Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Bunyan-Burrough Debate > Kuenning dissertation, chapter 6

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These Words Thou Leavest Out

     Bunyan's overriding concern in the debate is that the Quakers' apparently exclusive preaching of something they call "Christ within" is causing people to neglect the real basis of salvation, which is to believe in what Christ has accomplished without them by his righteousness, death, resurrection, and ascension. To Burrough's claim that salvation is by Christ within he writes:

And as for thy saying, that salvation is Christ within; if thou mean, in opposition to Christ without, instead of pleading for Christ, thou wilt plead against him; for Christ, God-man, without on the cross did bring in salvation for sinners. And the right believing of that doth justify the soul. Therefore Christ within, or the Spirit of him who did give himself a ransom, doth not work out justification for the soul in the soul; but doth lead the soul out of itself, and out of that that can be done within itself, to look for salvation in that Man that is now absent from his saints on earth.1

In keeping with this end, Some Gospel Truths Opened is arranged chronologically according to the events of salvation history. Quite apart from the logical effectiveness of the actual arguments in Bunyan's series of proofs, the desired literary effect of this arrangement is to engage the reader's mind in contemplation of the events themselves.

     This arrangement of Bunyan's material, however, does not conduce to an emphasis on the logical connections among the elements of the plan of salvation. A reader who already believes in the same sequence of events, but who sees a different set of connections among them than Bunyan does, can easily fall into skimming Bunyan's material, nodding in passing at each familiar-looking item while growing increasingly bored with the catalogue, and startling into awareness only when Bunyan says something plainly wrong. This is what Burrough does:

     Sixteen of thy first Pages are filled with this (to wit) proving that there is a Christ, and that he was promised, and that he was waited for, and expected, &c. To all this I shall say nothing, except thou hadst proved it in opposition to somebody. . . .
     Then thou goest on proving, That he is the Saviour that was born of Mary, &c. which thing we never denied, and therefore I need the less to answer thee, except thou hadst spoken it in opposition to us, which I find thee not altogether, until the thirty seventh Page. . . .
     Then thy next thing is, proving many things concerning Christ, which I pass by as not having any thing therein against the Quakers. . . .2

     Bunyan's understanding of the logical structure of the plan of salvation, therefore, tends to come out only in response to Burrough's failure to conform to Bunyan's telling of the story. To alter a detail of the plot is to spoil the inner coherence of the drama, and so, within the disorganized framework of the point-by-point rebuttal, Bunyan finds himself over and over explaining why this or that detail of salvation history must be as it is and cannot take some other form without ruining the final outcome. He is forced into this scattered approach because Burrough, as we shall see later, totally fails to grasp the structure of Bunyan's thought, or of standard Protestant theology generally.

     A clue to Bunyan's theological structure can be found in the list of "some of those lies which the devil persuades some of these men to believe"3 with which he seeks to prepare the reader in his opening epistle to Some Gospel Truths Opened, where Quakerism is cast in the role of "the next damnable heresy that the devil sendeth into the world."4 The numbered list gets only as far as two items, and the second of these is simply his attempted summary of Quaker doctrine, but the first is important for us in representing the devil's denial of the core of Bunyan's theology. Our procedure will be to attempt to expand this satanically denied central doctrine, showing its relations to other parts of Bunyan's thought, in such a way that it becomes clear why Bunyan can accuse the Quakers of denying this central principle.

     It certainly is not clear to Burrough why Bunyan can make such an accusation. The first of the devil's lies (according to Bunyan) is

That salvation was not fully and completely wrought out for poor sinners by the man Christ Jesus, though he did it gloriously, (Acts xiii.38,39,) by his death upon the cross, without the gates of Jerusalem. (Heb. xiii.12, compared with John. xix.20.)5

Burrough takes this simply as a false accusation that Quakers do not believe in salvation by Christ. Quoting Bunyan's words only as far as "the man Christ Jesus" and substituting an "&c." for the rest, Burrough replies:

This Accusation is clearly false, wickedly cast upon us; for there is not salvation in any other, nor is it wrought by any other, but by Jesus Christ fully and compleatly it is brought forth by him unto every one that believes, who receives the Testimony of it in themselves. . . .6

     Bunyan is not at all satisfied. Burrough has left out what Bunyan considers the most important part of his statement. It is not just that he has shortened the quotation, but that his answer does not come to grips with the omitted part. The significance of that omitted part provides our first clue to the deeper structure of Bunyan's Protestant orthodoxy. Bunyan explains it like this:

Now these words, "he did it gloriously on the cross, without the gates of Jerusalem," thou leavest out. Therefore, I ask, do you believe that at that time, when he did hang upon that cross on Mount Calvary, that he did, by that death he died there, redeem all his elect from eternal vengeance? If not, whatever thou sayest, thou wilt certainly see, that Satan hath caught thee in his snare, notwithstanding thy railing against the Lord Jesus.7

Salvation must be from eternal vengeance, for the elect, by Christ's death, on Mount Calvary, when he hung on the cross. All of these, in Bunyan's mind, are implicit in his original statement that salvation was "fully and completely wrought out" at that time. Particularly significant, we shall discover, is Bunyan's reference to "the elect" in this expanded version, since this detail was not explicitly stated in his original version of this first of the devil's lies.

