Bunyan Characters (Second Series)
Alexander Whyte D.D.

Part 2 out of 4

and hell are indeed. As I write these feeble words about it, a
devil's shaft of envy that was shot all against my will into my
heart this morning, still, after a whole day, rankles and festers
there. I have been on my knees with it again and again; I have
stood and looked into an open grave to-day; but there it is sucking
at my heart's blood still, like a leech of hell. Who can
understand his errors? Cleanse Thou me from secret faults. Create
in me a clean heart, O God, O wretched man that I am! "Let a man,"
says William Law when he is enforcing humility, "but consider that
if the world knew all that of him which he knows of himself: if
they saw what vanity and what passions govern his inside, and what
secret tempers sully and corrupt his best actions, he would have no
more pretence to be honoured and admired for his goodness and
wisdom than a rotten and distempered body to be loved and admired
for its beauty and comeliness. This is so true, and so known to
the hearts of almost all people, that nothing would appear more
dreadful to them than to have their hearts fully discovered to the
eyes of all beholders. And, perhaps, there are very few people in
the world who would not rather choose to die than to have all their
secret follies, the errors of their judgments, the vanity of their
minds, the falseness of their pretences, the frequency of their
vain and disorderly passions, their uneasinesses, hatreds, envies,
and vexations made known to all the world." Where did William Law
get that terrible passage? Where could he get it but in the secret
heart of the miserable author of the Serious Call?

6. The half cannot be told of the guilt and the corruption, the
pain and the shame and the manifold misery of secret sin; but all
that will be told, believed, and understood by all men long before
the full magnificence of their sanctification, and the superb
transcendence of their blessedness, will even begin to be described
to God's secret saints. For, all that sleepless, cruel, and soul-
killing pain, and all that shameful and humbling corruption,--all
that means, all that is, so much holiness, so much heaven, working
itself out in the soul. All that is so much immortal life,
spotless beauty, and incorruptible joy already begun in the soul.
Every such pang in a holy heart is a death-pang of another sin and
a birth-pang of another grace. Brotherly love is at last being
born never to die in that heart where envy and malice and
resentment and revenge are causing inward agony. And humility and
meekness and the whole mind of Christ are there where pride and
anger and ill-will are felt to be very hell itself. And holiness,
even as God is holy, will soon be there for ever where the
sinfulness of sin is a sinner's acutest sorrow. "As for me," said
one whose sin was ever before him, "I will behold Thy face in
righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I wake with Thy likeness."


"But the fearful [literally, the timid and the cowardly] shall have
their part in the second death."--Revelation xxi.

No sooner had Secret bidden Christiana farewell than she began with
all her might to make ready for her great journey. "Come, my
children, let us pack up and begone to the gate that leads to the
Celestial City, that we may see your father and be with him, and
with his companions, in peace, according to the laws of that land."
And then: "Come in, if you come in God's name!" Christiana called
out, as two of her neighbours knocked at her door. "Having little
to do at home this morning," said the elder of the two women, "I
have come across to kill a little time with you. I spent last
night with Mrs. Light-mind, and I have some good news for you this
morning." "I am just preparing for a journey this morning," said
Christiana, packing up all the time, "and I have not so much as one
moment to spare." You know yourselves what Christiana's
nervousness and almost impatience were. You know how it upsets
your good temper and all your civility when you are packing up for
a long absence from home, and some one comes in, and will talk, and
will not see how behindhand and how busy you are. "For what
journey, I pray you?" asked Mrs. Timorous, for that was her
visitor's name. "Even to go after my good husband," the busy woman
said, and with that she fell a-weeping. But you must read the
whole account of that eventful morning in Christiana's memoirs for
yourselves till you have it, as Secret said, by root-of-heart. On
the understanding that you are not total strangers to that so
excellently-written passage I shall now venture a few observations
upon it.

1. Well, to begin with, Mrs. Timorous was not a bad woman, as
women went in that town and in that day. Her companions,--her
gossips, as she would have called them,--were far worse women than
she was; and, had it not been for her family infirmity, had it not
been for that timid, hesitating, lukewarm, and half-and-half habit
of mind which she had inherited from her father, there is no saying
what part she might have played in the famous expedition of
Christiana and Mercy and the boys. Her father had been a pilgrim
himself at one time; but he had now for a long time been known in
the town as a turncoat and a temporary, and all his children had
unhappily taken after their father in that. Had her father held on
as he at one time had begun--had he held on in the face of all fear
and all danger as Christiana's noble husband had done--to a
certainty his daughter would have started that morning with
Christiana and her company, and would have been, if a timid, easily
scared, and troublesome pilgrim, yet as true a pilgrim, and made as
welcome at last, as, say, Miss Much-afraid, Mr. Fearing, and Mr.
Ready-to-halt were made. But her father's superficiality and
shakiness, and at bottom his warm love of this world and his
lukewarm love of the world to come, had unfortunately all descended
to his daughter, till we find her actually reviling Christiana on
that decisive morning, and returning to her dish of tea and tittle-
tattle with Mrs. Bats-eyes, Mrs. Inconsiderate, Mrs. Light-mind,
and Mrs. Know-nothing.

2. The thing that positively terrified Mrs. Timorous at the very
thought of setting out with Christiana that morning was that
intolerable way in which Christiana had begun to go back upon her
past life as a wife and a mother. Christiana could not hide her
deep distress, and, indeed, she did not much try. Such were the
swarms of painful memories that her husband's late death, the visit
of Secret, and one thing and another had let loose upon
Christiana's mind, that she could take pleasure in nothing but in
how she was to escape away from her past life, and how she could in
any way mend it and make up for it where she could not escape from
it. "You may judge yourself," said Mrs. Timorous to Mrs. Light-
mind, "whether I was likely to find much entertainment with a woman
like that!" For, Mrs. Timorous too, you must know, had a past life
of her own; and it was that past life of hers all brought back by
Christiana's words that morning that made Mrs. Timorous so revile
her old friend and return to the society we so soon see her with.
Now, is not this the case, that we all have swarms of evil memories
that we dare not face? There is no single relationship in life
that we can boldly look back upon and fully face. As son or as
daughter, as brother or as sister, as friend or as lover, as
husband or as wife, as minister or as member, as master or as
servant--what swarms of hornet-memories darken our hearts as we so
look back! Let any grown-up man, with some imagination, tenderness
of heart, and integrity of conscience, go back step by step, taking
some time to it,--at a new year, say, or a birthday, or on some
such suitable occasion: let him go over his past life back to his
youth and childhood--and what an intolerable burden will be laid on
his heart before he is done! What a panorama of scarlet pictures
will pass before his inward eye! What a forest of accusing fingers
will be pointed at him! What hissing curses will be spat at him
both by the lips of the living and the dead! What untold pains he
will see that he has caused to the innocent and the helpless! What
desolating disappointments, what shipwrecks of hope to this man and
to that woman! What a stone of stumbling he has been to many who
on that stone have been for ever broken and lost! What a rock of
offence even his mere innocent existence, all unknown to himself
till afterwards, has been! Swarms, said Christiana. Swarms of
hornets armed, said Samson. And many of us understand what that
bitter word means better than any commentator on Bunyan or on
Milton can tell us. One of the holiest men the Church of England
ever produced, and one of her best devotional writers, used to shut
his door on the night of every first day of the week, and on his
knees spread out a prayer which always contained this passage: "I
worship Thee, O God, on my face. I smite my breast and say with
the publican, God be merciful to me a sinner; the chief of sinners;
a sinner far above the publican. Despise me not--an unclean worm,
a dead dog, a putrid corpse. Despise me not, despise me not, O
Lord. But look upon me with those eyes with which Thou didst look
upon Magdalene at the feast, Peter in the hall, and the thief on
the cross. O that mine eyes were a fountain of tears that I might
weep night and day before Thee! I despise and bruise myself that
my penitence is not deeper, is not fuller. Help Thou mine
impenitence, and more and more pierce, rend, and crush my heart.
My sins are more in number than the sand. My iniquities are
multiplied, and I have no relief." Perish your Puritanism, and
your prayer-books too! I hear some high-minded and indignant man
saying. Perish your Celestial City and all my desire after it,
before I say the like of that about myself! Brave words, my
brother; brave words! But there have been men as blameless as you
are, and as brave-hearted over it, who, when the scales fell off
their eyes, were heard crying out ever after: O wretched man that
I am! And: Have mercy on me, the chief of sinners! And so, if it
so please God, will it yet be with you.

3. "Having had little to do this morning," said Mrs. Timorous to
Mrs. Light-mind, "I went to give Christiana a visit." "Law," I
read in his most impressive Life, "by this time was well turned
fifty, but he rose as early and was as soon at his desk as when he
was still a new, enthusiastic, and scrupulously methodical student
at Cambridge." Summer and winter Law rose to his devotions and his
studies at five o'clock, not because he had imperative sermons to
prepare, but because, in his own words, it is more reasonable to
suppose a person up early because he is a Christian than because he
is a labourer or a tradesman or a servant. I have a great deal of
business to do, he would say. I have a hardened heart to change; I
have still the whole spirit of religion to get. When Law at any
time felt a temptation to relax his rule of early devotion, he
again reminded himself how fast he was becoming an old man, and how
far back his sanctification still was, till he flung himself out of
bed and began to make himself a new heart before the servants had
lighted their fires or the farmers had yoked their horses. Shame
on you, he said to himself, to lie folded up in a bed when you
might be pouring out your heart in prayer and in praise, and thus
be preparing yourself for a place among those blessed beings who
rest not day and night saying, Holy, Holy, Holy. "I have little to
do this morning," said Mrs. Timorous. "But I am preparing for a
journey," said Christiana. "I have now a price put into my hand to
get gain, and I should be a fool of the greatest size if I should
have no heart to strike in with the opportunity."

4. Another thing that completely threw out Christiana's idle
visitor and made her downright angry was the way she would finger
and kiss and read pieces out of the fragrant letter she held in her
hand. You will remember how Christiana came by that letter she was
now so fond of. "Here," said Secret, "is a letter I have brought
thee from thy husband's King." So she took it and opened it, and
it smelt after the manner of the best perfume; also it was written
in letters of gold. " I advise thee," said Secret, "that thou put
this letter in thy bosom, that thou read therein to thy children
until you have all got it by root-of-heart." "His messenger was
here," said Christiana to Mrs. Timorous, "and has brought me a
letter which invites me to come." And with that she plucked out
the letter and read to her out of it, and said: "What now do you
say to all that?" That, again, is so true to our own life. For
there is nothing that more distastes and disrelishes many people
among us than just that we should name to them our favourite books,
and read a passage out of them, and ask them to say what they think
of such wonderful words. Samuel Rutherford's Letters, for
instance; a book that smells to some nostrils with the same
heavenly perfume as Secret's own letter did. A book, moreover,
that is written in the same ink of gold. Ask at afternoon tea to-
morrow, even in so-called Christian homes, when any of the ladies
round the table last read, and how often they have read, Grace
Abounding, The Saint's Rest, The Religious Affections, Jeremy
Taylor, Law, a Kempis, Fenelon, or such like, and they will smile
to one another and remark after you are gone on your strange taste
for old-fashioned and long-winded and introspective books. "Julia
has buried her husband and married her daughters, and since that
she spends her time in reading. She is always reading foolish and
unedifying books. She tells you every time she sees you that she
is almost at the end of the silliest book that ever she read in her
life. But the best of it is that it serves to dispose of a good
deal of her spare time. She tells you all romances are sad stuff,
yet she is very impatient till she can get all she can hear of.
Histories of intrigue and scandal are the books that Julia thinks
are always too short. The truth is, she lives upon folly and
scandal and impertinence. These things are the support of her dull
hours. And yet she does not see that in all this she is plainly
telling you that she is in a miserable, disordered, reprobate state
of mind. Now, whether you read her books or no, you perhaps think
with her that it is a dull task to read only religious and
especially spiritual books. But when you have the spirit of true
religion, when you can think of God as your only happiness, when
you are not afraid of the joys of eternity, you will think it a
dull task to read any other books. When it is the care of your
soul to be humble, holy, pure, and heavenly-minded; when you know
anything of the guilt and misery of sin, or feel a real need of
salvation, then you will find religious and truly spiritual books
to be the greatest feast and joy of your mind and heart." Yes.
And then we shall thank God every day we live that He raised us up
such helpers in our salvation as the gifted and gracious authors we
have been speaking of.

