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Bunyan Characters (Second 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.

Lectures delivered in St. George's Free Church Edinburgh


"I was alive without the law once."--Paul.

"I was now a brisk talker also myself in the matter of religion."--

This is a new kind of pilgrim. There are not many pilgrims like
this bright brisk youth. A few more young gentlemen like this, and
the pilgrimage way would positively soon become fashionable and
popular, and be the thing to do. Had you met with this young
gentleman in society, had you noticed him beginning to come about
your church, you would have lost no time in finding out who he was.
I can well believe it, you would have replied. Indeed, I felt sure
of it. I must ask him to the house. I was quite struck with his
appearance and his manners. Yes; ask him at once to your house;
show him some pointed attentions and you will never regret it. For
if he goes to the bar and works even decently at his cases, he will
be first a sheriff and then a judge in no time. If he should take
to politics, he will be an under-secretary before his first
parliament is out. And if he takes to the church, which is not at
all unlikely, our West-end congregations will all be competing for
him as their junior colleague; and, if he elects either of our
Established churches to exercise his profession in it, he will have
dined with Her Majesty while half of his class-fellows are still
half-starved probationers. Society fathers will point him out with
anger to their unsuccessful sons, and society mothers will smile
under their eyelids as they see him hanging over their daughters.

Well, as this handsome and well-appointed youth stepped out of his
own neat little lane into the rough road on which our two pilgrims
were staggering upward, he felt somewhat ashamed to be seen in
their company. And I do not wonder. For a greater contrast you
would not have seen on any road in all that country that day. He
was at your very first sight of him a gentleman and the son of a
gentleman. A little over-dressed perhaps; as, also, a little lofty
to the two rather battered but otherwise decent enough men who,
being so much older than he, took the liberty of first accosting
him. "Brisk" is his biographer's description of him. Feather-
headed, flippant, and almost impudent, you might have been tempted
to say of him had you joined the little party at that moment. But
those two tumbled, broken-winded, and, indeed, broken-hearted old
men had been, as an old author says, so emptied from vessel to
vessel--they had had a life of such sloughs and stiff climbs--they
had been in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness so often--that
it was no wonder that their dandiacal companion walked on a little
ahead of them. 'Gentlemen,' his fine clothes and his cane and his
head in the air all said to his two somewhat disreputable-looking
fellow-travellers,--"Gentlemen, you be utter strangers to me: I
know you not. And, besides, I take my pleasure in walking alone,
even more a great deal than in company, unless I like it better."
But all his society manners, and all his costly and well-kept
clothes, and all his easy and self-confident airs did not impose
upon the two wary old pilgrims. They had seen too much of the
world, and had been too long mixing among all kinds of pilgrims,
young and old, true and false, to be easily imposed upon. Besides,
as one could see from their weather-beaten faces, and their
threadbare garments, they had found the upward way so dreadfully
difficult that they both felt a real apprehension as to the future
of this light-hearted and light-headed youth. "You may find some
difficulty at the gate," somewhat bluntly broke in the oldest of
the two pilgrims on their young comrade. "I shall, no doubt, do at
the gate as other good people do," replied the young gentleman
briskly. "But what have you to show at the gate that may cause
that the gate be opened to you?" "Why, I know my Lord's will, and
I have been a good liver all my days, and I pay every man his own.
I pray, moreover, and I fast. I pay tithes, and give alms, and
have left my country for whither I am going." Now, before we go
further: Do all you young gentlemen do as much as that? Have you
always been good livers? Have you paid every man and woman their
due? Do you pray to be called prayer? And, if so, when, and
where, and what for, and how long at a time? I do not ask if your
private prayer-book is like Bishop Andrewes' Devotions, which was
so reduced to pulp with tears and sweat and the clenching of his
agonising hands that his literary executors were with difficulty
able to decipher it. Clito in the Christian Perfection was so
expeditious with his prayers that he used to boast that he could
both dress and do his devotions in a quarter of an hour. What was
the longest time you ever took to dress or undress and say your
prayers? Then, again, there is another Anglican young gentleman in
the same High Church book who always fasts on Good Friday and the
Thirtieth of January. Did you ever deny yourself a glass of wine
or a cigar or an opera ticket for the church or the poor? Could
you honestly say that you know what tithes are? And is there a
poor man or woman or child in this whole city who will by any
chance put your name into their prayers and praises at bedtime to-
night? I am afraid there are not many young gentlemen in this
house tonight who could cast a stone at that brisk lad Ignorance,
Vain-Hope, door in the side of the hill, and all. He was not far
from the kingdom of heaven; indeed, he got up to the very gate of
it. How many of you will get half as far?

Now (what think you?), was it not a very bold thing in John Bunyan,
whose own descent was of such a low and inconsiderable generation,
his father's house being of that rank that is meanest and most
despised of all the families in the land--was it not almost too
bold in such a clown to take such a gentleman-scholar as Saul of
Tarsus, the future Apostle of the Lord, and put him into the
Pilgrim's Progress, and there go on to describe him as a very brisk
lad and nickname him with the nickname of Ignorance? For, in
knowledge of all kinds to be called knowledge, Gamaliel's gold
medallist could have bought the unlettered tinker of Elstow in one
end of the market and sold him in the other. And nobody knew that
better than Bunyan did. And yet such a lion was he for the truth,
such a disciple of Luther was he, and such a defender and preacher
of the one doctrine of a standing or falling church, that he fills
page after page with the crass ignorance of the otherwise most
learned of all the New Testament men. Bunyan does not accuse the
rising hope of the Pharisees of school or of synagogue ignorance.
That young Hebrew Rabbi knew every jot and tittle of the law of
Moses, and all the accumulated traditions of the fathers to boot.
But Bunyan has Paul himself with him when he accuses and convicts
Saul of an absolutely brutish ignorance of his own heart and hidden
nature. That so very brisk lad was always boasting in himself of
the day on which he was circumcised, and of the old stock of which
he had come; of his tribe, of his zeal, of his blamelessness, and
of the profit he had made of his educational and ecclesiastical
opportunities. Whereas Bunyan is fain to say of himself in his
Grace Abounding that he is "not able to boast of noble blood or of
a high-born state according to the flesh. Though, all things
considered, I magnify the Heavenly Majesty for that by this door He
brought me into this world to partake of the grace and life that is
in Christ by the Gospel."

As we listen to the conversation that goes on between the two old
pilgrims and this smartly appointed youth, we find them striving
hard, but without any sign of success, to convince him of some of
the things from which he gets his somewhat severe name. For one
thing, they at last bluntly told him that he evidently did not know
the very A B C about himself. Till, when too hard pressed by the
more ruthless of the two old men, the exasperated youth at last
frankly burst out: "I will never believe that my heart is thus
bad!" There is a warm touch of Bunyan's own experience here, mixed
up with his so dramatic development of Paul's morsels of
autobiography that he lets drop in his Epistles to the Philippians
and to the Galatians. "Now was I become godly; now I was become a
right honest man. Though as yet I was nothing but a poor painted
hypocrite, yet I was proud of my godliness. I read my Bible, but
as for Paul's Epistles, and such like Scriptures, I could not away
with them; being, as yet, but ignorant both of the corruptions of
my nature and of the want and worth of Jesus Christ to save me.
The new birth did never enter my mind, neither knew I the
deceitfulness and treachery of my own wicked heart. And as for
secret thoughts, I took no notice of them." My brethren, old and
young, what do you think of all that? What have you to say to all
that? Does all that not open a window and let a flood of daylight
into your own breast? I am sure it does. That is the best
portrait of you that ever was painted. Do you not see yourself
there as in a glass? And do you not turn with disgust and loathing
from the stupid and foolish face? You complain and tell stories
about how impostors and cheats and liars have come to your door and
have impudently thrust themselves into your innermost rooms; but
your own heart, if you only knew it, is deceitful far above them
all. Not the human heart as it stands in confessions, and in
catechisms, and in deep religious books, but your own heart that
beats out its blood-poison of self-deceit, and darkness, and death
day and night continually. "My heart is a good heart," said that
poor ill-brought-up boy, who was already destroyed by his father
and his mother for lack of self-knowledge. I entirely grant you
that those two old sinners by this time were taking very
pessimistic and very melancholy views of human nature, and,
therefore, of every human being, young and old. They knew that no
language had ever been coined in any scripture, or creed, or
catechism, or secret diary of the deepest penitent, that even half
uttered their own evil hearts; and they had lived long enough to
see that we are all cut out of one web, are all dyed in one vat,
and are all corrupted beyond all accusation or confession in Adam's
corruption. But how was that poor, mishandled lad to know or
believe all that? He could not. It was impossible. "You go so
fast, gentlemen, that I cannot keep pace with you. Go you on
before and I will stay a while behind. Then said Christian to his
companion: "It pities me much for this poor lad, for it will
certainly go ill with him at last." "Alas!" said Hopeful, "there
are abundance in our town in his condition: whole families, yea,
whole streets, and that of pilgrims too." Is your family such a
family as this? And are you yourself just such a pilgrim as
Ignorance was, and are you hastening on to just such an end?

And then, as a consequence, being wholly ignorant of his own
corruption and condemnation in the sight of God, this miserable man
must remain ignorant and outside of all that God has done in Christ
for corrupt and condemned men. "I believe that Christ died for
sinners and that I shall be justified before God from the curse
through His gracious acceptance of my obedience to His law. Or,
then, to take it this way, Christ makes my duties that are
religious acceptable to His Father by virtue of His merits, and so
shall I be justified." Now, I verify believe that nine out of ten
of the young men who are here to-night would subscribe that
statement and never suspect there was anything wrong with it or
with themselves. And yet, what does Christian, who, in this
matter, is just John Bunyan, who again is just the word of God--
what does the old pilgrim say to this confession of this young
pilgrim's faith? "Ignorance is thy name," he says, "and as thy
name is, so art thou: even this thy answer demonstrateth what I
say. Ignorant thou art of what justifying righteousness is, and as
ignorant how to secure thy soul through the faith of it from the
heavy wrath of God. Yea, thou also art ignorant of the true effect
of saving faith in this righteousness of Christ's, which is to bow
and win over the heart to God in Christ, to love His name, His
word, His ways, and His people." Paul sums up all his own early
life in this one word, "ignorant of God's righteousness." "Going
about," he says also, "to establish our own righteousness, not
submitting ourselves to be justified by the righteousness that God
has provided with such wisdom and grace, and at such a cost in His
Son Jesus Christ." Now, young men, I defy you to be better born,
better brought up, or to have better prospects than Saul of Tarsus
had. I defy you to have profited more by all your opportunities
and advantages than he had done. I defy you to be more blameless
in your opening manhood than he was. And yet it all went like
smoke when he got a true sight of himself, and, with that, a true
sight of Christ and His justifying righteousness. Read at home to-
night, and read when alone, what that great man of God says about
all that in his classical epistle to the Philippians, and refuse to
sleep till you have made the same submission. And, to-night, and
all your days, let SUBMISSION, Paul's splendid submission, be the
soul and spirit of all your religious life. Submission to be
searched by God's holy law as by a lighted candle: submission to
be justified from all that that candle discovers: submission to
take Christ as your life and righteousness, sanctification and
redemption: and submission of your mind and your will and your
heart to Him at all times and in all things. Nay, stay still, and
say where you sit, Lord, I submit. I submit on the spot to be
pardoned. I submit now to be saved. I submit in all things from
this very hour and house of God not any longer to be mine own, but
to be Thine, O God, Thine, Thine, for ever, in Jesus Christ Thy Son
and my Saviour!

