"Christian Flees From the City of Destruction"
**Notice how Bunyan describes himself and therefore the Christian’s journey: he is a sojourner, not at home in this world; thus, the world is a wilderness to him (cf. the Israelites on the way to Canaan; Heb 4.9, 11; 11.13; 12.1); his pilgrimage brought him to a den (the persecution of the godly in an ungodly world; Jn 16.33); and he occupies himself with a dream (Col 3.1-4). This is essentially an autobiography: "Grace Abounding" allegorized; it tells Bunyan’s own journey to Christ and with Christ.
**His dream, then, serves as an allegory of every Christian’s pilgrimage. It begins with a man named ‘Graceless’ under the conviction of sin and in fear of the wrath of God which he deserves. The man is directed to Christ, comes to faith, and thus begins his journey from the world of sin to heaven. Along the way he faces many an enemy, many a trouble, many a temptation, and many a help, until at last he enters into the Celestial City.
**The pilgrim found himself in a den––The Christian who understands what usage he ought to expect in this evil world will see abundant cause for gratitude no matter what he suffers; but they who are disposed to complain, will never be at a loss for topics. –Scott
How do we see Graceless’ growing concern for himself, the evidence for a genuine conviction of sin? ––his clothing, his gaze, his burden, his mirror and the response to what he sees in it, his great cry: "What shall I do?" (Acts 2.37) "No soul was ever in earnest for salvation, till there was a cry in his heart to be saved from damnation." –Mason "He knows no hope who never knew a fear." –Cowper
His clothing implies that all men are sinners with a righteousness no better than filthy rags (Isa 64.6) –Scott
His gaze represents the sinner convinced that it is absolutely necessary to subordinate all other concerns to the care of his immortal soul (Mk 8.36) & to renounce every thing which interferes with that grand object (Mt 10.28)––this makes him lose his relish for the pleasures of sin & even for the most lawful temporal satisfactions, while he trembles at the thought of impending destruction. –Scott
The burden on his back represents that distressing sense of guilt and fear of wrath which deeply convinced sinners cannot shake off; the remembrance of their sins is grievous to them, the burden of them is intolerable; their consciences are oppressed with guilt even on account of those actions in which their neighbors perceive no harm; their hearts tremble at the prospect of dangers of which others have no apprehension; and they see an absolute necessity of escaping from a situation in which others live most securely; for true faith, from the very first, sees things that are invisible. –Scott
The book in his hand instructs us that sinners discover their real state & character by reading & believing the Scriptures; that their first attention is often directed to the denunciations of the wrath to come contained in them, & that such persons cannot but continue to search the Word of God, though their grief and alarm be increased by every perusal. –Scott
The circumstances of these humiliating convictions vary exceedingly, but the life of faith and grace always begins with them; and they who are wholly strangers to this experience are Christians only in name & form. –Scott
How do we see his earnest concern for his family? ––his open & honest appeal to them
Notice that hitherto, he can see no way of escape. Bunyan presents him ‘on the way to Christ,’ under the conviction of the Law’s demands (with which he has failed to comply) & curse (which he cannot escape must surely suffer if no outside Help be found). He is as the Jews in Acts 2 and the jailer in Acts 16.
Excursus––Bunyan prolongs this preparatory work of the Spirit of God (not bringing Graceless to salvation until the Wicket Gate and to assurance until the cross which is much later) in order to allegorically present the various diversions which confront us in coming to Christ for salvation:
We face opposition from the world in coming to Christ (Obstinate & Pliable),
We face various doubts which plague us on the way to Christ (the Slough of Despond),
We entertain alternative means of putting off the burden of sin in order to avoid the narrow and strait way of self-denial by which Christ must be found (Mr Legality & the Town of Morality).
How does the family respond to his appeal?
Notice that while their derision and contempt grow worse so his concern for his soul worsens.
Graceless is able to stand against the enemies of the gospel by: his resolute purpose/concern for his soul, the fire in his conscience regarding his sins & God’s coming judgment for them, & his fixed regard to the word of God as the mirror of truth. (if he goes no farther, these things will not make him a Christian; but if he stays this course, by God’s grace, it will take him beyond the world’s ridicule and lead him to Christ (the Wicket Gate)).
Evangelist represents a preacher of the gospel of grace (i.e., Pastor John Gifford who greatly helped Bunyan at his time of conversion) whom Christ has sent to ease the distress of Christian and direct him to Himself (the Wicket Gate). "Behold here the tender love & care of Jesus, the great Shepherd & Bishop of souls, to sin-distressed, heavy-laden sinners, in sending Evangelist, that is, a preacher of the gospel of grace, & glad tidings of salvation, to them." –Mason
When Evangelist asked Graceless why he was crying, what was his response? –Rom 6.23; Heb 9.27
How sadly true that these two elements of conviction, necessary to the coming of Christ, are starkly absent from modern-day evangelism. How few there are then who enter by the gate! Behold here "a true confession of an enlightened sensible sinner"! –Mason
Graceless is burdened by conviction, but without the word of God being opened unto him more fully by the preacher, he’s at a loss as to what to do about it (Acts 2.37) and where escape may be found. Thus, Evangelist exhorts him to flee to Christ! The parchment roll represents the conviction of flying which he stirs up within Graceless and of course the Wicket Gate represents Christ, to whom He must flee for escape from the coming wrath of God.
We see in Evangelist that the able minister of Christ will deem it necessary to enforce the warning, ‘flee from the wrath to come,’ even upon those who alarmed about their souls; because this is the proper way of exciting them to diligence & decision, & of preserving them from procrastination. Those ministers therefore who would persuade such persons that their fears are groundless, their guilt far less than they suppose, and their danger imaginary, use the most effectual means of soothing them into a fatal security. Nor can any discoveries of heinous guilt or helpless ruin in themselves produce despondency, provided the salvation of the Gospel be fully exhibited and proposed to them. –Scott
The awakened sinner may be incapable for a time of perceiving the way of salvation by faith in Christ; for divine illumination is often very gradual. Thus though the pilgrim could not see the gate, when Evangelist pointed it out to him, he thought he could discern the shining light. –Scott
How do we see Graceless’ resolve to come to Christ? (Mt 6.33; Lk 14.26) "When a sinner begins to flee from destruction, carnal relations will strive to prevent him; but it is wiser to stop our ears against the reasonings of flesh & blood, than to parley with them. Carnal affections cannot prevail over spiritual convictions. The sinner, who is in earnest for salvation, will be deaf to invitations to go back. The more he is solicited by them, the faster he will flee from them." –Mason
"Christian is Pursued by Obstinate & Pliable"
What are the three responses to Graceless’ departure from his city (the world)? Why do you think the world responds in these ways? Jer 20.10-12 "They who flee from the wrath to come are a gazing stock to the world." –Mason
How do Graceless, Obstinate, & Pliable represent the three hearers of the gospel? Mk 4.14-20
What does Graceless see in Obstinate & Pliable that informs him that they are from the City of Destruction? Lk 6.45
What does Obstinate value more than his own soul? Acts 10.37-39; Lk 14.26; Mk 8.36-37!
Notice that Bunyan now changes the man’s name to "Christian" even though he has yet to come to the Wicket Gate, which is Christ. Why do you think this is? ––Recall Bunyan’s own experience and self-perception after reading the godly books which he obtained & read via his wife’s dowry.
Why cannot Obstinate see beyond the present world? 2Cor 4.3-4, 16-18
Obstinate finds Christian to be a crazed-headed coxcomb (a vain & conceited man) because he judges him by his own reason. Is natural reason a reliable guide in matters of Truth? Why or why not? 1Cor 2.6-16 "He who never becomes a fool in the eyes of the world for Christ, is not yet made wise unto salvation through the faith of Christ." –Mason
Contrast Obstinate & Christian:
Obstinate is loyal to the world, values the world’s blessings & comforts, mocks the Word of God, & abuses Christian’s "irrational" resolve. Do you see some of him in yourself?
Christian seeks superior heavenly glory (1Pet 1.3-9; Heb 11.16), believes his Book is trustworthy (Rom 3.4), and therefore is resolved to follow its lead (Lk 9.62).
How can Pliable change his mind so quickly? What kind of person is a pliable person? What is it that makes him cast his lot in with Christian? Lk 14.25-33
Notice how Obstinate & Christian are in conflict over Pliable’s soul, so every soul is being tempted by Satan to stay asleep in sin while the gospel trumpets sound in every corner of the earth to awaken the sleepers from their sinful slumber that they may be saved, Eph 5.14.
"Christian & Pliable converse along the way"
This conversation is meant to mark the difference between the two characters & teach us several things:
That the great difference between true and false conversion, between he who sincerely seeks for Christ and he who is but a professor of religion, is the burden/conviction of sin, & the ‘powers and terrors of what is yet unseen.’ (but remember, ‘Christian’ is not yet converted. He is as the Jews of Acts 2.37.)
That this difference is near indiscernible except under trial (as will be seen in the Slough).
That this difference is only known by God (Christian could not see the want of a burden).
But to be more specific, what are the several differences in their characters?
Christian has: Christian with a sense of sin & of the terrors of the Lord, with the fire of God’s wrath in his conscience & the burden of sin on his back, yet with something of the light of life already within him, & a resolute purpose never to give over seeking Christ.
Pliable has: Pliable, with some slight superficial sympathy & conviction, & somewhat moved with what Christian had told him of the glories of the heavenly inheritance at the end of their pilgrimage,
But Pliable lacks: a sense of sin, a true knowledge of his own heart, a desire after Christ, a feeling of his need of a Saviour. –Cheever
Why is Pliable so delighted at the prospects which Christian has put before him?
The want of a due apprehension of eternal things is evidently the primary defect of all who oppose or neglect religion; but more maturity of judgment & experience is requisite to discover, that many professors are equally strangers to a realizing view ‘of the powers and terrors of what is yet unseen.’ The men represented by Pliable disregard these subjects; they inquire eagerly about the good things to be enjoyed, but not in any due proportion about the way of salvation, the difficulties to be encountered, or the danger of coming short. –Scott
Such unhumbled professors as Pliable annex carnal ideas to eternal things & are greatly delighted by the prospect. And, not being retarded by any distressing remorse & terror, or feeling the opposition of corrupt nature, they are often more zealous, and seem to proceed faster in external duties, than those truly seeking Christ! ––They take it for granted that all the privileges of the Gospel belong to them; and being very confident, zealous, & joyful, they often censure those who are really fighting the good fight of faith (as Pliable does Christian for going so slow). How common is this today? –Scott
Pliable has hung his hat on a candy-coated gospel of all benefits at no cost personal cost. He represents the stony-ground hearer of Lk 8.13. How is the modern church not unlike this? How does this contradict with what our Lord says in Mk 8.34-38 & Lk 14.25-33 & Mt 16.24-27?
Why can Christian better conceive of the things promised than he can speak of them?
Upon what basis is Christian assured that the things spoken of in his ‘Book’ are true? (Tit. 1.2)
Christian, with the sense of his own sinfulness, already has an irresistible sense of the truth of God’s Word.
What are some of those things for which Christian hopes?
An endless kingdom & everlasting life (Isa 45.17; Jn 10.27-29)
Crowns of glory & radiant garments (2Tim 4.8; Rev 22.5; Mt 13.43)
No more crying, sorrow, or tears (Isa 15.8; Rev 7.16-17; 21.4)
The company of innumerable angels, saints, & martyrs (Isa 6.2; 1Thes 4.16-17; Rev 5.11; Rev 4.4; 14.1-5; Jn 12.25; 2Cor 5.2-5)
**The knowledge that these blessings come freely! (Isa 55.12; Jn 6.37; 7.37; Rev 21.6; 22.17)
Christian’s rapturous descriptions of eternal things & his resolute pace toward the Wicket Gate teach us how far the mind may be affected with a merely intellectual & imaginative sense of the beauty & excellency of the gospel, & the glory of its promises, without regeneration.
––He assents to the truth of the of the things of God & believes in the worth & necessity of the things of God, but has yet to lay hold of the things of God for himself, to trust & embrace them by saving faith. For saving faith entails these 3 things: knowledge, assent, & trust. Christian has the former 2 but lacks the latter. Thus he is an awakened sinner but not yet a converted sinner.
Nevertheless, the Spirit of God has brought Christian to his present convictions and resolve & will assuredly lead him firmly & wholly to Christ for salvation.
How do Christian’s and Pliable’s response to the ‘free offer of the gospel’ differ?
What does Pliable’s suggestion of a faster pace confirm? ––"Unlike struggling Christian, Pliable perceives his pilgrimage as a happy jaunt along a sprint track rather than the dangerous traversing of enemy territory." –Horner
Pliable is one of those who thinks he is willing to have heaven but without a sense of sin or the labor of self-denial necessary to enter upon it.
"Christian & Pliable confront the Slough of Despond"
Both Christian & Pliable fell into the Slough. How did their reaction to it differ?
Pliable was offended & sought to go back; Christian was concerned but struggled still to go on.
What two things does Pliable not have which Christian does which contributes to the different reaction? ––a fear of the coming wrath on the city; a determination to be rid of his burden. ––The difference then between a truly awakened sinner & a pliable unconverted professor is this: one keeps his face towards Christ for hope & help; while the other flies back to the City of Destruction for comfort.
What, then, does the Slough of Despond represent? ––the distress of conscience & discouraging fears which an awakened sinner feels by reason of an accurate view of himself: he loathes himself because of his sin & feels that God must loathe him as well. He sees his own vileness & believes that God will not have him.
How does the depression which Christian suffers here differ from that which he suffers in Doubting Castle? It must be different because he suffers this as an unbeliever and that as an believer.
The doubts & discouragements which assault established Christians are generally the consequence of negligence in the means of grace/watchfulness or yielding to temptation; whereas the doubts of the Slough signifies those desponding fears & despairing doubts which arise from unbelief of God’s Word, the suggestions of Satan, & the carnal reasonings of our corrupt nature, against the revealed truths & precious promises of God. These try the reality of our conviction & test the sincerity of our faith.
We should also distinguish the doubts of the Slough from those which caused Christian to set out in the beginning; those alarms which induced Christian to leave the city & to ‘flee from the wrath to come’ are reasonable & useful as they arise from God’s Word; while these in the Slough are groundless which result from ignorance, inattention, & unbelief.
What does his perseverance toward the side of the Slough closest to the Wicket Gate (contra Pliable) indicate about his present conviction? ––that it is good and Spirit-wrought. He will not seek to be rid of his burden in any way but by going to Christ. He dreaded the doom of the city more than the Slough.
What does Pliable’s retreat represent? ––his love of this world. Pliable escapes the Slough by throwing off any conviction of sin & returning to worldly pleasure. ––the difference between these two men show us how much more powerful the terrors of the law of God & a sense of sin, as motives to seek Christ, than any description of the glories of Heaven. In the case of a person who has no sense of sin & guilt before God (a burden), the glories of Heaven are like a good song that makes only a transitory & superficial impression. ––"There must be the preaching of the law & a law-work in the conscience before men are even likely to set out resolutely for heaven, & without this law-work they do almost invariably turn back; unless, avoiding the Slough of Despond & all other difficulties with which Christian met along the way, they take up a false hope, as Ignorance did, & make a profession of religion, in which case they may even hold on to the last across the River of Death & not find out their error till on coming & knocking at the gate & crying "Lord, Lord open to us," & the Lord will answer, "I never knew you."" ––Cheever
God providentially sends Help. Whom does he represent? ––Help is an allegorical person representing those means by which we receive encouragements from God to help us out of the Slough.
