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as spoiled and self-absorbed, and lauded as idealistic

time:2023-12-07 11:35:53Classification:healthedit:xsn

But, especially, said Charity, as your boys grew up--I think you said that you had four boys and no girls?--well, then, all the more, as they grew up, you should have taken occasion to talk to them about yourself. Did your little boy never petition you for a story about yourself; and as he grew up did you never confide to him what you have never confided to his mother? Something, as I was saying, that made you sad when you were a boy and a rising man, with a sadness your son can still see in you as you talk to him. In conversations like that a boy finds out what a friend he has in his father, and his father from that day has his best friend in his son. And then as Matthew grew up and began to out-grow his brothers and to form friendships out of doors, did you study to talk at the proper time to him, and on subjects on which you never venture to talk about to any other boy or man? You men, Charity went on to say, live in a world of your own, and though we women are well out of it, yet we cannot be wholly ignorant that it is there. And, we may well be wrong, but we cannot but think that fathers, if not mothers, might safely tell their men-children at least more than they do tell them of the sure dangers that lie straight in their way, of the sorrow that men and women bring on one another, and of what is the destruction of so many cities. We may well be wrong, for we are only women, but I have told you what we all think who keep this house and hear the reports and repentances of pilgrims, both Piety and Prudence and I myself. And I, for one, largely agree with the three women. It is easier said than done. But the simple saying of it may perhaps lead some fathers and mothers to think about it, and to ask whether or no it is desirable and advisable to do it, which of them is to attempt it, on what occasion, and to what extent. Christian by this time had the Slough of Despond with all its history and all that it contained to tell his eldest son about; he had the wicket gate also just above the slough, the hill Difficulty, the Interpreter's House, the place somewhat ascending with a cross standing upon it, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre, not to speak of her who assaulted Faithful, whose name was Wanton, and who at one time was like to have done even that trusty pilgrim a life-long mischief. Christian rather boasted to Charity of his wariness, especially in the matter of his children's amusements, but Charity seemed to think that he had carried his wariness into other matters besides amusements, without the best possible results there either. I have sometimes thought with her that among our multitude of congresses and conferences of all kinds of people and upon all manner of subjects, room and membership might have been found for a conference of fathers and mothers. Fathers to give and take counsel about how to talk to their sons, and mothers to their daughters. I am much of Charity's mind, that, if more were done at home, and done with some frankness, for our sons and daughters, there would be fewer fathers and mothers found sitting at the Lord's table alone. 'You should have talked to them,' said Charity, with some severity in her tones, 'and, especially, you should have told them of your own sorrow.'

as spoiled and self-absorbed, and lauded as idealistic

And then, coming still closer up to Christian, Charity asked him whether he prayed, both before and after he so spoke to his children, that God would bless what he said to them. Charity believeth all things, hopeth all things, but when she saw this man about to sit down all alone at the supper table, it took Charity all her might to believe that he had both spoken to his children and at the same time prayed to God for them as he ought to have done. Our old ministers used to lay this vow on all fathers and mothers at the time of baptism, that they were to pray both with and for their children. Now, that is a fine formula; it is a most comprehensive, and, indeed, exhaustive formula. Both with and for. And especially with. With, at such and such times, on such and such occasions, and in such and such places. At those times, say, when your boy has told a lie, or struck his little brother, or stolen something, or destroyed something. To pray with him at such times, and to pray with him properly, and, if you feel able to do it, and are led to do it, to tell him something after the prayer about yourself, and your own not-yet-forgotten boyhood, and your father; it makes a fine time to mix talk and prayer together in that way. Charity is not easily provoked, but the longer she lives and keeps the table in the House Beautiful the more she is provoked to think that there is far too little prayer among pilgrims; far too little of all kinds of prayer, but especially prayer with and for their children. But hard as it was to tell all the truth at that moment about Christian's past walk in his house at home, yet he was able with the simple truth to say that he had indeed prayed both with and for his children, and that, as they knew and could not but remember, not seldom. Yes, he said, I did sometimes so pray with my boys, and that too, as you may believe, with much affection, for you must think that my four boys were all very dear to me. And it is my firm belief that all that good man's boys will come right yet: Matthew and Joseph and James and Samuel and all. 'With much affection.' I like that. I have unbounded faith in those prayers, both for and with, in which there is much affection. It is want of affection, and want of imagination, that shipwrecks so many of our prayers. But this man's prayers had both these elements of sure success in them, and they must come at last to harbour. At that one word 'with much affection,' this man's closet door flies open and I see the old pilgrim first alone, and then with his arms round his eldest son's neck, and both father and son weeping together till they are ashamed to appear at supper till they have washed their faces and got their most smiling and everyday looks put on again. You just wait and see if Matthew and all the four boys down to the last do not escape into the Celestial City before the gate is shut. And when it is asked, Who are these and whence came they? listen to their song and you will hear those four happy children saying that their father, when they were yet boys, both talked with them and prayed for and with them with so much affection that therefore they are before the throne.

