HOPE. I acknowledge it; but yet your severe reflection had almost made me angry.
CHR. Why, I did but compare thee to some of the birds that are of the brisker sort, who will run to and fro in untrodden paths with the shell upon their heads: but pass by that, and consider the matter under debate, and all shall be well betwixt thee and me.
HOPE. But, Christian, these three fellows, I am persuaded in my heart, are but a company of cowards: would they have run else, think you, as they did, at the noise of one that was coming on the road? Why did not Little-Faith pluck up a greater heart? He might, methinks, have stood one brush with them, and have yielded when there had been no remedy.
CHR. That they are cowards, many have said, but few have found it so in the time of trial. As for a great heart, Little-Faith had none; and I perceive by thee, my brother, hadst thou been the man concerned, thou art but for a brush, and then to yield. And verily, since this is the height of thy stomach now they are at a distance from us, should they appear to thee as they did to him, they might put thee to second thoughts.
But consider again, that they are but journeymen thieves; They serve under the king of the bottomless pit, who, if need be, will come to their aid himself, and his voice is as the roaring of a lion. 1 Pet. 5:8. I myself have been engaged as this Little-Faith was, and I found it a terrible thing. These three villains set upon me, and I beginning like a Christian to resist, they gave but a call, and in came their master. I would, as the saying is, have given my life for a penny, but that, as God would have it, I was clothed with armor of proof. Aye, and yet, though I was so harnessed, I found it hard work to quit myself like a man: no man can tell what in that combat attends us, but he that hath been in the battle himself.
HOPE. Well, but they ran, you see, when they did but suppose that one Great-Grace was in the way.
CHR. True, they have often fled, both they and their master, when Great- Grace hath but appeared; and no marvel, for he is the King's champion. But I trow you will put 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 he. Is it meet to think that a little child should handle Goliath as David did? or that there should be the strength of an ox in a wren? Some are strong, some are weak; some have great faith, some have little: this man was one of the weak, and therefore he went to the wall.
HOPE. I would it had been Great-Grace, for their sakes.
CHR. If it had been he, he might have had his hands full: for I must tell you, that though Great-Grace is excellent good at his weapons, and has, and can, so long as he keeps them at sword's point, do well enough with them; yet if they get within him, even Faint-Heart, Mistrust, or the other, it shall go hard but they will throw up his heels. And when a man is down, you know, what can he do?
Whoso looks well upon Great-Grace's face, will see those scars and cuts there that shall easily give demonstration of what I say. Yea, once I heard that he should say, (and that when he was in the combat,) We despaired even of life. How did these sturdy rogues and their fellows make David groan, mourn, and roar! Yea, Heman, Psa. 88, and Hezekiah too, though champions in their days, were forced to bestir them when by these assaulted; and yet, notwithstanding, they had their coats soundly brushed by them. Peter, upon a time, would go try what he could do; but though some do say of him that he is the prince of the apostles, they handled him so that they made him at last afraid of a sorry girl.
Besides, their king is at their whistle; he is never out of hearing; and if at any time they be put to the worst, he, if possible, comes in to help them; and of him it is said, "The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold; the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon. He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him fly; sling-stones are turned with him into stubble. Darts are counted as stubble; he laugheth at the shaking of a spear." Job 41:26-29. What can a man do in this case? It is true, if a man could at every turn have Job's horse, and had skill and courage to ride him, he might do notable things. "For his neck is clothed with thunder. He will not be afraid as a grasshopper: the glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength; he goeth on to meet the armed MEN. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage; neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha! and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shoutings." Job 39:19-25.
But for such footmen as thee and I are, let us never desire to meet with an enemy, nor vaunt as if we could do better, when we hear of others that have been foiled, nor be tickled at the thoughts of our own manhood; for such commonly come by the worst when tried. Witness Peter, of whom I made mention before: he would swagger, aye, he would; he would, as his vain mind prompted him to say, do better and stand more for his Master than all men: but who so foiled and run down by those villains as he?
When, therefore, we hear that such robberies are done on the King's highway, two things become us to do.
1. To go out harnessed, and be sure to take a shield with us: for it was for want of that, that he who laid so lustily at Leviathan could not make him yield; for, indeed, if that be wanting, he fears us not at all. Therefore, he that had skill hath said, "Above all, take the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked." Eph. 6:16.
2. It is good, also, that we desire of the King a convoy, yea, that he will go with us himself. This made David rejoice when in the Valley of the Shadow of Death; and Moses was rather for dying where he stood, than to go one step without his God. Exod. 33:15.
O, my brother, if he will but go along with us, what need we be afraid of ten thousands that shall set themselves against us? Psa. 3:5-8; 27:1-3. But without him, the proud helpers fall under the slain. Isa. 10:4.
I, for my part, have been in the fray before now; and though (through the goodness of Him that is best) I am, as you see, alive, yet I cannot boast of any manhood. Glad shall I be if I meet with no more such brunts; though I fear we are not got beyond all danger. However, since the lion and the bear have not as yet devoured me, I hope God will also deliver us from the next uncircumcised Philistine. Then sang Christian,
"Poor Little-Faith! hast been among the thieves?
Wast robb'd? Remember this, whoso believes,
And get more faith; then shall you victors be
Over ten thousand-else scarce over three."
So they went on, and Ignorance followed. They went then till they came at a place where they saw a way put itself into their way, and seemed withal to lie as strait as the way which they should go; and here they knew not which of the two to take, for both seemed strait before them: therefore here they stood still to consider. And as they were thinking about the way, behold a man black of flesh, but covered with a very light robe, come to them, and asked them why they stood there. They answered, they were going to the Celestial City, but knew not which of these ways to take. "Follow me," said the man, "it is thither that I am going." So they followed him in the way that but now came into the road, which by degrees turned, and turned them so far from the city that they desired to go to, that in a little time their faces were turned away from it; yet they follow him. But by and by, before they were aware, he led them both within the compass of a net, in which they were both so entangled that they knew not what to do; and with that the white robe fell off the black man's back. Then they saw where they were. Wherefore there they lay crying some time, for they could not get themselves out.
CHR. Then said Christian to his fellow, Now do I see myself in an error. Did not the shepherds bid us beware of the Flatterer? As is the saying of the wise man, so we have found it this day: "A man that flattereth his neighbor, spreadeth a net for his feet." Prov. 29:5.
HOPE. They also gave us a note of directions about the way, for our more sure finding thereof; but therein we have also forgotten to read, and have not kept ourselves from the paths of the destroyer. Here David was wiser than we; for saith he, "Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the Destroyer." Psa. 17:4. Thus they lay bewailing themselves in the net. At last they espied a Shining One coming towards them with a whip of small cords in his hand. When he was come to the place where they were, he asked them whence they came, and what they did there. They told him that they were poor pilgrims going to Zion, but were led out of their way by a black man clothed in white, who bid us, said they, follow him, for he was going thither too. Then said he with the whip, It is Flatterer, a false apostle, that hath transformed himself into an angel of light. Dan. 11:32; 2 Cor. 11:13,14. So he rent the net, and let the men out. Then said he to them, Follow me, that I may set you in your way again. So he led them back to the way which they had left to follow the Flatterer. Then he asked them, saying, Where did you lie the last night? They said, With the shepherds upon the Delectable Mountains. He asked them then if they had not of the shepherds a note of direction for the way. They answered, Yes. But did you not, said he, when you were at a stand, pluck out and read your note? They answered, No. He asked them, Why? They said they forgot. He asked, moreover, if the shepherds did not bid them beware of the Flatterer. They answered, Yes; but we did not imagine, said they, that this fine-spoken man had been he. Rom. 16:17,18.