John Bunyan’s pastor, John Gifford, often wrote prefaces to Bunyan’s work. In his introduction to A Few Sighs from Hell, Gifford offers the following advice to the Christian. I pray it causes the reader to pause and consider his standing before God – to be comforted and drawn near to the Savior, or be rebuked and fall down before Him crying for mercy. To the reader, from Pastor Gifford:
And if thou beest a Christian (to whom this may come) that hast not only had a prize in thy hands, but wisdom given thee from above to make use of it, and art one who (whilst others are seeking to make this world and hell together sure to themselves) spendest thy time, and makest it thy only business, to make sure of the one thing necessary, and heaven to thy soul, I shall lay two or three things before thy thoughts.
First. Walk with a fixed eye upon the world to come. Look not at the things that are seen, that are temporal, but at the things which are not seen, that are eternal (2 Cor 4:18). A Christian’s eye should be upon his journey’s end, as our Lord Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross (Heb 12:2). When the stones flew about Stephen’s ears, his eyes were lifted up to heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:55,56). What though thou at present mayest lie at the rich man’s gates, yet a few days will translate thee into Abraham’s bosom. Though Israel had a sharp voyage through the wilderness, yet Caleb and Joshua, men of excellent spirits, had their eye upon the good land they were going to.
Though graceless souls are too dull sighted to see afar off (2 Peter 1:9), yet thou that hast received the unction from above, dost in some measure know what is the hope of thy calling, and what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.
Secondly. Be satisfied with thy present condition, though it be afflictive, for it shall not last always. Thy sorrows shall be short, and thy joys long; roll thyself upon the Lord, for there is a heaven will pay for all; Christ first endured the cross before he wore the crown. David, before he was a king, was a shepherd. The poor man spoken of in this ensuing treatise, before he was carried into heaven, had experiences of sorrow and sufferings on earth. Let the flesh be silent in passing judgment on the dispensations of God towards thee, and the men of this world, in this present life.
David, by prying too far herein with his own wisdom, had almost caught a fall (Psa 73). Though God’s judgments may be too deep for our reason to dive into, yet are they always righteous, and his paths mercy and truth to those that keep his covenants (Psa 25:10). When Jeremiah would debate with the Lord concerning his judgments in the wicked’s prosperity, he would lay this down as an indubitable truth, that his judgments were righteous (Jer 12:1). And his end was not to charge God, but to learn understanding of him in the way of his judgments; and although the ways of his providence may be dark to his people, that they cannot discern his footsteps, yet are they always consistent with his everlasting covenant, and the results of the favour he bears to them. If the wicked flourish like the grass, it is that they should be destroyed for ever (Psa 92:7). And if the godly have many a wave beating upon them, yet will the Lord command his loving-kindness in the day time (Psa 42:7,8). And, after a little while being tossed to and fro in these boisterous waves, they shall arrive at the heavenly haven, this world being not their resting-place, but there remains one for them (Heb 4:9).
Thirdly. Let the faith and hopes of a glorious deliverance get thy heart up above thy present sufferings, that thou mayest glory in tribulation who hast ground of rejoicing in hope of the glory of God (Rom 5:2,3). For whatsoever thy present grievances are, whether outward afflictions, or inward temptations, this may be thy consolation that a few days will rid thee of them; when thou shalt sigh no more, complain no more, but those shall be turned into praises. Thou hast (if I may so call it) all thy hell here; let thy life be expired, and thy misery is ended; thy happiness begins, where wicked men’s end; and when thine is once began, it shall have no more end.