Talkative: Then Talkative at first began to blush; but, recovering himself, thus he replied: You come now to experience, to conscience, and God; and to appeal to him for justification of what is spoken. This kind of discourse I did not expect; nor am I disposed to give an answer to such questions, because I count not myself bound thereto, unless you take upon you to be a catechizer, and, though you should so do, yet I may refuse to make you my judge. But, I pray, will you tell me why you ask me such questions?
Faithful: Because I saw you forward to talk, and because I knew not that you had aught else but notion. Besides, to tell you all the truth, I have heard of you, that you are a man whose religion lies in talk, and that your conversation gives this your mouth-profession the lie.
They say, you are a spot among Christians; and that religion fares the worse for your ungodly conversation; that some have already stumbled at your wicked ways, and that more are in danger of being destroyed thereby; your religion, and an ale-house, and covetousness, and uncleanness, and swearing, and lying, and vain-company keeping, etc., will stand together. The proverb is true of you which is said of a whore, to wit, that she is a shame to all women; so are you a shame to all professors.
Talkative: Since you are ready to take up reports and to judge so rashly as you do, I cannot but conclude you are some peevish or melancholy man, not fit to be discoursed with; and so adieu.
Christian: Then came up Christian, and said to his brother, I told you how it would happen: your words and his lusts could not agree; he had rather leave your company than reform his life. But he is gone, as I said; let him go, the loss is no man’s but his own; he has saved us the trouble of going from him; for he continuing (as I suppose he will do) as he is, he would have been but a blot in our company: besides, the apostle says, “From such withdraw thyself.”
Faithful: But I am glad we had this little discourse with him; it may happen that he will think of it again: however, I have dealt plainly with him, and so am clear of his blood, if he perishes.
Christian: You did well to talk so plainly to him as you did; there is but little of this faithful dealing with men now-a-days, and that makes religion to stink so in the nostrils of many, as it doth; for they are these talkative fools whose religion is only in word, and are debauched and vain in their conversation, that (being so much admitted into the fellowship of the godly) do puzzle the world, blemish Christianity, and grieve the sincere. I wish that all men would deal with such as you have done: then should they either be made more conformable to religion, or the company of saints would be too hot for them. Then did Faithful say,
How Talkative at first lifts up his plumes!
How bravely doth he speak! How he presumes
To drive down all before him! But so soon
As Faithful talks of heart-work, like the moon
That’s past the full, into the wane he goes.
And so will all, but he that HEART-WORK knows.
In the previous post Faithful explained to Talkative the work of saving grace in the heart. He described how it is made evident both to the person who has saving grace and to others around the one in whom that grace is at work. But Faithful was not content to provide mere explanation. After presenting truth he sought to apply the truth. He pressed Talkative and implored him to evaluate his own life. He asked him plainly “do you experience this…” and “does your life and conversation testify the same?”
In response, Talkative first blushes; his embarrassment betrays the truth. Though Talkative speaks well of grace, he has not lived in ways that testify to a true work of grace in his heart. But any conviction he feels is quickly quenched. Talkative becomes defensive. He retreats behind barriers that are sure to cut him off from the help he needs. He feels caught off guard and put on the spot. He wasn’t expecting this kind of discourse. He’s not ready to answer such pointed questions. He is unwilling to have his life so closely examined and scrutinized.
He asks why Faithful would ask him such questions. Faithful is unwilling to let Talkative continue on in his hypocrisy, saying beautiful words but living in mire. Faithful tells him plainly that his life betrays his words. He uses the language of Jude and compares Talkative’s life to a “spot” (Jude 12–13), warning that his shameful and ungodly conduct is a danger and stumbling block to himself and others.
Talkative accuses Faithful of being unkind and rash. He feels judged and mistreated. Many in our day would likely side with Talkative and agree. Isn’t it cruel and insensitive to drive Talkative away with so blunt an evaluation of his life? Wouldn’t words of sympathy and understanding sound more loving? Yet Talkative is deceived and entrenched in sin. The most unloving thing Faithful could do would be to coddle Talkative in his sin and deception and treat him as a fellow pilgrim as if nothing were amiss. But didn’t Jesus command: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1)? Surely Faithful is being to hard on Talkative! After all, aren’t we all sinners? These words from the Sermon on the Mount are often quoted but seldom understood in context. Jesus is not here giving a pass to those who are still infatuated with their sin. He is warning us of hypocrisy. Our own sin should loom largest in our eyes. We must turn away and flee from our own sin and then we will see clearly to help others turn from the sins that beset them.
Talkative’s pride and lack of humility betray an unchanged heart. He is not open to counsel but resistant. He is uncomfortable, yet unconvicted. He is unwilling to remain in a relationship where he is held accountable and his sin is exposed, and so he separates from Faithful to go his own way.
After Talkative departs, Christian counsels Faithful to let him go. Talkative’s loss is his own. He claims to know the gospel, yet lives in ways that are offensive and contrary to the gospel. He speaks well of truth, yet is offended and unreceptive when Faithful brings it to bear upon his life. He has opportunity to receive help, yet walks away.
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us” (1 John 2:19).
God’s Word commands us to separate from those who would claim Christ yet cling to sin.
“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself” (1 Timothy 6:3–5).
Though Talkative would not listen, Faithful is glad he made the effort. He was faithful to warn Talkative and he is “clear of his blood, if he perishes.”
“So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul” (Ezekiel 33:7–9).
Christian also commends Faithful for doing the right thing by speaking plainly to Talkative. Christian laments: “there is but little of this faithful dealing with men now-a-days.” If we were more honest with one another, our witness before others would carry more weight. Perhaps we would see more desirable results. Those in whom saving grace is at work would be encouraged to repentance and faith. They would welcome and receive the Word of God as profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Those who still embraced their sin would be exposed, unable to continue their masquerade. The company of saints would be a place “too hot” for them to hide and too real for them to go on pretending.
In Christ we have no reason to fear having our sins uncovered. The cross has made known to the world our sinfulness and rebellion. There is forgiveness and cleansing for all who confess their sins and flee to Christ. There is no need to hide our sin or to pretend to be something we are not; in fact, it is hypocrisy and utter foolishness to do so.
Talkative makes a regrettably unwise decision. Rather than humbling himself, accepting the true and faithful counsel of one who has befriended him in Christ, repenting of sin, and finding forgiveness in the gospel, he chooses to separate himself and continue pretending all is well.
The departure of Talkative is one of the saddest portions of The Pilgrim’s Progress. It describes one who claims to follow Christ, yet turns away from truth, ensnared by his own pride and deception. Sadder still, it describes a response that is all too common. It is a response that has hindered many from finding the peace, joy and forgiveness found in true repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ.
Talkative’s departure should be a warning to us. May God help us live and speak in ways that agree and commend the gospel. May we be quick to listen, slow to speak, and unwilling to separate ourselves from those who are willing to press us with truth and do our souls the most eternal good.
A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
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The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2016 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.