'Look to yourselves,' wrote the apostle John to the elect lady and her children. Yes; let us all look sharply and suspiciously to ourselves in this matter now in hand, and we shall not need John Owen nor anybody else to discover to us the hatred and the hatefulness of our own hearts. Look to yourselves, and the work of the law will soon be fulfilled in you. Homo homini lupus, taught an old philosopher who had studied moral philosophy not in books so much as in his own heart. 'Is no man naturally good?' asked innocent Lady Macleod of Dunvegan Castle at her guest, Dr. Samuel Johnson. 'No, madam, no more than a wolf.' That is quite past all question with all those who either in natural morals or in revealed religion look to and know and characterise themselves. We have all an inborn propensity to dislike one another, and a very small provocation will suddenly blow that banked-up furnace into a flame. It is ever present with me, says self-examining Paul, and hence its so sudden and so destructive outbreaks. So the written or the printed name of our enemy, his image in our mind, his passing step, his figure out of the window; his wife, his child, his carriage, his cart in the street, anything, everything will stir up our heart at the man we do not like. And the whole of our so honest Bible, our present text, and the illustrations of our text in Judge Jeffreys' and Judge Hate-good's courts, all go to show that the better a man is the more sometimes will we hate him. Good men, better men than we are, men who in public life and in private life pursue great and good ends, of necessity cross and go counter to us in our pursuit of small, selfish, evil ends, and of necessity we hate them. For, cross a selfish sinner sufficiently and you have a very devil--as many good men, if they knew it, have in us. Again, good men who come into contact with us cannot help seeing our bad lives, our tempers, our selfishness, our public and private vices; and we see that they see us, and we cannot love those whose averted eye so goes to our conscience. And not only in the hatred of good men, but if you know of God how to watch yourselves, you will find yourselves out every day also in the hatred of good movements, good causes, good institutions, and good works. There are doctors who would far rather hear of their rival's patient expiring in his hands than hear their rival's success trumpeted through all the town. There are ministers, also, who would rather that the masses of the city and the country sank yet deeper into improvidence and drink and neglect of ordinances than that they were rescued by any other church than their own. They hate to hear of the successes of another church. There are party politicians who would rather that the ship of the state ran on the rocks both in her home and her foreign policy than that the opposite party should steer her amid a nation's cheers into harbour. And so of good news. I will stake the divine truth of this evening's Scriptures, and of their historical and imaginative illustrations, on the feelings, if you know how to observe, detect, characterise, and confess them,--the feelings, I say, that will rise in your heart to-morrow morning when you read what is good news to other men, even to good men, and to the families and family interests of good men. It does not matter one atom into what profession, office, occupation, interest you track the corrupt heart of man, as sure as a substance casts a shadow, so sure will you find your own selfish heart hating goodness when the goodness does not serve or flatter you.
Now, though they will never be many, yet there must be some men among us, one here and another there, who have so looked at and found out themselves. I can well believe that some men here came up to this house to-night trembling in their heart all the way. They felt the very advertisement go through them like a knife: they felt that they were summoned up hither almost by name as to judgment. For they feel every day, though they have never told their feelings to any, that they have this horrible heart deep- seated within them to love evil and to hate good. They gnash their teeth at themselves as they catch themselves rejoicing in iniquity. They feel their hearts expanding, and they know that their faces shine, when you tell them evil tidings. They sicken and lose heart and sit solitary when you carry to them a good report. They feel as John Bunyan felt, that no one but the devil can equal them in pollution of heart. And their wonder sometimes is that the Searcher of Hearts does not drive them down where devils dwell and hate God and man and one another. They look around them when the penitential psalm is being sung, and they smile bitterly to themselves. O people of God, they say, you do not know what you are saying. Leave that psalm to me. I can sing it. I can tell to God what He knows about sin, and about sin in the heart. Stand away back from me, that man says, for I am a leper. The chief of sinners is beside you. A whited sepulchre stands open beside you.- -Stop now, O hating and hateful man, and let me speak for a single moment before we separate. Before you say any more about yourself, and before you leave the house of God, lift up your broken heart and with all your might bless God that He has opened your eyes and taught you how to look at yourself and how to hate yourself. There are hundreds of honest Christian men and women in this house at this moment to whom God has not done as, in His free grace, He has done to you. For He has not only begun a good work in you, but He has begun that special and peculiar work which, when it goes on to perfection, makes a great and an eminent saint of God. To know your own heart as you evidently know it, and to hate it as you say you hate it, and to hunger after a clean heart as, with every breath, you hunger,--all that, if you would only believe it, sets you, or will yet set you, high up among the people of God. Be comforted; it is your bounden duty to be comforted. God deserves it at your hands that you be more than comforted amid such unmistakable signs of His eminent grace to you. And be patient under your exceptional sanctification. Rome was not built in a day. You cannot reverse the awful law of your sanctification. You cannot be saved by Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit without seeing yourself, and you cannot see yourself without hating yourself, and you cannot begin to hate yourself without all your hatred henceforth turning against yourself. You are deep in the red-hot bosom of the refiner's fire. And when you are once sufficiently tried by the Divine Refiner of Souls, He will in His own good time and way bring you out as gold. Be patient, therefore, till the coming of the Lord. And say continually amid all your increasing knowledge of yourself, and amid all your increasing hatred of yourself, 'As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness.'
