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Bunyan Characters Third Series: The Holy War: 5. The King's Palace

By Alexander Whyte


      'The palace is not for man, but for the Lord God.'--David.

      'Now, there is in this gallant country a fair and delicate town, a corporation, called Mansoul: a town for its building so curious, for its situation so commodious, for its privileges so advantageous, that I may say of it, there is not its equal under the whole heaven. Also, there was reared up in the midst of this town a most famous and stately palace: for strength, it might be called a castle; for pleasantness, a paradise; and for largeness, a place so copious as to contain all the world. This place the King intended for Himself alone, and not for another with Him, so great was His delight in it.' Thus far, our excellent allegorical author. But there are other authors that treat of this great matter now in hand besides the allegorical authors. You will hear tell sometimes about a class of authors called the Mystics. Well, listen at this stage to one of them, and one of the best of them, on this present matter--the human heart, that is. 'Our heart,' he says, 'is our manner of existence, or the state in which we feel ourselves to be; it is an inward life, a vital sensibility, which contains our manner of feeling what and how we are; it is the state of our desires and tendencies, of inwardly seeing, tasting, relishing, and feeling that which passes within us; our heart is that to us inwardly with regard to ourselves which our senses of seeing, hearing, feeling, and such like are with regard to things that are without or external to us. Your heart is the best and greatest gift of God to you. It is the highest, greatest, strongest, and noblest power of your nature. It forms your whole life, be it what it will. All evil and all good come from your heart. Your heart alone has the key of life and death for you.' I was just about to ask you at this point which of our two authors, our allegorical or our mystical author upon the heart, you like best. But that would be a stupid and a wayward question since you have them both before you, and both at their best, to possess and to enjoy. To go back then to John Bunyan, and to his allegory of the human heart.

      1. To begin with, then, there was reared up in the midst of this town of Mansoul a most famous and stately palace. And that palace and the town immediately around it were the mirror and the glory of all that its founder and maker had ever made. His palace was his very top-piece. It was the metropolitan of the whole world round about it; and it had positive commission and power to demand service and support of all around. Yes. And all that is literally, evidently, and actually true of the human heart. For all other earthly things are created and upheld, are ordered and administered, with an eye to the human heart. The human heart is the final cause, as our scholars would say, of absolutely all other earthly things. Earth, air, water; light and heat; all the successively existing worlds, mineral, vegetable, animal, spiritual; grass, herbs, corn, fruit-trees, cattle and sheep, and all other living creatures; all are upheld for the use and the support of man. And, then, all that is in man himself is in him for the end and the use of his heart. All his bodily senses; all his bodily members; every fearfully and wonderfully made part of his body and of his mind; all administer to his heart. She is the sovereign and sits supreme. And she is worthy and is fully entitled so to sit. For there is nothing on the earth greater or better than the heart, unless it is the Creator Himself, who planned and executed the heart for Himself and not for another with Him. 'The body exists,' says a philosophical biologist of our day, 'to furnish the cerebral centres with prepared food, just as the vegetable world, viewed biologically, exists to furnish the animal world with similar food. The higher is the last formed, the most difficult, and the most complex; but it is just this that is most precious and significant--all of which shows His unrolling purpose. It is the last that alone explains all that went before, and it is the coming that will alone explain the present. God before all, through all, foreseeing all, and still preparing all; God in all is profoundly evident.' Yes, profoundly evident to profound minds, and experimentally and sweetly evident to religious minds, and to renewed and loving and holy hearts.