5. "The further I go the more danger I meet with," said old
Timorous, the father, to Christian, when Christian asked him on the
Hill Difficulty why he was running the wrong way. "I, too, was
going to the City of Zion," he said; "but the further on I go the
more danger I meet with." And, in saying that, the old runaway
gave our persevering pilgrim something to think about for all his
days. For, again and again, and times without number, Christian
would have gone back too if only he had known where to go. Go on,
therefore, he must. To go back to him was simply impossible.
Every day he lived he felt the bitter truth of what that old
apostate had so unwittingly said. But, with all that he kept
himself in his onward way till, dangers and difficulties, death and
hell and all, he came to the blessed end of it. And that same has
been the universal experience of all the true and out-and-out
saints of God in all time. If poor old Timorous had only known it,
if he had only had some one beside him to remind him of it, the
very thing that so fatally turned him back was the best proof
possible that he was on the right and the only right way; ay, and
fast coming, poor old castaway, to the very city he had at one time
set out to seek. Now, it is only too likely that there are some of
my hearers at this with it tonight, that they are on the point of
giving up the life of faith, and hope, and love, and holy living;
because the deeper they carry that life into their own hearts the
more impossible they find it to live that life there. The more
they aim their hearts at God's law the more they despair of ever
coming within sight of it. My supremely miserable brother! if this
is any consolation to you, if you can take any crumb of consolation
out of it, let this be told you, that, as a matter of fact, all
truly holy men have in their heart of hearts had your very
experience. That is no strange and unheard-of thing which is
passing within you. And, indeed, if you could but believe it, that
is one of the surest signs and seals of a true and genuine child of
God. Dante, one of the bravest, but hardest bestead of God's
saints, was, just like you, well-nigh giving up the mountain
altogether when his Greatheart, who was always at his side,
divining what was going on within him, said to him -

"Those scars
That when they pain thee most then kindliest heal."

"The more I do," complained one of Thomas Shepard's best friends to
him, "the worse I am." "The best saints are the most sensible of
sin," wrote Samuel Rutherford. And, again he wrote, "Sin rages far
more in the godly than ever it does in the ungodly." And you dare
not deny but that Samuel Rutherford was one of the holiest men that
ever lived, or that in saying all that he was speaking of himself.
And Newman: "Every one who tries to do God's will"--and that also
is Newman himself--"will feel himself to be full of all
imperfection and sin; and the more he succeeds in regulating his
heart, the more will he discern its original bitterness and guilt."
As our own hymn has it:

"They who fain would serve Thee best
Are conscious most of wrong within."

Without knowing it, Mrs. Timorous's runaway father was speaking the
same language as the chief of the saints. Only he said, "Therefore
I have turned back," whereas, first Christian, and then Christiana
his widow, said, "Yet I must venture!"

And so say you. Say, I must and I will venture! Say it; clench
your teeth and your hands and say it. Say that you are determined
to go on towards heaven where the holy are--absolutely determined,
though you are quite well aware that you are carrying up with you
the blackest, the wickedest, the most corrupt, and the most
abominable heart either out of hell or in it. Say that, say all
that, and still venture. Say all that and all the more venture.
Venture upon God of whom such reassuring things are said. Venture
upon the Son of God of whom His Father is represented as saying
such inviting things. Venture upon the cross. Survey the wondrous
cross and then make a bold venture upon it. Think who that is who
is bleeding to death upon the cross, and why? Look at Him till you
never afterwards can see anything else. Look at God's Eternal,
Divine, Well-pleasing Son with all the wages of sin dealt out to
Him, body and soul, on that tree to the uttermost farthing. And,
devil incarnate though you indeed are, yet, say, if that spectacle
does not satisfy you, and encourage you, and carry your cowardice
captive. Venture! I say, venture! And if you find at last that
you have ventured too far--if you have sinned and corrupted
yourself beyond redemption--then it will be some consolation and
distinction to you in hell that you had out-sinned the infinite
grace of God, and had seen the end of the unsearchable riches of
Christ. Timid sinner, I but mock thee, therefore venture! Fearful
sinner, venture! Cowardly sinner, venture. Venture thyself upon
thy God, upon Christ thy Saviour, and upon His cross. Venture all
thy guilt and all thy corruption taken together upon Christ hanging
upon His cross, and make that tremendous venture now!


"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."--Our

The first time that we see Mercy she is standing one sunshine
morning knocking along with another at Christiana's door. And all
that we afterwards hear of Mercy might be described as, A morning
call and all that came of it; or, How a godly matron led on a poor
maid to fall in love with her own salvation. John Bunyan, her
biographer, in all his devotion to Mercy, does not make it at all
clear to us why such a sweet and good girl as Mercy was could be on
such intimate terms with Mrs. Timorous and all her so questionable
circle. Could it be that Mercy's mother was one of that unhappy
set? And had this dear little woman-child been brought up so as to
know no better than to figure in their assemblies, and go out on
their morning rounds with Mrs. Light-mind and Mrs. Know-nothing?
Or, was poor Mercy an orphan with no one to watch over her, and had
her sweet face, her handsome figure, and her winning manners made
her one of the attractions of old Madam Wanton's midnight routs?
However it came about, there was Mercy out on a series of morning
calls with a woman twice her age, but a woman whose many years had
taught her neither womanliness nor wisdom. "If you come in God's
name, come in," a voice from the inside answered the knocking of
Mrs. Timorous and Mercy, her companion, at Christiana's door. In
all their rounds that morning the two women had not been met with
another salutation like that; and that strange salutation so
disconcerted and so confounded them that they did not know whether
to lift the latch and go in, or to run away and leave those to go
in who could take their delight in such outlandish language. "If
you come in God's name, come in." At this the women were stunned,
for this kind of language they used not to hear or to perceive to
drop from the lips of Christiana. Yet they came in; but, behold,
they found the good woman preparing to be gone from her house. The
conversation that ensued was all carried on by the two elder women.
For it was often remarked about Mercy all her after-days that her
voice was ever soft, and low, and, especially, seldom heard. But
her ears were not idle. For all the time the debate went on--
because by this time the conversation had risen to be a debate--
Mercy was taking silent sides with Christiana and her distress and
her intended enterprise, till, when Mrs. Timorous reviled
Christiana and said, "Come away, Mercy, and leave her in her own
hands," Mercy by that time was brought to a standstill. For, like
a rose among thorns, Mercy was thoughtful and wise and womanly far
beyond her years. So much so, that already she had made up her
mind to offer herself as a maidservant to help the widow with her
work and to see her so far on her way, and, indeed, though she kept
that to herself, to go all the way with her, if the way should
prove open to her. First, her heart yearned over Christiana; so
she said within herself, If my neighbour will needs be gone, I will
go a little way with her to help her. Secondly, her heart yearned
over her own soul's salvation, for what Christiana had said had
taken some hold upon Mercy's mind. Wherefore she said within
herself, I will yet have more talk with this Christiana, and if I
find truth and life in what she shall say, myself with all my heart
shall also go with her. "Neighbour," spoke out Mercy to Mrs.
Timorous, "I did indeed come with you to see Christiana this
morning, and since she is, as you see, a-taking of her last
farewell of her country, I think to walk this sunshine morning a
little way with her to help her on the way." But she told her not
of her second reason, but kept that to herself. I would fain go on
with Mercy's memoirs all night. But you will take up that inviting
thread for yourselves. And meantime I shall stop here and gather
up under two or three heads some of the more memorable results and
lessons of that sunshine-morning call.

1. Well, then, to begin with, there was something quite queen-
like, something absolutely commanding, about Christiana's look and
manner, as well as about all she said and did that morning.
Mercy's morning companion had all the advantages that dress and
equipage could give her; while Christiana stood in the middle of
the floor in her housewife's clothes, covered with dust and
surrounded with all her dismantled house; but, with all that, there
was something about Christiana that took Mercy's heart completely
captive. All that Christiana had by this time come through had
blanched her cheek and whitened her hair: but all that only the
more commanded Mercy's sensitive and noble soul. To be open to
impressions of that kind is one of the finest endowments of a
finely endowed nature; and, all through, the attentive reader of
her history will be sure to remark and imitate Mercy's exquisite
and tenacious sensibility to all that is true and good, upright and
honourable and noble. And then, what a blessing it is to a girl of
Mercy's mould to meet at opening womanhood with another woman, be
it a mother, a mistress, or a neighbour, whose character then, and
as life goes on, can supply the part of the supporting and
sheltering oak to the springing and clinging vine. Christiana
being now the new woman she was, as well as a woman of great
natural wisdom, dignity, and stability of character, the safety,
the salvation of poor motherless Mercy was as good as sure.
Indeed, all Mercy's subsequent history is only one long and growing
tribute to the worth, the constant love, and the sleepless
solicitude of this true mother in Israel.

2. Now, it was so, that, wholly unknown to all her companions,
young and old, in her own very remarkable words, Mercy had for a
long time been hungering with all her heart to meet with some
genuinely good people,--with some people, as she said herself,--"of
truth and of life." These are remarkable words to hear drop from
the lips of a young girl, and especially a girl of Mercy's
environment. Now, had there been anything hollow, had there been
one atom of insincerity or exaggeration about Christiana that
morning, had she talked too much, had all her actions not far more
than borne out all her words, had there not been in the broken-
hearted woman a depth of mind and a warmth of heart far beyond all
her words, Mercy would never have become a pilgrim. But the
natural dignity of Christiana's character; her capable, commanding,
resolute ways; the reality, even to agony, of her sorrow for her
past life--all taken together with her iron-fast determination to
enter at once on a new life--all that carried Mercy's heart
completely captive. Mercy felt that there was a solemnity, an
awesomeness, and a mystery about her new friend's experiences and
memories that it was not for a child like herself to attempt to
intrude into. But, all the more because of that, a spell of love
and fear and reverence lay on Mercy's heart and mind all her after-
days from that so solemn and so eventful morning when she first saw
Christiana's haggard countenance and heard her remorseful cries.
My so churlish carriages to him! Now, such carriages between man
and wife had often pained and made ashamed Mercy's maidenly heart
beyond all expression. Till she had sometimes said to herself,
blushing with shame before herself as she said it, that if ever she
was a wife--may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth before I
say one churlish word to him who is my husband! And thus it was
that nothing that Christiana said that morning in the uprush of her
remorse moved Mercy more with pity and with love than just what
Christiana beat her breast about as concerning her lost husband.
Mercy used to say that she saw truth and life enough in one hour
that morning to sober and to solemnise and to warn her to set a
watch on the door of her lips for all her after-days.

3. Before Mrs. Timorous was well out of the door, Mercy had
already plucked off her gloves, and hung up her morning bonnet on a
nail in the wall, so much did her heart heave to help the cumbered
widow and her fatherless children. "If thou wilt, I will hire
thee," said Christiana, "and thou shalt go with me as my servant.
Yet we will have all things common betwixt thee and me; only, now
thou art here, go along with me." At this Mercy fell on
Christiana's neck and kissed her mother; for after that morning
Christiana had always a daughter of her own, and Mercy a mother.
And you may be sure, with two such women working with all their
might, all things were soon ready for their happy departure.

