Part 23 — Ignorance by John Bunyan audio
Then I slept, and dreamed again. I saw the same two Pilgrims going down the mountains along the highway towards the Celestial City. Now, a little below these mountains, on the left hand, lies the country of Conceit. From this country a little crooked lane enters the narrow way in which the Pilgrims were walking. Here they met with a very boisterous lad named Ignorance, who came out of that country. So Christian asked him where he came from — and where he was going.
IGNORANCE: “Sir, I was born in the country which lies yonder, a little on the left hand — and I am going to the Celestial City.”
CHRISTIAN: “You may find some difficulty there. How do you suppose that you will enter the gate of the Celestial City?”
IGNORANCE: “Just as other good people do.”
CHRISTIAN: “But what have you to show at that gate, which will allow you to enter there?”
IGNORANCE: “I know my Lord’s will, and have lived a good life. I pay every man his due. I pray, fast, pay tithes, and give alms. Also, I have left my country for the very purpose of going there.”
CHRISTIAN: “But you did not come in at the narrow-gate at the head of this way. You came into the way through that crooked lane. Therefore, I fear, however you may think of yourself — when the reckoning day shall come — that you will be charged with being a thief and a robber, rather than being admitted into the city.”
IGNORANCE: “Gentlemen, I do not know you, for you are utter strangers to me. You be content to follow the religion of your country — and I will follow the religion of mine. I trust that all will be well for each of us. And as for the narrow gate which you speak of — all the world knows that it is a great way off from our country. I do not think that any of my countrymen even know the way to it. Nor does it matter whether they do or not — since we have, as you see, a fine pleasant green lane, which comes down from our country into the way.”
When Christian saw that the man was wise in his own eyes, he whispered to Hopeful, “There is more hope for a fool, than for him! Even as he walks along the road, the fool lacks sense and demonstrates how foolish he is. Shall we talk with him more — or leave him to think about what he has already heard, and then afterwards see if we can help him any further?”
Then Hopeful answered,
“Let Ignorance a little while now muse,
On what is said, and let him not refuse
Good counsel to embrace, lest he remain,
Still ignorant of what’s the chief gain.
God says, those who no understanding have,
Although He made them — them He will not save.”
Hopeful further added, “I do not think that it is good to tell him everything at once. Let us pass him by and talk with him later — as he is able to bear it.”
So the two Pilgrims went on, and Ignorance followed after them.
When they had traveled a little way, they entered into a very dark lane, where they met a man whom seven devils had bound with seven strong cords, and were carrying him back to the door which they had seen on the side of the hill. Now good Christian began to tremble — and so did his companion Hopeful! As the devils carried the man away, Christian looked to see if he knew him — and he thought it might be Turn-away, who dwelt in the town of Apostasy. But he did not see his face perfectly, for the man hung his head like a thief who has been caught.
Once passed them, Hopeful looked at the man, and spotted a placard on his back with this inscription, “Debauched professor, and damnable apostate!”
Then Christian said to Hopeful, “Now I remember what was told to me about something which happened to a good man named Little-faith who dwelt in the town of Sincere. As Little-faith entered this dark passage, there came down from Broad-way Gate, an alley called Dead Man’s Lane — so called because of the many murders done there. This Little-faith, going on pilgrimage, just as we are, happened to sit down there, and fell asleep. Just at that time, three sturdy rogues, who were brothers, came down the lane from Broad-way Gate. Their names were Faint-heart, Mistrust, and Guilt. Spotting Little-faith asleep, they quickly ran up to him.
“Now Little-faith was just awakening from his sleep, and was about to resume his journey. So the rogues came up to him, and with threatening language ordered him to stand still. At this, Little-faith turned as white as a sheet, and had neither power to fight nor flee.
“Then Faint-heart demanded, ‘Hand over your purse!’
“But Little-faith did not do it — for he was reluctant to lose his money. Mistrust therefore ran up to him, and thrusting his hand into his pocket, pulled out a bag of silver.
“Then Little-faith cried out, ‘Thieves! Thieves!’
“With that, Guilt, with the large club in his hand, struck Little-faith on the head, knocking him flat to the ground! There he lay bleeding, as though he would bleed to death.
“All this while the thieves stood nearby. But hearing someone on the road, and fearing that it might be a man called Great-grace, who dwells in the city of Good-confidence — they fled and left Little-faith to fend for himself. Then, after a while, Little-faith revived, and getting up, attempted to continue on his way.”
