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Bunyan Characters: First Series by Alexander Whyte D.D.

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This etext was prepared by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk
from the 1894 Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier edition.



'The express image' [Gr. 'the character'].--Heb. 1. 3.

The word 'character' occurs only once in the New Testament, and
that is in the passage in the prologue of the Epistle to the
Hebrews, where the original word is translated 'express image' in
our version. Our Lord is the Express Image of the Invisible
Father. No man hath seen God at any time. The only-begotten Son,
who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him. The
Father hath sealed His divine image upon His Son, so that he that
hath seen the Son hath seen the Father. The Son is thus the
Father's character stamped upon and set forth in human nature. The
Word was made flesh. This is the highest and best use to which our
so expressive word 'character' has ever been put, and the use to
which it is put when we speak of Bunyan's Characters partakes of
the same high sense and usage. For it is of the outstanding good
or evil in a man that we think when we speak of his character. It
is really either of his likeness or unlikeness to Jesus Christ we
speak, and then, through Him, his likeness or unlikeness to God
Himself. And thus it is that the adjective 'moral' usually
accompanies our word 'character'--moral or immoral. A man's
character does not have its seat or source in his body; character
is not a physical thing: not even in his mind; it is not an
intellectual thing. Character comes up out of the will and out of
the heart. There are more good minds, as we say, in the world than
there are good hearts. There are more clever people than good
people; character,--high, spotless, saintly character,--is a far
rarer thing in this world than talent or even genius. Character is
an infinitely better thing than either of these, and it is of
corresponding rarity. And yet so true is it that the world loves
its own, that all men worship talent, and even bodily strength and
bodily beauty, while only one here and one there either understands
or values or pursues moral character, though it is the strength and
the beauty and the sweetness of the soul.

We naturally turn to Bishop Butler when we think of moral
character. Butler is an author who has drawn no characters of his
own. Butler's genius was not creative like Shakespeare's or
Bunyan's. Butler had not that splendid imagination which those two
masters in character-painting possessed, but he had very great
gifts of his own, and he has done us very great service by means of
his gifts. Bishop Butler has helped many men in the intelligent
formation of their character, and what higher praise could be given
to any author? Butler will lie on our table all winter beside
Bunyan; the bishop beside the tinker, the philosopher beside the
poet, the moralist beside the evangelical minister.

In seeking a solid bottom for our subject, then, we naturally turn
to Butler. Bunyan will people the house for us once it is built,
but Butler lays bare for us the naked rock on which men like Bunyan
build and beautify and people the dwelling-place of God and man.
What exactly is this thing, character, we hear so much about? we
ask the sagacious bishop. And how shall we understand our own
character so as to form it well till it stands firm and endures?
'Character,' answers Butler, in his bald, dry, deep way, 'by
character is meant that temper, taste, disposition, whole frame of
mind from whence we act in one way rather than another . . . those
principles from which a man acts, when they become fixed and
habitual in him we call his character . . . And consequently there
is a far greater variety in men's characters than there is in the
features of their faces.' Open Bunyan now, with Butler's keywords
in your mind, and see the various tempers, tastes, dispositions,
frames of mind from which his various characters act, and which, at
bottom, really make them the characters, good or bad, which they
are. See the principles which Bunyan has with such inimitable
felicity embodied and exhibited in their names, the principles
within them from which they have acted till they have become a
habit and then a character, that character which they themselves
are and will remain. See the variety of John Bunyan's characters,
a richer and a more endless variety than are the features of their
faces. Christian and Christiana, Obstinate and Pliable, Mr.
Fearing and Mr. Feeblemind, Temporary and Talkative, Mr. Byends and
Mr. Facing-both-ways, Simple, Sloth, Presumption, that brisk lad
Ignorance, and the genuine Mr. Brisk himself. And then Captain
Boasting, Mr. High-mind, Mr. Wet-Eyes, and so on, through a less
known (but equally well worth knowing) company of municipal and
military characters in the Holy War.

We shall see, as we proceed, how this and that character in Bunyan
was formed and deformed. But let us ask in this introductory
lecture if we can find out any law or principle upon which all our
own characters, good or bad, are formed. Do our characters come to
be what they are by chance, or have we anything to do in the
formation of our own characters, and if so, in what way? And here,
again, Butler steps forward at our call with his key to our own and
to all Bunyan's characters in his hand, and in three familiar and
fruitful words he answers our question and gives us food for
thought and solemn reflection for a lifetime. There are but three
steps, says Butler, from earth to heaven, or, if you will, from
earth to hell--acts, habits, character. All Butler's prophetic
burden is bound up in these three great words--acts, habits,
character. Remember and ponder these three words, and you will in
due time become a moral philosopher. Ponder and practise them, and
you will become what is infinitely better--a moral man. For acts,
often repeated, gradually become habits, and habits, long enough
continued, settle and harden and solidify into character. And thus
it is that the severe and laconic bishop has so often made us
shudder as he demonstrated it to us that we are all with our own
hands shaping our character not only for this world, but much more
for the world to come, by every act we perform, by every word we
speak, almost by every breath we draw. Butler is one of the most
terrible authors in the world. He stands on our nearest shelf with
Dante on one side of him and Pascal on the other. He is indeed
terrible, but it is with a terror that purifies the heart and keeps
the life in the hour of temptation. Paul sometimes arms himself
with the same terror; only he composes in another style than that
of Butler, and, with all his vivid intensity, he calls it the
terror of the Lord. Paul and Bunyan are of the same school of
moralists and stylists; Butler went to school to the Stoics, to
Aristotle, and to Plato.

Our Lord Himself came to be the express image He was and is by
living and acting under this same universal law of human life--
acts, habits, character. He was made perfect on this same
principle. He learned obedience both by the things that He did,
and the things that He suffered. Butler says in one deep place,
that benevolence and justice and veracity are the basis of all good
character in God and in man, and thus also in the God-man. And
those three foundation stones of our Lord's character settled
deeper and grew stronger to bear and to suffer as He went on
practising acts and speaking words of justice, goodness, and truth.
And so of all the other elements of His moral character. Our Lord
left Gethsemane a much more submissive and a much more surrendered
man than He entered it. His forgiveness of injuries, and thus His
splendid benevolence, had not yet come to its climax and crown till
He said on the cross, 'Father, forgive them'. And, as He was, so
are we in this world. This world's evil and ill-desert made it but
the better arena and theatre for the development and the display of
His moral character; and the same instruments that fashioned Him
into the perfect and express image He was and is, are still,
happily, in full operation. Take that divinest and noblest of all
instruments for the carving out and refining of moral character,
the will of God. How our Lord made His own unselfish and unsinful
will to bow to silence and to praise before the holy will of His
Father, till that gave the finishing touch to His always sanctified
will and heart! And, happily, that awful and blessed instrument
for the formation of moral character is still active and available
to those whose ambition rises to moral character, and who are
aiming at heaven in all they do and all they suffer upon the earth.
Gethsemane has gone out till it has covered all the earth. Its
cup, if not in all the depth and strength of its first mixture,
still in quite sufficient bitterness, is put many times in life
into every man's hand. There is not a day, there is not an hour of
the day, that the disciple of the submissive and all-surrendered
Son has not the opportunity to say with his Master, If it be
possible, let this cup pass: nevertheless, not as I will, but as
Thou wilt.

It is not in the great tragedies of life only that character is
tested and strengthened and consolidated. No man who is not
himself under God's moral and spiritual instruments could believe
how often in the quietest, clearest, and least tempestuous day he
has the chance and the call to say, Yea, Lord, Thy will be done.
And, then, when the confessedly tragic days and nights come, when
all men admit that this is Gethsemane indeed, the practised soul is
able, with a calmness and a peace that confound and offend the
bystanders, to say, to act so that he does not need to say, Not my
will, but Thine. And so of all the other forms and features of
moral character; so of humility and meekness, so of purity and
temperance, so of magnanimity and munificence, so of all self-
suppression and self-extinction, and all corresponding exalting and
magnifying and benefiting of other men. Whatever other passing
uses this present world, so full of trial and temptation and
suffering, may have, this surely is the supreme and final use of
it--to be a furnace, a graving-house, a refining place for human
character. Literally all things in this life and in this world--I
challenge you to point out a single exception--work together for
this supreme and only good, the purification, the refining, the
testing, and the approval of human character. Not only so, but we
are all in the very heat of the furnace, and under the very graving
iron and in the very refining fire that our prefigured and
predestinated character needs. Your life and its trials would not
suit the necessities of my moral character, and you would lose your
soul beyond redemption if you exchanged lots with me. You do not
put a pearl under the potter's wheel; you do not cast clay into a
refining fire. Abraham's character was not like David's, nor
David's like Christ's, nor Christ's like Paul's. As Butler says,
there is 'a providential disposition of things' around every one of
us, and it is as exactly suited to the flaws and excrescences, the
faults and corruptions of our character as if Providence had had no
other life to make a disposition of things for but one, and that
one our own. Have you discovered that in your life, or any measure
of that? Have you acknowledged to God that you have at last
discovered the true key of your life? Have you given Him the
satisfaction to know that He is not making His providential
dispositions around a stock or a stone, but that He has one under
His hand who understands His hand, and responds to it, and rises up
to meet and salute it?

And we cease to wonder so much at the care God takes of human
character, and the cost He lays out upon it, when we think that it
is the only work of His hands that shall last for ever. It is fit,
surely, that the ephemeral should minister to the eternal, and time
to eternity, and all else in this world to the only thing in this
world that shall endure and survive this world. All else we
possess and pursue shall fade and perish, our moral character shall
alone survive. Riches, honours, possessions, pleasures of all
kinds: death, with one stroke of his desolating hand, shall one
day strip us bare to a winding-sheet and a coffin of all the things
we are so mad to possess. But the last enemy, with all his malice
and all his resistless power, cannot touch our moral character--
unless it be in some way utterly mysterious to us that he is made
under God to refine and perfect it. The Express Image carried up
to His Father's House, not only the divine life He had brought
hither with Him when He came to obey and submit and suffer among
us; He carried back more than He brought, for He carried back a
human heart, a human life, a human character, which was and is a
new wonder in heaven. He carried up to heaven all the love to God
and angels and men He had learned and practised on earth, with all
the earthly fruits of it. He carried back His humility, His
meekness, His humanity, His approachableness, and His sympathy.
And we see to our salvation some of the uses to which those parts
of His moral character are at this moment being put in His Father's
House; and what we see not now of all the ends and uses and
employments of our Lord's glorified humanity we shall, mayhap, see
hereafter. And we also shall carry our moral character to heaven;
it is the only thing we have worth carrying so far. But, then,
moral character is well worth achieving here and then carrying
there, for it is nothing else and nothing less than the divine
nature itself; it is the divine nature incarnate, incorporate, and
made manifest in man. And it is, therefore, immortal with the
immortality of God, and blessed for ever with the blessedness of


'Do the work of an evangelist.'--Paul to Timothy.

On the 1st of June 1648 a very bitter fight was fought at
Maidstone, in Kent, between the Parliamentary forces under Fairfax
and the Royalists. Till Cromwell rose to all his military and
administrative greatness, Fairfax was generalissimo of the Puritan
army, and that able soldier never executed a more brilliant exploit
than he did that memorable night at Maidstone. In one night the
Royalist insurrection was stamped out and extinguished in its own
blood. Hundreds of dead bodies filled the streets of the town,
hundreds of the enemy were taken prisoners, while hundreds more,
who were hiding in the hop-fields and forests around the town, fell
into Fairfax's hands next morning.

