The Pilgrims Meet Talkative by John Bunyan

The Pilgrims Meet Talkative by John Bunyan

All the passages below are taken from John Bunyan’s book, “Pilgrim’s Progress.” It was first published in 1678. The present book is a complete and unabridged edition translated from the original 17th century text and further annotated into modern English by L. Edward Hazelbaker and published in 1998. This is the easiest and clearest translation to read and understand.

     I SAW IN MY dream as they continued on that Faithful, by chance looking to one side, saw a man named Talkative walking near them (for in this place there was enough room for all of them to walk). He was a tall man and somewhat better looking at a distance than up close. Faithful addressed himself to the man in this manner:

“Say there, Friend,” said Faithful, “are you going to the Heavenly Country?”

“Yes, I’m going to that place,” answered Talkative.

     “That’s good,” said Faithful. “Then I hope we may have your good company.”

“Gladly,” replied Talkative. “I would be pleased to be your companion.”

“Come on then,” said Faithful. “Let’s go together and spend our time discussing profitable things.”

“Talking with you or with anyone about things that are good is very acceptable to me,” said Talkative. “I’m glad to have met with those who are inclined to do such a good work. To tell you the truth, there are only a few who care to spend their time in such a way while they’re traveling. Most would much rather choose to speak of unprofitable things, and this has troubled me.”

“That really is a thing to be deplored,” responded Faithful. “What is more worthy of the use of the tongue and mouth of people on Earth than to speak of the things of the God of Heaven?”

“I really like the way you talk,” said Talkative, “for you speak with conviction. And, in addition, what is more pleasant and more profitable than to talk of the things of God? `What pleasantness?’ someone may ask, that is if one has delight in things that are wonderful. Well, for instance, if people enjoy talking about the history or mystery of things, or if they love to talk about miracles, wonders, or signs, where shall they find things recorded so delightfully and so sweetly written as in the Holy Scripture?”

“That’s true,” said Faithful, “but it should be our intention to be profited by such things in our discussion.”

“That’s what I said,” replied Talkative, “for talking of such things is most profitable. By doing so, a person may acquire knowledge of many things—in general, the meaningless nature of earthly things and the beneficial nature of things above. But more particularly, by talking like this, a person may learn the necessity of the New Birth, the insufficiency of our works, the need of Christ’s righteousness, and so forth. Besides, by this a person may learn what it means to repent, believe, pray, suffer, and the like. People may also learn—for their own comfort—what the great promises and encouragements of the Gospel are. Furthermore, by this pursuit, one may learn to refute false opinions, to vindicate the truth, and learn also to instruct the ignorant.” 60

“All this is true,” said Faithful. “I’m glad to hear these things from you.”

“Alas,” exclaimed Talkative, “the lack of this is the reason so few understand the need of faith and the necessity of a work of grace in their soul in order to obtain eternal life. Most live ignorantly in the works of the Law, through which no one can by any means obtain the Kingdom of Heaven.”

“Excuse me,” said Faithful, “but heavenly knowledge of these things is a gift of God. No one attains them by human effort or by only talking about them.”

“I know all this very well,” remarked Talkative, “for a man can receive only what is given him from heaven.1 All is of grace, not of works. I could give you a hundred Scriptures for the confirmation of this.”2

“Well then,” said Faithful, “what is the one thing with which we shall now begin our discussion?”

“Whatever you like,” replied Talkative. “I’ll talk about heavenly things or earthly things, conforming things or evangelical things,3 sacred things or profane things, foreign things or domestic things, essential things or incidental things—as long as we can profit by all of it.”4

Now Faithful began to wonder, and stepping over to Christian (who all this while had been walking alone), he said to him softly, “What a fine companion we’ve got here. This man will make an extremely good Pilgrim.”

At this, Christian smiled modestly and said, “This man with whom you’re so impressed will beguile with his tongue twenty people who don’t know him.”

“You know him then?” asked Faithful.

“Know him!” exclaimed Christian. “Yes, better than he knows himself.”

“Tell me, what is he?” asked Faithful.