HOPEFUL: “Did they take all of Little-faith’s money?”
CHRISTIAN: “No, they did not find the place where he kept his jewels — so those he still retained. But, as I was told, Little-faith was much afflicted by his loss, for the thieves got most of his spending-money. That which they did not get, were his jewels, and a little spare money — but these were scarcely enough to sustain him to his journey’s end. Nay, if I am not misinformed, he was forced to beg as he went, just to keep himself alive — for he would not sell his jewels. But begging, and doing whatever he could, he traveled with a hungry belly the rest of the way.”
HOPEFUL: “It is a wonder that they did not get his certificate from him — by which he would receive admittance at the Celestial Gate.”
CHRISTIAN: “Yes, it is a wonder — though they did not get it through any cleverness on his part. For he, being bewildered by their coming upon him so quickly — had neither power nor skill to hide anything. So it was more by good Providence, than by any wise endeavor on his part — that they did not rob him of his certificate.”
HOPEFUL: “But it must be a comfort to him, that they did not get his jewels.”
CHRISTIAN: “It might have been great comfort to him, had he used his jewels as he should have. Those who told me the story, said that he made but little use of them because he was so discouraged from being robbed of his money. Indeed, he forgot about his jewels for a great part of the rest of his journey. Whenever they came to his mind, and he began to be comforted with them — then fresh thoughts of his loss would again come upon him, and those thoughts would swallow up all comfort.”
HOPEFUL: “Alas! poor man. This must have been a great grief to him.”
CHRISTIAN: “Grief! Yes, a grief indeed. It would have been so to any of us — had we been robbed and wounded as he was — and that in a strange place! It is a wonder that he did not die from grief, poor heart! I was told that he traveled almost all the rest of the way with nothing but doleful and bitter complaints — telling to all who overtook him, or whom he overtook as he journeyed — where and how he was robbed; who they were that did it; what he lost; how he was wounded; and that he hardly escaped with his life!”
HOPEFUL: “But it is a wonder that his necessity did not make him sell or pawn some of his jewels — that he might have something to sustain him along his journey.”
CHRISTIAN: “You are talking childishly; for what could he pawn them for, or to whom could he sell them? In all that country where he was robbed, his jewels were not considered valuable; nor did he desire that kind of help which that country would offer. Besides, had his jewels been missing at the gate of the Celestial City, he knew that he would be excluded from an inheritance there — and that would have been worse to him than the villainy of ten thousand thieves!”
HOPEFUL: “Why are you so short with me, my brother? Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew — and that birthright was his greatest jewel. If he could do this — then why might not Little-faith also?”
CHRISTIAN: “Esau indeed sold his birthright, and so do many others besides — but by doing so, they exclude themselves from their chief blessing, as despicable Esau did. There are differences between Esau and Little-faith, and also between their conditions. Esau’s belly was his god — but not so with Little-faith. Esau’s desire was his fleshly appetite — but not so with Little-faith. Besides, Esau could see no further than the fulfilling of his lusts, and said, ‘Behold, I am at the point of death — what good can this birthright be to me?’ But Little-faith, though it was his lot to have but a little faith — was by his little faith kept from Esau’s base behavior. He prized his jewels, and would not consider selling them.
“You nowhere read that Esau had faith — no, not so much as a little. As he was controlled by his fleshly appetites, and had no faith to resist — it is no wonder that he sold his birthright, and his soul and all, and that to the devil of Hell. Like a wild donkey in heat, when people like Esau have their minds set upon their lusts — they are determined to have them whatever the cost.
But Little-faith was of another temperament — his mind was on divine things; his desire was for things that were spiritual, and from above. Even if there had been any who would have bought his jewels — he had no desire to sell them — only to fill his mind with trifles. Would a man give a penny — to fill his belly with hay? Could you persuade the turtle-dove — to live upon carrion like the crow? Though faithless ones can, for carnal lusts, pawn or sell what they have, and themselves to boot — yet those who have faith, saving faith, though but a little of it, cannot do so. Here, therefore, my brother, is your mistake.”
HOPEFUL: “I acknowledge it — but yet your severe admonition almost made me angry.”
CHRISTIAN: “If we only consider the matter under debate — then all shall be well between you and me.”
HOPEFUL: “But, Christian, I am persuaded in my heart that these three rogues who attacked Little-faith were but a company of cowards — for they ran away merely at the sound of someone coming on the road. Why did Little-faith not have more courage? I think he might have withstood one skirmish — and only have yielded when he could no longer resist them.”
