John Bunyan shall himself introduce, describe, and characterise this varlet, this devil's ally and accomplice, this ancient enemy of Mansoul, whose name is Ill-pause. Well, this same Ill-pause, says our author, was the orator of Diabolus on all difficult occasions, nor took Diabolus any other one with him on difficult occasions, but just Ill-pause alone. And always when Diabolus had any special plot a-foot against Mansoul, and when the thing went as Diabolus would have it go, then would Ill-pause stand up, for he was Diabolus his orator. When Mansoul was under siege of Emmanuel his four noble captains sent a message to the men of the town that if they would only throw Ill-pause over the wall to them, that they might reward him according to his works, then they would hold a parley with the city; but if this varlet was to be let live in the city, then, why, the city must see to the consequences. At which Diabolus, who was there present, was loth to lose his orator, because, had the four captains once laid their fingers on Ill-pause, be sure his master had lost his orator. And, then, in the last assault, we read that Ill-pause, the orator that came along with Diabolus, he also received a grievous wound in the head, some say that his brain-pan was cracked. This, at any rate, I have taken notice of, that never after this was he able to do that mischief to Mansoul as he had done in times past. And then there was also at Eye-gate that Ill-pause of whom you have heard before. The same was he that was orator to Diabolus. He did much mischief to the town of Mansoul, till at last he fell by the hand of the Captain Good-hope.
1. Well, to begin with, this Ill-pause was a filthy Diabolonian varlet; a treacherous and a villainous old varlet, the author of the Holy War calls him. Now, what is a varlet? Well, a varlet is just a broken-down old valet. A varlet is a valet who has come down, and down, and down, and down again in the world, till, from once having been the servant and the trusty friend of the very best of masters, he has come to be the ally and accomplice of the very worst of masters. His first name, the name of his first office, still sticks to him, indeed; but, like himself, and with himself, his name has become depraved and corrupted till you would not know it. A varlet, then, is just short and sharp for a scoundrel who is ready for anything; and the worse the thing is the more ready he is for it. There are riff-raff and refuse always about who are ready to volunteer for any filibustering expedition; and that full as much for the sheer devilry of the enterprise as for any real profit it is to be to themselves. Wherever mischief is to be done, there your true varlet is sure to turn up. Well, just such a land-shark was this Ill-pause, who was such an ally and accomplice to Diabolus that he had need for no other. What possible certificate in evil could exceed this--that the devil took not any with him when he went out on his worst errand but this same Ill-pause, who was his orator on all his most difficult occasions?
2. Ill-pause was a varlet, then, and he was also an orator. Now, an orator, as you know, is a great speaker. An orator is a man who has the excellent and influential gift of public speech. And on great occasions in public life when people are to be instructed, and impressed, and moved, and won over, then the great orator sets up his platform. Quintilian teaches us in his Institutes that it is only a good man who can be a really great orator. What would that fine writer have said had he lived to read the Holy War, and seen the most successful of all orators that ever opened a mouth, and who was all the time a diabolical old varlet? What would the author of The Education of an Orator have said to that? Diabolus did not on every occasion bring up his great orator Ill-pause. He did not always come up himself, and he did not always send up Ill-pause. It was only on difficult occasions that both Diabolus and his orator also came up. You do not hear your great preachers every Sabbath. They would not long remain great preachers, and you would soon cease to pay any attention to them, if they were always in the pulpit. Neither do you have your great orators at every street corner. Their masters only build theatres for them when some great occasion arises in the land, and when the best wisdom must straightway be spoken to the people and in the best way. Then you bring up Quintilian's orator if you have him at your call. As Diabolus has done from time to time with his great and almost always successful orator Ill-pause. On difficult occasions he came himself on the scene and Ill-pause with him. On such difficult occasions as in the Garden of Eden; as when Noah was told to make haste and build an ark; as also when Abraham was told to make haste and leave his father's house; when Jacob was bid remember and pay the vow he had made when his trouble was upon him; as also when Joseph had to flee for what was better than life; and on that memorable occasion when David sent Joab out against Rabbah, but David tarried still at Jerusalem. On all these essential, first-class, and difficult occasions the old serpent brought up Ill-pause. As also when our Lord was in the wilderness; when He set His face to go up to Jerusalem; when He saw certain Greeks among them that came up to the passover; as also again and again in the Garden. As also on crucial occasions in your own life. As when you had been told not to eat, not to touch, and not even to look at the forbidden fruit, then Ill-pause, the devil's orator, came to you and said that it was a tree to be desired. And, you shall not surely die. As also when you were moved to terror and to tears under a Sabbath, or under a sermon, or at some death-bed, or on your own sick-bed--Ill-pause got you to put off till a more convenient season your admitted need of repentance and reformation and peace with God. On such difficult occasions as these the devil took Ill-pause to help him with you, and the result, from the devil's point of view, has justified his confidence in his orator. When Ill-pause gets his new honours paid him in hell; when there is a new joy in hell over another sinner that has not yet repented, your name will be heard sounding among the infernal cheers. Just think of your baptismal name and your pet name at home giving them joy to-night at their supper in hell! And yet one would not at first sight think that such triumphs and such toasts, such medals, and clasps, and garters were to be won on earth or in hell just by saying such simple-sounding and such commonplace things as those are for which Ill-pause receives his decorations. 