Mr. Kerr Bain invites his readers to compare John Bunyan's Mercy at
this point with William Law's Miranda. I shall not tarry to draw
out the full comparison here, but shall content myself with simply
repeating Mr. Bain's happy reference. Only, I shall not content
myself till all to whom my voice can reach, and who are able to
enjoy only a first-rate book, have Mr. Bain's book beside their
Pilgrim's Progress. That morning, then, on which Mrs. Timorous,
having nothing to do at home, set out with Mercy on a round of
calls--that was Mercy's last idle morning for all her days. For
her mind was, ever after that, to be always busying of herself in
doing, for when she had nothing to do for herself she would be
making of hosen and garments for others, and would bestow them upon
those that had need. I will warrant her a good housewife, quoth
Mr. Brisk to himself. So much so that at any place they stopped on
the way, even for a day and a night to rest and refresh themselves,
Mercy would seek out all the poor and all the old people, and ere
ever she was aware what she was doing, already a good report had
spread abroad concerning the pilgrims and their pilgrimage. At the
same time, it must be told that poor Mercy's heart was more heavy
for the souls of the poor people than for their naked bodies and
hungry bellies. So much was this so that when the shepherds,
Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere, took her to a place
where she saw one Fool and one Want-wit washing of an Ethiopian
with intention to make him white, but the more they washed him the
blacker he was, Mercy blushed and felt guilty before the
shepherds,--she so took home to her charitable heart the bootless
work of Fool and Want-wit. Mercy put on the Salvationist bonnet at
her first outset to the Celestial City, and she never put it off
till she came to that land where there are no more poor to make
hosen and hats for, and no more Ethiopians to take to the fountain.

4. There are not a few young communicants here to-night, as well
as not a few who are afraid as yet to offer themselves for the
Lord's table; and, as it so falls out to-night, Mercy's case
contains both an encouragement and an example to all such. For
never surely had a young communicant less to go upon than Mercy had
that best morning of all her life. For she had nothing to go upon
but a great desire to help Christiana with her work; some desire
for truth and for life; and some first and feeble yearnings over
her own soul,--yearnings, however, that she kept entirely to
herself. That was all. She had no remorses like those which had
ploughed up Christiana's cheeks into such channels of tears. She
had no dark past out of which swarms of hornets stung her guilty
conscience. Nor on the other hand, had she any such sweet dreams
and inviting visions as those that were sent to cheer and encourage
the disconsolate widow. She will have her own sweet dreams yet,
that will make her laugh loud out in her sleep. But that will be
long after this, when she has discovered how hard her heart is and
how great God's grace is. "How shall I be ascertained," she put it
to Christiana, "that I also shall be entertained? Had I but this
hope, from one that can tell, I would make no stick at all, but
would go, being helped by Him that can help, though the way was
never so tedious. Had I as good hope for a loving reception as you
have, I think no Slough of Despond would discourage me." "Well,"
said the other, "you know your sore, and I know mine; and, good
friend, we shall all have enough evil before we come to our
journey's end." And soon after that, of all places on the upward
way, Mercy's evil began at the Wicket Gate. "I have a companion,"
said Christiana, "that stands without. One that is much dejected
in her mind, for that she comes, as she thinks, without sending
for; whereas I was sent to by my husband's King." So the porter
opened the gate and looked out; but Mercy was fallen down in a
swoon, for she fainted and was afraid that the gate would not be
opened to her. "O sir," she said, "I am faint; there is scarce
life left in me." But he answered her that one once said, "When my
soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came
in into Thee, into Thy holy temple. Fear not, but stand up upon
thy feet, and tell me wherefore thou art come." "I am come, sir,
into that for which I never was invited, as my friend Christiana
was. Her invitation was from the Lord, and mine was but from her.
Wherefore, I fear that I presume." Then said he to those that
stood by, "Fetch something and give it to Mercy to smell on,
thereby to stay her fainting." So they fetched her a bundle of
myrrh, and a while after she revived.--Let young communicants be
content with Mercy's invitation. She started for the City just
because she liked to be beside a good woman who was starting
thither. She wished to help a good woman who was going thither;
and just a little desire began at first to awaken in her heart to
go to the city too. Till, having once set her face to go up, one
thing after another worked together to lead her up till she, too,
had her life full of those invitations and experiences and
interests and occupations and enjoyments that make Mercy's name so
memorable, and her happy case such an example and such an
inspiration, to all God-fearing young women especially.

5. John Bunyan must be held responsible for the strong dash of
romance that he so boldly throws into Mercy's memoirs. But I shall
postpone Mr. Brisk and his love-making and his answer to another
lecture. I shall not enter on Mercy's love matters here at all,
but shall leave them to be read at home by those who like to read
romances. Only, since we have seen so much of Mercy as a maiden,
one longs to see how she turned out as a wife. I can only imagine
how Mercy turned out as a wife; but there is a picture of a
Scottish Covenanting girl as a married wife which always rises up
before my mind when I think of Mercy's matronly days. That picture
might hang in Bunyan's own peculiar gallery, so beautiful is the
drawing, and so warm and so eloquent the colouring. Take, then,
this portrait of one of the daughters of the Scottish Covenant.
"She was a woman of great worth, whom I therefore passionately
loved and inwardly honoured. A stately, beautiful, and comely
personage; truly pious and fearing the Lord. Of an evenly temper,
patient in our common tribulations and under her personal
distresses. A woman of bright natural parts, and of an uncommon
stock of prudence; of a quick and lively apprehension in things she
applied herself to, and of great presence of mind in surprising
incidents. Sagacious and acute in discerning the qualities of
persons, and therefore not easily imposed upon. [See Mr. Brisk's
interviews with Mercy.] Modest and grave in her deportment, but
naturally cheerful; wise and affable in conversation, also having a
good faculty at speaking and expressing herself with assurance.
Being a pattern of frugality and wise management in household
affairs, all such were therefore entirely committed to her; well
fitted for and careful of the virtuous education of her children;
remarkably useful in the countryside, both in the Merse and in the
Forest, through her skill in physic and surgery, which in many
instances a peculiar blessing appeared to be commanded upon from
heaven. And, finally, a crown to me in my public station and
pulpit appearances. During the time we have lived together we have
passed through a sea of trouble, as yet not seeing the shore but
afar off."

"The words of King Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.
What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my
vows? Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above
rubies. Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband
also, and he praiseth her. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is
vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised."


"Be ye not unequally yoked."--Paul.

There were some severe precisians in John Bunyan's day who took the
objection to the author of the Pilgrim's Progress that he sometimes
laughed too loud.

"One may (I think) say, both he laughs and cries,
May well be guessed at by his watery eyes.
Some things are of that nature as to make
One's fancy chuckle while his heart doth ake.
When Jacob saw his Rachel with the sheep,
At the same time he did both laugh and weep."

And even Dr. Cheever, in his excellent lectures on the Pilgrim's
Progress, confesses that though the Second Part never ceases for a
moment to tell the serious story of the Pilgrimage, at the same
time, it sometimes becomes so merry as almost to pass over into
absolute comedy. "There is one passage," says Cheever, "which for
exquisite humour, quiet satire, and naturalness in the development
of character is scarcely surpassed in the language. It is the
account of the courtship between Mr. Brisk and Mercy which took
place at the House Beautiful."

Now, the insertion of such an episode as that of Mr. Brisk into
such a book as the Pilgrim's Progress is only yet another proof of
the health, the strength, and the truth to nature of John Bunyan's
mind. His was eminently an honest, straightforward, manly, English
understanding. A smaller man would not have ventured on Mr. Brisk
in such a book as the Pilgrim's Progress. But there is no
affectation, there is no prudery, there is no superiority to nature
in John Bunyan. He knew quite well that of the thousands of men
and women who were reading his Pilgrim there was no subject, not
even religion itself, that was taking up half so much of their
thoughts as just love-making and marriage. And, like the wise man
and the true teacher he was, he here points out to all his readers
how well true religion and the fullest satisfaction of the warmest
and the most universal of human affections can be both harmonised
and made mutually helpful. In Bunyan's day love was too much left
to the playwrights, just as in our day it is too much left to the
poets and the novelists. And thus it is that in too many instances
affection and passion have taken full possession of the hearts and
the lives of our young people before any moral or religious lesson
on these all-important subjects has been given to them: any lesson
such as John Bunyan so winningly and so beautifully gives here.
"This incident," says Thomas Scott, "is very properly introduced,
and it is replete with instruction."

Now, Mr. Brisk, to begin with, was, so we are told, a young man of
some breeding,--that is to say, he was a young man of some social
position, some education, and of a certain good manner, at least on
the surface. In David Scott's Illustrations Mr. Brisk stands
before us a handsome and well-dressed young man of the period, with
his well-belted doublet, his voluminous ruffles, his heavily-
studded cuffs, his small cane, his divided hair, and his delicate
hand,--altogether answering excellently to his name, were it not
for the dashed look of surprise with which he gets his answer, and,
with what jauntiness he can at the moment command, takes his
departure. "Mr. Brisk was a man of some breeding," says Bunyan,
"and that pretended to religion; but a man that stuck very close to
the world." That Mr. Brisk made any pretence to religion at any
other time and in any other place is not said; only that he put on
that pretence with his best clothes when he came once or twice or
more to Mercy and offered love to her at the House Beautiful. The
man with the least religion at other times, even the man with no
pretence to religion at other times at all, will pretend to some
religion when he is in love with a young woman of Mercy's mind.
And yet it would not be fair to say that it is all pretence even in
such a man at such a time. Grant that a man is really in love;
then, since all love is of the nature of religion, for the time,
the true lover is really on the borders of a truly religious life.
It may with perfect truth be said of all men when they first fall
in love that they are, for the time, not very far away from the
kingdom of heaven. For all love is good, so far as it goes. God
is Love; and all love, in the long-run, has a touch of the divine
nature in it. And for once, if never again, every man who is
deeply in love has a far-off glimpse of the beauty of holiness, and
a far-off taste of that ineffable sweetness of which the satisfied
saints of God sing so ecstatically. But, in too many instances, a
young man's love having been kindled only by the creature, and,
never rising from her to his and her Creator, as a rule, it sooner
or later burns low and at last burns out, and leaves nothing but
embers and ashes in his once so ardent heart. Mr. Brisk's love-
making might have ended in his becoming a pilgrim but for this
fatal flaw in his heart, that even in his love-making he stuck so
fast to the world. It is almost incredible: you may well refuse
to believe it--that any young man in love, and especially a young
gentleman of Mr. Brisk's breeding, would approach his mistress with
the question how much she could earn a day. As Mr. Brisk looks at
Mercy's lap so full of hats and hosen and says it, I can see his
natty cane beginning to lengthen itself out in his soft-skinned
hand and to send out teeth like a muck-rake. Give Mr. Brisk
another thirty years or so and he will be an ancient churl, raking
to himself the sticks and the straws and the dust of the earth,
neither looking up to nor regarding the celestial crown that is
still offered to him in exchange for his instrument.