CHRISTIAN: “Though many have said that these three rouges are cowards — few have been willing to actually resist them. As for courage, Little-faith had none; and I perceive that you, my brother, if you had been the man concerned — you think that you could have withstood a skirmish before yielding. And since this is the height of your courage, now that they are at a distance from us — should they appear to you now as they did to him then, you might have second thoughts!
“Consider again, they are but amateur thieves who serve under the king of the bottomless pit, whose voice is like that of a roaring lion — who will himself come to their aid, if need be.
“I myself have been assaulted just as Little-faith was — and I found it to be a terrible thing! These three villains assailed me, and as a Christian, I began to resist them. But they called out — and in came their evil master. I would, as the saying goes, have given my life for a penny — but as God would have it, I was clothed with armor. Yet, though I was so well arrayed, I found it hard work to stand firm and be courageous. No man can tell how strenuous that combat is — except he who has been in the battle himself.”
HOPEFUL: “Well, but they ran, you see — when they thought that Great-grace was coming.”
CHRISTIAN: “True, they have often fled, both they and their master, when Great-grace has but appeared — and no wonder, for he is the King’s Champion. But I trust that you will see some difference between Little-faith and the King’s Champion. All the King’s subjects are not His champions — nor can they, when tried, do such feats of war as Great-grace. Is it reasonable to think that a little child could handle Goliath, as David did — or that there should be the strength of an ox, in a bird? Some are strong — some are weak; some have great faith — some have little faith. Little-faith was one of the weak — and therefore he fared so poorly.”
HOPEFUL: “I wish it had been Great-grace, for their sakes.”
CHRISTIAN: “If it had been, he might have had his hands full; for I must tell you, that though Great-grace is excellent at his weapons, and has, and can, so long as he keeps them at sword’s point — do well enough with them; yet, if Faint-heart, Mistrust, or Guilt get within his heart — they will be able to throw him down. And when a man is down — what can he do?
“Whoever looks closely upon Great-grace’s face, shall see those scars and cuts there — which demonstrates what I am saying. Yes, I once heard that he would say, when he was in combat, ‘We despaired even of life!’
“How these sturdy rogues and their fellows made David groan and mourn! Yes, Heman and Hezekiah also, though champions in their day — were assaulted by these three rogues. Yet, notwithstanding, they had their coats soiled and torn by them. Peter also, whom some say that he is the prince of the apostles — thought that he could stand fast. But these rogues so handled him — that they even made him afraid of a poor maiden.
“Besides, their evil king is at their beck and call. When they whistle for him, he is never out of hearing. And if at any time they are being defeated, he will come in to help them. He esteems iron as straw — and brass as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee — and he turns sling stones into chaff. He counts darts as stubble — and he laughs at the shaking of a spear! What can a Pilgrim do in this case?
“But for such footmen as you and I are — let us never desire to meet with an enemy. Nor let us boast as if we could do better, when we hear of others who have been foiled; nor let us be proud of our own strength — for such overconfident fellows are commonly overcome when tried. Witness Peter, of whom I just mentioned. He would boast — yes, his vain mind prompted him to say that though all denied his Master, that he never would. But who has ever been so foiled by these villains, as Peter?
“When, therefore, we hear that such robberies are done on the King’s highway, there are two things that we should do:
“First, to go out with our armor on — and to be sure to take our shield with us. It is for lack of this, that many Pilgrims are foiled. Only the shield of faith can quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. If that is lacking, the wicked one does not fear us at all.
“Secondly, it is good, also, that we ask the King for a guide as we journey — yes, that He Himself would go with us. This made David rejoice when in the Valley of the Shadow of Death — and Moses would rather die where he stood, rather than to go one step without God. O my brother, if He will but go with us — then we will not be afraid of tens of thousands who set themselves against us. But, without Him, we will only stumble along, or lie among the dead.
“Previously I myself have been in the fray — and through the mercy of our good Master, I am still alive. Yet I cannot boast of having any courage. I would be glad to meet with no further attacks — though, I fear, we have not gotten beyond all danger. However, since the lion and the bear have not as yet devoured us — I trust God will also deliver us from the next uncircumcised Philistine.”
Then Christian sang:
“Poor Little-faith has been among the thieves,
Was robbed — remember this; whosoever believes
And gets more faith, shall then a victor be
Over ten thousand — otherwise not even three.”