How does Help admonish Christian? ––He admonished him for not using the steps (see later) which shows that God has made a way through the Slough if we would but heed it (more later).
What was Christian’s response? ––He says "Fear" followed him so hard that he could not see the steps (see later).
How does Help exhort him after helping him out? ––He bids him to stay the course, to press on toward the Gate, where the ground is good (more later).
The Dreamer (Bunyan himself) seeks an explanation of the Slough.
Why is the Slough there, lying in the very path to the Wicket Gate? (notice that Bunyan sees the Slough to be inescapable as an awakened sinner is drawn to Christ) ––because of man’s unbelief and doubts regarding the free offer of the gospel, the Slough is near unavoidable & lay in the way to Christ.
Why does the King of the land not mend it? ––It is not the King’s pleasure that the Slough should remain & he has given much labor to mend it: pouring in millions of cartloads of wholesome instructions; but all have been swallowed up still.
What is Help’s response to the Dreamer? ––that there are steps through the Slough which he could’ve used.
What do the steps represent and why did not Christian find them? (notice again that steps are provided by God, not around the Slough, but through the midst of it; thus, Bunyan sees the Slough as a universal experience [though Faithful & Christiana found the steps])
The steps represent the great & precious gospel promises of God’s Word. Promises of forgiveness & acceptance to life by faith in Christ.
Christian did not find the steps because Fear pressed hard against him. I.e., he set the threatenings of God against the promises when he ought to have been directed from the threatenings to the promises. The threats of Scripture are not meant by God to lead us to despair but to show us our helpless condition outside of Christ in order to drive us to Christ, to compel the sinking soul to cry out as Peter when he began to sink, "Lord, save me; I perish!" ––The object of the threats is to make the promises shine & compel the soul to lay hold on them. ––But in general, men under conviction of sin, having more desire to escape hell than to get to Christ, more desire to be relieved of distress than to become holy, are blinded by the very fears meant to lead them to the steps; they struggle for relief rather than holiness, for comfort rather than Christ, & so fall deeper into difficulty.
This teaches us that if we fly from our just fears of God’s wrath and conviction of sin in any direction but toward Christ, we will only grow worse & worse & sink deeper & deeper into the mire. ––The steps are good & offer free & full forgiveness of sin & eternal life. If a soul lays hold on them by faith, he will find Christ in them; were it not for our unbelief, the Slough would not exist.
The Slough remains because of man’s unbelief and ignorance of the Bible. Therefore those Christians whose lives are constantly in the Slough are victims of immature judgment & false beliefs which result from a poor grasp of the gospel re Christ’s active & passive obedience.
What does Help mean in saying that the ground is good once they enter in at the Gate? ––As the Gate represents Christ, so we never find any good ground nor safe walking till we enter into possession of Christ by faith & till our feet are set up on Christ, the Rock of Ages..
What happens to Pliable? ––he turns back to sin.
How do his neighbors respond? ––they called him a wise man for coming back; then they called him a fool for going with Christian; then they mocked his cowardliness; & finally they derided Christian… illustrates the fickle & depraved nature of lost humanity.
What does the concluding comment re Pliable indicate to us as readers? ––That he is forever lost. Having begun on the way & turning back, his last state is worse than his first, 2Pet 2.20-22; Heb 6.4-6.
"Christian encounters Mr. Worldly-Wiseman"
What belief system do Mr. Worldly-Wiseman and his Town of Carnal-Policy represent?
Human wisdom –– man’s way of righteousness & salvation (how to get rid of the burden) is through doing good works & living a moral life. However, because man is sinful & incapable of such a righteousness as God requires, the standard is lowered to a level he’s able to attain. Certain sins are called "mistakes" and if he does sin, it’s not his fault, but his parents, his peers, his economic standing, etc.
Worldly-Wiseman is a person of consequence whose superiority gives him influence over others. He’s reputable & successful & appears to have figured out a way to serve both God & Mammon. He’s against any religion or religious sentiments which interfere with a man’s worldly interest, disquiet his mind, or spoil his relish for outward enjoyments.
Why do their paths cross? (like the Slough, Mr. Wordly-Wiseman is on the way as a near unavoidable peril or trial, as the case may be)––Such people eye religion and make it their aim to turn back those seeking after Christ & upset young immature Christians.
But what contrast between these two men! The pilgrim was full of the most laborious going, with his burden & his filthy, slimy rags… while WW had no burden, went over "the plain of this world" without the least difficulty, & there was not a spot or a speck or a wrinkle in all his garments!
Worldly-Wiseman inquires after Christian’s burdened & bedaubed condition & then after his family. Why does he ask about his family and what is Christian’s response? (cf. Lk 14.26-27)
Christian says his burden is his distraction! He can’t enjoy the blessings of God’s common grace while so burdened. He knows something of what Samuel Rutherford said: "our sins & our sinfulness poison all our best enjoyments." And he would above all else get rid of the pain & heaviness of his burden! (––Evangelist had told Christian to go to Christ and that Christ would remove his burden in good time. But it appears that Christian has grown impatient & is now being driven by a desire for comfort more than for Christ.)
WW’s counsel has two parts to it: riddance & redirection. ––The quintessential worldly counsel! Be rid of that gospel of the Scriptures & take up an easier one, one less painful to the flesh!
His counsel of riddance:
Be rid of your burden. ––Why? How does he advise he go about this? –– WW caters to Christian’s seeking after comfort & offers him the very advice to do so; advice which does not include a journey to the Wicket Gate. ––WW declares that so much concern about sin & the eternal world takes men off from a proper regard to their secular interests, to the injury of their families & prevents them from enjoying comfort in domestic life or in other providential blessings. ––Thus he urges Christian to be done with his burden, to toss it off (as Pliable did in order to quit the Slough).
What is Christian’s response? ––Christian’s interest is piqued because WW’s counsel has pointed to the very thing that concerns him, namely, how to be rid of his burden. ––He’s ready to withstand all persuasions to return home, but he’s not on his guard against the insidious proposal of this carnal counselor.
Be rid of Evangelist. ––Why? ––WW condemns Evangelist’s counsel because it has placed Christian in the most dangerous way, the most difficult, narrow, & painful-to-self way, in the world. WW believes that any counsel which results in a difficult way is to be rejected. And since he is wiser & more reputable than Christian & can offer many testimonies and proofs of the validity of his advice, Christian should heed it. ––He then tries to frighten Christian by cataloguing the many dangers & evils he will surely meet with if he stays his present course.
Notice how exactly WW speaks of "the Way to the Celestial City." He speaks as one who had been all over it & back again. You would think you were reading a page out of Job or Jeremiah or Paul… you would think you were reading Rom 8.35-36. (But notice that WW never read the end of that beloved chp.: 8.37-39!)
But what is Christian’s response? ––Christian says he fears the unseen wrath to come more than all the dreadful things of this world. Christian had a far greater storm in his breast because of the guilt & burden of his sins that none of these things scared him…! ––Here are the words of a true pilgrim! Here are the words & the lament that drew the Son of God down from His lofty throne to the bloody cross! Here are the words of a man whose mire, rags, & burden, will at last issue in his beholding His Deliverer face to face! Here are the words of a man who knows his own heart.
However, his desire to get present relief from his burden exposes him to the danger of seeking it in an unwarranted way.
Be rid of the Bible. ––Why? ––He says the Bible distracts & unmans men, creating in them a fanaticism about things of no consequence. He says Christian’s concern arose from his weakness of intellect & from hearkening to the bad counsel of the Word of God & the contemptible preaching of Evangelist.
What is Christian’s response? ––He says he’s not frenetic about nothing, but about the weight of a real burden on his back!
His counsel of redirection:
There is an easier way to be rid of your burden. ––What makes it so? ––Having persuaded Christian that his present course is a hard way to go, WW at last seeks to redirect him to an easier path. He says it’s easier by reason of the safety, friendship, & content which one finds in it. ––WW speaks as one who knows about this burden & what a hindrance it is to comfort; he speaks as one who has good advice. He promises a comfortable, easy, & immediately effective gospel. The temptation is too great for Christian to resist.
Go to the Village of Morality & ask for Legality. ––He sends him to obtain salvation by good works under the teaching of a preacher in the town of Morality by the name of Mr. Legality.
What qualifies Legality/Civility to help with Christian’s burden? ––They have helped many be rid of their burdens (by offering them a lower law which, at least in their own eyes, they can keep) & have cured the fanaticism which has embraced Christian.
What benefits are promised to him there? ––He promises him nice & amiable neighbors (Credit & Fashion), good & cheap provision, vacant houses at reasonable rates, good & comfortable garments to replace his rags, & the removal of his burden. Moreover, Christian can send for his wife & children & not be separated from them any longer. Don’t even go back home! ––Thus he offers him safety, even if the City of Destruction should go up in flames like Sodom, Morality will remain. ––Christian would not have been tempted by this offer had it not been for his great desire to be rid of his burden. He seems to be seeking only for comfort now, rather than for freedom from the bondage & guilt of sin.
What ideology do Morality/Legality/Civility represent? Is such thinking still prevalent today? ––They represent man’s perennial efforts of legalism. Our pride opposes justification by faith alone & insists on presenting our own righteousness to God. Such thinking denies the atonement & man’s depravity & need for Christ, thinking that we can please God by our own works. ––Morality represents that large company who abstain from scandalous vices & practice reputable duties, but without any true fear or love of God or any regard to His authority or glory. Put it in a church & call a preacher, & you have an easy, comfortable, & pleasant alternative to Christianity.
But it is faulty in its principle, measure, & object. It results wholly from self-love, is restricted to the outward observance of some precepts selected from the Scriptures, & aims principally at the acquisition of reputation, distinction or temporal advantages, with no more than a subordinate respect to the interests of eternity. It is destitute of humility, delight, impartiality, & universality in obedience; it leaves the heart in the possession of some worldly idol, & never advances a man to the rank of a spiritual worshipper, or renders him meet for the peculiar pleasures of heaven.
Legality teaches men to depend on a defective obedience to a small part of the law, explained & lowered according to their capacities. In this way, he is very effective in relieving troubled consciences & recovering men from religious "distractions."
Why is Christian snared at the last by his advice? ––because of his impatience & eagerness after comfort.
How can we avoid such a snare for ourselves? ––Wait upon the Lord. Prize the position & praise that comes from God more than the position & praise that comes from man. Set a watch on your own heart.
"Pseudo-religious pastors offer all sorts of quick & easy delights, yet in the end they only lead to legal improvements, carnal bondage, bitterness, depression, & delusion. Such charlatans commonly encourage salvation by the works of the law through human autonomy." ––Barry Horner
"Christian seeks after the town of Morality"
Why, when Christian heads towards Mr. Legality’s house for help, does he immediately come upon a hill?
Because WW has turned him away from the narrow way to Christ; and wherever we might turn aside to, turning aside from the gospel way always confronts us with a "hill," an insurmountable obstacle.
What does the hill represent?
The hill represents 3 things:
Mt. Sinai from which God gave His Commandments
The demand of God’s Law that a person who "would pass by that way" (be justified before God by personal obedience) can only do so by a perfect, personal, & perpetual obedience to all of the commands in word, thought, deed, & heart.
The curse of God’s Law upon all who fail in a single point, either by neglect or violation (omission or commission): spiritual, physical, & eternal death under the wrath & anger of God in hell.
What are the effects of the hill upon Christian?
The effect upon Christian is in several ways:
He saw that the hill was very high…: The demand of God’s Law is beyond our reach. We cannot scale it. We cannot meet a single demand! ––Rom 3.10-12, 23; Isa 64.6; Ecc 7.20
He saw that the hill hung over the way…: The curse of God’s Law threatens all who would seek justification by it, Gal 3.10-12
This made him afraid to venture any further, lest it fall on his head…: Having turned aside to seek salvation by personal obedience, Christian begins to feel the curse of the Law threatening him. He sees clearly the great danger of trusting in his own works for righteousness.
It immobilized him…: He knew he could not venture a single step more in this way, but didn’t believe he could go back either, & so he stopped dead in his tracks & trembled under the threat.
There were flashes of fire out of the hill which threatened to burn him…: The more narrowly he compared his conduct and character with the holy Law of God, the greater was his alarm. The flashes of fire recall the threats at Sinai, that any who ventured to even touch the Mt. would die, because God is a consuming fire of wrath against all who venture to approach Him on the basis of their own righteousness.
It made it sweat & quake for fear.
It made WW’s advice appear in its true light which made Christian sorry that he had taken it.
The effect of Sinai upon Christian shows us several things:
It shows us that a true work of grace has begun in Christian’s heart; that he has a true sense of his sin (the burden), a true sense of his own unrighteousness & sinfulness (his rags), & that he has a true sense of his need for Christ (the Wicket Gate).
What happens here is a snare into which he fell because of he took his eyes off Christ and looked instead for Ease (p.16). He turned aside from the gospel way, being deceived by WW.
Had it not been a true work of grace, then he would have easily passed by the hill (as did Mr. WW, Legality, et al) under the blindness of pride of self-righteousness, gone on to Morality, become a member of Mr. Legality’s parish, & got comfortably settled in the broad way which leads to destruction & damnation.
And so it is the mercy of God that causes the Law to have such a hopeless & crushing effect upon Christian, in order to save him from pursuing salvation by works, which only leads to perdition by works.
What lessons do we learn from this about all who turn to the Law for righteousness? (Rom 7.4-14)
For all who turn aside to the Law for salvation, condemnation is inevitable & inescapable. Rom 9.30-10.4
The Law of God condemns sinners, Gal 3.10, and is absolutely powerless to help us obey it. Instead, our sin seizes opportunity by the the commandment.
Notice how God sends Evangelist. What explanation does Christian give for his detour off the way appointed?
God’s mercy is evident in sending Evangelist to Christian in his time of need.
Christian is ashamed of his turning out of the way and immediately & heartily confesses his guilt: Evangelist asks him if he is the man he found crying outside the walls of the City of Destruction, & Christian says, "Yes, dear sir, I am the man." (it reminds us of Nathan’s rebuke and David’s hearty repentance).
Christian tells Evangelist that he turned aside because:
He was enticed by the words of a gentleman (beware of judging people by their looks & many words) who promised the same Ease, but without the difficulties such as those with which pilgrim’s meet on the path to the Wicket Gate.
Notice Christian says he believed and therefore turned out of the way…: just as the belief of the truth lies at the foundation of the hope of eternal life and is the cause of anyone becoming a pilgrim, so the belief of a lie is the cause of any one’s turning out of the way which leads to glory!
What is the substance of Evangelist’s rebuke?
Evangelist’s coming to Christian with a sever & dreadful countenance is meant to convince us of the effect of disobeying the gospel. It breaks our fellowship with God, & if we persist in our sin without confession & repentance, it will lead to God’s fatherly discipline.
But notice how Evangelist deals with Christian when he finds him suffering under great terror of conscience… instead of hastily giving him comfort, he deals with him strictly at first in order to prepare him for a solid and true peace of conscience.
