An Application of Bunyan – The Whispering of the Wicked Ones

July 11, 2019 | by James M. Harrison

The battle is ended.  It was a close-run thing, with Christian falling under Apollyon’s assault, losing grasp of his sword.  But at the last moment, as Apollyon was about to strike the fatal blow, Christian reached for his sword, took it up again, and thrust it into the enemy.  Apollyon, realizing the that tide had changed, “spread forth his Dragon wings, and sped him away”, and Christian saw him no more.

After giving thanks, Christian continued on to the end of the Valley of Humiliation, only to find himself in another valley, called the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  There is no other route to the Celestial City, but through this valley.  This valley, however, is not only the way to the Celestial City.  There, too, is the mouth of Hell.  And as Christian passed through, he encountered both flame and smoke, and “doleful voices”.

Though tempted to return from whence he came, he persevered, even as fiends came nearer and nearer.  Christian cried out, “I will walk in the strength of the Lord God!”.  Hearing this, the fiends kept their distance, and came no further.

It is here that Mr. Bunyan, as the narrator, describes Christian’s further interaction with the fiends.

“I took notice that now poor Christian was so confounded, that he did not know his own voice: And thus I perceived it: Just when he was come over-against the mouth of the burning Pit, one of the Wicked Ones got behind him, and stept up softly to him, and whisperingly suggested many grievous Blasphemies to him, which he verily thought had proceeded from his own mind.  This put Christian more to it than any thing that he met with before, even to think that he should now Blaspheme him that he loved so much before; yet, if he could have helped it, he would not have done it: But he had not the discretion either to stop his ears, or to know from whence those Blasphemies came.”

Have you heard this wicked whispering?  I cannot know the heart, nor the experience of every man or woman who might read this.  Therefore, I cannot say for sure that everyone has experienced this.  I dare say, however, that I have experienced these wicked whisperings, and I cannot imagine that I am unique in that regard.  Indeed, Bunyan describes this phenomenon in such a way as to make me bold to say that he, himself, knew this experience all too well.

Yes, I have heard these wicked whisperings, and believed them to be the thoughts of my own mind. But how can that be?  I love my Master.  He is the One I long for.  He is my life, my love, my all.  I long to honor Him, and I despair when, on my account, He is dishonored. I love to commune with Him, and long for the day when I will see Him face to face.

From whence, then, do these wicked whisperings come?  Bunyan tells us.  They come from the minions of the evil one.  As Bunyan describes it, they stand behind us, not in front, where we could see them.  They whisper.  They do not shout so as to draw attention to themselves.  Yet, even as they whisper, they drown out the sound of our own voice, so as to cause us to imagine that the voice we hear  uttering such blasphemy is our own.

What then, is our recourse?  Do you not remember where we are?  Where Christian is?  He is in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  And what is the promise for the pilgrims who travel through that valley?  “I will fear none ill, for Thou art with me.”

Bunyan tells us that Christian was ultimately encouraged by three things:

First, he was encouraged by the knowledge that he was not alone in that valley.  There were others there, and like him, there were others who feared God.

Second, He perceived that God was with them, thought, in the midst of that valley, he could not perceive this reality as clearly as he would like.

Third, he had hope.  He hoped to meet up with some of these other God-fearers.

And with these encouragements, a new day dawned, and Christian exclaimed, “He hath turned the shadow of death into the morning!”.

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