There is no interpreter.
-Pharaoh’s Officers
There is with Him an Interpreter, one among a thousand.
Leaving Goodwill, Christian went on in his journey. He knew that he would soon come to Interpreter’s house. For the Narrow Way, which led from the Strait Gate, would not be without the landmark of an occasional house of Interpreter. Christian, from the Book in his hand, knew Interpreter. For he petitioned Him for direction in The Way in this fashion: “Teach me to do Thy will: for Thou art my God. Thy Spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness” (Ps. 143:10). On he went to that land, confident of the promise in his Book, “When He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you in all truth…and He will show you things to come” (John 16:13).
Upon reaching Interpreter’s house, he knocked and knocked at the door, as it turned out to be necessary, over and over again. He was used to a good deal of persistent knocking by now, as you recall his experience at the Strait Gate. Of course, Christian had already met one interpreter in Evangelist; for you must know by now that every minister of the Word is an interpreter, and every true church is an interpreter’s house. As you advance in your pilgrim journey, you stop at Interpreter’s house twice each Lord’s Day. There you knock at the door by praying over, reading, hearing the Word, meditating on it, knowing daily the experience of it and daily observing its fulfillment in The Way and in the world. Remember, in Mr. Worldly-Wiseman’s church, the largest in Moralitytown, there was no place for Interpreter. In that church, neither the surpliced Dr. Glossalalia, nor his main line congregation would understand Interpreter.
Christian, going to Mr. Zion, would call regularly at Interpreter’s house to be shown such things as would help him on his journey, and which would prove to be “excellent things.” For the realities of the faith are the most real things in life to the believer. Other people see no sense whatever in the rooms of Interpreter’s house. They are a riddle and an offence to them. It takes a spiritual mind not only to appreciate this story of our pilgrim and his progress, but also get into its depths. I Cor. 2:14; Matt. 13:11. At last, Christian was greeted at the door with Interpreter’s own, “Come in”. Inwardly, he rejoiced, “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Ps. 122:1). The Interpreter further announced that he would be shown “that which will be profitable unto thee.” Covenant children will enjoy the pictures and people met in this house, but they will be well on in the covenant life before they will be able to say that this house has been profitable to them. Interpreter had His man there, a minister of the Word, with a lamp, the Word itself. In the light of that lamp they entered a room where was a portrait of a man. The portrait was of one with a very serious face (remember Goodwill?), eyes riveted on heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth written indelibly on his lips, a crucified world behind his back, standing as a prophet preaching to Israel and a crown of gold hanging over his head.
“What does this mean?” Christian asked. Mark that. Christian asked, not Graceless, which is what he is by nature. But Graceless, who is that and nothing more, does not ask such a question, does not concern himself with it, and would not understand any one of Interpreter’s explanations. Yet ministers, and all who would prepare for the ministry, ought to examine this portrait and Interpreter’s exposition of it line by line and clause by clause, to seek close conformity to it, and should teach their auditors to avoid entrusting themselves to the guidance of any who are wholly unlike this parabolic representation. Strange, yet true, that neither Interpreter nor His house are understood by many professing to be members of His house. They are unable to appreciate Interpreter’s man, and unable to discern the man in the portrait. Disillusioned with the church institute and the ordained ministry, they have made the man in the picture the Holy Spirit. In this way they refuse to recognize “the only man whom the Lord of the place…has authorized” and to honor and receive him “to be thy guide.” They recognize no duly called, ordained and sent minister of the Gospel. It is such a man, not the Holy Spirit (Interpreter himself!), who is destined “to have glory for his reward.” Such a man in his ministry is both a father (I Cor. 4:5) and a mother (Gal. 4:19) in Zion.
Led by hand he was shown another, large room. Never swept, it was thick with dust. A man came in and began to sweep. The room was soon crammed with huge, billowing clouds of dust. Christian, choking, dabbed at watery eyes. The dust was then allowed to settle, revealing the room as dirty, at least, as before. Interpreter then commanded a beautiful young woman who stood by to sprinkle the room with water, which upon doing, the room was easily swept and quickly restored to order. The room represents the heart of man in his natural state of original sin and corruptions of his fallen nature. The whole man is defiled. The man sweeping, a holy, just and good man, is the law. But the natural man has an inbred aversion to him, to his strictness, severity and high spirituality. He harbors enmity toward the self-denial the law demands, to its exacting prohibitions of his favorite sin, to the awful sentence it denounces against every transgression and even to Him who gave the law. The young maiden sprinkling with water (Heb. 10:22) is the Gospel. Sin is conquered and the soul purified through faith in the Gospel. So the believer’s heart is made fit for the King of Glory to dwell in it (John 15:3, 4).
Next they came to a tiny room where two little children sat on two little chairs. The oldest was Passion, the other, Patience. The former was fretful, restless and discontented. The latter was calm, composed, satisfied. The reason was that Passion would have all his best things now, whereas Patience is for waiting, to have his best things in the world to come. Passion has the atheistical spirit of dialectical materialism. Patience has the spirit of saints’ perseverance and endurance. Passion found more in that old adage, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” than in any of the directives of that best of books. He looked upon religion as that old Jew, Mordecai Levy, who taught that religion is the opiate of the people. By this he meant that with religion a man becomes satisfied with mere “pie-in-the-sky,” whereas anyone knows that a pie in the stomach is worth two in the sky. Strange, though, that now today, because of taking to Levy’s insidious philosophy, opiates have become the opiate of the people! But, as our dedicated traveler learned, this bird-in-the-hand, or pie-in-the-stomach philosophy, in the end, will leave its adherents with “nothing but rags.” Notice, too, that Passion and Patience are depicted as children. Patience is simple, as a child. Passion is childish.
The next scene was that of a fire burning against a wall, with a man dashing buckets of water over it, yet, unquenchable, it only burned higher and hotter. The mystery was solved when Christian, taken to the other side of the wall, saw there a man secretly pouring oil into the fire through a hole in the wall. The fire is the work of grace in the soul. The devil tries to extinguish it. Christ continually pours in the oil of His grace and Spirit. Only faith can see how the work of grace is maintained in the soul. In this picture, we have a very careful presentation of the doctrine of final perseverance, guarding against its abuse. What we have here is efficacious grace keeping the Christian, who does not backslide for many years only to be revived before the closing scene! But his path becomes brighter and brighter, and that despite the depraved nature and the attacks of Satan to quench that holy flame.
After one other very wonderful spiritual dramatization presented before his eye, which demonstrates the truth of the kingdom of heaven suffering violence and the violent taking it by force, Christian requested, “Now let me go on.” But Interpreter wisely and graciously detained him, to show him a little more. The novice must learn that the time spent acquiring true knowledge and spiritual discernment is not wasted, though it may seem to interrupt true progress, or to interfere with active service to the Lord. With this instructive tour, Christian was grounded in hope and fear, qualities very lacking in many young people today. Hope is an anchor of the soul. Fear is the ballast of our ship on the sea of life (I Pet. 1:13-17). A godly fear, not the servile fear of unbelief, a fear lest we displease the King. Without the proper balance of spiritual graces, the young believer becomes unstable, unwatchful and uncomfortable. Then like Absalom, he gets “hung up.” Comfort comes in the way of watchfulness, diligence and perseverance in the commandments. Hasn’t the church of modern history learned that from Mr. Bearlike since 1563?

Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 10 February 1970