Wednesday, 9 December 2009

www.Chinese whispers

Well, isn't that extraordinary? Between Brian and Jane, we've established that the quote, “You have chosen the roughest road, but it leads straight to the hilltops,” actually comes, not from John Bunyan, but from John Buchan's Greenmantle, chapter 1. And yet everywhere on the web you'll find it attributed to Bunyan. HE DIDN'T WRITE IT! He did, however, write the following, when Christian is faced with the Hill Difficulty:
"This hill though high I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way of life lies here.
Come, pluck up, heart; let's neither faint nor fear" (The Pilgrim's Progress p 41). John Buchan of course is best known as ex-diplomat and writer of 'The Thirty Nine Steps'. He's a bit non-PC for these days - but so, oddly enough, is John Bunyan. But none the worse for that.
Anyway interesting example of internet Chinese whispers it seems! And thank you to detectives Brian and Jane. Now the hunt is on for the comparison between death and birth (Nouwen? Vanier?)


  1. I expect the next missing quote will turn out to be Enid Blyton!!!!

  2. !!!!! You reckon she's top of the non-PC league table! Having watched the recent BBC programme about her, she seemed surprisingly unpleasant, I must say. But don't worry, I'm not going to quote from the Famous Five or Noddy.

  3. Is this of any help? "Death, the last sleep? No, it is the final awakening," from Sir Walter Scott. Perhaps quoted? Or mis-quoted.

  4. That's a geat quote - thanks. It might well appear.

  5. That's fascinating. Buchan was not only a learned man who mastered a lovely written style, but he was a man of deep faith in Christ. Over the summer I picked up Pilgrim's Way, aka Memory Hold-the-Door. I didn't make it very far, but flipping through the pages--if you can forgive the spoiler--I was very impressed at how he ended his recollections:

    The dominant thought of youth is the bigness of the world, of age its smallness. As we grow older we escape from the tyranny of matter and recognise that the true center of gravity is in the mind. Also we lose that sense of relativity, which is so useful in normal life, provided it does not sour into cynicism, and come more and more to acclaim the absolute things--goodness, truth, beauty. From a wise American scholar I take this sentence: 'The tragedy of man is that he has developed an intelligence eager to uncover mysteries, but not strong enough to penetrate them. With minds but slightly evolved beyond those of our animal relations, we are tortured with precocious desires, and pose questions which we are sometimes capable of asking but rarely are able to answer.' With the recognition of our limitations comes a glimpse of the majesty of the 'Power not ourselves.' Religion is born when we accept the ultimate frustration of mere human effort, and at the same time realise the strength which comes from union with superhuman reality.

    Today the quality of our religion is being put to the test. The conflict is not only between the graces of civilisation and the rawness of barbarism. More is being challenged than the system of ethics which we believe to be the basis of our laws and liberties. I am of Blake's view: 'Man must and will have some religion; if he has not the religion of Jesus he will have the religion of Satan, and will erect a synagogue of Satan.' There have been high civilisations in the past which have not been Christian, but in the world as we know it I believe that civilisation must have a Christian basis, and must ultimately rest on the Christian Church. Today the Faith is being attacked, and the attack is succeeding. Thirty years ago Europe was nominally a Christian continent. It is no longer so. In Europe, as in the era before Constantine, Christianity is in a minority. What Gladstone wrote seventy years ago, in a moment of depression, has become a shattering truth: 'I am convinced that the welfare of mankind does not now depend on the State and the world of politics; the real battle is being fought in the world of thought, where a deadly attack is made with great tenacity of purpose and over a wide field upon the greatest treasure of mankind, the belief in God and the Gospel of Christ.'

    The Christian in name has in recent years been growing cold in his devotion. Our achievement in perfecting life's material apparatus has produced a mood of self-confidence and pride. Our peril has been indifference, and that is a grave peril, for rust will crumble a metal when hammer blows only harden it. I believe--and this is my crowning optimism--that the challenge with which we are now faced may restore to us that manly humility which alone gives power. It may bring us back to God. In that case our victory is assured. The Faith is an anvil which has worn out many hammers.

    We are condemned to fumble in these times, for the mist is too thick to see far down the road. But in all our uncertainty we can have Cromwell's hope. 'To be a Seeker is to be of the best sect next to a Finder, and such an one shall every faithful, humble Seeker be at the end.' So, as a tail-piece to this book I would transcribe a sentence of Henry Adams: 'After all, man knows mighty little, and may some day learn enough of his own ignorance to fall down and pray.' Dogmatism gives place to questioning, and questioning in the end to prayer.