‘Glad I am, my good companion,’ said Pliable, after the passage about the cherubim and the seraphim, and the golden crowns and the golden harps, ’it ravishes my very heart to hear all this. Come on, let us mend our pace.’ This is delightful, this is perfect. How often have we ourselves heard these very words of challenge and reproof from the pliable frequenters of emotional meetings, and from the emotional members of an emotional but rootless ministry. Come on, let us mend our pace! ’I am sorry to say,’ replied the man with the burden on his back, ’that I cannot go so fast as I would.’ ‘Christian,’ says Mr. Kerr Bain, ’has more to carry than Pliable has, as, indeed, he would still have if he were carrying nothing but himself; and he does have about him, besides, a few sobering thoughts as to the length and labour and some of the unforeseen chances of the way.’ And as Dean Paget says in his profound and powerful sermon on ‘The Disasters of Shallowness’: ’Yes, but there is something else first; something else without which that inexpensive brightness, that easy hopefulness, is apt to be a frail resourceless growth, withering away when the sun is up and the hot winds of trial are sweeping over it. We must open our hearts to our religion; we must have the inward soil broken up, freely and deeply its roots must penetrate our inner being. We must take to ourselves in silence and in sincerity its words of judgment with its words of hope, its sternness with its encouragement, its denunciations with its promises, its requirements, with its offers, its absolute intolerance of sin with its inconceivable and divine long-suffering towards sinners.’ But preaching like this would have frightened away poor Pliable. He would not have understood it, and what he did understand of it he would have hated with all his shallow heart.
‘Where are we now?’ called Pliable to his companion, as they both went over head and ears into the Slough of Despond. ‘Truly,’ said Christian, ’I do not know.’—No work of man is perfect, not even the all-but-perfect Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian was bound to fall sooner or later into a slough filled with his own despondency about himself, his past guilt, his present sinfulness, and his anxious future. But Pliable had not knowledge enough of himself to make him ever despond. He was always ready and able to mend his pace. He had no burden on his back, and therefore no doubt in his heart. But