"Feelings vs. Truth"
An Extract from Pilgrim's Progress
by John Bunyan
The following is a discussion between Ignorance and Christian on the place of feelings in the Christian life. In this illustration Ignorance typifies a segment of Christendom who base their Gospel life on feelings rather than the Word of God.
Chr. What is the relationship between God and your soul these days?
Ign. Very well, I believe. I am always full of good thoughts that come into my mind and comfort me as I live out my Gospel life.
Chr. What thoughts? Do please tell me.
Ign. Why, I think of God and heaven.
Chr. So do the devils and damned souls.
Ign. Yes, but I think of them, and desire them.
Chr. So do many who are never likely to get there; the soul of the sluggard craves, and gets nothing (Prov.13:4, RSV).
Ign. By I think of them, and have left everything for them.
Chr. I doubt that, for leaving everything is a hard thing to do, indeed, far harder than most are aware of. But tell me, what persuades you that you have left everything for God and heaven?
Ign. My heart tells me so.
Chr. The wise man says: He who trusts in his own heart is a fool (Prov.28:26).
Ign. That's a wicked thing to say! By my heart is a good one.
Chr. But how can you prove that?
Ign. It comforts me in the hope of heaven.
Chr. But your heart may be deceiving you. For a man's heart can comfort him in the hopes of which in reality he has no ground to hope for.
Ign. But my heart and my life are in harmony, and so my hope is built on a good foundation.
Chr. Who told you that your heart and your life are in harmony?
Ign. My heart tells me so.
Chr. So if your heart tells you, "I am a thief!", does that mean that you are? Unless the Word of God testifies that you are a thief, other testimony is of no value.
Ign. But doesn't a good heart have good thoughts? And isn't living a good life according to God's commandments?
Chr. Yes, a good heart does have good thoughts. And a good life is according to God's commandments. But it is one thing to actually have these, and quite another to only think so.
Ign. So, what do you regard as good thoughts and a life according to God's commandments?
Chr. There are many kinds of good thoughts; some concerning ourselves, some concerning God, some Christ, and some other things.
Ign. What are good thoughts concerning ourselves?
Chr. Those thoughts which agree with the Word of God.
Ign. When do thoughts concerning ourselves agree with the Word of God?
Chr. When we pass the same judgment on ourselves which the Word passes. Let me explain: the Word of God says respecting persons living in a "natural" or "fallen" condition: There is noone who is righteous; there is noone who does good (Rom.3:10). It also says: Every imagination of the thoughts of the heart of man are evil continually (Gen.6:5). And again: The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. So then, once we, in a fallen condition, start realising that this is our condition and the way we think, then our thoughts become good, because they are in harmony with the Word of God.
Ign. I will never believe that my heart is bad in that sort of way.
Chr. That, my friend, means that you have never had one good thought about yourself in your whole life! But let me go on. As the Word passes judgment on our heart, so it passes judgment on our ways -- the things we do, our habits, etc.; and when our thoughts and ways agree with the judgment which the Word of God passes on them both, then both are good.
Ign. Explain more...
Chr. Well, the Word of God says that man's ways are crooked ways -- not good, but perverse. It says, in their natural condition, they are far removed from the Good Way of Life, and have never known it (Psa.125; Prov.3:13; Rom.3). Now, when thus begins to think about his way of life -- meaning, when he starts thinking sensibly and with true humility in his heart, he then has good thoughts about his way of life, because his own thoughts now agree with the judgment of the Word of God.
Ign. Tell me of good thoughts concerning God.
Chr. When our thoughts about God agree with what the Word says about Him.
This page was created on 22 May 1998
Last updated on 22 May 1998
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