Tag Archives: speech

Conversation with By-ends

So I saw that quickly after they were got out of the fair, they overtook one that was going before them, whose name was By-ends: so they said to him, What countryman, Sir? and how far go you this way? He told them that he came from the town of Fair-speech, and he was going to the Celestial City (but told them not his name).

From Fair-speech! said Christian. Is there any good that lives there?

By-ends: Yes, said By-ends, I hope.

Christian: Pray, Sir, what may I call you? said Christian.

By-ends: I am a stranger to you, and you to me: if you be going this way, I shall be glad of your company; if not, I must be content.

Christian: This town of Fair-speech, said Christian, I have heard of; and, as I remember, they say it is a wealthy place.

By-ends: Yes, I will assure you that it is; and I have very many rich kindred there.

Christian: Pray, who are your kindred there? if a man may be so bold.

By-ends: Almost the whole town; and in particular, my Lord Turn-about, my Lord Time-server, my Lord Fair-speech, (from whose ancestors that town first took its name), also Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Facing-both-ways, Mr. Any-thing; and the parson of our parish, Mr. Two-tongues, was my mother’s own brother by father’s side; and to tell you the truth, I am become a gentleman of good quality, yet my great-grandfather was but a waterman, looking one way and rowing another, and I got most of my estate by the same occupation.

Christian: Are you a married man?

By-ends: Yes, and my wife is a very virtuous woman, the daughter of a virtuous woman; she was my Lady Feigning’s daughter, therefore she came of a very honorable family, and is arrived to such a pitch of breeding, that she knows how to carry it to all, even to prince and peasant. It is true we somewhat differ in religion from those of the stricter sort, yet but in two small points: first, we never strive against wind and tide; secondly, we are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers; we love much to walk with him in the street, if the sun shines, and the people applaud him.

Then Christian stepped a little aside to his fellow, Hopeful, saying, It runs in my mind that this is one By-ends of Fair-speech; and if it be he, we have as very a knave in our company as dwells in all these parts. Then said Hopeful, Ask him; methinks he should not be ashamed of his name. So Christian came up with him again, and said, Sir, you talk as if you knew something more than all the world doth; and if I take not my mark amiss, I deem I have half a guess of you: Is not your name Mr. By-ends, of Fair-speech?

By-ends: This is not my name, but indeed it is a nick-name that is given me by some that cannot abide me: and I must be content to bear it as a reproach, as other good men have borne theirs before me.

Christian: But did you never give an occasion to men to call you by this name?

By-ends: Never, never! The worst that ever I did to give them an occasion to give me this name was, that I had always the luck to jump in my judgment with the present way of the times, whatever it was, and my chance was to get thereby; but if things are thus cast upon me, let me count them, a blessing; but let not the malicious load me therefore with reproach.

Christian: I thought, indeed, that you were the man that I heard of; and to tell you what I think, I fear this name belongs to you more properly than you are willing we should think it does.

By-ends: Well, if you will thus imagine, I cannot help it; you shall find me a fair company-keeper, if you will still admit me your associate.

Christian: If you will go with us, you must go against wind and tide; the which, I perceive, is against your opinion; you must also own religion in his rags, as well as when in his silver slippers; and stand by him, too, when bound in irons, as well as when he walks the streets with applause.

By-ends: You must not impose, nor lord it over my faith; leave me to my liberty, and let me go with you.

Christian: Not a step further, unless you will do in what I propound as we.

Then said By-ends, I shall never desert my old principles, since they are harmless and profitable. If I may not go with you, I must do as I did before you overtook me, even go by myself, until some overtake me that will be glad of my company.

Meeting with By-ends

Now joined by Hopeful, Christian has set out from Vanity Fair. But not long into their journey, they overtake another traveler. This stranger is at first reluctant to give his name, but reveals that he is from the town of Fair-Speech and is also on his way to the Celestial City.

