Acacia John Bunyan - Online Library
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
John Bunyan died within two months of completing
his sixtieth year, on the 31st of August, 1688.
This sermon, although very short, is peculiarly interesting: howit was preserved we are not told; but it bears strong marks of having been publishedfrom notes taken by one of the hearers. There is no proof that any memorandum ornotes of this sermon was found in the autograph of the preacher.
In the list of Bunyan's works published by Chas. Doe, at the end of the 'HeavenlyFootman,' March 1690, it stands No. 44. He professes to give the title-page, wordfor word, as it was first printed, It is, 'Mr. John Bunyan's last sermon, at London,preached at Mr. Gamman's meeting-house, near Whitechapel, August 19th, 1688, uponJohn 1:13: showing a resemblance between a natural and a spiritual birth; and howevery man and woman may try themselves, and know whether they are born again or not.'Published 1689, in about one sheet in 12mo. From this it appears to have been preachedonly two days before his fatal illness, and twelve days before his decease, whichtook place August 31st, 1688. The disease which terminated his invaluable life, wasbrought on by a journey to Reading on horseback, undertaken with the benevolent designof reconciling an offended father to his son. Having accomplished his object, herode to London; on his way home, through a heavy rain, the effects of which appearedsoon after this, his last sermon was preached. He bore, with most exemplary patienceand resignation, the fever which invaded his body; and, at a distance from his wifeand family, in the house of his friend Mr. Strudwick, at Snow Hill, his pilgrimagewas ended, and he fell asleep in perfect peace, to awake amidst the harmonies andglory of the celestial city.
John Bunyan's Last Sermon
Preached, August 19, 1688, from John 1:13.
"WHICH WERE BORN, NOT OF BLOOD, NOR OF THE WILL OF THE FLESH, NOR OF THE WILLOF MAN, BUT OF GOD;" — JOHN 1:13.
The words have a dependence on what goes before, and thereforeI must direct you to them for the right understanding of it. You have it thus, —"Hecame to his own, but his own received him not; but as many as received him, to themgave he power to become the sons of God, even to them which believe on his name;which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God." Inthe words before, you have two things—
First, Some of his own rejecting him when he offered himself to them.
Secondly, Others of his own receiving him, and making him welcome. Those that rejecthim he also passes by; but those that receive him, he gives them power to becomethe sons of God. Now, lest any one should look upon it as good luck or fortune, sayshe, "They were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of thewill of man, but of God." They that did not receive him, they were only bornof flesh and blood; but those that receive him, they have God to their father, theyreceive the doctrine of Christ with a vehement desire.
First, I will shew you what he means by "blood." They that believe areborn to it, as an heir is to an inheritance; they are born of God; not of flesh,nor of the will of man, but of God; not of blood—that is, not by generation; notborn to the kingdom of heaven by the flesh; not because I am the son of a godly manor woman. That is meant by blood, (Acts 17:26), "He has made of one blood allnations." But when he says here, "not of blood," he rejects all carnalprivileges they did boast of. They boasted they were Abraham's seed. No, no, sayshe, it is not of blood; think not to say you have Abraham to your father, you mustbe born of God if you go to the kingdom of heaven.
Secondly, "Nor of the will of the flesh." What must we understand by that?It is taken for those vehement inclinations that are in man to all manner of looseness,fulfilling the desires of the flesh. That must not be understood here; men are notmade the children of God by fulfilling their lustful desires; it must be understoodhere in the best sense. There is not only in carnal men a will to be vile, but thereis in them a will to be saved also—a will to go to heaven also. But this it willnot do, it will not privilege a man in the things of the kingdom of God. Naturaldesires after the things of another world, they are not an argument to prove a manshall go to heaven whenever he dies. I am not a free-willer, I do abhor it; yet thereis not the wickedest man but he desires some time or other to be saved. He will readsome time or other, or, it may be, pray; but this will not do—"It is not inhim that wills, nor in him that runs, but in God that shews mercy;" there iswilling and running, and yet to no purpose; (Rom. 9:16), "Israel, which followedafter the law of righteousness, have not obtained it." Here I do not understandas if the apostle had denied a virtuous course of life to be the way to heaven, butthat a man without grace, though he have natural gifts, yet he shall not obtain privilegeto go to heaven, and be the son of God. Though a man without grace may have a willto be saved, yet he cannot have that will God's way. Nature, it cannot know anythingbut the things of nature; the things of God knows no man but by the Spirit of God;unless the Spirit of God be in you, it will leave you on this side the gates of heaven—"Notof blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."It may be some may have a will, a desire that Ishmael may be saved; know this, itwill not save thy child. If it were our will, I would have you all go to heaven.How many are there in the world that pray for their children, and cry for them, andready to die; and this will not do? God's will is the rule of all; it is only throughJesus Christ, "which were born, not of flesh, nor of the will of man, but ofGod." Now I come to the doctrine.
