One of the most noble characters in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is that great defender of the faith, Valiant-for-truth. We don’t meet him until the second part of the story, but the lessons that he teaches every Christian who is serious about God’s Word and the recovery of biblical truth are priceless.
One of my favorite scenes in Bunyan’s allegory (which, if you have not read, you simply must before the month is out!) is the occasion when Great-Heart first meets Valiant-for-truth. Great-Heart is leading his company of pilgrims (including Christiana and her children) to the Celestial City when they happen upon a man that is standing in the path, covered in blood, with a sword in his hand. Here is Bunyan’s description of that encounter.
Then said Mr. Great-Heart, Who art thou? The man made answer, saying, I am one whose name is Valiant-for-truth. I am a pilgrim, and am going to the Celestial City. Now, as I was in my way, there were three men that did beset me, and propounded unto me these three things: 1. Whether I would become one of them. 2. Or go back from whence I came. 3. Or die upon the place. Prov. 1:11-14. To the first I answered, I had been a true man for a long season, and therefore it could not be expected that I should now cast in my lot with thieves. Then they demanded what I would say to the second. So I told them that the place from whence I came, had I not found incommodity there, I had not forsaken it at all; but finding it altogether unsuitable to me, and very unprofitable for me, I forsook it for this way. Then they asked me what I said to the third. And I told them my life cost far more dear than that I should lightly give it away. Besides, you have nothing to do thus to put things to my choice; wherefore at your peril be it if you meddle. Then these three, to wit, Wild-head, Inconsiderate, and Pragmatic [which in Bunyan’s day meant officious, meddlesome; dogmatic in a dictatorial way], drew upon me, and I also drew upon them. So we fell to it, one against three, for the space of above three hours. They have left upon me, as you see, some of the marks of their valor, and have also carried away with them some of mine. They are but just now gone; I suppose they might, as the saying is, hear your horse dash, and so they betook themselves to flight [emphasis added].
Many people miss the lesson that Bunyan is trying to teach here. These three enemies are well-named because they are the constant enemies of everyone whose heart burns with an undying devotion to truth. In order to understand and apply the lesson, you must recognize the fact that these enemies did not assail Valiant-for-truth from the outside, but from within his own heart. Don’t you find this to be true, that as the flames of passion for God’s truth burn brightest in your heart that the tempations to be wild, inconsiderate and officious grow strong? The successful, useful Valiant-for-truth is the man who effectively wields the sword he so much loves against the enemies of his own heart.
May the Lord raise up a generation of Valiant-for-truths after the example of Bunyan’s noble character!