Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress - Simple, Sloth, Presumption

Every tub must stand upon its own bottom.

John Bunyan still dreaming describes how Christian almost immediately upon leaving the cross and continuing in the way runs into three men: Simple, Sloth, and Presumption. Bunyan writes:

I saw then in my dream, that he went on thus, even until he came at the bottom, where he saw, a little out of the way, three men fast asleep, with fetters upon their heels. The name of the one was Simple, of another Sloth, and of the third Presumption.

Christian then seeing them lie in this case, went to them, if peradventure he might awake them, and cried, you are like them that sleep on the top of a mast, Prov 23:34, for the Dead Sea is under you, a gulf that hath no bottom: awake, therefore, and come away; be willing also, and I will help you off with your irons. He also told them, If he that goeth about like a roaring lion, 2Pet 5:8, comes by, you will certainly become a prey to his teeth. With that they looked upon him, and began to reply in this sort: Simple said, I see no danger; Sloth said, Yet a little more sleep; and Presumption said, Every tub must stand upon its own bottom. And so they lay down to sleep again, and Christian went on his way.

As my girls and I read the above we could see some very pertinent warnings here as follows:

Simple: not necessarily someone who is a born idiot but who chooses not to know, not to study, not to read, and not to learn of the dangers that might be present, not to understand. The scriptures warn us and Christian lovingly repeated those warnings but Simple says, "I see no danger." I can almost hear him: "Why make such a big deal about Penal Substitutionary Atonement? Why speak of the dangers of self-love and those that encourage it? Why should I be awake now ... Why should I dig so deep into the gospel? ... Why do I need to learn such big words as justification, sanctification, regeneration, redemption, atonement, propitiation, expiation? Why should I etc... ... I see no danger?"

Sloth: "A little more sleep... Don't speak to me of diligence. Don't tell me to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling or to make my calling and election sure. Study... not me .. a little more sleep... pray.. no I don't think so.. a little more sleep."

Presumption: This one scares me the most. This example brings the most conviction. And I must confess I was slow to understand Bunyan here when Presumption's response to Christian's warnings was this: "Every tub must stand upon its own bottom. " I remarked out loud, my girls hearing my confusion, "What does this mean?"

It was my youngest who said, "Could it mean that he want's to do it all by himself and he doesn't want anyone to help him." I think she fairly well explained Bunyan's point exactly. In Pilgrim's Progress the characters have names which also describe who they are. If the name, Presumption, is taken with this meaning, "blind or headstrong confidence," as described in the Webster's 1828 Dictionary it fits. Plus it turns out that this phrase is an old proverb calling for one to be independent.

Hence, Presumption is saying to Christian, "I don't need your warnings. Don't bother waking me. I'm my own man and will wake myself in my own way and in my own time. My secret sins are my own concern and I don't need the help of another to overcome them. Confessing your faults one to another does not apply to me." James 5:16

Lastly, DID YOU NOTICE Christian's first rebuke: "
you are like them that sleep on the top of a mast," which is taken from Prov 23:34 ;

Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.

Incredible word picture and as many times as I've read Proverbs I didn't remember that phrase. Suitable warning.

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