"Now, Mercy was of a fair countenance, and, therefore, all the more
alluring." But her fair countenance was really no temptation to
her. "Sit still, my daughter," said Naomi to Ruth in the Old
Testament. And it was entirely Mercy's maidenly nature to sit
still. Even before she had come to her full womanhood under
Christiana's motherly care she would have been an example to Ruth.
Long ago, while Mercy was still a mere girl, when Mrs. Light-mind
said something to her one day that made her blush, Mercy at last
looked up in real anger and said, We women should be wooed; we were
not made to woo. And thus it was that all their time at the House
Beautiful Mercy stayed close at home and worked with her needle and
thread just as if she had been the plainest girl in all the town.
"I might have had husbands afore now," she said, with a cast of her
head over the coat that lay on her lap, "though I spake not of it
to any. But they were such as did not like my conditions, though
never did any of them find fault with my person. So they and I
could not agree." Once Mercy's mouth was opened on the subject of
possible husbands it is a miracle that she did not go on in
confidence to name some of the husbands she might have had. Mercy
was too truthful and too honourable a maiden to have said even on
that subject what she did say if it had not been true. No doubt
she believed it true. And the belief so long as she mentioned no
names, did not break any man's bones and did not spoil any man's
market. Don't set up too prudishly and say that it is a pity that
Mercy so far forgot herself as to make her little confidential
boast. We would not have had her without that little boast. Keep-
at-home, sit-still, hats and hosen and all--her little boast only
proves Mercy to have been at heart a true daughter of Eve after

There is an old-fashioned word that comes up again and again in the
account of Mr. Brisk's courtship,--a word that contains far more
interest and instruction for us than might on the surface appear.
When Mr. Brisk was rallied upon his ill-success with Mercy, he was
wont to say that undoubtedly Mistress Mercy was a very pretty lass,
only she was troubled with ill conditions. And then, when Mercy
was confiding to Prudence all about her possible husbands, she said
that they were all such as did not like her conditions. To which
Prudence, keeping her countenance, replied, that the men were but
few in their day that could abide the practice that was set forth
by such conditions as those of Mercy. Well, tossed out Mercy, if
nobody will have me I will die a maid, or my conditions shall be to
me as a husband! As I came again and again across that old
seventeenth-century word "conditions," I said to myself, I feel
sure that Dr. Murray of the Oxford Scriptorium will have noted this
striking passage. And on turning up the Sixth Part of the New
English Dictionary, there, to be sure, was the old word standing in
this present setting. Five long, rich, closely packed columns
stood under the head of "Condition"; and amid a thousand
illustrations of its use, the text: "1684, Bunyan, Pilgr., ii. 84.
He said that Mercy was a pretty lass, but troubled with ill
conditions." Poor illiterate John Bunyan stood in the centre of a
group of learned and famous men, composed of Chaucer, Wyclif,
Skelton, Palsgrave, Raleigh, Featly, Richard Steel, and Walter
Scott--all agreeing in their use of our word, and all supplying
examples of its use in the best English books. By Mercy's
conditions, then, is just meant her cast of mind, her moral nature,
her temper and her temperament, her dispositions and her
inclinations, her habits of thought, habits of heart, habits of
life, and so on.

"Well," said Mercy proudly, "if nobody will have me, I will die a
maid, or my conditions shall be to me as a husband. For I cannot
change my nature, and to have one that lies cross to me in this,--
that I purpose never to admit of as long as I live." By this time,
though she is still little more than a girl, Mercy had her habits
formed, her character cast, and, more than all, her whole heart
irrevocably set on her soul's salvation. And everything--husband
and children and all--must condition themselves to that, else she
will have none of them. She had sought first the kingdom of God
and His righteousness, and she will seek nothing, she will accept
nothing--no, not even a husband--who crosses her choice in that.
She has chosen her life, and her husband with it. Not the man as
yet, but the whole manner of the man. The conditions of the man,
as she said about herself; else she will boldly and bravely die a
maid. And there are multitudes of married women who, when they
read this page about Mercy, will gnash their teeth at the madness
of their youth, and will wildly wish that they only were maids
again; and, then, like Mercy, they would take good care to make for
themselves husbands of their own conditions too--of their own
means, their own dispositions, inclinations, tastes, and pursuits.
For, according as our conditions to one another are or are not in
our marriages,

"They locally contain or heaven or hell;
There is no third place in them."

What untold good, then, may all our young women not get out of the
loving study of Mercy's sweet, steadfast, noble character! And
what untold misery may they not escape! From first to last--and we
are not yet come to her last--I most affectionately recommend Mercy
to the hearts and minds of all young women here. Single and
married; setting out on pilgrimage and steadfastly persevering in
it; sitting still till the husband with the right conditions comes,
and then rising up with her warm, well-kept heart to meet him--if
any maiden here has no mother, or no elder sister, or no wise and
prudent friend like Prudence or Christiana to take counsel of--and
even if she has--let Mercy be her meditation and her model through
all her maidenly days.

"Nay, then," said Mercy, "I will look no more on him, for I purpose
never to have a clog to my soul." A pungent resolve for every
husband to read and to think to himself about, who has married a
wife with a soul. Let all husbands who have such wives halt here
and ask themselves with some imagination as to what may sometimes
go on, at communion times, say, in the souls of their wives. It is
not every wife, it is true, who has a soul to clog; but some of our
wives have. Well, now, let us ask ourselves: How do we stand
related to their souls? Do our wives, when examining the state of
their souls since they married us, have to say that at one time
they had hoped to be further on in the life of the soul than they
yet are? And are they compelled before God to admit that the
marriage they have made, and would make, has terribly hindered
them? Would they have been better women, would they have been
living a better life, and doing far more good in the world, if they
had taken their maidenly ideals, like Mercy, for a husband? Let us
sometimes imagine ourselves into the secrets of our wives' souls,
and ask if they ever feel that they are unequally and injuriously
yoked in their deepest and best life. Do we ever see a tear
falling in secret, or hear a stolen sigh heaved, or stumble on them
at a stealthy prayer? A Roman lady on being asked why she
sometimes let a sob escape her and a tear fall, when she had such a
gentleman of breeding and rank and riches to her husband, touched
her slipper with her finger and said: "Is not that a well-made, a
neat, and a costly shoe? And yet you would not believe how it
pinches and pains me sometimes."

But some every whit as good women as Mercy was have purposed as
nobly and as firmly as Mercy did, and yet have wakened up, when it
was too late, to find that, with all their high ideals, and with
all their prudence, their husband is not in himself, and is not to
them, what they at one time felt sure he would be. Mercy had a
sister named Bountiful, who made that mistake and that dreadful
discovery; and what Mercy had seen of married life in her sister's
house almost absolutely turned her against marriage altogether.
"The one thing certain," says Thomas Mozley in his chapter on Ideal
Wife and Husband, "is that both wife and husband are different in
the result from the expectation. Age, illness, an increasing
family, no family at all, household cares, want of means,
isolation, incompatible prejudices, quarrels, social difficulties,
and such like, all tell on married people, and make them far other
than they once promised to be." When that awakening comes there is
only one solace, and women take to that supreme solace much more
often than men. And that solace, as you all know, is true, if too
late, religion. And even where true religion has already been,
there is still a deeper and a more inward religion suited to the
new experiences and the new needs of life. And if both husband and
wife in such a crisis truly betake themselves to Him who gathereth
the solitary into families, the result will be such a remarriage of
depth and tenderness, loyalty and mutual help, as their early
dreams never came within sight of. Not early love, not children,
not plenty of means, not all the best amenities of married life
taken together, will repair a marriage and keep a marriage in
repair for one moment like a living and an intense faith in God; a
living and an intense love to God; and then that faith in and love
for one another that spring out of God and out of His love alone.

"The tree
Sucks kindlier nurture from a soil enriched
By its own fallen leaves; and man is made,
In heart and spirit, from deciduous hopes
And things that seem to perish."


"The vine of Sodom."--Moses.

With infinite delicacy John Bunyan here tells us the sad story of
Matthew's sore sickness at the House Beautiful. The cause of the
sore sickness, its symptoms, its serious nature, and its complete
cures are all told with the utmost plainness; but, at the same
time, with the most exquisite delicacy. Bunyan calls the ancient
physician who is summoned in and who effects the cure, Mr. Skill,
but you must believe that Bunyan himself is Mr. Skill; and I
question if this skilful writer ever wrote a more skilful page than
just this page that now lies open before him who has the eyes to
read it.

Matthew, it must always be remembered, was by this time a young
man. He was the eldest son of Christiana his mother, and for some
time now she had been a sorely burdened widow. Matthew's father
was no longer near his son to watch over him and to warn him
against the temptations and the dangers that wait on opening
manhood. And thus his mother, with all her other cares, had to be
both father and mother to her eldest son; and, with all her good
sense and all her long and close acquaintance with the world, she
was too fond a mother to suspect any evil of her eldest son. And
thus it was that Christiana had nearly lost her eldest son before
her eyes were open to the terrible dangers he had for a long time
been running. For it was so, that the upward way that this
household without a head had to travel lay through a land full of
all kinds of dangers both to the bodies and to the souls of such
travellers as they were. And what well-nigh proved a fatal danger
to Matthew lay right in his way. It was Beelzebub's orchard. Not
that this young man's way lay through that orchard exactly; yet,
walled up as was that orchard with all its forbidden fruit, that
evil fruit would hang over the wall so that if any lusty youth
wished to taste it, he had only to reach up to the over-hanging
branches and plash down on himself some of the forbidden bunches.
Now, that was just what Matthew had done. Till we have him lying
at the House Beautiful, not only not able to enjoy the delights of
the House and of the season, but so pained in his bowels and so
pulled together with inward pains, that he sometimes cried out as
if he were being torn to pieces. At that moment Mr. Skill, the
ancient physician, entered the sick-room, when, having a little
observed Matthew's intense agony, with a certain mixture of
goodness and severity he recited these professional verses over the
trembling bed:

"O conscience, who can stand against thy power?
Endure thy gripes and agonies one hour?
Stone, gout, strappado, racks, whatever is
Dreadful to sense, are only toys to this -
No pleasures, riches, honours, friends can tell
How to give ease to this, 'tis like to hell."

And then, turning to the sick man's mother, who stood at the bed's
head wringing her hands, the ancient leech said to her: "This boy
of yours has been tampering with the forbidden fruit!" At which
the angry mother turned on the well-approved physician as if he had
caused all the trouble that he had come to cure. But the ancient
man knew both the son and the mother too, and therefore he
addressed her with some asperity: "I tell you both that strong
measures must be taken instantly, else he will die." When Mr.
Skill had seen that the first purge was too weak, he made him one
to the purpose; and it was made, as he so learnedly said, ex carne
et sanguine Christi. The pills were to be taken three at a time,
fasting, in half a quarter of a pint of the tears of repentance.
After some coaxing, such as mothers know best how to use, Matthew
took the medicine and was soon walking about again with a staff,
and was able to go from room to room of the hospitable and happy
house. Understandest thou what thou readest? said Philip the
deacon to Queen Candace's treasurer as he sat down beside him in
the chariot and opened up to him the fifty-third of the prophet
Isaiah. And, understandest thou what thou here readest in Matthew
and Mr. Skill?

1. Now, on this almost too closely veiled case I shall venture to
remark, in the first place, that multitudes of boys grow up into
young men, and go out of our most godly homes and into a whole
world of temptation without due warning being given them as to
where they are going. "I do marvel that none did warn him of it,"
said Mr. Skill, with some anger. What Matthew's father might have
done in this matter had he been still in this world when his son
became a man in it we can only guess. As it was, it never entered
his mother's too fond mind to take her fatherless boy by himself
when she saw Beelzebub's orchard before him, and tell him what
Solomon told his son, and to point out to him the prophecy that
King Lemuel's mother prophesied to her son. Poor Matthew was a
young man before his mother was aware of it. And, poor woman, she
only found that out when Mr. Skill was in the sick-room and was
looking at her with eyes that seemed to say to her that she had
murdered her child. She had loved too long to look on her first-
born as still a child. When he went at any time for a season out
of her sight, she had never followed him with her knowledge of the
world; she had never prevented him with an awakened and an anxious
imagination; till now she had got him home with no rest in his
bones because of his sin. And then she began to cry too late, O
naughty boy, and, O careless mother, what shall I do for my son!

2. "That food, to wit, that fruit," said Mr. Skill, "is even the
most hurtful of all. It is the fruit of Beelzebub's orchard." So
it is. There is no fruit that hurts at all like that fruit. How
it hurts at the time, we see in Matthew's sick-room; and how it
hurts all a man's after days we see in Jacob, and in Job, and in
David, and in a thousand sin-sick souls of whose psalms of remorse
and repentance the world cannot contain all the books that should
be written. "And yet I marvel," said the indignant physician,
"that none did warn him of it; many have died thereof." Oh if I
could but get the ears of all the sons of godly fathers and mothers
who are beginning to tamper with Beelzebub's orchard-trees, I feel
as if I could warn them to-night, and out of this text, of what
they are doing! I have known so many who have died thereof. Oh if
I could but save them in time from those gripes of conscience that
will pull them to pieces on the softest and the most fragrant bed
that shall ever be made for them on earth! It will be well with
them if they do not lie down torn to pieces on their bed in hell,
and curse the day they first plashed down into their youthful hands
the vine of Sodom. Both the way to hell and the way to heaven are
full of many kinds of hurtful fruits; but that species of fruit
that poor misguided Matthew plucked and ate after he had well
passed the gate that is at the head of the way is, by all men's
testimony, by far the most hurtful of all forbidden fruits.