“His name is Talkative,” answered Christian. “He lives in our town. I’m surprised you would be a stranger to him, but I realize our town is large.”

“Who is his father,” asked Faithful, “and where does he live?”

“He’s the son of a man named Saywell,” answered Christian, “and he lives on Gabby Row. He is known of all those acquainted with him by the name of Talkative on Gabby Row, and regardless of his fine tongue, he’s really a sorry fellow.”

“Well,” said Faithful, “he seems to be a very handsome man.”

“Perhaps to those who don’t have a thorough knowledge of him,” replied Christian, “for he’s at his best away from home. Near home he’s ugly enough. Your saying he’s a handsome man brings to mind what I’ve observed in the work of the painter whose pictures show best at a distance but up close are more unpleasant.”

“But I’m tempted to think you jest because you smiled,” said Faithful.

Christian answered quickly, “God forbid that I should jest in this matter—though I did smile—or that I should accuse anyone falsely. I’ll give you further information about him: This man is happy with any company, and he’s for any conversation. Just as he talks with you now, he’ll talk when he’s sitting on the bar stool. And the more drink he has in his head, the more of these things he has in his mouth. Religion has no place in his heart, or house, or lifestyle. Everything he has lies in his tongue, and making a noise with it is his religion.”

“You don’t say!” interjected Faithful. “Then I’ve been greatly deceived by this man.”

“Deceived?” asked Christian. “You can be sure of it. Remember the sayings, `They do not practice what they preach,’5 and `For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.6 He talks about prayer, repentance, faith, and the New Birth, but he only knows how to talk about them. I’ve been with his family and have observed him both at home and away, and I know what I say about him is the truth. His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of flavor. There is neither prayer nor a sign of repentance for sin there. An animal in his way serves God far better than he. He is a veritable stain, reproach, and shame on religion to everyone who knows him. One can hardly hear a good word about him in the whole end of town where he lives. The common people who know him say he’s a saint abroad and a devil at home. His poor family finds that true; he’s such a rascal. He speaks to his servants with such bitterness, and he’s so unreasonable with them that they know neither how to please him nor how to speak to him. Men who have any dealings with him say it’s better to deal with a Turk7 than with him, for they would have fairer dealings at their hands. Talkative will—if it’s possible—surpass them in his dirty dealing through fraud and deception. Besides that, he’s bringing up his sons to follow in his footsteps. And if he recognizes in any of them a foolish fearfulness—as he calls the first appearance of a tender conscience—he calls them fools and blockheads and refuses to give them much work to do nor will by any means recommend their work to others. As for me, I’m of the opinion that he has caused many to stumble and fall because of his wicked life,8 and he will be the ruin of many more if God doesn’t prevent it.”

“Well, my Brother,” said Faithful, “I’m bound to believe you, not only because you say you know him but also because you make your reports of men with the attitude of a Christian. I believe you speak these things because it is exactly as you say and not out of ill-will for him.”

Christian replied, “Had I not known him better than you, it’s possible I might have thought of him at first as you did. Yes, if he’d earned this reputation only at the hands of those who are enemies of religion, I would’ve thought it to have been slander. A lot of things like that fall from the mouths of bad men upon the names and professions of good men. But I can prove him guilty of all these things—yes, and a lot more just as bad from my own experiences. Besides, good men are ashamed of him and call him neither brother nor friend. If they know him, the mere mention of his name among them makes them blush.”

“Well,” said Faithful, “I see that talking and doing are two different things, and after this I’ll pay closer attention to this distinction.”

