carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
Notes Regarding the Characters in
Pliable - “He hath not root in himself.” (Mt. 13:6) This poor creature had a certain slight root of something that looked like religion for a short season, but even that slight root was all outside of himself. His root, what he had of a root, was all in Christian’s companionship and impassioned appeals, and then in those impressive passages of Scripture that Christian read to him. At your first attention to these things you would think that no possible root could be better planted than in the Bible and in earnest preaching. But even the Bible, and, much more, the best preaching, is all really outside of a man till true religion once gets its piercing roots down into himself.
Pliable, at least, is a gentleman compared with Obstinate, and his gentlemanly feelings and his good manners make him at once take sides with Christian. Obstinate’s foul tongue had almost made Pliable a Christian. And this finely-conceived scene on the plain outside the city gate is enacted over again every day among ourselves. Where men are in dead earnest about religion it always arouses ‘the bad passions of bad men’ and where earnest preachers and devoted workers are assailed with violence or with bad language, there is always enough love of fair play in the bystanders to compel them to take sides, for the time at least, with those who suffer for the truth. And we are sometimes too apt to count all that love of common fairness, and that hatred of foul play, as a sure sign of some sympathy with the hated truth itself. But the religion of Jesus Christ cuts far deeper into the heart of man and is always found in the long-run that the cross of Christ and its crucifixion of the human heart goes quite as hard with the gentlemanly-mannered man, as it does with the man of bad behaviour and of brutish manners. “Civil men,” says Thomas Goodwin, “are this world’s saints.” And poor Pliable was one of them.
The apocalyptic side of some men’s imaginations is very easily worked upon. No kind of book sells better among those of our people who have no root in themselves than just picture-books about heaven. And how often have we ourselves heard these very words of challenge and reproof to “mend our pace” from the pliable frequenters of emotional meetings, and from the emotional members of an emotional but rootless ministry. “We must open our hearts to our religion; we must have the inward soil broken up, freely and deeply; its roots must penetrate our inner being. We must take to ourselves in silence and in sincerity its words of judgment with its words of hope, its sternness with its encouragement, its denunciations with its promises, its requirements with its offers, its absolute intolerance of sin with its inconceivable and divine long-suffering towards sinners.” (Dean Paget)
“Where are we now?” “Truly, I do not know.” Christian was bound to fall sooner or later into a slough filled with his own despondency about himself, his past guilt, his present sinfulness, and his anxious future. But Pliable had not knowledge enough of himself to make him ever despond. He was always ready and able to mend his pace. He had no burden on his back, and therefore no doubt in his heart. It was Christian’s overflowing despondency and doubt at this point of the road that suddenly filled his own slough, and, overflowed into a slough for Pliable also. For us, in this trial of faith and patience, and in that, in this temptation to sin and in that, in this actual transgression, and in that, let us always ask ourselves which is the side of the slough that is farthest away from our own house, and let us still struggle to that side of the slough, and it will all be well with us at the last.
Help - Help is one of the King’s officers who are planted all along the way to the Celestial City, in order to assist and counsel all pilgrims. They include preachers and pastors and evangelists who correspond to all those names and all their offices. Only some unhappy preachers are better at pushing poor pilgrims into the slough, and pushing them down to the bottom of it, than they are at helping a sinking pilgrim out; while some other more happy preachers and pastors have their manses built at the hither side of the slough and do nothing else all their days but help pilgrims out of their slough and direct them to the gate. But neither election or ordination is needed to make any given member of the apostolic church a helper - both sexes, all ages, and all descriptions of church members bore this fine apostolic name. And it is a good thing. You need not go far seeking to find a slough of desponding, despairing men. There is scarce sound ground enough in this world on which to build a slough-watcher’s tower. Sloughs of all kinds of vice, open and secret; sloughs of poverty, sloughs of youthful ignorance, temptation, and transgression; sloughs of inward gloom, family disquiet and dispute; lonely grief; all manner of sloughs, deep and miry, where no man would suspect them. And how good, how like Christ Himself, and how well-pleasing to Him to lay down steps for such sliding feet, and to lift out another and another human soul upon sound and solid ground.
notes taken from:
The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan with Explanatory Notes by Thomas Scott, Swengel, PA:Reiner Pub., 1976.
Bunyan Characters in the Pilgrim's Progress by Alexander Whyte, London:Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier, 1902.
|David G. Barker