3. The whole scene in Matthew's sick-room reads, after all, less
like a skilful invention than a real occurrence. Inventive and
realistic as John Bunyan is, there is surely something here that
goes beyond even his genius. After making all allowance for
Bunyan's unparalleled powers of creation and narration, I am
inclined to think, the oftener I read it, that, after all, we have
not so much John Bunyan here as very Nature herself. Yes; John
Gifford surely was Mr. Skill. Sister Bosworth surely was Matthew's
mother. And Matthew himself was Sister Bosworth's eldest son,
while one John Bunyan, a travelling tinker, was busy with his
furnaces and his soldering-irons in Dame Bosworth's kitchen. Young
Bunyan, with all his blackguardism, had never plashed down
Beelzebub's orchard. He swears he never did, and we are bound to
believe him. But young Bosworth had been tampering with the
forbidden fruit, and Gifford saw at a glance what was wrong. John
Gifford was first an officer in the Royalist army, then a doctor in
Bedford, and now a Baptist Puritan pastor; and the young tinker
looked up to Gifford as the most wonderful man for learning in
books and in bodies and souls of men in all the world. And when
Gifford talked over young Bosworth's bed half to himself and half
to them about a medicine made ex carne et sanguine Christi, the
future author of the Pilgrim's Progress never forgot the phrase.
At a glance Gifford saw what was the whole matter with the sick
man. And painful as the truth was to the sick man's mother, and
humiliating with a life-long humiliation to the sick man himself,
Gifford was not the man or the minister to beat about the bush at
such a solemn moment. "This boy has been tampering with that which
will kill him unless he gets it taken off his conscience and out of
his heart immediately." Now, this same divination into our
pastoral cases is by far and away the most difficult part of a
minister's work. It is easy and pleasant with a fluent tongue to
get through our pulpit work; but to descend the pulpit stairs and
deal with life, and with this and that sin in the lives of our
people,--that is another matter. "We must labour," says Richard
Baxter in his Reformed Pastor, "to be acquainted with the state of
all our people as fully as we can; both to know the persons and
their inclinations and conversation; to know what sins they are
most in danger of, what duties they neglect, and what temptations
they are most liable to. For, if we know not their temperament or
their disease, we are likely to prove but unsuccessful physicians."
But when we begin to reform our pastorate to that pattern, we are
soon compelled to set down such entries in our secret diary as that
of Thomas Shepard of Harvard University: "Sabbath, 5th April 1641.
Nothing I do, nay, none under my shadow prosper. I so want wisdom
for my place, and to guide others." Yes; for what wisdom is needed
for the place of a minister like John Gifford, John Bunyan, Richard
Baxter, and Thomas Shepard! What wisdom, what divine genius, to
dive into and divine the secret history of a soul from a twinge of
conscience, even from a drop of the eye, a tone of the voice, or a
gesture of the hand or of the head! And yet, with some natural
taste for the holy work, with study, with experience, and with
life-long expert reading, even a plain minister with no genius, but
with some grace and truth, may come to great eminence in the
matters of the soul. And then, with what an interest, solemn and
awful, with what a sleepless interest such a pastor goes about
among his diseased, sin-torn, and scattered flock! All their souls
are naked and open under his divining eye. They need not to tell
him where they ail, and of what sickness they are nigh unto death.
That food, he says, with some sternness over their sick-bed, I
warned you of it; I told you with all plainness that many have died
of eating that fruit! "We must be ready," Baxter continues, "to
give advice to those that come to us with cases of conscience. A
minister is not only for public preaching, but to be a known
counsellor for his people's souls as the lawyer is for their
estates, and the physician is for their bodies. And because the
people are grown unacquainted with this office of the ministry, and
their own necessity and duty herein, it belongeth to us to acquaint
them herewith, and to press them publicly to come to us for advice
concerning their souls. We must not only be willing of the
trouble, but draw it upon ourselves by inviting them hereto. To
this end it is very necessary to be acquainted with practical cases
and able to assist them in trying their states. One word of
seasonable and prudent advice hath done that good that many sermons
would not have done."

4. As he went on pounding and preparing his well-approved pill,
the (at the bottom of his heart) kind old leech talked
encouragingly to the mother and to her sick son, and said: "Come,
come; after all, do not he too much cast down. Had we lived in the
days of the old medicine, I would have been compounding a purge out
of the blood of a goat, and the ashes of an heifer, and the juice
of hyssop. But I have a far better medicine under my hands here.
This moment I will make you a purge to the purpose." And then the
learned man, half-doctor, half-divine, chanted again the sacred
incantation as he bent over his pestle and mortar, saying: Ex
carne et sanguine Christi! Those shrewd old eyes soon saw that, in
spite of all their defences and all their denials, damage had been
done to the conscience and the heart that nothing would set right
but a frank admission of the evil that had been done, and a prompt
submission to the regimen appointed and the medicine prepared. And
how often we ministers puddle and peddle with goat's blood and
heifer's ashes and hyssop juice when we should instantly prescribe
stern fasting and secret prayer and long spaces of repentance, and
then the body and the blood of Christ. How often our people cheat
us into healing their hurt slightly! How often they succeed in
putting us off, after we are called in, with their own account of
their cases, and set us out on a wild-goose chase! I myself have
more than once presented young men in their trouble with apologetic
books, University sermons, and watered-down explanations of the
Confession and the Catechism, when, had I known all I came
afterwards to know, I would have sent them Bunyan's Sighs from
Hell. I have sent soul-sick women also The Bruised Reed, and The
Mission of the Comforter with sympathising inscriptions, and sweet
scriptures written inside, when, had I had Mr. Skill's keen eyes in
my stupid head, I would have gone to them with the total abstinence
pledge in my one hand, and Jeremy Taylor's Holy Living and Dying in
my other. "No diet but that which is wholesome!" almost in anger
answered the sick man's mother. "I tell you," the honest leech
replied, in more anger, "this boy has been tampering with
Beelzebub's orchard. And many have died of it!"

5. It was while all the rest of the House Beautiful were supping
on lamb and wine, and while there was such music in the House that
made Mercy exclaim over it with wonder--it was at the smell of the
supper and at the sound of the psalmody that Matthew's gripes
seized upon him worse than ever. All the time the others sat late
into the night Matthew lay on the rack pulled to pieces. After
William Law's death at King's Cliffe, his executors found among his
most secret papers a prayer he had composed for his own alone use
on a certain communion day when he was self-debarred from the
Lord's table. I do not know for certain just what fruit the young
non-juror had stolen out of Beelzebub's orchard before that
communion season; but I can see that he was in poor Matthew's exact
experience that communion night,--literally torn to pieces with
agonies of conscience while all his fellow-worshippers were at the
table of the Lord. While the psalms and hymns are being sung at
the supper-table, lay your ear to Law's closet door. "Whilst all
Thy faithful servants are on this day offering to Thee the
comfortable sacrifice of the body and the blood of Christ, and
feasting at that holy table which Thou hast ordained for the
refreshment, joy, and comfort of their souls, I, unhappy wretch,
full of guilt, am justly denied any share of these comforts that
are common to the Christian world. O my God, I am an unclean worm,
a dead dog, a stinking carcass, justly removed from that society of
saints who this day kneel about Thine altar. But, oh! suffer me to
look toward Thy holy Sanctuary; suffer my soul again to be in the
place where Thine honour dwelleth. Reject not the sacrifice of a
broken heart, and do Thou be with me in secret, though I am not fit
to appear in Thy public worship. Lord, if Thou wilt Thou canst
make me clean. Lord, speak but the word, and Thy servant shall be
healed." It is the fruit of Beelzebub's orchard. Many have died

6. "Pray, sir, make me up twelve boxes of them; for if I can get
these, I will never take other physic." "These same pills," he
replied, "are good also to prevent diseases as well as to cure when
one is sick. But, good woman, thou must take these pills no other
way but as I have prescribed; for if you do, they will do no good."
I have taken one illustration from William Law's life; I shall take
another from that world of such illustrations and so close. "O
God, let me never see such another day as this. Let the dreadful
punishment of this day never be out of my mind." And it never was.
For, after that day in hell, Law never laid down his head on his
pillow that he did not seem to remember that dreadful day. William
Law would have satisfied Dr. Skill for a convalescent. For he
never felt that he had any right to touch the body and blood of
Christ, either at communion times, or a thousand times every day,
till he had again got ready his heart of true repentance. My
brethren, self-destroyed out of Beelzebub's orchard, and all my
brethren, live a life henceforth of true repentance. Not out of
the sins of your youth only, but out of the best, the most
watchful, and the most blameless day you ever live, distil your
half-pint of repentance every night before you sleep. For, as dear
old Skill said, unless you do, neither flesh nor blood of Christ,
nor anything else, will do you any genuine good.


"He humbled Himself."--Paul.

Now as they were going along and talking, they espied a boy feeding
his father's sheep. The boy was in very mean clothes, but of a
very fresh and well-favoured countenance, and as he sat by himself
he sang. Hark, said Mr. Greatheart, to what the shepherd boy
saith. So they hearkened and he said:

He that is down, needs fear no fall;
He that is low no pride:
He that is humble, ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much:
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because thou savest such.
Fulness to such a burden is
That go on pilgrimage:
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age.

Then said their guide, Do you hear him? I will dare say that this
boy lives a merrier life and wears more of that herb called
Heart's-ease in his bosom than he that is clad in silk and velvet."

Now, notwithstanding all that, nobody knew better than John Bunyan
knew, that no shepherd boy that ever lived on the face of the earth
ever sang that song; only one Boy ever sang that song, and He was
not the son of a shepherd at all, but the son of a carpenter. And,
saying that leads me on to say this before I begin, that I look for
a man of John Bunyan's inventive and sanctified genius to arise
some day, and armed also to boot with all our latest and best New
Testament studies. When that sorely-needed man so arises he will
take us back to Nazareth where that carpenter's Boy was brought up,
and he will let us see Him with our own eyes being brought up. He
will lead us into Mary's house on Sabbath days, and into Joseph's
workshop on week days, and he will show us the child Jesus, not so
much learning His letters and then putting on His carpenter's
clothes, as learning obedience by the things that He every day
suffered. That choice author will show us our Lord, both before He
had discovered Himself to be our Lord, as well as after He had made
that great discovery, always clothing Himself with humility as with
a garment; taking up His yoke of meekness and lowly-mindedness
every day, and never for one moment laying it down. When some
writer with as holy an imagination as that of John Bunyan, and with
as sweet an English style, and with a New Testament scholarship of
the first order so arises, and so addresses himself to the inward
life of our Lord, what a blessing to our children that writer will
be! For he will make them see and feel just what all that was in
which our Lord's perfect humility consisted, and how His perfect
humility fulfilled itself in Him from day to day; up through all
His childhood days, school and synagogue days, workshop and holy
days, early manhood and mature manhood days; till He was so meek in
all His heart and so humble in all His mind that all men were sent
to Him to learn their meekness and their humility of Him. I envy
that gifted man the deep delight he will have in his work, and the
splendid reward he will have in the love and the debt of all coming
generations. Only, may he be really sent to us, and that soon!
Theodor Keim comes nearest a far-off glimpse of that eminent
service of any New Testament scholar I know. Jeremy Taylor and
Thomas Goodwin also, in their own time and in their own way, had
occasional inspirations toward this still-waiting treatment of the
master-subject of all learning and all genius--the inward
sanctification, the growth in grace, and then the self-discovery of
the incarnate Son of God. But, so let it please God, some
contemporary scholar will arise some day soon, combining in himself
Goodwin's incomparable Christology, and Taylor's incomparable
eloquence, and Keim's incomparably digested learning, with John
Bunyan's incomparable imagination and incomparable English style,
and the waiting work will be done, and theology for this life will
take on its copestone. In his absence, and till he comes, let us
attempt a few annotations to-night on this so-called shepherd boy's
song in the Valley of Humiliation.