Mr. Legality would’ve come along & lulled Christian into a fatal sleep by minimizing his sin and guilt & offering him a false peace in his own righteousness.
But Evangelist begins by further instructing Christian in the nature & heinousness of his turning aside & points Christian out as a man running into the misery of those who reject the gospel & draw back from the way of peace. In a sense, he augments his terror, fear, & distress by the seriousness of his error; but this produces a deeper humiliation in Christian & more effectually warns him against further worldly counsel. (Heb 12.25; 10.38)
Once this is done, & Christian understands his error & is truly humbled for it, only then does Evangelist (like a wise physician who first thoroughly scrubs the wound before applying the salve) apply the gracious promises of gospel pardon.
Having been brought to a sound repentance & comforted by God’s promise of forgiveness, Christian is now ready to be instructed against the evil of WW’s counsel, which will in turn prepare him against that temptation in the future.
Evangelist explains & repudiates Mr. Worldly-Wiseman.
How does he explain him?
Mr. WW is of the world (1Jn 4.5) & goes to church in the Town of Morality because it is there that he hears sermons which teach him how to "be a Christian & avoid the cross." (2Tim 4.3-4) He has found a way, which seems right to all in Morality, to reconcile friendship with the world with friendship with God. Cf. Prov 14.12; Js 4.4!
What three errors does he expose?
Mr. WW’s counsel must be utterly abhorred by Christian for its three characteristics:
He turned Christian out of the way
This must be hated because to turn out of the way is to reject the counsel of God for the counsel of the world. It is God who demands that we come to Him by Christ ("Strive to enter in at the narrow gate") and promises life to all who come to Him by Christ. ––Christian must also abhor himself for listening to such damnable counsel.
He labored to render the cross odious to Christian
This must be abhorred because Christ has said that the way to life is by the cross (Mk 8.34-35; Lk 14.26-27).
He set Christian’s feet in the way that leads unto death
This must be abhorred because Mr. Legality will lead Christian into the bondage of the Law & deceive him with a false peace. The Law can never deliver a sinner from guilt or quiet the conscience of one who is truly awakened to his burden. Legalism must be soundly abhorred & rejected, not only as the way to Christ but as the way of Christian living as well.
GET THIS…: the Law of God is the rule for a Christian’s obedience to God, but can neither any more condemn us for our sins nor reward us for our obedience, because Christ has both removed its curse & inherited its reward. Therefore any sin we commit, being unavoidable in this life, is washed under the blood and any good we do, being ever imperfect, is graciously accepted & rewarded upon the basis of Christ’s perfect righteousness which has been imputed to us by grace alone & received by faith alone.
What is the heavenly confirmation which accompanies Evangelist’s words represent?
The words & fire which came out of the mountain, Gal 3.10. This returns Christian to the way.
Christian returns to the way.
He is repentant
This caused Christian’s hair to stand on end & brought forth necessary regret, repentance, self-abhorrence, self-maledictions, & shame for ever having heeded WW’s carnal & evil counsel.
He then looks to Evangelist for counsel on how to be restored to the way to yonder Wicket Gate, but fears that he may justly be turned away for his sin.
He is exhorted & encouraged
Evangelist makes no attempt to persuade Christian that his sin is trivial or inconsequential, or that he judges himself too harshly, but rather agrees that his sin is even greater than he supposes because he both forsook the right path & trod in the forbidden path (highlighting the omission & commission of which he is guilty), though not too great to be pardoned by the infinite mercy of God in Jesus Christ: "the man at the gate will receive thee, for He has good-will for men; only do not turn aside again, lest thou perish"! Both assurance & a warning.
With this, Evangelist kissed him, smiled upon him, & blessed his way (Aaronic blessing)!
Let us all remember that our relationship with and acceptance by God are based wholly on Christ’s substitutionary atonement & His perfect obedience to the Law on our behalf. Christ is our righteousness (2Cor 5.21) in that He has paid the penalty for our sins (Isa 53.6; Rom 4.25) and has perfectly obeyed the Law for us (Mt 5.17; Jn 15.10; Gal 4.4-5; Heb 10.7-9).
It’s only when we’re assured of this unshakable acceptance & righteousness in God’s sight that we can give ourselves heartily to the means of grace by which we advance our sanctification, which is also drawn out of Christ as a gift of His mediation (1Cor 1.30).
"Christian arrives at the Wicket Gate"
What affect did Evangelist’s comfort & assurance of pardon have on Christian?
He set out with haste (Heb 3: Today is the day of salvation!)
He spoke to no one (Heb 12: lay aside every weight & run with endurance the race set before us!)
He listened to no one (Rom 3: Let God be true & every man a liar!)
He ran with great awareness of the danger (1Pet 5: your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour!)
He ran on with fear & trembling (Heb 4: let us fear lest you fail by unbelief to reach it!)
What does it teach us that the right Way eventually led to the Gate?
That Evangelist’s counsel was right; that it was a true work of grace which at the first awakened Graceless; & that God had been faithful to complete the work He had begun in this sinner, Phil 1.6.
What do we learn from the gate inscription? Why not just a "revolving door" or an "open passage" instead of a Gate upon which appliers must themselves knock?
It reminds us that although we cannot of our own free will come to Christ, yet it is our will that God’s regeneration awakens & enables. So that for a Gate to represent Christ teaches us that only those will come to Christ who have the faith to believe the inscription & knock. Many say they desire Christ & want to be saved, but they never come to Christ that they may have life, & thus they never knock at the Gate.
If Christ were a revolving door or an open passage, every hypocrite & presumer would barge through & rob Him of His benefits if they could… It is a Gate so that our Spirit-born faith might be exercised in applying to Christ and laying hold on Christ. And therefore though the Scriptures condition salvation upon faith, and entering upon Christ upon knocking, it is God who gives the faith & moves the will to knock.
Why does Christian knock so importunately?
To show his great desire for the life & deliverance which were promised him at this Gate by Evangelist.
This represents his praying & pleading in faith with God for the mercy & forgiveness of sins which are promised through Christ.
What is the intent of Goodwill’s three questions?
The intent is to examine & test the sincerity of Christian’s faith? Is he a mere presumer? Does he truly seek for salvation by Christ, or self-praise as did the Pharisees? or instruction in self-righteousness as did the rich young ruler?
The questions seek to examine Christian’s knowledge with regard to: his sinful condition, the coming wrath of God upon sin, & the coming judgment upon him for his sin.
What do we learn of Christian by his answers?
That his faith solid. He’s convinced of his sinful condition, he’s convinced of the coming wrath, & he truly desires & seeks deliverance by this Gate alone.
What comfort are in Goodwill’s words: "I am willing, with all my heart"! Behold here the love of Jesus in freely & heartily receiving every poor sinner who comes to Him. No matter how vile you have been, nor what sins you have committed, Christ loves you freely & receives you graciously, for He has nothing but Goodwill toward you! ––Jn 6.37 "all who come to me I will receive, none who come to me will be sent away"
What is meant by Goodwill’s pulling him in?
This is meant to confirm what we said earlier about salvation being a divine work & not a work of man’s free-will. Just as God gives the faith to believe, moves upon the hand to knock, & opens the mouth to confess (all which is God’s drawing you to Christ according to John 6.44 "no one can come to me unless the Father draws him") so it is God in Christ who pulls you into salvation. No one has ever described this better than that Scottish Puritan Andrew Gray: "Christ stands outside our hearts & within our hearts. He stands outside & knocks on our hearts by the Word & He stands within & opens the door by His Spirit."
In other words, it is Christ who has brought Christian to the Himself at the Gate, it is Christ who gives Him the faith to believe the inscription, it is Christ who enlivens his will to earnestly knock at the Gate, it is Christ who examines the sincerity of his knowledge, faith, & knocking, & it is Christ who sovereignly, freely, & willingly saves him by pulling him through the Gate unto His bosom. ––It’s one of the best pictures of salvation you could ask for!
Here, then, at last, do we come to Christian’s conversion!
Whom does Beelzebub represent and what do his arrows represent?
Beelzebub represents Satan, whose castle is stationed just outside the Gate. Whenever he sees a poor burdened sinner approaching Christ for salvation, he’s aroused to shoot some of his most deadly arrows because he knows that this is his last chance at that soul. For once the sinner enters, he is forever safe & out of his damning reach.
The arrows represent Satan’s opposition to our coming to Christ. They come in the form of thoughts such as these six:
The fiery arrow of guilt––which would convince us that the great number & gravity of our sins will hinder our entrance at the Gate.
The arrow of lateness––which would convince us that it is too late for us to be saved, that the Gate is long shut.
The arrow of resistance––which would convince us that for all the invitations which we resisted in the past, the Man at the Gate is too offended to receive us.
The arrow of election––which would convince you that you are not elect, that your name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of LIfe, & therefore the Gate will never open to your knocking.
The arrow of reprobation––which would convince you that you have committed the unpardonable sin & cannot be admitted at the Gate.
The arrow of presumption––which would convince you that it would be presumption for you to knock at the Gate.
In this light, it becomes clear what praise we owe to God’s sovereign & free grace which pulled us in through the Gate before one of these arrows found their mark & sunk us down to perdition forever!
What does Christian’s statement about there being no difference between him and Pliable reveal about the condition of Christian’s heart and about how he came to be in the Way?
Christian’s heart is full of true grace because he understands that the only difference between him & Pliable & his coming into the Way & Pliable’s returning to his own house, is the difference which God’s sovereign grace made. True grace in the heart kills all talk of free-will & pride & in turn exalts Christ & His grace alone.
To what does Christian ascribe his deliverance from Sinai and his admittance at the Gate?
To free grace alone. We hear nothing of him being faithful to grace, nothing of his free-will or will-power. His escape from destruction & his being in the Way of salvation are wholly ascribed to the grace of the gospel, & the mercy, free favor, & almighty power of God.
How does Goodwill explain the Way ahead? ––Have you tested your Way by this description? Is this the Way in which you walk? If not, then you’ve not come by the Gate! If so, then come what may, be assured that you’re on the right path & do not veer from it.
It is built upon the patriarchs, prophets, & Jesus Christ
It is the straight & narrow way
It is the way that leads to deliverance
It is the way that demands endurance
It is the way that leads to the house of the Interpreter (the Holy Spirit)
Read Alexander Whyte’s thoughts on the narrow way which Christian now sets out upon (PP Characters, pp.70-73)
What do we learn of Christian from his fear of losing his way again?
Such good jealousy is a blessed sign of a gracious heart. He desires to not be deceived & tempted again from the Way of Christ.
Christian asks Goodwill about his burden. If he has been truly converted, then why does he still feel the weight of his sins, his guilt, and God’s judgment?
Here Bunyan teaches us that though we truly come to Christ & find much comfort & encouragement, many a sinner fail at the first to obtain a clear sense of pardon & assurance of the forgiveness of his sins. They are indeed forgiven, else he would not’ve been let through the Gate, for it was at the Gate that he appeared before Christ with his sins upon him. He’s in the Way because his sins are forgiven; but lacking the assurance of it, he still feels the burden of them & will until he comes to a more clear view of the cross where the cleansing blood was shed!
"Christian is instructed at the House of the Interpreter"
Read pp.24-35. ––"It would be difficult to find twelve consecutive pages in the English language, that contain such volumes of meaning, in such beautiful and instructive lessons, with such heavenly imagery, in so pure and sweet a style, and with so thrilling an appeal to the best affections of the heart, as these pages descriptive of Christian’s sojourning in the House of the Interpreter." ––George Cheever
Here we come to the Interpreter’s House, where lessons abound, but where only the spiritual profit because the lessons are Spiritually discerned, 1Cor 2.14; Ps 25.14; Lk 24.45
In Mk 4.11 Jesus told the disciples that everything was in parables to those outside, but to them it was given to know the secrets & mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Here in the House are mysteries which only that pilgrim who comes through the Wicket Gate can understand, 1Cor 2.14.
Thus the lessons which we learn here are most precious to us as God’s people & must be the subjects of our constant meditations & the rule for our judgments about all other matters. Return to these lessons again & again, & you will see the constant profit they give.
We learn also, from Bunyan separating these blessed truths into separate rooms, that all the lessons requisite for our salvation are not to be found in a any one scripture or any one sermon, but has been dispersed by God over the course of our lives and over the course of a minister’s ministry.
If you would learn God’s Truth & ever grow in grace, you need to feed daily upon the Word of God & weekly upon the preaching and teaching ministry of the Church. Because there’s no way you can learn all you need to learn for godliness in a single reading of the Bible & there’s no way I can teach you all you need to know in a single sermon or in a single year, or even from a single book of the Bible.
You need to know the Bible’s promises, the Bible’s commandments, & the Bible’s threatenings, & you need to revisit these all the time throughout your whole life, just as I need to reteach & re-preach these things throughout all my ministry, for God’s commandments direct our obedience, God’s threatenings restrain our disobedience, & God’s promises confirm us in our obedience.
Thomas Scott: "The Interpreter is an emblem of the teaching of the Holy Spirit, according to the Scripture, by means of reading, hearing, praying, and meditating, accompanied by daily experience and observation. Believers depend on this continual teaching, and are not satisfied with human [worldly] instruction, but look to the fountain of wisdom, that they may be delivered from prejudice, preserved from error, and enabled to profit by the ministry of the word."
What then do we learn from Christian’s knocking at the Interpreter’s door "over and over"?
That once we come through the Gate, our great & immediate work must be to seek with most humble diligence & earnestness the gracious, illuminating, & sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit. "The young convert will make but a poor soldier of Jesus Christ, and a weak and lagging pilgrim, if he does not go directly to the House of the Interpreter."
We have all seen the young convert who dallies between the Wicket Gate and the Interpreter’s House (i.e., little or no Bible reading, little or no Church, little or no godly fellowship); such a person suffers a great many Hill Difficulties & perhaps spends many weeks & months in the Dungeon of Giant Despair’s Castle.
All this could have been avoided by going directly to Interpreter’s House… there he would have learned those Truths of God that alone make a good foundation, establish a deep-seated joy in his heart & foster a strong faith for the trials ahead!
An overview of the House & its seven lessons: these are all doctrinal lessons meant to teach Christian the value of God’s Truth. Five are designed to give hope and two are meant to instill a healthy fear.
These lessons are:
The portrait of the godly pastor
The distinction between the law and the gospel
The virtue of patience contrasted with passion
The grace of Christ conquers the assailed soul
The persevering, valiant pilgrim
The despairing reprobate in the iron cage
The warning of the final day of judgment
The godly pastor & the benefits of the ministry of the Word at his hands. This portrait is shown to Christian so that he might always be able to distinguish a true guide (minister) from a false one.
The priority of the portrait
Why is this Christian’s first lesson?
Nothing can be more important to everyone who inquires of the Way to Heaven, than to be able to distinguish true pastors from hirelings, blind guides, & false teachers. For such impostors are Satan’s agents designed to prevent the stability, consistency, & fruitfulness of believers.
The description of the portrait
Notice the several parts of the description.
Everyone should be extremely careful not to entrust his soul to the guidance of those who do not resemble this portrait! ––And to that end, I earnestly beg your prayers for me that God would shape me more & more after this model & mercifully forgive me where I fall short…
The explanation of the portrait
This man begets children
His greatest glory is to bring sinners to Christ, to point Him out as the one Way to Heaven & to edify & build up the saints, 1Cor 2.1-5.