as spoiled and self-absorbed, and lauded as idealistic

Why, then, with such a father and with such makable boys, why was this household brought so near everlasting shipwreck? It was the mother that did it. In one word, it was the wife and the mother that did it. It was the mistress of the house who wrought the mischief here. She was a poor woman, she was a poor man's wife, and one would have thought that she had little enough temptation to harm upon this present world. But there it was, she did hang upon it as much as if she had been the mother of the finest daughters and the most promising boys in all the town. Things like this were from time to time reported to her by her neighbours. One fine lady had been heard to say that she would never have for her tradesman any man who frequented conventicles, who was not content with the religion of his betters, and who must needs scorn the parish church and do despite to the saints' days. Another gossip asked her what she expected to make of her great family of boys when it was well known that all the gentry in the neighbourhood but two or three had sworn that they would never have a hulking Puritan to brush their boots or run their errands. And it almost made her husband burn his book and swear that he would never be seen at another prayer- meeting when his wife so often said to him that he should never have had children, that he should never have made her his wife, and that he was not like this when they were first man and wife. And in her bitterness she would name this wife or that maid, and would say, You should have married her. She would have gone to the meeting-house with you as often as you wished. Her sons are far enough from good service to please you. 'My wife,' he softly said, 'was afraid of losing the world. And then, after that, my growing sons were soon given over, all I could do, to the foolish delights of youth, so that, what by one thing and what by another, they left me to wander in this manner alone.' And I suppose there is scarcely a household among ourselves where there have not been serious and damaging misunderstandings between old-fashioned fathers and their young people about what the old people called the 'foolish delights' of their sons and daughters. And in thinking this matter over, I have often been struck with how Job did when his sons and his daughters were bent upon feasting and dancing in their eldest brother's house. The old man did not lay an interdict upon the entertainment. He did not take part in it, but neither did he absolutely forbid it. If it must be it must be, said the wise patriarch. And since I do not know whom they may meet there, or what they may be tempted to do, I will sanctify them all. I will not go up into my bed till I have prayed for all my seven sons and three daughters, each one of them by their names; and till they come home safely I will rise every morning and offer burnt- offerings according to the number of them all. And do you think that those burnt-offerings and accompanying intercessions would go for nothing when the great wind came from the wilderness and smote the four corners of the banqueting-house? If you cannot banish the love of foolish delights out the hearts of your sons and daughters, then do not quarrel with them over such things; a family quarrel in a Christian man's house is surely far worse than a feast or a dance. Only, if they must feast and dance and such like, be you all the more diligent in your exercises at home on their behalf till they are back again, where, after all, they like best to be, in their good, kind, liberal, and loving father's house.

as spoiled and self-absorbed, and lauded as idealistic

Have you a family? Are you a married man? Or, if not, do you hope one day to be? Then attend betimes to what Charity says to Christian in the House Beautiful, and not less to what he says back again to her.

'Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me, and of My words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels.'--Our Lord.