Fully and Completely Wrought Out

     To Burrough's profession of faith that salvation is by Jesus Christ, Bunyan retorts that this faith, to be valid, must specify that Christ fully accomplished salvation on the cross of Calvary. Bunyan's meaning becomes clearer when we examine his five-point definition of "what it is to lay Christ, God-man, for a foundation." Three of these points specify what must be believed to have happened in the first century:

if you do indeed lay him for your foundation, then you do believe that when the man Christ did hang on the cross on Mount Calvary, that then your sins were satisfied for at that time. . . . then you do believe that that very man in that very body did fulfil all the law, in the point of justification. . . . then you do believe, that when he was raised out of the sepulchre into which Joseph had laid him, then at that time was accomplished your justification.8

The three elements of salvation here cited are justification and its two presuppositions, satisfaction for sin and fulfilment of the law. All of these, says Bunyan, were performed outside the believer and at a particular point in historic time, when Jesus lived, died, and rose again. Because justification was carried out "at that time," there is no further work, accomplishment or decision that must occur inside the believer in order to set him right with God. Further, the believer is aware of this: integral to what he believes is that nothing he does will determine his status before God; that determination depends solely on what Christ has done for him.

     Something relevant to salvation does indeed happen in the believer, according to Bunyan, but it is strictly the result of what has happened without. Bunyan's fifth point makes this clear:

If thou hast laid Christ, God-man, for thy foundation, though thou hast the Spirit of this man Christ within thee, yet thou doest not look that justification should be wrought out for thee by that Spirit of Christ that dwelleth within thee, for thou knowest that salvation is already obtained for thee by the man Christ Jesus without thee, and is witnessed to thee by his Spirit which dwelleth within thee.9

The Spirit of Christ dwells within the believer, but its function, so far as justification is concerned, is only to assure the believer of his justification, not to make it happen. The Spirit of Christ within the believer functions as a witness to the work of Christ without the believer. Once again, the believer knows this. He is aware of the Spirit's presence in his heart, but he does not imagine that this is what determines his standing with God. The Spirit itself assures him otherwise.

     Bunyan's fourth point also serves to reinforce this insistence that what Christ does to accomplish the believer's justification, he does strictly outside the believer—not only in the historic past but in the believer's lifetime as well:

If you have indeed laid Christ, God-man, for your foundation, then you do lay the hope of your felicity and joy on this, that the Son of Mary is now absent from his children in his person and humanity, making intercession for them and for thee, in the presence of his Father. (2 Cor. v.6.)10

(However, Bunyan's chief purpose in including this point is to counter the Quaker idea that Christ's flesh is within the saints; this will be the topic of the next chapter.)

     Alert readers familiar with the customary technical terminology of the Calvinist ordo salutis may already have noticed in the above quotations Bunyan's nonstandard account of justification. Ordinarily this refers to an event in the life of the believer, that element of the conversion process in which the new believer passes from an unreconciled to a reconciled relationship with God. Bunyan, however, insists that justification, not just in general but "your justification" in particular, "was accomplished" when Jesus rose from the dead. As it happens, Bunyan's expressions on this point are verbally similar to the concept of "eternal justification" found among the familiar byways of Reformed theology. Before pigeonholing him in this variant of Calvinist soteriology, however, we must recall our earlier discovery that Bunyan's vocabulary is capable of occasional subtle discrepancies from the technical terms of the tradition in which the Bedford church has informally educated him. A closer examination of his meaning, as regards both justification and faith, will thus be called for in its place.

     In the meantime we proceed with the way Bunyan uses his doctrine in his critique of Quakerism. Answering Burrough's query on the end of the law, Bunyan shows why he has insisted on salvation being completely accomplished at that time:

But if there were any thing yet to be done for justification, which was not then done, there could not be an end put to the law for righteousness, for every one that believeth. But in that there is an end put to the law for righteousness by Jesus for all the elect of God, Christ having once fulfilled it for them, it is manifest that there was not anything then left undone by Christ at that time, which was afterwards to be done by his own Spirit in his children for justification: only believe what the man Christ, at that time, did do, and be saved, (Acts xiii.29-39:). . . .11

Unlike Burrough, Bunyan maintains that nothing needed for justification is done within the believer. If anything had to be done in the elect, this would constitute a law which the saints had to fulfill. But if, as Bunyan finds in Rom 10:4, an end has been put to the law "for righteousness," i.e. with respect to justification, the reason can only be that Christ has already done it all, not within the believer but without him.