The town of Fair Speech represents those who live in duplicity and hypocrisy in their conversations and dealings with others. Christian has heard of Fair-Speech and is at once skeptical. The town has a reputation for its elegance and wealth, but it is also known for being pragmatic and self-seeking. On the surface, it is awash in civility and pleasant conversation, but underneath it is submerged in hidden agendas and ulterior motives. The stranger affirms that he is from an affluent family and is related to many in the town:

  • Lord Turn-about (one who indicates that he is going one way, but then changes his course to go the opposite way)
  • Lord Time-server (one who changes his views and opinions to fit the times)
  • Lord Fair-speech (one who speaks kindly but hides deceit in his heart)
  • Mr. Smooth-man (one who speaks “smooth words”—Isaiah 30:10, saying what people want to hear)
  • Mr. Facing-both-ways (one who hold contradictory views and opinions, and attempts to gain favor by agreeing with everyone)
  • Mr. Any-thing (one who will believe, say or do whatever it takes to reach his personal goals or achieve his personal agenda)
  • Mr. Two-tongues, the parson (one who shades the truth and deceives people with his words, saying one thing to some and something contrary to others), whom, the stranger confoundedly notes, “was my mother’s own brother by father’s side.”

The stranger also points out that he is an oarsman just like his great-grandfather, who “would look one way and row another,” and that he is married to Lady Feigning’s daughter (one who pretends or gives a false impression of herself).

Though the stranger will not give the pilgrims his name, Christian recognizes that he is By-ends of Fair-speech. Christian also identifies him as a knave, a false professor.

A by-end is “a subordinate end” most often rooted in “private interest, secret purpose or selfish advantage.” By-ends represents the duplicity of openly following Christ and honoring God, while truly living for self and seeking selfish gain. He believes that he has a good understanding of the times in which he lives and can adapt or adjust circumstances to his own advantage. By-ends is not ashamed of his religion or opposed to being identified with Christ, but he is rather selective as to when and how he wields his religion.

He wants life, including his religion, to be easy and simple. He is in favor of religion only when it is to his advantage. He is more motivated by a desire to be satisfied and in control of his life than to be sanctified and in submission to God’s Word. His religion is relaxed and flexible, not strict and rigid, as he perceives Christian and Hopeful to be. He shapes his religion at will to obtain what he believes will be the most favorable outcome:

  • He likes a religion that is calm and comfortable (doesn’t “strive against wind or tide”)
  • He likes a religion that is fashionable and favorable (goes in “silver slippers”)
  • He likes a religion that is amiable and applaudable (always in the sunshine)

The Danger of Following Christ for Worldly Gain

By-ends is a hypocrite who presents himself as something he never intends to be. He holds religion in high esteem. He claims to follow Christ. His words sound good; he is, after all, from Fair-Speech. But he has embraced religion for personal gain, not personal holiness. His aim is not to love and glorify God. He uses religion as a means to another end. For him Christ is but a useful ally in the pursuit of self-advancement, self-fulfillment, and self-gratification.

The Bible warns about being deceptive and sinful with our words:

He who hates, disguises it with his lips,
And lays up deceit within himself;
When he speaks kindly, do not believe him,
For there are seven abominations in his heart;
Though his hatred is covered by deceit,
His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
(Proverbs 26: 24–26)

They speak idly everyone with his neighbor;
With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
And the tongue that speaks proud things,
(Psalm 12:2–3)

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so (James 3:8–10).

Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money (1 Timothy 3:8).

And the Bible reproves and calls us to repentance when we are double-minded in our motives:

I hate the double-minded,
But I love Your law.
(Psalm 119:113)

He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:8).

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:8).

By-ends wanted to join Christian and Hopeful in their pilgrimage, but he was only willing to walk in fair weather and favorable paths. Christian gives him the truth about following Christ:

  • You must be willing to go against wind and tide.
  • You must be willing to own religion in rags as well as silver slippers.
  • You must be willing to be imprisoned as well as applauded.

Jesus taught in the Gospel of Luke:

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (Luke 14:27–30).

Christian is insistent that By-ends counts the cost. True discipleship involves sacrifice and suffering (bearing the cross); concepts that By-ends would find foreign and distasteful. By-ends responds the way many false professors respond when confronted with the truth of Scripture. He is offended and sees Christian and Hopeful as a threat to his liberty. He will not have anyone impose on him, or lord it over his faith. And so, for now, he parts company.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The Fallacy of Talkative

Faithful: Well, I see that saying and doing are two things, and hereafter I shall better observe this distinction.

