"--Ye should contend earnestly for the faith."--Jude.
"Forget not Master Valiant-for-the-Truth, That man of courage, tho' a very youth. Tell every one his spirit was so stout, No man could ever make him face about." Bunyan.
"I am of Dark-land, for there was I born, and there my father and mother are still." "Dark-land," said the guide; "doth not that lie upon the same coast as the City of Destruction?" "Yes, it doth," replied Valiant-for-truth. "And had I not found incommodity there, I had not forsaken it at all; but finding it altogether unsuitable to me, and very unprofitable for me, I forsook it for this way. Now, that which caused me to come on pilgrimage was this. We had one Mr. Tell-true came into our parts, and he told it about what Christian had done, that went from the City of Destruction. That man so told the story of Christian and his travels that my heart fell into a burning haste to be gone after him, nor could my father and mother stay me, so I got from them, and am come thus far on my way."
1. A very plain and practical lesson is already read to us all in Valiant-for-truth's explanation of his own pilgrimage. He tells the guide that he was made a pilgrim just by having the story of The Pilgrim told to him. All that Tell-true did was just to recite the story of the pilgrim, when young Valiant's heart fell into a burning haste to be a pilgrim too. My brethren, could any lesson be plainer? Read the Pilgrim's Progress with your children. And, after a time, read it again till they call it beautiful, and till you see the same burning haste in their hearts that young Valiant felt in his heart. Circulate the Pilgrim's Progress. Make opportunities to give the Pilgrim's Progress to the telegraph boys and errand boys at your door. Never go on a holiday without taking a dozen cheap and tasteful copies of The Pilgrim to give to boys and girls in the country. Make sure that no one, old or young, of your acquaintance, in town or country, is without a good copy of The Pilgrim. And the darker their house is, make all the more sure that John Bunyan is in it.
"Now may this little book a blessing be, To those that love this little book and me And may its buyer have no cause to say His money is but lost or thrown away."
2. But the great lesson of Valiant's so impressive life lies in the tremendous fight he had with three ruffians who all set upon him at once and well-nigh made an end of him. For, when we put by the curtains here again, and turn up the metaphors, what do we find? What, but a lesson of first-rate importance for many men among ourselves; for many public men, many ministers, and many other much-in-earnest men. For Valiant, as his name tells us, was set to contend for the truth. He had the truth. The truth was put into his keeping, and he was bound to defend it. He was thrown into a life of controversy, and thus into all the terrible temptations--worse than the temptations to whoredom or wine--that accompany a life of controversy. The three scoundrels that fell upon Valiant at the mouth of the lane were Wildhead, Inconsiderate, and Pragmatic. In other words, the besetting temptations of many men who are set as defenders of the truth in religion, as well as in other matters, is to be wild-headed, inconsiderate, self-conceited, and intolerably arrogant. The bloody battle that Valiant fought, you must know, was not fought at the mouth of any dark lane in the midnight city, nor on the side of any lonely road in the moonless country. This terrible fight was fought in Valiant's own heart. For Valiant was none of your calculating and cold-blooded friends of the truth. He did not wait till he saw the truth walking in silver slippers. Let any man lay a finger on the truth, or wag a tongue against the truth, and he will have to settle it with Valiant. His love for the truth was a passion. There was a fierceness in his love for the truth that frightened ordinary men even when they were on his own side. Valiant would have died for the truth without a murmur. But, with all that, Valiant had to learn a hard and a cruel lesson. He had to learn that he, the best friend of truth as he thought he was, was at the same time, as a matter of fact, the greatest enemy that the truth had. He had to take home the terrible discovery that no man had hurt the truth so much as he had done. Save me from my friend! the truth was heard to say, as often as she saw him taking up his weapons in her behalf. We see all that every day. We see Wildhead at his disservice of the truth every day. Sometimes above his own name, and sometimes with grace enough to be ashamed to give his name, in the newspapers. Sometimes on the platform; sometimes in the pulpit; and sometimes at the dinner-table. But always to the detriment of the truth. In blind fury he rushes at the character and the good name of men who were servants of the truth before he was born, and whose shield he is not worthy to