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Bunyan Characters Third Series: The Holy War: 21. Master Think-Well, The Late And Only Son Of Old Mr. Meditation

By Alexander Whyte


      'As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.'--A Proverb.

      It was a truly delightful sight to see old Mr. Meditation and his only son, our little Think-well, out among the woods and hedgerows of a summer afternoon. Little Think-well was the son of his father's old age. That dry tree used to say to himself that if ever he was intrusted with a son of his own, he would make his son his most constant and his most confidential companion all his days. And so he did. The eleventh of Deuteronomy had become a greater and greater text to that childless man as he passed the mid-time of his days. 'Therefore,' he used to say to himself, as he walked abroad alone, and as other men passed him with their children at their side--'Therefore ye shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the doorposts of thine house and upon thy gates.' And thus it was that, as the little lad grew up, there was no day of all the seven that he so much numbered and waited for as was that sacred day on which his father was free to take little Think-well by the hand and lead him out to talk to him. 'No,' said an Edinburgh boy to his mother the other day--'No, mother,' he said, 'I have no liking for these Sunday papers with their poor stories and their pictures. I am to read the Bible stories and the Bible biographies first.' He is not my boy. I wish my boys were all like him. 'And Plutarch on week-days for such a boy,' I said to his mother. How to keep a decent shred of the old sanctification on the modern Sabbath-day is the anxious inquiry of many fathers and mothers among us. My friend with her manly-minded boy, and Mr. Meditation with little Think-well had no trouble in that matter.

      'And once I said,
      As I remember, looking round upon those rocks
      And hills on which we all of us were born,
      That God who made the Great Book of the world
      Would bless such piety;--
      Never did worthier lads break English bread:
      The finest Sunday that the autumn saw,
      With all its mealy clusters of ripe nuts,
      Could never keep those boys away from church,
      Or tempt them to an hour of Sabbath breach,
      Leonard and James!'

      Think-well and that mother's son.

      Old Mr. Meditation, the father, was sprung of a poor but honest and industrious stock in the city. He had not had many talents or opportunities to begin with, but he had made the very best of the two he had. And then, when the two estates of Mr. Fritter-day and Mr. Let-good-slip were sequestered to the crown, the advisers of the crown handed over those two neglected estates to Mr. Meditation to improve them for the common good, and after him to his son, whose name we know. The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord, and He delighteth in his way. I have been young and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

      Now, this Think-well old Mr. Meditation had by Mrs. Piety, and she was the daughter of the old Recorder. 'I am Thy servant,' said Mrs. Piety's son on occasion all his days--'I am Thy servant and the son of Thine handmaid.' And at that so dutiful acknowledgment of his a long procession of the servants of God pass up before our eyes with their sainted mothers leaning on the arms of their great sons. The Psalmist and his mother, the Baptist and his mother, our Lord and His mother, the author of the Fourth Gospel and his mother, Paul's son and successor in the gospel and his mother and grandmother, the author of The Confessions and his mother; and, in this noble connection, I always think of Halyburton and his good mother. And in this ennobling connection you will all think of your own mother also, and before we go any further you will all say, I also, O Lord, am Thy servant and the son of Thine handmaid. 'Fathers and mothers handle children differently,' says Jeremy Taylor. And then that princely teacher of the Church of Christ Catholic goes on to tell us how Mrs. Piety handled her little Think-well which she had borne to Mr. Meditation. After other things, she said this every night before she took sleep to her tired eyelids, this: 'Oh give me grace to bring him up. Oh may I always instruct him with diligence and meekness; govern him with prudence and holiness; lead him in the paths of religion and justice; never provoking him to wrath, never indulging him in folly, and never conniving at an unworthy action. Oh sanctify him in his body, soul, and spirit. Let all his thoughts be pure and holy to the Searcher of hearts; let his words be true and prudent before men; and may he have the portion of the meek and the humble in the world to come, and all through Jesus Christ our Lord!' How could a son get past a father and a mother like that? Even if, for a season, he had got past them, he would be sure to come back. Only, their young Think-well never did get past his father and his mother.

      There was not so much word of heredity in his day; but without so much of the word young Think-well had the whole of the thing. And as time went on, and the child became more and more the father of the man, it was seen and spoken of by all the neighbours who knew the house, how that their only child had inherited all his father's head, and all his mother's heart, and then that he had reverted to his maternal grandfather in his so keen and quick sense of right and wrong. All which, under whatever name it was held, was a most excellent outfit for our young gentleman. His old father, good natural head and all, had next to no book-learning. He had only two or three books that he read a hundred times over till he had them by heart. And as he sighed over his unlettered lot he always consoled himself with a saying he had once got out of one of his old books. The saying of some great authority was to this effect, that 'an old and simple woman, if she loves Jesus, may be greater than our great brother Bonaventure.' He did not know who Bonaventure was, but he always got a reproof again out of his name. Think-well, to his father's immense delight, was a very methodical little fellow, and his father and he had orderly little secrets that they told to none. Little secret plans as to what they were to read about, and think about, and pray about on certain days of the week and at certain hours of the day and the night. You must not call the father an old pedant, for the fact is, it was the son who was the pedant if there was one in that happy house. The two intimate friends had a word between them they called agenda. And nobody but themselves knew where they had borrowed that uncouth word, what language it was, or what it meant. Only in the old man's tattered pocket-book there were things like this found by his minister after his death. Indeed, in a museum of such relics this is still to be read under a glass case, and in old Mr. Meditation's ramshackle hand: 'Monday, death; Tuesday, judgment; Wednesday, heaven; Thursday, hell; Friday, my past life back to my youth; Saturday, the passion of my Saviour; Lord's day, creation, salvation, and my own.--M.' And then, on an utterly illegible page, this: 'Jesus, Thy life and Thy words are a perpetual sermon to me. I meditate on Thee all the day. Make my memory a vessel of election. Let all my thoughts be plain, honest, pious, simple, prudent, and charitable, till Thou art pleased to draw the curtain and let me see Thyself, O Eternal Jesu!' If I had time I could tell you more about Think-well's quaint old father. But the above may be better than nothing about the rare old gentleman.