“They really are two separate things, and they’re as diverse as the soul and the body,” said Christian. “As the body without the soul is dead, so talking by itself is but a dead carcass. The soul of religion is the practical part. `Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’9 Talkative isn’t aware of this. He thinks that hearing and saying will make him a good Christian, and so he deceives his own soul. Hearing is only like the sowing of seed.10 Talking isn’t sufficient to prove that fruit is truly in the heart and life,11 and we can be assured that at the Day of Doom men will be judged according to their fruit.12 It will not be said then, `Did you believe?’ but `Were you doers or only talkers?’13 And they shall be judged accordingly.14 The end of the world is compared to our harvest,15 and you know workers at harvest don’t care about anything but fruit. Nothing will be accepted that is not of Faith. I say this to show you how insignificant the profession of Talkative will be on that day.” 16

Faithful then said, “This reminds me of the words of Moses when he described the animal that is ceremonially clean.17 It is the animal that has a split hoof and chews its cud, not the one that has a split hoof only, or one that only chews its cud. The rabbit chews its cud, but it’s still unclean because it doesn’t have a split hoof. This actually resembles Talkative. He chews the cud—that is, he seeks knowledge and chews on the Word—but he doesn’t have a separated hoof; he doesn’t separate himself from the Way of Sinners. Like the rabbit, he retains the foot of a dog or bear, and so he’s unclean.”

“How well I know,” said Christian. “You’ve spoken the true Gospel sense of those texts, and I’ll add another thing. Paul calls some men—those great talkers included—resounding gongs and clanging cymbals.18 In another place he speaks of them as, `lifeless things that make sounds.’19 That is, they’re things without life, without the True Faith and Grace of the Gospel. Consequently, they’re things that will never be placed in the Kingdom of Heaven among those who are the Children of Life, even though the sound of their speech is like the tongue or voice of an angel.”

“Well,” said Faithful, “I wasn’t so fond of his company before, but now I’m sick of it. What should we do to get rid of him?”

“Take my advice and do as I suggest,” replied Christian. “You’ll find that unless God touches his heart and changes it, he’ll soon be sick of your company, too.”

“What do you want me to do?” asked Faithful.

“Why, just go up to him and begin some serious discussion about the power of religion,” said Christian. “After he has approved of the conversation, for he surely will, then ask him plainly if this thing can be found in his heart, house, or lifestyle.”

Then Faithful stepped forward again and said to Talkative, “Say, there. How are you doing?”

“Good, thank you,” answered Talkative. “I thought we would’ve had several discussions by now.”

“Well,” responded Faithful, “if you want, we can talk now. Since you left it to me to choose a topic, let it be this question: How does the saving grace of God reveal itself when it is in a person’s heart?”

“I perceive then that our discussion must be about the power of things,” stated Talkative. “Well, that’s a very good question, and I’ll be more than willing to answer you. Take my answer in brief to be this: First—the grace of God in the heart causes a great outcry there against sin. Second …”

“No, wait!” interjected Faithful. “Let’s consider them one at a time. I think you should rather say that it shows itself by inclining the soul to abhor its sin.”

“Why?” asked Talkative. “What’s the difference between crying out against sin and abhorring it?”

“Oh, a great deal,” said Faithful. “Someone may cry out against sin as a matter of policy, but one can’t abhor it except through the virtue of a godly aversion for it. I’ve heard many cry out against sin from the pulpit who are pleased enough to have it dwell in their own heart, house, and lifestyle. Potipher’s wife cried out with a loud voice as if she had been very holy, but in spite of that she would have willingly committed adultery with Joseph.20 Some cry out against sin like a mother cries out against her child in her lap when she calls her a dirty and a naughty girl and then begins hugging and kissing her.”21

“I see you set a trap,” said Talkative.

“No, not I! I’m only for setting things right,” responded Faithful. “But what is the second thing through which you would prove the existence of a work of grace in the heart?”

“A great knowledge of Gospel Mysteries,” replied Talkative.

“This sign should’ve been named first,” said Faithful, “but first or last, it’s also false. Knowledge, great knowledge, may be accumulated in the mysteries of the Gospel without a work existing in the soul. Even if a man has all knowledge, he may yet be nothing and so consequently not a child of God.22 When Christ said, `Have you understood all these things?’ and His disciples answered ‘Yes’23 He added later, `You will be blessed if you do them.’24 He doesn’t place the blessing in knowing them but in doing them. There is a knowledge that isn’t associated with doing. For example, a man who knows his master’s will but doesn’t do it.25 A man may have knowledge like an angel and yet not be a Christian. Your sign, therefore, isn’t true. Yes, knowing is a thing that pleases talkers and boasters, but doing is the thing that pleases God. That’s not to say the heart can be good without knowledge, for without that the heart is nothing. There is knowledge, and then there is knowledge—knowledge that rests in the bare speculation of things, and knowledge that is associated with the grace of faith and love, which causes a person to begin doing the will of God from the heart. The first of these will satisfy the talker; but without the other, the true Christian is not content. Psalm one nineteen, thirty-four says, `Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.’”26

“You have set a trap again,” said Talkative. “This is not for edification.”

