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Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16, ESV)

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Notes Regarding the Characters in Pilgrim's Progress

Lesson #12


Talkative - The character next introduced, under a most expressive name, is an admirable portrait ... exactly resembling numbers in every age and place, where the truths of the Gospel are generally known.  Talkative is not thus called merely on account of his (enjoyment of hearing himself speak), but from the peculiarity of his religious profession, which gave scope to his natural (habit), by furnishing him with a (large) subject, and enabling him to display his talents, or seek credit in the church, without the trouble and expense of experimental and practical godliness.  Such vain talkers especially appear when religious profession is safe, cheap, and reputable; ... . (Scott, p. 184)

            Zealous and lively Christians, who are not well established in judgment and experience, are often greatly taken with the discourse of persons who speak with great fluency and speciousness on various subjects, with a semblance of truth and piety; yet they sometimes feel a defect in their harangues, which makes them hesitate, ... .  Talkative's discourse is copied with surprising exactness from that of (many), who learn doctrinally to discuss (many) subjects, of which they never felt the energy and efficacy in their own souls.  Men of this stamp can take up any point in religion with great ease, and speak on it in a pompous ostentatious manner; ... .  Humility and charity, however, dispose (hearers) to make the best of (these), and to distrust themselves.  It would be conceited and uncandid, they think, to suspect a man, who says so many good things, with great confidence and zeal; their dissatisfaction with the conversation or sermon they suppose was their own fault; if they disagreed with the speaker, probably they were in error; if a doubt arose in their minds about his spirit or motives, it might be imputed to their own pride and envy.  Thus men are seduced to sanction what they ought to protest against, and to admire those whom they should avoid; and that even by means of their most amiable dispositions. (Scott, p. 186-7)

            Talkative seems to have been introduced on purpose that the author might have a fair opportunity of stating his sentiments concerning the practical nature of religion, to which numbers in his day were too inattentive.  This admired allegory has fully established the important distinction, between a dead and a living faith, on which the whole matter depends. ... True faith justifies indeed, as it forms the sinner's relation to, and union with, Christ; but it always ‘works by love’, and influences to obedience: hence the inquiry at the day of judgment will be rather about the inseparable fruits of faith, than it is essential properties and nature. (Scott, p. 191)


            "When we speak to loose professors, we should always keep two things in view; either to get rid of such ensnaring and dishonourable companions, or to use proper means to convince them of their fatal mistake.  There is indeed more hope of the most ignorant and careless sinners than of them: yet ‘with God all things are possible’, and we should not despair of any, especially as the very same method is suited to both the ends proposed; which the subsequent discourse most clearly evinces. ... This is of great importance; for they are Achans in the camp of Israel, spots and blemishes to very company that countenances them.  Doctrinal or even practical discussions, if confined to general terms, will not startle them; they will mimic the language of experience, declaim against the wickedness of the world and the blindness of Pharisees, and strenuously oppose the opinions held by some rival sect or party; they will endure the most awful declarations of the wrath of God against the wicked, supposing themselves to be unconcerned in them; nay, they will admit that they are backsliders, or inconsistent believers.  But when the conversation or sermon compels them to complain, ‘in so saying thou condemnest us also’, they will bear no longer, but seek refuge under more comfortable preachers, or in more candid company; and represent their faithful monitors as censorious, peevish, and melancholy men. (Scott, p. 193)

            Spiritual knowledge, obtained by an implicit belief of God’s sure testimony under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, producing a hearty love of revealed truth, is always humbling, sanctifying, and transforming: but speculative knowledge is a mere notion of divine things, as distant from a man's own concern in them, or any due apprehension of their excellency and importance, which puffs up the heart with proud self-preference, feeds carnal and malignant passions, and leaves the possessor under the power of sin and Satan. (Scott, p. 195)

            It is seen to be true that Talkative has a heart which is a stranger to grace, for he has no love of or power to practice what he preaches.  True grace in the heart manifests itself in a godly life (obedience to the will of God), which brings glory to God.  when no remorse, only defensiveness, is shown when error exposed, we do well to heed the apostolic advice, “From such withdraw thyself.”  We do scandalous professors’ souls no good by accepting them and say, “See what a bunch of hypocrites these Christians are,” which brings disgrace on Christ’s bride, the church.  By withdrawing from such Talkatives, we refuse to help them continue to carry on their deception of themselves, thus leaving them to self-examination, which we hope will bring them to be ashamed of their inconsistencies and to seek Christ. (Bradley, p. 52)

            But of all the religiously-loquacious men of our day, your ministers are the chief.  For your ministers must talk in public, and that often and at great length, whether they are truly religious men at home or no.  It is their calling to talk to you unceasingly about religious matters.  You chose them to be your ministers because they could talk well.  You would not put up with a minister who could not talk well on religious things.  You estimate them by their talk.  You praise and pray them by their talk.  And if they are to live, talk incessantly to you about religion they must, and they do.  If any other man among us is not a religious man, well, then, he can at least hold his tongue.  There is no necessity laid on him to speak in public about things that he does not practise at home.  But we hard-bested ministers must go on speaking continually about the most solemn things.  And if we are not extraordinarily watchful over ourselves, and extraordinarily and increasingly conscientious, if we are not steadily growing in inwardness and insight and depth and real spirituality of mind and life ourselves, we cannot escape, - our calling in life will not let us escape, - becoming as sounding brass. ... [C]ontinually going over religion in talk and making fine pictures of it in the pulpit creates a professional insensibility to personal religion that is the everlasting ruin of multitudes of eloquent ministers.  That is true.  We ministers all feel that to be true.  Our miserable experience tells us that is only too true of ourselves.  What a flood of demoralizing talk has been poured out from the pulpits of this one city today! - demoralizing to preachers and to hearers both, because (they were) not intended to be put in practice.  How few of those who have talked and heard talk all this day about divine truth and human duty, have made the least be-ginning or the least resolve to live as they have spoken and heard!  And, yet, all will in words again admit that the soul of religion is the (practical) part, and that the tongue without the heart and the life is but death and corruption." (Whyte, p. 188-9)


notes taken from:

Bunyan Characters in the Pilgrim's Progress by Alexander Whyte, London:Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier, 1902.

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan with Explanatory Notes by Thomas Scott, Swengel, PA:Reiner Pub., 1976.

The Pilgrim’s Progress Study Guide by Maureen L. Bradley, Phillipsburg, NJ:P&R Pub. Co., 1994.


David G. Barker