Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďSOME LESSONS FROM JOHN BUNYANĒ Part 3

Romans 12.1-2

 

Stand with me as I read John Bunyanís trial transcript before turning to our Bible text for todayís message. If you purchase a CD of this sermon, a copy of the trial transcript can be found on your copy of the CD, in Word format.

To remind you, this transcript was found among the papers of a man named Thomas Breedlove, one of nearly a thousand verbatim accounts of primarily minor trials conducted between 1660 and 1675. Among the sheaves found were these recording the proceedings of His Majesty, King Charles II, against John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrimís Progress, who spent over twelve years in an English prison for his religious convictions. The proceedings all took place on October 3, 1660.

 

Transcript of the Trial of John Bunyan

 

PROCEEDINGS, being a true account of the trial of John Bunyan, Tinker, of Bedfordshire, His Lordship, Judge Wingate presiding at the Courthouse in Bedfordshire on October 3, in the year of our Lord 1660. The Accused is charged with willful and deliberate violation of various and sundry Royal and Parliamentary Edicts. His Trial this Day, however respects a single Charge: namely, Violation of the Conventicle Acts, first proposed by Her Most High and Mighty Majesty, our Late and Beloved Queen Elizabeth, and reinstated by His Beneficent Highness, King Charles II. All Parties being in Place, and the Witnesses having been sworn, the trial proceeds.

Judge Wingate(1): Mr. Bunyan, you stand be fore this Court accused of persistent and willful transgression of the Conventicle Act, which prohibits all British subjects from absenting themselves from worship in the Church of England, and from conducting worship services apart from our Church. You come, presumably, with no legal training, and yet without counsel. I must warn you, sir, of the gravity of the charge, the harshness of the penalty, in the event of your conviction, and the foolhardiness of acting as your own counsel in so serious a matter. Are you cognizant of these facts, and do you understand the charge?

Bunyan(1): I am, and I do, Mílord.

Judge Wingate(2): In truth, I hope you do. Now, I hold in my hand the depositions of the witnesses against you. In each case, they have testified that, to their knowledge, you have never, in your adult life, attended services in the church of this parish. Each further testifies that he has observed you, on numerous occasions, conducting religious exercises in and near Bedford. These depositions have been read to you, have they not?

Bunyan(2): They have, Mílord.

Judge Wingate(3): In that case, then, this Court would be profoundly interested in your response to them.

Bunyan(3): Thank you, Mílord. And may I say that I am grateful for the opportunity to respond. Firstly, the depositions speak the truth. I have never attended services in the Church of England, nor do I intend ever to do. Secondly, it is no secret that I preach the Word of God whenever, wherever, and to whomsoever He pleases to grant me opportunity to do so.

Having said that, Mílord, there is a weightier issue that I am constrained to address. I have no choice but to acknowledge my awareness of the law which I am accused of transgressing. Likewise, I have no choice but to confess my guilt in my transgression of it. As true as these things are, I must affirm that I neither regret breaking the law, nor repent of having broken it. Further, I must warn you that I have no intention in future of conforming to it. It is, on its face, an unjust law, a law against which honorable men cannot shrink from protesting. In truth, Mílord, it violates an infinitely higher law, the right of every man to seek God in his own way, unhindered by any temporal power. That, Mílord, is my response.

Judge Wingate(4): This Court would remind you, sir, that we are not here to debate the merits of the law. We are here to determine if you are, in fact, guilty of violating it.

Bunyan(4): Perhaps, Mílord, that is why you are here, but it is most certainly not why I am here. I am here because you compel me to be here. All I ask is to be left alone to preach and to teach as God directs me. As, however, I must be here, I cannot fail to use these circumstances to speak against what I know to be an unjust and odious edict.

Judge Wingate(5): Let me understand you. You are arguing that every man has a right, given him by Almighty God, to seek the Deity in his own way, even if he chooses, without benefit of the English Church?

Bunyan(5): That is precisely what I am arguing, Mílord. Or without benefit of any church.

Judge Wingate(6): Do you know what you are saying? What of Papists and Quakers? What of pagan Mohammedans? Have these the right to seek God in their own misguided way?

Bunyan(6): Even these, Mílord.

Judge Wingate(7): May I ask if you are particularly sympathetic to the views of these or other such deviant religious societies?

Bunyan(7): I am not, Mílord.