bear. How shall Wildhead be got to see that he and the like of him are really the worst friends the truth can possibly have? Will he never learn that in his wild-bull gorings at men and at movements, he is both hurting himself and hurting the truth as no sworn enemy of his and of the truth can do? Will he never see what an insolent fool he is to go on imputing bad motives to other men, when he ought to be prostrate before God on account of his own? More than one wild-headed student of William Law has told me what a blessing they have got from that great man's teaching on the subject of controversy. Will the Wildheads here to-night take a line or two out of that peace-making author and lay them to heart? "My dear L-, take notice of this, that no truths, however solid and well-grounded, will help you to any divine life, but only so far as they are taught, nourished, and strengthened by an unction from above; and that nothing more dries and extinguishes this heavenly unction than a talkative reasoning temper that is always catching at every opportunity of hearing or telling some religious matters. Stop your ears and shut your eyes to all religious tales . . . I would no more bring a false charge against a deist than I would bear false witness against an apostle. And if I knew how to do the deists more justice in debate I would gladly do it . . . And as the gospel requires me to be as glad to see piety, equity, strict sobriety, and extensive charity in a Jew or a Gentile as in a Christian; as it obliges me to look with pleasure upon their virtues, and to be thankful to God that such persons have so much of true and sound Christianity in them; so it cannot be an unchristian spirit to be as glad to see truths in one party of Christians as in another, and to look with pleasure upon any good doctrines that are held by any sect of Christian people, and to be thankful to God that they have so much of the genuine saving truths of the gospel among them . . . Selfishness and partiality are very inhuman and base qualities even in the things of this world, but in the doctrines of religion they are of a far baser nature. In the present divided state of the Church, truth itself is torn and divided asunder; and, therefore, he is the only true Catholic who has more of truth and less of error than is hedged in by any divided part. To see this will enable us to live in a divided part unhurt by its division, and keep us in a true liberty and fitness to be edified and assisted by all the good that we hear or see in any other part of the Church. And thus, uniting in heart and spirit with all that is holy and good in all Churches, we enter into the true communion of saints, and become real members of the Holy Catholic Church, though we are confined to the outward worship of only one particular part of it. And thus we will like no truth the less because Ignatius Loyola or John Bunyan were very jealous for it, nor have the less aversion to any error because Dr. Trapp or George Fox had brought it forth." If Wildhead would take a winter of William Law, it would sweeten his temper, and civilise his manners, and renew his heart.
3. Inconsiderate, again, is the shallow creature he is, and does the endless mischief that he does, largely for lack of imagination. He never thinks--neither before he speaks nor after he has spoken. He never put himself in another man's place all his days. He is incapable of doing that. He has neither the head nor the heart to do that. He never once said, How would I like that said about me? or, How would I like that done to me? or, How would that look and taste and feel to me if I were in So-and-so's place? It needs genius to change places with other men; it needs a grace beyond all genius; and this poor headless and heartless creature does not know what genius is. It needs imagination, the noblest gift of the mind, and it needs love, the noblest grace of the heart, to consider the case of other people, and to see, as Butler says, that we differ as much from other people as they differ from us. And it is by far the noblest use of the imagination, far nobler than carving a Laocoon, or painting a Last Judgment, or writing a "Paradiso" or a "Paradise Lost," to put ourselves into the places of other men so as to see with their eyes, and feel with their hearts, and sympathise with their principles, and even with their prejudices. Now, the inconsiderate man has so little imagination and so little love that he is sitting here and does not know what I am saying; and what suspicion he has of what I am saying is just enough to make him dislike both me and what I am saying too. But his dull suspicion and his blind dislike are more than made up for by the love and appreciation of those lovers and defenders of the truth who painfully feel how wild and inconsiderate, how hot-headed, how thoughtless, and how reckless their past service even of God's truth has been.