"But, one day, as I was passing in the field, and that, too, with
some dashes in my conscience, fearing lest all was not right,
suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy Righteousness is in
heaven! And, methought, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus
Christ at God's right hand. There, I saw, was my Righteousness. I
also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that
made my Righteousness better, nor my bad frame of heart that made
my Righteousness worse: for my Righteousness was Jesus Christ
Himself, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. 'Twas
glorious to me to see His exaltation, and the worth and prevalency
of His benefits. And that because I could now look from myself to
Him and should reckon that all those graces of God that were now
green in me were yet but like those crack-groats and four-pence
halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses when their gold is
in their trunks at home! Oh, I saw that day that my gold was all
in my trunk at home! Even in Christ, my Lord and Saviour! Now,
Christ was all to me: all my wisdom, all my righteousness, all my
sanctification and all my redemption."

"Methinks in this God speaks,
No tinker hath such power."


"O thou of little faith."--Our Lord.

Little-Faith, let it never be forgotten, was, all the time, a good
man. With all his mistakes about himself, with his sad
misadventure, with all his loss of blood and of money, and with his
whole after-lifetime of doleful and bitter complaints,--all the
time, Little-Faith was all through, in a way, a good man. To keep
us right on this all-important point, and to prevent our being
prematurely prejudiced against this pilgrim because of his somewhat
prejudicial name--because give a dog a bad name, you know, and you
had better hang him out of hand at once--because, I say, of this
pilgrim's somewhat suspicious name, his scrupulously just, and,
indeed, kindly affected biographer says of him, and says it of him
not once nor twice, but over and over and over again, that this
Little-Faith was really all the time a truly good man. And, more
than that, this good man's goodness was not a new thing with him it
was not a thing of yesterday. This man had, happily to begin with,
a good father and a good mother. And if there was a good town in
all those parts for a boy to be born and brought up in it was
surely the town of Sincere. "Train up a child in the way he should
go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Well, Little-
Faith had been so trained up both by his father and his mother and
his schoolmaster and his minister, and he never cost either of them
a sore heart or even an hour's sleep. One who knew him well, as
well, indeed, as only one young man knows another, has been fain to
testify, when suspicions have been cast on the purity and integrity
of his youth, that nothing will describe this pilgrim so well in
the days of his youth as just those beautiful words out of the New
Testament--"an example to all young men in word, in conversation,
in charity, in spirit, in faith even, and in purity"--and that, if
there was one young man in all that town of Sincere who kept his
garments unspotted it was just our pilgrim of to-night. Yes, said
one who had known him all his days, if the child is the father of
the man, then Little-Faith, as you so unaccountably to me call him,
must have been all along a good man.

It was said long ago in Vanity Fair about our present Premier that
if he were a worse man he would be a better statesman. Now, I do
not repeat that in this place because I agree with it, but because
it helps to illustrate, as sometimes a violent paradox will help to
illustrate, a truth that does not lie all at once on the surface.
But it is no paradox or extravagance or anything but the simple
truth to say that if Little-Faith had had more and earlier
discoveries made to him of the innate evil of his own heart, even
if it had been by that innate evil bursting out of his heart and
laying waste his good life, he would either have been driven out of
his little faith altogether or driven into a far deeper faith. Had
the commandment come to him in the manner it came to Paul; had it
come so as that the sinfulness of his inward nature had revived, as
Paul says, under its entrance; then, either his great goodness or
his little faith must have there and then died. God's truth and
man's goodness cannot dwell together in the same heart. Either the
truth will kill the goodness, or the goodness will kill the truth.
Little-Faith, in short, was such a good man, and had always been
such a good man, and had led such an easy life in consequence, that
his faith had not been much exercised, and therefore had not grown,
as it must have been exercised and must have grown, had he not been
such a good man. In short, and to put it bluntly, had Little-Faith
been a worse sinner, he would have been a better saint. "O felix
culpa!" exclaimed a church father; "O happy fault, which found for
us sinners such a Redeemer." An apostrophe which Bishop Ken has
put into these four bold lines -

"What Adam did amiss,
Turned to our endless bliss;
O happy sin, which to atone,
Drew Filial God to leave His throne."

And John Calvin, the soberest of men, supports Augustine, the most
impulsive of men, in saying the same thing. All things which
happen to the saints are so overruled by God that what the world
regards as evil the issue shows to be good. For what Augustine
says is true, that even the sins of saints are, through the guiding
providence of God, so far from doing harm to them, that, on the
contrary, they serve to advance their salvation. And Richard
Hooker, a theologian, if possible, still more judicious than even
John Calvin, says on this same subject and in support of the same
great father, "I am not afraid to affirm it boldly with St.
Augustine that men puffed up through a proud opinion of their own
sanctity and holiness receive a benefit at the hands of God, and
are assisted with His grace, when with His grace they are not
assisted, but permitted, and that grievously, to transgress. Ask
the very soul of Peter, and it shall undoubtedly make you itself
this answer: My eager protestations, made in the glory of my
ghostly strength, I am ashamed of; but those crystal tears,
wherewith my sin and weakness were bewailed, have procured my
endless joy: my strength hath been my ruin, and my fall my stay."
And our own Samuel Rutherford is not likely to be left far behind
by the best of them when the grace of God is to be magnified. "Had
sin never been we should have wanted the mysterious Emmanuel, the
Beloved, the Chief among ten thousand, Christ, God-man, the Saviour
of sinners. For, no sick sinners, no soul-physician of sinners; no
captive, no Redeemer; no slave of hell, no lovely ransom-payer of
heaven. Mary Magdalene with her seven devils, Paul with his hands
smoking with the blood of the saints, and with his heart sick with
malice and blasphemy against Christ and His Church, and all the
rest of the washen ones whose robes are made fair in the blood of
the Lamb, and all the multitude that no man can number in that best
of lands, are all but bits of free grace. O what a depth of
unsearchable wisdom to contrive that lovely plot of free grace.
Come, all intellectual capacities, and warm your hearts at this
fire. Come, all ye created faculties, and smell the precious
ointment of Christ. Oh come, sit down under His shadow and eat the
apples of life. Oh that angels would come, and generations of men,
and wonder, and admire, and fall down before the unsearchable
wisdom of this gospel-art of the unsearchable riches of Christ!"
And always pungent Thomas Shepard of New England: "You shall find
this, that there is not any carriage or passage of the Lord's
providence toward thee but He will get a name to Himself, first and
last, by it. Hence you shall find that those very sins that
dishonour His name He will even by them get Himself a better name;
for so far will they be from casting you out of His love that He
will actually do thee good by them. Look and see if it is not so
with thee? Doth not thy weakness strengthen thee like Paul? Doth
not thy blindness make thee cry for light? And hath not God out of
darkness oftentimes brought light? Thou hast felt venom against
Christ and thy brother, and thou hast on that account loathed
thyself the more. Thy falls into sin make thee weary of it,
watchful against it, long to be rid of it. And thus He makes thy
poison thy food, thy death thy life, thy damnation thy salvation,
and thy very greatest enemies thy very best friends. And hence Mr.
Fox said that he thanked God more for his sins than for his good
works. And the reason is, God will have His name." And, last, but
not least, listen to our old acquaintance, James Fraser of Brea:
"I find advantages by my sins: 'Peccare nocet, peccavisse vero
juvat.' I may say, as Mr. Fox said, my sins have, in a manner,
done me more good than my graces. Grace and mercy have more
abounded where sin had much abounded. I am by my sins made much
more humble, watchful, revengeful against myself. I am made to see
a greater need to depend more upon Him and to love Him the more. I
find that true which Shepard says, 'sin loses strength by every new
fall.'" Have you followed all that, my brethren? Or have you
stumbled at it? Do you not understand it? Does your superficial
gin-horse mind incline to shake its empty head over all this? I
know that great names, and especially the great names of your own
party, go much farther with you than the truth goes, and therefore
I have sheltered this deep truth under a shield of great names.
For their sakes let this sure truth of God's best saints lie in
peace and undisputed beside you till you arrive to understand it.

But, to proceed,--the thing was this. At this passage there comes
down from Broadway-gate a lane called Dead-Man's-lane, so called
because of the murders that are commonly done there. And this
Little-Faith going on pilgrimage, as we now do, chanced to sit down
there and fell fast asleep. Yes; the thing was this: This good
man had never been what one would call really awake. He was not a
bad man, as men went in the town of Sincere, but he always had a
half-slept half-awakened look about his eyes, till now, at this
most unfortunate spot, he fell stone-dead asleep. You all know, I
shall suppose, what the apostle Paul and John Bunyan mean by sleep,
do you not? You all know, at any rate, to begin with, what sleep
means in the accident column of the morning papers. You all know
what sleep meant and what it involved and cost in the Thirsk
signal-box the other night. {1} When a man is asleep, he is as
good as dead, and other people are as good as dead to him. He is
dead to duty, to danger, to other people's lives, as well as to his
own. He may be having pleasant dreams, and may even be laughing
aloud in his sleep, but that may only make his awaking all the more
hideous. He may awake just in time, or he may awake just too late.
Only, he is asleep and he neither knows nor cares. Now, there is a
sleep of the soul as well as of the body. And as the soul is in
worth, as the soul is in its life and in its death to the body, so
is its sleep. Many of you sitting there are quite as dead to
heaven and hell, to death and judgment, and to what a stake other
people as well as yourselves have in your sleep as that poor
sleeper in the signal-box was dead to what was coming rushing on
him through the black night. And as all his gnashing of teeth at
himself, and all his sobs before his judge and before the laid-out
dead, and before distracted widows and half-mad husbands did not
bring back that fatal moment when he fell asleep so sweetly, so
will it be with you. Lazarus! come forth! Wise and foolish
virgins both: Behold the Bridegroom cometh! Awake, thou that
sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee

And, with that, Guilt with a great club that was in his hand struck
Little-Faith on the head, and with that blow felled him to the
earth, where he lay bleeding as one that would soon bleed to death.
Yes, yes, all true to the very life. A man may be the boast and
the example of all the town, and yet, unknown to them all, and all
but unknown to himself till he is struck down, he may have had
guilt enough on his track all the time to lay him half dead at the
mouth of Dead-Man's-lane. Good as was the certificate that all men
in their honesty gave to Little-Faith, yet even he had some bad
enough memories behind him and within him had he only kept them
ever present with him. But, then, it was just this that all along
was the matter with Little-Faith. Till, somehow, after that sad
and yet not wholly evil sleep, all his past sins leapt out into the
light and suddenly became and remained all the rest of his life
like scarlet. So loaded, indeed, was the club of Guilt with the
nails and studs and clamps of secret aggravation, that every nail
and stud left its own bleeding bruise in the prostrate man's head.
I have myself, says the narrator of Little-Faith's story, I have
myself been engaged as he was, and I found it to be a terrible
thing. I would, as the saying is, have sold my life at that moment
for a penny; but that, as God would have it, I was clothed with
armour of proof: ay, and yet though I was thus harnessed, I found
it hard work to quit myself like a man. No man can tell what in
that combat attends us but he that hath been in the battle himself.
Great-Grace himself,--whoso looks well upon his face shall see
those cuts and scars that shall easily give demonstration of what I

