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Bunyan Characters Third Series: The Holy War: 19. Mr. Wet-Eyes

By Alexander Whyte


      'Oh that my head were waters!'--Jeremiah.

      'Tears gain everything.'--Teresa.

      Now Mr. Desires-awake, when he saw that he must go on this errand, besought that they would grant that Mr. Wet-eyes might go with him. Now this Mr. Wet-eyes was a near neighbour of Mr. Desires-awake, a poor man, and a man of a broken spirit, yet one that could speak well to a petition; so they granted that he should go with him. Wherefore the two men at once addressed themselves to their serious business. Mr. Desires-awake put his rope upon his head, and Mr. Wet-eyes went with his hands wringing together. Then said the Prince, And what is he that is become thy companion in this so weighty a matter? So Mr. Desires-awake told Emmanuel that this was a poor neighbour of his, and one of his most intimate associates. And his name, said he, may it please your most excellent Majesty, is Wet-eyes, of the town of Mansoul. I know that there are many of that name that are naught, said he; but I hope it will be no offence to my Lord that I have brought my poor neighbour with me. Then Mr. Wet-eyes fell on his face to the ground, and made this apology for his coming with his neighbour to his Lord:--

      'Oh, my Lord,' quoth he, 'what I am I know not myself, nor whether my name be feigned or true, especially when I begin to think what some have said, and that is that this name was given me because Mr. Repentance was my father. But good men have sometimes bad children, and the sincere do sometimes beget hypocrites. My mother also called me by this name of mine from my cradle; but whether she said so because of the moistness of my brain, or because of the softness of my heart, I cannot tell. I see dirt in mine own tears, and filthiness in the bottom of my prayers. But I pray Thee (and all this while the gentleman wept) that Thou wouldst not remember against us our transgressions, nor take offence at the unqualifiedness of Thy servants, but mercifully pass by the sin of Mansoul, and refrain from the magnifying of Thy grace no longer.' So at His bidding they arose, and both stood trembling before Him.

      1. 'His name, may it please your Majesty, is Wet-eyes, of the town of Mansoul. I know, at the same time, that there are many of that name that are naught.' Naught, that is, for this great enterprise now in hand. And thus it was that Mr. Desires-awake in setting out for the Prince's pavilion besought that Mr. Wet-eyes might go with him. Mr. Desires-awake felt keenly how much might turn on who his companion was that day, and therefore he took Mr. Wet-eyes with him. David would have made a most excellent associate for Mr. Desires-awake that day. 'I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.' And again, 'Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not Thy law.' This, then, was the only manner of man that Mr. Desires-awake would stake his life alongside of that day. 'I have seen some persons weep for the loss of sixpence,' said Mr. Desires-awake, 'or for the breaking of a glass, or at some trifling accident. And they cannot pretend to have their tears valued at a bigger rate than they will confess their passion to be when they weep. Some are vexed for the dirtying of their linen, or some such trifle, for which the least passion is too big an expense. And thus it is that a man cannot tell his own heart simply by his tears, or the truth of his repentance by those short gusts of sorrow.' Well, then, my brethren, tell me, Do you think that Mr. Desires-awake would have taken you that day to the pavilion door? Would his head have been safe with you for his associate? Your associates see many gusts in your heart. Do they ever see your eyes red because of your sin? Did you ever weep so much as one good tear-drop for pure sin? One true tear: not because your sins have found you out, but for secret sins that you know can never find you out in this world? And, still better, do you ever weep in secret places not for sin, but for sinfulness--which is a very different matter? Do you ever weep to yourself and to God alone over your incurably wicked heart? If not, then weep for that with all your might, night and day. No mortal man has so much cause to weep as you have. Go to God on the spot, on every spot, and say with Bishop Andrewes, who is both Mr. Desires-awake and Mr. Wet-eyes in one, say with that deep man in his Private Devotions, say: 'I need more grief, O God; I plainly need it. I can sin much, but I cannot correspondingly repent. O Lord, give me a molten heart. Give me tears; give me a fountain of tears. Give me the grace of tears. Drop down, ye heavens, and bedew the dryness of my heart. Give me, O Lord, this saving grace. No grace of all the graces were more welcome to me. If I may not water my couch with my tears, nor wash Thy feet with my tears, at least give me one or two little tears that Thou mayest put into Thy bottle and write in Thy book!' If your heart is hard, and your eyes dry, make something like that your continual prayer.