Men that believe in Jesus Christ to the effectual receiving of Jesus Christ, theyare born to it. He does not say they shall be born to it, but they are born to it;born of God, unto God, and the things of God, before they receive God to eternalsalvation. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."Now unless he be born of God, he cannot see it. Suppose the kingdom of God be whatit will, he cannot see it before he be begotten of God; suppose it be the Gospel,he cannot see it before he be brought into a state of regeneration; believing isthe consequence of the new birth, "not of blood, nor of the will of man, butof God."
First, I will give you a clear description of it under one similitude or two. A child,before it be born into the world, is in the dark dungeon of its mother's womb; soa child of God, before he be born again, is in the dark dungeon of sin, sees nothingof the kingdom of God, therefore it is called a new birth; the same soul has loveone way in its carnal condition, another way when it is born again.
Secondly, As it is compared to a birth, resembling a child in his mother's womb,so it is compared to a man being raised out of the grave; and to be born again isto be raised out of the grave of sin-"Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise fromthe dead, and Christ shall give thee life." To be raised from the grave of sinis to be begotten and born; (Rev. 1:5), There is a famous instance of Christ—"Heis the first-begotten from the dead, he is the first-born from the dead;" untowhich our regeneration alludeth,—that is, if you be born again by seeking those thingsthat are above, then there is a similitude betwixt Christ's resurrection and thenew birth; which were born, which were restored out of this dark world, and translatedout of the kingdom of this dark world into the kingdom of his dear Son, and madeus live a new life; this is to be born again; and he that is delivered from the mother'swomb, it is the help of the mother; so he that is born of God, it is by the Spiritof God.
I must give you a few consequences of a new birth.
First of all, a child, you know, is incident to cry as soon as it comes into theworld; for if there be no noise, they say it is dead. You that are born of God, andChristians, if you be not criers, there is no spiritual life in you; if you be bornof God, you are crying ones; as soon as he has raised you out of the dark dungeonof sin, you cannot but cry to God, What must I do to be saved? As soon as ever Godhad touched the jailor, he cries out, "Men and brethren, what must I do to besaved?" Oh! how many prayerless professors are there in London that never pray?Coffeehouses will not let you pray, trades will not let you pray, looking-glasseswill not let you pray; but if you were born of God, you would.
Secondly, It is not only natural for a child to cry, but it must crave the breast,it cannot live without the breast; therefore Peter makes it the true trial of a new-bornbabe; the new-born babe desires the sincere milk of the Word, that he may grow thereby.If you be born of God, make it manifest by desiring the breast of God. Do you longfor the milk of promises? A man lives one way when he is in the world, another waywhen he is brought unto Jesus Christ; (Isa. 66), "They shall suck, and be satisfied."If you be born again, there is no satisfaction till you get the milk of God's wordinto your souls; (Isa. 66:11), "To suck, and be satisfied with the breasts ofconsolation." O what is a promise to a carnal man; a whorehouse, it may be,is more sweet to him; but if you be born again, you cannot live without the milkof God's word. What is a woman's breast to a horse? But what is it to a child? Thereis its comfort night and day, there is its succour night and day. O how loath ishe it should be taken from him. Minding heavenly things, says a carnal man, is butvanity; but to a child of God, there is his comfort.
