carries. He had not realized that he carried such a burden, until, reading The Book, he was made aware of it, and as a result, wept and trembled, and began to consider whether there be some means of being relieved of this burden. As I began to read Bunyan’s masterwork once more, (Spurgeon love Pilgrim’s Progress and stated that he had read it more than one hundred times), I was struck, in the first few pages, concerning how we ought to pray for the lost. If, as Bunyan surely intended, there is a sense in which Christian is representative of all who journey to the cross, and then on to the Celestial City, then ought we not labor in prayer for God to so work in the lives of the lost that they would follow that same path, trod by Christian? Should we not pray like this: Lord, bring him the words of the book, and through those words bring him under conviction! Make his burden unbearable. Lord, harry his mind. Give him no sleep. Fill his heart with the fear of judgment, and cause him to “fly from the wrath to come”. Cause him, Father, to begin to journey toward the distant light, through the little wicket gate, stopping his ears to all who would dissuade him from his journey, until, by Your grace, he arrives at the cross, and having arrived, be freed of his burden through the death of Christ, and His empty tomb....

Amazing Grace: How God used error for my good

May 8, 2019 | by James M. Harrison

I have a confession to make. The Roman Catholic doctrine of Auricular Confession has recently been a great help to me. Well, ok. Not the Roman Catholic doctrine itself, but rather Calvin’s refutation of that doctrine in Book 3, Chapter 4 of his Institutes. I have recently found myself, once again, in one of those prolonged “Dark nights of the soul”. The fact that this phrase originates with the 16th century Roman Catholic mystic, St. John of the Cross, is an irony not lost on me. Nevertheless, could any phrase better describe that experience of near despair, and indeed suffering, into which one is plunged when confronted once again with the breadth and depth and pervasiveness of one’s sin? When looking into the background of this phrase, I came across this definition: “dark night of the soul: a period of spiritual desolation suffered by a mystic in which all sense of consolation is removed”. There are few whose natural inclinations are so far removed from mysticism as I. Remove that element of this definition, however, and I think one is left with an accurate representation of my experience, and that of so many others. It is a period of spiritual desolation, or what Martin Lloyd-Jones referred to as “spiritual depression”, suffered by…who? Certainly not only those with a mystical bent. No. It is suffered by one who is overcome by the reality of his sinfulness and his inability to escape that which is, in fact, a part of him. It is the suffering experienced by such anti-mystics as Luther, Spurgeon, and Edwards. In my experience, these nights can go on for some time, and can result in literal nights which are very long, indeed. And yet… And yet, this, too, is in the providence of God. This, too, is for my good. Many years ago, determined to prove that all Scripture is, indeed, profitable, I committed to preach through a much neglected book of the Bible. I chose the Song of Solomon. After all these years, there is one scene which has remained with me, upon which I often meditate. The groom has come to the chamber of his bride, “A voice! My beloved was knocking.” But the bride was already tucked warmly into her bed. “I have taken off my dress, how can I put it on again? I have washed my feet, how can I dirty them again?” Finally, however, in her desire to be with her beloved, she rises. “I arose to open to my beloved.” But to her great despair, he had departed. “I opened to my beloved, but my beloved has turned away and had gone! My heart went out to him as he spoke. I searched for him but I did not find him; I called him but he did not answer me.” (Song of Solomon 5:1-8). I know not whether this sounds familiar to anyone else, but it rings familiar to me. There have been times when Christ has felt far from me. There have been times when He has withdrawn from me the confidence of his presence. And what is the result? Like the bride, I remember my love for Him. The desire for my Beloved is once again enflamed, and I go in search of Him once more. I pursue...