'Be thou faithful.'--Rev. 2. 10.
The breadth of John Bunyan's mind, the largeness of his heart, and the tolerance of his temper all come excellently out in his fine portrait of Faithful. New beginners in personal religion, when they first take up The Pilgrim's Progress in earnest, always try to find out something in themselves that shall somewhat correspond to the recorded experience of Christian, the chief pilgrim. And they are afraid that all is not right with them unless they, like him, have had, to begin with, a heavy burden on their back. They look for something in their religious life that shall answer to the Slough of Despond also, to the Hill Difficulty, to the House Beautiful, and, especially and indispensably, to the place somewhat ascending with a cross upon it and an open sepulchre beneath it. And because they cannot always find all these things in themselves in the exact order and in the full power in which they are told of Christian in Bunyan's book, they begin to have doubts about themselves as to whether they are true pilgrims at all. But here is Faithful, with whom Christian held such sweet and confidential discourse, and yet he had come through not a single one of all these things. The two pilgrims had come from the same City of Destruction indeed, and they had met at the gate of Vanity and passed through Vanity Fair together, but, till they embraced one another again in the Celestial City, that was absolutely all the experience they had in common. Faithful had never had any such burden on his back as that was which had for so long crushed Christian to the earth. And the all but complete absence of such a burden may have helped to let Faithful get over the Slough of Despond dry shod. He had the good lot to escape Sinai also and the Hill Difficulty, and his passing by the House Beautiful and not making the acquaintance of Discretion and Prudence and Charity may have had something to do with the fact that one named Wanton had like to have done him such a mischief. His remarkable experiences, however, with Adam the First, with Moses, and then with the Man with holes in His hands, all that makes up a page in Faithful's autobiography we could ill have spared. His encounter with Shame also, and soon afterwards with Talkative, are classical passages in his so individual history. Altogether, it would be almost impossible for us to imagine two pilgrims talking so heartily together, and yet so completely unlike one another. A very important lesson surely as to how we should abstain from measuring other men by ourselves, as well as ourselves by other men; an excellent lesson also as to how we should learn to allow for all possible varieties among good men, both in their opinions, their experiences, and their attainments. True Puritan as the author of The Pilgrim's Progress is, he is no Procrustes. He does not cut down all his pilgrims to one size, nor does he clip them all into one pattern. They are all thinking men, but they are not all men of one way of thinking. John Bunyan is as fresh as Nature herself, and as free and full as Holy Scripture herself in the variety, in the individuality, and even in the idiosyncrasy of his spiritual portrait gallery.