Among the prisoners so taken was a Royalist major who had had a
deep hand in the Maidstone insurrection, named John Gifford, a man
who was destined in the time to come to run a remarkable career.
Only, to-day, the day after the battle, he has no prospect before
him but the gallows. On the night before his execution, by the
courtesy of Fairfax, Gifford's sister was permitted to visit her
brother in his prison. The soldiers were overcome with weariness
and sleep after the engagement, and Gifford's sister so managed it
that her brother got past the sentries and escaped out of the town.
He lay hid for some days in the ditches and thickets around the
town till he was able to escape to London, and thence to the
shelter of some friends of his at Bedford. Gifford had studied
medicine before he entered the army, and as soon as he thought it
safe he began to practise his old art in the town of Bedford.
Gifford had been a dissolute man as a soldier, and he became, if
possible, a still more scandalously dissolute man as a civilian.
Gifford's life in Bedford was a public disgrace, and his hatred and
persecution of the Puritans in that town made his very name an
infamy and a fear. He reduced himself to beggary with gambling and
drink, but, when near suicide, he came under the power of the
truth, till we see him clothed with rags and with a great burden on
his back, crying out, 'What must I do to be saved?' 'But at last'-
-I quote from the session records of his future church at Bedford--
'God did so plentifully discover to him the forgiveness of sins for
the sake of Christ, that all his life after he lost not the light
of God's countenance, no, not for an hour, save only about two days
before he died.' Gifford's conversion had been so conspicuous and
notorious that both town and country soon heard of it: and instead
of being ashamed of it, and seeking to hide it, Gifford at once,
and openly, threw in his lot with the extremest Puritans in the
Puritan town of Bedford. Nor could Gifford's talents be hid; till
from one thing to another, we find the former Royalist and
dissolute Cavalier actually the parish minister of Bedford in
Cromwell's so evangelical but otherwise so elastic establishment.

At this point we open John Bunyan's Grace Abounding to the Chief of
Sinners, and we read this classical passage:- 'Upon a day the good
providence of God did cast me to Bedford to work in my calling:
and in one of the streets of that town I came where there were
three or four poor women sitting at the door in the sun and talking
about the things of God. But I may say I heard, but I understood
not, for they were far above and out of my reach . . . About this
time I began to break my mind to those poor people in Bedford, and
to tell them of my condition, which, when they had heard, they told
Mr. Gifford of me, who himself also took occasion to talk with me,
and was willing to be well persuaded of me though I think on too
little grounds. But he invited me to his house, where I should
hear him confer with others about the dealings of God with their
souls, from all which I still received more conviction, and from
that time began to see something of the vanity and inner
wretchedness of my own heart, for as yet I knew no great matter
therein . . . At that time also I sat under the ministry of holy
Mr. Gifford, whose doctrine, by the grace of God, was much for my
stability.' And so on in that inimitable narrative.

The first minister whose words were truly blessed of God for our
awakening and conversion has always a place of his own in our
hearts. We all have some minister, some revivalist, some faithful
friend, or some good book in a warm place in our heart. It may be
a great city preacher; it may be a humble American or Irish
revivalist; it may be The Pilgrim's Progress, or The Cardiphonia,
or the Serious Call--whoever or whatever it was that first arrested
and awakened and turned us into the way of life, they all our days
stand in a place by themselves in our grateful heart. And John
Gifford has been immortalised by John Bunyan, both in his Grace
Abounding and in his Pilgrim's Progress. In his Grace Abounding,
as we have just seen, and in The Pilgrim, Gifford has his portrait
painted in holy oil on the wall of the Interpreter's house, and
again in eloquent pen and ink in the person of Evangelist.

John Gifford had himself made a narrow escape out of the City of
Destruction, and John Bunyan had, by Gifford's assistance, made the
same escape also. The scene, therefore, both within that city and
outside the gate of it, was so fixed in Bunyan's mind and memory
that no part of his memorable book is more memorably put than just
its opening page. Bunyan himself is the man in rags, and Gifford
is the evangelist who comes to console and to conduct him.
Bunyan's portraits are all taken from the life. Brilliant and
well-furnished as Bunyan's imagination was, Bedford was still
better furnished with all kinds of men and women, and with all
kinds of saints and sinners. And thus, instead of drawing upon his
imagination in writing his books, Bunyan drew from life. And thus
it is that we see first John Gifford, and then John Bunyan himself
at the gate of the city; and then, over the page, Gifford becomes
the evangelist who is sent by the four poor women to speak to the
awakened tinker.

'Wherefore dost thou so cry?' asks Evangelist. 'Because,' replied
the man, 'I am condemned to die.' 'But why are you so unwilling to
die, since this life is so full of evils?' And I suppose we must
all hear Evangelist putting the same pungent question to ourselves
every day, at whatever point of the celestial journey we at present
are. Yes; why are we all so unwilling to die? Why do we number
our days to put off our death to the last possible period? Why do
we so refuse to think of the only thing we are sure soon to come
to? We are absolutely sure of nothing else in the future but
death. We may not see to-morrow, but we shall certainly see the
day of our death. And yet we have all our plans laid for to-
morrow, and only one here and one there has any plan laid for the
day of his death. And can it be for the same reason that made the
man in rags unwilling to die? Is it because of the burden on our
back? Is it because we are not fit to go to judgment? And yet the
trumpet may sound summoning us hence before the midnight clock
strikes. If this be thy condition, why standest thou still? Dost
thou see yonder shining light? Keep that light in thine eye. Go
up straight to it, knock at the gate, and it shall be told thee
there what thou shalt do next. Burdened sinner, son of man in rags
and terror: What has burdened thee so? What has torn thy garments
into such shameful rags? What is it in thy burden that makes it so
heavy? And how long has it lain so heavy upon thee? 'I cannot
run,' said the man, 'because of the burden on my back.' And it has
been noticed of you that you do not laugh, or run, or dress, or
dance, or walk, or eat, or drink as once you did. All men see that
there is some burden on your back; some sore burden on your heart
and your mind. Do you see yonder wicket gate? Do you see yonder
shining light? There is no light in all the horizon for you but
yonder light over the gate. Keep it in your eye; make straight,
and make at once for it, and He who keeps the gate and keeps the
light burning over it, He will tell you what to do with your
burden. He told John Gifford, and He told John Bunyan, till both
their burdens rolled off their backs, and they saw them no more.
What would you not give to-night to be released like them? Do you
not see yonder shining light?

Having set Christian fairly on the way to the wicket gate,
Evangelist leaves him in order to seek out and assist some other
seeker. But yesterday he had set Faithful's face to the celestial
city, and he is off now to look for another pilgrim. We know some
of Christian's adventures and episodes after Evangelist left him,
but we do not take up these at present. We pass on to the next
time that Evangelist finds Christian, and he finds him in a sorry
plight. He has listened to bad advice. He has gone off the right
road, he has lost sight of the gate, and all the thunders and
lightnings of Sinai are rolling and flashing out against him. What
doest thou here of all men in the world? asked Evangelist, with a
severe and dreadful countenance. Did I not direct thee to His
gate, and why art thou here? Christian told him that a fair-spoken
man had met him, and had persuaded him to take an easier and
shorter way of getting rid of his burden. Read the whole place for
yourselves. The end of it was that Evangelist set Christian right
again, and gave him two counsels which would be his salvation if he
attended to them: Strive to enter in at the strait gate, and, Take
up thy cross daily. He would need more counsel afterwards than
that; but, meantime, that was enough. Let Christian follow that,
and he would before long be rid of his burden.

In the introductory lecture Bishop Butler has been commended and
praised as a moralist, and certainly not one word beyond his
deserts; but an evangelical preacher cannot send any man with the
burden of a bad past upon him to Butler for advice and direction
about that. While lecturing on and praising the sound
philosophical and ethical spirit of the great bishop, Dr. Chalmers
complains that he so much lacks the sal evangelicum, the strength
and the health and the sweetness of the doctrines of grace.
Legality and Civility and Morality are all good and necessary in
their own places; but he is a cheat who would send a guilt-burdened
and sick-at-heart sinner to any or all of them. The wicket gate
first, and then He who keeps that gate will tell us what to do, and
where next to go; but any other way out of the City of Destruction
but by the wicket gate is sure to land us where it landed
Evangelist's quaking and sweating charge. When Bishop Butler lay
on his deathbed he called for his chaplain, and said, 'Though I
have endeavoured to avoid sin, and to please God to the utmost of
my power, yet from the consciousness of my perpetual infirmities I
am still afraid to die.' 'My lord,' said his happily evangelical
chaplain, 'have you forgotten that Jesus Christ is a Saviour?'
'True,' said the dying philosopher, 'but how shall I know that He
is a Saviour for me?' 'My lord, it is written, "Him that cometh to
Me, I will in no wise cast out."' 'True,' said Butler, 'and I am
surprised that though I have read that Scripture a thousand times,
I never felt its virtue till this moment, and now I die in peace.'

The third and the last time on which the pilgrims meet with their
old friend and helper, Evangelist, is when they are just at the
gates of the town of Vanity. They have come through many wonderful
experiences since last they saw and spoke with him. They have had
the gate opened to them by Goodwill. They have been received and
entertained in the Interpreter's House, and in the House Beautiful.
The burden has fallen off their backs at the cross, and they have
had their rags removed and have received change of raiment. They
have climbed the Hill Difficulty, and they have fought their way
through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. More than the half of
their adventures and sufferings are past; but they are not yet out
of gunshot of the devil, and the bones of many a promising pilgrim
lie whitening the way between this and the city. Many of our young
communicants have made a fair and a promising start for salvation.
They have got over the initial difficulties that lay in their way
to the Lord's table, and we have entered their names with honest
pride in our communion roll. But a year or two passes over, and
the critical season arrives when our young communicant 'comes out,'
as the word is. Up till now she has been a child, a little maid, a
Bible-class student, a young communicant, a Sabbath-school teacher.
But she is now a young lady, and she comes out into the world. We
soon see that she has so come out, as we begin to miss her from
places and from employments her presence used to brighten; and,
very unwillingly, we overhear men and women with her name on their
lips in a way that makes us fear for her soul, till many, oh, in a
single ministry, how many, who promised well at the gate and ran
safely past many snares, at last sell all--body and soul and
Saviour--in Vanity Fair.

Well, Evangelist remains Evangelist still. Only, without losing
any of his sweetness and freeness and fulness of promise, he adds
to that some solemn warnings and counsels suitable now, as never
before, to these two pilgrims. If one may say so, he would add now
such moral treatises as Butler's Sermons and Serious Call to such
evangelical books as Grace Abounding and A Jerusalem Sinner Saved.

To-morrow the two pilgrims will come out of the wilderness and will
be plunged into a city where they will be offered all kinds of
merchandise,--houses, lands, places, honours, preferments, titles,
pleasures, delights, wives, children, bodies, souls, and what not.
An altogether new world from anything they have yet come through,
and a world where many who once began well have gone no further.
Such counsels as these, then, Evangelist gave Christian and
Faithful as they left the lonely wilderness behind them and came
out towards the gate of the seductive city--'Let the Kingdom of
Heaven be always before your eyes, and believe steadfastly
concerning things that are invisible.' Visible, tangible, sweet,
and desirable things will immediately be offered to them, and
unless they have a faith in their hearts that is the substance of
things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, it will soon
be all over with them and their pilgrimage. 'Let no man take your
crown,' he said also, as he foresaw at how many booths and
counters, houses, lands, places, preferments, wives, husbands, and
what not, would be offered them and pressed upon them in exchange
for their heavenly crown. 'Above all, look well to your own
hearts,' he said. Canon Venables laments over the teaching that
Bunyan received from John Gifford. 'Its principle,' he says, 'was
constant introspection and scrupulous weighing of every word and
deed, and even of every thought, instead of leading the mind off
from self to the Saviour.' The canon seems to think that it was
specially unfortunate for Bunyan to be told to keep his heart and
to weigh well every thought of it; but I must point out to you that
Evangelist puts as above all other things the most important for
the pilgrims the looking well to their own hearts; and our plain-
spoken author has used a very severe word about any minister who
should whisper anything to any pilgrim that could be construed or
misunderstood into putting Christ in the place of thought and word
and deed, and the scrupulous weighing of every one of them. 'Let
nothing that is on this side the other world get within you; and
above all, look well to your own hearts, and to the lusts thereof.'