Most unfortunately there was no good Samaritan with his beast on
the road that day to take the half-dead man to an inn. And thus it
was that Little-Faith was left to lie in his blood till there was
almost no more blood left in him. Till at last, coming a little to
himself, he made a shift to scrabble on his way. When he was able
to look a little to himself, besides all his wounds and loss of
blood, he found that all his spending money was gone, and what was
he to do, a stranger in such a plight on a strange road? There was
nothing for it but he must just beg his way with many a hungry
belly for the remainder of his way. You all understand the parable
at this point? Our knowledge of gospel truth; our personal
experience of the life of God in our own soul; our sensible
attainments in this grace of the Spirit and in that; in secret
prayer, in love to God, in forgiveness of injuries, in good-will to
all men, and in self-denial that no one knows of,--in things like
these we possess what may be called the pocket-money of the
spiritual life. All these things, at their best, are not the true
jewel that no thief can break through nor steal; but though they
are not our best and truest riches, yet they have their place and
play their part in sending us up the pilgrim way. By our long and
close study of the word of God, if that is indeed our case; by
divine truth dwelling richly and experimentally in our hearts; and
by a hidden life that is its own witness, and which always has the
Holy Spirit's seal set upon it that we are the children of God,--
all that keeps, and is designed by God to keep our hearts up amid
the labours and the faintings, the hopes and the fears of the
spiritual life. All that keeps us at the least and the worst above
famine and beggary. Now, the whole pity with Little-Faith was,
that though he was not a bad man, yet he never, even at his best
days, had much of those things that make a good and well-furnished
pilgrim; and what little he had he had now clean lost. He had
never been much a reader of his Bible; he had never sat over it as
other men sat over their news-letters and their romances. He had
never had much taste or talent for spiritual books of any kind. He
was a good sort of man, but he was not exactly the manner of man on
whose broken heart the Holy Ghost sets the broad seal of heaven.
But for his dreadful misadventure, he might have plodded on, a
decent, humdrum, commonplace, everyday kind of pilgrim; but when
that catastrophe fell on him he had nothing to fall back upon. The
secret ways of faith and love and hope were wholly unknown to him.
He had no practice in importunate prayer. He had never prayed a
whole night all his life. He had never needed to do so. For were
we not told when we first met him what a blameless and pure and
true and good man he had always been? He did not know how to find
his way about in his Bible; and as for the maps and guide-books
that some pilgrims never let out of their hand, even when he had
some spending money about him, he never laid it out that way. And
a more helpless pilgrim than Little-Faith was all the rest of the
way you never saw. He was forced to beg as he went, says his
historian. That is to say, he had to lean upon and look to wiser
and better-furnished men than himself. He had to share their
meals, look to them to pay his bills, keep close to their company,
walk in their foot-prints, and at night borrow their oil, and it
was only in this poor dependent way that Little-Faith managed to
struggle on to the end of his dim and joyless journey.

It would have been far more becoming and far more profitable if
Christian and Hopeful, instead of falling out of temper and calling
one another bad names over the sad case of Little-Faith, had tried
to tell one another why that unhappy pilgrim's faith was so small,
and how both their own faith and his might from that day have been
made more. Hopeful, for some reason or other, was in a rude and
boastful mood of mind that day, and Christian was more tart and
snappish than we have ever before seen him; and, altogether, the
opportunity of learning something useful out of Little-Faith's
story has been all but lost to us. But, now, since there are so
many of Little-Faith's kindred among ourselves--so many good men
who are either half asleep in their religious life or are begging
their way from door to door--let them be told, in closing, one or
two out of many other ways in which their too little faith may
possibly be made stronger and more fruitful.

Well, then, faith, like everything else, once we have it, grows
greater by our continual exercise of it. Exercise, then,
intentionally and seriously and on system your faith every day.
And exercise it habitually and increasingly on your Bible, on
heaven, and on Jesus Christ. And let your faith on all these
things, and places, and persons, work by love,--by love and by
imagination. Our love is cold and our faith is small and weak for
lack of imagination. Read your Psalm, your Gospel, your Epistle
every morning and every night with your eye upon the object. Think
you see the Psalmist amid all his deep and divine experiences.
Think you see Jesus Christ speaking His parables, saying His
prayers, and doing His good works. Walk up and down with Him,
observing His manner, His look, His gait, His divinity in your
humanity, till Galilee and Jerusalem become Scotland and Edinburgh;
that is, till He is as much with you, and more, than He was with
Peter and James and John. Never close your eye a single night till
you have again laid your hand on the very head of the Lamb of God,
and till you feel that your sin and guilt have all passed off your
hand and on upon His head. And never rise without, like William
Law, saluting the rising sun in the name of God, as if he had just
been created and sent up into your sky to let you see to serve God
and your neighbour for another day. And be often out of this world
and up in heaven. Beat all about you at building castles in the
air; you have more material and more reason. For is not faith the
substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen?
Walk often in heaven's friendly streets. Pass often into heaven's
many mansions filled with happy families. Imagine this unhappy
life at an end, and imagine yourself sent back to this probationary
world to play the man for a few short years before heaven finally
calls you home. Little-Faith was a good man, but there was no
speculation in his eyes and no secrets of love in his heart. And
if your faith also is little, and your spending money also is run
low, try this way of love and imagination. If you have a better
way, then go on with it and be happy yourself and helpful to
others; but if your faith is at a standstill and is stricken with
barrenness, try my counsel of putting more heart and more inward
eye, more holy love and more heavenly joy, into your frigid and
sterile religion.


"A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his
feet."--The Wise Man.

Both Ignorance and Little-Faith would have had their revenge and
satisfaction upon Christian and Hopeful had they seen those two so
Pharisaical old men taken in the Flatterer's net. For it was
nothing else but the swaggering pride of Hopeful over the pitiful
case of Little-Faith, taken along with the hard and hasty ways of
Christian with that unhappy youth Ignorance, that so soon laid them
both down under the small cords of the Shining One. This word of
the wise man, that pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty
spirit before a fall, was fulfilled to the very letter in Christian
and Hopeful that high-minded day. At the same time, it must be
admitted that Christian and Hopeful would have been more than human
if they had not both felt and let fall some superiority, some
scorn, and some impatience in the presence of such a silly and
upsetting stripling as Ignorance was; as, also, over the story of
such a poor-spirited and spunging creature as Little-Faith was.
Christian and Hopeful had just come down from their delightful time
among the Delectable Mountains, and they were as full as they could
hold of all kinds of knowledge, and faith, and hope, and assurance;
when, most unfortunately, as it turned out, they first came across
Ignorance, and then, after quarrelling with him, they fell out
between themselves over the case of Little-Faith. Their superior
knowledge of the truth, and their superior strength of faith, ought
to have made them more able to bear with the infirmities of the
weak, and with the passing moods, however provoking, of one
another. But no. And their impatience and contempt and bad temper
all came at this crisis to such a head with them that they could
only be cured by the small cords and the stinging words of the
Shining One. The true key to this so painful part of the parable
hangs at our own girdle. We who have been born and brought up in
an evangelical church are thrown from time to time into the company
of men--ministers and people--who have not had our advantages and
opportunities. They have been born, baptized, and brought up in
communities and churches the clean opposite of ours; and they are
as ignorant of all New Testament religion as Ignorance himself was;
or, on the other hand, they are as full of superstition and terror
and spiritual starvation as Little-Faith was. And then, instead of
recollecting and laying to heart Who made us to differ from such
ignorance and such unbelief, and thus putting on love and humility
and patience toward our neighbours, we speak scornfully and roughly
to them, and boast ourselves over them, and as good as say to them,
Stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am wiser, wider-
minded, stronger, and better every way than thou. And then, ere
ever we are aware of what we are doing, we have let the arch-
flatterer of religious superiority and of spiritual pride seduce us
aside out of the lowly and heavenly way of love and humility till
we are again brought back to it with rebukes of conscience and with
other chastisements. You all understand, my brethren, that the man
black of flesh but covered with a white robe was no wayside seducer
who met Christian and Hopeful at that dangerous part of the road
only and only on that high-minded day. You know from yourselves
surely that both Christian and Hopeful carried that black but
smooth-spoken man within themselves. The Flatterer who led the two
pilgrims so fatally wrong that day was just their own heart taken
out of their own bosom and personified and dramatised by Bunyan's
dramatic genius, and so made to walk and talk and flatter and puff
up outside of themselves till they came again to see who in reality
he was and whence he came,--that is to say, till they were brought
to see what they themselves still were, and would always be, when
they were left to themselves. "Where did you lie last night? asked
the Shining One with the whip. With the Shepherds on the
Delectable Mountains, they answered. He asked them then if they
had not of those shepherds a note of direction for the way? They
answered, Yes. But did you not, said he, when you were at a stand
pluck out and read your note? They answered, No. He asked them
why? They said they forgot. He asked, moreover if the shepherds
did not bid them beware of the Flatterer? They answered, Yes; but
we did not imagine, said they, that this fine-spoken man had been

All good literature, both sacred and profane, both ancient and
modern, is full of the Flatterer. Let me not, protests Elihu in
his powerful speech in the book of Job, let me not accept any man's
person; neither let me give flattering titles unto man, lest in so
doing my Maker should soon take me away. And the Psalmist in his
powerful description of the wicked men of his day: There is no
faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness;
their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.
And again: They speak with flattering lips, and with a double
heart do they speak. But the Lord shall cut off all flattering
lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things. "The perpetual
hyperbole" of pure love becomes in the lips of impure love the
impure bait that leads the simple ones astray on the streets of the
city as seen and heard by the wise man out of his casement. My
son, say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister, and call understanding
thy kinswoman; that they may keep thee from the strange woman, from
the stranger which flattereth thee with her words, which forsaketh
the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.
And then in the same book of Hebrew aphorisms we find this text
which Bunyan puts on the margin of the page: "A man that
flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet." And now,
before we leave the ancient world, if you would not think it
beneath the dignity of the place we are in, I would like to read to
you a passage out of a round-about paper written by a satirist of
Greece about the time of Ezra and Nehemiah in Jerusalem. You will
easily remark the difference of tone between the seriousness and
pathos of the Hebrew prophet and the light and chaffing touch of
Theophrastus. "The Flatterer is a person," says that satirist of
Greek society, "who will say to you as he walks with you, 'Do you
observe how people are looking at you? This happens to no man in
Athens but to you. A fine compliment was paid you yesterday in the
Porch. More than thirty persons were sitting there when the
question was started, Who is our foremost man? Every one mentioned
you first, and ended by coming back to your name." The Flatterer
will laugh also at your stalest joke, and will stuff his cloak into
his mouth as if he could not repress his amusement when you again
tell it. He will buy apples and pears and will give to your
children when you are by, and will kiss them all and will say,
'Chicks of a good father.' Also, when he assists at the purchase
of slippers he will declare that the foot is more shapely than the
shoe. He is the first of the guests to praise the wine and to say
as he reclines next the host, 'How delicate your fare always is';
and taking up something from the table, 'Now, how excellent that
is!'" And so on. Yes, we have heard it all over and over again in
Modern Athens also. The Greek fable also of the fox and the crow
and the piece of cheese is only another illustration of the truth
that the God of truth and integrity never left Himself without a
witness. Our own literature also is scattered full of the
Flatterer and his too willing dupes. "Of praise a mere glutton,"
says Goldsmith of David Garrick, "he swallowed what came. The puff
of a dunce he mistook it for fame." "Delicious essence," exclaims
Sterne, "how refreshing thou art to poor human nature! How sweetly
dost thou mix with the blood, and help it through the most
difficult and tortuous passages to the heart." "He that slanders
me," says Cowper, "paints me blacker than I am, and he that
flatters me whiter. They both daub me, and when I look in the
glass of conscience, I see myself disguised by both." And then he

"The worth of these three kingdoms I defy
To lure me to the baseness of a lie;
And of all lies (be that one poet's boast),
The lie that flatters I abhor the most."

Now, praise, which is one of the best and sweetest things in human
life, so soon passes over into flattery, which is one of the worst
things, that something must here be said and laid to heart about
praise also. But, to begin with, praise itself must first be
praised. There is nothing nobler than true praise in him who
speaks it, and there is nothing dearer and sweeter to him who hears
it. God Himself inhabits the praises of Israel. All God's works
praise Him. Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me. Praise waiteth
for Thee, O God, in Zion. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
and into His courts with praise. Violence shall no more be heard
in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou
shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. And such
also is all true praise between man and man. How deliciously sweet
is praise! How we labour after it! how we look for it and wait for
it! and how we languish and die if we do not get it! Again, when
it comes to us, how it cheers us up and makes our face to shine!
For a long time after it our step is so swift on the street and our
face beams so that all men can quite well see what has come to us.
Praise is like wine in our blood; it is new life to our fainting
heart. So much is this the case that a salutation of praise is to
be our first taste of heaven itself. It will wipe all tears off
our eyes when we hear our Lord saying to us, "Well done!" when all
our good works that we have done in the body shall be found unto
praise and honour and glory in the great day of Jesus Christ.