Christian: They are two things, indeed, and are as diverse as are the soul and the body; for as the body without the soul is but a dead carcass, so saying, if it be alone, is but a dead carcass also. The soul of religion is the practical part: “Pure religion and undefiled, before God and the Father, is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” This Talkative is not aware of; he thinks that hearing and saying will make a good Christian, and thus he deceives 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; and let us assure ourselves, that at the day of doom men shall be judged according to their fruits. It will not be said then, Did you believe? but, Were you doers, or talkers only? and accordingly shall they be judged. The end of the world is compared to our harvest; and you know men at harvest regard nothing but fruit. Not that anything can be accepted that is not of faith, but I speak this to show you how insignificant the profession of Talkative will be at that day.

Faithful: This brings to my mind that of Moses, by which he describes the beast that is clean. He is such a one that parts the hoof and chews the cud; not that parts the hoof only, or that chews the cud only. The hare chews the cud, but yet is unclean, because he parts not the hoof. And this truly resembles Talkative; he chews the cud, he seeks knowledge, he chews upon the word; but he divides not the hoof, he parts not with the way of sinners; but, as the hare, he retains the foot of a dog or bear, and therefore he is unclean.

Christian: You have spoken, for aught I know, the true gospel sense of those texts. And I will add another thing: Paul calls some men, yea, and those great talkers, too, sounding brass and tinkling cymbals; that is, as he expounds them in another place, things without life, giving sound. Things without life, that is, without the true faith and grace of the gospel; and consequently, things that shall never be placed in the kingdom of heaven among those that are the children of life; though their sound, by their talk, be as if it were the tongue or voice of an angel.

Faithful: Well, I was not so fond of his company at first, but I am as sick of it now. What shall we do to be rid of him?

Christian: Take my advice, and do as I bid you, and you shall find that he will soon be sick of your company too, except God shall touch his heart, and turn it.

Faithful: What would you have me to do?

Christian: Why, go to him, and enter into some serious discourse about the power of religion; and ask him plainly (when he has approved of it, for that he will) whether this thing be set up in his heart, house, or conversation.

Christian Faithful and TalkativeIn the previous post Christian exposed the truth about Talkative. Talkative speaks like a pilgrim, but his life does not bear the marks of a pilgrim. Now Christian explains the fallacy of Talkative’s thinking. Talkative believes that simply hearing and speaking the truth makes him to be “a good Christian.” He craves conversation but not commitment. He delights in doctrine but not devotion. Talkative has a dangerous disconnect in his thinking. He does not grasp the vital relationship between faith and works.

Talkative has presumed that since we are saved by grace alone, our works are of no regard. In one sense he is correct “for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16). Salvation is certainly by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Our works cannot save us.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

But in another sense Talkative is gravely wrong. Works must certainly follow our faith. We are not only justified (declared righteous) in salvation, but sanctified (made righteous). We are saved—set apart— for good works. Paul follows Ephesians 2:8–9 with verse 10:

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Good works are the necessary fruit of true faith that bear witness to the glorious salvation that has been wrought in us by God. False faith produces assent but not action. True faith is a faith that works.
Christian makes three references to Scripture to emphasize this important connection between faith and works:

1. Speaking truth and living truth “are as diverse as are the soul and the body.” We read in James:

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:26).

Christian explains to Faithful: “for as the body without the soul is but a dead carcass, so saying, if it be alone, is but a dead carcass also.” A faith without works is a dead faith. We read in James:

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only (James 2:14–24).

2. “The soul of religion is the practical part.” Our love to God is made manifest in our actions and obedience, not our ideas and theories.

If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:26–27).

“Pure and undefiled religion” is defined in terms of doing, not in terms of knowing, hearing or saying. It’s not what we know or hear or say that matters most, but what we do with what we know, hear and say. Again we read in James:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:22–25).

3. At the last day “men shall be judged according to their fruits.” We see this in the parables that Jesus told in Matthew 13 and 25. In Matthew 13 Jesus explains the parable of the sower as it relates to fruitfulness:

Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Matthew 13:18–23).

Christian notes: “Hearing is but as the sowing of the seed” and “talking is not sufficient to prove that fruit is indeed in the heart and life.” Fruit is the evidence of a new heart and a changed life. It is made evident in our obedience to God’s Word. It is fruit that will be gathered in at the harvest.