'Set your faces like a flint,' Evangelist proceeds. How little
like all that you hear in the counsels of the pulpit to young women
coming out and to young men entering into business life. I am
convinced that if we ministers were more direct and plain-spoken to
such persons at such times; if we, like Bunyan, told them plainly
what kind of a world it is they are coming out to buy and sell in,
and what its merchandise and its prices are; if our people would
let us so preach to their sons and daughters, I feel sure far fewer
young communicants would make shipwreck, and far fewer grey heads
would go down with sorrow to the grave. 'Be not afraid,' said
Robert Hall in his charge to a young minister, 'of devoting whole
sermons to particular parts of moral conduct and religious duty.
It is impossible to give right views of them unless you dissect
characters and describe particular virtues and vices. The works of
the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit must be distinctly pointed
out. To preach against sin in general without descending to
particulars may lead many to complain of the evil of their hearts,
while at the same time they are awfully inattentive to the evil of
their conduct.' Take Evangelist's noble counsels at the gate of
Vanity Fair, and then take John Bunyan's masterly description of
the Fair itself, with all that is bought and sold in it, and you
will have a lesson in evangelical preaching that the evangelical
pulpit needed in Bunyan's day, in Robert Hall's day, and not less
in our own.

'My sons, you have heard the truth of the gospel, that you must
through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God. When,
therefore, you are come to the Fair and shall find fulfilled what I
have here related, then remember your friend; quit yourselves like
men, and commit the keeping of your souls to your God in well-doing
as unto a faithful Creator.'


'Be ye not as the mule.'--David.

Little Obstinate was born and brought up in the City of
Destruction. His father was old Spare-the-Rod, and his mother's
name was Spoil-the-Child. Little Obstinate was the only child of
his parents; he was born when they were no longer young, and they
doted on their only child, and gave him his own way in everything.
Everything he asked for he got, and if he did not immediately get
it you would have heard his screams and his kicks three doors off.
His parents were not in themselves bad people, but, if Solomon
speaks true, they hated their child, for they gave him all his own
way in everything, and nothing would ever make them say no to him,
or lift up the rod when he said no to them. When the Scriptures,
in their pedagogical parts, speak so often about the rod, they do
not necessarily mean a rod of iron or even of wood. There are
other ways of teaching an obstinate child than the way that Gideon
took with the men of Succoth when he taught them with the thorns of
the wilderness and with the briars thereof. George Offor, John
Bunyan's somewhat quaint editor, gives the readers of his edition
this personal testimony:- 'After bringing up a very large family,
who are a blessing to their parents, I have yet to learn what part
of the human body was created to be beaten.' At the same time the
rod must mean something in the word of God; it certainly means
something in God's hand when His obstinate children are under it,
and it ought to mean something in a godly parent's hand also.
Little Obstinate's two parents were far from ungodly people, though
they lived in such a city; but they were daily destroying their
only son by letting him always have his own way, and by never
saying no to his greed, and his lies, and his anger, and his noisy
and disorderly ways. Eli in the Old Testament was not a bad man,
but he destroyed both the ark of the Lord and himself and his sons
also, because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them
not. God's children are never so soft, and sweet, and good, and
happy as just after He restrains them, and has again laid the rod
of correction upon them. They then kiss both the rod and Him who
appointed it. And earthly fathers learn their craft from God. The
meekness, the sweetness, the docility, and the love of a chastised
child has gone to all our hearts in a way we can never forget.
There is something sometimes almost past description or belief in
the way a chastised child clings to and kisses the hand that
chastised it. But poor old Spare-the-Rod never had experiences
like that. And young Obstinate, having been born like Job's wild
ass's colt, grew up to be a man like David's unbitted and unbridled
mule, till in after life he became the author of all the evil and
mischief that is associated in our minds with his evil name.

In old Spare-the-Rod's child also this true proverb was fulfilled,
that the child is the father of the man. For all that little
Obstinate had been in the nursery, in the schoolroom, and in the
playground--all that, only in an aggravated way--he was as a youth
and as a grown-up man. For one thing, Obstinate all his days was a
densely ignorant man. He had not got into the way of learning his
lessons when he was a child; he had not been made to learn his
lessons when he was a child; and the dislike and contempt he had
for his books as a boy accompanied him through an ignorant and a
narrow-minded life. It was reason enough to this so unreasonable
man not to buy and read a book that you had asked him to buy and
read it. And so many of the books about him were either written,
or printed, or published, or sold, or read, or praised by people he
did not like, that there was little left for this unhappy man to
read, even if otherwise he would have read it. And thus, as his
mulish obstinacy kept him so ignorant, so his ignorance in turn
increased his obstinacy. And then when he came, as life went on,
to have anything to do with other men's affairs, either in public
or in private life, either in the church, or in the nation, or in
the city, or in the family, this unhappy man could only be a drag
on all kinds of progress, and in obstacle to every good work. Use
and wont, a very good rule on occasion, was a rigid and a universal
rule with Obstinate. And to be told that the wont in this case and
in that had ceased to be the useful, only made him rail at you as
only an ignorant and an obstinate man can rail. He could only
rail; he had not knowledge enough, or good temper enough, or good
manners enough to reason out a matter; he was too hot-tempered for
an argument, and he hated those who had an acquaintance with the
subject in hand, and a self-command in connection with it that he
had not. 'The obstinate man's understanding is like Pharaoh's
heart, and it is proof against all sorts of arguments whatsoever.'
Like the demented king of Egypt, the obstinate man has glimpses
sometimes both of his bounden duty and of his true interest, but
the sinew of iron that is in his neck will not let him perform the
one or pursue the other. 'Nothing,' says a penetrating writer, 'is
more like firm conviction than simple obstinacy. Plots and parties
in the state, and heresies and divisions in the church alike
proceed from it.' Let any honest man take that sentence and carry
it like a candle down into his own heart and back into his own
life, and then with the insight and honesty there learned carry the
same candle back through some of the plots and parties, the
heresies and schisms of the past as well as of the present day, and
he will have learned a lesson that will surely help to cure
himself, at any rate, of his own remaining obstinacy. All our firm
convictions, as we too easily and too fondly call them, must
continually be examined and searched out in the light of more
reading of the best authors, in the light of more experience of
ourselves and of the world we live in, and in that best of all
light, that increasing purity, simplicity, and sincerity of heart
alone can kindle. And in not a few instances we shall to a
certainty find that what has hitherto been clothing itself with the
honourable name and character of a conviction was all the time only
an ignorant prejudice, a distaste or a dislike, a too great
fondness for ourselves and for our own opinion and our own
interest. Many of our firmest convictions, as we now call them,
when we shall have let light enough fall upon them, we shall be
compelled and enabled to confess to be at bottom mere mulishness
and pride of heart. The mulish, obstinate, and proud man never
says, I don't know. He never asks anything to be explained to him.
He never admits that he has got any new light. He never admits
having spoken or acted wrongly. He never takes back what he has
said. He was never heard to say, You are right in that line of
action, and I have all along been wrong. Had he ever said that,
the day he said it would have been a white-stone day both for his
mind and his heart. Only, the spoiled son of Spare-the-Rod never
said that, or anything like that.

But, most unfortunately, it is in the very best things of life that
the true mulishness of the obstinate man most comes out. He shows
worst in his home life and in the matters of religion. When our
Obstinate was in love he was as sweet as honey and as soft as
butter. His old friends that he used so to trample upon scarcely
recognised him. They had sometimes seen men converted, but they
had never seen such an immediate and such a complete conversion as
this. He actually invited correction, and reproof, and advice, and
assistance, who had often struck at you with his hands and his feet
when you even hinted at such a thing to him. The best upbringing,
the best books, the best preaching, the best and most obedient
life, taken all together, had not done for other men what a woman's
smile and the touch of her hand had in a moment done for this once
so obstinate man. He would read anything now, and especially the
best books. He would hear and enjoy any preacher now, and
especially the best and most earnest in preaching. His old likes
and dislikes, prejudices and prepossessions, self-opinionativeness
and self-assertiveness all miraculously melted off him, and he
became in a day an open-minded, intelligent, good-mannered, devout-
minded gentleman. He who was once such a mule to everybody was now
led about by a child in a silken bridle. All old things had passed
away, and all things had become new. For a time; for a time. But
time passes, and there passes away with it all the humility,
meekness, pliability, softness, and sweetness of the obstinate man.
Till when long enough time has elapsed you find him all the
obstinate and mulish man he ever was. It is not that he has ceased
to love his wife and his children. It is not that. But there is
this in all genuine and inbred obstinacy, that after a time it
often comes out worst beside those we love best. A man will be
affable, accessible, entertaining, the best of company, and the
soul of it abroad, and, then, instantly he turns the latch-key in
his own door he will relapse into silence, and sink back into utter
boorishness and bearishness, mulishness and doggedness. He
swallows his evening meal at the foot of the table in silence, and
then he sits all night at the fireside with a cloud out of nothing
on his brow. His sunshine, his smile, and his universal urbanity
is all gone now; he is discourteous to nobody but to his own wife.
Nothing pleases him; he finds nothing at home to his mind. The
furniture, the hours, the habits of the house are all disposed so
as to please him; but he was never yet heard to say to wife, or
child, or servant that he was pleased. He never says that a meal
is to his taste or a seat set so as to shelter and repose him. The
obstinate man makes his house a very prison and treadmill to
himself and to all those who are condemned to suffer with him. And
all the time it is not that he does not love and honour his
household; but by an evil law of the obstinate heart its worst
obstinacy and mulishness comes out among those it loves best.

But, my brethren, worse than all that, we have all what good Bishop
Hall calls 'a stone of obstination' in our hearts against God.
With all his own depth and clearness and plain-spokenness, Paul
tells us that our hearts are by nature enmity against God. Were we
proud and obstinate and malicious against men only it would be bad
enough, and it would be difficult enough to cure, but our case is
dreadful beyond all description or belief when our obstinacy
strikes out against God. We know as well as we know anything, that
in doing this and in not doing that we are going every day right in
the teeth both of God's law and God's grace; and yet in the sheer
obstinacy and perversity of our heart we still go on in what we
know quite well to be the suicide of our souls. We are told by our
minister to do this and not to do that; to begin to do this at this
new year and to break off from doing that; but, partly through
obstinacy towards him, reinforced by a deeper and subtler and
deadlier obstinacy against God, and against all the deepest and
most godly of the things of God, we neither do the one nor cease
from doing the other. There is a sullenness in some men's minds, a
gloom and a bitter air that rises up from the unploughed,
undrained, unweeded, uncultivated fens of their hearts that chills
and blasts all the feeble beginnings of a better life. The natural
and constitutional obstinacy of the obstinate heart is exasperated
when it comes to deal with the things of God. For it is then
reinforced with all the guilt and all the fear, all the suspicion
and all the aversion of the corrupt and self-condemned heart.
There is an obdurateness of obstinacy against all the men, and the
books, and the doctrines, and the precepts, and the practices that
are in any way connected with spiritual religion that does not come
out even in the obstinate man's family life.

John Bunyan's Obstinate, both by his conduct as well as by the
etymology of his name, not only stands in the way of his own
salvation, but he does all he can to stand in the way of other men
setting out to salvation also. Obstinate set out after Christian
to fetch him back by force, and if it had not been that he met his
match in Christian, The Pilgrim's Progress would never have been
written. 'That can by no means be,' said Christian to his pursuer,
and he is first called Christian when he shows that one man can be
as obstinate in good as another man can be in evil. 'I never now
can go back to my former life.' And then the two obstinate men
parted company for ever, Christian in holy obstinacy being
determined to have eternal life at any cost, and Obstinate as
determined against it. The opening pages of The Pilgrim's Progress
set the two men very graphically and very impressively before us.

As to the cure of obstinacy, the rod in a firm, watchful, wise, and
loving hand will cure it. And in later life a long enough and
close enough succession of humble, yielding, docile, submissive,
self-chastening and thanksgiving acts will cure it. Reading and
obeying the best books on the subjugation and the regulation of the
heart will cure it. Descending with Dante to where the obstinate,
and the embittered, and the gloomy, and the sullen have made their
beds in hell will cure it. And much and most agonising prayer will
above all cure it.

