Tag Archives: spurious faith

The Cause of Temporary’s Backsliding

Hopeful: Now I have showed you the reasons of their going back, do you show me the manner thereof.

Christian: So I will willingly.

  1. They draw off their thoughts, all that they may, from the remembrance of God, death, and judgment to come.

  2. Then they cast off by degrees private duties, as closet prayer, curbing their lusts, watching, sorrow for sin, and the like.

  3. Then they shun the company of lively and warm Christians.

  4. After that they grow cold to public duty, as hearing, reading, godly conference, and the like.

  5. Then they begin to pick holes, as we say, in the coats of some of the godly; and that devilishly, that they may have a seeming color to throw religion (for the sake of some infirmity they have espied in them) behind their backs.

  6. Then they begin to adhere to, and associate themselves with, carnal, loose, and wanton men.

  7. Then they give way to carnal and wanton discourses in secret; and glad are they if they can see such things in any that are counted honest, that they may the more boldly do it through their example.

  8. After this they begin to play with little sins openly.

  9. And then, being hardened, they show themselves as they are. Thus, being launched again into the gulf of misery, unless a miracle of grace prevent it, they everlastingly perish in their own deceivings.

Backsliding Cliff

Temporary’s falling away is tragic, but it didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow process that little by little eroded his faith and dampened his zeal. Earlier in the allegory, Bunyan portrayed the terrible end of apostasy through the encounter with Turn-Away. Now with Temporary he focuses on how it begins. So how does it happen? How can someone full of zeal and joy in the Lord, fall away? Christian outlines the treacherous progression that turned Temporary around and caused him to backslide.

  1. Backsliding begins by thinking less and less of God and His Word. Temporary knew that Scripture warned against sin and condemned him for his sin, but he found no lasting consolation looking to Christ. He loved sin too much. He lacked the will to resist it. He lacked the power to forsake it. Though he had professed faith in Christ and had convinced all around him that he was turning away from sin, he harbored a delight for sin in his heart. Though he claimed to be a Christian, he discovered that it was simply too hard to live and walk and believe as a Christian in his own strength. Even his outward attempts to do what was right condemned him as a hypocrite and fraud. He was walking toward heaven on his way to hell. He was claiming to know peace, but still felt condemned. Rather than dwell on the unpleasant realities of sin, death, and judgment, rather than ponder his growing guilt and shame, he turned his thoughts away from God and gave his attention to self, living it up, and entertainment.
  2. Backsliding continues by neglecting “private duties.” Prayer becomes less frequent. The Bible sits on the shelf unread. Temporary gave up any pretense of acting like a Christian in private. When temptations came, he guarded his privacy more than his heart. He willingly gave into sin and refused to feel any grief for wrongs he had done.
  3. Neglecting private duties soon affects public associations. Temporary no longer wanted to be around vibrant Christians. He didn’t so much mind those who were struggling or indifferent. But those who were joyful in Christ and growing in God’s Word—these he could not tolerate. Their very presence in his life added to his own feelings of unworthiness and guilt.
  4. Avoiding encounters with growing Christians then chills public duties. Temporary became less concerned with presenting himself as a Christian to others around him, even in public worship. He no longer tried paying attention during the preaching and public reading of Scripture. He was less enthused with participating in corporate prayer and singing. Soon his church attendance fell off altogether.
  5. The backslider then looks to excuse his non-attendance. Temporary justified his actions by “picking holes” in the testimony of others. His dismissed his own hypocrisy by looking for inconsistencies in the lives of church members and attenders. Their infirmities and struggles became his justification for staying away from church.
  6. The loss of church fellowship is filled with worldly association. Temporary no longer felt accepted by the church. They were hypocrites anyway. They couldn’t help him. He didn’t really belong. And so he sought friendship and belonging elsewhere. He joined clubs, went to the gym, helped charities, hung out with co-workers—all the while looking for people with whom he could relate, people he could talk to without feeling put down. He surrounded himself with people who weren’t offended by sin, people who didn’t mind having a little fun and holding on to worldly pleasures. He befriended the world and little by little, the world led him further from God, deeper into sin.
  7. The backslider grows complacent and comfortable with sin in private. Carelessness and prayerlessness opens the way to “carnal and wanton discourses in secret.” Temporary still feared men (what others might think of him), but he no longer feared the Lord. He fell into foolishness and gave into his lusts. He schemed to satisfy his sinful desires and then plotted to keep them hidden.
  8. Sin that takes root in the darkness does not remain hidden. Emboldened by the fleeting pleasure of secret sin, and craving more, Temporary began to sin more openly. Unrestrained by watchfulness and unchecked by those he called his friends, he drifted little by little into a lifestyle of unconcealed, blatant sin.
  9. Unrestrained sin calcifies the heart and deceives the mind. Temporary ended up in a worse state than before he professed faith in Christ. Now he was entrenched in sin and burned out in religion. He had discredited and dismissed the only Way to life and peace with God. He was on his way to “everlasting punishment” yet unconcerned about his soul.