“Well, if you like, submit another sign showing how the work of grace reveals itself where it is,” responded Faithful.

“Not I,” answered Talkative, “for I see we won’t agree.”

“If you won’t,” said Faithful, “then will you allow me to do it?”

“Have your way,” said Talkative.

Faithful began, “A work of grace in the soul reveals itself to him who has it and to those around him. To him who has it, it convicts him of sin, 27 especially the sin of defiling his own nature28 and the sin of unbelief,29 for which he is sure to be damned if he doesn’t find mercy at God’s hand through faith in Jesus Christ.”30 This struggle with conviction31 and knowledge of things causes him to feel sorrow and shame for sin.32 Moreover, he finds revealed in himself the `Savior of the world”33 and the absolute necessity of coming together with Him for life. And when he does, he experiences hungering and thirsting after Him. The promise is made to those hungering and thirsting. `Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.’”34

“Now,” Faithful went on, “he’ll experience joy and peace according to the strength or weakness of his faith in his Savior.35 His desire to know Him more and to serve Him in this world will be according to his love of holiness.36 But, although I say it reveals itself like this to him, yet he is seldom able to conclude that this is a work of grace. That’s because his existing depravity and his abused ability to reason cause his mind to misjudge the matter. Therefore, before he can conclude with confidence that this is a work of grace, the one experiencing this work must make a very sound judgment.”

“To others,” continued Faithful, “it is revealed like this: First—by an experiential confession of his faith in Christ,37 and, second—by a life in agreement with that confession.38 That is, he must have a life of holiness: heart-holiness, family-holiness if he has a family, and lifestyle-holiness39 before the world.40 In general, his confession teaches him to inwardly condemn his sin, and himself for doing it secretly.41 It teaches him to suppress sin in his family and to promote holiness in the world, not by talk only, as a hypocrite or talkative person may do,42 but by a practical subjection to the power of the Word in faith and love.”

“And now, Sir,” concluded Faithful, “if you have something to object to regarding this brief description of the work of grace and how it reveals itself, then do so. If not, then permit me to submit to you a second question.”

“No,” said Talkative, “It’s not my place now to object but to hear. Let me, therefore, have your second question.”

Faithful began, “It is this: Have you experienced the first part of the description of the work of grace? And do your life and lifestyle testify to it? Or does your religion exist in word or tongue and not in deed and truth? Please, if you choose to answer me in this, don’t say anything except what God above will say `Amen’ to. Also, don’t say anything except what your conscience can justify you in, `For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.43 Besides, it’s great wickedness to say I am thus and so, when my lifestyle and all my neighbors tell me I’m lying.”

Talkative at first began to blush but, regaining his composure, he replied, “You come now to experience, conscience, and God and to appeal to Him for justification of what is spoken. I didn’t expect this kind of discussion. I’m not inclined to answer such questions because I don’t feel obliged to do so, unless you take upon yourself to be an instructor of religion. Yet, even if you do, I may refuse to allow you to be my judge. But tell me, why do you ask me such questions?”

“Because I saw you were inclined to talk,” answered Faithful, “and because I didn’t know if you had anything more than mere opinions. Besides, to tell you the truth, I’ve heard of you: that you’re a man whose religion lies in talk and that your lifestyle makes the confession of your mouth a lie.They say you’re a spot among Christians and that religion fares the worse because of your ungodly lifestyle. They say that some have already stumbled due to your wicked ways and that more are in danger of being destroyed by the same. Your religion and your appearance at drinking establishments, greed, impurity, swearing, lying, the arrogant company you keep, and so forth will all stand together. The proverb that is said of a prostitute, that `she is a shame to all women,’ is true of you. In the same way, you’re a shame to all those professing to know Christ.”