This man nourishes babes as a nurse
Eph 4.11-16; 1Pet 2.2-3; Acts 20.32
This man ministers truth to sinners
His chief aim is to exalt & glorify the Lord Jesus, His atoning blood, justifying righteousness, & finished salvation.
His preaching & teaching should be characterized by how much it leads his hearers to Christ––whether by inducing joy, tears, conviction, or repentance. He should not be a promoter of himself but should strive with all his effort to hide himself behind the portrait & gospel of Christ which he’s called to declare. He should care more for your souls than your approval, more for your eternity than your present.
And therefore that man who never studies, or who cares more for his own income, ease, or reputation than the souls entrusted to him by God, cannot be followed without at the best danger & at the worst eternal peril.
Would any of us trust our body to a physician with no training, or our lives to a pilot with no air time? Neither should we trust our souls to a pastor ignorant of the Truth of God & without a love for souls.
This man despises the world in serving his Master
He despises the world & is dead to its pleasures & joys, Gal 6.14.
This man is authorized to guide through difficulties
The wise & biblical counsel & ministry of a faithful pastor cannot be ignored or taken lightly without sin against God & therefore danger to our own souls, because God has appointed ministers for the profit of His church & commands that His people joyfully and faithfully submit to them, Heb 13.7. For just as He will call ministers to an account for the souls of their flock, so He will call the sheep to an account for their submission to their appointed Shepherd.
It would seem that we would be better off if God had not chosen to birth, nurse, feed, mature, & bury His children in the Church at the hands of sinful & fallible men, but He who knows best how to glorify Himself and build His church has chosen it.
Therefore let us seek by God’s grace to submit to it with cheerfulness & pray for one another that those men called as pastors may beautifully emulate Christ as the Faithful Shepherd & Husband of His Bride, and that those called to be sheep may beautifully emulate Christ as the Head of the Church who Himself submitted to His Father’s instruction, guidance, and Way.
"Christian is instructed about the distinction between the law and the gospel"
The parlor room is described––a large room where the floor was thick with dust because it had never been swept. And when a man tries & sweep it clean, the dust stirs about so badly that Christian is almost chocked by it. But then a damsel comes in & sprinkles the room with water, it’s swept & cleansed with pleasure.
The parlor room is interpreted
What does the room represent?––Man’s heart, ignorant of the cleansing power of the gospel & blinded by sin to the demands of God’s Law: Notice the dormancy of the dust; it lays thick & full over the heart of man, unaroused and unawakened because the Spirit of God has yet to apply the Law of God to it.
What does the dust represent?––Man’s sin & filth:
Notice the abundance of dust; so the heart of man is full of more evil that we could ever imagine.
In fact, it does no good to compare yourself with a vile criminal & conclude that you are better than him or that what he did you’d never do, you’d never stoop to, because while the flow might be faster in one than in another, & the trench wider & deeper in one than in another, & the stream muddier in one than in another, the same fountain & spring of iniquity lives in all of us because they all are but tributaries flowing out of Adam in whom we sinned & fell into misery.
Each of our hearts is equally vile & in each of our hearts is the seed of every sin imaginable & unimaginable to the mind of man.
What makes us to differ then? What is it that curbs one & not another? Nothing but the grace & wise providence of God, by which He permits one to become a Hitler or a Stalin & limits another common thievery.
The dust lay in all our hearts with an equal thickness & an equal stench… the difference is in how much dust makes its way out & into our lives.
Spurgeon said, "There is nothing one half so worthy of abhorrence as the human heart. God spares all eyes, but His own, that awful sight, a human heart; & could you and I but once see our heart, we should be driven mad, so horrible would be the sight."
What does the sweeper represent?––The law of God which only aggravates & increases sin:
This is the work of the law in the conscience (& this is what Christian experienced on the way to Morality under the great Hill of Mt. Sinai). It arouses & discovers the evils which lay dormant in the heart.
Think of how tempted we are to do the very thing we’re told not to do. We didn’t think too much of it before… but once the rule is in place, that’s the very thing we want to do: to break the rules, to push the envelope, to stretch the boundaries, to see how close we can get to breaking the rule without (from our sinful perspective) actually breaking it, to see for ourselves what’s on the other side of the hedge & if it’s as dangerous as the rule says it is, to see for ourselves if the rule makes sense & is even worth obeying.
What is this but the sweeper stirring up the dust in our heart! Nothing’s wrong with the rule! The problem is with our hearts & our innate rebellion which the rule of God’s Law cannot cure, bur only arouses!
And so we learn that the law of God is meant to reveal sin & make the sinner sensible of it, but that’s all it can do. It can only convince & condemn: convince us that we’ve broken every one of its demands & condemn us as a lawbreaker under sentence of damnation for it. It shows us our sin but can’t give us an ounce of power to subdue it or remove it.
The more it shines its light into our hearts (the more it sweeps), the more manifest & apparent our sins become.
And therefore if we try to keep the law & gain peace by it, it just chokes us all the more, condemning not only our external obedience as not good enough, but also our inward depravity as alone worthy of damnation.
Paul says in Rom 7 that the law is holy & just & good… but when its holiness & goodness & justice is laid alongside our sinful hearts, it’s like the uncovering of hell & fills us with anguish & terror at the sight of what we are & what we deserve!
What does the sprinkler represent?––The grace of Christ which subdues and conquers sin:
When the gospel of grace is brought to the heart, it disarms the law of its curse as the rule of holiness to which we must conform, by bringing in another righteousness, a free righteousness, the righteousness of Jesus Christ of which the heart lays hold by faith.
The demands of the Law of God remain unchanged & the sin/dust of the heart remains in the room, but the gospel brings with it something of which the Law is entirely ignorant, viz., the promise of grace. For where the Law said "the soul that sins shall die," the gospel says "the soul that believes in the Lord Jesus Christ shall live;" & where the Law said "he that offends in one point is guilty of all," the gospel says, "he that looks alone & sincerely to Jesus Christ for salvation shall be exonerated of all & declared keeper of all."
And so the grace of Christ not only subdues the sin of our hearts (breaks the dust cloud), but conquers it (sweeping our hearts clean), by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Thus, more and more we advance in holiness, ever short of God’s standard, but never out of God’s favor in Christ.
What is the doctrine which this is meant to teach Christian and what error is it meant to correct?
The true doctrine: ––That righteousness before God is not by works of the Law, but only by faith in Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel: as the soul’s Refuge, Redemption, Sanctification, Wisdom, Saviour, & Lord. Gal 3.21-29
The error: ––That righteousness before God is something we attain or merit; or that while we are saved by grace, we are sanctified by works, i.e., saved by the Spirit but sanctified by the flesh (Galatianism; the Judaizers threatening Galatia). Gal 2.21; 3.2-3, 10-14
Where then does your assurance of salvation & acceptance before God lie? In your own obedience or in Christ's? In your conformity to the Law of God or in God’s free grace & undeserved mercy to you? Look not to yourself for salvation or assurance, but only to Christ!
"Christian learns the contrast between the virtue of patience & the sin of passion"
Two children: Passion & Patience
Whom does Passion represent?
Whom does Patience represent?
Whom does the Governor represent?
What does the bag of Treasure represent?
What do the rags represent?
The several lessons we’re to learn from this:
The things of this world do not last
God tempers our blessings in this world to teach us patience & make us long for the world to come
The great sin of which we are guilty when we behave like Passion toward God’s providence
Murmuring against His timing
Murmuring against His portions
Coveting the things of this world
The impatience & unbelief of the men of this world because they value "a bird in the hand (this temporal vanishing life) more than two in the bush (the eternal life to come)." They live for instant & indulgent gratification of self.
The need to submit to God’s Word & believe its testimonies about the untold blessings which God has in store for us: the imperishable, undefiled, & unfading inheritance of Christ.
We must forego the things of this world, counting them a nothing in comparison to what God has in store for us, & wait patiently for the best things of the world to come.For this life & its fleeting pleasures/treasures is all the ‘heaven’ the wicked will ever see!
God’s blessings for us are eternal & will not pass away; thus when the wicked have used up all their blessings & have nothing to show for it but rags on Judgment Day, we’ll just be entering upon ours & they’ll be eternal instead of temporal, for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal.
Interpreter says temporal things & our fleshly appetite remain such good friends while eternal things & our carnal sense are hardly more than strangers. How can we counter this and fix our affections upon eternal things? Col 3.1; Rom 12.2; Heb 11.13-16, 24-27
"Christian learns how the grace of Christ conquers the assailed heart"
We learn several things here about the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints:
Christ quickens the heart, or starts the holy flame, Ezek 11.19-20.
Rather than the fire being almost extinguished or covered in ashes for many years and then reviving at the end of one’s life, this flame burns brighter & hotter throughout our lives, 2Pet 1.3-11.
The fire is ever opposed by Satan, whose unceasing efforts to quench it aims to sway our flesh by temptation, 1Pet 5.8-9.
Christ feeds His fire, which is in us, by His secret grace, 1Cor 15.9-10; 2Cor 12.9-10.
We don’t see Christ at work, especially when the torrent of temptation assails us and when we can boast of so many failures in our efforts against sin & toward holiness. However, Christ is ever at work, Heb 13.5-6.
We are totally & unreservedly reliant on the secret but powerful influence of divine grace to maintain & carry on the sanctifying work that has begun in us, Phil 1.6; Phil 2.13; 1Thes 5.23-24; Heb 13.20-21; 1Pet 5.10-11.
Notwithstanding, we are responsible to both avail ourselves of the means of grace and pursue holiness in the fear of the Lord, Phil 2.12; 2Cor 6.14-7.1; Heb 12.14; Tit 2.7, 14; 3.1, 8, 14.
This doctrine offers no comfort or assurance to the impious (who rely on a mere profession of faith, Jer 6.14; Ezek 11.1-13) & the hypocrite (who rely on an external religion, 2Tim 3.5).
"Christian is encouraged by the persevering, valiant pilgrim"
The several lessons which this episode is meant to teach us:
We enter the kingdom of heaven through much tribulation, Acts 14.22; Mark 8.34-38; John 16.33; Mt 10.16-25
Our only resistance is in Christ and His armor, Eph 6.10-18.
Although salvation is a gift granted us by the application of Christ’s work on the cross, it’s a proof that God has begun the work of salvation in us if we have a violent love for Christ and a holy zeal for God’s honor and glory, 2Pet 1.3-11.
We are not to draw back from conflict (against sin, the world, and the devil), but be bold and take the offensive, Heb 10.38-39; 1Tim 6.12.
Many aspire to enter the kingdom, but few obtain; many vacillate, lacking the courage of consecration; many count the cost & hold back; many cringe at the prospect of conflict, Mt 7.13-14. These are so many Pliables who are sure to go back to the City of Destruction.
This scene describes the pilgrim’s progress &, in a sense, encapsulates the pilgrim’s progress.
"Unless you come to a fixed resolution, unless you step quickly & boldly to the gate, with your heart on fire, and say, "Set down my name, sir!" in a tone that shall make Christian rejoice, and the armed men tremble, you are not likely ever to fight your way into this palace, or ever to be walking with those upon its top in glory." ––G. Cheever
We should pause & ask ourselves how violent we are in our pursuit of God’s kingdom, Mt 11.12:
Where is the zeal & holy violence that were displayed by Paul, George Whitefield, & Jonathan Edwards?
A pastor once said, "Give me six thorough red-hot Christians & I will do more, by God’s grace, with them, than six hundred ordinary [lukewarm] professors. I would as soon hunt with dead dogs as try to work with them."
How hot, then, are we on the thermometer of zeal when it comes to our prayers, witnessing, mortifying the flesh, reading the Scriptures, and attending to the Word preached? Matt 11.12 allows no place for a lazy, careless attitude toward Christ and His Kingdom.
Are we less zealous now than when we were first converted? Has our flame cooled? turned to ash? or does it burn brighter & hotter?
Although the battles we fight in this life are numerous, long, and hard… sweet shall be the victory and great the reward when Christ, our great Captain, shall turn to us and say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Mt 25.21).
"Christian is warned by the despairing man in the cage"
Having been encouraged by 5 lessons, Christian must be warned by the remaining 2:
"It was a dreadful sight to Christian, as it must be to us all; for what happened to this man may happen to any man, who leaves off to be sober and to watch unto prayer. It made Christian weep and tremble to see the deep misery of this man." ––George Cheever
But notice that the Interpreter (the Holy Spirit) says nothing of this man being past the day of grace, but lets him speak for himself. This is important for us (cf. 4.6)
In Ps 88 we have the statement of a case almost as bad as this of the man in the cage. William Cowper (co-author of the Olney Hymns with John Newton) spent much of his life in this cage.
Unbelief and sin are the usual culprits that so cages a soul (either for a time, or for good).
Bunyan was in this state sometimes.
Christian was in such a state in Doubting Castle.
Note: the full sight of any man’s sins, without the sight and sense of a Saviour’s mercy at the same time, would be sufficient to cast the soul at any time into utter despair.
**Bunyan didn’t intend to represent this man as actually being beyond the reach of mercy, but to show the dreadful consequences of departing from God, and of being abandoned by God to the misery of unbelief and despair.
So take heart! For a sight of our sin, a sense of our guilt, and a sorrow for sin with a desire to be saved by Jesus from all sin as well as from wrath, do really evidence the workings of the grace of Christ in the heart.
The caged man’s darkened condition. He is:
without the light of hope
distressed to the point of despair
caged in iron and cannot escape
unprepared to meet with eternity
The caged man’s apostate condition.
Once he was a flourishing pilgrim (he knew of his sin & the gospel of God)
Later he neglected to watch and be sober (he refused to forsake his sin; never repented of them & turned to Christ for salvation, but instead preferred his sin to Christ)
Now he is abandoned by God (the consequence of a hardened heart
"Men who only believe their depravity but do not hate it are no further than the devil on the road to heaven… true repentance is a turning of the heart, as well as the life; it is the giving up of the whole soul to God, to be His forever and ever." ––Spurgeon
The caged man’s reprobate condition
His hard heart finds no mercy
His caged heart is locked up to remorse
His unbelieving heart is denied repentance
Five signs of being past grace (from Bunyan’s "Barren Fig Tree" on Lk 13.6-9) ––The day of grace is likely to be passed:
When a professor has withstood, abused, and worn out God’s patience. Then he is in danger; this is a provocation; then God cries out ‘fetch the axe! cut it down!’
When God has given him over, or lets him alone, and suffers him to do anything, and that without control; He helps him not, either in works of holiness or in straits and difficulties to restrain his sin, Hos 4.17; Prov 1.2-29
When his heart is grown so hard, so stony, and impenetrable, that nothing will pierce it (neither offers of blessing nor threats of cursing); this is a judicial hardening, Ex 9.14; Gen 19.26
When his he fortifies his hard heart against the tenor of God’s Word; this is a self-hardening, Deut 29.18-21. The Lord will give him over to Satan, 2Thes 2.10-12
When he despises the Lord’s messengers, Heb 10.28-29; Acts 13.41
The caged man’s miserable condition is a warning
A warning against an apostate in Bunyan’s time: Francis Spira
A warning against religious reprobates in our own time
The lesson? Heb 6.4-8 (cf. Heb 3.12-14; 10.26-31)
There is no harm that can happen to a man who has God for his Friend; but there is no good that can happen to a man abandoned by God. When God gives us quiet, none can make trouble for us; and when God hides His face, none can see Him.
