Bunyan Characters – Second Series by Alexander Whyte D.D.

This etext was prepared by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk from the 1894 Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier edition. BUNYAN CHARACTERS (Second Series) Lectures delivered in St. George’s Free Church Edinburgh IGNORANCE “I was alive without the law once.”–Paul. “I was now a brisk talker also myself in the matter of religion.”– Bunyan. This is a new
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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.”– Bunyan.

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 light!

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 say.

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 he.”

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 sings:

“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 heaven.


” . . . 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 disclose.

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 Christian.

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 too.”

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 hearts.

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 openly.

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