By the Revd Dr Peter Sanlon
Talkative—What a Character!
Talkative was one of the characters Christian met on his journey to the Celestial City. Talkative – as his name suggests – loved to talk of Biblical matters. He declared, ‘What is so profitable, as to talk of the things of God? What things are so pleasant (that is, if a man hath any delight in things that are wonderful)? For instance, if a man doth delight to talk of the history or the mystery of things; or if a man doth love to talk of miracles, wonders, or signs, where shall he find things recorded so delightful, and so sweetly penned, as in the Holy Scripture?’
Faithful suggested that the point is that we should be ‘profited by that which we talk about’ – to which talkative effusively agreed. He said, ‘to talk of such things is most profitable; for by so doing, a man may get knowledge of many things; as of the vanity of earthly things, and the benefit of things above. Thus, in general, but more particularly by this, a man may learn the necessity of the new birth, the insufficiency of our works, the need of Christ’s righteousness, &c. Besides, by this a man may learn, by talk, what it is to repent, to believe, to pray, to suffer, or the like; by this also a man may learn what are the great promises and consolations of the gospel, to his own comfort. Further, by this a man may learn to refute false opinions, to vindicate the truth, and also to instruct the ignorant.’
To this Faithful had to assent – all this is indeed profitable outcomes from speaking truth from the Bible. As Talkative continued to speak of Biblical matters, Faithful began to be convinced that he was meeting with a fellow pilgrim. But Christian knew something was amiss. Talkative talked of that which is true and spoke truth about that which he declared – and yet, something was off kilter. What was it about Talkative’s willingness to talk about Biblical matters – and to do so accurately – that worried Christian?
Christian said, ‘The kingdom of God is not in word, but in Power. [1 Cor 4:20] He talketh of prayer, of repentance, of faith, and of the new birth; but he knows but only to talk of them. I have been in his family, and have observed him both at home and abroad; and I know what I say of him is the truth. His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savour. There is there neither prayer nor sign of repentance for sin.’
Faithful realised that Christian was right – talkative talked well of Christian matters- but he feared and resented any suggestion that he needed God to work in his heart to supernaturally change him. It is left to Faithful to sum up the position of Talkative:
‘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 wane he goes.
And so will all, but he that HEART-WORK knows.’
As we journey on through a new year, may we treasure and cultivate the reality of that we talk about – the work of the Spirit in our hearts making us love God and abhor sin.
The Revd Dr Peter Sanlon is the rector of Emmanuel Anglican Church, Tunbridge Wells, www.emmanuelanglican.uk