      2. 'A poor-man,' said Mr. Desires-awake, about his associate. 'Mr. Wet-eyes is a poor man, and a man of a broken spirit.' 'Let Oliver take comfort in his dark sorrows and melancholies. The quantity of sorrow he has, does it not mean withal the quantity of sympathy he has, and the quantity of faculty and of victory he shall yet have? Our sorrow is the inverted image of our nobleness. The depth of our despair measures what capability and height of claim we have to hope. Black smoke, as of Tophet, filling all your universe, it can yet by true heart-energy become flame, and the brilliancy of heaven. Courage!'

      'This is the angel of the earth,
      And she is always weeping.'

      3. 'A poor man, and a man of a broken spirit, and yet one that can speak well to a petition.' Yes; and you will see how true that eulogy of Mr. Wet-eyes is if you will run over in your mind the outstanding instances of successful petitioners in the Scriptures. As you come down the Old and the New Testaments you will be astonished and encouraged to find how prevailing a fountain of tears always is with God. David with his swimming bed; Jeremiah with his head waters; Mary Magdalene over His feet with her welling eyes; Peter's bitter cry all his life long as often as he heard a cock crow, and so on. So on through a multitude whose names are written in heaven, and who went up to heaven all the way with inconsolable sorrow because of their sins. They took words and turned to the Lord; but,--better than the best words,--they took tears, or rather, their tears took them. The best words, the words that the Holy Ghost Himself teacheth, if they are without tears, will avail nothing. Even inspired words will not pass through; while, all the time, tears, mere tears, without words, are omnipotent with God. Words weary Him, while tears overcome and command Him. He inhabits the tears of Israel. Therefore, also, now, saith the Lord, turn ye unto Me with all your heart, and with weeping and with mourning. And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil. It is the same with ourselves. Tears move us. Tears melt us. We cannot resist tears. Even counterfeit tears, we cannot be sure that they are not true. And that is the main reason why our Lord is so good at speaking to a petition. It is because His whole heart, and all the moving passions of His heart, are in His intercessory office. It is because He still remembers in the skies His tears, His agonies, and cries. It is because He is entered into the holiest with His own tears as well as with His own blood. And it is because He will remain and abide before the Father the Man of Sorrows till our last petition is answered, and till God has wiped the last tear from our eyes. When He was in the coasts of Caesarea-Philippi, our Lord felt a great curiosity to find out who the people thereabouts took Him to be. And it must have touched His heart to be told that some men had insight enough to insist that He was the prophet Jeremiah come back again to weep over Jerusalem. He is Elias, said some. No; He is John the Baptist risen from the dead, said others. No, no; said some men who saw deeper than their neighbours. His head is waters, and His eyes are a fountain of tears. Do you not see that He so often escapes into a lodge in the wilderness to weep for our sins? No; He is neither John nor Elijah; He is Jeremiah come back again to weep over Jerusalem! And even an apostle, looking back at the beginning of our Lord's priesthood on earth, says that He was prepared for His office by prayers and supplications, and with strong crying and tears. From all that, then, let us learn and lay to heart that if we would have one to speak well to our petitions, the Man of Sorrows is that one. And then, as His remembrancers on our behalf, let us engage all those among our friends who have the same grace of tears. But, above all, let us be men of tears ourselves. For all the tears and all the intercessions of our great High Priest, and all the importunings of our best friends to boot, will avail us nothing if our own eyes are dry. Let us, then, turn back to Bishop Andrewes's prayer for the grace of tears, and offer it every night with him till our head, like his, is holy waters, and till, like him, we get beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

      4. 'Clear as tears' is a Persian proverb when they would praise their purest spring water. But Mr. Wet-eyes has from henceforth spoiled the point of that proverb for us. 'I see,' he said, 'dirt in mine own tears, and filthiness in the bottom of my prayers.' Mr. Wet-eyes is hopeless. Mr. Wet-eyes is intolerable. Mr. Wet-eyes would weary out the patience of a saint. There is no satisfying or pacifying or ever pleasing this morbose Mr. Wet-eyes. The man is absolutely insufferable. Why, prayers and tears that the most and best of God's people cannot attain to are spurned and spat upon by Mr. Wet-eyes. The man is beside himself with his tears. For, tears that would console and assure us for a long season after them, he will weep over them as we scarce weep over our worst sins. His closet always turns all his comeliness to corruption. He comes out of his closet after all night in it with his psalm-book wrung to pulp, and with all his righteousnesses torn to filthy rags; till all men escape Mr. Wet-eyes' society--all men except Mr. Desires-awake. I will go out on your errand now, said Mr. Desires-awake, if you will send Mr. Wet-eyes with me. And thus the two twin sons of sorrow for sin and hunger after holiness went out arm in arm to the great pavilion together, Mr. Desires-awake with his rope upon his head, and Mr. Wet-eyes with his hands wringing together. Thus they went to the Prince's pavilion. I gave you a specimen of one of Mr. Wet-eyes' prayers in the introduction to this discourse, and you did not discover much the matter with it, did you? You did not discover much filthiness in the bottom of that prayer, did you? I am sure you did not. Ah! but that is because you have not yet got Mr. Wet-eyes' eyes. When you get his eyes; when you turn and employ upon yourselves and upon your tears and upon your prayers his always-wet eyes,--then you will begin to understand and love and take sides with this inconsolable soul, and will choose his society rather than that of any other man--as often, at any rate, as you go out to the Prince's pavilion door.