      2. For fame and for state a palace, while for strength it might be called a castle. In sufficiently ancient times the king's palace was always a castle also. David's palace on Mount Zion was as much a military fortress as a royal residence; and King Priam's palace was the protection both of itself and of the whole of the country around. In those wild times great men built their houses on high places, and then the weak and endangered people gathered around the strongholds of the powerful, as we see in our own city. Our own steep and towering rock invited to its top the castle-builder of a remote age, and then the exposed country around began to gather itself together under the shelter of the bourg. And thus it is that the military engineering of the Holy War makes that old allegorical book most excellent to read, not only for common men like you and me, who are bent on the fortification and the defence of our own hearts, but for the military historians of those old times also, for the experts of to-day also, and for all good students of fortification. And the New Testament of the Divine peace itself, as well as the Old Testament so full of the wars of the Lord--they both support and serve as an encouragement and an example to our spiritual author in the elaboration of his military allegory. Every good soldier of Jesus Christ has by heart the noble paradox of Paul to the Philippians--that the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep their hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Let God's peace, he says, be your man of war. Let His surpassing peace do both the work of war and the work of peace also in your hearts and in your minds. Let that peace both fortify with walls, and garrison with soldiers, and watch every gate, and hold every street and lane of your hearts and of your minds all around your hearts. And all through the Prince of Peace, the Captain of all Holy War, Jesus Christ Himself. No wonder, then, that in a strength--in a kind and in a degree of strength--that passeth all understanding, this stately palace of the heart is also here called a well-garrisoned castle.

      3. And then for pleasantness the human heart is a perfect paradise. For pleasantness the human heart is like those famous royal parks of Nineveh and Babylon that sprang up in after days as if to recover and restore the Garden of Eden that had been lost to those eastern lands. But even Adam's own paradise was but a poor outside imitation in earth and water, in flowers and fruits, of the far better paradise God had planted within him. Take another Mystic at this point upon paradise. 'My dear man,' exclaims Jacob Behmen, 'the Garden of Eden is not paradise, neither does Moses say so. Paradise is the divine joy, and that was in their own hearts so long as they stood in the love of God. Paradise is the divine and angelical joy, pure love, pure joy, pure gladness, in which there is no fear, no misery, and no death. Which paradise neither death nor the devil can touch. And yet it has no stone wall around it; only a great gulf which no man or angel can cross but by that new birth of which Christ spoke to Nicodemus. Reason asks, Where is paradise to be found? Is it far off or near? Is it in this world or is it above the stars? Where is that desirable native country where there is no death? Beloved, there is nothing nearer you at this moment than paradise, if you incline that way. God beckons you back into paradise at this moment, and calls you by name to come. Come, He says, and be one of My paradise children. In paradise,' the Teutonic Philosopher goes on, 'there is nothing but hearty love, a meek and a gentle love; a most friendly and most courteous discourse: a gracious, amiable, and blessed society, where the one is always glad to see the other, and to honour the other. They know of no malice in paradise, no cunning, no subtlety, and no sly deceit. But the fruits of the Spirit of God are common among them in paradise, and one may make use of all the good things of paradise without causing disfavour, or hatred, or envy, for there is no contrary affection there, but all hearts there are knit together in love. In paradise they love one another, and rejoice in the beauty, loveliness, and gladness of one another. No one esteems or accounts himself more excellent than another in paradise; but every one has great joy in another, and rejoices in another's fair beauty, whence their love to one another continually increases, so that they lead one another by the hand, and so friendly kiss one another.' Thus the blessed Behmen saw paradise and had it in his heart as he sat over his hammer and lapstone in his solitary stall. For of such as Jacob Behmen and John Bunyan is the kingdom of heaven, and all such saintly souls have paradise restored again and improved upon in their own hearts.