How then can we guard against such a terrible outcome? There are four important lessons we should learn from Temporary’s backsliding:

1) We dare not toy with sin and leave off the means of grace. Nothing can be hidden from God.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
Keeping watch on the evil and the good.
(Proverbs 15:3)

 We must guard our hearts and give no place to sin in our lives (public or private). We must continually remember Christ and keep the gospel alive in our thinking. We must daily lay hold of the means of grace: prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship, worship,… God has graciously given ample provision for the good of our souls.

2) We must keep watch for the sake of others as well as ourselves. Bunyan places this lesson near the end of the enchanted ground. Christian and Hopeful are mature believers. When we toy with sin and become spiritually lazy, we not only place our own souls in jeopardy, we endanger others. Young believers are watching us. They are taking their cues from us. If we give sin a foothold, they will see less of a need to resist. If we are not alarmed with sin in our lives, they will be more prone to let down their guard. If we excuse our sin, we will teach them to do so as well.

3) For those who reject God and return to the world, judgment is swift and immediate. Facing the wrath of God in hell for eternity is a real danger for any who cast off their faith, but it is not the beginning of judgment. Paul warns those who know the truth, yet willingly suppress it to hold onto their sin:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:18–22).

Their hardness of heart is the harbinger of judgment. They become “futile in their thoughts” and can no longer discern right from wrong, good from evil. God gives them up to their sin—to pursue the desires of “their foolish hearts.” They push God from their thinking and sin rushes in to corrupt the mind.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:28–32).

4) Though backsliding is fearful, it does not have to be fatal. Christian concludes that those who have plunged “again into the gulf of misery” will be condemned for eternity “unless a miracle of grace prevent it.” There is none among the living who is beyond the reach of God’s grace. We must pray for those who are backsliding, whose faith seems fleeting and temporary. Pray that God will pursue them with mercy. Pray that He will awaken them to their danger. Pray that their misery and God’s judgment in their lives will be but warning shots across the bow to turn them around and return them to wisdom and the fear of the Lord.

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 ©2019 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The Fleeting Faith of Temporary

Christian: Well, we will leave, at this time, our neighbor Ignorance by himself, and fall upon another profitable question.

Hopeful: With all my heart, but you shall still begin.

Christian: Well then, did you not know, about ten years ago, one Temporary in your parts, who was a forward man in religion then?

Hopeful: Know him! yes, he dwelt in Graceless, a town about two miles off of Honesty, and he dwelt next door to one Turnback.

Christian: Right, he dwelt under the same roof with him. Well, that man was much awakened once; I believe that then he had some sight of his sins, and of the wages that were due thereto.

Hopeful: I am of your mind, for, my house not being above three miles from him, he would ofttimes come to me, and that with many tears. Truly I pitied the man, and was not altogether without hope of him; but one may see, it is not every one that cries, Lord, Lord.

Christian: He told me once that he was resolved to go on pilgrimage, as we do now; but all of a sudden he grew acquainted with one Save-self, and then he became a stranger to me.

Hopeful: Now, since we are talking about him, let us a little inquire into the reason of the sudden backsliding of him and such others.

Christian: It may be very profitable, but do you begin.

Hopeful: Well, then, there are in my judgment four reasons for it:

