John Bunyan (1628-1688) has become widely known for a very small number of his writings. Justifiably, The Pilgrim's Progress, Grace Abounding and The Holy War have had a place in the hearts of many Christians. Sadly, his other books have lain largely forgotten, including Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ. This book, first published in 1681, is an exposition of John 6:37: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
Bunyan begins by clearly establishing who the "all" that are given to Jesus Christ by the Father are. He demonstrates that "all" refers only to the elect and that they were given before time began. These are truths that it is good to have re-established in our hearts and minds, in a day when so much is thrown against them. He then explains what it is to come to Christ on a personal level. He shows that the coming sinner will only come as moved by the Holy Spirit, made sensible of their sinful state by nature and enabled by faith to see a beauty in the Lord Jesus as their only hope of salvation. He delineates the many doubts and fears that beset a coming sinner and answers them in a beautiful manner:
But I am a great sinner,...an old sinner,...a hard-hearted sinner,...a backsliding sinner,...have served Satan all my days,...have sinned against light, mercy...' sayest thou. 'I will in no wise cast out,' says Christ. Thus I might go on to the end of things, and show you, that this promise was provided to answer all objections, and doth answer them. But I say, what need of it, if they that are coming to Jesus Christ are not sometimes, yea, oftentimes, heartily afraid, that Jesus Christ will cast them out?
Bunyan speaks earnestly to those who were once coming, but seem to have lost their way; those who outwardly appeared to be coming, but turn back and follow no more. He deals solemnly with what it means to be "cast out" by Christ and the case of those who are. Come and Welcome is a good example of the discriminating and experimental ministry we as a denomination have held so dearly to. If you doubt whether you are coming or have come to Christ, Bunyan will show you where you stand in the light of Scripture. He will point you to the only remedy for your sins, doubts and fears: the one to whom sinners must come to for salvation, "the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
This book has been made a blessing to many. It was especially blessed to Mr John Gosden and Mr Caleb Sawyer; both mention it in their writings.
This Gospel Mission reprint of Come and Welcome is to be preferred to the 2004 reprint published by the Banner of Truth. The Banner of Truth edition is nicely presented, with improved typeface, and the text has been subdivided into paragraphs, but there are strong reservations regarding it. Firstly, it has been modestly modernised and consequently in places it includes the use of "you" and "your" when addressing God, although this is inconsistent, for example, "Lord, if thou wilt, you canst" (p 87 Banner of Truth ed). Secondly, the publishers have used the reprint for their own agenda, championing in the preface the errors of Andrew Fuller, who believed that Christ died for sin in general and that all men could come to Christ if they were willing. However, in Come and Welcome Bunyan clearly shows that the offering of Christ was for sins in particular, not for all men in general, but for all the elect in full, and that only the elect will and can come to Christ.
Some of the phraseology that Bunyan uses is open to interpretation, but when read in context, his presentation of the Gospel cannot be misconstrued as being any "well meant offer", which the Banner of Truth cites Fuller as preaching. Bunyan addresses "sensible sinners" (p 29) - a term Bunyan is not shy to use - and having shown who the sensible sinners will be, that is, the elect, he says to them: "He [that is Christ] calls you; he calls upon you to come unto him; which he would no do was he not free to give; yes he bids you" (p 178). Furthermore, he clearly shows that the coming sinners he addresses are only coming because they know God's call (Mark 3:13), God's illumination (Matt 16:17), God's inclination (Ps 110:3) and God's power (Phil 2:13) (p 181).
This call therefore is no indiscriminate call, but it is the Gospel in all its beauty. If you are in the state Bunyan describes: coming weeping with supplications; fleeing from the wrath to come; sensible of the absolute need of Jesus to save (p 27), crying, "Lord save me or I perish", "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"; priced in your heart by the law (Acts 2:37) and willing to leave all to find peace in Christ (Luke 14:26,27), then I warmly recommend this book to you, hoping that it may be blessed to the good of your soul and be a comfort to you.
Other forgotten works of Bunyan have been republished by Gospel Mission and are worth reading, including Justification by an Imputed Righteousness and The Doctrine of the Law and Grace Unfolded. For those who have both the means and the inclination, I recommend to you Bunyan's complete works in three volumes, published by the Banner of Truth. All are available from the Christian Bookshop Ossett.
Dr M J Hyde