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.