At the same time, this same love of praise is one of our most
besetting and fatal temptations as long as we are in this false and
double and deceptive world. Sin, God curse it! has corrupted and
poisoned everything, the very best things of this life, and when
the best things are corrupted and poisoned they become the worst
things. And praise does not escape this universal and fatal law.
Weak, evil, and self-seeking men are near us, and we lean upon
them, look to them, and listen to them. We make them our strength
and support, and seek repose and refreshment from them. They
cannot be all or any of these things to us; but we are far on in
life, we are done with life, before we have discovered that and
will admit that. Most men never discover and admit that till they
are out of this life altogether. Christ's praise and the applause
of His saints and angels are so future and so far away from us, and
man's praise and the applause of this world, hollow and false as it
is, is so near us, that we feed our souls on offal and garbage,
when, already, in the witness of a good conscience, we might be
feasting our souls on the finest of the wheat, and satisfying them
with honey out of the rock. And, then, this insatiable appetite of
our hearts, being so degraded and perverted, like all degraded and
perverted appetites, becomes an iron-fast slave to what it feeds
upon. What miserable slaves we all are to the approval and the
praise of men! How they hold us in their bondage! How we lick
their hands and sit up on our haunches and go through our postures
for a crumb! How we crawl on our belly and lick their feet for a
stroke and a smile! What a hound's life does that man lead who
lives upon the approval and the praise and the patronage of men!
What meanness fills his mind; what baseness fills his heart! What
a shameful leash he is led about the world in! How kicked about
and spat upon he is; while not half so much as he knows all the
time that he deserves to be! Better far be a dog at once and bay
the moon than be a man and fawn upon the praises of men.

If you would be a man at all, not to speak of a Christian man,
starve this appetite till you have quite extirpated it. You will
never be safe from it as long as it stirs within you. Extirpate
it! Extirpate it! You will never know true self-respect and you
will never deserve to know it, till you have wholly extirpated your
appetite for praise. Put your foot upon it, put it out of your
heart. Stop fishing for it, and when you see it coming, turn away
and stop your ears against it. And should it still insinuate
itself, at any rate do not repeat to others what has already so
flattered and humbled and weakened you. Telling it to others will
only humble and weaken you more. By repeating the praise that you
have heard or read about yourself you only expose yourself and
purchase well-deserved contempt for yourself. And, more than that,
by fishing for praise you lay yourself open to all sorts of
flatterers. Honest men, men who truly respect and admire you, will
show you their dignified regard and appreciation of you and your
work by their silence; while your leaky slaves will crowd around
you with floods of praise that they know well will please and
purchase you. And when you cannot with all your arts squeeze a
drop out of those who love and honour you, gallons will be poured
upon you by those who have respect neither for themselves nor for
you. Faugh! Flee from flatterers, and take up only with sternly
true and faithful men. "I am much less regardful," says Richard
Baxter, "of the approbation of men, and set much lighter store by
their praise and their blame, than I once did. All worldly things
appear most vain and unsatisfying to those who have tried them
most. But while I feel that this has had some hand in my distaste
for man's praise, yet it is the increasing impression on my heart
of man's nothingness and God's transcendent greatness; it is the
brevity and vanity of all earthly things, taken along with the
nearness of eternity;--it is all this that has at last lifted me
above the blame and the praise of men."

To conclude; let us make up our mind and determine to pass on to
God on the spot every syllable of praise that ever comes to our
eyes or our ears--if, in this cold, selfish, envious, and grudging
world, any syllable of praise ever should come to us. Even if pure
and generous and well-deserved praise should at any time come to
us, all that does not make it ours. The best earned usury is not
the steward's own money to do with it what he likes. The principal
and the interest, and the trader too, are all his master's. And,
more than that, after the wisest and the best trader has done his
best, he will remain, to himself at least, a most unprofitable
servant. Pass on then immediately, dutifully, and to its very last
syllable, to God all the praise that comes to you. Wash your hands
of it and say, Not unto us, O God, not unto us, but unto Thy name.
And then, to take the most selfish and hungry-hearted view of this
whole matter, what you thus pass on to God as not your own but His,
He will soon, and in a better and safer world, return again to the
full with usury to you, and you again to God, and He again to you,
and so on, all down the pure and true and sweet and blessed life of


" . . . without God [literally, atheists] in the world."--Paul.

"Yonder is a man with his back toward Zion, and he is coming to
meet us. So he drew nearer and nearer, and at last came up to
them. His name was Atheist, and he asked them whither they were
going? We are going to the Mount Zion, they answered. Then
Atheist fell into a very great laughter. What is the meaning of
your laughter? they asked. I laugh to see what ignorant persons
you are to take upon you so tedious a journey, and yet are like to
have nothing but your travel for your pains. Why, man? Do you
think we shall not be received? they said. Received! There is no
such place as you dream of in all this world. But there is in the
world to come, replied Christian. When I was at home, Atheist went
on, in mine own country I heard as you now affirm, and, from that
hearing, I went out to see, and have been seeking this city you
speak of this twenty years, but find no more of it than I did the
first day I set out. And, still laughing, he went his way."

Having begun to tell us about Atheist, why did Bunyan not tell us
more? We would have thanked him warmly to-night for a little more
about this unhappy man. Why did the dreamer not take another eight
or ten pages in order to tell us, as only he could have told us,
how this man that is now Atheist had spent his past twenty years
seeking Mount Zion? Those precious unwritten pages are now buried
in John Strudwick's vault in Bunhill Fields, and no other man has
arisen able to handle Bunyan's biographic pen. Had Bunyan but put
off the entrance of Christian and Hopeful into the city till he had
told us something more about the twenty years it had taken this
once earnest pilgrim to become an atheist, how valuable an
interpolation that would have been! What was it that made this man
to set out so long ago for the Celestial City? What was it that so
stoutly determined him to leave off all his old companions and turn
his back on the sweet refreshments of his youth? How did he do at
the Slough of Despond? Did he come that way? What about the
Wicket Gate, and the House Beautiful, and the Interpreter's House,
and the Delectable Mountains? What men, and especially what women,
did he meet and converse with on his way? What were his fortunes,
and what his misfortunes? How much did he lay out at Vanity Fair,
and on what? At what point of his twenty years' way did his
youthful faith begin to shake, and his youthful love begin to
become lukewarm? And what was it that at last made him quite turn
round his back on Zion and his face to his own country? I cannot
forgive Bunyan to-night for not telling us the story of Atheist's
conversion, his pilgrimage, and his apostasy in full.

At the same time, though it cannot be denied that Bunyan has lost
at this point a great opportunity for his genius and for our
advantage,--at the same time, he undoubtedly did a very courageous
thing in introducing Atheist at all; and, especially, in
introducing him to us and making him laugh so loudly at us when we
are on the very borders of the land of Beulah. A less courageous
writer, and a writer less sure of his ground, would have left out
Atheist altogether; or, if he had felt constrained to introduce
him, would have introduced him at any other period of our history
rather than at this period. Under other hands than Bunyan's we
would have met with this mocking reprobate just outside the City of
Destruction; or, perhaps, among the booths of Vanity Fair; or,
indeed, anywhere but where we now meet him. And, that our greater-
minded author does not let loose the laughter of Atheist upon us
till we are almost out of the body is a stroke of skill and truth
and boldness that makes us glad indeed that we possess such a
sketch at Bunyan's hand at all, all too abrupt and all too short as
that sketch is. In the absence, then, of a full-length and
finished portrait of Atheist, we must be content to fall back on
some of the reflections and lessons that the mere mention of his
name, the spot he passes us on, and the ridicule of his laughter,
all taken together, awaken in our minds. One rapid stroke of such
a brush as that of John Bunyan conveys more to us than a full-
length likeness, with all the strongest colours, of any other
artist would be able to do.

1. One thing the life-long admiration of John Bunyan's books has
helped to kindle and burn into my mind and my imagination is this:
What a universe of things is the heart of man! Were there nothing
else in the heart of man but all the places and all the persons and
all the adventures that John Bunyan saw in his sleep, what a world
that would open up in all our bosoms! All the pilgrims, good and
bad--they, or the seed and possibility of them all, are all in your
heart and in mine. All the cities, all the roads that lead from
one city to another, with all the paths and all the by-paths,--all
the adventures, experiences, endurances, conflicts, overthrows,
victories,--all are within us and never are to be seen anywhere
else. Heaven and hell, God and the devil, life and death,
salvation and damnation, time and eternity, all are within us.
"There is no Mount Zion in all this world," bellowed out this
blinded fool. "No; I know that quite well," quickly responded
Christian; "but there is in the world to come." He would have said
the whole truth, and he would have been entirely right, had he
taken time to add, "and in the world within." "And more," he
should have said to Atheist, "much more in the world within than in
any possible world to come." The Celestial City, every Sabbath-
school child begins gradually to understand, is not up among the
stars; till, as he grows older, he takes in the whole of the New
Testament truth that the kingdom of heaven is wholly within him.
You all understand, my brethren, that were we swept in a moment up
to the furthest star, by all that infinite flight we would not be
one hair's-breadth nearer the heavenly city. That is not the right
direction to that city. The city whose builder and maker is God
lies in quite a different direction from that altogether; not by
ascending up beyond sun and moon and stars to all eternity would we
ever get one hand's-breadth nearer God. But if you deny yourself
sleep to-night till you have read His book and bowed your knees in
His closet; if, for His sake, you deny yourself to-morrow when you
are eating and drinking; as often as you say, "Not my will, but
Thine be done"; as often as you humble yourself when others exalt
themselves; as often as you refuse praise and despise blame for His
sake; as often as you forgive before God your enemy, and rejoice
with your friend,--Behold! the kingdom of heaven, with its King and
all His shining court of angels and saints is around you;--is,
indeed, within you. No; there is no such place. Heaven is not in
any place: heaven is in a person where it is at all; and you are
that person as often as you put off an earthly and put on a
heavenly mind. That mocking reprobate, with his secret heart all
through those twenty years hungering after the lusts of his youth,-
-he was wholly right in what he so unintentionally said; there is
no such place in all this world. And, even if there were, it would
spue him and all who are like him out of its mouth.