Judge Wingate(8): Yet, you affirm a God-given right to hold any alien religious doctrine that appeals to the warped minds of men?

Bunyan(8): I do, Mí lord.

Judge Wingate(9): I find your views impossible of belief. And what of those who, if left to their own devices, would have no interest in things heavenly? Have they the right to be allowed to continue unmolested in their error?

Bunyan(9): It is my fervent belief that they do, Mí lord.

Judge Wingate(10): And on what basis, might I ask, can you make such a rash affirmation?

Bunyan(10): On the basis, Mílord, that a manís religious views or lack of them are matters between his conscience and his God, and are not the business of the Crown, the Parliament, or even, with all due respect, My lord, of this Court.

However much I may be in disagreement with another manís sincerely held religious beliefs, neither I nor any other may disallow his right to hold these beliefs. No manís right in these affairs are secure if every other manís rights are not equally secure.

Judge Wingate(11): It is obvious, sir, that you are a victim of deranged thinking. If my ears deceive me not, I must infer from your words that you believe the State to have no interest in the religious life of its subjects.

Bunyan(11): The State, Mí lord, may have an interest in anything in which it wishes to have an interest. But the State has no right whatever to interfere in the religious life of its citizens.

Judge Wingate(12): You are a tinker by trade, are you not, Mr. Bunyan?

Bunyan(12): That is correct, Mílord.

Judge Wingate(13): Would you mind apprising this Court of the extent of your formal schooling?

Bunyan(13): Not at all, Mílord. Able I am to read and write, and that with difficulty.

Judge Wingate(14): I surmised as much. I think I perceive why you are unable to appreciate the disaster that would accompany your views should ever they hold sway in our society. I myself and I say this in all modesty am not inconsiderably trained in the historianís discipline. If you were half so well-versed yourself, you would instantly recognize the fatal flaw in your reasoning. Throughout history, virtually every significant human tragedy has come about as a result of divergent religious views. Nation against nation. Brother against brother. War. Destruction. Devastation. Time and time again. And why? I shall tell you why, sir. It is because men cannot agree on which God to worship, and how to worship Him.

Now, after a long and arduous struggle, we have succeeded in forging a conformity in the religious beliefs of all Englishmen, All our problems will be resolved when everyone agrees to accommodate himself, and adopt the same orthodoxy of religious opinion. No more religious wars. No more divisive doctrinal disputes! Think of it, Mr. Bunyan! Does this not portend a society of which any man would be proud and happy to be a part?

Bunyan(14): To a degree, Mí lord, it admittedly does. But only if everyone can be convicted by virtue of reasoning alone to adopt identical views of God. The society that you describe is an appealing one, but I fear the cost is far too high. It would necessitate that honest men repudiate convictions honestly held.

Judge Wingate(15): You are, Mr. Bunyan, a strong-willed and opinionated man. Yet, this Court finds it fascinating to speak with you, and wishes time permitted further discussion of our respective philosophies. But, alas, time is passing swiftly, and other cases await our attention. Let us move, then, to the matter before us, shall we? The evidence I hold in my hand, even apart from your own admission of guilt, is sufficient to convict you, and the Court is within its rights to have you committed to prison for a considerably long time. I do not wish to send you to prison, Mr. Bunyan. I am aware of the poverty of your family, and I believe you have a little daughter who, unfortunately, was born blind. Is this not so?

Bunyan(15): It is, Mílord.

Judge Wingate(16): Very well. The decision of the Court is this: In as much as the accused has confessed his guilt, we shall follow a merciful and compassionate course of action. We shall release him on the condition that he swear solemnly to discontinue the convening of religious meetings, and that he affix his signature to such an oath prior to quitting the Courtroom. That will be all, Mr. Bunyan. I hope not to see you here again. May we hear the next case?

Bunyan(16): Mílord, if I may have another moment of the Courtís time?

Judge Wingate(17): Yes, but you be quick about it. We have other matters to attend to. What is it?

Bunyan(17): I cannot do what you ask of me, Mílord. I cannot place my signature upon any document in which I promise henceforth not to preach. My calling to preach the Gospel is from God, and He alone can make me discontinue what He has appointed me to do. As I have had no word from Him to that effect, I must continue to preach, and I shall continue to preach.

Judge Wingate(18): Mr. Bunyan, you are trying the patience of this Court!