     This is why Burrough's informants are able to hear Bunyan (whatever his actual words) as saying, in an encounter on January 30, 1657, that "the Spirit of Christ doth nothing (Mark) within man, as to justification."12 The parenthetical "mark" is probably Burrough's scandalized comment, but the rest is verbally quite close to the above passage from the Vindication. We must note carefully that it is not only the believer himself who does nothing toward justification: neither does the Spirit of Christ working in him. This is why Burrough's answer "there is not salvation in any other, nor is it wrought by any other, but by Jesus Christ fully and compleatly it is brought forth by him unto every one that believes" misses Bunyan's point. If Burrough intends that salvation is worked out within, it matters nothing to Bunyan whether Burrough attributes this inward working to Christ or to the believer; it is being done in the wrong place.

     For Bunyan, if Christ does anything within the believer this can only mean that it is done strictly by the Spirit of Christ in his divine nature alone. Jesus Christ as man cannot be involved, because Jesus as man cannot be inside the saints. To prove this point Bunyan resorts to a recycled piece of Zwinglian eucharistic polemic:

Consider, that he that ascended from his disciples was a man with flesh and bones, not a spirit only; for, "handle me, and see," saith he, "for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have." (Luke xxiv.39,50,51.) Now, let the adversaries show by the Scriptures that there is any place in them called heaven, that is able to contain a man of some four or five feet long, the space of fifteen or sixteen hundred years; besides that, therefore, it must needs be that heaven without, which is above the clouds and stars.13

If the eucharistic bread of the Lutherans and Roman Catholics cannot contain Jesus' physical body, then surely neither can the physical body of any Quaker: there is no room. (That a place called heaven must "contain" a man of ordinary human dimensions is based on the Geneva Bible text of Acts 3:21: "Whom the heaven must containe untill the time that all things be restored.")

     If salvation was accomplished by Christ as man, then, it was done outside the believer, in that body that was crucified at Jerusalem and is now in heaven, absent from his saints on earth. For Bunyan, only on this understanding does the incarnation of Christ make sense. If salvation could have been accomplished any other way, then there was no reason for Christ to become man and die on the cross:

If a spirit only could have made satisfaction, and so have saved man; then Christ needed not to have come into the world, and to have been born of a woman, (Gal. iv.4;) but in that he must come into the world, and must be born of a woman, it is clear, that without this he could not have been a Saviour; for he was made of a woman, made under the law, to this end, that he might redeem them that were under the law; implying, no subjection to this, (viz. the taking of the nature of man,) no redemption from the curse of the law.14

     This well-known Anselmian argument is at the heart of Bunyan's attack on Quakerism in Some Gospel Truths Opened. It is in order to make this point that Bunyan goes about systematically "proving many things concerning Christ," as Burrough puts it. Instead of merely cataloguing Quaker heresies as other writers had done, Bunyan wishes to prove that whatever the Quakers may say about the incarnation of Christ, they do not really believe in it in any sense that matters. For the only sense that matters is that God became man in order to save sinners, and this can be true only if salvation was "fully and completely wrought out" when Jesus died on the cross and rose again.

     Bunyan's attempt in the Vindication to restate his argument for a frustratingly uncomprehending Burrough leads Mullett to characterize "Bunyan's debating technique" as "an attempt to push Burrough into a tight dialectical trap" and a demand for "a kind of loyalty oath to Protestant dogmas."15 This agrees with Burrough's view ("asking subtil Queries to insnare the Innocent"),16 but we need to see that for Bunyan this is no mere tactic. His aim is to defend the integrity and coherence of the Christian story of salvation (in its classical Protestant form), and he can do this only by showing that the doctrinal deviations he finds in Quakerism are such as to rob that story of its essential meaning.

For All the Elect of God

     For Bunyan's anti-Quaker argument to make sense, Christ's death at Jerusalem must be totally efficacious for salvation. It can be no merely potential salvation that Christ has accomplished, which might or might not come to pass for any given individual. Those for whom Christ died must inevitably be saved, because as Bunyan insists, everything necessary for their salvation has been accomplished. This leads directly to the doctrines of predestination and limited atonement, both of which Bunyan asserts in Some Gospel Truths Opened, though more as presuppositions than as explicit steps in his argument.

     The predestination Bunyan expounds in Some Gospel Truths Opened is of the infralapsarian sort:

Now God in his own wisdom and counsel, knowing what would come to pass, as if it were already done, (Rom. iv.17;) He, knowing that man would break his commandments, and so throw himself under eternal destruction, did in his own purpose fore-ordain such a thing as the rise of him that should fall, and that by a Saviour.17

God's eternal planning before the creation of the world develops in the form of an initial schema (the creation of the world and mankind in original perfection), a foreseen challenge (the fall), and a subsequent adjustment to the original plan (the sending of Christ as Savior).