  1. Though the consciences of such men are awakened, yet their minds are not changed; therefore, when the power of guilt wears away, that which provoked them to be religious ceases, wherefore they naturally turn to their own course again, even as we see the dog that is sick of what he has eaten, so long as his sickness prevails he vomits and casts up all; not that he does this of a free mind (if we may say a dog has a mind), but because it troubles his stomach; but now, when his sickness is over, and so his stomach eased, his desire being not at all alienate from his vomit, he turns him about and licks up all, and so it is true which is written, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again.” Thus I say, being hot for heaven, by virtue only of the sense and fear of the torments of hell, as their sense of hell and the fears of damnation chills and cools, so their desires for heaven and salvation cool also. So then it comes to pass, that when their guilt and fear is gone, their desires for heaven and happiness die, and they return to their course again.
  2. Another reason is, they have slavish fears that do overmaster them; I speak now of the fears that they have of men, for “the fear of man brings a snare.” So then, though they seem to be hot for heaven, so long as the flames of hell are about their ears, yet when that terror is a little over, they betake themselves to second thoughts; namely, that it is good to be wise, and not to run (for they know not what) the hazard of losing all, or, at least, of bringing themselves into unavoidable and unnecessary troubles, and so they fall in with the world again.
  3. The shame that attends religion lies also as a block in their way; they are proud and haughty; and religion in their eye is low and contemptible, therefore, when they have lost their sense of hell and wrath to come, they return again to their former course.
  4. Guilt, and to meditate terror, are grievous to them. They like not to see their misery before they come into it; though perhaps the sight of it first, if they loved that sight, might make them fly whither the righteous fly and are safe. But because they do, as I hinted before, even shun the thoughts of guilt and terror, therefore, when once they are rid of their awakenings about the terrors and wrath of God, they harden their hearts gladly, and choose such ways as will harden them more and more.

Christian: You are pretty near the business, for the bottom of all is for want of a change in their mind and will. And therefore they are but like the felon that stands before the judge, he quakes and trembles, and seems to repent most heartily, but the bottom of all is the fear of the halter; not that he has any detestation of the offence, as is evident, because, let but this man have his liberty, and he will be a thief, and so a rogue still, whereas, if his mind was changed, he would be otherwise.

Hopeful and Temporary

Christian and Hopeful are nearing the end of their journey across the Enchanted Ground. They have kept alert and resisted spiritual weariness by engaging in “good discourse.” First Hopeful shared his testimony of coming to faith in Christ. Then Christian and Hopeful met again with Ignorance and tried to show him his errors and point him to truth. Their extended conversations underscore the contrast between true faith and false faith. Hopeful, like Christian, has true faith—his hope rests in Christ alone. Ignorance has false faith—his hope is carried by his own “good motions.”

Now Bunyan adds a third contrast—fleeting faith. Christian remembers a former pilgrim named Temporary. His background gives us insight into his spiritual condition. Temporary is from the town of Graceless (he lacks true saving grace) that lies near Honesty (though he tries to live an upright and moral life). He lived next door to Turnback (one who abandoned his faith and returned to the ways of the world).

Temporary was once acquainted with both Christian and Hopeful. Before his brief pilgrimage, when he was troubled by sin and overwhelmed with its consequences, he sought them out for help and for counsel. Christian and Hopeful pointed him to Christ and though Temporary gave some evidence of following Christ at the beginning, his faith was not enduring. When consequences abated and troubles faded, so did his faith.

Temporary is the opposite of By-ends, another fleeting follower of Christ from earlier in the story. By-ends looked to religion for personal gain and affirmation. He attended church during the good times when it was comfortable and fashionable. But when troubles arose and opposition came, he was gone. Temporary looked to religion for counseling and support. He attended church during the hard times when he was plagued with troubles and beaten down with the consequences of his sin. But when troubles subsided and all seemed well, he was gone.

Temporary represents one whose profession of faith is short-lived. Initially he was concerned about his sin, determined to become a pilgrim, and zealous for religion. He sought the Lord with tears. He had a convincing testimony. He renounced sin and expressed sorrow for sin. But despite his best intentions and efforts, he lacked the power to change. Though he gave the outward appearance of repentance, he did not truly repent. His love for sin was muted, but it persisted in his heart and festered in his mind. As a result, his determination to reform was only temporary. Once his guilt faded, he returned to a pursuit of sin.

Why did Temporary backslide? Why did he forsake the faith and fall into apostacy? Hopeful suggests four reasons:

1) Though he was aware of his sin and disturbed by its unsavory consequences, he did not hate his sin. He had no power to resist it. In his heart and mind, he still desired it. All that restrained him was the fear of what might happen as a result of his sin and the shame of being found out. When that fear and shame were strong, he strove to be upright. But when fear and shame diminished, so did his desire to pursue holiness.

2) He feared men more than God. He dreaded the trouble that sin and its consequences might bring in this life, yet thought little of the greater, unceasing terror of facing God’s wrath in eternity.

The fear of man brings a snare,
But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.
(Proverbs 29:25)

3) He saw religion as a useful refuge in times of felt weakness and need. But in good times, when he felt confident and strong, he determined that he needed no such crutch.