… at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn (Matthew 13:30).

Faithful then draws out an analogy from the Law of Moses. In Leviticus 11:3–8 and Deuteronomy 14:6–8 God describes that food that Israel was permitted to eat and the food that they were to avoid. Two traits were required for animals to be considered clean:

“And you may eat every animal with cloven hooves, having the hoof split into two parts, and that chews the cud, among the animals” (Deuteronomy 14:6).

“Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud—that you may eat” (Leviticus 11:3).

Talkative resembles the unclean because he lacks a significant trait. He “chews the cud” (he reads and ponders the Word of God) but does not “part the hoof” (he does not turn from sin and walk in a way that is pleasing to God and in obedience to His Word). Christian concludes by drawing yet another illustration, comparing Talkative to a “sounding brass or clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1) and to a lifeless instrument that makes an uncertain sound (1 Corinthians 14:7).

Faithful is now ready to be rid of Talkative’s company. He has seen through the false veneer of Talkative’s profession. Christian encourages Faithful to speak again with Talkative and confront him concerning the power of the gospel to change hearts and lives. This, Christian tells him, will either drive him away or, if God touches his heart, will turn him away from his deception and to the truth.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

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.

The Truth About Talkative

Faithful: Now did Faithful begin to wonder; and stepping to Christian, (for he walked all this while by himself), he said to him, (but softly), What a brave companion have we got! Surely this man will make a very excellent pilgrim.

Christian: At this Christian modestly smiled, and said: This man, with whom you are so taken, will beguile, with that tongue of his, twenty of them that know him not.

Faithful: Do you know him, then?

Christian: Know him! Yes, better than he knows himself.

Faithful: Pray, what is he?

Christian: His name is Talkative; he dwells in our town. I wonder that you should be a stranger to him, only I consider that our town is large.

Faithful: Whose son is he? And whereabout does he dwell?

Christian: He is the son of one Say-well; he dwelt in Prating Row; and is known of all that are acquainted with him, by the name of Talkative in Prating Row; and notwithstanding his fine tongue, he is but a sorry fellow.

Faithful: Well, he seems to be a very pretty man.

Christian: That is, to them who have not thorough acquaintance with him; for he is best abroad; near home, he is ugly enough. Your saying that he is a pretty man, brings to my mind what I have observed in the work of the painter, whose pictures show best at a distance, but, very near, more unpleasing.

Faithful: But I am ready to think you do but jest, because you smiled.

Christian: God forbid that I should jest (although I smiled) in this matter, or that I should accuse any falsely! I will give you a further discovery of him. This man is for any company, and for any talk; as he talks now with you, so will he talk when he is on the ale-bench; and the more drink he has in his crown, the more of these things he has in his mouth; religion has no place in his heart, or house, or conversation; all he has lies in his tongue, and his religion is, to make a noise therewith.

Faithful: Say you so! then am I in this man greatly deceived.

Christian: Deceived! you may be sure of it; remember the proverb, “They say and do not.” But the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. He talks of prayer, of repentance, of faith, and of the new birth; but he knows but only to talk of them. I have been in his family, and have observed him both at home and abroad; and I know what I say of him is the truth. His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savor. There is there neither prayer nor sign of repentance for sin; yea, the brute in his kind serves God far better than he. He is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion, to all that know him; it can hardly have a good word in all that end of the town where he dwells, through him. Thus say the common people that know him, A saint abroad, and a devil at home. His poor family finds it so; he is such a churl, such a railer at and so unreasonable with his servants, that they neither know how to do for or speak to him. Men that have any dealings with him say it is better to deal with a Turk than with him; for fairer dealing they shall have at their hands. This Talkative (if it be possible) will go beyond them, defraud, beguile, and overreach them. Besides, he brings up his sons to follow his steps; and if he finds in any of them a foolish timorousness, (for so he calls the first appearance of a tender conscience,) he calls them fools and blockheads, and by no means will employ them in much, or speak to their commendations before others. For my part, I am of opinion, that he has, by his wicked life, caused many to stumble and fall; and will be, if God prevent not, the ruin of many more.

Faithful: 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.

