Friday, December 03, 2010

Bunyan's "The Holy War": Mr. Conscience

In Bunyan’s The Holy War, Emmanuel appoints two ministers over Mansoul. The first is the Lord Chief Secretary (the Holy Spirit) and the second is “the old gentleman who before had been the recorder of Mansoul, Mr. Conscience by name.” This part of the allegory can be taken on at least two levels. On one hand Bunyan describes the individual believer guided by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God and an awakened conscience. On the other hand, there is much in the description of the Recorder that resembles the role of a minister among God’s people. Indeed, he serves as the congregation’s conscience. Here is Bunyan’s description of the charge given to the recorder:

Then did the Prince call unto him the old gentleman, who before had been the Recorder of Mansoul, Mr. Conscience by name, and told him, That, forasmuch as he was well skilled in the law and government of the town of Mansoul, and was also well-spoken, and could pertinently deliver to them his Master's will in all terrene and domestic matters, therefore he would also make him a minister for, in, and to the goodly town of Mansoul, in all the laws, statutes, and judgments of the famous town of Mansoul. 'And thou must,' said the Prince, 'confine thyself to the teaching of moral virtues, to civil and natural duties; but thou must not attempt to presume to be a revealer of those high and supernatural mysteries that are kept close in the bosom of Shaddai, my Father: for those things knows no man, nor can any reveal them but my Father's Secretary only.

'Thou art a native of the town of Mansoul, but the Lord Secretary is a native with my Father; wherefore, as thou hast knowledge of the laws and customs of the corporation, so he of the things and will of my Father.

'Wherefore, O Mr. Conscience, although I have made thee a minister and a preacher to the town of Mansoul, yet as to the things which the Lord Secretary knoweth, and shall teach to this people, there thou must be his scholar and a learner, even as the rest of Mansoul are.

'Thou must therefore, in all high and supernatural things, go to him for information and knowledge; for though there be a spirit in man, this person's inspiration must give him understanding. Wherefore, O thou Mr. Recorder, keep low and be humble, and remember that the Diabolonians that kept not their first charge, but left their own standing, are now made prisoners in the pit. Be therefore content with thy station.

'I have made thee my Father's vicegerent on earth, in such things of which I have made mention before: and thou, take thou power to teach them to Mansoul, yea, and to impose them with whips and chastisements, if they shall not willingly hearken to do thy commandments.

'And, Mr. Recorder, because thou art old, and through many abuses made feeble; therefore I give thee leave and license to go when thou wilt to my fountain, my conduit, and there to drink freely of the blood of my grape, for my conduit doth always run wine. Thus doing, thou shalt drive from thine heart and stomach all foul, gross, and hurtful humours. It will also lighten thine eyes, and will strengthen thy memory for the reception and keeping of all that the King's most noble Secretary teacheth.'


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