As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den, and laid me down in that place to sleep: and as I slept I dreamed a dream.
Thus begins the book, "Pilgrim's Progress" penned over 300 years ago in England. For author John Bunyan the den where he laid down was the Bedford jail - the place he called Christ's school - the place "we learn to die."
The whole world knows of "Pilgrim's Progress" but few are acquainted with the ordeals that inspired this masterpiece. "Bunyan Before the Courts" recounts Bunyans trials, his wife's unsuccessful attempt to obtain his release, and Bunyan's account of his imprisonment. While Bunyan's more famous works continue to be published, his ordeals before the judges remain buried in books that have not been republished since the 1800's. The Church was given an 1876 edition of "THE COMPLETE WORKS OF JOHN BUNYAN" which is the source for "Bunyan Before the Courts."
Bunyan was abducted while preaching the gospel and brought before the justices. His crime - preaching without a license. He was offered liberty if he would just leave off preaching. Bunyan was uncompromising. He lay in jail for 12 years - preferring to leave his beloved young family to the care of God, rather than win his freedom by submitting to the state's demands.
Those who are making the stand for Jesus Christ will find much similarity between the courts of today and England's courts of 300 years ago. As we read his dialogues with the justices, we feel the pain as he gives what is holy to the dogs. They trample his words under foot and turn and rend him. The justices toy with Bunyan and his wife as a cat teases a mouse. They ridicule and belittle Bunyan for being a simple tinker, not a preacher. Bunyan attempts to answer them with words from scripture, but finally realizes his defenses are all in vain because early in the proceedings they had taken what he said to be a confession of guilt. Instead of building a defense, perhaps Bunyan should have followed the example of the three Hebrew children who said to Nebuchadnezzar: "We have no need to answer you in this matter." (Daniel 3:16) There is no defense necessary for doing the Lord's work. Bunyan finally sees the futility of building a defense under their law. Bunyan remains confused in one area. His allegiance is divided. He somehow feels he is a subject of the British king, even though his actions show he has no king but Jesus.
We offer this book not as a model to follow when we are dragged before the tribunals, but as an example of the mindset of judges and the futility of making a defense under their law. We offer it also as an inspiration to others who go to jail for confessing that there is another King, one called Jesus. May we not lose heart, but believe that God is using us for His good purpose, even in the midst of fiery trials.
Paul Revere, Pastor