1.5.6 Ignorance again
From John Bunyan's classic The Pilgrim's Progress, Part I, Section 5, Step 6.
I saw then in my dream, that Hopeful looked back, and saw Ignorance, whom they had left behind, coming after. Look, said he to Christian, how far yonder youngster loitereth behind.
Christian: Aye, aye, I see him: he careth not for our company.
Hopeful: But I trow it would not have hurt him, had he kept pace with us hitherto.
Christian: That is true; but I warrant you he thinketh otherwise.
Hopeful: That I think he doth; but, however, let us tarry for him. (So they did).
Then Christian said to him, Come away, man; why do you stay so behind?
Ignorance: I take my pleasure in walking alone, even more a great deal than in company, unless I like it the better.
Then said Christian to Hopeful, (but softly,) Did I not tell you he cared not for our company? But, however, said he, come up, and let us talk away the time in this solitary place. Then, directing his speech to Ignorance, he said, Come, how do you do? How stands it between God and your soul now?
Ignorance: I hope, well; for I am always full of good motions, that come into my mind to comfort me as I walk.
Christian: What good motions? Pray tell us.
Ignorance: Why, I think of God and heaven.
Christian: So do the devils and damned souls.
Ignorance: But I think of them, and desire them.
Christian: So do many that are never like to come there. "The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing" (Prov. 13:4).
Ignorance: But I think of them, and leave all for them.
Christian: That I doubt: for to leave all is a very hard matter; yea, a harder matter than many are aware of. But why, or by what, art thou persuaded that thou hast left all for God and heaven?
Ignorance: My heart tells me so.
Christian: The wise man says, "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool" (Prov. 28:26).
Ignorance: That is spoken of an evil heart; but mine is a good one.
Christian: But how dost thou prove that?
Ignorance: It comforts me in hopes of heaven.
Christian: That may be through its deceitfulness; for a man's heart may minister comfort to him in the hopes of that thing for which he has yet no ground to hope.
Ignorance: But my heart and life agree together; and therefore my hope is well-grounded.
Christian: Who told thee that thy heart and life agree together?
Ignorance: My heart tells me so.
Christian: "Ask my fellow if I be a thief." Thy heart tells thee so! Except the word of God beareth witness in this matter, other testimony is of no value.
Ignorance: But is it not a good heart that hath good thoughts? and is not that a good life that is according to God's commandments?
Christian: Yes, that is a good heart that hath good thoughts, and that is a good life that is according to God's commandments; but it is one thing indeed to have these, and another thing only to think so.
Ignorance: Pray, what count you good thoughts, and a life according to God's commandments?
Christian: There are good thoughts of divers kinds; some respecting ourselves, some God, some Christ, and some other things.
Ignorance: What be good thoughts respecting ourselves?
Christian: Such as agree with the word of God.
Ignorance: When do our thoughts of ourselves agree with the word of God?
Christian: When we pass the same judgment upon ourselves which the word passes. To explain myself: the word of God saith of persons in a natural condition, "There is none righteous, there is none that doeth good." It saith also, that, "every imagination of the heart of man is only evil, and that continually" (Gen. 6:5; Rom. 3). And again, "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen. 8:21). Now, then, when we think thus of ourselves, having sense thereof, then are our thoughts good ones, because according to the word of God.
Ignorance: I will never believe that my heart is thus bad.
Christian: Therefore thou never hadst one good thought concerning thyself in thy life. But let me go on. As the word passeth a judgment upon our hearts, so it passeth a judgment upon our ways; and when the thoughts of our hearts and ways agree with the judgment which the word giveth of both, then are both good, because agreeing thereto.
Ignorance: Make out your meaning.
Christian: Why, the word of God saith, that man's ways are crooked ways, not good but perverse; it saith, they are naturally out of the good way, that they have not known it. (Ps. 125:5; Prov. 2:15; Rom. 3:12). Now, when a man thus thinketh of his ways, I say, when he doth sensibly, and with heart-humiliation, thus think, then hath he good thoughts of his own ways, because his thoughts now agree with the judgment of the word of God.
Ignorance: What are good thoughts concerning God?
Christian: Even, as I have said concerning ourselves, when our thoughts of God do agree with what the word saith of him; and that is, when we think of his being and attributes as the word hath taught, of which I cannot now discourse at large. But to speak of him with reference to us: then have we right thoughts of God when we think that he knows us better than we know ourselves, and can see sin in us when and where we can see none in ourselves; when we think he knows our inmost thoughts, and that our heart, with all its depths, is always open unto his eyes; also when we think that all our righteousness stinks in his nostrils, and that therefore he cannot abide to see us stand before him in any confidence, even in all our best performances.
Ignorance: Do you think that I am such a fool as to think that God can see no further than I; or that I would come to God in the best of my performances?
Christian: Why, how dost thou think in this matter?
Ignorance: Why, to be short, I think I must believe in Christ for justification.
Christian: How! think thou must believe in Christ, when thou seest not thy need of him! Thou neither seest thy original nor actual infirmities; but hast such an opinion of thyself, and of what thou doest, as plainly renders thee to be one that did never see the necessity of Christ's personal righteousness to justify thee before God. How, then, dost thou say, I believe in Christ?
Ignorance: I believe well enough, for all that.
Christian: How dost thou believe?
Ignorance: I believe that Christ died for sinners; and that I shall be justified before God from the curse, through his gracious acceptance of my obedience to his laws. Or thus, Christ makes my duties, that are religious, acceptable to his Father by virtue of his merits, and so shall I be justified.
Christian: Let me give an answer to this confession of thy faith.
- Thou believest with a fantastical faith; for this faith is nowhere described in the word.
