WHILE at the house of Gaius with the pilgrims, Mr. Great-heart and his companions went forth to the haunt of Giant Slay-good. “When they came to the place where he was, they found him with one Feeble-mind in his hands, whom his servants had brought unto him, having taken him in the way. Now the giant was rifling him, with a purpose, after that, to pick his bones; for he was of the nature of flesh-eaters.”
Out of the giant’s hands Mr. Feeble-mind was delivered, and the giant himself was slain. Poor Mr. Feeble-mind! Let us read what he says about himself: — “I am a sickly man, as you see; and, because death did usually once a day knock at my door, I thought I should never be well at home; so I betook myself to a pilgrim’s life, and have traveled hither from the town of Uncertain, where I and my father were born. I am a man of no strength at all of body, nor yet of mind; but would, if I could, though I can but crawl, spend my life in the pilgrim’s way. When I came at the gate that is at the head of the way, the Lord of that place did entertain me freely; neither objected He against my weakly looks, nor against my feeble mind; but gave me such things as were necessary for my journey, and bid me hope to the end. When I came to the house of the Interpreter, I received much kindness there; and because the Hill Difficulty was judged too hard for me, I was carried up that by one of His servants. Indeed I have found much relief from pilgrims, though none were willing to go so softly as I am forced to do; yet still, as they came on, they bid me be of good cheer, and said that it was the will of their Lord that comfort should be given to the feebleminded, and so went on their own pace. (1 Thessalonians 5:14.) When I was come up to Assault Lane, then this giant met with me, and bid me prepare for an encounter; but, alas! feeble one that I was, I had more need of a cordial. So he came up and took me. I conceited he should not kill me.
Also, when he had got me into his den, since I went not with him willingly, I believe I should come out alive again; for I have heard, that not any pilgrim that is taken captive by violent hands, if he keeps heart-whole towards his Master, is, by the laws of Providence, to die by the hand of the enemy. Robbed I looked to be, and robbed to be sure I am; but I am, as you see, escaped with life; for the which I thank my King as author, and you as the means. Other brunts I also look for: but this I have resolved on, to wit, to run when I can, to go when I cannot run, and to creep when I cannot go. As to the main, I thank Him that loves me, I am fixed. My way is before me, my mind is beyond the river that has no bridge, though I am, as you see, but of feeble mind.;” Poor soul! We know some just like him. It is not necessary to explain his condition, or to dwell on his adventure. We pass on to his later experiences.
The pilgrims tarried awhile at the house of Gaius, and Feeble-mind got fattened up a bit; they had a glorious special meeting, and then Mr. Greatheart said it was time for the pilgrims to go on their journey again. “Now Mr. Feeble-mind, when they were going out of the door, made as if he intended to linger; the which when Mr. Great-heart espied, he said, ‘Come, Mr. Feeble-mind, pray do you go along with us, I will be your conductor, and you shall fare as the rest.’“ Mr. Great-heart, who is, of course, the minister, insisted that Mr. Feeblemind should not leave the band of pilgrims. He wanted to go to Heaven without joining the church; and that the teacher could not sanction. But feeble as he was, he was a man of very choice mind. Sterner people can bear a little laughing, and they do not take so much notice of how silly people dress, and they can eve bear a debate over the question; but poor Feeble-mind said: — “‘Alas! I want a suitable companion; you are all lusty and strong; but I, as you see, am weak; I choose, therefore, rather to come behind, lest, by reason of my many infirmities, I should be both a burden to myself and to you. I am, as I said, a man of weak and feeble mind, and shall be offended and made weak at that which others can bear. I shall like no laughing; I shall like no gay attire; I shall like no unprofitable questions. Nay, I am so weak a man, as to be offended with that which others have a liberty to do.
I do not yet know all the truth; I am a very ignorant Christian man; sometimes, if I hear any rejoice in the Lord, it troubles me, because I cannot do so too. It is with me, as it is with a weak man among the strong, or as with a sick man among the healthy, or as a lamp despised. “He that is ready to slip with his feet, is a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease,” (Job 12:5,) so that I know not what to do.’ “‘But brother,’ said Mr. Great-heart, ‘I have it in commission to “comfort the feeble-minded,” and to “support the weak.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14.)