Vanity Fair is one of John Bunyan's universally-admitted masterpieces. The very name of the fair is one of his happiest strokes. Thackeray's famous book owes half its popularity to the happy name he borrowed from John Bunyan. Thackeray's author's heart must have leaped in his bosom when Vanity Fair struck him as a title for his great satire. 'Then I saw in my dream that when they were got out of the wilderness they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is Vanity, and at that town there is a fair kept called Vanity Fair. The fair is kept all the year long, and it beareth the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter than Vanity. And, also, because all that is sold there is vanity. As is the saying of the wise, All that cometh is vanity. The fair is no new erected business, but a thing of ancient standing: I will show you the original of it. About five thousand years ago there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City, as these two honest persons now are, and Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, with their companions, perceiving that by the path that the pilgrims made, that their way to the city lay through this town of Vanity, they contrived there to set up a fair: a fair wherein should be sold all sorts of vanity, and that it should last all the year long. Therefore at this fair are all such merchandise sold as houses, lands, trades, places, honours, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, pleasures, and delights of all sorts, as wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, precious stones, and what not. And, moreover, at this fair at all times there is to be seen juggling, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind.' And then our author goes on to tell us the names of the various streets and rows where such and such wares are vended. And from that again he goes on to tell how the Prince of princes Himself went at one time through this same fair, and that upon a fair day too, and how the lord of the fair himself came and took Him from street to street to try to get Him induced to cheapen and buy some of the vain merchandise. But as it turned out He had no mind to the merchandise in question, and He therefore passed through the town without laying out so much as one farthing upon its vanities. The fair, therefore, you will see, is of long standing and a very great fair. Now, our two pilgrims had heard of all that, they remembered also what Evangelist had told them about the fair, and so they buttoned up their pockets and pushed through the booths in the hope of getting out at the upper gate before any one had time to speak to them. But that was not possible, for they were soon set upon by the men of the fair, who cried after them: 'Hail, strangers, look here, what will you buy?' 'We buy the truth only,' said Faithful, 'and we do not see any of that article of merchandise set out on any of your stalls.' And from that began a hubbub that ended in a riot, and the riot in the apprehension and shutting up in a public cage of the two innocent pilgrims. Lord Hate-good was the judge on the bench of Vanity in the day of their trial, and the three witnesses who appeared in the witness-box against the two prisoners were Envy, Superstition, and Pickthank. The twelve jurymen who sat on their case were Mr. Blindman, Mr. No- good, Mr. Malice, Mr. Love-lust, Mr. Live-loose, Mr. Heady, Mr. High-mind, Mr. Enmity, Mr. Liar, Mr. Cruelty, Mr. Hate-light, and Mr. Implacable,--Mr. Blindman to be the foreman. And it was before these men that Faithful was brought forth to his trial in order to his condemnation. And very soon after his trial Faithful came to his end. 'Now I saw that there stood behind the multitude a chariot and a couple of horses waiting for Faithful, who (so soon as his adversaries had despatched him) was taken up into it, and straightway was carried up through the clouds, with sound of trumpet, the nearest way to the Celestial gate.'
Now, I cannot tell you how it was, I cannot account for it to myself, but it is nevertheless absolutely true that as I was reading my author last week and was meditating my present exposition, it came somehow into my mind, and I could not get it out of my mind, that there is a great and a close similarity between John Bunyan's Vanity Fair and a general election. And, all I could do to keep the whole thing out of my mind, one similarity after another would leap up into my mind and would not be put out of it. I protest that I did not go out to seek for such similarities, but the more I frowned on them the thicker they came. And then the further question arose as to whether I should write them down or no; and then much more, as to whether I should set them out before my people or no. As you will easily believe, I was immediately in a real strait as to what I should do. I saw on the one side what would be sure to be said by ill-natured people and people of a hasty judgment. And I saw with much more anxiety what would be felt even when they restrained themselves from saying it by timid and cautious and scrupulous people. I had the full fear of all such judges before my eyes; but, somehow, something kept this before my eyes also, that, as Evangelist met the two pilgrims just as they were entering the fair, so, for anything I knew to the contrary, it might be of God, that I also, in my own way, should warn my people of the real and special danger that their souls will be in for the next fortnight. And as I thought of it a procession of people passed before me all bearing to this day the stains and scars they had taken on their hearts and their lives and their characters at former general elections. And, like Evangelist, I felt a divine desire taking possession of me to do all I could to pull my people out of gun-shot of the devil at this election. And, then, when I read again how both the pilgrims thanked Evangelist for his exhortation, and told him withal that they would have him speak further to them about the dangers of the way, I said at last to myself, that the thanks of one true Christian saved in anything and in any measure from the gun of the devil are far more to be attended to by a minister than the blame and the neglect of a hundred who do not know their hour of temptation and will not be told it. And so I took my pen and set down some similarities between Vanity Fair and the approaching election, with some lessons to those who are not altogether beyond being taught.
