Having passed through the Valleys of Humiliation and the Shadow of Death, Christian’s journey marches onward. On this leg of his travels, we have two distinct parts. First, Christian begins to walk with Faithful and hears of his pilgrimage thus far. Second, Faithful has a dialogue with another traveler named Talkative.
In a great change of pace to what we are so far used to within Bunyan’s allegory, Christian finally encounters a fellow pilgrim who is travelling down the Way beside him. Of course, he has had the help of Evangelist, Help, and those in the House Beautiful, but the other travelers that he has met along the King’s path have proved themselves not to be true believers. He now meets a Pilgrim called Faithful, who was mentioned to Christian back in the House Beautiful (59).
Their actual meeting is worth noting. While running to catch up with Faithful, Christian briefly ran by him, and taking pride in himself, Christian promptly fell to the ground. Yet rather than mocking Christian, Faithful helped his fellow pilgrim to his feet, and the two went on their way together. Within this short paragraph, we have a vivid picture of how companionship in the Christian life so often looks like or, at least, should look like. Although Paul referred to this life as a race, he meant a race of endurance that is won by crossing the finish line. Sadly, we often treat it as a speed race, where we take pride in passing by our brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christian did. But as Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughty spirit before a fall.” Thankfully, God uses such stumbles as Christian had to discipline his children, to reveal their pride to them, and by the Lord’s providence, it is often those who we delighted to run by that are the very ones who help us back to our feet.
As Christian and Faithful set forth, they begin to speak largely of Faithful’s journey up to that point. Before we comment on a few points of Faithful’s narrative, we note that overall Bunyan is displaying to us how differently each pilgrim’s journey will be, though we each travel the same path. Christian slipped into Despond, but Faithful passed through without incident. Faithful met with Wanton, Adam the First, Moses, Discontent, and Shame, all of whom Christian did not encounter. The path for all believers is the same, yet the trials and temptations will vary for each of us. As Christian does with Faithful, let us always give brotherly encouragement and support to those who meet different obstacles than we have faced.
We first learn from Faithful more of what happened to Pliable after he returned to the City of Destruction, namely, that he is now held in derision by his neighbors, who deride him for forsaking his profession. Especially given today’s talk about Christian “deconstructions,” we should keep in mind the proverb that Pliable became. Many deconstructions away from Christianity are premised upon becoming more palatable to the world, especially when it comes to sexual ethics. Yet even if the world may applaud for a moment, it will ultimately hold them in derision, for that it what it inevitably does to its own.
Next, he recounted his interaction with Wanton, who is the Adulteress from Proverbs 5-7. Like Potiphar’s wife Joseph, she attempted to entice Faithful into turning aside to her, yet Faithful shut his eyes and fled, reminding himself that “her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol” (Proverbs 5:5). Like the Adulteress in Proverbs, Bunyan means for this to be sexual lust personified, and through Faithful, he displays the Bible’s counsel for resisting such temptation: look away, go away, and remember that death is on the other end of the fleeting pleasure.
Next, Faithful describes his encounter with Adam the First. The imagery that Bunyan displays here is among my favorite in the entire book, for he is giving an allegorical picture of our wrestling with our old self, the one that has been crucified with Christ. In the allegory, our old man is a literal Old Man tempting Faithful to work for him and receive the bounties of his house, including marrying his three daughters: The Lust of the Flesh, The Lust of the Eyes, and The Pride of Life. And even as Faithful put off the old man and broke away from him, Adam the First grabbed at him from behind. So, it very often is with our battle against our flesh, against the self that is daily being put to death, even as we turn away it gives one last desperate tug.
Soon after this, Faithful recounted that another man caught up to him and began to beat him nearly to death because of his “secret inclining to Adam the First” (79). Death would have come had not another man pass by and stop the beating. Faithful explains that the first man was Moses (of course, representing the Law) and the second man was the Lord. Again, this is often the pattern that follows a temptation of the flesh. When in the guilt of sin, the Law is of no use. Because it reveals and convicts us of sin, one can easily feel as pummeled by the law as Faithful was. Indeed, we all deserve to be beaten to death by the law, but thanks be to God that Christ intervenes on our behalf! Just as He is able to silence the accusations of the Accuser, so is He able to answer our own conscience’s sometimes unrelenting condemnation.
Next, Christian asks Faithful about his experience within the Valley of Humility. As a side note, I have to think that the change of name is no mistake on Bunyan’s part. Going down into the valley, it was called humiliation, which evokes a quite negative connotation. Yet having passed through, he now calls it the Valley of Humility, which is decidedly positive. Humiliation is never thought well of, but it is often used by God to produce humility, which is a virtue toward which God gives grace.