You must needs go along with us; we will wait for you; we will lend you our help (Romans 14:1); we will deny ourselves of some things, both opinionative and practical, for your sake (1 Corinthians viii.); we will not enter into doubtful disputations before you; we will be made all things to you, rather than you shall be left behind. (1 Corinthians 9:22.)’“ I want you to notice that the duty of the weak to join the church is here enjoined, and also that those with whom they join are to be gentle with them.
Here is a pretty piece of Mr. Bunyan’s writing: — “Now all this while they were at Gaius’s door; and behold, as they were thus in the heat of their discourse, Mr. Ready-to-halt came by, with his crutches in his hand (Psalm 38:17); and he also was going on pilgrimage. “Then said Mr. Feeble-mind to him, ‘Man how camest thou hither? I was but just now complaining, that I had not a suitable companion, but thou art according to my wish. Welcome, welcome, good Mr. Ready-to-halt, I hope thou and I may be some help.’ “‘I shall be glad of thy company,’ said the other; ‘and, good Mr. Feeblemind, rather than we will part, since we are thus happily met, I will lend thee one of my crutches.’ “‘Nay,’ said he, ‘though I thank thee for thy good will, I am not inclined to halt before I am lame.’“ See how he perks up at the very idea of it. “Howbeit, I think, when occasion is, it may help me against a dog.’“ So, you see, he found congenial company in the church. The first thing for us to note is, that there are some poor feeble-minded saints who really are not nice company, but who must not be slighted. They are not very cheerful; they may not be even amiable; they have feeble minds; you will not learn much from them; they are, as Bunyan says, “very ignorant Christian men;” but we ought not, as a church, to hesitate to have these added to us, we should be glad that they have come amongst us. I heard a person say, “Look what a number of very poor people are coming into the church,” I am glad of it, they are the very people who need churchfellowship, and spiritual privileges. Besides, many of the poor of the earth are the excellent of the earth. Feeble-mind was a man of a very gracious and tender spirit. When he heard other people joking and making fun, it grated on his ear; he saw others dressed out, it might not have been to any great excess, but he judged it out of harmony with the Christian simplicity enjoined by the apostle Peter; and that grieved him. This and that, which a stronger saint could do and bear without any harm, hurt his sensitive disposition. He did not wish to be always picking holes in other people’s coats; he thought, therefore, that he would walk to Heaven as best as he could alone.
Now, I like Mr. Great-heart’s pressing him to come into the church. Mr. Great-heart was a strong man, with a sword and shield; and if anybody needed such a protector, it was surely Mr. Feeble-mind, who could not defend himself. We want the feeble in mind in this church — I know they are not very desirable from one point of view; but, then, we are not very desirable ourselves, yet Christ came to seek and to save us. It is a desirable thing that we should be able to put up with these poor Feeble-minds. Do you not think we often get most out of those people who try us most?
When a man tries our temper, and lets us know how bad it is, it is beneficial to us. If you have an invalid child, or a sick friend, you do not make a great noise, you learn to be quiet and considerate. Gentleness and tenderness are learned in this school. It is a good thing to have a weakly saint about, for it helps to make others tender. It is well for the church to have Feeble-minds in it, and there can be no doubt that it is good for the Feeble-minds to be in the church.
But do you see what Mr. Great-heart says to this feeble companion. He says, in effect, “We will wait for you; if you cannot run as we do, we will walk at your pace. We will not overdrive you.” I know how it is with some Christians; they have grown in grace so wonderfully, that they want everybody to be up to their height, and not three-quarters of an inch below it. They hear some dear child of God groaning over his corruptions, and his trials in the Christian life, and they look at him as if he were one of the very worst of sinners, whereas it is a thousand to one that the tried believer is a better saint than he who is hectoring and boasting. The boaster is like a rough boy who has a sweet, little, delicate sister, who is worth ten of him; she cannot run as he does, but he says to her, “You ought to do it; you should not be in bed; why are you always ill?” He forgets that she cannot help it. The fat cattle are not to push the lean cattle with horn and with shoulder, lest they trample the weak ones under their feet. No, the Lord would have Mr. Great-heart say to Mr. Feeble-mind, “We will wait for you, if you cannot walk so fast as we do; and” — notice that, — ”we will deny ourselves even that which would be lawful for us for your sake; there are some things which would lead you into sin, we will not do them lest you should be injured; they might not hurt us, but we will not do them lest in any way you should be made to suffer.” All things are lawful to me, all the common actions of life are lawful for me, but there are times when they are not expedient. “We will not enter into doubtful disputations before you,” said the great but gracious leader. We will not tax you with sermons upon very high doctrines that would only trouble you. Questions that would not minister to your growth in grace shall be left for a while; we will discuss difficult subjects in your absence. We will say to one another, “We have a tough point to settle, but we will leave it till he is gone down to the prayermeeting or when he is stopping at home because his head aches; we will not talk about such matters till all the weak saints are out of the way.” If father and mother have anything that is nasty to say to one another, they must not let anyone else hear it. “Pray do not let the children know anything about it,” they say to each other. Whenever you and I who are the strong members of the church, have certain thorny matters to consider, we must not do it before the new-born converts. Let us say, “We must get all the children away before talk about these things;” and as we are sure, I hope, to have newborn souls always among us, we had better endeavor to keep clear of these doubtful disputations altogether.