'O Lord, if thus so obstinate I,
Choose Thou, before my spirit die,
A piercing pain, a killing sin,
And to my proud heart run them in.


'He hath not root in himself.'--Our Lord.

With one stroke of His pencil our Lord gives us this Flaxman-like
outline of one of his well-known hearers. And then John Bunyan
takes up that so expressive profile, and puts flesh and blood into
it, till it becomes the well-known Pliable of The Pilgrim's
Progress. We call the text a parable, but our Lord's parables are
all portraits--portraits and groups of portraits, rather than
ordinary parables. Our Lord knew this man quite well who had no
root in himself. Our Lord had crowds of such men always running
after Him, and He threw off this rapid portrait from hundreds of
men and women who caused discredit to fall on His name and His
work, and burdened His heart continually. And John Bunyan, with
all his genius, could never have given us such speaking likenesses
as that of Pliable and Temporary and Talkative, unless he had had
scores of them in his own congregation.

Our Lord's short preliminary description of Pliable goes, like all
His descriptions, to the very bottom of the whole matter. Our Lord
in this passage is like one of those masterly artists who begin
their portrait-painting with the study of anatomy. All the great
artists in this walk build up their best portraits from the inside
of their subjects. He hath not root in himself, says our Lord, and
we need no more than that to be told us to foresee how all his
outside religion will end. 'Without self-knowledge,' says one of
the greatest students of the human heart that ever lived, 'you have
no real root in yourselves. Real self-knowledge is the root of all
real religious knowledge. It is a deceit and a mischief to think
that the Christian doctrines can either be understood or aright
accepted by any outward means. It is just in proportion as we
search our own hearts and understand our own nature that we shall
ever feel what a blessing the removal of sin will be; redemption,
pardon, sanctification, are all otherwise mere words without
meaning or power to us. God speaks to us first in our own hearts.'
Happily for us our Lord has annotated His own text and has told us
that an honest heart is the alone root of all true religion.
Honest, that is, with itself, and with God and man about itself.
As David says in his so honest psalm, 'Behold, Thou desirest truth
in the inward parts, and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to
know wisdom.' And, indeed, all the preachers and writers in
Scripture, and all Scriptural preachers and writers outside of
Scripture, are at one in this: that all true wisdom begins at
home, and that it all begins at the heart. And they all teach us
that he is the wisest of men who has the worst opinion of his own
heart, as he is the foolishest of men who does not know his own
heart to be the worst heart that ever any man was cursed with in
this world. 'Here is wisdom': not to know the number of the
beast, but to know his mark, and to read it written so indelibly in
our own heart.

And where this first and best of all wisdom is not, there, in our
Lord's words, there is no deepness of earth, no root, and no fruit.
And any religion that most men have is of this outside, shallow,
rootless description. This was all the religion that poor Pliable
ever had. This poor creature had a certain slight root of
something that looked like religion for a short season, but even
that slight root was all outside of himself. His root, what he had
of a root, was all in Christian's companionship and impassioned
appeals, and then in those impressive passages of Scripture that
Christian read to him. At your first attention to these things you
would think that no possible root could be better planted than in
the Bible and in earnest preaching. But even the Bible, and, much
more, the best preaching, is all really outside of a man till true
religion once gets its piercing roots down into himself. We have
perhaps all heard of men, and men of no small eminence, who were
brought up to believe the teaching of the Bible and the pulpit, but
who, when some of their inherited and external ideas about some
things connected with the Bible began to be shaken, straightway
felt as if all the grounds of their faith were shaken, and all the
roots of their faith pulled up. But where that happened, all that
was because such men's religion was all rooted outside of
themselves; in the best things outside of themselves, indeed, but
because, in our Lord's words, their religion was rooted in
something outside of themselves and not inside, they were by and by
offended, and threw off their faith. There is another well-known
class of men all whose religion is rooted in their church, and in
their church not as a member of the body of Christ, but as a social
institution set up in this world. They believe in their church.
They worship their church. They suffer and make sacrifices for
their church. They are proud of the size and the income of their
church; her past contendings and sufferings, and present dangers,
all endear their church to their heart. But if tribulation and
persecution arise, that is to say, if anything arises to vex or
thwart or disappoint them with their church, they incontinently
pull up their roots and their religion with it, and transplant both
to any other church that for the time better pleases them, or to no
church at all. Others, again, have all their religiosity rooted in
their family life. Their religion is all made up of domestic
sentiment. They love their earthly home with that supreme
satisfaction and that all-absorbing affection that truly religious
men entertain for their heavenly home. And thus it is that when
anything happens to disturb or break up their earthly home their
rootless religiosity goes with it. Other men's religion, again,
and all their interest in it, is rooted in their shop; you can make
them anything or nothing in religion, according as you do or do not
do business in their shop. Companionship, also, accounts for the
fluctuations of many men's, and almost all women's, religious
lives. If they happen to fall in with godly lovers and friends,
they are sincerely godly with them; but if their companions are
indifferent or hostile to true religion, they gradually fall into
the same temper and attitude. We sometimes see students destined
for the Christian ministry also with all their religion so without
root in themselves that a session in an unsympathetic class, a
sceptical book, sometimes just a sneer or a scoff, will wither all
the promise of their coming service. And so on through the whole
of human life. He that hath not the root of the matter in himself
dureth for a while, but by and by, for one reason or another, he is
sure to be offended.

So much, then,--not enough, nor good enough--for our Lord's swift
stroke at the heart of His hearers. But let us now pass on to
Pliable, as he so soon and so completely discovers himself to us
under John Bunyan's so skilful hand. Look well at our author's
speaking portrait of a well-known man in Bedford who had no root in
himself, and who, as a consequence, was pliable to any influence,
good or bad, that happened to come across him. 'Don't revile,' are
the first words that come from Pliable's lips, and they are not
unpromising words. Pliable is hurt with Obstinate's coarse abuse
of the Christian life, till he is downright ashamed to be seen in
his company. Pliable, at least, is a gentleman compared with
Obstinate, and his gentlemanly feelings and his good manners make
him at once take sides with Christian. Obstinate's foul tongue has
almost made Pliable a Christian. And this finely-conceived scene
on the plain outside the city gate is enacted over again every day
among ourselves. Where men are in dead earnest about religion it
always arouses the bad passions of bad men; and where earnest
preachers and devoted workers are assailed with violence or with
bad language, there is always enough love of fair play in the
bystanders to compel them to take sides, for the time at least,
with those who suffer for the truth. And we are sometimes too apt
to count all that love of common fairness, and that hatred of foul
play, as a sure sign of some sympathy with the hated truth itself.
When an onlooker says 'Don't revile,' we are too ready to set down
that expression of civility as at least the first beginning of true
religion. But the religion of Jesus Christ cuts far deeper into
the heart of man than to the dividing asunder of justice and
injustice, civility and incivility, ribaldry and good manners. And
it is always found in the long-run that the cross of Christ and its
crucifixion of the human heart goes quite as hard with the
gentlemanly-mannered man, the civil and urbane man, as it does with
the man of bad behaviour and of brutish manners. 'Civil men,' says
Thomas Goodwin, 'are this world's saints.' And poor Pliable was
one of them. 'My heart really inclines to go with my neighbour,'
said Pliable next. 'Yes,' he said, 'I begin to come to a point. I
really think I will go along with this good man. Yes, I will cast
in my lot with him. Come, good neighbour, let us be going.'

The apocalyptic side of some men's imaginations is very easily
worked upon. No kind of book sells better among those of our
people who have no root in themselves than just picture-books about
heaven. Our missionaries make use of lantern-slides to bring home
the scenes in the Gospels to the dull minds of their village
hearers, and with good success. And at home a magic-lantern filled
with the splendours of the New Jerusalem would carry multitudes of
rootless hearts quite captive for a time. 'Well said; and what
else? This is excellent; and what else?' Christian could not tell
Pliable fast enough about the glories of heaven. 'There we shall
be with seraphim and cherubim, creatures that will dazzle your eyes
to look on them. There also you shall meet with thousands and ten
thousands who have gone before us to that place. Elders with
golden crowns, and holy virgins with golden harps, and all clothed
with immortality as with a garment.' 'The hearing of all this,'
cried Pliable, 'is enough to ravish one's heart.' 'An overly
faith,' says old Thomas Shepard, 'is easily wrought.'

As if the text itself was not graphic enough, Bunyan's racy,
humorous, pathetic style overflows the text and enriches the very
margins of his pages, as every possessor of a good edition of The
Pilgrim knows. 'Christian and Obstinate pull for Pliable's soul'
is the eloquent summary set down on the side of the sufficiently
eloquent page. As the picture of a man's soul being pulled for
rises before my mind, I can think of no better companion picture to
that of Pliable than that of poor, hard-beset Brodie of Brodie, as
he lets us see the pull for his soul in the honest pages of his
inward diary. Under the head of 'Pliable' in my Bunyan note-book I
find a crowd of references to Brodie; and if only to illustrate our
author's marginal note, I shall transcribe one or two of them.
'The writer of this diary desires to be cast down under the
facileness and plausibleness of his nature, by which he labours to
please men more than God, and whence it comes that the wicked speak
good of him . . . The Lord pity the proneness of his heart to
comply with the men who have the power . . . Lord, he is unsound
and double in his heart, politically crafty, selfish, not savouring
nor discerning the things of God . . . Let not self-love, wit,
craft, and timorousness corrupt his mind, but indue him with
fortitude, patience, steadfastness, tenderness, mortification . . .
Shall I expose myself and my family to danger at this time? A
grain of sound faith would solve all my questions.' 'Die Dom. I
stayed at home, partly to decline the ill-will and rage of men and
to decline observation.' Or, take another Sabbath-day entry: 'Die
Dom. I stayed at home, because of the time, and the observation,
and the Earl of Moray . . . Came to Cuttiehillock. I am neither
cold nor hot. I am not rightly principled as to the time. I
suspect that it is not all conscience that makes me conform, but
wit, and to avoid suffering; Lord, deliver me from all this
unsoundness of heart.' And after this miserable fashion do heaven
and earth, duty and self-interest, the covenant and the crown pull
for Lord Brodie's soul through 422 quarto pages. Brodie's diary is
one of the most humiliating, heart-searching, and heart-instructing
books I ever read. Let all public men tempted and afflicted with a
facile, pliable, time-serving heart have honest Brodie at their

'Glad I am, my good companion,' said Pliable, after the passage
about the cherubim and the seraphim, and the golden crowns and the
golden harps, 'it ravishes my very heart to hear all this. Come
on, let us mend our pace.' This is delightful, this is perfect.
How often have we ourselves heard these very words of challenge and
reproof from the pliable frequenters of emotional meetings, and
from the emotional members of an emotional but rootless ministry.
Come on, let us mend our pace! 'I am sorry to say,' replied the
man with the burden on his back, 'that I cannot go so fast as I
would.' 'Christian,' says Mr. Kerr Bain, 'has more to carry than
Pliable has, as, indeed, he would still have if he were carrying
nothing but himself; and he does have about him, besides, a few
sobering thoughts as to the length and labour and some of the
unforeseen chances of the way.' And as Dean Paget says in his
profound and powerful sermon on 'The Disasters of Shallowness':
'Yes, but there is something else first; something else without
which that inexpensive brightness, that easy hopefulness, is apt to
be a frail resourceless growth, withering away when the sun is up
and the hot winds of trial are sweeping over it. We must open our
hearts to our religion; we must have the inward soil broken up,
freely and deeply its roots must penetrate our inner being. We
must take to ourselves in silence and in sincerity its words of
judgment with its words of hope, its sternness with its
encouragement, its denunciations with its promises, its
requirements, with its offers, its absolute intolerance of sin with
its inconceivable and divine long-suffering towards sinners.' But
preaching like this would have frightened away poor Pliable. He
would not have understood it, and what he did understand of it he
would have hated with all his shallow heart.

