As a pastor, of all the characters in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress I’m drawn especially to the faithful and fearless Mr. Greatheart. Mr. Greatheart was a guide guiding pilgrims from the City of Destruction to their hoped for arrival at the Celestial City.
He was, that is, a pastor.
Mr. Greatheart would guide people of every disposition. Those who made that journey were not only men of strength, such as Hopeful and Christian and Faithful, but also Mr. Little-faith, Much-Afraid, Mr. Despondency, and Mr. Ready-to-Halt. Pastors come alongside many people for whom the journey is long and hard and difficult. That is what a congregation looks like.
One of those struggling pilgrims was one Mr. Fearing. A cloud of darkness clung to Mr. Fearing, but Mr. Greatheart hung with him and saw him to his destination. In talking about him afterwards with Mr. Honest, Mr. Greatheart makes some thoughtful observations regarding those for whom such darkness is close companion.
Honest: But what should be the reason that such a good man should be all his days so much in the dark?
Great-heart: There are two sorts of reasons for it; one is, The wise God will have it so, some must pipe, and some must weep: Now Mr. Fearing was one that played upon this bass. He and his fellows sound the sackbut, whose notes are more doleful than the notes of other musick are; though indeed some say, the bass is the ground of musick: And for my part, I care not at all for that profession, that begins not in heaviness of mind. The first string that the musician usually touches, is the bass, when he intends to put all in tune; God also plays upon this string first, when he sets the soul in tune for himself. Only here was the imperfection of Mr. Fearing, he could play upon no other musick but this, till towards his latter end.
Heaviness of mind, depth of thought, even depression, adds a weight and solemnity to one’s profession of faith that holds it steady through much struggle. Too often, of course, as with Mr. Fearing, that is the only note we learn to play.