2. And, then, in all that universe of things that fills that
bottomless pit and shoreless sea the human heart, there is nothing
deeper down in it than just its deep and unsearchable atheism. The
very deepest thing, and the most absolutely inexpugnable thing, in
every human heart is its theism; its original and inextinguishable
convictions about itself and about God. But, all but as deep as
that--for all around that, and all over that, and soaking all
through that--there lies a superincumbent mass of sullen, brutish,
malignant atheism. Nay, so deep down is the atheism of all our
hearts, that it is only one here and another there of the holiest
and the ripest of God's saints who ever get down to it, or even get
at their deepest within sight of it. Robert Fleming tells us about
Robert Bruce, that he was a man that had much inward exercise about
his own personal case, and had been often assaulted anent that
great foundation truth, if there was a God. And often, when he had
come up to the pulpit, after being some time silent, which was his
usual way, he would say, "I think it is a great matter to believe
there is a God"; telling the people that it was another thing to
believe that than they judged. But it was also known to his
friends what extraordinary confirmations he had from the Lord
therein, and what near familiarity he did attain to in his heart-
converse with God: Yea, truly, adds Fleming, some things I have
had thereanent that seem so strange and marvellous that I forbear
to set them down. And in Halyburton's priceless Memoirs we read:
"Hereby I was brought into a doubt about the truths of religion,
the being of God, and things eternal. Whenever I was in dangers or
straits and would build upon these things, a suspicion secretly
haunted me, what if the things are not? This perplexity was
somewhat eased while one day I was reading how Robert Bruce was
shaken about the being of God, and how at length he came to the
fullest satisfaction." And in another place: "Some days ago
reading Ex. ix. and x., and finding this, "That ye may know that I
am God" frequently repeated, and elsewhere in passages innumerable,
as the end of God's manifesting Himself in His word and works; I
observe from it that atheism is deeply rooted even in the Lord's
people, seeing they need to be taught this so much. The great
difficulty that the whole of revelation has to grapple with is
atheism; its whole struggle is to recover man to his first
impressions of a God. This one point comprehends the whole of
man's recovery, just as atheism is the whole of man's apostasy."
And, again, in another part of the same great book, Halyburton
says: "I must observe, also, the wise providence of God, that the
greatest difficulties that lie against religion are hid from
atheists. All the objections I meet with in their writings are not
nearly so subtle as those which are often suggested to myself. The
reason of this is obvious from the very nature of the thing--such
persons take not a near-hand view of religion, and while persons
stand at a distance neither are the advantages nor the difficulties
of religion discerned." And now listen to Bunyan, that arch-
atheist: "Whole floods of blasphemies both against God, Christ,
and the Scriptures were poured upon my spirit, to my great
confusion and astonishment. Against the very being of God and of
His only beloved Son; or, whether there were, in truth, a God and a
Christ, or no. Of all the temptations that ever I met with in my
life, to question the being of God and the truth of the Gospel is
the worst, and the worst to be borne. When this temptation comes
it takes away my girdle from me, and removeth the foundation from
under me."

"Fool, said my Muse to me, look in thy heart and write."

And John Bunyan looked into his own deep and holy heart, and out of
it he composed this incident of Atheist.

3. It may not be out of place at this point to look for a moment
at some of the things that agitate, stir up, and make the secret
atheism of our hearts to fluctuate and overflow. Butler has a fine
passage in which he points out that it is only the higher class of
minds that are tempted with speculative difficulties such as those
were that assaulted Christian and Hopeful after they were so near
the end of their journey. Coarse, common-place, and mean-minded
men have their probation appointed them among coarse, mean, and
commonplace things; whereas enlightened, enlarged, and elevated men
are exercised after the manner of Robert Bruce, Thomas Halyburton,
John Bunyan, and Butler himself. "The chief temptations of the
generality of the world are the ordinary motives to injustice or
unrestrained pleasure; but there are other persons without this
shallowness of temper; persons of a deeper sense as to what is
invisible and future. Now, these persons have their moral
discipline set them in that high region." The profound bishop
means that while their appetites and their tempers are the
stumbling-stones of the most of men, the difficult problems of
natural and revealed and experimental religion are the test and the
triumph of other men. As we have just seen in the men mentioned
above. Students, whose temptations lie fully as much in their
intellects as in their senses, should buy (for a few pence)
Halyburton's Memoirs. "With Halyburton," says Dr. John Duncan, "I
feel great intellectual congruity. Halyburton was naturally a
sceptic, but God gave that sceptic great faith."

Then again, what Atheist calls the "tediousness" of the journey has
undoubtedly a great hand in making some half-in-earnest men
sceptics, if not scoffers. Many of us here to-night who can never
now take this miserable man's way out of the tedium of the
Christian life, yet most bitterly feel it. Whether that tedium is
inherent in that life, and inevitable to such men as we are who are
attempting that life; how far that feature belongs to the very
essence of the pilgrim life, and how far we import our own tedium
into the pilgrimage; the fact remains as Atheist puts it. As
Atheist in this book says, so the Atheist who is in our hearts
often says: We are like to have nothing for all our pains but a
lifetime of tedious travel. Yes, wherever the blame lies, there
can be no doubt about it, that what this hilarious scoffer calls
the tediousness of the way is but a too common experience among
many of those who, tediousness and all, will still cleave fast to
it and will never leave it.

Then, again, great trials in life, great straits, dark and too-
long-continued providences, prayer unanswered, or not yet answered
in the way we dictate, bad men and bad causes growing like a green
bay tree, and good men and good work languishing and dying; these
things, and many more things such as these, of which this world of
faith and patience is full, prove quite too much for some men till
they give themselves up to a state of mind that is nothing better
than atheism. "My evidences and my certainty," says Halyburton,
"were not answerable to the weight I was compelled to lay upon
them." A figure which Goodwin in his own tender and graphic way
takes up thus: "Set pins in a wall and fix them in ever so
loosely, yet, if you hang nothing upon them they will seem to stand
firm; but hang a heavy weight upon them, or even give them the
least jog as you pass, and the whole thing will suddenly come down.
The wall is God's word, the slack pin is our faith, and the weight
and the jog are the heavy burdens and the sudden shocks of life,
and down our hearts go, wall and pin and suspended vessel and all.

When the church and her ministers, when the Scriptures and their
anomalies, and when the faults and failings of Christian men are
made the subject of mockery and laughter, the reverence, the fear,
the awe, the respect that all enter so largely into religion, and
especially into the religion of young people, is too easily
destroyed; and not seldom the first seeds of practical and
sometimes of speculative atheism are thus sown. The mischief that
has been done by mockery and laughter to the souls, especially of
the young and the inexperienced, only the great day will fully

And then, two men of great weight and authority with us, tell us
what we who are ministers would have found out without them: this,
namely, that the greatest atheists are they who are ever handling
holy things without feeling them.

"Is it true," said Christian to Hopeful, his fellow, "is it true
what this man hath said?" "Take heed," said Hopeful, "remember
what it hath cost us already for hearkening to such kind of
fellows. What! No Mount Zion! Did we not see from the Delectable
Mountains the gate of the City? And, besides, are we not to walk
by faith? Let us go on lest the man with the whip overtakes us
again." Christian: "My brother, I said that but to prove thee,
and to fetch from thee a fruit of the honesty of thy heart." Many
a deep and powerful passage has Butler composed on that thesis
which Hopeful here supplies him with; and many a brilliant sermon
has Newman preached on that same text till he has made our
"predispositions to faith" a fruitful and an ever fresh commonplace
to hundreds of preachers. Yes; the best bulwark of faith is a good
and honest heart. To such a happy heart the truth is its own
unshaken evidence. To whom can we go but to Thee?--they who have
such a heart protest. The whole bent of such men's minds is toward
the truth of the gospel. Their instincts keep them on the right
way even when their reason and their observation are both
confounded. As Newman keeps on saying, they are "easy of belief."
They cannot keep away from Christ and His church. They cannot turn
back. They must go on. Though He slay them they will die yearning
after Him. They often fall into great error and into great guilt,
but their seed remaineth in them, and they cannot continue in error
or in guilt, because they are born of God. They are they in whom

"Persuasion and belief
Have ripened into faith; and faith become
A passionate intuition."


"We are saved by hope."--Paul

Up till the time when Christian and Faithful passed through Vanity
Fair on their way to the Celestial City, Hopeful was one of the
most light-minded men in all that light-minded town. By his birth,
and both on his father's and his mother's side, Hopeful was, to
begin with, a youth of an unusually shallow and silly mind. In the
jargon of our day he was a man of a peculiarly optimistic
temperament. No one ever blamed him for being too subjective and
introspective. It took many sharp trials and many bitter
disappointments to take the inborn frivolity and superficiality out
of this young man's heart. He was far on in his life, he was far
on even in his religious life, before you would have ever thought
of calling him a serious-minded man. Hopeful had been born and
brought up to early manhood in the town of Vanity, and he knew
nothing better and desired nothing better than to lay out his whole
life and to rest all his hopes on the things of the fair; on such
things, that is, as houses, lands, places, honours, preferments,
titles, pleasures, and delights of all sorts. And that vain and
empty life went on with him, till, as he told his companion
afterwards, it had all ended with him in revelling, and drinking,
and uncleanness, and Sabbath-breaking, and all such things as
destroyed his soul. But in Hopeful's happy case also the blood of
the martyrs became the seed of the church. Hopeful, as he was
afterwards called, had suffered so many bitter disappointments and
shipwrecks of expectation from the things of the fair, that is to
say, from the houses, the places, the preferments, the pleasures
and what not, of the fair, that even his heart was ripe for
something better than any of those things, when, as God would have
it, Christian and Faithful came to the town. Hopeful was still
hanging about the booths of the fair; he was just fingering his
last sixpence over a commodity that he knew quite well would be
like gall in his belly as soon as he had bought it; when,--what is
that hubbub that rolls down the street? Hopeful was always the
first to see and to hear every new thing that came to the town, and
thus it was that he was soon in the thick of the tumult that rose
around Christian and Faithful. Had those two pilgrims come to the
town at any former time, Hopeful would have been among the foremost
to mock at and smite the two men; but, to-day, Hopeful's heart is
so empty, and his purse also, that he is already won to their side
by the loving looks and the wise and sweet words of the two ill-
used men. Some of the men of the town said that the two pilgrims
were outlandish and bedlamite men, but Hopeful took courage to
reprove some of the foremost of the mob. Till, at last, when
Faithful was at the stake, it was all that his companions could do
to keep back Hopeful from leaping up on the burning pile and
embracing the expiring man. And then, when He who overrules all
things so brought it about that Christian escaped out of their
hands, who should come forth and join him at the upward gate of the
city but just Hopeful, who not only joined himself to the lonely
pilgrim, but told him also that there were many more of the men of
the city who would take their time and follow after. And thus,
adds his biographer, when one died to make his testimony to the
truth, another rose up out of his ashes to be a companion to

When Madame Krudener was getting her foot measured by a pietist
shoemaker, she was so struck with the repose and the sweetness and
the heavenly joy of the poor man's look and manner that she could
not help but ask him what had happened to him that he had such a
look on his countenance and such a light in his eye. She was
miserable, though she had all that heart could wish. She had all
that made her one of the most envied women in Europe; she had
birth, talents, riches, rank, and the friendship of princes and
princesses, and yet she was of all women the most miserable. And
here was a poor chance shoemaker whose whole heart was running over
with a joy such that all her wealth could not purchase to her heart
one single drop of it. The simple soul soon told her his secret;
it was no secret: it was just Jesus Christ who had done it all.
And thus her poor shoemaker's happy face was the means of this
great lady's conversion. And, in like manner, it was the beholding
of Christian and Faithful in their words and in their behaviour at
the fair that decided Hopeful to join himself to Christian and
henceforth to be his companion.

What were the things, asked Christian of his young companion, that
first led you to leave off the vanities of the fair and to think to
be a pilgrim? Many things, replied Hopeful. Sometimes if I did
but meet a good man in the street. Or if mine head began
unaccountably, or mine heart, to ache. Or if some one of my
companions became suddenly sick. Or if I heard the bell toll that
some one was dead. But, especially, when I thought of myself that
I must quickly come to judgment. And then it is told in the best
style of the book how peace and rest and the beginning of true
satisfaction came to poor Hopeful's heart at last. But you must
promise me to read the passage for yourselves before you sleep to-
night; and to read it again and again till, like Hopeful's, your
heart also is full of joy, and your eyes full of tears, and your
affections running over with love to the name and to the people and
to all the ways of Jesus Christ.