      A great authority has said--two great authorities have said in their enigmatic way, that a 'dry light is ever the best.' That may be so in some cases and to some uses, but nothing can be more sure than this, that the light that little Think-well got from his father's head was excellently drenched in his mother's heart. The sweet moisture of his mother's heart mixed up beautifully with his father's drier head and made a fine combination in their one boy as it turned out. Her minister, preaching on one occasion on my text for to-night, had said--and she had such a memory for a sermon that she had never forgotten it, but had laid it up in her heart on the spot--'As the philosopher's stone,' the old-fashioned preacher had said, 'turns all metals into gold, as the bee sucks honey out of every flower, and as the good stomach sucks out some sweet and wholesome nourishment out of whatever it takes into itself, so doth a holy heart, so far as sanctified, convert and digest all things into spiritual and useful thoughts. This you may see in Psalm cvii. 43.' And in her plain, silent, hidden, motherly way Mistress Piety adorned her old minister's doctrine of the holy heart that he was always preaching about, till she shared her soft and holy heart with her son, as his father had shared his clear and deep, if too unlearned, head.

      We have one grandmother at least signalised in the Bible; but no grandfather, so far as I remember. But amends are made for that in the Holy War. For Think-well would never have been the man he became had it not been for the old Recorder, his grandfather on his mother's side. Some superficial people said that there was too much severity in the old Recorder; but his grandson who knew him best, never said that. He was the best of men, his grandson used to stand up for him, and say, I shall never forget the debt I owe him. It was he who taught me first to make conscience of my thoughts. Indeed, as for my secret thoughts, I had taken no notice of them till that summer afternoon walk home from church, when we sat down among the bushes and he showed me on the spot the way. And I can say to his memory that scarce for one waking hour have I any day forgotten the lesson. The lesson how to make a conscience, as he said, of all my thoughts about myself and about all my neighbours. Such, then, were Think-well's more immediate ancestors, and such was the inheritance that they all taken together had left him.

      Think-well! Think-well! My brethren, what do you think, what do you say, as you hear that fine name? I will tell you what I think and say. If I overcome, and have that white stone given to me, and in that stone a new name written which no man shall know saving he that receiveth it; and if it were asked me here to-night what I would like my new name to be, I would say on the spot, Let it be THINK-WELL! Let my new name among the saved and the sanctified before the throne be THINK-WELL! As, O God, it will be the bottomless pit to me, if I am forsaken of Thee for ever to my evil thoughts. Send down and prevent it. Stir up all Thy strength and give commandment to prevent it. Do Thou prevent it. For, after I have done all,--after I have made all my overt acts blameless, after I have tamed my tongue which no man can tame--all that only the more throws my thoughts into a very devil's garden, a thicket of hell, a secret swamp of sin to the uttermost. How, then, am I ever to attain to that white stone and that shining name? And that in a world of such truth that every man's name and title there shall be a strict and true and entirely accurate and adequate description and exposition of the very thoughts and intents and imaginations of his heart? How shall I, how shall you, my brethren, ever have 'Think-well' written on our forehead?--Well, with God all things are possible. With God, with a much meditating mind, and a true and humble and tender heart, and a pure conscience, a conscience void of offence, working together with Him--He, with all these inheritances and all these environments working together with Him, will at last enable us, you and me, to lift up such a clear and transparent forehead. But not without our constant working together. We must ourselves make head, and heart, and, especially, conscience of all our thoughts--for a long lifetime we must do that. The Ductor Dubitantium has a deep chapter on 'The Thinking Conscience.' And what a reproof to many of us lies in the mere name! For how much evil-thinking and evil-speaking we have all been guilty of through our unthinking conscience and through a zeal for God, but a zeal without knowledge. Look back at the history of the Church and see; look back at your own history in the Church and see. Yes, make conscience of your thoughts: but let it first be an instructed conscience, a thinking conscience, a conscience full of the best and the clearest light. And then let us also make ourselves a new heart and a new spirit, as Ezekiel has it. For our hearts are continually perverting and polluting and poisoning our thoughts. That is a fearful thing that is said about the men on whom the flood soon came. You remember what is said about them, and in explanation and justification of the flood. God saw, it is said, that every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts was evil, and only evil continually. Fearful! Far more fearful than ten floods! O God, Thou seest us. And Thou seest all the imaginations of the thoughts of our hearts. Oh give us all a mind and a heart and a conscience to think of nothing, to fear nothing, to watch and to pray about nothing compared with our thoughts. 'As for my secret thoughts,' says the author of the Holy War and the creator of Master Think-well--'As for my secret thoughts, I paid no attention to them. I never knew I had them. I had no pain, or shame, or guilt, or horror, or despair on account of them till John Gifford took me and showed me the way.' And then when John Bunyan, being the man of genius he was,--as soon as he began to attend to his own secret thoughts, then the first faint outline of this fine portrait of Think-well began to shine out on the screen of this great artist's imagination, and from that sanctified screen this fine portrait of Think-well and his family has shined into our hearts to-night.

      * 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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