The Lord sets before us in Scripture the dreadful things which befall mere professors, that we may see our danger, be humble and watchful, and pray to the Lord to keep us from falling away. We stand by faith alone! Be not high-minded, but fear.
"Christian is warned of the final judgment"
Consider the mans’ dream:
Who is shown to be the Judge? Acts 17.30-31
Who were called to judgment? Acts 17.31; 2Cor 5.10; Rom 14.10-12
What is the Book according to which Christ will judge the wicked? Rev 20.11-15
What is the Book according to which Christ will judge the believer? Rev 13.8; Jn 6.37; 17.6, 9-12, 14, 19
Why was the man so distressed? Because:
He’s not prepared for judgment (remember Graceless when Evangelist first found him?)
The angels gathered up some for glory which were close to him, but left him
The pit of hell opened right where he stood
His conscience roused up & tormented him (the worm that never dies)
The Judge eyed him with indignation
The sinful world we live in, along with the Devil, seeks to hide the fact that there is a Judgment Day coming, and a great many consciences are lulled to sleep by this deception.
Only as people are exposed to the truth contained in the Bible are they awakened from this deadly soul-sleep.
What does this say about the many churches & denominations which refuse to teach or at least minimize the threat of hell and a Day of Judgment?
Where does the responsibility ultimately lie for preparing for Judgment Day? Rom 1.32
The parting exhortation of the Interpreter is similar to how a minister sends you away with the preached Word. How does he exhort him? Js 1.19-25; Mt 7.24-27
Christian has been stimulated to both hope (the first 5 rooms) and fear (the latter 2).
Why are both hope and fear necessary graces of the Spirit?
Our safety consists in a due proportion of hope & fear: when devoid of hope, we resemble a ship without an anchor; when unrestrained by fear, we’re like the same ship under full sail, without ballast (1Pet 1.13-17).
Indiscriminate censures of all fear as the result of unbelief on the one hand, & unguarded commendations of strong confidence on the other, not only lead to much self-deception, but also tend to make believers unstable, unwatchful, and even uncomfortable; for the humble often cannot attain to that confidence, and true comfort is the effect of watchfulness, diligence, & circumspection. ––Scott
Which room in the house did you find particularly profitable or convicting?
"Christian is delivered from his burden"
What does it mean that the highway was walled with Salvation? Isa 26.1; 35.8
Christian is lightened by the cross
His burden falls off.
He had faith, he believed that there was redemption in the blood of Christ, even forgiveness of sins, before he came to the cross; but now he finds and feels the comfort of it; now he has the joy of his faith. His habitual distress (through ignorance) has given way to an habitual peace by his more true apprehension of the cross and Christ’s work upon it.
Notice that it his burden fell off by itself when his attention was believingly occupied with Christ, His sufferings, His death, and His atoning sacrifice for sinners.
This is the key to losing the burden of sin (indeed, the only way it will come off). All of Christian’s efforts to rid himself of it were of no avail (Town of Morality).
This is the manner in which the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace. It is the place where we, like Christian, have our attention & affections directed to Christ’s sufferings, death, and atoning sacrifice for our sins!
How true this is for so many Christians! (because of their ignorance, either through error or neglect, of the gospel)
How then can we overcome our doubts and enjoy the assurance of the cross? 2Pet 3.18
"There is not a more important lesson taught in this book, than that growth in grace is not to be measured by sensible comfort, that joy is not to be sought as a test or proof of grace, and that a person may be in Christ, and yet a deep sense of the burden of sin may long remain upon the soul." ––G. Cheever
Why did his burden roll into the empty sepulchre? What is the connection between our sin and Christ’s grave? Christ’s empty grave?
Christian is enlivened by the cross
His experiential benefits
A glad, restful, and animated heart, Ps 51.8
Wonder and astonishment at the cross, 1Cor 1.18; Gal 6.14
Springs of living water flowing from within, Jn 7.38
Peace from God, Rom 5.1-2
His declared benefits. ––Here is the love & grace of God the Father, God the Son, & God the Holy Spirit.
Negative justification (pardon), the forgiveness of sins, 1Cor 5.21
Positive justification (imputation), the garment of Christ’s righteousness, Isa 61.10
A mark on his forehead, Rev 7.3; 14.1; 22.4; Ezk 9.4 (cf. Rev 13.16) (signifying that the mind of Christ is to appear in our outward conduct)
And a sealed roll for his journey (denoting his assurance of acceptance when he compares his views, experiences, desires, and purposes with Holy Scripture), 1Jn 5.13; Rev 15.14; Rev 2.17
The once burdened way has become the way of rejoicing
"Christian overtakes Simple, Sloth, & Presumption"
Read pp.36-37 –– Here is shown the misery & danger of so-called professors, to warn us & cause us to be watchful & diligent. All professors are ‘virgins’ (Mt 25.1-13), but only true professors have the oil of grace in their lamps, while all others have the oil of nature.
These three appear to be pilgrims, ‘asleep out of the way,’ but what does each of these three ‘sleepers’ represent?
Simple: spiritual dullness
Sloth: spiritual lethargy
Presumption: spiritual haughtiness
Thus we see that many may outwardly walk in the ways of religion, & seem to us be pilgrims, who are destitute of those ‘things that accompany salvation’ (Heb 6.4-9). There will always be tares among the wheat, & foolish virgins among the wise.
Many of this description are found in every church…:
They hear & learn to talk about the gospel; they have transient convictions, but easily quiet them; they cleave to the world & rest more securely in the bondage of sin & Satan by means of their profession of religion.
They reject or pervert all instruction, hate all trouble, & yet are confident that every thing is & will be well with them because false teachers lull them to sleep by confounding the form with the power of godliness.
And if anyone sincerely attempt to arouse them, they answer: ‘Mind your own business; we see no danger; you can’t disturb our composure or induce us to make so much ado about religion; see to yourselves & leave us to ourselves. Thus they sleep on.
What do the fetters represent?
Their true estate as those in bondage to sin & Satan, despite their profession.
What does Christian say to try and arouse them?
He likens them to a watchman asleep at sea (unprepared for the coming danger), Prov 23.34
He warns them of Satan who seeks to devour such slumbering pilgrims, 1Pet 5.8
How do they respond to his exhortation?
Simple sees no danger, so why should he not sleep?
But he’s in danger of perishing through ignorance & neglect (Ps 73.22; Rom 10.3; 2Pet 3.1-12)
Sloth can only think to indulge the flesh, so why not sleep?
But he’s in danger of sleeping sickness; of sleeping on duty (Isa 56.9-12; Mt 24.42-51; 25.1-13)
Presumption needs no help, except to be left alone.
But he’s in danger of self-destruction & religious delusion (Heb 3.12-14; 2Pet 1.10; Js 2.14-19)
Christian is here taught of the peril of neglectful pilgrims:
They spurn being awakened; they spurn being counseled; they spurn being unshackled.
Read Cheever’s description of this conversation on p.59.
This teaches us that no amount of persuasion will do, if God does not open their eyes. Their spiritual eyes are locked from the inside & only God has the key. Our arguments & sermons are not in vain, however, for these do the knocking to which the person responds, once being awakened & enabled by His grace.
This teaches us that not all men sincerely seek the salvation of God who profess to do so. Thus we must be on our guard against being led astray by false professors & being ourselves deceived that just because we are members in a church and know the Bible, that we are known by Christ & have the seed of God in our hearts. ––Jesus says we will be known by our fruits, among which are watchfulness, diligence, & perseverance in holiness, the very things lacking in these sleepers.
When, then, will these men be at last wakened?
"Christian Converses with Formalist & Hypocrisy"
What things cause Christian to suspect these two men?
Their entry is illegitimate (Jn 10.1)
Their breeding is illegitimate (2Cor 4.3-4; Rom 9.30-10.4)
Their motivation is illegitimate (Acts 8.14-21)
What do we learn about these men by their names?
Formalist is known by… (his external religion; 2Tim 3.1-9) He neither cared nor knew that there was a Saviour; the complete sum of his religion was form, & he didn’t attempt to go any further with it than outward formalities.
Hypocrisy is known by… (his counterfeit religion; Tit 1.15-16) He did much for God, prayed the longest, read the most, & was the first to speak against sin & for grace… but he didn’t know the Saviour of whom he so eloquently and dogmatically spoke, for the sum of his religion was the applause of men, he did all he did for the praise of men & cared not for God’s approval.
How many of us would have stopped at formality or hypocrisy had not God brought about a true conversion in our soul?
These men stand for that pretended liberality of which we so often hear in the world, that it matters not by what way you come to God or worship God, but only that you worship Him. All persuasions are right, all are traveling the same road. But as we will find next week, these blind assumptions are foolish & will only lead to death, 2Cor 2.14-15.
Notice the searching questions Christian asks them. What are their responses?
Do not only thieves and robbers enter illegally? (but: the Gate is too far away; Rom 10.2-3)
Will not the Lord of the City disqualify them? (but: custom makes it right; Rom 8.6-8)
Will their testimony stand up to a trial by law? (but: we are all ‘pilgrims’; Mt 7.21-23)
The point is this: there is a door to get into the way by which the Lord commands we come, Jn 14.6. To reject that Gate because it is too far from your house, or because it has long been the custom of your people to take a short-cut, or because short-cuts abound, is no excuse. God demands that we come to Him by the mediation and sacrifice of Christ or He will cast us away into outer darkness, Jn 10, 14; Rom 3.23ff.
Christian distinguishes himself from these professors first by their different Masters.
He submits to: the will and provisions of Christ for salvation,
while they trust in: their own provision of righteousness by works. Yet, such will not be saved, Gal 2.16; Eph 2.14-15.
The point is this: there is a rule by which the Lord expects His followers to walk. If you refuse to walk by it, then you do not love the Lord & cannot be saved.
Christian distinguishes himself from them by their different attire.
Christian rejoices in: his coat of imputed righteousness as that which God will surely recognize, receive, and reward at the Celestial Gate,
while they: boast of: their intrinsic self-righteousness which they deceive themselves into thinking will be accepted.
The point is this: if you come in by yourselves, without the Lord’s direction, then you will go out by yourselves, without the Lord’s mercy. They trusted in their outward experience of Christian duties while he trusted in his inward experience of the new birth, repentance, & faith.
Christian told them that if they’d come by the gate, they’d have these inward evidences which were absolutely necessary, as well as the coat of righteousness to cover his nakedness by which the King would recognize him when he came to the Celestial Gate to present his roll.
But the men cared nothing at all for these things.
Christian goes on his way with mixed feelings while they go on theirs with laughter
Christian groans over their blindness to the truth, Rom 9.2-3; 10.1
Christian comforts himself by reading the scroll which assures him that all that he told them is indeed true because the Word of God, Rom 3.4.
They go on foolishly, blinded by the devil through their unbelief, 2Cor 4.3-4; Prov 14.12.
"Christian ascends the Hill Difficulty"
Notice that all three pilgrims have continued together on the path, though not in fellowship with one another, until they come to this Hill.
Many are the forms of this Hill in the Christian life. Often we think of physical difficulties that come our way, but just as difficult are acts of self-denial, the experiences of humbling our proud hearts, not seeking the praise of men, overcoming sinful habits of the flesh, and graciously forgiving ingratitude and injury done to us.
But for all the external & formal religion of these professors, it is at these, at the power of godliness, which they stumble & from which they recoil, because these are very hard to counterfeit!
But this is as far as Formalist & Hypocrisy will go. Formalism & Hypocrisy love an external religion of ease, but they will always stop at difficulty & look for another way.
The path of life is a way unpleasing to flesh & blood, which proves to try the sincerity of our faith & the earnestness of our souls in our pilgrimage. In other words, the Lord has made the way difficult in order to weed out many false pilgrims on the one hand & sanctify true pilgrims on the other. It is a double-edge sword.
And another way always presents itself to such professors. To the true pilgrim, there is no other than the way of God’s commandments, come what may; but to mere professors, when the way gets hard & self-denial is called for, there is always another way, a way of self-indulgence.
What characteristics do we note about these alternative ways?
They go pleasantly along the bottom
They are not the straight & narrow way, but proceed broadly & windily to the left & to the right
Notice that when these professors choose their respective paths, they don’t intend to forsake the path of life, but only to avoid the difficulty of the Hill.
However, by choosing their own way, they unavoidably forsake the way of life for the way of death. Prov 14.12; for it is over this Hill Difficulty that Christian must go.
Thus, to show us the inevitable Danger of going our own way & the Destruction to which it leads, Bunyan so names these paths, Ps 125.1, 5. ––As they avoided the initial difficulty of coming by the Wicket Gate (Mk 8.34; Lk 14.25-27)so they will inevitably avoid the further difficulties with which the Christian path is littered.
Sadly, this sinful thinking plagues many Christians: they think to indulge the world in sinful things only at certain points & then return to strictness & restraint later. But why is this so dangerous? And what does continuance in such indulgence prove?
Also, there are many Christians who think to come to heaven without any cost or difficulty, without any pains or denials. But what are we to say to this? Acts 14.21-22; John 16.33; 2Tim 3.12-13.
What does the spring represent? Ps 110.7; Isa 49.10-11––The Lord will equip us for whatever duty it is to which He calls us, 2Cor 12.9. ––It reminds us that some great blessing is at hand whenever the Lord calls us to grapple with some great difficulty.
The spring is either hidden from the view of Formalist & Hypocrisy or they had no palate for it since it was spiritual water for a spiritual thirst. But in the refreshment of it, Christian begins his ascent.
What is meant by his being reduced from running to walking to crawling?
There are many times in the Christian walk that we crawl from duty to duty, from prayer to prayer, from chapter to chapter in God’s Word, with great difficulty. The way is hard and laborious.
But the Lord remembers us & gives us a place of rest in the middle of our labor.
How does Christian refresh himself at the Arbor? Ps 42.1-4
What is the problem with his sleeping? ––the Arbor was not designed by God for sleeping, but for resting. ––It reminds us that the best of blessings, even spiritual comforts as this was, are, through the infection of our nature, liable to be abused & cause us to sleep when we should be active & diligent in running the heavenly race, looking unto Jesus (Heb 12.1-2).
How would it have fared for him if the Adversary had come upon him?
But despite his neglectful slumber, there is One who watches over him, who promised never to leave him nor forsake him, who helps him in his infirmities, & so whispered in his ear that warning from Prov 6.6. ––The Lord loves His people too much to let them sleep "the sleep of death," though He may suffer them to sleep to the loss of their comfort.
Why does Bunyan have him lose his roll?
And why does Christian not realize it? How can he speed up to the top of the Hill without it? But trial will soon come by the words of his next two visitors which will make him reach for his roll…
"Christian is approached by Timorous & Mistrust"
Timorous & Mistrust are enemies to the Christian way & to Christian’s faith because, like the 10 spies of old, they bring a bad report of unbelief.
Why do Timorous & Mistrust turn back?
