John Bunyan was a Puritan preacher who lived in England in the middle of the 17th century. While imprisoned for 12 years (for preaching the gospel), he wrote, among other things, the allegory: “Pilgrim’s Progress”. The original and complete title being displayed in the figure following. In the “First Stage” of the book, the author falls asleep and dreams he sees a man clothed in rags, a book in his hand, and a great burden on his back. The man’s name is Christian and he has just become aware of his “deplorable” condition – sin. Christian is greatly distressed because he was also informed that his city and all who are in it (including his wife and children) will be burned with “fire from heaven.” Enough to whet your appetite. You can read the whole book online here, or through your favorite ebook/book seller.
The lyrics to the title track of our latest EP, “What A Place Is This” were adapted from a portion of the “Third Stage” of the book. The following portion of the book describes what Christian beheld.
Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation. Isaiah 26:1. Up this way, therefore, did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back.
He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.
Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, “He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death.” Then he stood still a while, to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked, therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks. Zech. 12:10. Now as he stood looking and weeping, behold, three Shining Ones came to him, and saluted him with, “Peace be to thee.” So the first said to him, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” Mark 2:5; the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment, Zech. 3:4; the third also set a mark on his forehead, Eph. 1:13, and gave him a roll with a seal upon it, which he bid him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the celestial gate: so they went their way. Then Christian gave three leaps for joy, and went on singing,
“Thus far did I come laden with my sin,
Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,
Till I came hither. What a place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss?
Must here the burden fall from off my back?
Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?
Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be
The Man that there was put to shame for me!”
“The beginning of our bliss!” Not sure there is a better way to express salvation at the cross of Christ. No more the burden of guilt and shame; no more clothed in disgusting and filthy rags; no more fear of eternal punishment. Now only memories of the sorrow that brings eternal rest and the death that brings life eternally. The cross of Christ is where streams of tears and shouts of joy bring forth an everlasting song! We must look and look again to behold its wonders!
O what a place is this! The beginning of our bliss!
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