Well, then, in the first place, the only way to the Celestial City ran through Vanity Fair; by no possibility could the advancing pilgrims escape the temptations and the dangers of the fatal fair. He that will go to the Celestial City and yet not go through Vanity Fair must needs go out of the world. And so it is with the temptations and trials of the next ten days. We cannot get past them. They are laid down right across our way. And to many men now in this house the next ten days will be a time of simply terrible temptation. If I had been quite sure that all my people saw that and felt that, I would not have introduced here to-night what some of them, judging too hastily, will certainly call this so secular and unseemly subject. But I am so afraid that many not untrue, and in other things most earnest men amongst us, do not yet know sufficiently the weakness and the evil of their own hearts, that I wish much, if they will allow me, to put them on their guard. ''Tis hard,' said Contrite, who was a householder and had a vote in the town of Vanity, ''tis hard keeping our hearts and our spirits in any good order when we are in a cumbered condition. And you may be sure that we are full of hurry at fair-time. He that lives in such a place as this is, and that has to do with such as we have to do with, has need of an item to caution him to take heed every hour of the day.' Now, if all my people, and all this day's communicants, were only contrite enough, I would leave them to the hurry of the approaching election with much more comfort. But as it is, I wish to give them such an item as I am able to caution them for the next ten days. Let them know, then, that their way for the next fortnight lies, I will not say through a fair of jugglings and cheatings, carried on by apes and knaves, but, to speak without figure, their way certainly lies through what will be to many of them a season of the greatest temptation to the very worst of all possible sins--to anger and bitterness and ill-will; to no end of evil-thinking and evil-speaking; to the breaking up of life-long friendships; and to widespread and lasting damage to the cause of Christ, which is the cause of truth and love, meekness and a heavenly mind. Now, amid all that, as Evangelist said to the two pilgrims, look well to your own hearts. Let none of all these evil things enter your heart from the outside, and let none of all these evil things come out of your hearts from the inside. Set your faces like a flint from the beginning against all evil-speaking and evil-thinking. Let your own election to the kingdom of heaven be always before you, and walk worthy of it; and amid all the hurry of things seen and temporal, believe steadfastly concerning the things that are eternal, and walk worthy of them.
'We buy the truth and we sell it not again for anything,' was the reply of the two pilgrims to every stall-keeper as they passed up the fair, and this it was that made them to be so hated and hunted down by the men of the fair. And, in like manner, there is nothing more difficult to get hold of at an election time than just the very truth. All the truth on any question is not very likely to be found put forward in the programme of any man or any party, and, even if it were, a general election is not the best time for you to find it out. 'I design the search after truth to be the one business of my life,' wrote the future Bishop Butler at the age of twenty-one. And whether you are to be a member of Parliament or a silent voter for a member of Parliament, you, too, must love truth and search for her as for hid treasure from your youth up. You must search for all kinds of truth,--historical, political, scientific, and religious,--with much reading, much observation, and much reflection. And those who have searched longest and dug deepest will always be found to be the most temperate, patient, and forbearing with those who have not yet found the truth. I do not know who first said it, but he was a true disciple of Socrates and Plato who first said it. 'Plato,' he said, 'is my friend, and Socrates is my friend, but the truth is much more my friend.' There is a thrill of enthusiasm, admiration and hope that goes through the whole country and comes down out of history as often as we hear or read of some public man parting with all his own past, as well as with all his leaders and patrons and allies and colleagues in the present, and taking his solitary way out after the truth. Many may call that man Quixotic, visionary, unpractical, imprudent, and he may be all that and more, but to follow conscience and the love of truth even when they are for the time leading him wrong is noble, and is every way far better both for himself and for the cause he serves, than if he were always found following his leaders loyally and even walking in the way of righteousness with the love of self and the love of party at bottom ruling his heart. How healthful and how refreshing at an election time it is to hear a speech replete with the love of the truth, full knowledge of the subject, and with the dignity, the good temper, the respect for opponents, and the love of fair play that full knowledge of the whole subject is so well fitted to bring with it! And next to hearing such a speaker is the pleasure of meeting such a hearer or such a reader at such a time. Now, I want such readers and such hearers, if not such speakers, to be found all the next fortnight among my office-bearers and my people. Be sure you say to some of your political opponents something like this:- 'I do not profess to read all the speeches that fill the papers at present. I do not read all the utterances made even on my own side, and much less all the utterances made on your side. But there is one of your speakers I always read, and I almost always find him instructive and impressive, a gentleman, if not a Christian. He is fair, temperate, frank, bold, and independent; and, to my mind at least, he always throws light on these so perplexing questions.' Now, if you have the intelligence and the integrity and the fair-mindedness to say something like that to a member of the opposite party you have poured oil on the waters of party; nay, you are in that a wily politician, for you have almost, just in saying that, won over your friend to your own side. So noble is the love of truth, and so potent is the high-principled pursuit and the fearless proclamation of the truth.