Faithful met with two men in that valley: Discontent and Shame. Both sought to lead him away from the King’s path. Of the two, Shame proved the more difficult. Discontent argued how Faithful’s friends and relations (Pride, Arrogancy, Self-Conceit, and Worldly-Glory) would all be offended by him. Faithful then dismissed him with the argument that being honored by God was far greater than the honor of anyone else. Shame, however, was not as easily beat back. Indeed, as Faithful noted, Shame was rather shameless in his dogged attempt to dissuade Faithful. The arguments about the shamefulness of the faith on page 81 are still most relevant within our increasingly post-Christian society. Indeed, we must continue to steel ourselves against the jeers like, “You don’t ‘really’ believe that nonsense, do you?” Christian was right to conclude:
I am glad, my Brother, that thou didst withstand this villain so bravely; for of all, as thou sayest, I think he has the wrong name; for he is so bold as to follow us in the streets, and to attempt to put us to shame before all men, that is, to make us ashamed of that which is Good; but if he was not himself audacious, he would never attempt to do as he does; but let us still resist him; for notwithstanding all his bravado’s, he promoteth the Fool, and none else. The Wise shall inherit Glory, said Solomon; but Shame shall be the promotion of Fools.83
A Talk with Talkative
Having thus come up to speed with one another, Christian and Faithful find another pilgrim making his way along the path named Talkative. This section breaks down into three parts: Faithful is impressed by Talkative, Christian explains who Talkative is, and Faithful exposes Talkative as being all talk.
Although his name and Bunyan’s description that he was “more comely at a distance, than at hand” (84) tell us from the beginning what kind of man this is, Talkative’s initial dialogue with Faithful should rightly have our ears perked up, for much of what he says is more or less accurate. However, Faithful fails to see that he and Talkative are not quite speaking about the same things. For instance, Talkative laments that “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” (84).
Faithful then answers: “That is indeed a thing to be lamented; for what thing so worthy of the use of the tongue and mouth of men on Earth, as are the things of the God of Heaven” (84)?
Do you see what happened? Faithful assumed that Talkative meant heavenly profit, yet as the conversation continues, we see that Talkative apparently means that talk is profitable so long as it is interesting and entertaining. For he is ready and willing to talk about anything at all “provided that all be done to our Profit” (86).
Enamored with his new companion, Faithful returns to Christian to commend Talkative; however, Christian surprises Faithful with knowledge of who Talkative is, the report being quite negative. The summary is that Talkative is all talk but no action. He has much knowledge of the faith yet puts none of it to practice. Indeed, he will speak to anyone of anything so long as it interests him. The initial description of Talkative was quite true. He looked much more pleasing from a distance. Surely, we have all had acquaintance with such people who seemed so wise and wonderful, until we grew closer to them and saw them as they really are.
We should also note how exactly Christian relates all of these things to Faithful, for such talk can so easily be classified as slander or gossip. Yet Christian is careful to avoid both charges since he speaks upon his own knowledge of Talkative, not from mere hearsay. Any talk of another person that begins with “well, I heard…” ought not to leave our lips. Christian is merely reporting what he knows and has seen of Talkative. Furthermore, he shares these things with Faithful in order that he would not be deceived.
Indeed, as Faithful returns to speak more with Talkative, he now has a subject in mind that will prove Christian’s report to be either true or false. This topic was the Power of Religion, which Talkative noticeably calls the Power of Things, a word that is as murky as his religion. The question of the conversation is: how is Saving Grace shown in a man’s heart?
Talkative first answers that “it causeth there a great Outcry against Sin.” Yet Faithful answers that that is not quite right. It creates an abhorrence of sin. What’s the difference, asks Talkative.
Oh! a great deal: A man may cry out against Sin, of Policy, but he cannot abhor it but by virtue of a godly antipathy against it. I have heard many cry out against Sin in the Pulpit, who yet can abide it well enough in the Heart, House, and Conversation. Joseph’s Mistress cried out with a loud voice, as if she had been very holy; but she would willingly, notwithstanding that, have committed uncleanness with him.91
Notice how untalkative Talkative becomes during this conversation. Nearly all of his answers to Faithful are a single, short sentence, and twice he accuses Faithful of merely trying to trap him (“you lie at the Catch”, p. 92). Indeed, after Faithful corrects Talkative’s second evidence of saving grace within the heart by saying that knowledge along is not sufficient. Talkative complains, “this is not for edification” (92). If we have not already been convinced, here we discover that Talkative is a fool, for he is being given correction, yet he will have none of it. Proverbs 1:7 tells us that “fools despise wisdom and instruction,” and he shows himself to despise instruction.
After then discussing the necessity of holiness in the Christian life, Faithful puts the question to Talkative of whether his religion is of word and tongue or word and deed. This pointed talk quickly sees Talkative bidding Adieu to Faithful. Such a frank dealing is necessary with the talkatives of the world. Indeed, there is a subtle strand of talkativeness that it is quite common among secularists and secular-influenced Christians. It is the tendency to speak only of big-picture problems but never of immediate solutions.
A perfect example is climate change. There are plenty who will cry out for the government and big corporations to do something about the “destruction of the earth,” yet how many actually make personal sacrifices to curb their own pollution?
Or perhaps there are Christians who only think of evangelism and outreach in terms of programs and organizations. They may be quite bold about the impact that the church should be having upon the community. But if they are asked about befriending and caring for the widow next door to them and they shuffle their feet and make excuses, are they not being a kind of talkative?
The best way to answer such persons is with the question: “and you?” And as Talkative is an example of, this should be most certain when it comes to Nominal Christians (those who are Christian in name alone, not in deed). Christian is right to conclude:
I wish that all men would deal with such, as you have done; then should they either be made more comfortable to Religion, or the company of Saints would be too hot for them.96
Yet I will conclude with a word of counsel from George Offer before anyone sets out on the hunt for talkatives: “Reader, be careful not to judge harshly, or despise a real believer, who is blessed with fluency of utterance on Divine subjects.” Or to put it another way, do not assume that someone is a talkative simply because they are good at talking.
 The Works of John Bunyan Vol III, 120.