4) He disliked feeling guilty and ashamed. Because his heart was unchanged, the more he tried to live as a Christian, the more he stumbled and felt bad about himself. The more he failed at gaining victory over sin, the more he suppressed conviction and pushed aside guilt. He lacked grace to look to Christ and so he saw only himself troubled by sin. Rather than feel remorse, he made allowances for his sin. Rather than be continually oppressed with guilt, he gave up thinking about wrath and judgment.

Temporary is one who walks by sight and not by faith. Temptation is more real to him than the way of escape. Earthly sorrows and difficulties are more real that heavenly rest and reward. Temporary desired palpable and obvious relief from his troubles. Rather than trust Christ by faith, he sought more tangible ways to ease his conscience. He befriended Save-self (works righteousness) who convinced him that his religion need not be so radical and self-denying. Soon Temporary gave up going on a pilgrimage and was no longer interested in Christian’s company. Temporary came to the fatal conclusion that by doing things that made him feel good, he could manage his sin, avoid distasteful consequences, and successfully mend his life.

Scripture warns against false teachers who would lead people astray with “great swelling words of emptiness,” convincing those who are still in love with their sin that sin is not so bad, and that sin can somehow be tamed and kept under control.

For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage (2 Peter 2:18–19).

And it warns those who have professed faith in Christ of the great danger of becoming attracted and entangled again in the deadly snares of sin.

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20–22).

Temporary teaches us that feeling ashamed and being sorry for sin are not enough to keep us from returning to sin. Being aware of the consequences of sin, even eternal consequences, is not enough to restrain us from sinning. We must hate sin because God hates sin. Making a convincing start doesn’t guarantee a successful end. Calling Jesus Lord and making an enthusiastic display of religious devotion is not enough to anchor our faith and keep us from falling away. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). We must love Christ, rest in Him alone, and find in Him more delight and satisfaction than anything this world can offer. And this we cannot do apart from God’s grace and the power of His Spirit at work in 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).

For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance … (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

May God grant us, by His grace and by the power of His Spirit, true repentance—that we would hate sin and turn from sin, and true saving faith—that we would love Christ and persevere to our journey’s end.

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 ©2019 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The Departure of Talkative

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.

 

Talkative DepartsIn 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
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 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.

Faithful’s Escape from the City of Destruction

Then I saw in my dream they went very lovingly on together, and had sweet discourse of all things that had happened to them in their pilgrimage; and thus Christian began:

Christian: My honored and well-beloved brother, Faithful, I am glad that I have overtaken you; and that God has so tempered our spirits, that we can walk as companions in this so pleasant a path.

Faithful: I had thought, dear friend, to have had your company quite from our town; but you did get the start of me, wherefore I was forced to come thus much of the way alone.

Christian: How long did you stay in the City of Destruction before you set out after me on your pilgrimage?

Faithful: Till I could stay no longer; for there was great talk presently after you were gone out that our city would, in short time, with fire from heaven, be burned down to the ground.

Christian: What! Did your neighbors talk so?

Faithful: Yes, it was for a while in everybody’s mouth.

Christian: What! And did no more of them but you come out to escape the danger?

Faithful: Though there was, as I said, a great talk thereabout, yet I do not think they did firmly believe it. For in the heat of the discourse, I heard some of them deridingly speak of you and of your desperate journey, (for so they called this your pilgrimage), but I did believe, and do still, that the end of our city will be with fire and brimstone from above; and therefore I have made my escape.

Christian: Did you hear no talk of neighbor Pliable?

Faithful: Yes, Christian, I heard that he followed you till he came at the Slough of Despond, where, as some said, he fell in; but he would not be known to have so done; but I am sure he was soundly bedabbled with that kind of dirt.

Christian: And what said the neighbors to him?

Faithful: He has, since his going back, been had greatly in derision, and that among all sorts of people; some do mock and despise him; and scarce will any set him on work. He is now seven times worse than if he had never gone out of the city.

Christian: But why should they be so set against him, since they also despise the way that he forsook?

Faithful: Oh, they say, hang him, he is a turncoat! He was not true to his profession. I think God has stirred up even his enemies to hiss at him, and make him a proverb, because he has forsaken the way.

Christian: Had you no talk with him before you came out?

Faithful: I met him once in the streets, but he leered away on the other side, as one ashamed of what he had done; so I did not speak to him.