Shame has not got the attention that it deserves either from our moral philosophers or from our practical and experimental divines. And yet it would well repay both classes of students to attend far more to shame. For, what really is shame? Shame is an original instinct planted in our souls by our Maker, and intended by Him to act as a powerful and pungent check to our doing of any act that is mean or dishonourable in the eyes of our fellow-men. Shame is a kind of social conscience. Shame is a secondary sense of sin. In shame, our imagination becomes a kind of moral sense. Shame sets up in our bosom a not undivine tribunal, which judges us and sentences us in the absence or the silence of nobler and more awful sanctions and sentences. But then, as things now are with us, like all the rest of the machinery of the soul, shame has gone sadly astray both in its objects and in its operations, till it demands a long, a severe, and a very noble discipline over himself before any man can keep shame in its proper place and directed in upon its proper objects. In the present disorder of our souls, we are all acutely ashamed of many things that are not the proper objects of shame at all; while, on the other hand, we feel no shame at all at multitudes of things that are really most blameworthy, dishonourable, and contemptible. We are ashamed of things in our lot and in our circumstances that, if we only knew it, are our opportunity and our honour; we are ashamed of things that are the clear will and the immediate dispensation of Almighty God. And, then, we feel no shame at all at the most dishonourable things, and that simply because the men around us are too coarse in their morals and too dull in their sensibilities to see any shame in such things. And thus it comes about that, in the very best of men, their still perverted sense of shame remains in them a constant snare and a source of temptation. A man of a fine nature feels keenly the temptation to shrink from those paths of truth and duty that expose him to the cruel judgments and the coarse and scandalising attacks of public and private enemies. It was in the Valley of Humiliation that Shame set upon Faithful, and it is a real humiliation to any man of anything of this pilgrim's fine character and feeling to be attacked, scoffed at, and held up to blame and opprobrium. And the finer and the more affectionate any man's heart and character are, the more he feels and shrinks from the coarse treatment this world gives to those whom it has its own reasons to hate and assail. They had the stocks and the pillory and the shears in Bunyan's rude and uncivilised day, by means of which many of the best men of that day were exposed to the insults and brutalities of the mob. The newspapers would be the pillory of our day, were it not that, on the whole, the newspaper press is conducted with such scrupulous fairness and with a love of truth and justice such that no man need shrink from the path of duty through fear of insult and injury.

But it is time to come to the encounter between Shame and Faithful in the Valley of Humiliation. Shame, properly speaking, is not one of our Bunyan gallery of portraits at all. Shame, at best, is but a kind of secondary character in this dramatic book. We do not meet with Shame directly; we only hear about him through the report of Faithful. That first-class pilgrim was almost overcome of Shame, so hot was their encounter; and it is the extraordinarily feeling, graphic, and realistic account of their encounter that Faithful gives us that has led me to take up Shame for our reproof and correction to-night.

Religion altogether, but especially all personal religion, said Shame to Faithful, is an unmanly business. There is a certain touch of smallness and pitifulness, he said, in all religion, but especially in experimental religion. It brings a man into junctures and into companionships, and it puts offices and endurances upon one such as try a man if he has any greatness of spirit about him at all. This life on which you are entering, said Shame, will cost you many a blush before you are done with it. You will lay yourself open to many a scoff. The Puritan religion, and all the ways of that religious fraternity, are peculiarly open to the shafts of ridicule. Now, all that was quite true. There was no denying the truth of what Shame said. And Faithful felt the truth of it all, and felt it most keenly, as he confessed to Christian. The blood came into my face as the fellow spake, and what he said for a time almost beat me out of the upward way altogether. But in this dilemma also all true Christians can fall back, as Faithful fell back, upon the example of their Master. In this as in every other experience of temptation and endurance, our Lord is the forerunner and the example of His people. Our Lord was in all points tempted like as we are, and among all His other temptations He was tempted to be ashamed of His work on earth and of the life and the death His work led Him into. He must have often felt ashamed at the treatment He received during His life of humiliation, as it is well called; and He must often have felt ashamed of His disciples: but all that is blotted out by the crowning shame of the cross. We hang our worst criminals rather than behead or shoot them, in order to heap up the utmost possible shame and disgrace upon them, as well as to execute justice upon them. And what the hangman's rope is in our day, all that the cross was in our Lord's day. And, then, as if the cross itself was not shame enough, all the circumstances connected with His cross were planned and carried out so as to heap the utmost possible shame and humiliation upon His head. Our prison warders have to watch the murderers in their cells night and day, lest they should take their own life in order to escape the hangman's rope; but our Lord, keenly as He felt His coming shame, said to His horrified disciples, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, when the Son of Man shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on; and they shall scourge Him and put Him to death. Do you ever think of your Lord in His shame? How they made a fool of Him, as we say. How they took off His own clothes and put on Him now a red cloak and now a white; how they put a sword of lath in His hand, and a crown of thorns on His head; how they bowed the knee before Him, and asked royal favours from Him; and then how they spat in His face, and struck Him on the cheek, while the whole house rang with shouts of laughter. And, then, the last indignity of man, how they stripped Him naked and lashed His naked and bleeding body to a whipping- post. And how they wagged their heads and put out their tongues at Him when He was on the tree, and invited Him to come down and preach to them now, and they would all become His disciples. Did not Shame say the simple truth when he warned Faithful that religion had always and from the beginning made its followers the ridicule of their times?

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