Chr. Take my advice, and do as I bid you; and you shall find that he will soon be sick of your company too–except God shall touch his heart and turn it.
Faith. What would you have me to do?
Chr. Why, go to him, and enter into some serious discourse about the power of religion; and ask him plainly (when he has approved of it, for that he will) whether this thing be set up in his heart, house or conversation.
Faith. Then FAITHFUL stepped forward again, and said to TALKATIVE: “Come, what cheer? how is it now?”
Talk. Thank you, well. I thought we should have had a great deal of talk by this time.
Faith. Well, if you will, we will fall to it now; and since you left it with me to state the question, let it be this: How doth the saving grace of God discover itself, when it is in the heart of man?
Talk. I perceive, then, that our talk must be about the power of things; well, ’tis a very good question, and I shall be willing to answer you. And take my answer in brief, thus: First, Where the grace of God is in the heart, it causes there a great outcry against sin. Secondly–
Faith. Nay, hold; let us consider of one at once: I think you should rather say, it shows itself by inclining the soul to abhor its sin.
Talk. Why, what difference is there between crying out against, and abhorring of, sin?
Faith. 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, and 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. Some cry out against sin, even as the mother cries out against her child in her lap; when she calls it “slut” and “naughty girl,” and then falls to hugging and kissing it.
Talk. You lie at the catch, I perceive.
Faith. No, not I; I am only for setting things right. But what is the second thing whereby you would prove a discovery of a work of grace in the heart?
Talk. Great knowledge of Gospel mysteries.
Faith. This sign should have been first; but first or last, it is also false: for knowledge, great knowledge, may be obtained in the mysteries of the Gospel, and yet no work of grace in the soul. Yea, if a man have all knowledge, he may yet be nothing; and so consequently be no child of God. When Christ said, Do you know all these things? and the disciples had answered, Yes: he added, Blessed are ye if ye do them! He doth not lay the blessing in the knowing of them; but in the doing of them. For there is a knowledge that is not attended with doing: “he that knows his Master’s will, and does it not.” A man may know like an angel, and yet be no Christian; therefore your sign of it is not true. Indeed, to know is a thing that pleases talkers and boasters; but to do is that which pleases God. Not that the heart can be good without knowledge; for without that the heart is naught: there is, therefore, knowledge and knowledge. Knowledge that rests in the bare speculation of things; and knowledge that is accompanied with the grace of faith and love, which puts a man upon doing even the will of God from the heart: the first of these will serve the talker; but without the other the true Christian is not content. “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart”.
Talk. You lie at the catch again; this is not for edification.
Faith. Well, if you please, propound another sign how this work of grace discovers itself where it is.
Talk. Not I; for I see we shall not agree.
Faith. Well, if you will not, will you give me leave to do it?
Talk. You may use your liberty.
Faith. A work of grace in the soul discovers itself either to him that hath it, or to standers by. To him that hath it, thus: it gives him conviction of sin, especially of the defilement of his nature, and the sin of unbelief–for the sake of which he is sure to be damned, if he finds not mercy at God’s hand by faith in Jesus Christ. This sight and sense of things works in him sorrow and shame for sin; he finds moreover revealed in him the Saviour of the world, and the absolute necessity of closing with him for life; at the which he finds hungerings and thirstings after him, to which hungerings, etc., the promise is made. Now, according to the strength or weakness of his faith in his Saviour, so is his joy and peace; so is his love to holiness; so are his desires to know him more; and also to serve him in this world. But though I say it discovers itself thus unto him, yet it is but seldom that he is able to conclude that this is a work of grace; because his corruptions now, and his abused reason, make his mind to misjudge in this matter: therefore in him that hath this work there is required a very sound judgment, before he can with steadiness conclude that this is a work of grace. To others it is thus discovered:
1. By an experimental confession of his faith in Christ. 2. By a life answerable to that confession: to wit, a life of holiness– heart holiness, family holiness (if he hath a family), and by conversation holiness in the world; which in the general teaches him inwardly to abhor his sin, and himself for that, in secret; to suppress it in his family; and to promote holiness in the world–not by talk only, as a hypocrite or talkative person may do, but by a practical subjection in faith and love to the power of the Word. And now, sir, as to this brief description of the work of grace, and also the discovery of it, if you have ought to object, object; if not, then give me leave to propound to you a second question.
Talk. Nay, my part is not now to object, but to hear; let me, therefore, have your second question.
Faith. It is this: Do you experience the first part of this description of it? and doth your life and conversation testify the same? Or standeth your religion in word or in tongue, and not in deed and truth? Pray, if you incline to answer me in this, say no more than you know the God above will say Amen to; and also nothing but what your conscience can justify you in: for not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. Besides, to say I am thus and thus, when my conversation and all my neighbours tell me I lie, is great wickedness.
Talk. Then TALKATIVE at first began to blush; but recovering himself, thus he replied: “You come now to experience, to conscience, and God; and to appeal to him for justification of what is spoken. This kind of discourse I did not expect, nor am I disposed to give an answer to such questions; because I count not myself bound thereto, unless you take upon you to be a catechiser; and though you should so do, yet I may refuse to make you my judge. But I pray, will you tell me why you ask me such questions?
Faith. Because I saw you forward to talk, and because I knew not that you had aught else but notion. Besides, to tell you all the truth, I have heard of you, that you are a man whose religion lies in talk; and that your conversation gives this your mouth-profession the lie. They say you are a spot among Christians; and that religion fares the worse for your ungodly conversation; that some already have stumbled at your wicked ways, and that more are in danger of being destroyed thereby. Your religion, and an ale house, and covetousness, and uncleanness, and swearing, and lying, and vain company keeping, etc., will stand together. The proverb is true of you which is said of a whore, to wit, that “she is a shame to all women”: so you are a shame to all professors.
Talk. Since you are ready to take up reports, and to judge so rashly as you do, I cannot but conclude you are some peevish or melancholy man, not fit to be discoursed with: and so adieu!
Chr. Then came up CHRISTIAN, and said to his brother, “I told you how it would happen: your words and his lusts could not agree; he had rather leave your company than reform his life. But he is gone–as I said: let him go; the loss is no man’s but his own. He has saved us the trouble of going from him; for he continuing–as I suppose he will do–as he is, he would have been but a blot in our company; besides, the Apostle says, “From such withdraw thyself.”
Faith. But I am glad we had this little discourse with him; it may happen that he will think of it again: however, I have dealt plainly with him, and so am clear of his blood if he perish.
Then did FAITHFUL say:
“How TALKATIVE at first lifts up his plumes!
How bravely doth he speak! how he presumes
To drive down all before him! but so soon
As FAITHFUL talks of heart-work, like the moon
That’s past the full, into the wave he goes;
And so will all but he that heart-work knows.”
Thus they went on talking of what they had seen by the way; and so made that way easy, which would otherwise no doubt have been tedious to them, for now they went through a wilderness.