Christian: Well, at my first setting out, I had hopes of that man; but now I fear he will perish in the overthrow of the city; for it is happened to him according to the true proverb, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

Faithful: These are my fears of him too; but who can hinder that which will be?

Christian and Faithful now press on together toward the Celestial City. The two share a love and devotion to Christ and Christian is delighted to have a brother to walk with him. As they walk together they share what they have experienced in their pilgrimage. As their conversation begins, Bunyan highlights three lessons:

1. The Miracle of Christian Friendship

Christian and FaithfulChristian speaks of his joy in befriending Faithful. The Valley of the Shadow of Death was “a very solitary place” where Christian felt very much alone. The path was dark and treacherous. Now, walking in the light of day with Faithful as his friend, he finds the Way to be “so pleasant a path.” Faithful also speaks of his longing to have Christian’s company. He had hoped to flee Destruction with Christian, but Christian had left before him. The kindness of God has now brought them together and a miracle of His grace has made them companions on a pilgrimage. In the City of Destruction, Christian and Faithful might not ever have met or had anything in common. But their desire and commitment to follow Christ has “tempered their spirits” and placed them together. This is true of all Christian friendships. God has joined together hearts and lives in ways that astound the world and magnify the power of His grace and wisdom.

2. The Impact of a Changed Life

As the conversation continues, Faithful describes his escape from the City of Destruction. Christian’s departure had caused a great stir in the city. He is surprised to hear that many of neighbors were talking about him. Most did not believe him and spoke with scorn of his warnings of coming judgment. They called his pilgrimage a “desperate journey.” But God is not hindered by unbelief. The Word of God is powerful. God can prosper the gospel even when it is spoken in derision. Neighbors mocked and derided Christian, but Faithful heard and believed.

In Paul’s day there were some who preached Christ, not because they believed the gospel, but because they were trying to stir up trouble for Paul. Yet Paul could rejoice!

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice (Philippians 1:15–18).

We must be faithful to live for Christ and preach Christ, even when our testimony is likely to be scorned. We can grow weary of speaking of Christ among unbelievers as we see them respond again and again with contempt. Unsaved family members, co-workers and friends can wear us down with incessant ridicule and rejection. But we don’t know the impact our life might have on others around us. We don’t know how God may choose to use our testimony, even long after we are gone. It was Christian’s testimony that encouraged Faithful to flee Destruction, even while it was being disparaged by the world. May God keep us faithful and use our lives to point others to Christ.

3. The Danger of a Spurious Profession

Faithful also updates Christian on the outcome of Pliable. Earlier in the journey, Pliable had set out with Christian. He seemed at first to be a zealous pilgrim, hurrying Christian along, ravished with thoughts of heaven. But Pliable was discouraged when he and Christian fell into the Slough of Despond. Pliable chose to abandon his adventure with Christian and turn back. When he returned to the City of Destruction he was covered in the mud of the Slough (still marked by the shame and baseness of his sin) and met with scorn by those who saw him. He is compared to the Proverb:

As a dog returns to his own vomit,
So a fool repeats his folly.
(Proverbs 26:11)

Bunyan inserts two verses likening Pliable to Israel in the Old Testament who chose to ignore the prophets who brought them God’s Word:

This says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like rotten figs that cannot be eaten, they are so bad. And I will pursue them with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence; and I will deliver them to trouble among all the kingdoms of the earth—to be a curse, an astonishment, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they have not heeded My words, says the Lord, which I sent to them by My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; neither would you heed, says the Lord (Jeremiah 29:17–19).

And to false teachers in the New Testament whose end is worse than their beginning:

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20–22).

Pliable turned away from God’s Word and forsook the way of righteousness. His profession of faith was spurious. Now he is in more danger than before. He is shamed by the world, seen as weak and pitiful, viewed as a hypocrite and “turncoat.” His only hope is still the gospel, yet he is too ashamed to seek the company of those who would gladly share it with him. Instead he leers away and avoids uncomfortable confrontation.

The tragic example of Pliable teaches us the peril of shame. Shame is the stain of sin on the soul. Left unwashed it is deadly, and we are powerless to remove it. It is a stain that can only be cleansed by the shed blood of Christ on the cross. Only in Christ can we find the hope and forgiveness we need. Yet shame by its very nature discourages us from looking to Christ. It wants to hide and cover itself. It keeps us downcast and resigns us to Destruction. If we are to avoid the plight of Pliable we must confess our sin and ever keep our eyes fixed upward to the cross.

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 ©2015 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.