Christian: Had I known him no more than you, I might perhaps have thought of him, as, at the first, you did; yea, had he received this report at their hands only that are enemies to religion, I should have thought it had been a slander—a lot that often falls from bad men’s mouths upon good men’s names and professions; but all these things, yea, and a great many more as bad, of my own knowledge, I can prove him guilty of. Besides, good men are ashamed of him; they can neither call him brother, nor friend; the very naming of him among them makes them blush, if they know him.

TalkativeIn the previous post Faithful began a conversation with a traveler whose name was Talkative. Talkative quickly impressed Faithful with his fluent words and contagious enthusiasm. Now the conversation shifts; Faithful steps aside to speak privately with Christian. Though Faithful has a high regard for Talkative, Christian is not so convinced.

Christian knows the truth about Talkative. He knows of his reputation among family and friends in the City of Destruction. Christian raises three serious concerns that should give Faithful pause in his assessment of Talkative:

1. Though Talkative speaks well, his life doesn’t measure up to his talk. Bunyan highlights this discrepancy between Talkative’s words and walk in his description: “He is the son of one Say-Well” and lives on Prating Row. His speech sounds refined and informed, yet it amounts to little more than babbling and gibberish.

He talks of God at church and in the company of believers. He can dissect doctrine and even base his conclusions on Scripture. Yet he fails to live by what he professes. Though he speaks of prayer, faith and repentance; yet these are absent from his life. Christian observes that: “religion has no place in his heart, or house, or conversation; all he has lies in his tongue, and his religion is, to make a noise therewith.”

Talkative’s life resembles that of the Scribes and Pharisees who “say, and do not do” (Matthew 23:3). Even animals, when they act according to their God-given natures, serve God better than he (Jeremiah 8:7; Job 12:7–10). True salvation is more than knowing and saying right things; it is a change of heart that leads to a changed life. “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

2. Though Talkative appears to be a passionate pilgrim, his life looks better from a distance than close up. He presents himself well, but on closer examination, his actions don’t measure up to his words. Christian notes that “he is best abroad; near home, he is ugly enough.” To those casually acquainted with him, he appears to excel. He is knowledgeable, well-spoken and polite. But to those who know him more intimately, he falls short. His actions toward them are sinful, unjust and unreasonable. He is “a saint abroad, and a devil at home.” His religion is but a façade he has built to cover his life.

3. Though Talkative is fervent in how he speaks of his faith, his witness before others is both deceptive and dangerous. His life discredits the words he speaks. His hypocrisy leads to devastating consequences. His conduct causes “many to stumble and fall, disgusting some and causing them to turn away from the faith, while diluting others into thinking a believer can live comfortably with sin in his life. Christian asserts, “he is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion, to all that know him.” Because of his disregard for God’ Law “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles” (Romans 2:24). Because of his presumption of the Gospel, he speaks “peace, peace, where there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

Christian’s assessment of Talkative may seem quite severe. But his judgments and warnings are warranted. Some of Jesus’ sharpest words were aimed at those who lived in hypocrisy and led others astray by their hypocrisy. On two occasions in the book of Matthew Jesus referred to the Scribes and Pharisees as a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 12:34, 23:33). In Matthew 18 he warns:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes” (Matthew 18:6–7).

Sadly, there are many in the church today who fit the description of Talkative. They speak the language of a Pilgrim, are convinced that they are on the path to the Celestial City, yet their lives do not bear the marks of a Pilgrim. They like to mingle with God’s people, engage in theological conversation, and may even be well-versed in explaining and arguing the nuances of difficult doctrines. Yet their conduct bears little resemblance to the truth they so eloquently champion with their lips.

Talkative is satisfied that he can make the journey with mere knowledge and talk. In the next post will we look further in the Fallacy of Talkative’s thinking.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

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.

Conversation with Talkative

Moreover, I saw in my dream, that as they went on, Faithful, as he chanced to look on one side, saw a man whose name is Talkative, walking at a distance beside them; for in this place there was room enough for them all to walk. He was a tall man, and something more comely at a distance than at hand. To this man Faithful addressed himself in this manner:

Faithful: Friend, whither away? Are you going to the heavenly country?

Talkative: I am going to the same place.