'Take time,' he says. 'Yes,' he admits, 'but there is no such hurry; to-morrow will do; next year will do; after you are old will do quite as well. The darkness shall cover you, and your sin will not find you out. Christ died for sin, and it is a faithful saying that His blood will cleanse you later on from all this sin.' Everyday and well-known words, indeed, but a true orator is seen in nothing more than in this, that he can take up what everybody knows and says, and put it so as to carry everybody captive. One of Quintilian's own orators has said that a great speaker only gives back to his hearers in flood what they have already given to him in vapour.
3. 'I was always pleased,' says Calvin, 'with that saying of Chrysostom, "The foundation of our philosophy is humility"; and yet more pleased with that of Augustine: "As," says he, "the rhetorician being asked, What was the first thing in the rules of eloquence? he answered, Pronunciation; what was the second? Pronunciation; what was the third? and still he answered, Pronunciation. So if you would ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, I would answer, firstly, secondly, thirdly, and for ever, Humility."' And when Ill-pause opened his elocutionary school for the young orators of hell, he is reported to have said this to them in his opening address, 'There are only three things in my school,' he said; 'three rules, and no more to be called rules. The first is Delay, the second is Delay, and the third is Delay. Study the art of delay, my sons; make all your studies to tell on how to make the fools delay. Only get those to whom your master sends you to delay, and you will not need to envy me my laurels; you will soon have a shining crown of your own. Get the father to delay teaching his little boy how to pray. Get him on any pretext you can invent to put off speaking in private to his son about his soul. Get him to delegate all that to the minister. And then by hook or by crook get that son as he grows up to put off the Lord's Supper. And after that you will easily get him to put off purity and prayer till he is a married man and at the head of a house. Only get the idea of a more convenient season well into their heads, and their game is up, and your spurs are won. Take their arm in yours, as I used to do, at their church door, if you are posted there, and say to them as they come out that to-morrow will be time enough to give what they had thought of giving while they were still in their pew and the minister or missionary was still in the pulpit. Only, as you value your master's praises and the applause of all this place, keep them, at any cost, from striking while the iron is hot. Let them fill their hearts, and their mouths too, if it gives them any comfort, with the best intentions; only, my scholars, remember that the beginning and middle and end of your office is by hook or by crook to secure delay.' And a great crop of young orators sprang up ready for their work under that teaching and out of the persuasionary school of Ill-pause. In fine, Mansoul desired some time in which to prepare its answer.'
There are many men among ourselves who have been bedevilled out of their best life, out of the salvation of their souls, and out of all that constitutes and accompanies salvation now for many years. And still their sin-deceived hearts are saying to them to-night, Take time! For many years, every new year, every birthday, and, for a long time, every Communion-day, they were just about to be done with their besetting sin; and now all the years lie behind them, one long downward road all paved, down to this Sabbath night, with the best intentions. And, still, as if that were not enough, that same varlet is squat at their ear. Well, my very miserable brother, you have long talked about the end of an old year and the beginning of a new year as being your set time for repentance and for reformation. Let all the weight of those so many remorseful years fall on your heart at the close of this year, and at last compel you to take the step that should have been taken, oh! so many unhappy years ago! Go straight home then, to-night, shut your door, and, after so many desecrated Sabbath nights, God will still meet you in your secret chamber. As soon as you shut your door God will be with you, and you will be with God. With GOD! Think of it, my brother, and the thing is done. With GOD! And then tell Him all. And if any one knocks at your door, say that there is Some One with you to-night, and that you cannot come down. And continue till you have told it all to God. He knows it all already; but that is one of Ill-pause's sophistries still in your heart. Tell your Father it all. Tell Him how many years it is. Tell Him all that you so well remember over all those wild, miserable, mad, remorseful years. Tell Him that you have not had one really happy, one really satisfied day all those years, and tell Him that you have spent all, and are now no longer a young man; youth and health and self-respect and self-command are all gone, till you are a shipwreck rather than a man. And tell Him that if He will take you back that you are to-night at His feet.