'Where are we now?' called Pliable to his companion, as they both
went over head and ears into the Slough of Despond. 'Truly,' said
Christian, 'I do not know.'--No work of man is perfect, not even
the all-but-perfect Pilgrim's Progress. Christian was bound to
fall sooner or later into a slough filled with his own despondency
about himself, his past guilt, his present sinfulness, and his
anxious future. But Pliable had not knowledge enough of himself to
make him ever despond. He was always ready and able to mend his
pace. He had no burden on his back, and therefore no doubt in his
heart. But Christian had enough of both for any ten men, and it
was Christian's overflowing despondency and doubt at this point of
the road that suddenly filled his own slough, and, I suppose,
overflowed into a slough for Pliable also. Had Pliable only had a
genuine and original slough of his own to so sink and be bedaubed
in, he would have got out of it at the right side of it, and been a
tender-stepping pilgrim all his days.--'Is this the happiness you
have told me all this while of? May I get out of this with my
life, you may possess the brave country alone for me.' And with
that he gave a desperate struggle or two, and got out of the mire
on that side of the slough which was next his own house; so he went
away, and Christian saw him no more. 'The side of the slough which
was next his own house.' Let us close with that. Let us go home
thinking about that. And in this trial of faith and patience, and
in that, in this temptation to sin, and in that, in this actual
transgression, and in that, let us always ask ourselves which is
the side of the slough that is farthest away from our own house,
and let us still struggle to that side of the slough, and it will
all be well with us at the last.


'I was brought low, and He helped me.'--David.

The Slough of Despond is one of John Bunyan's masterpieces. In his
description of the slough, Bunyan touches his highest water-mark
for humour, and pathos, and power, and beauty of language. If we
did not have the English Bible in our own hands we would have to
ask, as Lord Jeffrey asked Lord Macaulay, where the brazier of
Bedford got his inimitable style. Bunyan confesses to us that he
got all his Latin from the prescription papers of his doctors, and
we know that he got all his perfect English from his English Bible.
And then he got his humour and his pathos out of his own deep and
tender heart. The God of all grace gave a great gift to the
English-speaking world and to the Church of Christ in all lands
when He created and converted John Bunyan, and put it into his head
and his heart to compose The Pilgrim's Progress. His heart-
affecting page on the slough has been wetted with the tears of
thousands of its readers, and their tears have been mingled with
smiles as they read their own sin and misery, and the never-to-be-
forgotten time and place where their sin and misery first found
them out, all told so recognisably, so pathetically, and so
amusingly almost to laughableness in the passage upon the slough.
We see the ocean of scum and filth pouring down into the slough
through the subterranean sewers of the City of Destruction and of
the Town of Stupidity, which lies four degrees beyond the City of
Destruction, and from many other of the houses and haunts of men.
We see His Majesty's sappers and miners at their wits' end how to
cope with the deluges of pollution that pour into this slough that
they have been ordained to drain and dry up. For ages and ages the
royal surveyors have been laying out all their skill on this
slough. More cartloads than you could count of the best material
for filling up a slough have been shot into it, and yet you would
never know that so much as a single labourer had emptied his barrow
here. True, excellent stepping-stones have been laid across the
slough by skilful engineers, but they are always so slippery with
the scum and slime of the slough, that it is only now and then that
a traveller can keep his feet upon them. Altogether, our author's
picture of the Slough of Despond is such a picture that no one who
has seen it can ever forget it. But better than reading the best
description of the slough is to see certain well-known pilgrims
trying to cross it. Mr. Fearing at the Slough of Despond was a
tale often told at the tavern suppers of that country. Never
pilgrim attempted the perilous journey with such a chicken-heart in
his bosom as this Mr. Fearing. He lay above a month on the bank of
the slough, and would not even attempt the steps. Some kind
Pilgrims, though they had enough to do to keep the steps
themselves, offered him a hand; but no. And after they were safely
over it made them almost weep to hear the man still roaring in his
horror at the other side. Some bade him go home if he would not
take the steps, but he said that he would rather make his grave in
the slough than go back one hairsbreadth. Till, one sunshiny
morning,--no one knew how, and he never knew how himself--the steps
were so high and dry, and the scum and slime were so low, that this
hare-hearted man made a venture, and so got over. But, then, as an
unkind friend of his said, this pitiful pilgrim had a slough of
despond in his own mind which he carried always and everywhere
about with him, and made him the proverb of despondency that he was
and is. Only, that sunshiny morning he got over both the slough
inside of him and outside of him, and was heard by Help and his
family singing this song on the hither side of the slough: 'He
brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay,
and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.'

Our pilgrim did not have such a good crossing as Mr. Fearing.
Whether it was that the discharge from the city was deeper and
fouler, or that the day was darker, or what, we are not told, but
both Christian and Pliable were in a moment out of sight in the
slough. They both wallowed, says their plain-spoken historian, in
the slough, only the one of the two who had the burden on his back
at every wallow went deeper into the mire; when his neighbour, who
had no such burden, instead of coming to his assistance, got out of
the slough at the same side as he had entered it, and made with all
his might for his own house. But the man called Christian made
what way he could, and still tumbled on to the side of the slough
that was farthest from his own house, till a man called Help gave
him his hand and set him upon sound ground. Christiana, again, and
Mercy and the boys found the slough in a far worse condition than
it had ever been found before. And the reason was not that the
country that drained into the slough was worse, but that those who
had the mending of the slough and the keeping in repair of the
steps had so bungled their work that they had marred the way
instead of mending it. At the same time, by the tact and good
sense of Mercy, the whole party got over, Mercy remarking to the
mother of the boys, that if she had as good ground to hope for a
loving reception at the gate as Christiana had, no slough of
despond would discourage her, she said. To which the older woman
made the characteristic reply: 'You know your sore and I know
mine, and we shall both have enough evil to face before we come to
our journey's end.'

Now, I do not for a moment suppose that there is any one here who
can need to be told what the Slough of Despond in reality is.
Indeed, its very name sufficiently declares it. But if any one
should still be at a loss to understand this terrible experience of
all the pilgrims, the explanation offered by the good man who gave
Christian his hand may here be repeated. 'This miry slough,' he
said, 'is such a place as cannot be mended. This slough is the
descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction of sin
doth continually run, and therefore it is called by the name of
Despond, for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost
condition there ariseth in his soul many fears and doubts and
discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and
settle in this place, and this is the reason of the badness of the
ground.' That is the parable, with its interpretation; but there
is a passage in Grace Abounding which is no parable, and which may
even better than this so pictorial slough describe some men's
condition here. 'My original and inward pollution,' says Bunyan
himself in his autobiography, 'that, that was my plague and my
affliction; that, I say, at a dreadful rate was always putting
itself forth within me; that I had the guilt of to amazement; by
reason of that I was more loathsome in my own eyes than a toad; and
I thought I was so in God's eyes also. Sin and corruption would
bubble up out of my heart as naturally as water bubbles up out of a
fountain. I thought now that every one had a better heart than I
had. I could have changed heart with anybody. I thought none but
the devil himself could equalise me for inward wickedness and
pollution of mind. I fell, therefore, at the sight of my own
vileness, deeply into despair, for I concluded that this condition
in which I was in could not stand with a life of grace. Sure,
thought I, I am forsaken of God; sure I am given up to the devil,
and to a reprobate mind.'

'Let no man, then, count me a fable maker,
Nor made my name and credit a partaker
Of their derision: what is here in view,
Of mine own knowledge I dare say is true.'

Sometimes, as with Christian at the slough, a man's way in life is
all slashed up into sudden ditches and pitfalls out of the sins of
his youth. His sins, by God's grace, find him out, and under their
arrest and overthrow he begins to seek his way to a better life and
a better world; and then both the burden and the slough have their
explanation and fulfilment in his own life every day. But it is
even more dreadful than a slough in a man's way to have a slough in
his mind, as both Bunyan himself and Mr. Fearing, his exquisite
creation, had. After the awful-enough slough, filled with the
guilt and fear of actual sin, had been bridged and crossed and left
behind, a still worse slough of inward corruption and pollution
rose up in John Bunyan's soul and threatened to engulf him
altogether. So terrible to Bunyan was this experience, that he has
not thought it possible to make a parable of it, and so put it into
the Pilgrim; he has kept it rather for the plain, direct,
unpictured, personal testimony of the Grace Abounding. I do not
know another passage anywhere to compare with the eighty-fourth
paragraph of Grace Abounding for hope and encouragement to a great
inward sinner under a great inward sanctification. I commend that
powerful passage to the appropriation of any man here who may have
stuck fast in the Slough of Despond today, and who could not on
that account come to the Lord's Table. Let him still struggle out
at the side of the slough farthest from his own house, and to-
night, who can tell, Help may come and give that man his hand.
When the Slough of Despond is drained, and its bottom laid bare,
what a find of all kinds of precious treasures shall be laid bare!
Will you be able to lay claim to any of it when the long-lost
treasure-trove is distributed by command of the King to its
rightful owners?

'What are you doing there?' the man whose name was Help demanded of
Christian, as he still wallowed and plunged to the hither side of
the slough, 'and why did you not look for the steps?' And so
saying he set Christian's feet upon sound ground again, and showed
him the nearest way to the gate. Help is one of the King's
officers who are planted all along the way to the Celestial City,
in order to assist and counsel all pilgrims. Evangelist was one of
those officers; this Help is another; Goodwill will be another,
unless, indeed, he is more than a mere officer; Interpreter will be
another, and Greatheart, and so on. All these are preachers and
pastors and evangelists who correspond to all those names and all
their offices. Only some unhappy preachers are better at pushing
poor pilgrims into the slough, and pushing them down to the bottom
of it, than they are at helping a sinking pilgrim out; while some
other more happy preachers and pastors have their manses built at
the hither side of the slough and do nothing else all their days
but help pilgrims out of their slough and direct them to the gate.
And then there are multitudes of so-called ministers who eat the
King's bread who can neither push a proud sinner into the slough
nor help a prostrate sinner out of it; no, nor point him the way
when he has himself wallowed out. And then, there are men called
ministers, too, who also eat the King's bread, whose voice you
never hear in connection with such matters, unless it be to revile
both the pilgrims and their helpers, and all who run with fear and
trembling up the heavenly road. But our pilgrim was happy enough
to meet with a minister to whom he could look back all his
remaining pilgrimage and say: 'He brought me up also out of an
horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock,
and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth,
even praise to our God.'

Now, as might have been expected, there is a great deal said about
all kinds of help in the Bible. After the help of God, of which
the Bible and especially the more experimental Psalms are full,
this fine name is then applied to many Scriptural persons, and on
many Scriptural occasions. The first woman whom God Almighty made
bore from her Maker to her husband this noble name. Her Father, so
to speak, gave her away under this noble name. And of all the
sweet and noble names that a woman bears, there is none so rich, so
sweet, so lasting, and so fruitful as just her first Divine name of
a helpmeet. And how favoured of God is that man to be accounted
whose life still continues to draw meet help out of his wife's
fulness of help, till all her and his days together he is able to
say, I have of God a helpmeet indeed! For in how many sloughs do
many men lie till this daughter of Help gives them her hand, and
out of how many more sloughs are they all their days by her
delivered and kept! Sweet, maidenly, and most sensible Mercy was a
great help to widow Christiana at the slough, and to her and her
sons all the way up to the river--a very present help in many a
need to her future mother-in-law and her pilgrim sons. Let every
young man seek his future wife of God, and let him seek her of her
Divine Father under that fine, homely, divine name. For God, who
knoweth what we have need of before we ask Him, likes nothing
better than to make a helpmeet for those who so ask Him, and still
to bring the woman to the man under that so spouse-like name.

'What next I bring shall please thee, be assured,
Thy likeness, thy fit help, thy other self,
Thy wish exactly to thy heart's desire.'