"The King is full of grace and fair regard. Consideration, like an angel, came And whipp'd the offending Adam out of him."
4. And as to Pragmatic, I would not call you a stupid person even though you confided to me that you had never heard this footpad's name till to-night. John Bunyan has been borrowing Latin again, and not to the improvement of his style, or to the advantage of his readers. It would be insufferably pragmatic in me to begin to set John Bunyan right in his English; but I had rather offend the shades of a hundred John Bunyans than leave my most unlettered hearer without his full and proper Sabbath-night lesson. The third armed thief, then, that fell upon Valiant was, under other names, Impertinence, Meddlesomeness, Officiousness, Over-Interference. Pragmatic,--by whatever name he calls himself, there is no mistaking him. He is never satisfied. He is never pleased. He is never thankful. He is always setting his superiors right. He is like the Psalmist in one thing, he has more understanding than all his teachers. And he enjoys nothing more than in letting them know that. There is nothing he will not correct you in--from cutting for the stone to commanding the Channel Fleet. Now, if all that has put any visual image of Pragmatic into your mind, you will see at once what an enemy he too is fitted to be to the truth. For the truth does not stand in points, but in principles. The truth does not dwell in the letter but in the spirit. The truth is not served by setting other people right, but by seeing every day and in every thing how far wrong we are ourselves. The truth is like charity in this, that it begins at home. It is like charity in this also, that it never behaves itself unseemly. A pragmatical man, taken along with an inconsiderate man, and then a wild-headed man added on to them, are three about as fatal hands as any truth could fall into. The worst enemy of the truth must pity the truth, and feel his hatred at the truth relenting, when he sees her under the championship of Wildhead, Inconsiderate, and Pragmatic.
5. The first time we see Valiant-for-truth he is standing at the mouth of Dead-man's-lane with his sword in his hand and with his face all bloody. "They have left upon me, as you see," said the bleeding man, "some of the marks of their valour, and have also carried away with them some of mine." And, in like manner, we see Paul with the blood of Barnabas still upon him when he is writing the thirteenth of First Corinthians; and John with the blood of the Samaritans still upon him down to his old age when he is writing his First Epistle; and John Bunyan with the blood of the Quakers upon him when he is covertly writing this page of his autobiography under the veil of Valiant-for-truth; and William Law with the blood of Bishop Hoadly and John Wesley dropping on the paper as he pens that golden passage which ends with Dr. Trapp and George Fox. Where did you think Paul got that splendid passage about charity? Where did you think William Law got that companion passage about Church divisions, and about the Church Catholic? Where are such passages ever got by inspired apostles, or by any other men, but out of their own bloody battles with their own wild-headedness, intolerance, dislike, and resentment? Where do you suppose I got the true key to the veiled metaphor of Valiant-for-truth? It does not exactly hang on the doorpost of his history. Where, then, could I get it but off the inside wall of my own place of repentance? Just as you understand what I am now labouring to say, not from my success in saying it, but from your own trespasses against humility and love, your unadvised speeches, and your wild and whirling words. Without shame and remorse, without self-condemnation and self-contempt, none of those great passages of Paul, or John, or Bunyan, or Law were ever written; and without a like shame, remorse, self-condemnation, and self-contempt they are not rightly read.
"Oh! who shall dare in this frail scene On holiest, happiest thoughts to lean, On Friendship, Kindred, or on Love? Since not Apostles' hands can clasp Each other in so firm a grasp, But they shall change and variance prove.
"But sometimes even beneath the moon The Saviour gives a gracious boon, When reconciled Christians meet, And face to face, and heart to heart, High thoughts of Holy love impart In silence meek, or converse sweet.
"Oh then the glory and the bliss When all that pained or seemed amiss Shall melt with earth and sin away! When saints beneath their Saviour's eye, Filled with each other's company, Shall spend in love the eternal day!"
