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.