Bunyan(18): That is not my intention, Mílord.

Judge Wingate(19): I warn you, sir, the Court has gone the second mile to be lenient with you, out of concern for your familyís difficult straits. Truth to tell, it would appear that the Courtís concern for family far exceeds your own. Do you wish to go to prison?

Bunyan(19): No, Mí lord, Few things there are that I would wish less.

Judge Wingate(20): Very well, then, Mr. Bunyan. This Court will make one further attempt in good faith to accommodate what appears to be strongly held convictions on your part. In his compassion and beneficence, our Sovereign, Charles II, has made provision for dissenting preachers to hold some limited meetings. All that is required is that such ministers procure licenses authorizing them to convene these gatherings. The Court will not require you to sign any documents, but will require only your verbal commitment to proceed through proper channels to obtain licenses. You will not find the procedure burdensome, and even you, Mr. Bunyan, must surely grant the legitimacy of the Stateís interest in ensuring that any fool with a Bible does not simply gather a group of people together and begin to preach to them. Imagine the implications were that to happen! Can you comply with this condition, Mr. Bunyan? Before you answer, mark you this: should you refuse, the Court will have no alternative but to sentence you to a prison term. Think, sir, of your poor wife. Think of your children, and particularly of your pitiful, sightless little girl. Think of your flock, who can hear you to their heartsí content when you have secured your licenses. Think of these things, and give us your answer, sir!

Bunyan(20): Mílord, I appreciate the Courtís efforts to be as you have put it accommodating. But again, I must refuse your terms. I must repeat that it is God. who constrains me to preach, and no man or company of men may grant or deny me leave to preach. These licenses of which you speak, Mílord, are symbols not of a right, but of a privilege. Implied therein is the principle that a mere man can extend or withhold them according to his whim. I speak not of privileges, but of rights. Privileges granted by men may be denied by men. Rights are granted by God, and can be legitimately denied by no man. I must therefore refuse to comply.

Judge Wingate(21): Very well, My Bunyan. Since you persist in your intractability, and since you reject this Courtís honest effort at compromise, you leave us no choice but to commit you to Bedford gaol for a period of six years. If you manage to survive, I should think that your experience will correct your thinking. If you fail to survive, that will be unfortunate. In any event, I strongly suspect that we have heard the last we shall ever hear from Mr. John Bunyan. Now, may we hear the next case.

 

I would like for you to use your copy of Bunyanís trial transcript to make some notations that will be useful during the course of my sermon. I have taken the liberty to add identifying numbers to the transcript, which we will use to locate comments made by Judge Wingate and John Bunyan. I will refer to the numbers as ways of identifying cycles of interaction between Judge Wingate and John Bunyan. I have not in any other way altered the text of the trial transcript.

Look at cycle (1). In this exchange, the judge correctly presumes, and Bunyan acknowledges, that he had no formal legal training, was advised by no attorney, and yet he openly professes to understand both the issues being dealt with and the severity of the charges leveled against him.

Now look at exchange cycle (3), in the second paragraph of Bunyanís response, where he admirably articulates a very sophisticated understanding of the principles he stands on, knowing that if there is a conflict between the law of God and the law of human government, he is duty-bound to obey the higher law.

In exchange cycle (4), the judge reprimands Bunyan, and tells him that he has no intentions of allowing the merits of the law to be argued before his court. Bunyan, in response, is both humble and firm in declaring that contrary to the judgeís reason for being in court that day, his reason for being in court was quite different.

The two continue their discussion in cycles (5) through (10), with Bunyan arguing his case for freedom of religion, and for the right of every man to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, even if Bunyan personally disagrees with that man. In this, Bunyan is centuries ahead of most philosophers and political scientists, espousing one of the earmarks of Baptist soul liberty. However, that is another sermon.

In cycles (12) and (13), the judge once again visits the issue of Bunyanís education and training. John Bunyan was a tinker, a man whose specialty was the repair of pots and pans. Additionally, he admits to being a poor reader. In Bunyanís day, tinkers were notorious for poor workmanship, and were held in such low esteem, because of their ignorance and profane speech, that their opinions were held in little or no regard, as evidenced by the popular old saying, ďI donít give a tinkerís damn.Ē[1]

In cycle (14) and 15), Bunyan demonstrates such a firm grasp of the issues and their implications that the judge admits to being fascinated by him. Judge Wingate also brings up the matter of Bunyanís blind daughter, perhaps to appeal to his love as a father in the hopes it will tempt him to compromise his convictions.

