The turning away of the Simple shall slay them. – Solomon
At last, but not surprisingly, we find Christian arriving at Mr. Calvary, where his terrible burden fell from his back, tumbled down the blood-stained hill to roll off into a sepulcher at the bottom, where it was swallowed up and seen no more. For who this man is and how he got there is a matter of common knowledge.
“Who’s this? The pilgrim: How? ‘Tis very true: Old things are passed away! All’s become new!”
He is Christian, and appears in his pilgrimage as such, and not as Graceless, as some, mistakenly, think of him up to this point. Graceless he is by birth, by nature, according to the flesh, and according to his own confession. Graceless he is as Rahab was the harlot. So we speak of Matthew the publican, of Ruth the Moabitess, of Simon the Pharisee, of Simon the leper, of Simon Barjona. All these names reveal what these elect ones had been. So it is not as Graceless that we first meet him, but as Christian – “a man clothed with rages, standing…with his face (away) from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden on his back” – a man who alone by grace has learned the true state of man’s misery. It is surely only Christian, not Graceless, who as Lot flees the City of Destruction, heedless of all else, crying, “Life, life! eternal life!” (But Simple is too stupid or too hardened to do anything like this.) It is Christian, not Graceless, who knows the Slough of Despond’s conviction of sin. It is Christian who abhors Mr. Worldly-wiseman’s attempts to hide the offense of the cross – and to get others to despise it. It is Christian who knocks at the strait (narrow) gate and enters upon the way which leads to life. It is solely by entering upon this one and only way, as walled up on either side with salvation, and opened by Goodwill, that one may come to the foot of the cross. It is Christian alone who, though accounting himself equally as bad as others, yet hazards all difficulties to get to heavenly City. It is Christian, not Graceless, who gets to Calvary by way of Interpreter’s house. Nor is there another way leading to Calvary. (This Simple cannot see for the life of him!) No wonder, then, that now we find Christian leaping for joy and singing,
“Blest cross! blest sepulcher! blest rather be
The man that was there put to shame for me!”
What Christian’s creator is putting before us is the personal effect on the believer of an intelligent and saving apprehension of the doctrine of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. When he has “three shining ones’ come to Christian, he alludes to the fact that grace comes through the ministration of angels to them who are heirs of salvation. Read Hebrews 1:14; Zech. 3:4 and Rev. 7:3. The author is not one to attribute Christian’s faith and life to any sickly mysticism, such as an ethereal voice suggesting texts of Scripture to his mind, or holy mental impressions coming to him in a dream, or the religious affections so stirred as to envision one hanging on a cross, covered with blood, who then lovingly intones, “Thy sins are forgiven.” People who claim such experiences are ignorant of the doctrine of the atonement, of the glory of its particularity, the certainty of its efficacy, and it sanctifying effect evident in its practical application and manifestation. Christian’s experience is not cluttered with such subjective delusions. Christian is a basically happy being because he obtains peace and joy in believing the record that God has given of His Son. Only when one has a spiritual apprehension of the source, necessity, nature, purpose, extent, efficacy and results of Christ’s satisfaction on the cross will that one know true peace and comfort. (But Simple never gives his mind to such things!)
Nor should it be too surprising that though having gone with Christian through the little gate, along the narrow way, always and ever visiting Interpreter’s house, then coming to the other side of Christ’s cross and grave, we should find these three run-down-at-the-heels – Simple, Sloth and Presumption. True, you might better expect to find these miserable creatures in the City of Destruction or in Stupidsville, or, at least, on the outside of the narrow gate. But then that would present a more abstract than a real picture of the Christian life, which is not, by Scripture, presented as easy and of hedonistic pleasantness. For the deepest experience of the cross will reveal to the person having it how the shackles of bad habit, indifference and hard-heartedness still catch him by the heels. We may go well on in the Christian life and find sin’s enslaving power still in evidence. We may also find many professed pilgrims, with their “burden” rolled away, now fast asleep.
You must therefore certainly expect to find along the straight and narrow way, just “a little out of the way,” and sunk down in a bottom, asleep, many different characters besides true believers. Outwardly they live in the way of the Christian. They seem to be pilgrims. But we are not, in the end, persuaded better things of them, “things which accompany salvation.” The men of this allegorical trio are closely related, ostensibly in the way, though a little out of the way, asleep, and manacled. You find many of this description everywhere, but also where the Word of God is preached. Their convictions and faith are temporary; they cling to the world and the world has them enslaved to its fashion and dictum. They reject the offence of the cross (they hate all trouble), they refuse or pervert sound biblical instruction; they assume that all is and will be well with them; they take the form of godliness for the power thereof; they have no fight and never fought sin in their life. Try to warn them in the kindliest way of the danger and they are very likely to answer, “We see no danger; mind your own business; leave us alone; we can take care of ourselves.” With a “Please Do Not Disturb” sign around their necks they sleep until death and judgment awaken them.
This one looks at you with the sleepy eye of a mole, sating, “I see no danger.” His name means Foolish. He has constitutional inability or lack of concern to cope with anything complex, involved or requiring thought. He has a natural aversion to anything difficult. To him life is freedom to sin as you please with impunity; and, to him, sin must be simple. He therefore easily lives as though there were neither God nor eternity. He considers your efforts to enlighten him as so much unpardonable intrusion on his indulgent peace and voluptuous privacy. Why must you sound such unnecessary alarm, and so disturb a man’s sloth, riot and excess?
Simple may be but a youth, yet we feel inclined to call him “old Bat’s-eye” because he habitually blurts out in his sleep, “I see no danger.” But there is a peculiar danger to which a person of his temperament is exposed, namely, the duplicity and deception of falsehood. Never more than today are children and youth the dupes of Satan. One day they are ranted at, Hitler-style, to go out and kill their parents. The next day violence breaks out not only as usual in the university, but in the high school, also in the junior high and even in the grammar school. “The simple believeth every word. The simple inherit folly” (Prov. 14:15, 18). The way the cup of sin is filling up, the day is fast approaching when it will be impossible to be both simple and safe. For there are too many vicious and depraved characters running loose who ensnare, entrap, mislead, waylay, corrupt and poison the unwary, the naïve and the shiftless. They make a young man void of understanding. They lead him as an ox to the slaughter. In the end he gets a bullet through his liver, and there in the way to hell, he sinks to the same bottom with Sloth and Presumption.
But Simple earns his name because no one can get him to read a good doctrinal book instructing him further in the truth. He has to be pushed to catechism class. Young people’s society he misses as much as he can. His church attendance is not faithful. How he spends the Lord’s Day and what he does with his week-day time we are unable to find out until we hear some disappointing or terrible news about him. He would not be Simple if he were a wholehearted supporter of the church (the word used in the sense of the true church), if he prepared himself to be a useful Christian, if he were a reader of Calvin, if he were a companion of those who study the truth and talk about it. Of course, if you are such a young man, or young woman, as Simple, or an elder man or woman like that, you will not understand what is meant by Christian’s finding you in such company. And yet, how can you any longer continue with the insane piece of auto mesmerism, “I see no danger”?
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 4 June July 1970