And then, it is very encouraging and reassuring to us to see how
Hopeful's true conversion so deepened and sobered and strengthened
his whole character. He remained to the end in his mental
constitution and whole temperament, as we say, the same man he had
always been; but, while remaining the same man, at the same time a
most wonderful change gradually began to come over him, till, by
slow but sure degrees, he became the Hopeful we know and look to
and lean upon. To use his own autobiographic words about himself,
it was "by hearing and considering of things that are Divine" that
his natural levity was so completely whipped out of his soul till
he was made at last an indispensable companion to Christian,
strong-minded and serious-minded man as he was. "Conversion to
God," says William Law, "is often very sudden and instantaneous,
unexpectedly raised from variety of occasions. Thus, one by seeing
only a withered tree, another by reading the lives and deaths of
the antediluvian fathers, one by hearing of heaven, another of
hell, one by reading of the love or wrath of God, another of the
sufferings of Christ, may find himself, as it were, melted into
penitence all of a sudden. It may be granted also that the
greatest sinner may in a moment be converted to God, and may feel
himself wounded in such a degree as perhaps those never were who
have been turning to God all their lives. But, then, it is to be
observed that this suddenness of change or flash of conviction is
by no means of the essence of true conversion. This stroke of
conversion is not to be considered as signifying our high state of
a new birth in Christ, or a proof that we are on a sudden made new
creatures, but that we are thus suddenly called upon and stirred up
to look after a newness of nature. The renewal of our first birth
and state is something entirely distinct from our first sudden
conversion and call to repentance. That is not a thing done in an
instant, but is a certain process, a gradual release from our
captivity and disorder, consisting of several stages and degrees,
both of life and death, which the soul must go through before it
can have thoroughly put off the old man. It is well worth
observing that our Saviour's greatest trials were near the end of
His life. This might sufficiently show us that our first
awakenings have carried us but a little way; that we should not
then begin to be self-assured of our own salvation, but should
remember that we stand at a great distance from, and are in great
ignorance of, our severest trials." Such was the way that
Christian in his experience and in his wisdom talked to his young
companion till his outward trials and the consequent discoveries he
made of his own weakness and corruption made even Hopeful himself a
sober-minded and a thoughtful man. "Where pain ends, gain ends

Then, again, no one can read Hopeful's remarkable history without
discovering this about him, that he showed best in adversity and
distress, just as he showed worst in deliverance and prosperity.
It is a fine lesson in Christian hope to descend into Giant
Despair's dungeon and hear the older pilgrim groaning and the
younger pilgrim consoling him, and, again, to stand on the bank of
the last river and hear Hopeful holding up Christian's drowning
head. "Be of good cheer, my brother, for I feel the bottom, and it
is good!" Bless Hopeful for that, all you whose deathbeds are
still before you. For never was more true and fit word spoken for
a dying hour than that. Read, till you have it by heart and in the
dark, Hopeful's whole history, but especially his triumphant end.
And have some one bespoken beforehand to read Hopeful in the River
to you when you have in a great measure lost your senses, and when
a great horror has taken hold of your mind. "I sink in deep
waters," cried Christian, as his sins came to his mind, even the
sins which he had committed both since and before he came to be a
pilgrim. "But I see the gate," said Hopeful, "and men standing at
it ready to receive us." "Read to me where I first cast my
anchor," said John Knox to his weeping wife.

The Enchanted Ground, on the other hand, threatened to throw
Hopeful back again into his former light-minded state. And there
is no saying what shipwreck he might have made there had the older
man not been with him to steady and reprove and instruct him. As
it was, a touch now and then of his old vain temper returned to him
till it took all his companion's watchfulness and wariness to carry
them both out of that second Vanity Fair. "I acknowledge myself in
a fault," said Hopeful to Christian, "and had I been here alone I
had run in danger of death. Hitherto, thy company hath been my
mercy, and thou shalt have a good reward for all thy labour."

Now, my brethren, in my opinion we owe a great debt of gratitude to
John Bunyan for the large and the displayed place he has given to
Hopeful in the Pilgrim's Progress. The fulness and balance and
proportion of the Pilgrim's Progress are features of that wonderful
book far too much overlooked. So far as my reading goes I do not
know any other author who has at all done the justice to the saving
grace of hope that John Bunyan has done both in his doctrinal and
in his allegorical works. Bunyan stands alone and supreme not only
for the insight, and the power with which he has constructed the
character and the career of Hopeful, but even for having given him
the space at all adequate to his merits and his services. In those
eighty-seven so suggestive pages that form the index to Dr. Thomas
Goodwin's works I find some hundred and twenty-four references to
"faith," while there are only two references to "hope." And that
same oversight and neglect runs through all our religious
literature, and I suppose, as a consequence, through all our
preaching too. Now that is not the treatment the Bible gives to
this so essential Christian grace, as any one may see at a glance
who takes the trouble to turn up his Cruden. Hope has a great
place alongside of faith and love in the Holy Scriptures, and it
has a correspondingly large and eloquent place in Bunyan. Now,
that being so, why is it that this so great and so blessed grace
has so fallen out of our sermons and out of our hearts? May God
grant that our reading of Hopeful's autobiography and his
subsequent history to-night may do something to restore the blessed
grace of hope to its proper place both in our pulpit and in all our

To kindle then, to quicken, and to anchor your hope, my brethren,
may I have God's help to speak for a little longer to your hearts
concerning this neglected grace! For, what is hope? Hope is a
passion of the soul, wise or foolish, to be ashamed of or to be
proud of, just according to the thing hoped for, and just according
to the grounds of the hope. Hope is made up of these two
ingredients--desire and expectation. What we greatly desire we
take no rest till we find good grounds on which to build up our
expectations of it; and when we have found good grounds for our
expectations, then a glad hope takes possession of our hearts.
Now, to begin with, how is it with your desires? You are afraid to
say much about your expectations and your hopes. Well; let us come
to your hearts' desires.--Men of God, I will enter into your hearts
and I will tell you your hearts' desires better than you know them
yourselves; for the heart is deceitful above all things. The time
was, when, like this young pilgrim before he became a pilgrim, your
desires were all set on houses, and lands, and places, and honours,
and preferments, and wives, and children, and silver, and gold, and
what not. These things at one time were the utmost limit of your
desires. But that has all been changed. For now you have begun to
desire a better city, that is, an heavenly. What is your chief
desire for this New Year? {2} Is it not a new heart? Is it not a
clean heart? Is it not a holy heart? Is it not that the Holy
Ghost would write the golden rule on the tables of your heart?
Does not God know that it is the deepest desire of your heart to be
able to love your neighbour as yourself? To be able to rejoice
with him in his joy as well as to weep with him in his sorrow?
What would you not give never again to feel envy in your heart at
your brother, or straitness and pining at his prosperity? One
thing do I desire, said the Psalmist, that mine ear may be nailed
to the doorpost of my God: that I may always be His servant, and
may never wander from His service. Now, that is your desire too.
I am sure it is. You would not say it of yourself, but I defy you
to deny it when it is said about you. Well, then, such things
being found among your desires, what grounds have you for expecting
the fulfilment of such desires? What grounds? The best of grounds
and every ground. For you have the sure ground of God's word. And
you have more than His word: you have His very nature, and the
very nature of things. For shall God create such desires in any
man's heart only to starve and torture that man? Impossible! It
were blasphemy to suspect it. No. Where God has made any man to
be so far a partaker of the Divine nature as to change all that
man's deepest desires, and to turn them from vanity to wisdom, from
earth to heaven, and from the creature to the Creator, doubt not,
wherever He has begun such a work, that He will hasten to finish
it. Yes; lift up your heavy hearts, all ye who desire such things,
for God hath sent His Son to say to you, Blessed are ye that hunger
and thirst after righteousness, for ye shall be filled. Only, keep
desiring. Desire every day with a stronger and a more inconsolable
desire. Desire, and ground your desire on God's word, and then
heave your hope like an anchor within the veil whither the
Forerunner is for you entered. May I so hope? you say. May I
venture to hope? Yes; not only may you hope, but you must hope.
You are commanded to hope. It is as much your bounden duty to hope
always, and to hope for the greatest and best things, as it is to
repent of your sins, to love God and your neighbour, to keep
yourself pure, and to set a watch on the door of your lips. You
have been destroyed, I confess and lament it, for lack of knowledge
about the nature, the grounds, and the duty of hope. But make up
now for past neglect. Hope steadfastly, hope constantly, hope
boldly; hope for the best things, the greatest things, the most
divine and the most blessed things. If you forget to-night all
else you have heard to-day, I implore you not any longer to forget
and neglect this, that hope is your immediate, constant, imperative
duty. No sin, no depth of corruption in your heart, no assault on
your heart from your conscience, can justify you in ceasing to
hope. Even when trouble "comes tumbling over the neck of all your
reformations" as it came tumbling on Hopeful, let that only drive
you the more deeply down into the true grounds of hope; even
against hope rejoice in hope. Remember the Psalmist in the
hundred-and-thirtieth Psalm,--down in the deeps, if ever a fallen
sinner was. Yet hear him when you cannot see him saying: I hope
in Thy word! And--for it is worthy to stand beside even that
splendid psalm,--I beseech you to read and lay to heart what
Hopeful says about himself in his conversion despair.

And then, as if to justify that hope, there always come with it
such sanctifying influences and such sure results. The hope that
you are one day to awaken in the Divine likeness will make you lie
down on your bed every night in self-examination, repentance,
prayer, and praise. The hope that your eyes are one day to see
Christ as He is will make you purify yourself as nothing else will.
The hope that you are to walk with Christ in white will make you
keep your garments clean; it will make you wash them many times
every day in the blood of the Lamb. The hope that you are to cast
your crown at His feet will make you watch that no man takes your
crown from you. The hope that you are to drink wine with Him in
His Father's kingdom will reconcile you meanwhile to water, lest
with your wine you stumble any of His little ones. The hope of
hearing Him say, Well done!--how that will make you labour and
endure and not faint! And the hope that you shall one day enter in
through the gates into the city, and have a right to the tree of
life,--how scrupulous that will make you to keep all His
commandments! And this is one of His commandments, that you gird
up the loins of your mind, and hope to the end for the grace that
is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.


"They are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy;
and have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of
temptation fall away."--Our Lord.

"Well, then, did you not know about ten years ago one Temporary in
your parts who was a forward man in religion? Know him! replied
the other. Yes. For my house not being above three miles from his
house he would ofttimes come to me, and that with many tears.
Truly I pitied the man, and was not altogether without hope of him;
but one may see that it is not every one who cries Lord, Lord. And
now, since we are talking about him, let us a little inquire into
the reason of the sudden backsliding of him and such others. It
may be very profitable, said Christian, but do you begin. Well,
then, there are in my judgment several reasons for it." And then,
with the older man's entire approval, Hopeful sets forth several
reasons, taken from his own observation of backsliders, why so many
men's religion is such a temporary thing; why so many run well for
a time, and then stand still, and then turn back.