He that is down, needs fear no fall.

The whole scenery of the surrounding valley is set before us in
that single eloquent stanza. The sweet-voiced boy sits well off
the wayside as he sings his song to himself. He looks up to the
hill-tops that hang over his valley, and every shining tooth of
those many hill-tops has for him its own evil legend. "He thinks
he sees a little heap of bleaching bones just under where that
eagle hangs and wheels and screams. Not one traveller through
these perilous parts in a thousand gets down those cruel rocks
unhurt; and many travellers have been irrecoverably lost among
those deadly rocks, and have never received Christian burial. All
the shepherds' cottages and all the hostel supper-tables for many
miles round are full of terrible stories of the Hill Difficulty and
the Descent Dangerous. And thus it is that this shepherd boy looks
up with such fear at those sharp peaks and shining precipices, and
lifts his fresh and well-favoured countenance to heaven and sings
again: "He that is down, needs fear no fall." Down in his own
esteem, that is. For this is a song of the heart rather than of
the highway. Down--safe, that is, from the steep and slippery
places of self-estimation, self-exaltation, self-satisfaction.
Down--so as to be delivered from all ambition and emulation and
envy. Down, and safe, thank God, from all pride, all high-
mindedness, and all stout-heartedness. Down from the hard and
cruel hills, and buried deep out of sight among those meadows where
that herb grows which is called Heart's-ease. Down, where the
green pastures grow and the quiet waters flow. No, indeed; he that
is down into this sweet bottom needs fear no fall. For there is
nowhere here for a man to fall from. And, even if he did fall, he
would only fall upon a fragrance-breathing bed of lilies. The very
herbs and flowers here would conspire to hold him up. Many a day,
as He grew up, the carpenter's son sat in that same valley and sang
that same song to His own humble and happy heart. He loved much to
be here. He loved also to walk these meadows, for He found the air
was pleasant. Methinks, He often said with Mercy, I am as well in
this valley as I have been anywhere else in My journey. The place,
methinks, suits with My spirit. I love to be in such places where
there is no rattling with coaches nor rumbling with wheels.
Methinks, also, here one may without much molestation be thinking
what he is, whence he came, and to what his King has called him.

He that is low, no pride.

Low in his own eyes, that is. For pride goeth before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall. Yes; but he who is low enough
already--none of the sure destructions that pride always works
shall ever come near to him. "The proud man," says Sir Henry
Taylor, "is of all men the most vulnerable. "Who calls?" asks the
old shepherd in As You Like It. "Your betters," is the insolent
answer. And what is the shepherd's rejoinder? "Else are they very
wretched." By what retort, reprisal, or repartee could it have
been made half so manifest that the insult had lighted upon armour
of proof? Such is the invincible independence and invulnerability
of humility."

He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.

For thus saith the high and holy One that inhabiteth eternity,
whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him
also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the heart
of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones . . .
All those things hath Mine hand made, but to this man will I look,
saith the Lord, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit,
and who trembleth at My word . . . Though the Lord be high, yet
hath He respect unto the lowly; but the proud He knoweth afar off .
. . Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea,
all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility;
for God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble . . .
Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty, neither do I
exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned
of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child . . . Take My
yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart,
and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My
burden is light.

I am content with what I have,
Little be it, or much:
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because thou savest such.

The only thing this sweet singer is discontented with is his own
contentment. He will not be content as long as he has a shadow of
discontent left in his heart. And how blessed is such holy
discontent! For, would you know, asks Law, who is the greatest
saint in all the world? Well, it is not he who prays most or fasts
most; it is not he who gives most alms or is most eminent for
temperance, chastity, or justice. But it is he who is always
thankful to God, who wills everything that God willeth, who
receives everything as an instance of God's goodness, and has a
heart always ready to praise God for it. "Perhaps the shepherd's
boy," says Thomas Scott, "may refer to the obscure and quiet
stations of some pastors over small congregations, who live almost
unknown to their brethren, but are in a measure useful and very
comfortable." Perhaps he does. And, whether he does or no, at any
rate such a song will suit some of our brethren very well as they
go about among their few and far-off flocks. They are not church
leaders or popular preachers. There is not much rattling with
coaches or rumbling with wheels at their church door. But, then,
methinks, they have their compensation. They are without much
molestation. They can be all the more thinking what they are,
whence they came, and to what their King has called them. Let them
be happy in their shut-in valleys. For I will dare to say that
they wear more of that herb called Heart's-ease in their bosom than
those ministers do they are sometimes tempted to emulate. I will
add in this place that to the men who live and trace these grounds
the Lord hath left a yearly revenue to be faithfully paid them at
certain seasons for their maintenance by the way, and for their
further encouragement to go on in their pilgrimage.

Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age.

But, now, from the shepherd boy and from his valley and his song,
let us go on without any more poetry or parable to look our own
selves full in the face and to ask our own hearts whether they are
the hearts of really humble-minded and New Testament men or no.
Dr. Newman, "that subtle, devout man," as Dr. Duncan calls him,
says that "humility is one of the most difficult of virtues both to
attain and to ascertain. It lies," he says, "close upon the heart
itself, and its tests are exceedingly delicate and subtle. Its
counterfeits abound." Most true. And yet humility is not intended
for experts in morals only, or for men of a rare religious genius
only. The plainest of men, the least skilled and the most
unlettered of men, may not only excel in humility, but may also be
permitted to know that they are indeed planted, and are growing
slowly but surely in that grace of all graces. No doubt our Lord
had, so to describe it, the most delicate and the most subtle of
human minds; and, no doubt whatever, He had the most practised
skill in reading off what lay closest to His own heart. And, then,
it was just His attainment of the most perfect humility, and then
His absolute ascertainment of the same, that enabled Him to say:
Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me. At the same time, divine as
the grace is, and divine as the insight is that is able to trace it
out in all its exquisite refinements of thought and feeling in the
sanctified soul, yet humility is a human virtue after all, and it
is open to all men to attain to it and intelligently and lovingly
to exercise it. The simplest and the least philosophical soul now
in this house may apply to himself some of the subtlest and most
sensitive tests of humility, as much as if he were Dr. Duncan or
Dr. Newman themselves; and may thus with all assurance of hope know
whether he is a counterfeit and a castaway or no.

Take this test for one, then. Explain this text to me: Phil. ii.
3--"In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than
himself." Explain and illustrate that. Not from a commentary, but
straight out from your own heart. What does your heart make of
that scripture? Does your heart turn away from that scripture
almost in anger at it? Do you say you are certain that there must
be some other explanation of it than that? Do you hold that this
is just another of Paul's perpetual hyperboles, and that the New
Testament is the last book in the world to be taken as it reads?
Yes; both bold and subtle father that he is: counterfeits abound!

Another much blunter test, but, perhaps, a sufficiently sharp test,
is this: How do you receive correction and instruction? Does your
heart meekly and spontaneously and naturally take to correction and
instruction as the most natural and proper thing possible to you?
And do you immediately, and before all men, show forth and exhibit
the correction and the instruction? Or, does this rather take
place? Does your heart beat, and swell, and boil, and boil over at
him who dares to correct or counsel you? If this is a fair test to
put our humility to, how little humility there is among us! How
few men any of us could name among our friends to whom we would
risk telling all the things that behind their backs we point out
continually to others? We are terrified to face their pride. We
once did it, and we are not to do it again, if we can help it! Let
a man not have too many irons in the fire; let him examine himself
just by these two tests for the time--what he thinks of himself,
and what he thinks of those who attempt, and especially before
other people, to set him right. And after these two tests have
been satisfied, others will no doubt be supplied till that so
humble man is made very humility itself.

And now, in the hope that there may be one or two men here who are
really and not counterfeitly in earnest to clothe themselves with
humility before God and man, let them take these two looms to
themselves out of which whole webs of such garments will be
delivered to them every day--their past life, and their present
heart. With a past life like ours, my brethren--and everyman knows
his own--pride is surely the maddest state of mind that any of us
can allow ourselves in. The first king of Bohemia kept his clouted
old shoes ever in his sight, that he might never forget that he had
once been a ploughman. And another wise king used to drink out of
a coarse cup at table, and excused himself to his guests that he
had made the rude thing in his rude potter days. Look with
Primislaus and Agathocles at the hole of the pit out of which you
also have been dug; look often enough, deep enough, and long
enough, and you will be found passing up through the Valley of
Humiliation singing:

"With us He dealt not as we sinn'd,
Nor did requite our ill!"

Another excellent use of the past is, if you are equal to it, to
call yourself aloud sometimes, or in writing, some of the names
that other people who know your past are certainly calling you. It
is a terrible discipline, but it is the terror of the Lord, and He
will not let it hurt you too much. I was before a blasphemer, and
a persecutor, and injurious, says Paul. And, to show Titus, his
gospel-son, the way, he said to him: We ourselves were sometimes
foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures,
living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. And
John Bunyan calls himself a blackguard, and many other worse names;
only he swears that neither with his soldiering nor with his
tinkering hands did he ever plash down Beelzebub's orchard. But if
you have done that, or anything like that, call yourself aloud by
your true name on your knees to-night. William Law testifies,
after five-and-twenty years' experience of it, that he never heard
of any harm that he had done to any in his house by his habit of
singing his secret psalms aloud, and sometimes, ere ever he was
aware, bursting out in his penitential prayers.

And, then, how any man with a man's heart in his bosom for a single
day can escape being the chief of sinners, and consequently the
humblest of men for all the rest of his life on earth, passes my
comprehension! How a spark of pride can live in such a hell as
every human heart is would be past belief, did we not know that God
avenges sin by more sin; avenges Himself on a wicked and a false
heart by more wickedness and more falsehood, all ending in Satanic

Too long as I have kept you in this valley to-night, I dare not let
you out of it till I have shared with you a few sentences on
evangelical humiliation out of that other so subtle and devout man,
Jonathan Edwards. But what special kind of humiliation is
evangelical humiliation? you will ask. Hear, then, what this
master in Israel says. "Evangelical humiliation is the sense that
a Christian man has of his own utter insufficiency, utter
despicableness, and utter odiousness; with an always answerable
frame of heart. This humiliation is peculiar to the true saints.
It arises from the special influence of the Spirit of God
implanting and exercising supernatural and divine principles; and
it is accompanied with a sense of the transcendent beauty of divine
things. And, thus, God's true saints all more or less see their
own odiousness on account of sin, and the exceedingly hateful
nature of all sin. The very essence of evangelical humiliation
consists in such humility as becomes a man in himself exceeding
sinful but now under a dispensation of grace. It consists in a
mean esteem of himself, as in himself nothing, and altogether
contemptible and odious. This, indeed, is the greatest and the
most essential thing in true religion." And so on through a whole
chapter of beaten gold. To which noble chapter I shall only add
that such teaching is as sweet, as strengthening, and as reassuring
to the truly Christian heart as it is bitter and hateful to the
counterfeit heart.


"An honest heart."--Our Lord.

Next tell them of Old Honest, who you found
With his white hairs treading the pilgrim's ground;
Yea, tell them how plain-hearted this man was,
How after his good Lord he bare his cross:
Perhaps with some grey head this may prevail,
With Christ to fall in love, and sin bewail.

