Our Great Leader

John Bunyan did not give the hero of his dream much fellowship on his pilgrimage to the Celestial City. His only companions were Faithful who suffered martyrdom in Vanity Fair, and Hopeful who crossed the river with him, and shared in the welcome he received when the bells of the City rang for joy, and it was said to them, "Enter into the joy of your Lord. He had advanced in knowledge when his fertile mind produced the second part of his book, for Christiana fared better than her husband. She had her boys for company, and had not travelled far before the pilgrim band had grown to a considerable company with the splendid leader, Greatheart, for instructor, protector and guide. I have a notion that if he had lived to add a third part to his immortal work, he would have improved upon the second part and given us an army marching to Zion with the Prince Himself, the Captain of our salvation, as the great and infallible Leader.

Anyhow that is the full truth of the Christian's pilgrimage to his home beyond the skies — the Father's house. It is not the will of God whose sons they are that they should travel alone — "He is bringing MANY sons to glory" and they should tread the way together and comfort one another as they go. This matter of company is important, but the chiefest question of all is that of leadership." All we like sheep have gone astray"; (Isa. 53:6), that was when we followed Adam along the road of disobedience to death; "But are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls" (1 Pet. 2:25), that is how we stand today. But unless we follow Him, and loyally accept His leadership, we shall still stray and our homeward journey will not be the triumphant march that God intends it to be.

The journey lies through an enemy's land, for the whole world lies in the wicked one, and he is the god of it, and the road is often rough and abounds with trials and temptations; and then what of death? It is as plain as can be that the dangers and conflicts through which Bunyan passed his pilgrim were not imaginary, he wrote out of his own experience. But let them be as bad as they may, if our great Leader, who has been tested by every trial, is near we shall not only come through all with safety but with triumph, more than conquerors through Him that loves us.

We must consider Him. He is the crowned Christ, but He was crowned on having suffered temptation, and gone down into the suffering death. He became Man for this, and now we see JESUS, crowned with glory and honour. All this we read in Hebrews 2. He qualified to be the Leader of God's many sons by His suffering. Many enemies blocked the way; they stood, a formidable host, between us and the glory, for it was the devil's intention that God should have none of us; but Jesus has met every foe Himself and without aid. He went before us. He stood up in the face of the foe, and when arrows of death and judgment flew in a blinding cloud He bared His bosom to them all, and they found their mark there. He met the devil himself, who has the power of death and annulled his power, that He might deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage. He gave Himself for us and willingly died in our stead, and He has made a clear road for us right up to the glory of God, and on that road He leads us, His delivered brethren; for wonderful as it is, He is not ashamed to call us brethren.

God, whose sons we are, has committed us to His care for two reasons. First, He could trust no other. No man nor angel was equal to the task of leading God's sons home to glory. Jesus only could accomplish this great work; and will He fail because of the dangers, or be discouraged because of our fickleness? Never. He is not only our Captain, but our merciful and faithful High Priest, and not one of God's sons will be missing at that glorious homecoming.

Second, God's sons are too precious to Him to be committed to any other, their dignity is too great; they are the brethren of Christ, and loved with the same love that rests upon Him. We do not travel with uncertainty; we are not marching to disappointment and death. How glorious is our prospect! When we see Him we shall be like Him, and when He appears in glory we shall appear with Him. Then the crowned Christ will be the Firstborn among many brethren all crowned with Him.

But that is not all. That same chapter 2 of Hebrews tells us that in the midst of the church He sings praises to God; that is, He sings in the midst of this travelling host. It is well-known that soldiers can do their long road marches with less fatigue if they sing as they go. Brethren, do we sing enough? Our Leader sings in His triumph and joy. Are we near enough to Him to catch the notes? It seems to me that we do not sing as much about heaven and home as once we did. Let us open our hearts to the glory that shines before us and sing,

"High in the Father's house above
  Our mansion is prepared;
There is the home, the rest we love,
  And there our bright reward."

He leads and He sings. He sympathises and He succours.

"And though by storms assailed,
  And though by trials pressed
Himself our life He bears us up
  Right onward to our rest."

And what shall we do? Why, follow Him and walk close to Him, speaking to each other in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord. So shall we make an even better pilgrims' progress, than even the gifted and devoted Bunyan wrote.