Their words make Christian afraid, but what makes him decide to press on?
John Mason: "When dangers beset, and fears assault, remember whose you are, and whom you serve: look to the way you are in, and the end of your faith, even the salvation of your soul. Study the Word of God and obey it."
Why did Christian reach for his roll when in need of comfort?
What was the result of not finding it?
The interchange with Timorous & Mistrust was used of God to expose his sin of negligence at the Arbor & bring him to repentance, in order that his spiritual comforts might be restored to him.
What does his going back for it prove?
That he is a true pilgrim, Ps 80.3, 7, 19
What should we learn by Christian’s having to trace that ground thrice with sorrow that he might have traced once with delight?
Negligence and sleep in the midst of difficulty (as he did at the arbor) will cause us to pass repeatedly over the same ground with sorrow, which we might have passed over at once with comfort, Heb 5.11-14
Notice the speed which Christian was able to make in the way once he had retrieved his roll.
He is now able to make his way to Palace Beautiful. What does this place stand for?
"Christian is interviewed at House Beautiful"
Read pp.45-58 –– Lessons to be learned from their conversations
What four questions does the Porter ask Christian and why are these important? (p.46)
Whence he was, wither he was going, his name, & why he came so late to the House. ––These signify the caution with which members should be admitted into the communion of the faithful & represent the private conversation by which a minister may form a judgment of a man’s profession, whether it be nominal or true.
How does Christian answer him?
He came from the City of Destruction, is going to Mount Zion, is now Christian but was Graceless of the Gentile race, & came late because of his sinful sleep along the way (this reveals the great need we have of church membership as Christians and the hurtful effect it has on us when we neglect to join Christ’s church)
What five questions does Discretion ask Christian and what do these represent? (p.47)
Whence he was, wither he was going, how he got into the Way, what he had seen & met with in the Way, his name. ––Christian’s answers to these questions constitute the proper external qualifications for admission into the Church and subsequently to the Lord’s Supper.
Discretion, Prudence, Piety, & Charity probably are intended to represent the graces or endowments which should dictate the admission of anyone into the Church…: it should be with discretion & not hastily, with prudence & not foolishly, with piety & not sinfully, & with charity & not partiality.
Notice that Christian is admitted into the House based upon his Christian profession, not his Baptist or Presbyterian faith. (p.47)
Having been admitted into the Church, the further conversation between Christian & the three virtues represents the peculiar advantage of the communion of saints and should shame us for some of our trivial conversations. Conversations along such spiritual lines tend to increase humiliation, gratitude, faith, & hope and therefore most glorify God and edify the Church.
What moved him to look to Christ? (p.48)
He was driven to it by the inner conviction that he was condemned & would suffer the wrath of God where he was
How did it happen that he forsook his sin? (p.48)
"It was as God would have it" who sent Evangelist to direct him to the Wicket Gate & so set him in the way
Why does Piety want to know if he came by the Interpreter’s House? (p.48)
She would know what he has learned hitherto in his Christian walk. Has he grown in the grace & knowledge of Christ? Has he matured in understanding Christian truth; & has he learned from it & applied it?
What three lessons from the Interpreter especially stuck with Christian? (p.48-49)
The fire in the wall, the man in the iron cage, the man who dreamt of judgment––one lesson tending toward hope & two tending toward fear!
Piety has asked him of his profession & experience along the Christian Way… but as any hypocrite can make the same profession & testify of the same experiences, Prudence desires to press him further and deeper. His answers will reveal convictions and affections which are deeper than mere experience and profession.
With what feelings does Christian think of his former Country? (p.50)
With shame & detestation; with no desire to turn back to it; with a constant longing for a better Country.
Did he not sometimes "think" on the sinful things which he left behind? (p.50)
Yes, too often, but greatly against his will, Rom 7.21-23
What were Christian’s Golden Hours? (p.51)
Those times when his carnal thoughts were vanquished.
What did he say were the means which enabled such Golden Hours? (IOW, how did he overcome his corruptions?) (p.51)
When he thought on: the Cross, the gift of his righteousness before God, the reading of the Scriptures, his promised rest in Heaven.
What makes Christian so desirous of Heaven? (p.51)
He hopes: to see Christ alive, to be rid of all sin, to be free of death, to enjoy the blessed company of the saints.
Why does Charity press Christian about his family? (p.51)
She would know whether he really knew the value of his own soul, for if he did, then he would be concerned for the souls of others, and especially those of his own family.
Her conversation is also meant to outline the great duty of a Christian toward those of his own household: to tell them of Christ, to live exemplary before them, & to pray for their salvation.
What reasons did his family give for not coming with him? (p.52)
These represent the real reasons why carnal men reject the gospel of Christ. (as we’ll see in the rich young ruler in Mk 10.22)
What testimony could Christian give re his manner of life before them? (p.53)
Would to God that we could honestly give such a testimony!
The Supper represents the Lord’s Supper and their conversation around the Table signifies those thoughts which should fill our minds, those affections should fill our hearts, and those longings which should fill our spirit during the Supper(p.53-54).
By seriously contemplating the person, humiliation, sufferings, & death of Christ with the emblems before us in the Supper & by professing our acceptance of His salvation & our surrender to His service, we find every holy affection revived and invigorated, and our souls melted into deep repentance, inspired with calm confidence, animated to a thankful, zealous, self-denying obedience, and softened into tender affection for our fellow Christians with compassionate forgiving love of our enemies. ––Thomas Scott
Where does Christian sleep after the Supper? What does the room represent? (p.54)
The peace of conscience & mind which follow a right participation in the Lord’s Supper with the Lord’s saints.
What does the Study represent? (p.55)
The believer’s growing acquaintance with the Scriptures which results from communion with the saints. This will then tend increase faith, hope, love, patience, & courage as it animates us to emulate the saints in Scripture & equips us for every good work (2Tim 3.16-17). ––Our time spent together should always center on God & His Word; we should always have our eye upon edifying one another and provoking one another to greater measures of piety.
The Armory represents not only the armor of God which we put on by faith (Eph 6.10-18; 1Thes 5.6), but the whole provision for victory over sin which is in Christ (1Jn 5.4-5). We are to diligently use all the means of grace to "put on" Christ.
The Delectable Mountains represent those distinct views of the privileges & consolations which are attainable in this life. The hopes which these views inspire in us prepare us to meet & press forward through dangers & hardships on the Way to the Celestial City.
Christian’s setting out from the House Beautiful reminds us that we must go forth from our time together & from our feeding upon the ordinances of God into the world & unto our respective stations & callings. And as we go forth, we go forth clad with Christ, ready for temptation and fully expecting trial & conflict.
"Christian enters into battle with Apollyon"
After being favored with many spiritual blessings at the house called Beautiful, Christian departs. Where does he go next? ––The Valley of Humiliation, which signifies a time of great humbling.
Those who would find a foretaste of heavenly rest in this Valley must bring into it, in their own hearts, the spirit of heaven; only then, & not otherwise, is this a valley of peace (thus Faithful went through it in full sunshine!).
What does this Valley of Humiliation represent? Why does it follow his wonderful time in House Beautiful (2Cor 12.7; 1Pet 5.8)?––the Valley represents a period of dreadful temptations which arose in Bunyan’s life.
With whom does Christian meet in this valley and why?(Rev 9.11)
Apollyon represents the destroyer who endeavors to deter Christians from prayer to the Lord & tempt us to give-in to sin & give-up religion as the only method of peace of mind!
Many, "having no root in themselves," thus gradually fall away, while others are greatly hindered; but the well instructed believer sees no safety except in facing his enemy.
If there appears to be danger in persevering, then ruin is inevitable if he turn back. Fear, therefore, will induce the Christian to stand his ground & resist temptation. This in turn will cause the devil to "flee from us."
But with what had the Lord fitted Christian before his confrontation with his foe? (Eph 6.10-18)
What do we learn from the armor being the Lord’s? (1Sam 17.47)––that the battle is the Lord’s & not ours. We’re not to go around binding Satan & casting him out of every person under the bondage of sin… (cf. Jude!) Instead, we’re to submit to God, resist the devil by prayer to the Father in the name of Christ, & the promise of Scripture is that he will flee, 1Pet 5.6-10. He cannot stand up against the authority of God & the Name of Christ. We, then, are to hide behind these for safety; & when we do, Satan cannot touch us but must flee.
What about Christian shows Apollyon that he was no longer one of his subjects?––his confession of what he was before Christ & what he now is in Christ.
Why did Christian say he had quit Apollyon’s service?––his service was hard (a yoke of iron), his wages could not be lived on (for it is death), he had come to years and considered how he might mend himself (Lk 15.17-19).
What awful truth does Apollyon utter about many who set out in the profession of faith?––it is ordinary for those who have professed to be Christians, after a while to give Christ the slip and return again to the service of Satan, 2Pet 2.20-22; Heb 6.4-6; 10.26-31. But this is not a losing of one’s salvation; rather, it is a casting off of the sheep’s clothing & a returning to the mire with which one is comfortable; it is a laying down of the mask.
Notice why Christian refuses the invite to forsake Christ (though the way is hard & dangers are sure): "I have given him my faith & sworn my allegiance to him; how then can I go back from this, & not be hanged as a traitor."
When do we give Christ our allegiance?––not only in our our baptism, profession, & membership vows, but every time we participate in the Lord’s Supper.
Notice that by this we learn that there are only two Masters under whom men labor. Either we are in the Lord’s Army or we are the Devil’s galley-slave! There is no other religion, no other service, no other Lord. However, remember that even the Devil is under the Lord’s dominion & sovereign control so that there is really & truly only one Master & Lord, even the Lord Jesus Christ, to whose rule all are subject, even the Devil himself (Job 1-2).
What did Christian like better about the banner under which he now stood?––Christ is able to absolve him & to pardon all those sins which he committed while in the service of the Devil. Also, he likes the Lord’s service, wages, servants, government, company, & country, better than his.
What were some of the subtle ways Apollyon used to try and dissuade Christian from his course & win him back to his service? Be not ignorant of Satan’s devices! (2Cor 2.11)
His disdainful countenance.
His threatening to strike him to the ground
His promise of better treatment if he returns
Turning out of the way of sin unto Christ is "a change from bad to worse"
The dangers he will meet with yet ahead… the fact that most of the Lord’s servants come to an ill end because they oppose the Devil & his ways; indeed, many have been put to shameful deaths!
Christ never came from heaven to deliver any of his saints from persecution or death at the Devil’s hands… whereas, comparatively, the Devil has many times delivered, either by power or fraud, those that have faithfully served him, out of the hands of the Lord or his servants!
Christian had already been unfaithful in the Lord’s service! (Will the Lord then render the wages as Christian supposes?)
What were Christian’s responses to him?
As to the Lord’s not delivering his saints from evil…: it was on purpose to try their love, whether they will cleave to Him to the end or not.
As for the ill end to which they came…: that is a most glorious end, since they do not expect present deliverance but look for eternal deliverance & glory.
Why does Apollyon bring accusations against Christian? (Rev 12.10)––because this is his way. Unable to snatch the saints out from the Lord’s hand (Jn 10.28-29), he aims, by accusation & tattle-telling, to force the Lord Himself to throw them out in order to uphold His Law, justice, & holiness.
But O, how impossible this is! For we are engraven upon His hands, Isa 49.13-16; His Law is satisfied, Gal 3.13; Col 2.13-15; His justice has been satisfied, Rom 3.21-16; & His holiness is not impugned, for we are righteous in His sight, Zech 3.1-5; 1Pet 2.4-10.
How does Christian handle these accusations? (Rev 12.11; 1Jn 5.4-5; Eph 1.7; Col 1.13) ––He neither denies the charge, nor extenuates his guilt, but freely admits all & flees to the free grace of the gospel for refuge & takes comfort from the consciousness that he now hates & groans under the remains of those evils which once he wholly lived in without remorse; thus inferring that "his sins, though many, are forgiven"!
Why didn’t Christian turn and run? (Heb 10.38-39)––there was no armor for his back. The Lord intends us to stand & fight, & when we do, promises us the victory, 1Pet 5.9-10. The Lord takes no delight in those who shrink back from danger. Just as Christ set His face resolutely toward Jerusalem, though He knew what awaited Him there, so we are to do the same; & when we do so, we will find the same sustaining & upholding grace which He found.
How does Christian deflect Apollyon’s darts? (1Pet 5.9)––by the shield of faith. However, there are occasions in which the Lord allows these darts to come with such force & abundance that they interrupt & stand in the way of our praying, reading, or meditating, until we despair of life itself. & so it was with Bunyan, Satan dipped so many of his darts in the curses & threats of Scripture against those who sin, that he had Bunyan convinced that he was a reprobate & had committed the unpardonable sin & would not be delivered or helped by the Lord (Heb 6.4-6; 10.26; Mk 3.29).
It’s in such times that Satan gains the advantage, we fall to the ground & our sword flies from our hand. This is a dreadful case, & could our faith fail & we lose our salvation, it would happen here, when we are unable to give any credit to the truth of God’s Word & Satan stands over us in apparent victory.
However, our Advocate prays for us, that our faith not fail (Lk 22.31-32!), so that though Peter fell with Judas, yet he was not left to perish with Judas. What made the difference, the sin was the same, the Tempter was the same, but the Lord prayed for Peter, whereas He did not pray for Judas. And of course, the Lord prayed for Peter because He had saved him, & He did not pray for Judas because Judas was not saved.
What do Christian’s wounds teach us?––that wounds & losses will be incurred in the Lord’s battles.
What does the sword represent and why doe he lose it?––the Word of God; because the darts of Satan (evil suggestions & thoughts) had caused him to give way to unbelief: unbelief in the truth of Scripture.
Who intervenes when Christian began to despair of life?––The Holy Spirit: "as God would have it"!!! It was only God’s sovereign interposing mercy which could help poor Christian now. Christian gave Satan a mortal wound with the use of that verse, Rom 8.37: In all these things we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us!!!
What intervention is given to Christian? deliverance or strength?––He caused him to bring to mind the evidences of the inspiration of the Scriptures & enabled him to rely afresh & with a new understanding upon the promises.
This teaches us to be compassionate with those suffering under hard temptations & to make allowances for their failures under the battery of darts which Satan is sometimes allowed to lay against us.
It also reveals the great importance of being well grounded in the faith in order to resist Satan’s temptations & stand our ground against his assaults. Those who settle for mere general convictions & a cursory & elementary knowledge of the gospel & of the Scriptures, are inviting the troubles of the Valley of Humiliation.
O that God would cause every eye to see that this is a battle which every soul which sets out for heaven must wage. Our soul’s great Adversary is one of incomparable power, skill, & malignity; & there is but One Person who is able to cope with him & defeat him, namely, our Almighty & glorious Lord, who took on flesh & became obedient unto death in our place & for our sin in order that by death He might destroy him who had the power of death & deliver us from our bondage unto him (Heb 2.14-15).
How important then is our regular prayer: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one!
& how important it is that we indeed resist temptation. Because when a man goes after his sins, he rather tempts Satan than Satan tempting him. There’s no need for Apollyon to advance toward such a man since he comes himself over to Apollyon. He "enters into" temptation, into its power, into its atmosphere, into its spirit, & is thus easily conquered.