1. The fear of man bringeth a snare, said Hopeful, moralising over
his old acquaintance Temporary. And how true that observation is
every evangelical minister knows to his deep disappointment. A
young man comes to his minister at some time of distress in his
life, or at some time of revival of religion in the community, or
at an ordinary communion season, and gives every sign that he is
early and fairly embarked on an honourable Christian life. He
takes his place in the Church of Christ, and he puts out his hand
to her work, till we begin to look forward with boastfulness to a
life of great stability and great attainment for that man. Our
Lord, as we see from so many of His parables, must have had many
such cases among His first followers. Our Lord might be speaking
prophetically, as well as out of His own experience, so well do His
regretful and lamenting words fit into so many of our own cases to-
day. For, look at that young business man. He has been born and
brought up in the Church of Christ. He has gladdened more hearts
than he knows by the noble promise of his early days. Many
admiring and loving eyes have been turned on him as he took so
hopefully the upward way. But a sifting-time soon comes. A time
of temptation comes. A time comes when sides must be taken in some
moral, religious, ecclesiastical controversy. This young man is at
that moment a candidate for a post that will bring distinction,
wealth, and social influence to him who holds it. And the
candidate we are so much interested in is admittedly a man of such
outstanding talents that he would at once get the post were it not
that the holder of that post must not have his name so much
associated with such and such a church, such and such political and
religious opinions, and such and such public men. He is told that.
Indeed, he is not so dull as to need to be told that. He has seen
that all along. And at first it is a dreadful wrench to him. He
feels how far he is falling from his high ideals in life; and, at
first, and for a long time, it is a dreadful humiliation to him.
But, then, there are splendid compensations. And, better than
that, there are some good, and indeed compelling, reasons that
begin to rise up in our minds when we need them and begin to look
for them, till what at first seemed so mean and so contemptible,
and so ungrateful, and so dishonourable, as well as so spiritually
perilous, comes to be faced and gone through with positively on a
ground of high principle, and, indeed, of stern moral necessity.
So deceitful is the human heart that you could not believe what
compelling reasons such a mean-spirited man will face you with as
to why he should leave all the ways he once so delighted in for a
piece of bread, and for the smile of the open enemies of his
church, and his faith, not to say his Saviour. You will meet with
several such men any afternoon coming home from their business.
Sometimes they have still some honest shame on their faces when
they meet you; but still oftener they pass you with a sullen hatred
and a fierce defiance. This is he who heard the word, and anon
with joy received it. Yet had he not root in himself, but dured
for a while; for when tribulation or persecution arose because of
the word by and by he was offended. They went out from us, says
John, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us they
would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out that they
might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

2. Guilt, again, Hopeful went on, and to meditate terror, are so
grievous to most men, that they rather choose such ways as will but
harden their hearts still more and more. You all know what it is
to meditate terror? "Thine heart shall meditate terror," says the
prophet, "when thou sayest to thyself, who among us shall dwell
with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting
burnings?" The fifty-first Psalm is perhaps the best meditation
both of guilt and of terror that we have in the whole Bible. But
there are many other psalms and passages of psalms only second to
the fifty-first Psalm, such as the twenty-second, the thirty-
eighth, the sixty-ninth, and the hundred-and-thirtieth. Our Lord
Himself also was meditating terror in the garden of Gethsemane, and
Paul both guilt and terror when he imagined himself both an
apostate preacher and a castaway soul. And John's meditations of
terror in the Revelation rose into those magnificent pictures of
the Last Judgment with which he has to all time covered the walls
of the Seven Churches. In his own Grace Abounding there are
meditations of terror quite worthy to stand beside the most
terrible things of that kind that ever were written, as also in
many others of our author's dramatical and homiletical books. I
read to you the other Sabbath morning a meditation of terror that
was found among Bishop Andrewes' private papers after his death.
You will not all have forgotten that meditation, but I will read it
to you to-night again. "How fearful," says Andrewes, in his
terror, "will Thy judgment be, O Lord, when the thrones are set,
and the angels stand around, and men are brought in, and the books
are opened, and all our works are inquired into, and all our
thoughts are examined, and all the hidden things of darkness!
What, O God, shall Thy judgment that day be upon me? Who shall
quench my flame, who shall lighten my darkness, if Thou pity me
not? Lord, as Thou art loving, give me tears, give me floods of
tears, and give me all that this day, before it be too late. For
then will be the incorruptible Judge, the horrible judgment-seat,
the answer without excuse, the inevitable charge, the shameful
punishment, the endless Gehenna, the pitiless angels, the yawning
hell, the roaring stream of fire, the unquenchable flame, the dark
prison, the rayless darkness, the bed of live coals, the unwearied
worm, the indissoluble chains, the bottomless chaos, the impassable
wall, the inconsolable cry. And none to stand by me; none to plead
for me; none to snatch me out." Now, no Temporary ever possessed
anything like that in his own handwriting among his private papers.
A meditation like that, written out with his own hand, and hidden
away under lock and key, will secure any man from it, even if he
had been appointed to backsliding and reprobation. Bishop
Andrewes, as any one will see who reads his Private Devotions, was
the chief of sinners; but his discovered and deciphered papers will
all speak for him when they are spread out before the great white
throne, "glorious in their deformity, being slubbered," as his
editors say, "with his pious hands, and watered with his
penitential tears."

Thomas Shepard's Ten Virgins is the most terrible book upon
Temporaries that ever was written. Temporaries never once saw
their true vileness, he keeps on saying. Temporaries are, no
doubt, wounded for sin sometimes, but never in the right place nor
to the right depth. And again, sin, and especially heart-sin, is
never really bitter to Temporaries. In an "exhortation to all new
beginners, and so to all others," "Be sure," Shepard says, "your
wound for sin at first is deep enough. For all the error in a
man's faith and sanctification springs from his first error in his
humiliation. If a man's humiliation be false, or even weak or
little, then his faith and his hold of Christ are weak and little,
and his sanctification counterfeit. But if a man's wound be right,
and his humiliation deep enough, that man's faith will be right and
his sanctification will be glorious. The esteem of Christ is
always little where sin lies light." And Hopeful himself says a
thing at this point that is quite worthy of Shepard himself, such
is its depth and insight. He speaks of the righteous actually
LOVING the sight of their misery. He does not explain what he
means by that startling language because he is talking all the
time, as he knows quite well, to one who understood all that before
he was born. Nor will I attempt to explain or to vindicate what he
says. Those of you who love the sight of your own misery as
sinners will understand what Hopeful says without any explanation;
while those who do not understand him would only be the more
stumbled by any explanation of him. The love of the sight of their
misery, and the unearthly sweetness of their sorrow for sin, are
only another two of those provoking paradoxes of which the lives of
God's true saints are full--paradoxes and impossibilities and
incoherencies that make the literature of experimental religion to
be positively hateful and unbearable to Temporary and to all his
self-seeking and apostate kindred.

3. But even where the consciences of such men are occasionally
awakened, proceeds Hopeful, in his so searching discovery of
Temporaries, yet their minds are not changed. There you are pretty
near the business, replied his fellow; for the bottom of all is,
for want of a change of their mind and will. Now, one would have
been afraid and ashamed for one moment to suspect that Temporary's
mind was not completely changed, so "forward" was he at first in
his religion. But, no: forward before all his neighbours as
Temporary was, to begin with, yet all the time his mind was not
really changed. His forwardness did not properly spring out of his
true mind at all, but only out of his momentarily awakened
conscience and his momentarily excited heart. A sinner with a
truly changed mind is never forward. His mind is so changed that
forwardness in anything is utterly alien to it, and especially all
forwardness in the profession of religion. The change that had
taken place in Temporary, whatever was the seat of it, only led him
to bully men like Christian and Hopeful, who would not go fast
enough for him. "Come," said Pliable, in the beginning of the
book, "come on and let us mend our pace." "I cannot go so fast as
I would," humbly replied Christian, "because of this burden on my
back." It is a common observation among mountaineers that he who
takes the hill at the greatest spurt is the last climber to come to
the top, and that many who so ostentatiously make spurts at the
bottom of the hill never come within sight of the top at all. And
this is one of the constant dangers that wait on all revivals,
religious retreats, conferences, and even communion seasons. Our
hot fits, the hotter they are, are only the more likely, unless we
take the greatest care, to cast us down into all the more deadly a
chill. It is this danger that our Lord points out so plainly in
His parable of apostasy. The same is he, says our Lord, that
heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not
root in himself, but dureth for a while. In Hopeful's words, his
mind and will were never changed with all his joy, only his passing
moods and his momentary emotions.

Multitudes of men who are as forward at first as Pliable and
Temporary were turn out at last to have no root in themselves; but
here and there you will discover a man who is all root together.
There are some men whose whole mind and heart and will, whose whole
inward man, has gone to root. All the strength and all the fatness
of their religious life retreat into its root. They have no leaves
at all, and they have too little fruit as yet; but you should see
their roots. Only, no eye but the eye of God can see sorrow for
sin--secret and sore humiliation on account of secret sin--the
incessant agony that goes on within between the flesh and the
spirit, between sin and grace, between very hell and heaven itself.
To know your own evil hearts, my brethren, say to you on that
subject what any Temporary will, is the very root of the whole
matter to you. Whatever Dr. Newman's mistakes as to outward
churches may have been, he was a master of the human heart, the
most difficult of all matters to master. Listen, then, to what he
says on the matter now in hand. "Now, unless we have some just
idea of our hearts and of sin, we can have no right idea of a Moral
Governor, a Saviour, or a Sanctifier; that is, in professing to
believe in them we shall be using words without attaching any
distinct meaning to them. Thus self-knowledge is at the root of
all real religious knowledge; and it is vain,--it is worse than
vain,--it is a deceit and a mischief, to think to understand the
Christian doctrines as a matter of course, merely by being taught
by books, or by attending sermons, or by any outward means, however
excellent, taken by themselves. For it is in proportion as we
search our hearts and understand our own nature that we understand
what is meant by an Infinite Governor and Judge; it is in
proportion as we comprehend the nature of disobedience and our
actual sinfulness that we feel what is the blessing of the removal
of sin, redemption, pardon, sanctification, which otherwise are
mere words. God speaks to us primarily in our hearts. Self-
knowledge is the key to the precepts and doctrines of Scripture.
The very utmost that any outward notices of religion can do is to
startle us and make us turn inward and search our hearts; and then,
when we have experienced what it is to read ourselves, we shall
profit by the doctrine of the Church and the Bible." My brethren,
the temper in which you receive that passage, and receive it from
its author, may be safely taken by you as a sure presage whether
you are to turn out a Temporary and a Castaway or no.

Now, to conclude with a word of admission, and, bound up with it, a
word of encouragement. After all that has been said, I fully admit
that we are all Temporaries to begin with. We all cool down from
our first heat in religion. We all halt from our first spurt. We
all turn back from faith and from duty and from privilege through
our fear of men, or through our corrupt love of ourselves, or
through our coarse-minded love of this present world. Only, those
who are appointed to perseverance, and through that to eternal
life, always kindle again; they are kindled again, and they love
the return of their lost warmth. They recover themselves and
address themselves again and again to the race that is still set
before them. They prove themselves not to be of those who draw
back unto perdition, but of those that believe to the saving of the
soul. Now, if you have only too good ground to suspect that you
are but a temporary believer, what are you to do to make your sure
escape out of that perilous state? What, but to keep on believing?
You must cry constantly, Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief!
When at any time you are under any temptation or corruption, and
you feel that your faith and your love are letting slip their hold
of Christ and of eternal life, then knot your weak heart all the
faster to the throne of grace, to the cross of Christ, and to the
gate of heaven. Give up all your mind and heart, and all that is
within you, to the one thing needful. Labour night and day in your
own heart at believing on Christ, at loving your neighbour, and at
discovering, denying, and crucifying yourself. It will all pay you
in the long run. For if you do all these things, and persistently
do them, then, though you are at this moment all but dead to all
divine things, and all but a reprobate, it will be found at last
that all the time your name was written among the elect in heaven.

The perseverance of the saints, the "five points" notwithstanding,
is not a foregone conclusion. The final perseverance of the ripest
and surest saint is all made up of ever-new beginnings in
repentance, in faith, in love, and in obedience. Begin, then,
every new day to repent anew, to return anew, to believe and to
love anew. And if all your New-Year repentances and returnings and
reformations are all already proved to be but temporary--even if
they lie all around you already a bitter mockery of all your
professions--still, begin again. Begin to-night, and begin again
to-morrow morning. Spend all the remainder of your days on earth
beginning. And, ere ever you are aware, the final perseverance of
another predestinated saint will be found accomplished in you.


"The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him."--David.