      4. And for largeness a place so copious as to contain all the world. Over against the word 'copious' Bunyan hangs for a key, Ecclesiastes third and eleventh; and under it Miss Peacock adds this as a note--'Copious, spacious. Old French, copieux; Latin, copiosus, plentiful.' The human heart, as we have already read to-night, is the highest, greatest, strongest, and noblest part of human nature. And so it is. Fearfully and wonderfully made as is the whole of human nature, that fear and that wonder surpass themselves in the spaciousness and the copiousness of the human heart. For what is it that the human heart has not space for, and to spare? After the whole world is received home into a human heart, there is room, and, indeed, hunger, for another world, and after that for still another. The sun is--I forget how many times bigger than our whole world, and yet we can open our heart and take down the sun into it, and shut him out again and restore him to his immeasurable distances in the heavens, and all in the twinkling of an eye. As for instance. As I wrote these lines I read a report of a lecture by Sir Robert Ball in which that distinguished astronomer discoursed on recent solar discoveries. A globe of coal, Sir Robert said, as big as our earth, and all set ablaze at the same moment, would not give out so much heat to the worlds around as the sun gives out in a thousandth part of a second. Well, as I read that, and ere ever I was aware what was going on, my heart had opened over my newspaper, and the sun had swept down from the sky, and had rushed into my heart, and before I knew where I was the cry had escaped my lips, 'Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty! Who shall not fear Thee and glorify thy name?' And then this reflection as suddenly came to me: How good it is to be at peace with God, and to be able and willing to say, My Father! That the whole of the surging and flaming sun was actually down in my straitened and hampered heart at that idle moment over my paper is scientifically demonstrable; for only that which is in the heart of a man can kindle the passions that are in the heart of that man; and nothing is more sure to me than that the great passions of fear and love, wonder and rapture were at that moment at a burning point within me. There is a passage well on in the Holy War, which for terror and for horror, and at the same time for truth and for power, equals anything either in Dante or in Milton. Lucifer has stood up at the council board to second the scheme of Beelzebub. 'Yes,' he said, amid the plaudits of his fellow-princes--'Yes, I swear it. Let us fill Mansoul full with our abundance. Let us make of this castle, as they vainly call it, a warehouse, as the name is in some of their cities above. For if we can only get Mansoul to fill herself full with much goods she is henceforth ours. My peers,' he said, 'you all know His parable of how unblessed riches choke the word; and, again, we know what happens when the hearts of men are overcharged with surfeiting and with drunkenness. Let us give them all that, then, to their heart's desire.' This advice of Lucifer, our history tells us, was highly applauded in hell, and ever since it has proved their masterpiece to choke Mansoul with the fulness of this world, and to surfeit the heart with the good things thereof. But, my brethren, you will outwit hell herself and all her counsellors and all her machinations, if, out of all the riches, pleasures, cares, and possessions, that both heaven and earth and hell can heap into your heart, those riches, pleasures, cares, and possessions but produce corresponding passions and affections towards God and man. Only let fear, and love, and thankfulness, and helpfulness be kindled and fed to all their fulness in your heart, and all the world and all that it contains will only leave the more room in your boundless heart for God and for your brother. All that God has made, or could make with all His counsel and all His power laid out, will not fill your boundless and bottomless heart. He must come down and come into your boundless and bottomless heart Himself. Himself: your Father, your Redeemer, and your Sanctifier and Comforter also. Let the whole universe try to fill your heart, O man of God, and after it all we shall hear you singing in famine and in loneliness the doleful ditty:

      'O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
      There is room in my heart for Thee.