- Thou believest with a false faith; because it taketh justification from the personal righteousness of Christ, and applies it to thy own.
- This faith maketh not Christ a justifier of thy person, but of thy actions; and of thy person for thy action's sake, which is false.
- Therefore this faith is deceitful, even such as will leave thee under wrath in the day of God Almighty: for true justifying faith puts the soul, as sensible of its lost condition by the law, upon flying for refuge unto Christ's righteousness; (which righteousness of his is not an act of grace by which he maketh, for justification, thy obedience accepted with God, but his personal obedience to the law, in doing and suffering for us what that required at our hands;) this righteousness, I say, true faith accepteth; under the skirt of which the soul being shrouded, and by it presented as spotless before God, it is accepted, and acquitted from condemnation.
Ignorance: What! would you have us trust to what Christ in his own person has done without us? This conceit would loosen the reins of our lust, and tolerate us to live as we list: for what matter how we live, if we may be justified by Christ's personal righteousness from all, when we believe it?
Christian: Ignorance is thy name, and as thy name is, so art thou: even this thy answer demonstrateth what I say. Ignorant thou art of what justifying righteousness is, and as ignorant how to secure thy soul, through the faith of it, from the heavy wrath of God. Yea, thou also art ignorant of the true effects of saving faith in this righteousness of Christ, which is to bow and win over the heart to God in Christ, to love his name, his word, ways, and people, and not as thou ignorantly imaginest.
Hopeful: Ask him if ever he had Christ revealed to him from heaven.
Ignorance: What! you are a man for revelations! I do believe, that what both you and all the rest of you say about that matter, is but the fruit of distracted brains.
Hopeful: Why, man, Christ is so hid in God from the natural apprehensions of the flesh, that he cannot by any man be savingly known, unless God the Father reveals him to him.
Ignorance: That is your faith, but not mine, yet mine, I doubt not, is as good as yours, though I have not in my head so many whimsies as you.
Christian: Give me leave to put in a word. You ought not so slightly to speak of this matter: for this I will boldly affirm, even as my good companion hath done, that no man can know Jesus Christ but by the revelation of the Father: yea, and faith too, by which the soul layeth hold upon Christ, (if it be right,) must be wrought by the exceeding greatness of his mighty power (Matt. 11:27; 1 Cor. 12:3; Eph. 1:17-19); the working of which faith, I perceive, poor Ignorance, thou art ignorant of. Be awakened, then, see thine own wretchedness, and fly to the Lord Jesus; and by his righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, (for he himself is God,) thou shalt be delivered from condemnation.
Ignorance:You go so fast I cannot keep pace with you; do you go on before: I must stay a while behind.
Then they said,
"Well, Ignorance, wilt thou yet foolish be,
To slight good counsel, ten times given thee?
And if thou yet refuse it, thou shalt know,
Ere long, the evil of thy doing so.
Remember, man, in time: stoop, do not fear:
Good counsel, taken well, saves; therefore hear.
But if thou yet shalt slight it, thou wilt be
The loser, Ignorance, I'll warrant thee."
Then Christian addressed himself thus to his fellow:
Christian: Well, come, my good Hopeful, I perceive that thou and I must walk by ourselves again. So I saw in my dream, that they went on apace before, and Ignorance he came hobbling after. Then said Christian to his companion, I much pity this poor man: it will certainly go ill with him at last.
Hopeful: Alas! there are abundance in our town in his condition, whole families, yea, whole streets, and that of pilgrims too; and if there be so many in our parts, how many, think you, must there be in the place where he was born?
Christian: Indeed, the word saith, "He hath blinded their eyes, lest they should see," etc. But, now we are by ourselves, what do you think of such men? Have they at no time, think you, convictions of sin, and so, consequently, fears that their state is dangerous?
Hopeful: Nay, do you answer that question yourself, for you are the elder man.
Christian: Then I say, sometimes (as I think) they may; but they being naturally ignorant, understand not that such convictions tend to their good; and therefore they do desperately seek to stifle them, and presumptuously continue to flatter themselves in the way of their own hearts.
Hopeful: I do believe, as you say, that fear tends much to men's good, and to make them right at their beginning to go on pilgrimage.
Christian: Without all doubt it doth, if it be right; for so says the word, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Job 28:28; Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10).
Hopeful: How will you describe right fear?
Christian: True or right fear is discovered by three things:
- By its rise; it is caused by saving convictions for sin.
- It driveth the soul to lay fast hold of Christ for salvation.
- It begetteth and continueth in the soul a great reverence of God, his word, and ways; keeping it tender, and making it afraid to turn from them, to the right hand or to the left, to any thing that may dishonor God, break its peace, grieve the Spirit, or cause the enemy to speak reproachfully.
Hopeful: Well said; I believe you have said the truth. Are we now almost got past the Enchanted Ground?
Christian: Why? are you weary of this discourse?
Hopeful: No, verily, but that I would know where we are.
Christian: We have not now above two miles further to go thereon. But let us return to our matter. Now, the ignorant know not that such conviction as tend to put them in fear, are for their good, and therefore they seek to stifle them.
Hopeful: How do they seek to stifle them?
- They think that those fears are wrought by the devil, (though indeed they are wrought of God,) and thinking so, they resist them, as things that directly tend to their overthrow.
- They also think that these fears tend to the spoiling of their faith; when, alas for them, poor men that they are, they have none at all; and therefore they harden their hearts against them.
- They presume they ought not to fear, and therefore, in despite of them, wax presumptuously confident.
- They see that those fears tend to take away from them their pitiful old self-holiness, and therefore they resist them with all their might.
Hopeful: I know something of this myself; for before I knew myself it was so with me.