Talkative then responded, “Since you’re inclined to speak of hearsay and to judge as rashly as you do, I can only conclude that you are some fretful and depressed man who’s not fit to chat with. And so, good-bye.”

Christian then came up and said to Faithful, “I told you how it would happen. Your words and his desires couldn’t agree. He would rather leave your company than reform his life. Now he’s gone, so let him go. The loss is no one’s but his own. He saved us the trouble of departing from him, for continuing as he is—as I suppose he’ll do—he would’ve been a blotch in our fellowship. Besides, the Apostle tells us `to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.’”44

“But I’m glad we had this little discussion with him,” said Faithful. “Perhaps he’ll think of it again. However, I’ve dealt openly with him, so I’m not accountable for his blood if he perishes.”45

“It was a good thing you talked to him plainly as you did,” said Christian. “There’s not much of this straight dealing with people these days, and that’s what makes religion stink in the nostrils of men the way it does. For many are these talkative fools whose religion is only in word, and who are perverted and arrogant in their lifestylesBeing admitted into the fellowship of the godly, they puzzle the world, blemish Christianity, and grieve the sincere. I wish that everyone would deal with them as you’ve done. Then they would either be made to conform to religion, or the Fellowship of Saints would be too hot for them to remain.”

Then Faithful said:

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.

They went on talking like this about what they had seen by the way, and it made that part of the journey easy that would have otherwise no doubt been exhausting for them, because now they were going through a wilderness. When they had gotten almost completely out of this wilderness, Faithful happened to look back and see an individual coming up behind them.

Faithful recognized him and said, “Oh, look who’s coming yonder, Brother!”

Then Christian looked and exclaimed, “It’s my good friend Evangelist!”

“Yes,” said Faithful, “and my good friend, too. He’s the one who set me in the pathway to the Gate.”

By that time Evangelist had caught up with them and greeted them, saying, “Peace be with you, dearly Beloved, and peace be to your helpers.”

“Welcome, welcome, good Evangelist,” said Christian. “The sight of your face brings to my remembrance your kindness in times past and your unwearied labor for my eternal welfare.”46

“And welcome a thousand times over,” said Faithful. “Dear Evangelist, your companionship is so desirable to us poor Pilgrims!”

Then Evangelist spoke, saying, “My friends, how has it gone with you since the time of our last parting? With what have you met, and how have you behaved yourselves?”

Then Christian and Faithful told him about all the things that had happened to them in the Way and how and with what difficulty they had arrived where they were then.

“I’m so glad,” said Evangelist, “not that you met with trials, but that you’ve been champions and have continued in the Way to this very day regardless of your many weaknesses. I say I’m extremely glad, for your sake and mine, for I have sowed, and you have reaped. The day is coming when both he who sows and they who reap will be glad together,47 for at the proper time, you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.48 The Crown is in front of you, and it is one that will last forever. So run that you may win it.49 There are some who set out after this Crown, and after they’ve gone a great distance to reach it, someone comes and takes it from them. `Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.’50 You’re not yet out of gunshot range of the Devil. `In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.’51 Let the Kingdom always be before you, and believe resolutely in things that are invisible.52 Let nothing on this side of the Other World get inside of you, and above all, pay close attention to your own hearts and to the desires of it, for they’re more deceitful than anything and desperately wicked.53 Set your faces like stone. You have all power in Heaven and earth on your side.”54

Then Christian thanked him for his words of encouragement but told him that they, nevertheless, wanted him to speak more to them for their edification the rest of the Way, and preferably—for they knew very well he was a Prophet—tell them of things that might happen to them and how they might resist and overcome them. Faithful also agreed with this.