      5. 'Madame,' said a holy solitary to Madame Guyon in her misery--'Madame, you are disappointed and perplexed because you seek without what you have within. Accustom yourself to seek for God in your own heart and you will always find Him there.' From that hour that gifted woman was a Mystic. The secret of the interior life flashed upon her in a moment. She had been starving in the midst of fulness; God was near and not far off; the kingdom of heaven was within her. The love of God from that hour took possession of her soul with an inexpressible happiness. Prayer, which had before been so difficult, was now delightful and indispensable; hours passed away like moments: she could scarcely cease from praying. Her domestic trials seemed great to her no longer; her inward joy consumed like a fire the reluctance, the murmur, and the sorrow, which all had their birth in herself. A spirit of comforting peace, a sense of rejoicing possession, pervaded all her days. God was continually with her, and she seemed continually yielded up to God. 'Madame,' said the solitary, 'you seek without for what you have within.' Where do you seek for God when you pray, my brethren? To what place do you direct your eyes? Is it to the roof of your closet? Is it to the east end of your consecrated chapel? Is it to that wooden table in the east end of your chapel? Or, passing out of all houses made with hands and consecrated with holy oil, do you lift up your eyes to the skies where the sun and the moon and the stars dwell alone? 'What a folly!' exclaims Theophilus, in the golden dialogue, 'for no way is the true way to God but by the way of our own heart. God is nowhere else to be found. And the heart itself cannot find Him but by its own love of Him, faith in Him, dependence upon Him, resignation to Him, and expectation of all from Him.' 'You have quite carried your point with me,' answered Theogenes after he had heard all that Theophilus had to say. 'The God of meekness, of patience, and of love is henceforth the one God of my heart. It is now the one bent and desire of my soul to seek for all my salvation in and through the merits and mediation of the meek, humble, patient, resigned, suffering Lamb of God, who alone has power to bring forth the blessed birth of those heavenly virtues in my soul. What a comfort it is to think that this Lamb of God, Son of the Father, Light of the World; this Glory of heaven and this Joy of angels is as near to us, is as truly in the midst of us, as He is in the midst of heaven. And that not a thought, look, or desire of our heart that presses toward Him, longing to catch one small spark of His heavenly nature, but is as sure a way of finding Him, as the woman's way was who was healed of her deadly disease by longing to touch but the border of His garment.'

      To sum up. 'There is reared up in the midst of Mansoul a most famous and stately palace: for strength, it may be called a castle; for pleasantness, a paradise; and for largeness, a place so copious as to contain all the world. This palace the King intends but for Himself alone, and not another with Him, and He commits the keeping of that palace day and night to the men of the town.'

      * LECTURE DELIVERED IN ST. GEORGE'S FREE CHURCH EDINBURGH

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See Also:
   The Holy War: 1. The Book
   The Holy War: 2. The City Of Mansoul And Its Cinque Ports
   The Holy War: 3. Ear-Gate
   The Holy War: 4. Eye-Gate
   The Holy War: 5. The King's Palace
   The Holy War: 6. My Lord Willbewill
   The Holy War: 7. Self-Love
   The Holy War: 8. Old Mr. Prejudice, The Keeper Of Ear-Gate, With His Sixty Deaf Men Under Him
   The Holy War: 9. Captain Anything
   The Holy War: 10. Clip-Promise
   The Holy War: 11. Stiff Mr. Loth-To-Stoop
   The Holy War: 12. That Varlet Ill-Pause, The Devil's Orator
   The Holy War: 13. Mr. Penny-Wise-And-Pound-Foolish, And Mr. Get-I'-The-Hundred-And-Lose-I'-The-Shire
   The Holy War: 14. The Devil's Last Card
   The Holy War: 15. Mr. Prywell
   The Holy War: 16. Young Captain Self-Denial
   The Holy War: 17. Five Pickt Men
   The Holy War: 18. Mr. Desires-Awake
   The Holy War: 19. Mr. Wet-Eyes
   The Holy War: 20. Mr. Humble The Juryman, And Miss Humble-Mind The Servant-Maid
   The Holy War: 21. Master Think-Well, The Late And Only Son Of Old Mr. Meditation
   The Holy War: 22. Mr. God's-Peace, A Goodly Person, And A Sweet-Natured Gentleman
   The Holy War: 23. The Established Church Of Mansoul, And Mr. Conscience One Of Her Parish Ministers
   The Holy War: 24. A Fast-Day In Mansoul
   The Holy War: 25. A Feast-Day In Mansoul
   The Holy War: 26. Emmanuel's Livery
   The Holy War: 27. Mansoul's Magna Charta
   The Holy War: 28. Emmanuel's Last Charge To Mansoul: Concerning The Remainders Of Sin In The Regenerate

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