You would have said that no pilgrim to the Celestial City could
possibly have come from a worse place, or a more unlikely place,
than was that place from which Christian and Christiana and Matthew
and Mercy had come. And yet so it was. For Old Honest, this most
excellent and every way most delightful old saint, hailed from a
far less likely place than even the City of Destruction. For he
came, this rare old soul, of all places in the world, from the Town
of Stupidity. So he tells us himself. And, partly to explain to
us the humiliating name of his native town, and partly to exhibit
himself as a wonder to many, the frank old gentleman goes on to
tell us that his birthplace actually lies four degrees further away
from the sun than does the far-enough away City of Destruction
itself. So that you see this grey-haired saint is all that he
always said he was--a living witness to the fact that his Lord is
able to save to the uttermost, and to gather in His Father's elect
from the utmost corner of the land. Men are mountains of ice in my
country, said Old Honest. I was one of the biggest of those
icebergs myself, he said. No man was ever more cold and senseless
to divine things than I was, and still sometimes am. It takes the
Sun of Righteousness all His might to melt the men of my country.
But that He can do it when He rises to do it, and when He puts out
His full strength to do it--Look at me! said the genial old soul.

We have to construct this pilgrim's birth and boyhood and youth
from his after-character and conversation; and we have no
difficulty at all in doing that. For, if the child is the father
of the man, then the man must be the outcome of the child, and we
can have no hesitation in picturing to ourselves what kind of child
and boy and young man dear Old Honest must always have been. He
never was a bright child, bright and beaming old man as he is. He
was always slow and heavy at his lessons; indeed, I would not like
to repeat to you all the bad names that his schoolmasters sometimes
in their impatience called the stupid child. Only, this was to be
said of him, that dulness of uptake and disappointment of his
teachers were the worst things about this poor boy; he was not so
ill-behaved as many were who were made more of. When his wits
began to waken up after he had come some length he had no little
leeway to make up in his learning; but that was the chief drawback
to Old Honest's pilgrimage. For one thing, no young man had a
cleaner record behind him than our Honest had; his youthful
garments were as unspotted as ever any pilgrim's garments were.
Even as a young man he had had the good sense to keep company with
one Good-conscience; and that friend of his youth kept true to Old
Honest all his days, and even lent him his hand and helped him over
the river at last. In his own manly, hearty, blunt, breezy,
cheery, and genial way Old Honest is a pilgrim we could ill have
spared. Old Honest has a warm place all for himself in every good
and honest heart.

"Now, a little before the pilgrims stood an oak, and under it when
they came up to it they found an old pilgrim fast asleep; they knew
that he was a pilgrim by his clothes and his staff and his girdle.
So the guide, Mr. Greatheart, awaked him, and the old gentleman, as
he lifted up his eyes, cried out: What's the matter? Who are you?
And what is your business here? Come, man, said the guide, be not
so hot; here is none but friends! Yet the old man gets up and
stands upon his guard, and will know of them what they are." That
weather-beaten oak-tree under which we first meet with Old Honest
is an excellent emblem of the man. When he sat down to rest his
old bones that day he did not look out for a bank of soft moss or
for a bed of fragrant roses; that knotted oak-tree alone had power
to draw down under its sturdy trunk this heart of human oak. It
was a sight to see those thin grey haffets making a soft pillow of
that jutting knee of gnarled and knotty oak, and with his well-worn
quarterstaff held close in a hand all wrinkled skin and scraggy
bone. And from that day till he waved his quarterstaff when half
over the river and shouted, Grace reigns! there is no pilgrim of
them all that affords us half the good humour, sagacity, continual
entertainment, and brave encouragement we enjoy through this same
old Christian gentleman.

1. Now, let us try to learn two or three lessons to-night from Old
Honest, his history, his character, and his conversation. And, to
begin with, let all those attend to Old Honest who are slow in the
uptake in the things of religion. O fools and slow of heart!
exclaimed our Lord at the two travellers to Emmaus. And this was
Old Honest to the letter when he first entered on the pilgrimage
life; he was slow as sloth itself in the things of the soul. I
have often wondered, said Greatheart, that any should come from
your place; for your town is worse than is the City of Destruction
itself. Yes, answered Honest, we lie more off from the sun, and so
are more cold and senseless. And his biographer here annotates on
the margin this reflection: "Stupefied ones are worse than merely
carnal." So they are; though it takes some insight to see that,
and some courage to carry that through. Now, to be downright
stupid in a man's natural intellects is sad enough, but to be
stupid in the intellects of the soul and of the spirit is far more
sad. You will often see this if you have any eyes in your head,
and are not one of the stupid people yourself. You will see very
clever people in the intellects of the head who are yet as stupid
as the beasts in the stall in the far nobler intellects of the
heart. You will meet every day with men and women who have
received the best college education this city can give them, who
are yet stark stupid in everything that belongs to true religion.
They are quick to find out the inefficiency of a university chair,
or a schoolmaster's desk, but they know no more of what a New
Testament pulpit has been set up for than the stupidest sot in the
city. The Divine Nature, human nature, sin, grace, redemption,
salvation, holiness, heart-corruption, spiritual life, prayer,
communion with God, a conversation and a treasure in heaven,--to
all these noblest of studies and divinest of exercises they are as
a beast before God. When you come upon a man who is a sot in his
senses and in his understanding, you expect him to be the same in
his spiritual life. But to meet with an expert in science, a
classical scholar, an author or a critic in letters, a leader in
political or ecclesiastical or municipal life, and yet to discover
that he is as stupid as any sot in the things of his own soul, is
one of the saddest and most disheartening sights you can see. Much
sadder and much more disheartening than to see stairs and streets
of people who can neither read nor write. And yet our city is full
of such stupid people. You will find as utter spiritual stupidity
among the rich and the lettered and the refined of this city as you
will find among the ignorant and the vicious and the criminal
classes. Is stupidity a sin? asks Thomas in his Forty-Sixth
Question. And the great schoolman answers himself, "Stupidity may
come of natural incapacity, in which case it is not a sin. But it
may come, on the other hand, of a man immersing his soul in the
things of this world so as to shut out all the things of God and of
the world to come, in which case stupidity is a deadly sin." Now,
from all that, you must already see what you are to do in order to
escape from your inborn and superinduced stupidity. You are, like
Old Honest, to open your gross, cold, senseless heart to the Sun of
Righteousness, and you are to take care every day to walk abroad
under His beams. You are to emigrate south for your life, as our
well-to-do invalids do, to where the sun shines in his strength all
the day. You are to choose such a minister, buy and read such a
literature, cultivate such an acquaintanceship, and follow out such
a new life of habits and practices as shall bring you into the full
sunshine, till your heart of ice is melted, and your stupefied soul
is filled with spiritual sensibility. For, were a man a mountain
of ice," said Old Honest, "yet if the Sun of Righteousness will
arise upon him his frozen heart shall feel a thaw; and thus hath it
been with me." Your poets and your philosophers have no resource
against the stupidity that opposes them. "Even the gods," they
complain, "fight unvictorious against stupidity." But your divines
and your preachers have hope beside the dullest and the stupidest
and even the most imbruted. They point themselves and their
slowest and dullest-witted hearers to Old Honest, this rare old
saint; and they set up their pulpit with hope and boldness on the
very causeway of the town of Stupidity itself.

2. In the second place,--on this fine old pilgrim's birth and
boyhood and youth. The apostle says that there is no real
difference between one of us and another; and what he says on that
subject must be true. No; there is really no difference compared
with the Celestial City whether a pilgrim is born in Stupidity, in
Destruction, in Vanity, or in Darkland. At the same time, nature,
as well as grace, is of God, and He maketh, when it pleaseth Him,
one man to differ in some most important respects from another.
You see such differences every day. Some children are naturally,
and from their very infancy, false and cruel, mean and greedy;
while their brothers and sisters are open and frank and generous.
One son in a house is born a vulgar snob, and one daughter a
shallow-hearted and shameless little flirt; while another brother
is a born gentleman, and another sister a born saint. Some
children are tender-hearted, easily melted, and easily moulded;
while others in the same family are hard as stone and cold as ice.
Sometimes a noble and a truly Christian father will have all his
days to weep and pray over a son who is his shame; and then, in the
next generation, a grandson will be born to him who will more than
recover the lost image of his father's father. And so is it
sometimes with father Adam's family. Here and there, in Darkland,
in Destruction, and in Stupidity, a child will be born with a
surprising likeness to the first Adam in his first estate. That
happy child at his best is but the relics and ruins of his first
father; at the same time, in him the relics are more abundant and
the ruins more easy to trace out. And little Honest was such a
well-born child. For, Stupidity and all, there was a real inborn
and inbred integrity, uprightness, straightforwardness, and
nobleness about this little and not over-clever man-child. And, on
the principle of "to him that hath shall be given," there was
something like a special providence that hedged this boy about from
the beginning. "I girded thee though thou hast not known Me" was
never out of Old Honest's mouth as often as he remembered the days
of his own youth and heard other pilgrims mourning over theirs. "I
have surnamed thee though thou hast not known Me," he would say to
himself in his sleep. Slow-witted as he was, no one had been able
to cheat young Honest out of his youthful integrity. He had not
been led, and he had led no one else, into the paths of the
destroyer. He could say about himself all that John Bunyan so
boldly and so bluntly said about himself when his enemies charged
him with youthful immorality. He left the town in nobody's debt.
He left the print of his heels on no man or woman or child when he
took his staff in his hand to be a pilgrim. The upward walk of too
many pilgrims is less a walk than an escape and a flight. The
avenger of men's blood and women's honour has hunted many men deep
into heaven's innermost gate. But Old Honest took his time. He
walked, if ever pilgrim walked, all the way with an easy mind. He
lay down to sleep under the oaks on the wayside, and smiled like a
child in his sleep. And, when he was suddenly awaked, instead of
crying out for mercy and starting to his heels, he grasped his
staff and demanded even of an armed man what business he had to
break in on an honest pilgrim's mid-day repose! The King of the
Celestial City had a few names even in Stupidity which had not
defiled their garments, and Old Honest was one of them. And all
his days his strength was as the strength of ten, because his heart
was pure.

3. At the same time, honesty is not holiness; and no one knew that
better than did this honest old saint. When any one spoke to Old
Honest about his blameless youth, the look in his eye made them
keep at arm's-length as he growled out that without holiness no man
shall see God! Writing from Aberdeen to John Bell of Hentoun,
Samuel Rutherford says: "I beseech you, in the Lord Jesus, to mind
your country above; and now, when old age is come upon you, advise
with Christ before you put your foot into the last ship and turn
your back on this life. Many are beguiled with this that they are
free of scandalous sins. But common honesty will not take men to
heaven. Alas! that men should think that ever they met with Christ
who had never a sick night or a sore heart for sin. I have known a
man turn a key in a door and lock it by." "I can," says John Owen,
"and I do, commend moral virtues and honesty as much as any man
ought to do, and I am sure there is no grace where they are not.
Yet to make anything to be our holiness that is not derived from
Jesus Christ,--I know not what I do more abhor." "Are morally
honest and sober men qualified for the Lord's Supper?" asks John
Flavel. "No; civility and morality do not make a man a worthy
communicant. They are not the wedding garment; but regenerating
grace and faith in the smallest measure are." "My outside may be
honest," said this honest old pilgrim, "while all the time my heart
is most unholy. My life is open to all men, but I must hide my
heart with Christ in God."