4. 'We seldom overcome any one vice perfectly,' complains A Kempis. And, again, 'If only every new year we would root out but one vice.' Well, now, what do you say to that, my true and very brethren? What do you say to that? Here we are, by God's grace and long-suffering to usward, near the end of another year, another vicious year; and why have we been borne with through so many vicious years but that we should now cease from vice and begin to learn virtue? Why are we here over Ill-pause this Sabbath night? Why, but that we should shake off that varlet liar before another new year. That is the whole reason why we have been spared to see this Sabbath night. God decreed it for us that we should have this text and this discourse here to-night, and that is the reason why you and I have been so unaccountably spared so long. Let us select one vice for the axe then to-night, and give God in heaven the satisfaction of seeing that His long-suffering with us has not been wholly in vain. Let us lay the axe at one vice from this night. And what one from among so many shall it be? What is the mockery of preaching if a preacher does not practise? And, accordingly, I have selected one vice out of my thicket for next year. Will you do the same? The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him. Just make your selection and keep it to yourself, at least till you are able this time next year to say to us--Come, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what He hath done for my soul. Yes, come on, and from this day all your days on earth, and all the days of eternity, you will thank God for John Bunyan and his Holy War and his Ill-pause. Make your selection, then, for your new axe. Attack some one sin at this so auspicious season. Swear before God, and unknown to all men--swear sure death, and that without any more delay, to that selected sin. Never once, all your days, do that sin again. Determine never once to do it again. Determine that by prayer, by secret, and at the same time outspoken, prayer on your knees. Determine it by faith in the cleansing blood and renewing spirit of Jesus Christ. Determine it by fear of instant death, and by sure hope of everlasting life. Determine it by reasons, and motives, and arguments, and encouragements known to no-one but yourself, and to be suspected by no human being. Name the doomed sin. Denounce it. Execrate it. Execute it. Draw a line across your short and uncertain life, and say to that besetting and presumptuous sin, Hitherto, and no further! Do not say you cannot do it. You can if you only will. You can if you only choose. And smiting down that one sin will loosen and shake down the whole evil fabric of sin. Breaking but that one link will break the whole of Satan's snare and evil fetter. Here is A Kempis's forest of vices out of which he hewed down one every year. Restless lust, outward senses, empty phantoms, always longing to get, always sparing to give, careless as to talk, unwilling to sit silent, eager for food, wakeful for news, weary of a good book, quick to anger, easy of offence at my neighbour, and too ready to judge him, too merry over prosperity, and too gloomy, fretful, and peevish in adversity; so often making good rules for my future life, and coming so little speed with them all, and so on. And, in facing even such a terrible thicket as that, let not even an old man absolutely despair. At forty, at sixty, at threescore and ten, let not an old penitent despair. Only take axe in hand and see if the sun does not stand still upon Gibeon, and the moon in the valley of Ajalon till you have avenged yourself on your enemies. And always when you stop to wipe your brow, and to whet the edge of your axe, and to wet your lips with water, keep on saying things like those of another great sinner deep in his thicket of vice, say this: O God, he said, Thou hast not cut off as a weaver my life, nor from day even to night hast Thou made an end of me. But Thou hast vouchsafed to me life and breath even to this hour from childhood, youth, and hitherto even unto old age. He holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to slide, rescuing me from perils, sicknesses, poverty, bondage, public shame, evil chances; keeping me from perishing in my sins, and waiting patiently for my full conversion. Glory be to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee, for Thine incomprehensible and unimaginable goodness toward me of all sinners far and away the most unworthy. The voices and the concert of voices of angels and men be to Thee; the concert of all thy saints in heaven and of all Thy creatures in heaven and on earth; and of me, beneath their feet an unworthy and wretched sinner, Thy abject creature; my praise also, now, in this day and hour, and every day till my last breath, and till the end of this world, and then to all eternity, where they cease not saying, To Him who loved us, Amen!
* LECTURE DELIVERED IN ST. GEORGE'S FREE CHURCH EDINBURGH