So Evangelist began, saying, “My Sons, you’ve heard in the words of the truth of the Gospel that you must enter into the Kingdom of Heaven through many hardships,55 and again that prison and hardships face you in every city.56 You can’t expect, therefore, to travel far on your Pilgrimage without them in some form or other. You’ve experienced something of the truth of these testimonies already, and more will immediately follow; for now, as you see, you’re almost out of this wilderness. Therefore, you will soon enter into a town that you will in time see before you. In that town you’ll be severely besieged by enemies who will try hard in their attempts to kill you, and you can be sure that one or both of you must seal with blood the testimony that you hold. But, `be faithful even to the point of death, and [the King] will give you the crown of life.’57 Even though his death will be unnatural and perhaps his pain great, yet the one who dies there will have the advantage over his partner, not only because he will have arrived in Celestial City soonest, but because he will escape many miseries that the other one will meet with during the rest of his journey. But when you arrive at the town and find fulfilled what I’ve told you here, then remember your friend and `be men of courage;’58 commit yourselves to your faithful Creator and continue to do good.”59 (99-113)


1. John 3:27

2. O brave Talkative

3. The original reads “moral things or evangelical things.” The phrase could have been translated, “conservative things or liberal things;” but its religious application would have been lost. Moral has to do with a view of justification based solely upon strict adherence to a moral code and standing traditions.

4. O brave Talkative

5. Matthew 23:3

6. 1 Corinthians 4:20

7. This statement is based upon feelings held by those in West European society for the Ottoman Empire to the East, which was ruled by Muslims from the l6th to 19th centuries and whose heartland was the area of modern Turkey. The Turks often kidnapped Christians who were foolish enough to wander into their area and then demanded ransoms for their release. After the ransoms were paid, they would sometimes release their prisoners, sometimes keep them, and sometimes mutilate or kill them. Thus they developed a reputation of having unsavory and untrustworthy characters.

8. Romans 2:17-24

9. James 1:23-27

10. Matthew 13:1-23

11. Matthew 7:15-20, 12:33-37; Luke 6:43-45 

12. Matthew 21:19; Luke 13:6-9; John 15:1-8

13. James 2:14-26

14. Revelation 20:11-13

15. Matthew 13:37-43; Mark 4:26-29; Revelation 14:14-16

16. Matthew 25

17. Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14

18. 1 Corinthians 13:1

19. 1 Corinthians 14:7

20. Genesis 39:11-18

21. The crying out against sin, no sign of grace.

22. 1 Corinthians 13:2. Great Knowledge, no sign of Grace.

23. Matthew 13:51

24. John 13:17

25. Matthew 7:26; Luke 6:49

26. True knowledge attended with endeavors.

27. John 16:7-11

28. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

29. Revelation 21:8

30. Galatians 2:16; Acts 4:12

31. Psalm 38:17-18; Romans 7:24; Mark 6:16, in which Herod is convicted of past deeds when he hears of the works of Christ.

32. Jeremiah 31:19

33. 1 John 4:14

34. Matthew 5:6, not included in Bunyan’s original text. It was, however, included in his sidenotes and is added here to define the promise. Revelation 21:6

35. Psalm 4:8, 16:11, 119:165

36. Psalm 73:24-26, 42:1-2

37. Romans 10:10

38. Philippians 1:27

39. Psalm 50:23

40. Romans 6:19; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:17-29; Hebrews 12:14; John 14:15

41. Job 42:5-6; Ezekiel 20:43

42. Matthew 15:8

43. 2 Corinthians 10:18

44. 2 Thessalonians 3:6. This scripture was substituted for 1 Timothy 6:5 (KJV), “From such withdraw thyself,” which was used by Bunyan in his original.

45. Ezekiel 3:16-21

46. Colossians 4:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; Hebrews 6:10

47. John 4:36

48. Galatians 6:9

49. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

50. Revelation 3:11

51. Hebrews 12:4

52. Hebrews 11:1-3, 6, 8-10, 13-16, 24-27

53. James 1:13-15

54. Matthew 28:18

55. Acts 14:22

56. Acts 20:23

57. Revelation 2:10

58. 1 Corinthians 16:13

59. 1 Peter 4:19, Titus 2:14 (KJV), Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

60. 2 Timothy 3:16

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