     But if the fall of Adam occurs in this sequence as merely foreseen and not directly planned by God, it is the only such element. Nowhere in the texts before us does Bunyan speak of God as foreseeing any other event and planning around it. In particular, the choices of particular sinners to accept or reject the gospel of Christ play no such role as does the fall. Bunyan tells us rather that God

did with the everlasting Son of his love make such an agreement, or bargain, that upon such and such terms he would give him a company of such poor souls as had by transgression fallen from their own innocency and uprightness, into those wicked inventions that they themselves had sought out. (Eccles. vii.29.)18

This "company" is no indeterminate group of those who will turn out to meet certain conditions. In praying for them Christ knows which particular "poor souls" are due him on the terms of his covenant with his Father:

And thus is that place to be understood in John xvii.9: "I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for those that thou hast given me," which I covenanted with thee for; "thine they were, and thou gavest them me," but on such and such conditions as are before mentioned, Zech. ix.19

In the same context Bunyan also refers to this covenant ("or bargain") between Father and Son to explain the statement of Eph 1:4 that God "hath chosen us in him, that is, in Christ, before the foundation of the world," thus avoiding the usual Arminian interpretation (that God chose those whom he foresaw would be in Christ) by making "chosen . . . in him" mean "chosen as part of the terms of his covenant with him."

     It is of course no surprise that Bunyan is a predestinarian. More significant for the present purpose is that within the range of possible predestinarian theologies Bunyan holds to the doctrine of limited atonement.20 Bunyan tells Burrough that "there is an end put to the law for righteousness by Jesus for all the elect of God, Christ having once fulfilled it for them,"21 and demands to know whether Burrough believes "that he did, by that death he died there, redeem all his elect from eternal vengeance."22 He does not say that Christ redeemed all of humanity, or fulfilled the law for all. If Bunyan does not here explicitly reject the opposite doctrine, it is because he has no apparent need to, for although Burrough is no predestinarian, he sometimes uses language oddly reminiscent of limited atonement:

Christ fulfills not the Law for his Enemies, they must bear their own burthen . . . I deny that Christ hath put an end to the Law for thee, who art a Lyar, and breaks one, and so is guilty of all.23

     The importance of limited atonement for this study is that it is the necessary presupposition of Bunyan's doctrine that Christ completely accomplished the salvation of sinners by dying on the cross. Some sinners, to be sure, are lost eternally, but this is not because Christ's accomplishment was less than complete (needing some supplement from them which they fail to provide). It is simply because the lost are not among that company of poor sinners that the Father gave to Christ in their covenant made before the creation. The salvation that Christ completely accomplished was not for them to begin with. But for the elect, the intended recipients of Christ's bounty, there is nothing lacking for their salvation in what he provided by dying and rising again.

     Bunyan applies his argument to the Quakers, but the logic of it is such as to be equally valid for any variety of Christianity that does not subscribe to Bunyan's type of soteriology. At one point, Burrough having made reference to the pope, Bunyan seems willing to include the pope along with the Quakers among those who do not really believe in the incarnate Christ because they do not believe that he completely accomplished salvation on the cross.24 Historiographically, therefore, Bunyan's testimony that the Quakers "will not own Christ without them"25 should be recognized for what it is: an inference from soteriological disagreement to Christological disagreement, believed passionately enough within Bunyan's own belief system, but not a direct reflection of Quaker statements.

To Lay Hold and Apply

     If there is nothing lacking in Christ's death for the salvation of the elect, we must recall that for Bunyan this excludes not only anything they themselves might perform but also anything the Spirit of Christ might do in them. Such a drastic claim may raise an interpretive difficulty for the sympathetic reader of Bunyan. For of course Bunyan elsewhere refers, as must any orthodox Protestant, to "justifying faith," assuring us that the faith which justifies is the gift of God.26 We must therefore examine how Bunyan can hold that the Spirit creates within the believer the faith which justifies, and yet does nothing within the believer that contributes to justification.

     Bunyan himself obviously does not think there is any contradiction here. The very same sentence cited above, denying any justifying role for the Spirit within, continues immediately "only believe . . . and be saved."27 Bunyan's escape from contradiction here cannot consist solely of making the believer purely passive in believing, for he has just excluded not only the believer's work but the Spirit's as well from justification. He must therefore have in mind a sense in which believing (and, on the Spirit's part, inspiring belief) does not count as "doing" anything, at least not "for justification," even if the same faith "justifies" in some different sense.