A truly religious life is always a secret life: it is a life hid,
as Paul has it, with Christ in God. The secret of the Lord, says
the Psalmist, is with them that fear Him. And thus it is that when
men begin to fear God, both their hearts and their lives are
henceforth full of all kinds of secrets that are known to
themselves and to God only. It was when Christiana's fearful
thoughts began to work in her mind about her husband whom she had
lost--it was when all her unkind, unnatural, and ungodly carriages
to her dear friend came into her mind in swarms, clogged her
conscience, and loaded her with guilt--it was then that Secret
knocked at her door. "Next morning," so her opening history runs,
"when she was up, and had prayed to God, and talked with her
children awhile, one knocked hard at the door to whom she spake
out, saying, If thou comest in God's name, come in. So he who was
at the door said, Amen, and opened the door, and saluted her with,
Peace be to this house. The which when he had done, he said,
Christiana, knowest thou wherefore I am come? Then she blushed and
trembled, also her heart began to wax warm with desires to know
whence he came, and what was his errand to her. So he said unto
her, My name is Secret, I dwell with those that are high. It is
talked of where I dwell as if thou hadst a desire to go thither;
also, there is a report that thou art aware now of the evil thou
formerly didst to thy husband in hardening of thy heart against his
way, and in keeping of thy babes in their ignorance. Christiana,
the Merciful One has sent me to tell thee that He is a God ready to
forgive, and that He taketh delight to multiply to pardon offences.
He would also have thee know that He inviteth thee to come into His
presence, even to His table, and that He will there feed thee with
the fat of His house, and with the heritage of Jacob thy father.
Christiana at all this was greatly abashed in herself, and she
bowed her head to the ground, while her visitor proceeded and said,
Christiana, here is a letter for thee which I have brought from thy
husband's King. So she took it and opened it, and, as she opened
it, it smelt after the manner of the best perfume; also it was
written in lettering of gold. The contents of the letter was to
this effect, that the King would have her do as did Christian her
husband, for that was the way to come to the city and to dwell in
His presence with joy for ever. At this the good woman was
completely overcome. So she said to her visitor, Sir, will you
carry me and my children with you that we may go and worship this
King? Then said the heavenly visitor, Christiana, the bitter is
before the sweet. Thou must through troubles, as did he that went
before thee, enter this celestial city." And so on.

1. Now, to begin with, you will have noticed the way in which
Christiana was prepared for the entrance of Secret into her house.
She was a widow. She sat alone in that loneliness which only
widows know and understand. More than lonely, she was very
miserable. "Mark this," says the author on the margin, "you that
are churls to your godly relations." For this widow felt sure that
her husband had been taken from her because of her cruel behaviour
to him. Her past unnatural carriages toward her husband now rent
the very caul of her heart in sunder. And, again and again, about
that same time strange dreams would sometimes visit her. Dreams
such as this. She would see her husband in a place of bliss with a
harp in his hand, standing and playing upon it before One that sat
on a throne with a rainbow round His head. She saw also as if he
bowed his head with his face to the paved work that was under the
Prince's feet, saying, I heartily thank my Lord and King for
bringing me to this place. You will easily see how ready this lone
woman was with all that for his entrance who knocked and said,
Peace be to this house, and handed her a letter of perfume from her
husband's King. Then you will have remarked also some of the
things this visitor from on high said to her of the place whence he
had come. He told her, to begin with, how they sometimes talked
about her in his country. She thought that she was a lonely and
forgotten widow, and that no one cared what became of her. But her
visitor assured her she was quite wrong in thinking that. He had
often himself heard her name mentioned in conversation above; and
the most hopeful reports, he told her, were circulated from door to
door that she was actually all but started on the upward way. Yes,
he said, and we have a place prepared for you on the strength of
these reports, a place among the immortals close beside your
husband. And all that, as you will not wonder, was the beginning
of Christiana's secret life. After that morning she never again
felt alone or forgotten. I am not alone, she would after that say,
when any of her old neighbours knocked at her door. No, I am not
alone, but if thou comest in God's name, come in.

2. And from that day a long succession of secret providences began
to enter Christiana's life, till, as time went on, her whole life
was filled full of secret providences. And not her present life
only, but her discoveries of God's secret providences towards her
and hers became retrospective also, till both her own parentage and
birth, her husband's parentage and birth also, the day she first
saw him, the day of their espousals, the day of their marriage, and
the day of his death, all shone out now as so many secret and
special providences of God toward her. Bishop Martensen has a fine
passage on the fragmentariness of our knowledge, not only of divine
providence as a whole, but even of those divine providences that
fill up our own lives. And he warns us that, till we have heard
the "Prologue in Heaven," many a riddle in our lives must of
necessity remain unsolved. Christiana could not have told her
inquiring children what a prologue was, nor an epilogue either, but
many were the wise and winning discourses she held with her boys
about their father now in heaven, about her happiness in having had
such a father for her children, and about their happiness that the
road was open before them to go to where he now is. And there are
many poor widows among ourselves who are wiser than all their
teachers, because they are in that school of experience into which
God takes His afflicted people and opens to them His deepest
secrets. They remember, with Job, when the secret of the Lord was
first upon their tabernacle. Their widowed hearts are full of holy
household memories. They remember the days when the candle of the
Lord shone upon their head when they washed their steps with
butter, and the rock poured them out rivers of oil. And still,
when, like Job also, they sit solitary among the ashes, the secret
of the Lord is only the more secretly and intimately with them.
John Bunyan was well fitted to be Christiana's biographer, because
his own life was as full as it could hold of these same secret and
special providences. One day he was walking--so he tells us--in a
good man's shop, bemoaning himself of his sad and doleful state--
when a mighty rushing wind came in through the window and seemed to
carry words of Scripture on its wings to Bunyan's disconsolate
soul. He candidly tells us that he does not know, after twenty
years' reflection, what to make of that strange dispensation. That
it took place, and that it left the most blessed results behind it,
he is sure; but as to how God did it, by what means, by what
instruments, both the rushing wind itself and the salutation that
accompanied it, he is fain to let lie till the day of judgment.
And many of ourselves have had strange dispensations too that we
must leave alone, and seek no other explanation of them for the
present but the blessed results of them. We have had divine
descents into our lives that we can never attempt to describe.
Interpositions as plain to us as if we had both seen and spoken
with the angel who executed them. Miraculous deliverances that
throw many Old and New Testament miracles into the shade.
Providential adaptations and readjustments also, as if all things
were actually and openly and without a veil being made to work
together for our good. Extrications also; nets broken, snares
snapped, and such pavilions of safety and solace opened to us that
we can find no psalm secret and special enough in which to utter
our life-long astonishment. Importunate prayers anticipated,
postponed, denied, translated, transmuted, and then answered till
our cup was too full; sweet changed to bitter, and bitter changed
to sweet, so wonderfully, so graciously, and so often, that words
fail us, and we can only now laugh and now weep over it all. Poor
Cowper knew something about it -

"God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

"Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

3. Secret scriptures also--from that enlightening day Christiana's
Bible became full of them. Peter says that no prophecy is of any
private interpretation; and, whatever he means by that, what he
says must be true. But Christiana would have understood the
apostle better if he had said the exact opposite of that,--if not
about the prophecies, at least about the psalms. Leave the
prophecies in this connection alone; but of the psalms it may
safely be said that it is neither the literal nor the historical
nor the mystical interpretation that gets at the heart of those
supreme scriptures. It is the private, personal, and, indeed,
secret interpretation that gets best at the deepest heart of the
psalms. An old Bible came into my hands the other day--a Bible
that had seen service--and it opened of its own accord at the Book
of Psalms. On turning over the yellow leaves I found a date and a
deep indentation opposite these words: "Commit thy way unto the
Lord: trust also in Him: and He will bring it to pass." And as I
looked at the figures on the margin, and at the underscored text, I
felt as if I were on the brink of an old-world secret. "Create in
me a clean heart" had a significant initial also; as had this:
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit." The whole of the
hundred-and-third psalm was bracketed off from all public
interpretation; while the tenth, the cardinal verse of that secret
psalm, had a special seal set upon it. Judging from its stains and
scars and other accidents, the whole of the hundred-and-nineteenth
psalm had been a special favourite; while the hundred-and-forty-
third also was all broidered round with shorthand symbols. But the
secret key of all those symbols and dates and enigmatical marks was
no longer to be found; it had been carried away in the owner's own
heart. But, my head being full of Christiana at the time, I felt
as if I held her own old Bible in my hand as I turned over those
ancient leaves.

4. Our Lord so practised secrecy Himself in His fasting, in His
praying, and in His almsgiving, and He makes so much of that same
secrecy in all His teaching, as almost to make the essence of all
true religion to stand in its secrecy. "When thou prayest," says
our Lord, "shut thy door and pray in secret." As much as to say
that we are scarcely praying at all when we are praying in public.
Praying in public is so difficult that new beginners, like His
disciples, have to practise that so difficult art for a long time
in secret. Public prayer has so many besetting sins, it is open to
so many temptations, distractions, and corruptions, that it is
almost impossible to preserve the real essence of prayer in public
prayer. But in secret all those temptations and distractions are
happily absent. We have no temptation to be too long in secret
prayer, or too loud, or too eloquent. Stately old English goes for
nothing in secret prayer. We never need to go to our knees in
secret trembling, lest we lose the thread of our prayer, or forget
that so fit and so fine expression. The longer we are the better
in secret prayer. Much speaking is really a virtue in secret
prayer; much speaking and many repetitions. Also, we can put
things into our secret prayers that we dare not come within a
thousand miles of in the pulpit, or the prayer-meeting, or the
family. We can enter into the most plain-spoken particulars about
ourselves in secret. We can put our proper name upon ourselves,
and upon our actions, and especially upon our thoughts when our
door is shut. Then, again, we can pray for other people by name in
secret; we can enter, so far as we know them, into all their
circumstances in a way it is impossible to do anywhere but in the
utmost secrecy. We can, in short, be ourselves in secret; and,
unless it is to please or to impress men, we had better not pray at
all unless we are ourselves when we are engaged in it. You can be
yourself, your very worst self; nay, you must be, else you will not
long pray in secret, and even if you did you would not be heard. I
do not remember that very much is said in so many words in her
after-history about Christiana's habits of closet-prayer. But that
Secret taught her the way, and waited till she had tasted the
sweetness and the strength of being a good while on her knees
alone, I am safe to say; indeed, I read it between the lines in all
her after-life. She was rewarded openly in a way that testifies to
much secret prayer; that is to say, in the early conversion of her
children, in the way they settled in life, and such like things.
Pray much for those things in secret that you wish to possess

5. But perhaps the best and most infallible evidence we can have
of the truth of our religion in this life is in the steady increase
of our secret sinfulness. Christiana had no trouble with her own
wicked heart so long as she was a woman of a wicked life. But
directly she became a new creature, her heart began to swarm, such
is her own expression, with sinful memories, sinful thoughts, and
sinful feelings; till she had need of some one ever near her, like
Greatheart, constantly to assure her that those cruel and deadly
swarms, instead of being a bad sign of her salvation, were the very
best signs possible of her good estate. Humility is the foundation
of all our graces, and there is no humility so deep and so ever-
deepening as that evangelical humility which in its turn rises out
of and rests upon secret sinfulness. Not upon acts of secret sin.
Do not mistake me. Acts of secret sin harden the heart and debauch
the conscience. But I speak of that secret, original, unexplored,
and inexpugnable sinfulness out of which all a sinner's actual
sins, both open sins and secret, spring; and out of which a like
life of open and actual sins would spring in God's very best
saints, if only both He and they did not watch night and day
against them. Sensibility to sin, or rather to sinfulness, is far
and away the best evidence of sanctification that is possible to us
in this life. It is this keen and bitter sensibility that secures,
amid all oppositions and obstructions, the true saint's onward and
upward progress. Were it not for the misery of their own hearts,
God's best saints would fall asleep and go back like other men. A
sinful heart is the misery of all miseries. It is the deepest and
darkest of all dungeons. It is the most painful and the most
loathsome of all diseases. And the secrecy of it all adds to the
bitterness and the gall of it all. We may know that other men's
hearts are as sinful as our own, but we do not feel their
sinfulness. We cannot sensibly feel humiliation, bondage,
sickness, and self-loathing on account of another man's envy, or
ill-will, or resentment, or cruelty, or falsehood, or impurity.
All these things must be our own before we can enter into the pain
and the shame of them; but, when we do, then we taste what death

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