The very sweet point in the story is where Mr. Ready-to-halt comes up on his crutches. Now, Mr. Ready-to-halt, and Mr. Feeble-mind, you will be at home; there are two of you. You poor weak saints, who need all the help you can get, it is quite right that you should come in, because there are some more just like you in the church, and you can help each other. How delightful it was when Mr. Ready-to-halt said he would lend Mr. Feeblemind one of his crutches. But I do like the way that Feeble-mind firmly declined the loan. If he was feeble-minded, he was not lame; and, therefore, he said, “I am not inclined to halt before I am lame.” I suppose that this good man, Ready-to-halt, had been accustomed to use a form of prayer.
Feeble-mind, on the other hand, could say, “My prayers are very poor, brother; still, they are my own words, and they are the expression of my inmost feelings.” He did not blame Ready-to-halt for having crutches, but he would not use them himself. Some people say to me, “We wish you would write us a book of prayers, as you have given us two volumes of Readings and ‘The Interpreter’;” but I reply, “I cannot make prayers for you, I cannot conscientiously set up for a crutch-maker. Still, you had better go on crutches, and read a prayer in the family, than not pray at all.”
I like to hear Mr. Feeble-mind as he draws himself up, and says, as it were, “No, no, no, I have not come to need crutches yet, though they might be useful against a dog. They are of some use, perhaps, and you manage, somehow, to get along on them.” Still, it shows the good heart there was in Ready-to-halt that he was willing to lend Mr. Feeble-mind one of his crutches. Many saints have crutches of one sort or another, they cannot trust their feet, and they have found them to be some help to them, and they are generally willing to lend their crutches to others. It is quite right that it should be so. Now, come in, friend Ready-to-halt, with your crutches; come in, Mr. Feeble-mind with all your weakness and fears, you two will then take counsel together about the things of God. We will wait for you, and will not mind what we do so long as we can get to the same end together by-and-by.
A little further on, we find that Ready-to-halt, after Giant Despair was killed, danced with one of his crutches in his hand in a very wonderful manner; and, just ere they passed over the river, poor Feeble-mind left his feeble mind to be buried by Mr. Valiant in a dunghill, and Mr. Ready-tohalt bequeathed his crutches to his son, for he did not need such things in Heaven.
One day, I was sitting under the olives at Mentone, and saw a sheep that had evidently strayed away from the rest of the flock, and lost itself. It was bleating because it was all alone, and did not know its way back. Presently, a whistle was blown, and the sheep was off immediately in the direction from which the sound came. The Lord says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” They know His call even when He whistles to them; and I do believe, dear brethren, that you would sooner hear the Gospel whistle than you would hear the new doctrines preached in the best possible manner; for there is, somehow or other, a ring in the true Gospel which you cannot mistake. If it is real Gospel, you will know the voice of it, you will say, “That is my way, and I am off in response to the gracious call.”
You should get to the Shepherd, and you should get among the sheep, and be not long a lone sheep. There are some brethren who will be glad to see you. The elders will be glad to see you. I am not lame, yet I would buy a pair of crutches to go with you if you cannot go by any other means; but I will lend you both of them, for I shall not require them myself. One is glad to be able to rejoice in the Lord, and go forward, running in the way of His salvation; but our joy is doubled if we can encourage Mr. Feeble-mind and Mr. Ready-to-halt.