The reading of the word is an ordinance of God, and mean[s] of salvation, of God’s own appointment. The Bible is this word, and God has given it to us, and appointed it to be read. —THOMAS BOSTON1Thomas Boston, An Illustration of the Doctrines of the Christian Religion, in The Whole Works of Thomas Boston, Part 2, ed. Samuel M‘Millan (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1848), 2:422.
In John Bunyan’s (1628–1688) famed Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian is escorted into a private room in the Interpreter’s House. The Interpreter shows him a painting of metaphorical meaning: “Christian saw the picture of a very grave person hang up against the wall; and this was the fashion of it. It had eyes lifted up to Heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth was written upon his lips, the world was behind his back. It stood as if it pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over its head.”2John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, in The Works of John Bunyan, ed. George Offor (1854; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), 3:98.
After explaining the meaning of the portrait, Interpreter said, “I have showed thee this picture first, because the man whose picture this is, is the only man whom the Lord of the place whither thou art going, hath authorized to be thy guide in all difficult places thou mayest meet with in the way.”3Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, in Works, 3:98. It was the portrait of a faithful minister of the Word, called by God to be a trusty guide to a pilgrim people. We can discern in this portrait a summary of the idealized values of the Puritan minister.
The Puritan ideal of the faithful minister is of one who spurns the world, looks to heaven only for his reward, and—not least of all—is a man of the Book. “The best of books [is] in his hand,” Bunyan writes. It’s also in his conversation: “The law of truth was written upon his lips.” Firmly grasping the Word of God, speaking forth the wisdom of God, the Puritan sought to bring all of life under the will of God.
Interpreter tells Christian that this man of the Book is the only authorized guide appointed by God. This is not so much because of the man as it is because of the Book that is in his hand. Interpreter warns him: “Take good heed to what I have showed thee, and bear well in thy mind what thou hast seen, lest in thy journey thou meet with some that pretend to lead thee right, but their way goes down to death.”4Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, in Works, 3:98. There are many deceivers in the world who do not lead by the Book. What distinguishes the true guide from false guides is, above all, the Book. The distinctive characteristic of the sure and safe guide on the way to the Celestial City is that he is driven by Scripture alone.
Thriving in Grace: Twelve Ways the Puritans Fuel Spiritual Growth
By Joel R. Beeke and Brian G. Hedges