Time constrains us to wrap this up quickly. However, let me point out that during the course of this trial the lowly and ignorant tinker repeatedly displays an astonishing intellectual deftness, an amazingly sophisticated grasp of the issues, and a meek-spirited boldness in front of a powerful judge who literally holds Bunyanís life in his hands.

Where does this kind of thinking in a Christian come from? It comes from God. The same God who gave Joseph presence of mind before Potiphar and Pharaoh, who gave Moses presence of mind before the Pharaoh of his day, who gave young David presence of mind before King Saul, and who gave Daniel presence of mind before kings Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius, blessed John Bunyan.

However, John Bunyan is, in some ways, an even more spectacular example of Godís blessings in this regard than the men whose stories are recorded in the Bible. Remember, Joseph was the son of a wealthy nomad, who certainly had the best training available to someone in his circumstances. Moses and Daniel were reared in royal courts, with all the benefits related to such environments.

Only David, of those I mentioned, was born to relative ignorance and grinding poverty. Davidís advantage was being an Israelite, raised up to worship and praise Almighty God. Bunyan, on the other hand, was not raised a Christian. He had been a godless wretch of a man, living his life on the margins of English society, until he tasted that the Lord is gracious. Then, when he entered the gospel ministry and began violating the unjust and restrictive laws in effect in those days, he found himself face to face with His Majestyís Magistrate in an English court.

How could a man with such a mean background stand before a judge and argue with the meekness and clarity that Bunyan did? How are we to explain his grasp of the issues, his determination to do the principled thing not knowing how it would affect his blind daughter and beloved wife, and the classic books he wrote while in prison, the best known of which is Pilgrimís Progress?

The answer, my friends, is one that is pretty much ignored in these days of decisionism, with most professing Christians having no life-giving touch from God through real faith in Christ, and with no indwelling Spirit to transform them, to inform them, and to conform them to the image of Christ.[2]

That said, what happens when a sinner really encounters the Savior and is transformed? Not only is his personality forever altered by the influence of the indwelling Spirit of God, Galatians 5.22-23, but his mind is also greatly affected.

To see this truth in Godís Word, turn to Romans 12.1-2, and stand to read along with me:

 

1      I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

2      And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

 

Where do we see Bunyan in this passage? What was so very impressive about the ignorant tinker is the brilliance of his intellect, the clarity of his thinking, and the humility of his posture before the judge. Is that not evidence that his mind was renewed? He was a man who was transformed by the renewing of his mind. Consider three things here in Romans 12.1-2 that are related to the renewing of the Christianís mind, as Bunyanís mind was renewed:

 

First, CONSIDER THE COMMITMENT THAT IS PLEADED FOR HERE

 

The Apostle Paul begins by writing, ďI beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.Ē

Notice that Paulís plea is extended only to Christians, those who qualify as his brethren in the family of God, and who came to be Christians by the mercies of God. Titus 3.5-6:

 

5      Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

6      Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

 

What is the Apostle Paulís plea to Christians? That the Romans would, that we would, present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God. Many are willing to die for God, but Paul realized that most Christians need to be challenged to live for God, with that life lived for God being a life of personal holiness. Such a life is acceptable unto God. Such a life, in light of where we were when Jesus saved us, and what life would be like without Godís mercies, is reasonable.

My friends, it is just not reasonable to live for yourself. In light of Christís sacrifice on Calvaryís cross, Godís great mercy in sending His Son to be our Savior, and the gratitude that our Christian lives should express for His great love, being a committed Christian is the only reasonable thing.

 

Next, CONSIDER THE CONTRAST THAT IS PRESENTED TO US

 

Verse 2 begins with this contrast:    ďAnd be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mindĒ

 

Just as faith and repentance are two sides of the same evangelical coin, so we have two sides of the same coin presented to us here. On one side of the coin is the prohibition against conformity to this world, with transformation by the renewing of your mind on the other side. You are urged to stand against conformity to this evil world, and God will in turn transform you by renewing your mind.

Bunyanís example of not being conformed to this world was his refusal to submit to an English law that required him to obtain licensing by the government before preaching the gospel. However, Bunyan rightly saw that his calling from God superseded any law of human government, and that he needed no manís and no governmentís permission to do what God had called him to do.