Thirdly, A child that is newly born, if it have not other comforts to keep it warmthan it had in its mother's womb, it dies. It must have something got for its succour;so Christ had swaddling clothes prepared for him; so those that are born again, theymust have some promise of Christ to keep them alive. Those that are in a carnal state,they warm themselves with other things; but those that are born again, they cannotlive without some promise of Christ to keep them alive, as he did to the poor infantin Ezekiel 17, "I covered thee with embroidered gold." And when women arewith child, what fine things will they prepare for their child! O but what fine thingshas Christ prepared to wrap all in that are born again! O what wrappings of goldhas Christ prepared for all that are born again! Women will dress their children,that every one may see them how fine they are; so he in Ezekiel 16:11—"I deckedthee also with ornaments, and I also put bracelets upon thine hands, and a chainon thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and ear-rings in thine ears, anda beautiful crown upon thine head;" and, says he in the 13th verse, "thoudidst prosper to a kingdom." This is to set out nothing in the world but therighteousness of Christ, and the graces of the Spirit, without which a new-born babecannot live, unless he have the golden righteousness of Christ.
Fourthly, A child when it is in its mother's lap, the mother takes great delightto have that which will be for its comfort; so it is with God's children, they shallbe kept on his knee; (Isaiah 66:11), "They shall suck and be satisfied withthe breasts of her consolation." Ver. 13, "As one whom his mother comforteth,so will I comfort you." There is a similitude in these things that nobody knowsof but those that are born again.
Fifthly, There is usually some similitude betwixt the father and the child; it maybe the child looks like its father; so those that are born again, they have a newsimilitude, they have the image of Jesus Christ (Gal. 4.), every one that is bornof God has something of the features of heaven upon him. Men love those childrenthat are likest them most usually; so does God his children; therefore they are calledthe children of God. But others do not look like him, therefore they are called Sodomites.Christ describes children of the devil by their features; the children of the devil,his works they will do; all works of unrighteousness, they are the devil's works.If you are earthly, you have borne the image of the earthly; if heavenly, you haveborne the image of the heavenly.
Sixthly, When a man has a child, he trains him up to his own liking, he learns thecustom of his father's house; so are those that are born of God; they have learnedthe custom of the true church of God, there they learn to cry, My Father and my God;they are brought up in God's house, they learn the method and form of God's housefor regulating their lives in this world.
Seventhly, Children, it is natural for them to depend upon their father for whatthey want. If they want a pair of shoes, they go and tell him; if they want bread,they go and tell him; so should the children of God do. Do you want spiritual bread?go tell God of it. Do you want strength of grace? ask it of God. Do you want strengthagainst Satan's temptations? go and tell God of it. When the devil tempts you, runhome and tell your heavenly Father; go pour out your complaints to God. This is naturalto children; if any wrong them, they go and tell their father; so do those that areborn of God, when they meet with temptations, go and tell God of them.
The first use is this, to make a strict inquiry whether you be born of God or not.Examine by those things I laid down before of a child of nature and a child of grace.Are you brought out of the dark dungeon of this world into Christ? Have you learnedto cry, My Father? (Jer. 3:16), "And I said, Thou shalt call me thy Father."All God's children are criers. Can you be quiet without you have a belly full ofthe milk of God's word? Can you be satisfied without you have peace with God? Prayyou consider it, and be serious with yourselves. If you have not these marks, youwill fall short of the kingdom of God, you shall never have an interest there; thereis no intruding. They will say, "Lord, Lord, open to us; and he will say, Iknow you not." No child of God, no heavenly inheritance. We sometimes give somethingto those that are not our children, but not our lands. O do not flatter yourselveswith a portion among the sons, unless you live like sons. When we see a king's sonplay with a beggar, this is unbecoming; so if you be the king's children, live likethe king's children. If you be risen with Christ, set your affections on things above,and not on things below. When you come together, talk of what your Father promisedyou; you should all love your Father's will, and be content and pleased with theexercises you meet with in the world. If you are the children of God, live togetherlovingly. If the world quarrel with you, it is no matter; but it is sad if you quarreltogether. If this be amongst you, it is a sign of ill-breeding, it is not accordingto rules you have in the Word of God.
Dost thou see a soul that has the image of God in him? Love him, love him;say, This man and I must go to heaven one day. Serve one another, do goodfor one another; and if any wrong you, pray to God to right you, and love the brotherhood.
Lastly, If you be the children of God, learn that lesson: "Gird up the loinsof your mind as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to your formerconversation; but be ye holy in all manner of conversation." Consider that theholy God is your father, and let this oblige you to live like the children of God,that you may look your Father in the face with comfort another day.