Men that are led away by their own lusts & under the power of a besetting sin, or that are utterly careless & insensible about temptation, don’t need to be tempted by the devil; the devil can safely leave him to himself because he has a friend within the walls of the heart.!
There is therefore no way for us to overcome this Adversary but by the blood of the Lamb & the word of testimony (Rev 12.11).
How does the Lord restore Christian after the battle? ––These wounds Christian receives by resisting Satan; but can we expect the Lord to heal the wounds we receive from complying with Satan?––the leaves of the tree of life being applied to Christian’s wounds represents the Lord’s gracious healing of the wounds of battle: He pardons his sins, rectifies his mistakes, & renews his strength & comfort through the mediation of Christ & by the influences of the Holy Spirit in the soul. The leaves represent the benefits of the work of Christ (Rev 22.2).
Why does he keep his sword drawn?––the believer, thus healed & refreshed, is not to rest in one victory, but to press forward, prepared for new conflicts… which indeed are waiting for Christian in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
"Christian confronts the valley of the shadow of death"
What does this valley represent? ––a night in Christian’s soul… it represents those times when we’re faithfully walking in duty (means of grace) & yet it is night in our souls & night all around us. Gloomy, dark mountains stand all around, the chill air penetrates our souls announcing a coming storm, & the path is extremely narrow with a pitfall on one side & a quagmire on the other…] It’s what Luther called "the dark night of the soul," a walk in darkness with no light (Isa 50.10) because God has hidden His face from us.––Who knows of this place?
Why does Bunyan have Christian pass through it? ––Because this is the way to the Celestial City… the only thing we can do is grope our way forward with fear & trembling, remembering that if God wills, He can save us even here; & that, even if we were in a King’s palace & God would not save us, then we’d be no better off than in the midst of this Valley.
& besides, why should we fear the fiends of darkness or fear to trust God’s mercy in the midst of the storm, when the darkness is as light to Him…?
The Lord sends us into these valleys, not for the pleasure of them, but for the instruction which can only be learned there & for the joys which can only be felt when once we’re stript of all our earthly joys…
& so we see that no one is sent to help Christian in this Valley… he’s to find His help in God & go directly to Christ.
& so what made this trial more difficult than the battle with Apollyon?––nothing is worse than the hiding of God’s face, Job 16.1-17; Ps 22.1-2; 88. There is nothing to do but press on in duty & press on in faith (Job 19.25; Isa 50.10; Ps 23.4; 89.52)
To walk in darkness & not be distressed for it argues deadness of heart; & to enjoy the light of God’s face & not rejoice over it, is impossible.
With whom did he meet coming out of the valley and what was their report? What answer did they give for their own apostasy? ––two men who have turned back & bring a bad report… they excuse their apostasy by relating the many dangers which they had seen from a distance (not experienced)––they represent those who follow Christ for a while & then turn back & slander the way of salvation to all who will listen to them.
What was Christian’s answer to them? ––He can’t affirm the dangers ahead, but he is sure that the way before him is the way to the desired haven. Nevertheless, at their warning he held out his sword and made ready for battle.
& so we’re reminded that the Lord has drawn the Christian’s path through the midst of many troubles & persecutions & adversities in order to try & grow our faith as well as to weed out hypocrites & mere professors of religion.
What did the ditch on the right represent? the quag on the left? Why is the way so narrow between them? ––the ditch on the right represents false doctrine into which the blind lead the blind & which leads to carnal security… the quagmire on the left represents the despair which many fall into after falling into sin…
These two extremes threaten us in times of spiritual desertion: a fearlessness from incorrect teaching & a hopelessness from despairing of God’s mercy
The narrowness of the way between shows us our careful we must be in such times that we stay faithful to the Word of God and plant our feet firmly upon His promise of pardon and deliverance. Moreover, our sincerity & tender conscience should manifest itself in a fear of corrupt teaching as much as corrupt living.
What weapon did he need to get by the mouth of hell? Why could he not use his sword? ––All-prayer.
The ineffectiveness of the sword shows us how dark such times can become…: we become so distressed that we find ourselves unable to read the Word of God and only able to cry out in agonizing prayer to Cod and cling to Christ in undying faith (Ps 22, 88, 89; Job 19).
A fiend whispers blasphemies into his ear in such a manner that Christian thinks they are coming from his own mind. What does his distress over these thoughts prove?––It proves that the disposition of these thoughts is the opposite of his heart which is filled with love for God.
Why does God send us through such a dreadful valley?
Christian’s having to resort to All-prayer teaches us one of the main reasons why God suffers us to walk in such Valleys…: it is in order to excite our prayers… He loves us no less though He hides His face, for He not only asks after us, but advises us on what to do (Isa 50.10).
What comfort did Christian draw from hearing Faithful’s singing ahead of him?––that another has gone before him & made it through such a dreadful, dark, & dreary place… Christian also hope for the communion that another pilgrim can give along the way.
What comfort are we to draw from the breaking of day? Amos 5.8––that the Lord will again shine His face upon us.
What does it mean to improve upon our valleys (temptations)? Job 12.22––this was represented by Christian’s looking back over the Valley in the rising sun. To improve upon the valley means to learn from our temptations, be more careful next time, more watchful & alert for such traps as threatened us before or into which we did fall.
Why are Pope & Pagan placed at the end of the Valley?––They represent the great danger to the gospel posed by Pagan ignorance & Roman Catholic supremacy… Bunyan lived in a time when he could rejoice over the expulsion of pagan darkness by the light of the gospel coming to foreign lands & the abolishing of papal supremacy by the Protestant Reformation.
Why is Christian not harmed by Pope?––represents the victory of the Reformation.
To whom does Christian ascribe the glory for his deliverance?––to Jesus, who alone wears the crown of glory.
"A conversation with Talkative"
Read pp.81-95 –– one of the most instructive, convicting, and applicable parts of PP.
Talkative’s description: tall & more comely at a distance than at hand.
Talkative’s delight: talking about good and profitable things, particularly the things of God. In fact, he despises those who talk to no profit & waste the tongue on earthly matters.
What specific benefits does Talkative see by talking about the things of God? (p.83)
Don’t underestimate the value of his notions here! What he says here couldn’t be better said.
What immediate difference between the two pilgrims is evident by Faithful’s response on the bottom of p.83?
And what becomes evident in Talkative’s further response? (p.84) Mt 7.21; 2Pet 2.18
What about Talkative beguiles Faithful? (p.84)
Faithful is humbled & impressed by his vast knowledge & bold speech & is charitable in his judgment. However, humility & charity must be combined with proportionable depth of judgment & acuteness of discernment lest we be deceived by vain-glorious talkers.
Christian has knowledge of Talkative & proceeds to unmask him for Faithful. (pp.84-89)
He is a master of deceiving new acquaintances; he comes from the City of Destruction, is the son of Say-Well & dwells in Prating-Row.
He is two faced: prettiest abroad but ugly at home; a saint abroad but a devil at home
Will keep any company & is for any talk
His only religion is in his tongue, for his heart, house, & conversation are empty of it
He is a sham & a shame in his business dealings
He is the cause of many stumbling at the truth
He is an embarrassment to all good men
What truth does Faithful finally come to realize? (p.87)
That there is a vast difference between saying & doing. Saying is but the carcass of religion & hearing but the sowing of the seed. The soul of religion is the practical part & only the harvest will prove what a man’s seed really is. Mt 13, 25. Faith without works is dead, and only those works which are borne of faith are acceptable, Js 2.14ff.
"The practical part" is the unfailing effect of that inward which is the soul of religion. True faith justifies a person as it brings the sinner into union with Christ; but it always ‘works by love,’ and influences the heart to obedience. So the inquiry at the Day of Judgment will be rather about the inseparable fruits of faith than its essential properties & nature. It will not be "Did you believe?" but "Did you obey?" Mt 21.33-34, 40-41; 25.1-13, 26-30, 34-36, 41-43.
Why does Faithful now want to be rid of Talkative? And how does Christian tell him to go about it?
What does Christian reveal is the acid test of our religion? (p.89)
The question of discussion: How does the saving grace of God discover itself when it is in the heart of man?
What two evidences does Talkative suggest of inward grace? (p.89-90)
How does Faithful refute them? (p.89-91)
Not an outcry against sin but a hatred of personal sin
Not knowledge of gospel mysteries but knowing combined with doing, for true spiritual knowledge is always humbling, sanctifying, & transforming, Ps 119.34
Faithful answers his question: a work of grace in the soul discovers itself both to him to has it as well as to others.
To himself: by conviction of sin & unbelief, by repentance from sin & a turning to Christ, by a desire for holiness resulting in service, by carnal confusion that requires a sound judgment.
by an experimental confession of true conversion
by a life answerable to that confession, to wit, a life of holiness: heart-holiness, family-holiness, & conversation-holiness
This holiness (and only this) is what will evidence that we are real disciples of Christ or not. Without this power of godliness in our lives, we have only a name to live while we are dead to the power of the gospel.
Faithful at last puts the question: "Do you experience this saving grace in your heart? and does your life & conversation testify the same?"
Does God agree with your testimony? Does your conscience agree? Do your neighbors agree?
But talkative declines to answer… Many love the doctrines of grace who have no taste for the power of grace.
Faithful then charges Talkative with gross hypocrisy… he is compelled by a zeal for God’s honor & a love for Talkative’s soul.
A good riddance… the world must see the difference between hypocrites & real Christians. –This is the most effectual way of exciting self-deceivers to self-examination & thus bring them to be ashamed & humbled in true repentance, & at the same time prevent their corrupting influences in the church.
Do you, then, have this work of grace in your heart? and a life answerable to it? Like the account of the rich young ruler in Mark 10, this dialogue is put here by Bunyan in order that we might not foolishly presume upon our conversion, but look for the inseparable fruits of it.
"Evangelist Brings Warning"
For what does the Wilderness stand? What does Bunyan argue is a most helpful "past-time"?
The wilderness stands for a more solitary & retired life in which a believer is sheltered from the world. ––One of the greatest past-times is spiritual conversation; it can change the wilderness into a garden of delight. Oh that we would long for and seek after more soul-humbling and Christ-exalting conversation.
Notice also the timely arrival of Evangelist, another help sent from God for the sake of His weary pilgrims in the wilderness. ––this pastor invokes the peace of God upon them & proves to be a real suitable help in their journey.
As Evangelist represents the faithful pastor, for what is a pastor to be known? ––kindness & unwearied labors for their eternal good. Oh may this be true of me! Pray that in God’s mercy I may grow up into such a pastor!
And what response ought pilgrims to have toward those who labor for their soul’s sake?––a sincere & cordial love under a sense of their being instrumental by God for your soul’s profit. I pray that in God’s mercy, you may come to so regard me!
What is the faithful pastor’s concern? ––The spiritual welfare, soul-work & soul-concerns. How has it been with you? what have you met with? & how have you behaved yourselves? There is a place for social visits, but the pastor must be seen as a Dr. of the soul & his inquiries after your soul to be expected & welcomed.
How does Evangelist encourage them upon the account they give of their journey thus far? ––that they have been victors in their trials & have persevered under it.
What is the cause of the faithful pastor’s rejoicing?––that they have reaped because he has sown! His labors for their souls’ welfare has not been in vain & neither has their heeding to his counsel & instruction. Thus this is the pastor’s true joy: to see God’s people reap grace & strength because he has sown the seeds of God’s Word into their lives. –-But they must endure to the end & faint not, for they have an incorruptible crown set before them. They must run so as to win & run so as not to be deprived of it.
With what exhortations does Evangelist encourage them to press on?
Let the Kingdom always be before you––as a motive.
Let the spiritual be esteemed above the material
Let nothing of this world enter your soul
Let your hearts flee from fleshly lusts
Let your faces be as flint as you press ahead
Let all power in heaven & earth be your stay
The pilgrims are grateful for his exhortation, but ask him to speak further about the difficulties which still lay ahead of them before he leaves them. (I believe this is the final appearance of Evangelist) ––Evangelist consents, and proceeds to predict the tribulations which will face them in Vanity Fair and encourages them to steadfastness in the face of it.
How does he know what they will face? ––His knowledge of the Scriptures & more extensive experience & observation of those things of which these pilgrim’s are unaware.
What does he say is unavoidable in their pilgrimage? ––He knows beforehand the truth of the Scripture that through much tribulation they must enter the Kingdom (Acts 14.22; 20.23). Coming out of the wilderness of comparable solitude, they must now face public situations & are in need of peculiar cautions & instructions. For inexperience renders men inattentive to the Words of Scripture & they often do not expect or prepare for the trials which are inseparable from those situations of the world into which they must enter.
How does our understanding and acceptance of this change our experience of it?
With what specific trial will they meet? ––Vanity Fair, the City of Destruction in full regalia open to the eyes of the believer.
One of them will seal his testimony with death (Rev 12.11). His suffering will be unnatural and the pains great, but what will be his privilege? ––a crown of life; 1st to the Celestial City; escaping further trials.
How will such a perspective change your own suffering?
What is their charge when they come into the Town & find things to be as Evangelist has related? ––Remember your Friend (his pastoral counsel); quit (behave) yourselves like men; commit the keeping of your souls to your God (by being faithful to behave well in Vanity Fair). ––In short, we must remember that our perseverance is the work of God & not of ourselves (Acts 20.29-32)!
"Christian & Faithful on Trial in Vanity Fair"
Why is the Town Called Vanity & what does it represent? Isa 40.17; Ecc 1; 2.11, 17
Who were the first pilgrims to walk through Vanity? (Gen 3.1-7)
Why did Satan establish the Fair? What is his intent? (2Cor 4.4)
What do we learn by it lasting all year long? (1Pet 5.8)
What merchandise & delights are offered for sale? (1Jn 2.16)
How many professing Christians never set foot out of this Fair, but live here all year long!
Take heed, for you cannot be a Christian if you’re not delivered from this world & its vanities, Gal 1.4; 1Jn 2.15; Js 4.4.
What do the various rows and streets represent?
What is the chief ware for sale here, and who are the English that have taken a dislike to it?
Why does the way to the Celestial City lie through Vanity? (1Cor 5.9-11)
When did Christ pass through this Town? (Mt 4; Lk 4)
What three things about them caused such a hubbub in the Fair? (p.100)And what did these three things represent?
(Gal 2.15-16; 3.21-29; Phil 3.7-11)
(Eph 4.29; 5.4; Col 3.5-8)
(Gal 2.16, 24; Eph 4.1; Phil 4.8-9; Col 3.1-3)
What made the people so upset with the pilgrims? (Eph 5.7-11; Acts 17.6)
Why did they proceed to examine them? (Mt 10.16-22)
How did the pilgrims respond to being beaten, mocked, railed, led through the Town in chains, & put in the Cage? (Mt 10.24-28; Col 4.5; 1Pet 2.9-23; Acts 5.40-42)
What counsel did they call to mind in the Cage?
What longings were raised in them during their persecutions? (Phil 1.21-25; Rom 8.18; 2Cor 4.16-18)
What was their peace and resolve in the midst of their sufferings? (Acts 4.23-30)
"Christian & Faithful on Trial in Vanity Fair" ––Part 2
What was the purpose of the trial? ––In order to condemnation! Sound familiar? (Jesus)
Whom does the Judge represent in history?