     To find the required senses will take some investigation. Let us begin with the definition of justification which Bunyan offers Burrough:

To be justified in the sight of God by Jesus Christ, is for God to look on such poor creatures as we are as complete, without spot or wrinkle in the obedience of the man Christ Jesus; who otherwise could not behold them in love, because of their iniquity (Hab. i.13.)28

The expression "in the sight of God" is deliberate, for Bunyan is here answering Burrough's question, "what is the sight of God?"29 Burrough's aim in asking this, at the end of a question on justification and works, is to force the answer that God sees things as they really are. Bunyan deliberately avoids this, for he wishes to define justification as God's choice to see certain "poor creatures" as other than they are, in fact as Jesus Christ is. The expression "justified . . . by Jesus Christ," therefore, means that it is "the obedience of the man Christ Jesus" which gives God something else to look at in place of the iniquity of the creature.

     When Bunyan speaks of "doing" something "for justification" it is this that he refers to. That which is done "for justification" (if successful) is that which God looks at instead of creatures' iniquities in order to be able to "behold them in love." A similar usage applies to the "terms" of a covenant "as to justification":

Now, observe, the terms of the law and of the gospel are different one from another as to justification. If men seek for life by the law, then the law saith, Fulfil me perfectly, and thou shalt live. The Spirit saith, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save those that by transgression had broken the law.30

In denying, therefore, that anything done within the believer contributes to justification, Bunyan means that God, in seeking possible grounds for pardon, does not consider for that purpose anything done within the creature, whether done by the creature's own will or by God's Spirit within. Faith, being a gift of the Spirit, is included in this denial: it is not among the factors that God considers when choosing to pardon, for the only thing that counts in this regard is the obedience and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, humanly performed in first-century Judea.

     But if Bunyan excludes faith from justification in this specific sense, he is still free to assign it some other role in the process, as he evidently does since he refers to "justifying faith." In search of this role we may turn to the catechism at the end of Some Gospel Truths Opened, where Bunyan answers the question, "What is this faith that doth justify the sinner?":

     Ans. It is a gift, (Eph. ii.8,) fruit, (Gal. v.22,) or work, (2 Thess. i.11,) of the Spirit of God, whereby a soul is enabled, under a sight of his sins and wretched estate, to lay hold on the birth, righteousness, blood, death, resurrection, ascension and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, by the assistance of the Spirit, whereby it is wrought, to apply all the virtue, life, and merit of what hath been done and suffered, or is a doing by the same Lord Jesus Christ, to its own self in particular, (Gal. ii.20. Rom. vii.24,25,) as if itself had really done all that the Lord Jesus hath done.31

The function of faith is thus, on this account, "to lay hold on" and "to apply" the merits of Christ to the believing soul.

     This may be at first sight a semantically odd usage of "apply," since on the model established so far it would seem rather to be God who applies Christ's merits to an individual by choosing to look at those merits instead of the individual's sins. Our problem here is to choose between two of the meanings in the Oxford English Dictionary (both with suitable date ranges): a causative sense "To bring (a law, rule, test, principle, etc.) into contact with facts, to bring to bear practically, to put into practical operation" and a merely assertive sense "To give (to a general, theoretical, or figurative statement) a specific reference to a particular instance: to use it as relative or suitable to." Bunyan's wording "to its own self in particular" could be suitable to either.

     In the clarification that immediately follows, Bunyan paraphrases his foregoing word "apply" in terms of what the soul "doth know":

I do not say that the soul doth anything for justification, but it doth know, that whatsoever Jesus Christ hath done in point of justification, is given to, and bestowed upon it, (Rom. iii.22;) and God finding the soul in him, that is, in Christ, doth "justify it from all things from which it could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts xiii.38,39.)32

If we follow this explanation, we must take Bunyan's "apply" not in the sense that the soul causes Christ's righteousness to be imputed to itself but that the soul merely registers in its own consciousness the already existing fact of imputation which has taken place in the mind of God.

     Corresponding to this reading is Bunyan's statement in the Vindication that the Spirit "showeth those things" to the soul, bestowing a knowledge more immediate than any that could be gained solely from historical information:

And the reason that thou canst rejoice hereat is, because thou hast not only heard of it with thine ear only, but dost enjoy the sweet hope and faith of them in thy heart; which hope and faith is begotten by the Spirit of Christ, which Spirit dwelleth in thee, if thou be a believer, and showeth those things to thee to be the only things. And God having shown thee these things, thus without thee by the Spirit that dwelleth in thee, thou hast mighty encouragement to hope for the glory that shall be revealed at the coming again of the man Christ Jesus. . . .33

(The "thou" here is not Burrough but any hypothetical individual who meets the condition "If you have indeed laid Christ, God-man, for your foundation.")