      5. 'Mr. Repentance was my father, but good men sometimes have bad children, and the most sincere do sometimes beget great hypocrites. But, I pray Thee, take not offence at the unqualifiedness of Thy servant.' Take good note of that uncommon expression, 'unqualifiedness,' in Mr. Wet-eyes' confession, all of you who are attending to what is being said. Lay 'unqualifiedness' to heart. Learn how to qualify yourselves before you begin to pray. In his fine comment on the 137th Psalm, Matthew Henry discourses delightfully on what he calls 'deliberate tears.' Look up that raciest of commentators, and see what he there says about the deliberate tears of the captives in Babylon. It was the lack of sufficient deliberation in his tears that condemned and alarmed Mr. Wet-eyes that day. He felt now that he had not deliberated and qualified himself properly before coming to the Prince's pavilion. Do not take up your time or your thoughts with mere curiosities, either in your Bible or in any other good book, says A Kempis. Read such things rather as may yield compunction to your heart. And again, give thyself to compunction, and thou shalt gain much devotion thereby. Mr. Wet-eyes, good and true soul, was afraid that he had not qualified himself enough by compunctious reading and self-recollection. The sincere, he sobbed out, do often beget hypocrites! 'Our hearts are so deceitful in the matter of repentance,' says Jeremy Taylor, 'that the masters of the spiritual life are fain to invent suppletory arts and stratagems to secure the duty.' Take not offence at the lack of all such suppletory arts and stratagems in thy servant, said poor Wet-eyes. All which would mean in the most of us: Take not offence at my rawness and ignorance in the spiritual life, and especially in the life of inward devotion. Do not count up against me the names and the numbers and the prices of my poems, and plays, and novels, and newspapers, and then the number of my devotional books. Compare not my outlay on my body and on this life with my outlay on my soul and on the life to come. Oh, take not mortal offence at the shameful and scandalous unqualifiedness of Thy miserable servant. My father and my mother read the books of the soul, but they have left behind them a dry-eyed reprobate in me! Say that to-night as you look around on the grievous famine of the suppletory arts and stratagems of repentance and reformation in your heathenish bedroom.

      Spiritual preaching; real face to face, inward, verifiable, experimental, spiritual preaching; preaching to a heart in the agony of its sanctification; preaching to men whose whole life is given over to making them a new heart--that kind of preaching is scarcely ever heard in our day. There is great intellectual ability in the pulpit of our day, great scholarship, great eloquence, and great earnestness, but spiritual preaching, preaching to the spirit--'wet-eyed' preaching--is a lost art. At the same time, if that living art is for the present overlaid and lost, the literature of a deeper spiritual day abides to us, and our spiritually-minded people are not confined to us, they are not dependent on us. Well, this is the Communion week with us yet once more. Will you not, then, make it the beginning of some of the suppletory arts and stratagems of the spiritual life with yourselves? I cannot preach as I would like on such subjects, but I can tell you who could, and who, though dead, yet speak by their immortal books. You have the wet-eyed psalms; but they are beyond the depth of most people. Their meaning seems to us on the surface, and we all read and sing them, but let us not therefore think that we understand them. I cannot compel you to read the books, and to read little else but the books, that would in time, and by God's blessing, lead you into the depths of the psalms; but I can wash my hands so far in making their names so many household words among my people. The Way to Christ, the Imitation of Christ, the Theologia Germanica, Tauler's Sermons, the Mortification of Sin, and Indwelling Sin in Believers, the Saint's Rest, the Holy Living and Dying, the Privata Sacra, the Private Devotions, the Serious Call, the Christian Perfection, the Religious Affections, and such like. All that, and you still unqualified! All that, and your eyes still dry!

      * 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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