6. Then said Greatheart to Mr. Valiant-for-truth, "Thou hast worthily behaved thyself; let me see thy sword." So he showed it him. When he had taken it in his hand and had looked thereon a while, the guide said: "Ha! it is a right Jerusalem blade!" "It is so," replied its owner. "Let a man have one of these blades with a hand to wield it, and skill to use it, and he may venture upon an angel with it. Its edges will never blunt. It will cut flesh, and bones, and soul, and spirit, and all." Both Damascus and Toledo blades were famous in former days for their tenacity and flexibility, and for the beauty and the edge of their steel. But even a Damascus blade would be worthless in a weak, cowardly, or unskilled hand; while even a poor sword in the hand of a good swordsman will do excellent execution. And much more so when you have both a first-rate sword and a first-rate swordsman, such as both Valiant and his Jerusalem blade were. Ha! yes. This is a right wonderful blade we have now in our hand. For this sword was forged in no earthly fire; and it was whetted to its unapproachable sharpness on no earthly whetstone. But, best of all for us, when a good soldier of Jesus Christ has this sword girt on his thigh he is able then to go forth against himself with it; against his own only and worst enemy--that is, against himself. As here, against his own wildness of head and pride of heart. Against his own want of consideration also. "My people do not consider." As also against himself as a lawless invader of other men's freedom of judgment, following of truth, public honour, and good name. As the Arabian warriors see themselves and dress themselves in their swords as in a glass, so did Valiant-for-truth see the thoughts and intents, the joints and the marrow of his own disordered soul in his Jerusalem blade. In the sheen of it he could see himself even when the darkness covered him; and with its two edges all his after-life he slew both all real error in other men and all real evil in himself. "Thou hast done well," said Greatheart the guide. "Thou hast resisted unto blood, striving against sin. Thou shalt abide by us, come in and go out with us, for we are thy companions."
7. "Sir," said the widow indeed to Valiant-for-truth, "sir, you have in all places shown yourself true-hearted." The first time she ever saw this man that she is now seeing for the last time on this side the river, his own mother would not have known him, he was so hacked to pieces with the swords of his three assailants. But as she washed the blood off the mangled man's head and face and hands, she soon saw beneath all his bloody wounds a true, a brave, and a generous-hearted soldier of the Cross. The heart is always the man. And this woman had lived long enough with men to have discovered that. And with all his sears she saw that it was at bottom the truth of his heart that had cast him into so many bloody encounters. There were men in that company, and men near the river too, with far fewer marks of battle, and even of defeat, upon them, who did not get this noble certificate and its accompanying charge and trust from this clear-eyed widow. And, then, she had never forgot--how could she?--his exclamation, and almost embrace of her as of his own mother, when he burst out with his eyes full of blood, "Why, is this Christian's wife? What! and going on pilgrimage too? It glads my heart! Good man! How joyful will he be when he shall see her and her children enter after him in at the gates into the city!" He would have been hacked a hundred times worse than he was before the widow of Christian, and the mother of his children, would have seen anything but the manliest beauty in a young soldier who could salute an old woman in that way. It gladdened her heart to hear him, you may be sure, as much as it gladdened his heart to see her. And that was the reason that she actually set Greatheart himself aside, and left her children under this young man's sword and shield. "I would also entreat you to have an eye to my children," she said. Young men, has any dying mother committed her children, if you at any time see them faint, to you? Have you ever spoken so comfortably to any poor widow about her sainted husband that she has passed by some of our foremost citizens, and has astonished and offended her lawyers by putting a stripling like you into the trusteeship? Did ever any dying mother say to you that she had seen you to be so true-hearted at all times that she entreated you to have an eye to her children? Speaking at this point for myself, I would rather see my son so trusted at such an hour by such a woman than I would see him the Chancellor of Her Majesty's Exchequer, or the Governor of the Bank of England. And so to-night would you.
* LECTURE DELIVERED IN ST. GEORGE'S FREE CHURCH EDINBURGH