by Mike Ratliff
One of my favorite books is The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. This book was published in 1678 after Bunyan had been in prison from 1661 to 1672 then again for six months in 1677. He worked on the manuscript for The Pilgrim’s Progress during the second half of his first imprisonment and finished it during his second imprisonment. Why was he in jail? He was a non-conformist Baptist preacher. He would not submit to the Church of England. He could have been freed after the first three months of his first imprisonment if he would agree to stop preaching. However, he would not do so.
This book has had a huge impact on Christians all over the world. It has been in print constantly since it was first published. It’s success and impact are directly related to the suffering of Bunyan, which leaks through every page of this book. His suffering authenticates the message.
The subject of this post will be based upon the conversation between the main character in this book, Christian, his companion, Faithful, and another character named Talkative. All three are from The City of Destruction and are on pilgrimage to the Celestial City. However, Christian and Faithful have saving faith while Talkative only thinks he has it.
Christian and Faithful are journeying together and are later joined by Talkative. When he first joins them Faithful is taken by his grace of speech and appearance, but Christian reservedly avoids talking to him. Why? He knows him. Christian is the more mature of the two and discerns that there is something not quite right about Talkative.
When Faithful and Christian speak privately about Talkative out of his hearing Christian tells him that their new companion is not genuine. He is all talk. Then he quotes from Matthew 23 and 1 Corinthians 4:20 saying. “They say, and do not; but the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” Then he describes Talkative’s character as one who talketh of Prayer, of Repentance, of Faith, and of the the New Birth; but he knows only to talk of them. The people who really know him say he is A Saint abroad, and a Devil at home. In other words he is a hypocrite. He talks the talk, but does not walk the walk. His appearance is graceful and his talk is high. He knows the lingo. He can converse about Religion with anyone.
After Christian reveals what he knows about Talkative, Faithful says something extraordinary. In our day and time this sort of thing is frowned upon and condemned as being un-Christian. However, Faithful tells Christian, “Well, my brother, I am bound to believe you; not only because you say you know him, but also because, like a Christian, you make your reports of men. For I cannot think that you speak these things of Ill-will, but because it is even so as you say.” Compare that statement with what today’s relativistic environment. If a discerning Christian tells the truth about a professing Christian who is not faithful or is misleading many, he or she is called judgmental and legalistic and un-Christlike.
As they proceed further down the path Faithful confesses that prior to Christian’s description of Talkative’s character he did not fully realize that saying and doing are two things which are distinct. Then Christian goes into detail about the difference. He proclaims that Talkative (and all like him) are not aware of the distinction. He thinks that hearing and saying will make a good Christian; and thus he deceiveth his own soul. Hearing is but as the sowing of the seed: Talking is not sufficient to prove that fruit is indeed in the Heart and Life.
Christian then tells Faithful how to be free of Talkative. He suggests that he converse with Talkative about a specific subject. He tells him to ask Talkative to determine whether the Power of Religion is set up in his Heart, House, or Conversation. In other words, how does the work of God in our hearts discover itself. How do Christians discover this work of God in them? He asks Talkative the following question, “How doth the Saving Grace of God discover itself when it is in the Heart of Man?
Talkative’s reply at first sounds right. He says, “Where the Grace of God is in the heart, it causeth there a great Outcry against sin.” Faithful interrupts him and states, “Nay, hold, let us consider of one at once: I think you should rather say, It shews itself by inclining the soul to abhor its Sin.” Talkative asks what could be the difference. Faithful then responds, “Oh! a great deal: A man may cry out against Sin, of Policy, but he cannot abhor it but by virtue of a godly antipathy against it: I have heard many cry out against Sin in the Pulpit, who yet can abide it well enough in the Heart, House and Conversation….
Then Talkative give his second way that the Saving Grace of God discovers itself, He says, “Great Knowledge of Gospel-Mysteries.” Faithful then rebukes him by saying that great knowledge may be obtained in the mysteries of the Gospel, and yet no Work of Grace in the Soul. “Yea, if a man have all Knowledge, he may yet be nothing; and so consequently be no child of God.” Then he tells of Christ saying to His disciples, “Do you know all these things?” And the disciples had answered, Yes: He added, “Blessed are ye, if ye do them.” He doth not lay the blessing in the knowing of them, but in the doing of them. For there is a knowledge that is not attended with doing: He that knoweth his Master’s will, and doth it not. In other words, Faithful is telling Talkative and all like him that if God’s Saving Grace is at work in their hearts then they will not simply talk about religion, God and church and good works, but they will also do good works.
Faithful then discourses further by saying, “A Work of Grace in the Soul discovereth itself, either to him that hath it, thus: It gives him Conviction of Sin, especially the defilement of his Nature, and the Sin of Unbelief. This fight and sense of things worketh in him sorrow and shame for Sin: He findeth, moreover, revealed in him the Saviour of the World, and the absolute necessity of closing with him for Life, at the which he findeth hungrings and thrirstings after him; to which hungrings, etc. the Promise is made. Now according to the strength or weakness of his faith in his Saviour, so is his Joy and Peace, so is his love to Holiness, so are his desires to know him more, and also to serve him in this World. But though, I say, it discovereth itself thus unto him, yet it is but seldom that he is able to conclude, that this is a Work of Grace, because his Corruptions now, and his abused reason, make his mind to misjudge in this matter; therefore in him that hath this Work, there is required a very sound judgment, before he can with steadiness conclude that this is a Work of Grace.
Compare that statement with what we commonly hear from the Compromised Church. Do you see how our salvation is wrapped up completely with dealing with our sin nature and corrupt reason? We are dead in our trespasses and sins and are incapable of doing anything to save ourselves from the penalty of that sin which lives within us.
Faithful continued with: To others it is thus discovered: 1. By an experimental confession of his Faith in Christ. 2. By a Life answerable to that confession to wit, a life of Holiness: heart-holiness, family-holiness in the world; which in the general teacheth him inwardly to abhor his Sin, and himself for that, in secret; to suppress it in his family, and to promote holiness in the world; not by talk only, as an hypocrite or talkative person may do, but by a practical subjection in Faith and Love to the Power of the Word.
At this point in the story Faithful bluntly asks Talkative if these things have been discovered in him. Talkative blushes, gets angry and leaves. Why did he do that? Those who are convinced in themselves that hearing and saying is equivalent to doing and being resent it when confronted with the truth. If we look closely at the corrupt Compromised Church, which is all around us, their approach to the Gospel is much like Talkative’s. It is all show and talk with no substance.
However, this post is not really to compare the Compromised Church with the genuine Church, but to provoke you to examine yourself. Are you a doer of the Word or a hearer (and talker) only.
22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25 (NASB)
If we can talk the talk, but not walk the walk then we are hypocrites like Talkative. There is something seriously wrong with us when there is no conviction of sin in our hearts. If we don’t constantly come before the Throne of Grace in agony over our sin then there is a problem. Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. Has the Work of Saving Grace touched your heart and become manifest? Again, examine yourself.
Soli Deo Gloria!