And then when the apostle is making an enumeration of the various
offices and agencies in the New Testament church of his day, after
apostles and teachers and gifts of healing, he says, 'helps,'--
assistants, that is, succourers, especially of the sick and the
aged and the poor. And we do not read that either election or
ordination was needed to make any given member of the apostolic
church a helper. But we do read of helpers being found by the
apostle among all classes and conditions of that rich and living
church; both sexes, all ages, and all descriptions of church
members bore this fine apostolic name. 'Salute Urbane, our helper
in Christ . . . Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers in Christ.'
And both Paul and John and all the apostles were forward to confess
in their epistles how much they owed of their apostolic success, as
well as of their personal comfort and joy, to the helpers, both men
and women, their Lord had blessed them with.

Now, the most part of us here to-night have been at the Lord's
Table to-day. We kept our feet firm on the steps as we skirted or
crossed the slough that self-examination always fills and defiles
for us before every new communion. And before our Lord let us rise
from His Table this morning. He again said to us: 'Ye call Me
Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am. If I then have
given you My hand, and have helped you, ye ought also to help one
another.' Who, then, any more will withhold such help as it is in
his power to give to a sinking brother? And you do not need to go
far afield seeking the slough of desponding, despairing, drowning
men. This whole world is full of such sloughs. There is scarce
sound ground enough in this world on which to build a slough-
watcher's tower. And after it is built, the very tower itself is
soon stained and blinded with the scudding slime. Where are your
eyes, and full of what? Do you not see sloughs full of sinking men
at your very door; ay, and inside of your best built and best kept
house? Your very next neighbour; nay, your own flesh and blood, if
they have nothing else of Greatheart's most troublesome pilgrim
about them, have at least this, that they carry about a slough with
them in their own mind and in their own heart. Have you only
henceforth a heart and a hand to help, and see if hundreds of
sinking hearts do not cry out your name, and hundreds of slimy
hands grasp at your stretched-out arm. Sloughs of all kinds of
vice, open and secret; sloughs of poverty, sloughs of youthful
ignorance, temptation, and transgression; sloughs of inward gloom,
family disquiet and dispute; lonely grief; all manner of sloughs,
deep and miry, where no man would suspect them. And how good, how
like Christ Himself, and how well-pleasing to Him to lay down steps
for such sliding feet, and to lift out another and another human
soul upon sound and solid ground. 'Know ye what I have done to
you? For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have
done to you. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.'


'Wise in this world.'--Paul.

Mr. Worldly-Wiseman has a long history behind him on which we
cannot now enter at any length. As a child, the little worldling,
it was observed, took much after his secular father, but much more
after his scheming mother. He was already a self-seeking, self-
satisfied youth; and when he became a man and began business for
himself, no man's business flourished like his. 'Nothing of news,'
says his biographer in another place, 'nothing of doctrine, nothing
of alteration or talk of alteration could at any time be set on
foot in the town but be sure Mr. Worldly-Wiseman would be at the
head or tail of it. But, to be sure, he would always decline those
he deemed to be the weakest, and stood always with those, in his
way of thinking, that he supposed were the strongest side.' He was
a man, it was often remarked, of but one book also. Sunday and
Saturday he was to be found deep in The Architect of Fortune; or,
Advancement in Life, a book written by its author so as to 'come
home to all men's business and bosoms.' He drove over scrupulously
once a Sunday to the State church, of which he was one of the most
determined pillars. He had set his mind on being Lord Mayor of the
town before long, and he was determined that his eldest son should
be called Sir Worldly-Wiseman after him, and he chose his church
accordingly. Another of his biographers in this connection wrote
of him thus: 'Our Lord Mayor parted his religion betwixt his
conscience and his purse, and he went to church not to serve God,
but to please the king. The face of the law made him wear the mask
of the Gospel, which he used not as a means to save his soul, but
his charges.' Such, in a short word, was this 'sottish man' who
crossed over the field to meet with our pilgrim when he was walking
solitary by himself after his escape from the slough.

'How now, good fellow? Whither away after this burdened manner?'
What a contrast those two men were to one another in the midst of
that plain that day! Our pilgrim was full of the most laborious
going; sighs and groans rose out of his heart at every step; and
then his burden on his back, and his filthy, slimy rags all made
him a picture such that it was to any man's credit and praise that
he should stop to speak to him. And then, when our pilgrim looked
up, he saw a gentleman standing beside him to whom he was ashamed
to speak. For the gentleman had no burden on his back, and he did
not go over the plain laboriously. There was not a spot or a
speck, a rent or a wrinkle on all his fine raiment. He could not
have been better appointed if he had just stepped out of the gate
at the head of the way; they can wear no cleaner garments than his
in the Celestial City itself. 'How now, good fellow? Whither away
after this burdened manner?' 'A burdened manner, indeed, as ever I
think poor creature had. And whereas you ask me whither away, I
tell you, sir, I am going to yonder wicket gate before me; for
there, as I am informed, I shall be put into a way to be rid of my
heavy burden.' 'Hast thou a wife and children?' Yes; he is
ashamed to say that he has. But he confesses that he cannot to-day
take the pleasure in them that he used to do. Since his sin so
came upon him, he is sometimes as if he had neither wife nor child
nor a house over his head. John Bunyan was of Samuel Rutherford's
terrible experience,--that our sins and our sinfulness poison all
our best enjoyments. We do not hear much of Rutherford's wife and
children, and that, no doubt, for the sufficient reason that he
gives us in his so open-minded letter. But Bunyan laments over his
blind child with a lament worthy to stand beside the lament of
David over Absalom, and again over Saul and Jonathan at Mount
Gilboa. At the same time, John Bunyan often felt sore and sad at
heart that he could not love and give all his heart to his wife and
children as they deserved to be loved and to have all his heart.
He often felt guilty as he looked on them and knew in himself that
they did not have in him such a father as, God knew, he wished he
was, or ever in this world could hope to be. 'Yes,' he said, 'but
I cannot take the pleasure in them that I would. I am sometimes as
if I had none. My sin sometimes drives me like a man bereft of his
reason and clean demented.' 'Who bid thee go this way to be rid of
thy burden? I beshrew him for his counsel. There is not a more
troublesome and dangerous way in the world than this is to which he
hath directed thee. And besides, though I used to have some of the
same burden when I was young, not since I settled in that town,'
pointing to the town of Carnal-Policy over the plain, 'have I been
at any time troubled in that way.' And then he went on to describe
and denounce the way to the Celestial City, and he did it like a
man who had been all over it, and had come back again. His
alarming description of the upward way reads to us like a page out
of Job, or Jeremiah, or David, or Paul. 'Hear me,' he says, 'for I
am older than thou. Thou art like to meet with in the way which
thou goest wearisomeness, painfulness, hunger, perils, nakedness,
sword, lions, dragons, darkness, and in a word, death, and what
not.' You would think that you were reading the eighth of the
Romans at the thirty-fifth verse; only Mr. Worldly-Wiseman does not
go on to finish the chapter. He does not go on to add, 'I am
persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to
separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our
Lord.' No; Worldly-Wiseman never reads the Romans, and he never
hears a sermon on that chapter when he goes to church.

Mr. Worldly-Wiseman became positively eloquent and impressive and
all but convincing as he went so graphically and cumulatively over
all the sorrows that attended on the way to which this pilgrim was
now setting his face. But, staggering as it all was, the man in
rags and slime only smiled a sad and sobbing smile in answer, and
said: 'Why, sir, this burden upon my back is far more terrible to
me than all the things which you have mentioned; nay, methinks I
care not what I meet with in the way, so be I can also meet with
deliverance from my burden.' This is what our Lord calls a pilgrim
having the root of the matter in himself. This poor soul had by
this time so much wearisomeness, painfulness, hunger, perils,
nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, death, and what not in
himself, that all these threatened things outside of himself were
but so many bugbears and hobgoblins wherewith to terrify children;
they were but things to be laughed at by every man who is in ernest
in the way. 'I care not what else I meet with if only I also meet
with deliverance.' There speaks the true pilgrim. There speaks
the man who drew down the Son of God to the cross for that man's
deliverance. There speaks the man, who, mire, and rags, and
burdens and all, will yet be found in the heaven of heavens where
the chief of sinners shall see their Deliverer face to face, and
shall at last and for ever be like Him. Peter examined Dante in
heaven on faith, James examined him on hope, and John took him
through his catechism on love, and the seer came out of the tent
with a laurel crown on his brow. I do not know who the examiner on
sin will be, but, speaking for myself on this matter, I would
rather take my degree in that subject than in all the other
subjects set for a sinner's examination on earth or in heaven. For
to know myself, and especially, as the wise man says, to know the
plague of my own heart, is the true and the only key to all other
true knowledge: God and man; the Redeemer and the devil; heaven
and hell; faith, hope, and charity; unbelief, despair, and
malignity, and all things of that kind else, all knowledge will
come to that man who knows himself, and to that man alone, and to
that man in the exact measure in which he does really know himself.
Listen again to this slough-stained, sin-burdened, sighing and
sobbing pilgrim, who, in spite of all these things--nay, in virtue
of all these things--is as sure of heaven and of the far end of
heaven as if he were already enthroned there. 'Wearisomeness,' he
protests, 'painfulness, hunger, perils, nakedness, sword, lions,
dragons, darkness, death, and what not--why, sir, this burden on my
back is far more terrible to me than all these things which you
have mentioned; nay, methinks I care not what I meet with in the
way, so be I can also meet with deliverance from my burden.' O
God! let this same mind be found in me and in all the men and women
for whose souls I shall have to answer at the day of judgment, and
I shall be content and safe before Thee.

That strong outburst from this so forfoughten man for a moment
quite overawed Worldly-Wiseman. He could not reply to an
earnestness like this. He did not understand it, and could not
account for it. The only thing he ever was in such earnestness as
that about was his success in business and his title that he and
his wife were scheming for. But still, though silenced by this
unaccountable outburst of our pilgrim, Worldly-Wiseman's enmity
against the upward way, and especially against all the men and all
the books that made pilgrims take to that way, was not silenced.
'How camest thou by thy burden at first?' By reading this Book in
my hand.' Worldly-Wiseman did not fall foul of the Book indeed,
but he fell all the more foul of those who meddled with matters
they had not a head for. 'Leave these high and deep things for the
ministers who are paid to understand and explain them, and attend
to matters more within thy scope.' And then he went on to tell of
a far better way to get rid of the burden that meddlesome men
brought on themselves by reading that book too much--a far better
and swifter way than attempting the wicket-gate. 'Thou wilt never
be settled in thy mind till thou art rid of that burden, nor canst
thou enjoy the blessings of wife and child as long as that burden
lies so heavy upon thee.' That was so true that it made the
pilgrim look up. A gentleman who can speak in that true style must
know more than he says about such burdens as this of mine; and,
after all, he may be able, who knows, to give me some good advice
in my great straits. 'Pray, sir, open this secret to me, for I
sorely stand in need of good counsel.' Let him here who has no
such burden as this poor pilgrim had cast the first stone at
Christian; I cannot. If one who looked like a gentleman came to me
to-night and told me how I would on the spot get to a peace of
conscience never to be lost again, and how I would get a heart to-
night that would never any more plague and pollute me, I would be
mightily tempted to forget what all my former teachers had told me
and try this new Gospel. And especially if the gentleman said that
the remedy was just at hand. 'Pray, sir,' said the breathless and
spiritless man, 'wilt thou, then, open this secret to me?'

The wit and the humour and the satire of the rest of the scene must
be fully enjoyed over the great book itself. The village named
Morality, hard by the hill; that judicious man Legality, who dwells
in the first house you come at after you have turned the hill;
Civility, the pretty young man that Legality hath to his son; the
hospitality of the village; the low rents and the cheap provisions,
and all the charities and amenities of the place,--all together
make up such a picture as you cannot get anywhere out of John
Bunyan. And then the pilgrim's stark folly in entering into
Worldly-Wiseman's secret; his horror as the hill began to thunder
and lighten and threaten to fall upon him; the sudden descent of
Evangelist; and then the plain-spoken words that passed between the
preacher and the pilgrim,--don't say again that the poorest of the
Puritans were without letters, or that they had not their own
esoteric writings full of fun and frolic; don't say that again till
you are a pilgrim yourself, and have our John Bunyan for one of
your classics by heart.

