Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, by John Bunyan (1628-1688). Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2004 (first published in 1681, and republished in Bunyan’s Works, Volume 1, Banner of Truth, 1991). 230 pp. (paper). $8.99. [Reviewed by Prof. Barrett Gritters.]

The Calvinistic Puritan John Bunyan, best known for his Pilgrim’s Progress, wrote a fine exposition of John 6:37, which the Banner of Truth has recently republished in a small paperback. If the reader is hesitant to pick up a Puritan work because of expected tedium, he may find himself happily surprised at the sound exegesis, pointed applications, and non-tedious reading. For a work on this one verse (“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out”), 200 pages is not too much.

John Bunyan’s interest was a defense of a Calvinistic interpretation of the text over against Arminianism, exalting God’s sovereign grace in election and salvation. The book is full of memorable lines of powerful defense of the Reformed faith, easily understood by all believers.

More so, Bunyan was determined to explain the gospel to troubled sinners, especially sinners troubled by the possibility that they are not God’s children. He succeeds powerfully. No arm-chair theologian (he spent most of twelve years in prison for his faithfulness in the gospel ministry), Bunyan knew the struggles in the battle against sin, doubt, and the great Adversary.

Bunyan is wise in his pastoral applications. He avoids the temptation to ignore the causes of doubt. Although doubts are sown by the devil, there are reasons for doubt that require repentance and sorrow. In a pastoral manner, the sinner is brought to comfort in the way of a confession of his own sin and real need for Jesus Christ. The “big-bellied promises” of God come with full force on pages 177ff., where ten causes are given, in unforgettable language, why some should “be so lamentably cast down and buffeted with temptations.”

It may be for several causes. 1. Some that are coming to Christ cannot be persuaded, until the temptation comes, that they are so vile as the Scripture says they are. True, they see so much of their wretchedness as to drive them to Christ. But there is an over and above of wickedness which they see not…. 2. Some that are coming to Christ are too much affected with their own graces, and too little taken with Christ’s Person. Therefore God, to take them off from doting upon their own jewels, and that they might look more to the Person, undertaking, and merits of His Son, plunges them into the ditch by temptations…. Yes, God often, even for this thing, takes as it were our graces from us, and so leaves us almost completely to ourselves and to the tempter, that we may learn not to love the picture more than the Person of His Son…. 3. Perhaps you have been given too much to judging your brother, to condemning your brother….

Of most interest to this reviewer was the expressed desire of the publisher that the book have wide readership because it is another salvo against the enemy hyper-Calvinism. The opening statement of the “Publisher’s Foreword” notes: “The Baptist preacher and theologian, Andrew Fuller (1745-1815), was raised under a ministry which had become unbalanced due to its Hyper-Calvinistic emphases.” The blurb on the back cover has Andrew Fuller finding help from this work to “set his denomination free from the grip of hyper-Calvinism.”

Because the Protestant Reformed Churches are often charged as being hyper-Calvinist, I read with greatest interest to find whether what Bunyan would say opposed PRC theology. But there is little, if anything, in the book, that does not harmonize well with Protestant Reformed teaching. A distinction between conditional and unconditional promises will make a Protestant Reformed reader sit up carefully. An apparent inconsistency at the very end of the book that has one “coming to Christ” but not yet “come to Christ” and far from the Spirit of regeneration will leave one bewildered for a moment. But of a “well-meant offer of salvation” that has God desiring to save everyone because Christ is available to them all, there is nothing.

There is a hyper-Calvinism about, which denies that faith may be called for in the unregenerate, that denies that the gospel may call to Jesus Christ those who are not elect, that denies that faith is the duty of unbelievers. Against that theology, Bunyan’s exposition of the passage is a strong and effective counter-measure. Reformed and Protestant Reformed preachers will grow from a reading of the book.

The Banner of Truth editors or members, perplexed as they may be by this positive review in the Standard Bearer, are invited to point out what, if anything, in PRC theology is effectively countered by Bunyan’s Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ. My invitation is sincere and well-meant.