     Further, if Bunyan can use the term "apply" to explain "faith," he can also reverse the procedure and use "really and truly believe" to explain "apply." He appears to do this when objecting that Burrough has trivialized his (Bunyan's) account of "living by faith":

But, friend, I speak of applying these things, and thou speakest of talking of them. . . . But tell me, what sayest thou to him that doth apply all these things to his soul, is there not enough in them to justify him that doth really and truly, in the power of the Spirit, believe this to be true which I have said?34

Since Bunyan is here trying to prove that his own meaning was non-trivial, he would be motivated to explain "applying these things" in the most active sense possible for him. That he confines himself to underlining the concept of believing with the expressions "really and truly" and "in the power of the Spirit" again suggests that either his doctrine in general or his perception of the needs of the current controversy forbids him to go further and attribute any causative force to the act of "applying."

     Whether Bunyan follows these definitions consistently, however, may be questioned. In practice it is obvious that throughout the controversy with Burrough he is intensely concerned to bring his readers to a right belief through a right conversion, expecting that this right belief will in fact be effective in saving their souls (and not merely in making known to them a salvation that they already possess unawares). We need only think of such expostulations as "So that now, believe aright in what the Son of Mary hath done without on the cross, and be saved,"35 where the causal connection is implicit in the exhortation. Also, although we cannot here safely appeal to the vast number of passages where Bunyan makes the class of believers coextensive with the class of the saved without directly asserting causality, there are some passages where it is very hard to avoid the sense that faith is the means of receiving justification and not merely the means of knowing of it. For example:

This righteousness which this Christ did accomplish is called, "the righteousness of God," (Rom. iii.22.) This righteousness of God is, by the faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe. My meaning is, it is imputed to so many as shall by faith lay hold on it.36

"Lay hold" here seems too strongly causal to be reducible to the receiving of assurance that righteousness has been imputed. Clearer yet is this catechetical item, where the question demands a causative answer:

     Quest. How do men come by this righteousness and everlasting life?
     Ans. By faith men lay hold upon it, and apply it to their own souls in particular. (Gal. ii.20.) For it is by faith they are justified, as also saith the Scripture. (Rom. v.1.) That his faith lays hold on and applies that which this Christ of God hath done, and is a doing, and owns it as his own.37

     On balance then it seems safest to suppose that Bunyan uses the word "apply" in both causative and merely assertive senses, sometimes one of these being predominant and sometimes the other. Quite likely, indeed, Bunyan is not at this period even aware that there are two senses involved and thus slips insensibly back and forth between them. Aiding him in this dual usage is the sense that the knowledge imparted in faith (in the assertive sense of "apply") is a gift of the Holy Spirit beyond the believer's natural cognitive ability, for the prophetic message imparted by the Spirit has often enough been experienced as carrying its own creative power to bring about that of which it speaks (thus allowing an unnoticed transition to the causative sense of "apply").

     We are now in a position to pull together the pieces of our semantic puzzle. When Bunyan states that "at that time [the resurrection of Jesus] was accomplished your justification," he is not denying that a transition from wrath to grace occurs in the believer's own lifetime. That transition occurs when a person first believes with a faith that "lays hold on" justification and "applies" it to himself in particular; its nature will appear in more detail in chapter 8. What Bunyan calls the "justification" that was accomplished at the death and resurrection of Jesus is simply the basis for justification, the sacrifice and righteousness of Christ that will be imputed to the believer when he is converted. Bunyan is pushed into calling this "justification" because he wants to emphasize that this is what God looks at when justifying the sinner, and therefore also what the sinner should be looking at in seeking justification. He is also helped by Rom 4:25, which says that Jesus was "raised again for our justification," to specify the resurrection as the moment of which to say "at that time was accomplished your justification."38

Which Thing We Never Denied

     Bunyan's logic is completely wasted on Burrough, who has no idea how to begin to understand a treatise like Some Gospel Truths Opened. What Burrough knows of Protestant theology he knows only as taglines associated with various groups. He shows no awareness of theological structure. Hence his 1655 A Trumpet of the Lord Sounded forth of Sion takes on the various religious groupings of the time by quoting one or two characteristic slogans of each, and his replies are in the form of ad hominem rebukes rather than doctrinal rebuttals:

     To all you called Papists . . . Thus, assuredly, saith the Lord. . . . whilst you say, You have wrought to merit life eternal, your unbelief will bring death everlasting, and your Works merit my Fire of eternal Judgment and Condemnation; and while you have said, You eat and drink the Flesh and Blood really, you have crucified his Life totally. . . .
     To all you called Protestants of the Eldest sort. Thus saith the Lord. . . . you say you believe for Eternal Life, but your unbelief will bring upon you everlasting death: your talking of Christ, and his righteousness imputed (which you profess) will not cover your infidelity and filthiness, for you are in the enmity against his Life . . . and while you say you eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ in the figure, you kill and crucifie him in the Substance. . . .
     To all you that are called Presbyterians and Independents. The Lords controversie is against you. . . . where you say, you believe for Justification, and applies the Promises for Savation; your works of Wickedness and Hypocrisie will bring Damnation, and gains the promise of Condemnation . . . and you are found wanting every whit, the conditions of the Promise of Eternal Life . . . and while you say you eat and drink the Flesh and Blood of Christ in secret, and separate, you put him to death openly, and among the multitudes. . . .
     To all you that are called Anabaptists. With you also is the Controversie of the Lord. . . . while you say, you eat and drink the Flesh and Blood of Christ in the Saints manner, shewing forth his Death till he come to Salvation; you kill him as the Heathens do, till he appear unto Condemnation . . . you say Christ dyed only for you as Elect, but your works make manifest that he dies by you as Reprobate. . . .39