We are near an end, but before you depart, stand still a little, as
Evangelist said to Christian, that I may show you the words of God.
And first, watch yourselves well, for you all have a large piece of
this worldly-wise man in yourselves. You all take something of
some ancestor, remote or immediate, who was wise only for this
world. Yes, to be sure, for you still decline as they did, and
desert as they did, those you deem to be the weakest, and stand
with those that you suppose to be the strongest side. The
Architect of Fortune is perhaps too strong meat for your stomach;
but still, if you ever light upon its powerful pages, you will
surely blush in secret to see yourself turned so completely inside
out. You may not have chosen your church wholly with an eye to
your shop; but you must admit that you see as good and better men
than you are doing that every day. And it is a sure sign to you
that you do not yet know the plague of your own heart, unless you
know yourself to be a man more set upon the position and the praise
that this world gives than you yet are on the position and the
praise that come from God only. Set a watch on your own worldly
heart. Watch and pray, lest you also enter into all Worldly-
Wiseman's temptation. This is one of the words of God to you.

Another word of God is this. The way of the cross, said severe
Evangelist, is odious to every worldly-wise man; while, all the
time, it is the only way there is, and there never will be any
other way to eternal life. The only way to life is the way of the
cross. There are two crosses, indeed, on the way to the Celestial
City; there is, first, the Cross of Christ, once for you, and then
there is your cross daily for Christ, and it takes both crosses to
secure and to assure any man that he is on the right road, and that
he will come at last to the right end. 'The Christian's great
conquest over the world,' says William Law, 'is all contained in
the mystery of Christ upon the cross. And true Christianity is
nothing else but an entire and absolute conformity to that spirit
which Christ showed in the mysterious sacrifice of Himself upon the
cross. Every man is only so far a Christian as he partakes of this
same spirit of Christ--the same suffering spirit, the same
sacrifice of himself, the same renunciation of the world, the same
humility and meekness, the same patient bearing of injuries,
reproaches, and contempts, the same dying to all the greatness,
honours, and happiness of this world that Christ showed on the
cross. We also are to suffer, to be crucified, to die, to rise
with Christ, or else His crucifixion, His death, and His
resurrection will profit us nothing. 'This is the second word of
God unto thee. And the third thing to-night is this, that though
thy sin be very great, though thou hast a past life round thy neck
enough to sink thee for ever out of the sight of God and all good
men; a youth of sensuality now long and closely cloaked over with
an after life of worldly prosperity, worldly decency, and worldly
religion, all which only makes thee that whited sepulchre that
Christ has in His eye when He speaks of thee with such a severe and
dreadful countenance; yet if thou confess thyself to be all the
whited sepulchre He sees thee to be, and yet knock at His gate in
all thy rags and slime, He will immediately lay aside that severe
countenance and will show thee all His goodwill. Notwithstanding
all that thou hast done, and all thou still art, He will not deny
His own words, or do otherwise than at once fulfil them all to
thee. Ask, then, and it shall be given thee; seek, and thou shalt
find; knock, and it shall be opened unto thee. And with a great
goodwill, He will say to those that stand by Him, Take away the
filthy garments from him. And to thee He will say, Behold, I have
caused all thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee
with change of raiment.


'Goodwill.'--Luke 2. 14.

'So in process of time Christian got up to the gate. Now there was
written over the gate, Knock, and it shall be opened unto you. He
knocked, therefore, more than once or twice, saying, May I now
enter here? when at last there came a grave person to the gate,
named Goodwill, who asked him who was there?' The gravity of the
gatekeeper was the first thing that struck the pilgrim. And it was
the same thing that so struck some of the men who saw most of our
Lord that they handed down to their children the true tradition
that He was often seen in tears, but that no one had ever seen or
heard Him laugh. The prophecy in the prophet concerning our Lord
was fulfilled to the letter. He was indeed a man of sorrows, and
He early and all His life long had a close acquaintance with grief.
Our Lord had come into this world on a very sad errand. We are so
stupefied and besotted with sin, that we have no conception how sad
an errand our Lord had been sent on, and how sad a task He soon
discovered it to be. To be a man without sin, a man hating sin,
and hating nothing else but sin, and yet to have to spend all His
days in a world lying in sin, and in the end to have all that world
of sin laid upon Him till He was Himself made sin,--how sad a task
was that! Great, no doubt, as was the joy that was set before our
Lord, and sure as He was of one day entering on that joy, yet the
daily sight of so much sin in all men around Him, and the cross and
the shame that lay right before Him, made Him, in spite of the
future joy, all the Man of Sorrow Isaiah had said He would be, and
made light-mindedness and laughter impossible to our Lord,--as it
is, indeed, to all men among ourselves who have anything of His
mind about this present world and the sin of this world, they also
are men of sorrow, and of His sorrow. They, too, are acquainted
with grief. Their tears, like His, will never be wiped off in this
world. They will not laugh with all their heart till they laugh
where He now laughs. Then it will be said of them, too, that they
began to be merry. 'What was the matter with you that you did
laugh in your sleep last night? asked Christiana of Mercy in the
morning. I suppose you were in a dream. So I was, said Mercy, but
are you sure that I laughed? Yes, you laughed heartily; but,
prithee, Mercy, tell me thy dream. Well, I dreamed that I was in a
solitary place and all alone, and was there bemoaning the hardness
of my heart, when methought I saw one coming with wings towards me.
So he came directly to me, and said, Mercy, what aileth thee? Now,
when he heard my complaint, he said, Peace be to thee. He also
wiped mine eyes with his handkerchief, and clad me in silver and
gold; he put a chain about my neck also, and earrings in mine ears,
and a beautiful crown upon my head. So he went up. I followed him
till we came to a golden gate; and I thought I saw your husband
there. But did I laugh? Laugh! ay, and well you might, to see
yourself so well.'

But to return and begin again. Goodwill, who opened the gate, was,
as we saw, a person of a very grave and commanding aspect; so much
so, that in his sudden joy our pilgrim was a good deal overawed as
he looked on the countenance of the man who stood in the gate, and
it was some time afterwards before he understood why he wore such a
grave and almost sad aspect. But afterwards, as he went up the
way, and sometimes returned in thought to the wicket-gate, he came
to see very good reason why the keeper of that gate looked as he
did look. The site and situation of the gate, for one thing, was
of itself enough to banish all light-mindedness from the man who
was stationed there. For the gatehouse stood just above the Slough
of Despond, and that itself filled the air of the place with a
dampness and a depression that could be felt. And then out of the
downward windows of the gate, the watcher's eye always fell on the
City of Destruction in the distance, and on her sister cities
sitting like her daughters round about her. And that also made
mirth and hilarity impossible at that gate. And then the kind of
characters who came knocking all hours of the day and the night at
that gate. Goodwill never saw a happy face or heard a cheerful
voice from one year's end to the other. And when any one so far
forgot himself as to put on an untimely confidence and self-
satisfaction, the gatekeeper would soon put him through such
questions as quickly sobered him if he had anything at all of the
root of the matter in him. Terror, horror, despair, remorse,
chased men and women up to that gate. They would often fall before
his threshold more dead than alive. And then, after the gate was
opened and the pilgrims pulled in, the gate had only opened on a
path of such painfulness, toil, and terrible risk, that at whatever
window Goodwill looked out, he always saw enough to make him and
keep him a grave, if not a sad, man. It was, as he sometimes said,
his meat and his drink to keep the gate open for pilgrims; but the
class of men who came calling themselves pilgrims; the condition
they came in; the past, that in spite of all both he and they could
do, still came in through his gate after them, and went up all the
way with them; their ignorance of the way, on which he could only
start them; the multitudes who started, and the handfuls who held
on; the many who for a time ran well, but afterwards left their
bones to bleach by the wayside; and all the impossible-to-be-told
troubles, dangers, sorrows, shipwrecks that certainly lay before
the most steadfast and single-hearted pilgrim--all that was more
than enough to give the man at the gate his grave and anxious

Not that his great gravity, with all the causes of it, ever made
him a melancholy, a morose, a despairing, or even a desponding man.
Far from that. The man of sorrows Himself sometimes rejoiced in
spirit. Not sometimes only, but often He lifted up His heart and
thanked His Father for the work His Father had given Him to do, and
for the success that had been granted to Him in the doing of it.
And as often as He looked forward to the time when he should finish
His work and receive His discharge, and return to His Father's
house, at the thought of that He straightway forgot all His present
sorrows. And somewhat so was it with Goodwill at his gate. No man
could be but at bottom happy, and even joyful, who had a post like
his to occupy, a gate like his to keep, and, altogether, a work
like his to do. No man with his name and his nature can ever in
any circumstances be really unhappy. 'Happiness is the bloom that
always lies on a life of true goodness,' and this gatehouse was
full of the happiness that follows on and always dwells with true
goodness. Goodwill cannot have more happiness till he shuts in his
last pilgrim into the Celestial City, and then himself enters in
after him as a shepherd after a lost sheep.

The happy, heavenly, divine disposition of the gatekeeper was such,
that it overflowed from the pilgrim who stood beside him and
descended upon his wife and children who remained behind him in the
doomed city. So full of love was the gate-keeper's heart, that it
ran out upon Obstinate and Pliable also. His heart was so large
and so hospitable, that he was not satisfied with one pilgrim
received and assisted that day. How is it, he asked, that you have
come here alone? Did any of your neighbours know of your coming?
And why did he who came so far not come through? Alas, poor man,
said Goodwill, is the celestial glory of so little esteem with him
that he counteth it not worth running the hazards of a few
difficulties to obtain it? Our pilgrim got a life-long lesson in
goodwill to all men at that gate that day. The gatekeeper showed
such deep and patient and genuine interest in all the pilgrim's
past history, and in all his family and personal affairs, that
Christian all his days could never show impatience, or haste, or
lack of interest in the most long-winded and egotistical pilgrim he
ever met. He always remembered, when he was becoming impatient,
how much of his precious time and of his loving attention his old
friend Goodwill had given to him. Our pilgrim got tired of talking
about himself long before Goodwill had ceased to ask questions and
to listen to the answers. So much was Christian taken with the
courtesy and the kindness of Goodwill, that had it not been for his
crushing burden, he would have offered to remain in Goodwill's
house to run his errands, to light his fires, and to sweep his
floors. So much was he taken captive with Goodwill's extraordinary
kindness and unwearied attention. And since he could not remain at
the gate, but must go on to the city of all goodwill itself, our
pilgrim set himself all his days to copy this gatekeeper when he
met with any fellow-pilgrim who had any story that he wished to
tell. And many were the lonely and forgotten souls that Christian
cheered and helped on, not by his gold or his silver, nor by
anything else, but just by his open ear. To listen with patience
and with attention to a fellow-pilgrim's wrongs and sorrows, and
even his smallest interests, said this Christian to himself, is
just what Goodwill so winningly did to me.