What is the challenge that you face, in this regard? Is it the temptation to work on Sundays? Is it not true that working on Sundays is conformity to this world, since every lost man is willing to quit a church service to earn a buck? How about succumbing to the temptation to wear immodest clothing? Would that not be conformity to the world? How about the music you listen to, and the jokes you both tell and listen to? How about tithes and offerings to the Lord? The world steals from God. Do you, for whatever reason you think is justifiable, steal from God by withholding His tithe?

There are two reasons, I think, why this doctrine of the renewed mind is so little appreciated these days: First, because of so many evangelicals professing to be born again when they quite simply are not. You understand that there will be no renewing of a lost personís mind. The second reason is that there is so much compromise in the Christian world that many Christians simply do not know, because they have not been taught, that God does not want His people to conform to this world.

However, the doctrine of the renewed mind is an important truth because the world is a wicked and corrupt place, and God wants none of His children to behave like the world. We are to be separate and distinct from the world. And how else can you be separate from and distinct from the world unless your values are different and unless your actions are different?

Let me choose one example to work with: A worldling will think it is quite acceptable to work on Sunday. An evangelical will acknowledge that he really should not work on Sunday, but he will go ahead and do so because the money is good. The spiritual Christian, however, will not work on Sundays no matter how good the money is. Why not? For the same reason Bunyan did what he did. The spiritual Christian lives a principled life, and does not march to the beat of the drummer the world marches by.

Bunyan could have signed that slip of paper and continued to preach the gospel without anyone being the wiser. No one in our day would ever have known that Bunyan signed that paper, because no one would ever have heard of Bunyan. You see, Bunyanís mind was renewed because he would not conform to this world, no matter what the cost.

Do you want your mind renewed, Christian? There is a price to pay. Want to know what it is? Refuse to pimp yourself out to the world for money. Refuse to pimp yourself out to the world for acceptance. When you stop conforming to this world, then God will transform you by the renewing of your mind. Oh, the truths you will begin to grasp. Oh, the principles from Godís Word that will begin to grip your soul.

As well, notice the sequence. It is as I have always told you over the years. Obedience comes first, and then comes understanding. You stand for God against this world, and then He will renew your mind.

 

Finally, THERE IS THE CONFIRMATION THAT YOU CAN ENJOY

Romans 12.2 concludes with these words: ďthat ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.Ē

 

Some people care about Godís will for their life. Other people actually know the will of God for their life in general terms. Then there are people who have a much more clear grasp of the details of Godís particular will for their life.

Do you care about Godís will for your life? If so, you generate a great deal of anxiety when you find that you do not really do Godís will, or you do not really know Godís will. That is really sad, because it is so unnecessary.

Those who generally know Godís will for their life know that God has a general plan and purpose for people, and that He insists on people conforming their lives to His plans. It is Godís will that you obey the gospel. It is Godís will that you abstain from the appearance of evil. It is Godís will that you flee fornication and idolatry. It is Godís will that you do not forsake the assembling together of Godís people in church. It is of no use for anyone to fret about more specific details about Godís will for their life until they have first yielded to Godís will on these more general details of life.

However, when a Christian presents himself a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable to God (and this can only be done by also not being conformed to this world), then God will transform you. When He saved you He transformed your soul and gave you eternal life. This passage, however, speaks to a different kind of transformation, a transformation that is more gradual and one that comes after salvation occurs. This is a transformation that is the renewing of your mind. As this happens, you will be able to ďprove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.Ē But notice that you cannot have it all. To get the one thing, you have to forsake the other thing. To know the specific details of Godís will for your life you must be that man who has forsaken the world.

This is why so many of those evangelicals who are truly converted remain so foolish about so many things. They want the world and the things of God, not knowing that you cannot have it all. Choices have to be made.

 

What a wonderful picture of personal consecration and the renewing of the Christianís mind is given testimony to by the life of John Bunyan.

What courage he displayed.

What faith he exemplified.

Knowing that you cannot have it all, Bunyan chose the better part.

History has been witness to the fact that you cannot out give God. He gave God what little he had, and God gave back to him in superabundant supply.

May God bless you to do the same.



[1] Websterís New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1913.

[2] Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a Lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved.

Conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinnerís standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert. The objective side of salvation is justification. The subjective side of salvation is regeneration. The result is conversion.

 

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org