The list continues with General Baptists, Fifth Monarchists, Ranters, and Seekers, showing overall an approximately conservative-to-radical arrangement. But though Burrough can quote soteriological slogans, in no case does he criticize a group on the ground that their soteriological doctrines are false. One doctrine he does indeed repudiate, the Calvinistic doctrine that Christ died only for the elect (attributed only to the "Anabaptists," i.e. Particular Baptists), but he does this only when addressing a different group, the General Baptists, and then only to tell them that their own opposite doctrine is correct only in theory but not as they apply it to themselves:

     And to you who are called Free-willers, who say Christ died for All. Herein you affirm that whereof you are ignorant, which may be true in Christ, but a Lye unto you. . . . You say, He that is condemned, it is because he will not believe; this is true in Christ but not in your carnal apprehensions of the natural man, in whom there is no power to believe.40

     That the concepts of limited atonement (attributed only to "Anabaptists"), imputed righteousness (attributed only to "Protestants of the eldest sort"), and justification by faith (attributed only to "Presbyterians and Independents") might be related parts of a theological structure common to most of his Protestant opponents does not seem to occur to Burrough. That he is largely silent on theology here is, of course, because he is primarily interested in prophetic declamation (most of which has been pruned from these quotations). But that the fragments of doctrine which he does mention occur in such disarray suggests that he really does not see their interrelations. The informal religious education he has received among the Quakers has not prepared him to understand the underlying system of another religious outlook.

     Certainly in dealing with Bunyan Burrough behaves as if systematic theology were invisible to him. He ignores the structure of Bunyan's theology too well to be doing it studiously and deliberately. It is not merely that he does not arrange his response systematically, but in choosing which details to answer he attends only to their role in his own theology and not to their role in Bunyan's. For instance, Burrough criticizes only the last clause in this sentence of Bunyan's:

God seeing that we would transgress, and break his commandment, did before choose some of those that would fall, and give them to him that should afterward purchase them actually, though, in the account of God, his blood was shed before the world was.41

If Burrough truly understood the importance of predestination and limited atonement in Bunyan's system, as that which makes it possible to say that the salvation of the elect was fully accomplished at the historical crucifixion of Christ without reference to anything done in them, he could hardly bypass the reference to it earlier in this sentence and attend only to the last clause. Fox, to be sure, does happen upon another statement of the doctrine elsewhere in Bunyan (which Burrough again misses), yet even he treats it only briefly and in passing:

     Pr. And thou sayst, 'that Christ died for the sins of the elect.'
     Ans. And the scripture saith, he was an offering for the sins of the whole world; and who shall lay charge to God's elect whom he justifies.42

     This failure to grasp the role of a theological system in Bunyan's presentation is why Burrough can disparage Bunyan's work as not even a good example of its kind:

yet doth your King (the Prince of Darkness) accept your labour, and your substance; for had you been more learned in his subtilty, and more stockt in his craft, a larger portion; and more to the purpose might have been brought in, but with such as you had, or could procure, from your Neighbours are you come, and have gained a report, and a name in the record of Mischief against the Lamb, and his Followers, whom you have made your subject to treat Lyes upon.43

To Burrough, Bunyan's exposition of his own theology in Some Gospel Truths Opened is only so much padding. For a work intended as an attack on Quakerism, Bunyan's is poorer in specific charges and trick questions than others Burrough has seen. The twenty questions of Philip Bennett which Burrough answered in 1654 probably seemed to him a much more concentrated dose of anti-Quaker sophistry than what Bunyan managed to produce. Bennett's work too he disparages (doing so seems to be part of the genre), but as unspiritual, not as lacking in devilish craft.44

     Burrough's incomprehension of theological system also explains why he responds, to Bunyan's first block of scriptural proofs,

To all this I shall say nothing, except thou hadst proved it in opposition to somebody; for what is Truth I own by the Spirit of the Lord, as it is Truth in Christ; but as it comes from thy lying spirit, I do not so well own it; I own the words, and I deny thy voice, and this is my Answer.45

Burrough senses that something is going on in this material which he cannot accept, but he is at a loss to specify what it is. It cannot be the scripture quotes which abound in this material, for those are Truth given by the Spirit of the Lord; the problem therefore must be Bunyan's "lying spirit." Burrough repeats the formula "I own the words, and I deny thy voice" in his conclusion to The True Faith,46 and after Bunyan has attacked this as foolishness in the Vindication,47 Burrough turns it into a refrain (four occurrences) in Truth the Strongest, concluding with this summary:

I do not befool my self in saying the words (or some of them) I own in thy Book, though I have written against the Book; for though thou speak Christs words and the Apostles words, yet thy voice is the strangers, and thy voice I deny, whatever words thou speakst. . . .48

Luxon, who overestimates the importance of this formula, takes it to mean that

Burrough more often than not sees himself in perfect agreement with Bunyan's theology . . . but their agreement, says Burrough, is only word-deep, and so not really agreement at all.49

But "agreement with Bunyan's theology" does not come into it, for Burrough does not get so far as to see that Bunyan has a theology. He sees only that Bunyan is spouting words, many of them borrowed from scripture, in order to disguise his slanders against the Quakers as an edifying discourse.


     1. Bunyan, Vindication, 142-143 (appendix, 254, col. 3).

     2. Burrough, The True Faith, 11, 12, 15, (appendix, 274, 278, 293, 296, col. 2).

     3. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 17 (appendix, 259, col. 1).

     4. Ibid., 15 (appendix, 251, col. 1).

     5. Ibid., 17 (appendix, 259, col. 1).

     6. Burrough, The True Faith, 9 (appendix, 259, col. 2). In one of his typical reversals of the accusation, Burrough continues: "for if thou have no Testimony of it, but without thee, the Pope and his Idolaters have as much as thou, and may be more; take back to thee thy Lye again with shame and confusion."

     7. Bunyan, Vindication, 145 (appendix, 260, col. 3).

     8. Ibid., 140-141 (appendix, 252-253, col. 3).

     9. Ibid., 142 (appendix, 253, col. 3).

     10. Ibid., 141 (appendix, 253, col. 3).

     11. Ibid., 155 (appendix, 285, col. 3).

     12. Burrough, Truth the Strongest, 55 (appendix, 372, col. 4).

     13. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 78-79 (appendix, 332, col. 1).

     14. Ibid., 36-37 (appendix, 278, col. 1).

     15. Mullett, John Bunyan in Context, 135.

     16. Burrough, The True Faith, 27 (appendix, 357, col. 2).

     17. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 30 (appendix, 274, col. 1).

     18. Ibid., 31 (appendix, 275, col. 1).

     19. Ibid., 32 (appendix, 276, col. 1).

     20. Richard Greaves, while opining that Bunyan probably always held a doctrine of limited atonement, allows some room for doubt about his beliefs on this point early in his life: John Bunyan and English Non-conformity (London: Hambledon, 1992), 190. The argument here may help reduce the room for doubt. [This note was slightly revised after the dissertation was filed, based on a question that was raised during its oral defense.]

     21. Bunyan, Vindication, 155 (appendix, 285, col. 3).

     22. Ibid., 145 (appendix, 260, col. 3).

     23. Burrough, Truth the Strongest, 28 (appendix, 285, col. 4).

     24. Bunyan, Vindication, 149 (appendix, 265, col. 3).

     25. Ibid., 138 (appendix, 245, col. 3).

     26. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 17 (appendix, 261, 263, col. 1).

     27. Bunyan, Vindication, 155 (appendix, 285, col. 3).

     28. Ibid., 196 (appendix, 361, col. 3).

     29. Burrough, The True Faith, 29 (appendix, 361, col. 2).

     30. Bunyan, Vindication, 169 (appendix, 307, col. 3).

     31. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 104-105 (appendix, 347, col. 1).

     32. Ibid., 105 (appendix, 347, col. 1).

     33. Bunyan, Vindication, 141 (appendix, 253, col. 3).

     34. Ibid., 160 (appendix, 289-290, col. 3).

     35. Ibid., 140 (appendix, 253, col. 3).

     36. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 65 (appendix, 324, col. 1).

     37. Ibid., 104 (appendix, 347, col. 1).

     38. Bunyan, Vindication, 140-141 (appendix, 253, col. 3).

     39. Edward Burrough, A Trumpet of the Lord Sounded forth of Sion (1655), in Memorable Works, 102-105.

     40. Ibid., 107.

     41. Bunyan, Some Gospel Truths Opened, 30 (appendix, 274, col. 1).

     42. Fox, Works, 3:346.

     43. Burrough, The True Faith, 3 (appendix, 242, col. 2).

     44. Burrough, Memorable Works, 29.

     45. Burrough, The True Faith, 11 (appendix, 274, col. 2).

     46. Ibid., 25 (appendix, 351, col. 2).

     47. Bunyan, Vindication, 186 (appendix, 351, col. 3).

     48. Burrough, Truth the Strongest, 50 (appendix, 351, col. 4).

     49. Luxon, Literal Figures, 132.

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