To him that believes the Scriptures aright, the promises or threatenings are of more power to comfort or cast down, than all the promises or threatenings of all the men in the world; and this was the cause why the martyrs of Jesus did so slight both the promises of their adversaries when they would have overcome them with proffering the great things of this world unto them, and also their threatenings when they told them they would rack them, hang them, burn them. None of these things could prevail upon them or against them.
I never had in all my life so great an inlet into the word of God as now, [in prison.] Those scriptures that I saw nothing in before, were made in this place and state to shine upon me. Jesus Christ also was never more real and apparent than now. Here I have seen and felt him indeed: O that word, "We have not preached unto you cunningly devised fables," and that, "God raised Christ from the dead and gave him glory, that our faith and hope might he in God," were blessed words unto me in this condition.
These three or four scriptures also have been great refreshments in this condition to me, John 14:1-4; 16:33; Heb.12:22-24; so that sometimes, when I have been in the savor of them, I have been able to laugh at destruction, and to fear neither the horse nor his rider. I have had sweet sights of the forgiveness of my sins in this place, and of my being with Jesus in another world. Oh the mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the innumerable company of angels, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of just men made perfect; and Jesus has been sweet to me in this place: I have seen THAT here, which I am persuaded I shall never while in this world be able to express. I have seen a truth in this scripture, "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
The glass was one of a thousand. It would present a man one way with his own features exactly, and turn it but another way and it would show one the very face and similitude of the Prince of the pilgrims himself. Yes, I have talked with them that can tell, and they have said that they have seen the very crown of thorns upon his head by looking in that glass; they have therein also seen the holes in his hands, in his feet, and in his side. Yea, such an excellency is there in that glass, that it will show him to one where they have a mind to see him, whether living or dead, whether in earth or in heaven, whether in a state of humiliation or in his exaltation, whether coming to suffer or coming to reign. James I: 23-25; I Cor.13:12; 2 Cor.3:13.
Then said Greatheart to Mr. Valiant-for-Truth, "Thou hast worthily behaved thyself; let me see thy sword." So he showed it him. "When he had taken it into his hand, and looked thereon awhile, he said, Ha, it is a right Jerusalem blade."
VALIANT. "It is so. Let a man have one of these blades, with a hand to wield it and skill to use it, and he may venture upon an angel with it. He need not fear its holding, if he can but tell how to lay on. Its edge will never blunt. It will cut flesh and bones, and soul and spirit, and all."
I saw then in my dream, that they went on in this their solitary ground, till they came to a place at which a man is apt to lose his way. Now, though when it was light their guide could well enough tell how to miss those ways that led wrong, yet in the dark he was put to a stand; but he had in his pocket a map of all ways leading to or from the celestial city; wherefore he struck a light -- for he never goes without his tinder-box also -- and takes a view of his book or map, which bids him be careful in that place to turn to the right hand.. And had he not been careful to look in his map, they had in all probability been smothered in the mud; for just a little before them, and that at the end of the cleanest way too, was a pit, none knows how deep, full of nothing but mud, there made on purpose to destroy the pilgrims in. Then thought I with myself, Who that goeth on pilgrimage but would have one of these maps about him, that he may look when he is at a stand which is the way he must take?
If we consider that our next state must be eternal, either eternal glory or eternal fire, and that this eternal glory or this eternal fire must be our portion according as the word of God revealed in the holy Scriptures shall determine, who will not but conclude that therefore the words of God are they at which we should tremble, and they by which we should have our fear of God guided and directed? for by them we are taught how to please him in every thing.
"Noah drank of the wine and was drunken." The Holy Ghost, when it hath to do with sin, loves to give it its own name; drunkenness must be drunkenness, murder must he murder, and adultery must bear its own name. Nay, it is neither the goodness of the man, nor his being in favor with God, that will cause him to lessen or mince his sin. Noah was drunken; Lot lay with his daughters; David killed Uriah; Peter cursed and swore in the garden, and also dissembled at Antioch. But this is not recorded to the intent that the name of these godly should rot, but to show that the best men are nothing without grace, and that "he that standeth should not be high-minded, but fear." Yea, they are also recorded for the support of the tempted, who, when they are fallen, are oft raised up by considering the infirmities of others. "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."
God's word has two edges; it can cut back-stroke and fore-stroke: if it do thee no good, it will do thee hurt; it is the savor of life unto life to those that receive it, but of death unto death to them that refuse it.
I do find in most such a spirit of idolatry concerning the learning of this world and wisdom of the flesh, and God's glory so much stained and diminished thereby, that had I all their aid and assistance at command, I durst not make use of aught thereof, and that for fear lest that grace and those gifts that the Lord hath given me, should be attributed to their wits, rather than to the light of the word and Spirit of God. Wherefore I will not take of them from a thread to a shoe-latchet, lest they should say, We have made Abraham rich.
What you find suiting with the scriptures, take, though it should not suit with authors; but that which you find against the scriptures, slight, though it should be confirmed by multitudes of them. Yea, further, where you find the scriptures and your authors agree, yet believe it for the sake of scripture's authority. I honor the godly as Christians, but I prefer the Bible before them; and having that still with me, I count myself far better furnished than if I had, without it, all the libraries of the two universities. Besides, I am for drinking water out of my own cistern: what God makes mine by the evidence of his word and Spirit, that I dare make bold with. Wherefore, seeing, though I am without their learned lines, yet well furnished with the words of God, I mean the Bible, I have contented myself with what I have there found; and having set it before your eyes,
I pray read and take, sir, what you like best; And that which you like not, leave for the rest.
Read, and read again, and do not despair of help to understand something of the will and mind of God, though you think they are fast locked up from you. Neither trouble your heads though you have not commentaries and expositions; pray and read, and read and pray; for a little from God is better than a great deal from men: also what is from men is uncertain, and is often lost and tumbled over and over by men; but what is from God is fixed as a nail in a sure place. There is nothing that so abides with us, as what we receive from God; and the reason why Christians at this day are at such a loss as to some things, is because they are content with what comes from men's mouths, without searching and kneeling before God to know of him the truth of things. Things that we receive at God's hand come to us as things from the minting-house, though old in themselves, yet new to us. Old truths are always new to us, if they come to us with the smell of heaven upon them.