With all his goodwill the grave gatekeeper could not say that the
way to the Celestial City was other than a narrow, a stringent, and
a heart-searching way. 'Come,' he said, 'and I will tell thee the
way thou must go.' There are many wide ways to hell, and many
there be who crowd them, but there is only one way to heaven, and
you will sometimes think you must have gone off it, there are so
few companions; sometimes there will be only one footprint, with
here and there a stream of blood, and always as you proceed, it
becomes more and more narrow, till it strips a man bare, and
sometimes threatens to close upon him and crush him to the earth
altogether. Our Lord in as many words tells us all that. Strive,
He says, strive every day. For many shall seek to enter into the
way of salvation, but because they do not early enough, and long
enough, and painfully enough strive, they come short, and are shut
out. Have you, then, anything in your religious life that Christ
will at last accept as the striving He intended and demanded? Does
your religion cause you any real effort--Christ calls it AGONY?
Have you ever had, do you ever have, anything that He would so
describe? What cross do you every day take up? In what thing do
you every day deny yourself? Name it. Put your finger on it.
Write it in cipher on the margin of your Bible. Would the most
liberal judgment be able to say of you that you have any fear and
trembling in the work of your salvation? If not, I am afraid there
must be some mistake somewhere. There must be great guilt
somewhere. At your parents' door, or at your minister's, or, if
their hands are clean, then at your own. Christ has made it plain
to a proverb, and John Bunyan has made it a nursery and a schoolboy
story, that the way to heaven is steep and narrow and lonely and
perilous. And that, remember, not a few of the first miles of the
way, but all the way, and even through the dark valley itself.
'Almost all that is said in the New Testament of men's watching,
giving earnest heed to themselves, running the race that is set
before them, striving and agonising, fighting, putting on the whole
armour of God, pressing forward, reaching forth, crying to God day
and night; I say, almost all that we have in the New Testament on
these subjects is spoken and directed to the saints. Where those
things are applied to sinners seeking salvation once, they are
spoken of the saints' prosecution of their salvation ten times'
(Jonathan Edwards). If you have a life at all like that, you will
be sorely tempted to think that such suffering and struggle,
increasing rather than diminishing as life goes on, is a sign that
you are so bad as not to be a true Christian at all. You will be
tempted to think and say so. But all the time the truth is, that
he who has not that labouring, striving, agonising, fearing, and
trembling in himself, knows nothing at all about the religion of
Christ and the way to heaven; and if he thinks he does, then that
but proves him a hypocrite, a self-deceived, self-satisfied
hypocrite; there is not an ounce of a true Christian in him. Says
Samuel Rutherford on this matter: 'Christ commandeth His hearers
to a strict and narrow way, in mortifying heart-lusts, in loving
our enemy, in feeding him when he is hungry, in suffering for
Christ's sake and the gospel's, in bearing His cross, in denying
ourselves, in becoming humble as children, in being to all men and
at all times meek and lowly in heart.' Let any man lay all that
intelligently and imaginatively alongside of his own daily life.
Let him name some such heart-lust. Let him name also some enemy,
and ask himself what it is to love that man, and to feed him in his
hunger; what it is in which he is called to suffer for Christ's
sake and the gospel's, in his reputation, in his property, in his
business, in his feelings. Let him put his finger on something in
which he is every day to deny himself, and to be humble and
teachable, and to keep himself out of sight like a little child;
and if that man does not find out how narrow and heart-searching
the way to heaven is, he will be the first who has so found his way
thither. No, no; be not deceived. Deceive not yourself, and let
no man deceive you. God is not mocked, neither are His true
saints. 'Would to God I were back in my pulpit but for one
Sabbath,' said a dying minister in Aberdeen. 'What would you do?'
asked a brother minister at his bedside. 'I would preach to the
people the difficulty of salvation,' he said. All which things are
told, not for purposes of debate or defiance, but to comfort and
instruct God's true people who are finding salvation far more
difficult than anybody had ever told them it would be. Comfort My
people, saith your God. Speak comfortably to My people. Come,
said Goodwill, and I will teach thee about the way thou must go.
Look before thee, dost thou see that narrow way? That is the way
thou must go. And then thou mayest always distinguish the right
way from the wrong. The wrong is crooked and wide, and the right
is straight as a rule can make it,--straight and narrow.

Goodwill said all that in order to direct and to comfort the
pilgrim; but that was not all that this good man said with that
end. For, when Christian asked him if he could not help him off
with his burden that was upon his back, he told him: 'As to thy
burden, be content to bear it until thou comest to the place of
deliverance, for there it will fall from thy back of itself.' Get
you into the straight and narrow way, says Goodwill, with his much
experience of the ways and fortunes of true pilgrims; get you sure
into the right way, and leave your burden to God. He appoints the
place of deliverance, and it lies before thee. The place of thy
deliverance cannot be behind thee, and it is not in my house, else
thy burden would have been already off. But it is before thee. Be
earnest, therefore, in the way. Look not behind thee. Go not into
any crooked way; and one day, before you know, and when you are not
pulling at it, your burden will fall off of itself. Be content to
bear it till then, says bold and honest Goodwill, speaking so true
to pilgrim experience. Yes; be content, O ye people of God, crying
with this pilgrim for release from your burden of guilt, and no
less those of you who are calling with Paul for release from the
still more bitter and crushing burden made up of combined guilt and
corruption. Be content till the place and the time of deliverance;
nay, even under your burden and your bonds be glad, as Paul was,
and go up the narrow way, still chanting to yourself, I thank God
through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is only becoming that a great
sinner should tarry the Lord's leisure; all the more that the
greatest sinner may be sure the Lord will come, and will not tarry.
The time is long, but the thing is sure.

And now two lessons from Goodwill's gate:-

1. The gate was shut when Christian came up to it, and no one was
visible anywhere about it. The only thing visible was the writing
over the gate which told all pilgrims to knock. Now, when we come
up to the same gate we are disappointed and discouraged that the
gatekeeper is not standing already upon his doorstep and his arms
round our neck. We knelt to-day in secret prayer, and there was
only our bed or our chair visible before us. There was no human
being, much less to all appearance any Divine Presence, in the
place. And we prayed a short, indeed, but a not unearnest prayer,
and then we rose up and came away disappointed because no one
appeared. But look at him who is now inheriting the promises. He
knocked, says his history, more than once or twice. That is to
say, he did not content himself with praying one or two seconds and
then giving over, but he continued in prayer till the gatekeeper
came. And as he knocked, he said, so loud and so impatient that
all those in the gatehouse could hear him,

'May I now enter here? Will he within
Open to sorry me, though I have been
A wandering rebel? Then shall I
Not fail to sing his lasting praise on high.'

2. 'We make no objections against any,' said Goodwill;
'notwithstanding all that they have done before they come hither,
they are in no wise cast out.' He told me all things that ever I
did, said the woman of Samaria, telling her neighbours about our
Lord's conversation with her. And, somehow, there was something in
the gatekeeper's words that called back to Christian, if not all
the things he had ever done, yet from among them the worst things
he had ever done. They all rose up black as hell before his eyes
as the gatekeeper did not name them at all, but only said
'notwithstanding all that thou hast done.' Christian never felt
his past life so black, or his burden so heavy, or his heart so
broken, as when Goodwill just said that one word 'notwithstanding.'
'We make no objections against any; notwithstanding all that they
have done before they come hither, they are in no wise cast out.'


'An interpreter, one among a thousand.'--Elihu.

We come to-night to the Interpreter's House. And since every
minister of the gospel is an interpreter, and every evangelical
church is an interpreter's house, let us gather up some of the
precious lessons to ministers and to people with which this passage
of the Pilgrim's Progress so much abounds.

1. In the first place, then, I observe that the House of the
Interpreter stands just beyond the Wicket Gate. In the whole
topography of the Pilgrim's Progress there lies many a deep lesson.
The church that Mr. Worldly-Wiseman supported, and on the communion
roll of which he was so determined to have our pilgrim's so
unprepared name, stood far down on the other side of Goodwill's
gate. It was a fine building, and it had an eloquent man for its
minister, and the whole service was an attraction and an enjoyment
to all the people of the place; but our Interpreter was never asked
to show any of his significant things there; and, indeed, neither
minister nor people would have understood him had he ever done so.
And had any of the parishioners from below the gate ever by any
chance stumbled into the Interpreter's house, his most significant
rooms would have had no significance to them. Both he and his
house would have been a mystery and an offence to Worldly-Wiseman,
his minister, and his fellow-worshippers. John Bunyan has the
clear warrant both of Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul for the
place on which he has planted the Interpreter's house. 'It is
given to you,' said our Lord to His disciples, 'to know the
mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given.'
And Paul tells us that 'the natural man receiveth not the things of
the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can
he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.' And,
accordingly, no reader of the Pilgrim's Progress will really
understand what he sees in the Interpreter's House, unless he is
already a man of a spiritual mind. Intelligent children enjoy the
pictures and the people that are set before them in this
illustrated house, but they must become the children of God, and
must be well on in the life of God, before they will be able to say
that the house next the gate has been a profitable and a helpful
house to them. All that is displayed here--all the furniture and
all the vessels, all the ornaments and all the employments and all
the people of the Interpreter's House--is fitted and intended to be
profitable as well as interesting to pilgrims only. No man has any
real interest in the things of this house, or will take any abiding
profit out of it, till he is fairly started on the upward road. In
his former life, and while still on the other side of the gate, our
pilgrim had no interest in such things as he is now to see and
hear; and if he had seen and heard them in his former life, he
would not, with all the Interpreter's explanation, have understood
them. As here among ourselves to-night, they who will understand
and delight in the things they hear in this house to-night are
those only who have really begun to live a religious life. The
realities of true religion are now the most real things in life--to
them; they love divine things now; and since they began to love
divine things, you cannot entertain them better than by exhibiting
and explaining divine things to them. There is no house in all the
earth, after the gate itself, that is more dear to the true pilgrim
heart than just the Interpreter's House. 'I was glad when it was
said to me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Peace be within
thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.'

2. And besides being built on the very best spot in all the land
for its owner's purposes, every several room in that great house
was furnished and fitted up for the entertainment and instruction
of pilgrims. Every inch of that capacious and many-chambered house
was given up to the delectation of pilgrims. The public rooms were
thrown open for their convenience and use at all hours of the day
and night, and the private rooms were kept retired and secluded for
such as sought retirement and seclusion. There were dark rooms
also with iron cages in them, till Christian and his companions
came out of those terrible places, bringing with them an
everlasting caution to watchfulness and a sober mind. There were
rooms also given up to vile and sordid uses. One room there was
full of straws and sticks and dust, with an old man who did nothing
else day nor night but wade about among the straws and sticks and
dust, and rake it all into little heaps, and then sit watching lest
any one should overturn them. And then, strange to tell it, and
not easy to get to the full significance of it, the bravest room in
all the house had absolutely nothing in it but a huge, ugly,
poisonous spider hanging to the wall with her hands. 'Is there but
one spider in all this spacious room?' asked the Interpreter. And
the water stood in Christiana's eyes; she had come by this time
thus far on her journey also. She was a woman of a quick
apprehension, and the water stood in her eyes at the Interpreter's
question, and she said: 'Yes, Lord, there is here more than one.
Yea, and spiders whose venom is far more destructive than that
which is in her.' The Interpreter then looked pleasantly on her,
and said: 'Thou hast said the truth.' This made Mercy blush, and
the boys to cover their faces, for they all began now to understand
the riddle. 'This is to show you,' said the Interpreter, 'that
however full of the venom of sin you may be, yet you may, by the
hand of faith, lay hold of, and dwell in the best room that belongs
to the King's House above.' Then they all seemed to be glad, but
the water stood in their eyes. A wall also stood apart on the
grounds of the house with an always dying fire on one side of it,
while a man on the other side of the wall continually fed the fire
through hidden openings in the wall. A whole palace stood also on
the grounds, the inspection of which so kindled our pilgrim's
heart, that he refused to stay here any longer, or to see any more
sights--so much had he already seen of the evil of sin and of the
blessedness of salvation. Not that he had seen as yet the half of
what that house held for the instruction of pilgrims. Only, time
would fail us to visit the hen and her chickens; the butcher
killing a sheep and pulling her skin over her ears, and she lying
still under his hands and taking her death patiently; also the
garden with the flowers all diverse in stature, and quality, and
colour, and smell, and virtue, and some better than some, and all
where the gardener had set them, there they stand, and quarrel not
with one another. The robin-red-breast also, so pretty of note and
colour and carriage, but instead of bread and crumbs, and such like
harmless matter, with a great spider in his mouth. A tree also,
whose inside was rotten, and yet it grew and had leaves. So they
went on their way and sang:

'This place hath been our second stage,
Here have we heard and seen

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