Faithful: That is well; then I hope we may have your good company.

Talkative: With a very good will will I be your companion.

Faithful: Come on, then, and let us go together, and let us spend our time in discoursing of things that are profitable.

Talkative: To talk of things that are good, to me is very acceptable, with you or with any other; and I am glad that I have met with those that incline to so good a work; for, to speak the truth, there are but few that care thus to spend their time, (as they are in their travels), but choose much rather to be speaking of things to no profit; and this has been a trouble for me.

Faithful: That is indeed a thing to be lamented; for what things so worthy of the use of the tongue and mouth of men on earth as are the things of the God of heaven?

Talkative: I like you wonderful well, for your sayings are full of conviction; and I will add, what thing is so pleasant, and what so profitable, as to talk of the things of God? What things so pleasant (that is, if a man hath any delight in things that are wonderful)? For instance, if a man doth delight to talk of the history or the mystery of things; or if a man doth love to talk of miracles, wonders, or signs, where shall he find things recorded so delightful, and so sweetly penned, as in the Holy Scripture?

Faithful: That is true; but to be profited by such things in our talk should be that which we design.

Talkative: That is it that I said; for to talk of such things is most profitable; for by so doing, a man may get knowledge of many things; as of the vanity of earthly things, and the benefit of things above. Thus, in general, but more particularly by this, a man may learn the necessity of the new birth, the insufficiency of our works, the need of Christ’s righteousness, &c. Besides, by this a man may learn, by talk, what it is to repent, to believe, to pray, to suffer, or the like; by this also a man may learn what are the great promises and consolations of the gospel, to his own comfort. Further, by this a man may learn to refute false opinions, to vindicate the truth, and also to instruct the ignorant.

Faithful: All this is true, and glad am I to hear these things from you.

Talkative: Alas! the want of this is the cause why so few understand the need of faith, and the necessity of a work of grace in their soul, in order to eternal life; but ignorantly live in the works of the law, by which a man can by no means obtain the kingdom of heaven.

Faithful: But, by your leave, heavenly knowledge of these is the gift of God; no man attains to them by human industry, or only by the talk of them.

Talkative: All this I know very well; for a man can receive nothing, except it be given him from Heaven; all is of grace, not of works. I could give you a hundred scriptures for the confirmation of this.

Faithful: Well, then, said Faithful, what is that one thing that we shall at this time found our discourse upon?

Talkative: What you will. I will talk of things heavenly, or things earthly; things moral, or things evangelical; things sacred, or things profane; things past, or things to come; things foreign, or things at home; things more essential, or things circumstantial; provided that all be done to our profit.

Faithful: Now did Faithful begin to wonder; and stepping to Christian, (for he walked all this while by himself), he said to him, (but softly), What a brave companion have we got! Surely this man will make a very excellent pilgrim.

TalkativeAs the two pilgrims continue their journey, Faithful sees another traveler “walking at a distance beside them.” The traveler is a tall man named Talkative. As Faithful takes the opportunity to befriend him, the two begin a conversation. Talkative is bold, enthusiastic and well-spoken. Faithful begins to wonder and is soon convinced that his new companion “will make a very excellent pilgrim.”

Talkative does have many commendable qualities.

  • He is cordial and gratified by the company of other pilgrims.
  • He is fervent in how he speaks of his faith.
  • He is walking the path of a pilgrim toward the heavenly country.
  • He enjoys most talking about the things of God.
  • He expresses delight in God’s Word and knows his Bible well.
  • He sees value in learning truth and knowing doctrine.
  • He is concerned that there is little understanding of the gospel of grace.
  • He affirms salvation by grace alone, apart from works.
  • He is willing to address any subject, provided that the conversation is profitable.

But, do such qualities identify him as a true pilgrim and follower of Christ? Faithful seems to think so; he describes him as “brave” and “excellent.” On closer examination, however, there is reason to doubt. Bunyan offers some hints in the story of Talkative’s true character. Although he is tall, appearing to stand above other pilgrims, he looks better from a distance than close up. He is walking where the path is wide and easy. And though he speaks with passion and eloquence, there is something missing in his conversation.
In the next post we will hear Christian’s reply to Faithful’s evaluation and learn the truth about Talkative.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

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.