4. And then this racy-hearted old bachelor was as full of delight
in children, and in children's parties, with all their sweetmeats
and nuts and games and riddles,--quite as much so--as if he had
been their very grandfather himself. Nay, this rosy-hearted old
rogue was as inveterate a matchmaker as if he had been a mother of
the world with a houseful of daughters on her hands and with the
sons of the nobility dangling around. It would make you wish you
could kiss the two dear old souls, Gaius the innkeeper and Old
Honest his guest, if you would only read how they laid their grey
heads together to help forward the love-making of Matthew and
Mercy. Yes, it would be a great pity, said Old Honest,--thinking
with a sigh of his own childless old age,--it would be a great pity
if this excellent family of our sainted brother should fail for
want of children, and die out like mine. And the two old plotters
went together to the mother of the bridegroom, and told her with an
aspect of authority that she must put no obstacle in her son's way,
but take Mercy as soon as convenient into a closer relation to
herself. And Gaius said that he for his part would give the
marriage supper. And I shall make no will, said Honest, but hand
all I have over to Matthew my son. This is the way, said Old
Honest; and he skipped and smiled and kissed the cheek of the aged
mother and said, Then thy two children shall preserve thee and thy
husband a posterity in the earth! Then he turned to the boys and
he said, Matthew, be thou like Matthew the publican, not in vice,
but in virtue. Samuel, he said, be thou like Samuel the prophet, a
man of faith and of prayer. Joseph, said he, be thou like Joseph
in Potiphar's house, chaste, and one that flees from temptation.
And James, be thou like James the Just, and like James the brother
of our Lord. Mercy, he said, is thy name, and by mercy shalt thou
be sustained and carried through all thy difficulties that shall
assault thee in the way, till thou shalt come thither where thou
shalt look the Fountain of Mercy in the face with comfort. And all
this while the guide, Mr. Greatheart, was very much pleased, and
smiled upon the nimble old gentleman.

5. "Then it came to pass a while after that there was a post in
the town that inquired for Mr. Honest. So he came to his house
where he was, and delivered to his hands these lines, Thou art
commanded to be ready against this day seven night, to present
thyself before thy Lord at His Father's house. And for a token
that my message is true, all thy daughters of music shall be
brought low. Then Mr. Honest called for his friends and said unto
them, I die, but shall make no will. As for my honesty, it shall
go with me: let him that comes after me be told of this. When the
day that he was to be gone was come he addressed himself to go over
the river. Now, the river at that time overflowed the banks at
some places. But Mr. Honest in his lifetime had spoken to one
Good-conscience to meet him there, the which he also did, and lent
him his hand, and so helped him over. The last words of Mr. Honest
were, Grace reigns! So he left the world." Look at that picture
and now look at this: "They then addressed themselves to the
water, and, entering, Christian began to sink, and crying out to
his good friend Hopeful, he said, I sink in deep waves, the billows
go over my head, all His waters go over me. Then said the other,
Be of good cheer, my brother, I feel the bottom, and it is good.
Then said Christian, Ah, my friend, the sorrows of death have
compassed me about; I shall not see the land that flows with milk
and honey. And with that a great horror and darkness fell upon
Christian, so that he could not see before him; and all the words
that he spoke still tended to discover that he had horror of mind
lest he should die in that river and never obtain entrance in at
the gate. Here also, as they that stood by perceived, he was much
in the troublesome thoughts of the sins that he had committed, both
since and before he began to be a pilgrim. 'Twas also observed
that he was troubled with apparitions of hobgoblins and evil
spirits. Hopeful, therefore, had much ado to keep his brother's
head above water. Yea, sometimes he would be quite gone down, and
then ere a while he would rise up again half dead." My brethren,
all my brethren, be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever
a man soweth that shall he also reap. Whom the Lord loveth He
chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. Thou, O
God, wast a God that forgavest them, but Thou tookest vengeance on
their inventions.


"Happy is the man that feareth alway."--Solomon

For humour, for pathos, for tenderness, for acute and sympathetic
insight at once into nature and grace, for absolutely artless
literary skill, and for the sweetest, most musical, and most
exquisite English, show me another passage in our whole literature
to compare with John Bunyan's portrait of Mr. Fearing. You cannot
do it. I defy you to do it. Spenser, who, like John Bunyan, wrote
an elaborate allegory, says: It is not in me. Take all Mr.
Fearing's features together, and even Shakespeare himself has no
such heart-touching and heart-comforting character. Addison may
have some of the humour and Lamb some of the tenderness; but, then,
they have not the religion. Scott has the insight into nature, but
he has no eye at all for grace; while Thackeray, who, in some
respects, comes nearest to John Bunyan of them all, would be the
foremost to confess that he is not worthy to touch the shoe-latchet
of the Bedford tinker. As Dr. Duncan said in his class one day
when telling us to read Augustine's Autobiography and
Halyburton's:- "But," he said, "be prepared for this, that the
tinker beats them all!" "Methinks," says Browning, "in this God
speaks, no tinker hath such powers."

Now, as they walked along together, the guide asked the old
gentleman if he knew one Mr. Fearing that came on pilgrimage out of
his parts. "Yes," said Mr. Honest, "very well. He was a man that
had the root of the matter in him; but he was one of the most
troublesome pilgrims that ever I met with in all my days." "I
perceive you knew him," said the guide, "for you have given a very
right character of him." "Knew him!" exclaimed Honest, "I was a
great companion of his; I was with him most an end. When he first
began to think of what would come upon us hereafter, I was with
him." "And I was his guide," said Greatheart, "from my Master's
house to the gates of the Celestial City." "Then," said Mr.
Honest, "it seems he was well at last." "Yes, yes," answered the
guide, "I never had any doubt about him; he was a man of a choice
spirit, only he was always kept very low, and that made his life so
burdensome to himself and so troublesome to others. He was, above
many, tender of sin; he was so afraid of doing injuries to others
that he would often deny himself of that which was lawful because
he would not offend." "But what," asked Honest, "should be the
reason that such a good man should be all his days so much in the
dark?" "There are two sorts of reasons for it," said the guide;
"one is, the wise God will have it so: some must pipe and some
must weep. Now, Mr. Fearing was one that played upon this base.
He and his fellows sound the sackbut, whose notes are more doleful
than the notes of other music are. Though, indeed, some say that
the base is the ground of music. And, for my part, I care not at
all for that profession that begins not with heaviness of mind.
The first string that the musician usually touches is the base when
he intends to put all in tune. God also plays upon this string
first when He sets the soul in tune for Himself. Only, here was
the imperfection of Mr. Fearing, that he could play upon no other
music but this till toward his latter end."

1. Take Mr. Fearing, then, to begin with, at the Slough of
Despond. Christian and Pliable, they being heedless, did both fall
into that bog. But Mr. Fearing, whatever faults you may think he
had--and faults, too, that you think you could mend in him--at any
rate, he was never heedless. Everybody has his fault to find with
poor Mr. Fearing. Everybody blames poor Mr. Fearing. Everybody
can improve upon poor Mr. Fearing. But I will say again for Mr.
Fearing that he was never heedless. Had Peter been on the road at
that period he would have stood up for Mr. Fearing, and would have
taken his judges and would have said to them, with some scorn--Go
to, and pass the time of your sojourning here with something of the
same silence and the same fear! Christian's excuse for falling
into the Slough was that fear so followed him that he fled the next
way, and so fell in. But Mr. Fearing had no such fear behind him
in his city as Christian had in his. All Mr. Fearing's fears were
within himself. If you can take up the distinction between actual
and indwelling sin, between guilt and corruption, you have already
in that the whole key to Mr. Fearing. He was blamed and counselled
and corrected and pitied and patronised by every morning-cloud and
early-dew neophyte, while all the time he lived far down from the
strife of tongues where the root of the matter strikes its deep
roots still deeper every day. "It took him a whole month," tells
Greatheart, "to face the Slough. But he would not go back neither.
Till, one sunshiny morning, nobody ever knew how, he ventured, and
so got over. But the fact of the matter is," said the shrewd-
headed guide, "Mr. Fearing had, I think, a slough of despond in his
own mind; and a slough that he carried everywhere with him." Yes,
that was it. Greatheart in that has hit the nail on the head.
With one happy stroke he has given us the whole secret of poor Mr.
Fearing's life-long trouble. Just so; it was the slough in himself
that so kept poor Mr. Fearing back. This poor pilgrim, who had so
little to fear in his past life, had yet so much scum and filth,
spume and mire in his present heart, that how to get on the other
side of that cost him not a month's roaring only, but all the
months and all the years till he went over the River not much above
wet-shod. And, till then, not twenty million cart-loads of
wholesome instructions, nor any number of good and substantial
steps, would lift poor Mr. Fearing over the ditch that ran so deep
and so foul continually within himself. "Yes, he had, I think, a
slough of despond in his mind, a slough that he carried everywhere
with him, or else he never could have been the man he was." I, for
one, thank the great-hearted guide for that fine sentence.

2. It was a sight to see poor Mr. Fearing at the wicket gate.
"Knock, and it shall be opened unto you." He read the inscription
over the gate a thousand times, but every time he read it his
slough-filled heart said to him, Yes, but that is not for such as
you. Pilgrim after pilgrim came up the way, read the writing,
knocked, and was taken in; but still Mr. Fearing stood back,
shaking and shrinking. At last he ventured to take hold of the
hammer that hung on the gate and gave with it a small rap such as a
mouse might make. But small as the sound was, the Gatekeeper had
had his eye on his man all the time out of his watch-window; and
before Mr. Fearing had time to turn and run, Goodwill had him by
the collar. But that sudden assault only made Mr. Fearing sink to
the earth, faint and half-dead. "Peace be to thee, O trembling
man!" said Goodwill. "Come in, and welcome!" When he did venture
in, Mr. Fearing's face was as white as a sheet. You would have
said that an officer had caught a thief if you had seen poor Mr.
Fearing hiding his face, and the Gatekeeper hauling him in. And
not all the entertainment for which the Gate was famous, nor all
the encouragement that Goodwill was able to speak, could make
terrified Mr. Fearing for once to smile. A more hard-to-entertain
pilgrim, all the Gate declared when he had gone, they had never had
in their hospitable house.

3. "So he came," said the guide, "till he came to our House; but
as he behaved himself at the Gate, so he did at my Master the
Interpreter's door. He lay about in the cold a good while before
he would adventure to call. Yet he would not go back neither. And
the nights were cold and long then. At last I think I looked out
of the window, and perceiving a man to be up and down about the
door, I went out to him, and asked what he was; but, poor man, the
water stood in his eyes. So I perceived what he wanted. I went
in, therefore, and told it in the house, and we showed the thing to
our Lord. So He sent me out again to entreat him to come in, but I
dare say I had hard work to do it. At last he came in, and I will
say that for my Lord, He carried it wonderful lovingly to Mr.
Fearing. There were but a few good bits at the table, but some of
it was laid upon his trencher." In this way the guide tells us his
first introduction to Mr. Fearing, and how Mr. Fearing behaved
himself in the Interpreter's House. For instance, in the parlour
full of dust, when the Interpreter said that the dust is original
sin and inward corruption, you would have thought that the
Interpreter had stabbed poor Mr. Fearing to the heart, so did he
break out and weep. Before the damsel could come with the pitcher,
Mr. Fearing's eyes alone would have laid the dust, they were such a
fountain of tears. When he saw Passion and Patience, each one in
his chair--"I am that child in rags," said Mr. Fearing; "I have
already received all my good things!" Also, at the wall where the
fire burned because oil was poured into it from the other side, he
perversely turned that fire also against himself. And when they
came to the man in the iron cage, you could not have told whether
the miserable man inside the cage or the miserable man outside of
it sighed the loudest. And so on, through all the significant
rooms. The spider-room overwhelmed him altogether, till his sobs
and the beating of his breast were heard all over the house. The
robin also when gobbling up spiders he made an emblem of himself,
and the tree that was rotten at the heart,--till the Interpreter's
patience with this so perverse pilgrim was fairly worn out. So the
Interpreter shut up his significant rooms, and had this so
troublesome pilgrim into his own chamber, and there carried it so
tenderly to Mr. Fearing that at last he did seem to have taken some
little heart of grace. "And then we," said Greatheart, "set
forward, and I went before him; but the man was of few words, only
he would often sigh aloud."

4. "Dumpish at the House Beautiful" is his biographer's not very
respectful comment on the margin of the history. There were too


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