"Powerful as Bunyan’s whole picture of Judge Hate-Good’s court is, it is a tame and a poor picture compared with what all this historians tell us of the injustice and cruelty of the court of Judge Jeffreys." ––Whyte
"His biographer describes him as the most consummate bully that ever disgraced an English bench."
"The boldest impudence when he was a young advocate, and the most brutal ferocity when he was an old judge, sat equally secure on the brazen forehead of George Jeffreys. The real and undoubted ability and scholarship of Jeffreys only made his wickedness the more awful, and his whole career the greater curse both to those whose tool he was, and to those whose blood he drank daily. Jeffreys drank brandy and sang lewd songs all night, and he drank blood and cursed and swore on the bench all day."
The London Journal of 1834 said of Jeffreys: "He was a bad man, a worse judge, and a greater fool than all,––the sure climax of wickedness."
But then Alexander Whyte reminds us that Lord Hate-Good & his name-sake George Jeffreys weren’t born & bred in hell, a pure devil, but men just like you and me. Jeffreys was baptized & confirmed in an English church & took honors in an English University. In other words, the evil that motivated Judge Jeffreys & Lord Hate-Good lives in all our hearts & must be conquered & subdued by grace.
We all have not only an inborn propensity to hate one another, but worse yet, to hate God. & our only hope is to confess that inborn evil to God, bemoan ourselves for it, & throw ourselves at the foot of the cross for grace & mercy. We should pray more than we do for the grace to see our sinful hearts for what they are, to hate them for the evil that still resides in them, & to hunger after a clean heart from God.
What was Faithful’s answer to the Indictment?
As the Lord is Lord of all, He must be obeyed.
As men of peace, they gained followers by truth.
As Beelzebub is their Lord’s enemy, he must be defied.
Who were the three witnesses brought forward to speak against the pilgrims and what are their charges?
Envy––he slanders Faithful out of secret admiration
He accuses him of Treason, saying: this alien promotes faith & holiness, opposes Vanity with Christianity, & condemns loyal Vanity citizens.
Superstition––he’s encouraged to be prejudiced
He describes Faithful’s teaching as a plague because he teaches that: Vanity religion displeases God, Vanity worship is empty, & Vanity citizens are condemned.
Pickthank––he’s encouraged to be prejudiced
He describes Faithful’s disrespect for Vanity aristocracy: Faithful has ignobly opposed Beelzebub, discourteously opposed Beelzebub’s Friends, & dishonorably opposed Lord Hategood.
What was Faithful’s rebuttal?
Re Mr. Envy––He only spoke God’s Word, which says that whatever rules, laws, customs, or people are flat against the Word of God are opposed to Christianity.
Re Mr. Superstition––He only spoke God’s revealed Truth, which teaches that the worship of God must either be done in faith according to the revelation of Scripture or it is performed to no profit at all.
Re Mr. Pickthank––He only spoke plainly saying what was the case, judging the men by their fruits.
What was the substance of the Judge’s speech to the Jury? ––That the witnesses are worthy gentlemen; the sentence can be either death or pardon
Of what three precedents was the Jury reminded in order to make a decision in keeping with the Law of the Land? ––The precedent of Pharaoh, who sought to prevent a contrary religion from arising; the precedent of Nebuchadnezzar, who threatened the furnace who all non-conformists; the precedent of Darius, who threatened the Lion’s Den to all non-conformists. ––After which, Lord Hategood passes sentence himself, saying that Faithful is guilty according to the three precedents & deserves to die.
The Jury described/named followed by their judgments…
Notice the cruelty of Faithful’s death. ––they scourged him, buffeted him, lanced him with knives, stoned him, pricked him with swords, & then burnt him to ashes.
Notice the sweet providence of God for both Faithful and Christian.––Faithful is unmercifully tormented, but he is mercifully translated to the Celestial City. Christian is released by the confounding power of God and goes forth singing a praise in honor of Faithful & as an encouragement to all such sufferers.
"Christian & Hopeful meet Demas"
What is Ease and why is it so narrow?
Ease represents those times of outward peace and prosperity which the church or the Christian sometimes enjoys. It’s during such times that Christians are peculiarly exposed to the temptation of seeking worldly riches and distinctions which at other times are placed at such a distance as to lose most of their attractive influence. How careful, then, must we be in America today?
Ease is narrow to represent how short-lived such times are. For the Lord has appointed us for tribulations.
Why had other pilgrims turned aside to see the Silver-Mine? what happened to them?
They had turned aside because it was a rarity. It was a delight to the eyes, attractive to the senses, promising worldly pleasure and ease.
Some, who desired to be rich, fell into temptation and a snare & into many foolish and hateful lusts which drowned them in destruction and perdition (1Tim 6.9).
Others, forgetting that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, coveted after it, and wandered from the faith, piercing themselves with many pangs (1Tim 6.10).
How is Demas described and what does this teach us of the nature of dangers along the Christian way?
As "gentleman-like" to indicate that the most subtle dangers along the way are clothed in sheep’s clothing. For as satan likes to appear as an angel of light, so he dresses his sharpest temptations in the same garb.
Demas’ appearance argues that the temptation isn’t toward a covetous hoarding of riches, but rather into a style of living that translates which turns wants into needs and fosters an unwillingness to be content with what one has so that the things of the world are sought after and the things of God slowly but surely fall by the wayside.
What is Christian’s response to Demas’ invitation to turn aside?
What thing is so deserving as to turn us out of the way to see it?! ––Would that we would meet a temptation with this same response!
At root, Demas represents the temptation of conformity to the world and the love of money. We must remember Mk 8.36: the whole world can be gained if you seek it (all its comforts, luxuries, sinful pleasures, riches, & honors), but only if you are willing to barter your soul for them!
This is an equation which no soul should ever try to compute! But sadly, many in the world are trying to figure it out. They can of course add up the value of this world, but the value of the soul’s loss they can’t know until they’ve lost it, and then, it will be too late to decide against the bargain! They will spend eternity in hell learning the value of a lost soul! Remember the Lord’s words, "You CANNOT serve God and money." How many are striving for that impossibility! There are many By-ends, Money-Loves, & Demases in the Church of Christ who are working away at it, but what did our Lord say, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle."
Hopeful tempted but Christian is not. What does this teach us of the nature of young Christians and the need for mature advice?
Inexperienced, young Christians are more liable to be seduced by the example & persuasions of hypocrites and thereby deviate from the right path in order to obtain worldly advantages by means that men deem fair & honorable.
Thus the counsel & warnings of an experienced companion are of the greatest help.
How are riches a snare to those that seek it? How do riches hinder our pilgrimage? (1Tim 6.9-10)
Think of By-ends, Money-Love, Hold-the-world, & Save-all.
Why does Demas blush when he tells Christian that the place is "not very dangerous"?
He’s attempting to deceive the pilgrims into imitating his example (Rom 1.32)
He says the mine is only dangerous to the careless, but not to the wise. And so do many reason, thinking that others perished by the love of money because they went too far, but they will just go into the mine a short ways, dig a little, and come out again, satisfied with their bag.
But it is the nature of temptation to draw you from one step into another so that no man can tell how far he will go until he embraces it. And the mine is such that the further you go in, the more dangerous it is and the more incapable you are to turn around.
How necessary it is, then, to flee temptation as Joseph did Potiphar’s wife! Run from the first mention, the very smell & sight of it, or you’ll be hooked like a fish & drawn in one turn at a time.
How does Christian respond to Demas’ second invitation?
He calls him out as an Enemy to the Lord for trying to deceive His pilgrims!
What does Demas mean by saying that he was one of their fraternity? Who is Demas? (2Tim 4.10)
Demas denied that he was an Enemy and professed to be a Christian. After all, he could boast of acquaintance with the apostle. (Mt 7.21-23)
Who were his father & grandfather? (2Kgs 5.20; Mt 26.14-15)
By-ends and his companions turn aside to Demas at his first invitation and were never seen again in the way. What principles caused By-ends and his friends to be so easily persuaded?
"The Monument to Lot’s Wife & Refreshment at the River of God"
Who placed this monument by the way and why is it there? (1Cor 10.1-14)
Why was Lot’s wife so punished? (Gen 19.26) ––was it for her mere look or for the sin of her heart which caused her to look?
Why is the sight of this monument so timely placed in their way and what does this teach us about the Lord’s wise guidance?
What does this teach us about how we’re to respond to Scripture warnings?(Heb 3.7-4.2, 11-13) Edward Leigh says there are three things to be known in Scripture: the commands, the threatenings, and the promises. How are we to respond to each of these?
What, then, is Hopeful’s initial response to this monument? (Rom 11.20)
Christian urges that they learn from the judgment which Lot’s wife suffered. Hopeful agrees and points out two lessons which her judgment serves to teach. What are they?
What amazes the pilgrims about this monument of salt being set so near Demas’ Silver Mine?
If men such as Demas do not lift up their eyes to see God’s warnings in this life, when will they at last lift up their eyes?
What conclusion does Christian draw and what does this teach us about God’s judgment upon those who sin against knowledge & in the face of warnings?
What is Hopeful’s––& what should be our––response to such a sight?
Next they come upon the River of God. What does this represent?
Why is this River placed so soon after Demas and the monument?
But though the River, the fruitful green trees, and the meadow are delightful, we must remember that we have yet to reach our journey’s end and so must press on.
"By-Path Meadow leads to Vain Confidence"
Why were the pilgrim’s sorry as they continued their journey?
Yet, notice how strong their resolve was not to go out of the Way.
But what led to their discontent & discouragement in the Way?
What then presented itself to the pilgrims?
What does this teach us about the danger of discontentment and entertaining/coveting other than that which God has given?
What does this teach us about the timeliness and sweetness of Satan’s temptations?
Wrong thinking leads to wrong doing which, without intervening grace, leads to wrong living (evil habits). Rom 12.1-2
What was at the head of By-Path to warn them not to enter it?
What lesson are we to learn from Christian leading the way into this sin?
Whom did they meet along the By-path and what does he represent? Prov 14.12.
What does this say about the wisdom of God in the roughness of His Way?
Where did Vain Confidence lead them?
What happened to Vain Confidence and what reaction did his destruction have on the pilgrims?
What does this teach us about God’s covenant love and perseverance of the saints?
The pilgrim’s began to be regretful and remorseful for ever forsaking the Way. Christian has no excuse for himself and apologizes to his brother for leading him astray.
Why did Hopeful follow Christian into sin? How might Hopeful have responded to Christian in the beginning if he knew 1Cor 11.1?
Why is Hopeful so quick to forgive his brother? What is his confidence regarding their sin? (Rom 8.28)
What, then, is our comfort, as Christians, even in our sins? ––though it doesn’t excuse our sin.
Why does Christian want to lead the way back? Why does Hopeful insist that he should?
Why was the way back so difficult? Because forsaking the path of duty for By-Path and walking in Vain Confidence, inevitably brings on thunderings, lightnings, and terrors from Mt. Sinai. ––They were trying to restore themselves by their own righteousness! (Jn 14.6)
What lesson does Christian learn by the difficulty faced trying to get back into the Way?
Notice how far astray Vain Confidence had led them; they could not even make it back that night.
They found a shelter from the rain. Instead of laying hold of Christ by repentance toward God, they seek a shelter from the terrors of Sinai in a refuge of lies where they slept in false confidence.
What does this teach us of our straying away into sin?
"In the Doubting Castle of Giant Despair"
George Cheever says, "The personification of Despair is one of the most instructive and beautiful portions of Bunyan’s allegory. It appeals either to every man’s experience, or to every man’s prophetic sense of what may come upon him on account of sin. ––It is at once, in some respects, the very gloomiest and very brightest part of the Pilgrim’s Progress; for it shows at once to what a depth of misery sin may plunge the Christian, and also to what a depth the mercy of God in Christ may reach."
How did we get here? ––"The Big Picture" (from Thomas Scott’s notes):
When those who have turned aside into sin are called upon in Scripture to return to God & His ways, the exhortation implies a promise of acceptance to all who comply with it. And it might be thought that an experienced believer would find little difficulty in returning to his duty and recovering his peace.
But a deliberate transgression (By-Path), however trivial it might seem at the moment, appears in retrospect to be an act of the most ungrateful and aggravated rebellion, and therefore brings such darkness upon the soul and guilt on the conscience, as frequently causes a man to suspect that all his religion has been a delusion. And when he would attempt to set out anew, it occurs to him that if all his past endeavors and expectations have been frustrated, he can entertain little hope of better success hereafter.
Nor will Satan ever fail, in these circumstances, to pour in such suggestions as may overwhelm the soul with an apprehension that the case is hopeless, and God inexorable.
When we are tempted to sin, as Christian and Hopeful were when the way was rough, Satan says, "Go ahead and sin, God loves you, and repentance is an easy thing." But once we have sinned, Satan changes his tune and says, "What a miserable sinner you are. Repentance is impossible and God will never forgive you."
The believer will not be prevailed upon by these discouragements wholly to neglect all attempts to recover his ground; but he often resembles a man who is groping in the dark and cannot find his way, or who is passing through a deep and rapid stream, and struggling hard to keep his head above water as he tries to return to the place from which he has fallen "with all the skill he has."
For as long as his efforts are in his own strength and he neglects to seek his refuge in the means of grace (prayer and repentance), he will be traversing in a flood and never make it back to the place where he stepped out of the way.
And it is in this case that the believer sometimes––instead of crying to God for help and waiting upon Him for mercy––endeavors to bolster up some false confidence and take shelter in a refuge of lies.
Once this is done, his own heart condemns him, and all confidence toward God, who knows our hearts, is lost. In addition, his repeated sins and a sense of hypocrisy weigh so heavily upon him that he is at last brought into deep distress.
He is led to infer that he is a hypocrite; that the encouragements of Scripture do not belong to him, and that prayer itself will be of no use, until, at length, he is taken prisoner by Despair and shut up in Doubting Castle.
This doubting & despairing in the Dungeon should be carefully distinguished
from Christian’s terrors in the City of Destruction, which induced him to ‘flee from the wrath to come’
from the Slough of Despond, into which he fell when diligently seeking salvation
from the burden he carried to the cross
from his conflict with Apollyon and his troubles in the Valley of the Shadow of Death
and even from the terrors that seized him and Hopeful in By-Path-Meadow––which would have speedily terminated if they had not slept on the forbidden ground of lies, and stopped short of the refuge the Lord had provided in Christ.
Whenever we deliberately quit the plain path of duty to avoid hardship & self-denial, we trespass on Giant Despair’s grounds. ––and we are never out of his reach until by renewed exercises of deep repentance and faith in Christ, producing unreserved obedience (especially in that instance where before we refused it (the rough Way)), we have set our feet in the highway we had forsaken.
What elements have set the stage for their imminent captivity by Giant Despair?
Self-interest: wanting, and looking for an easier path
carnal leadership: Christian is led by his flesh to seek out the easier path
vain-confidence: the ease of By-Path leads to vain confidence that the way leads to the Celestial City
and neglect of the means of grace: they fail to seek the Lord’s forgiveness and restoration repentance and prayer, but instead try to recover themselves by their own strength, trusting in their self-righteousness.
"Sooner or later Doubting Castle will be the prison, and Giant Despair the keeper, of all those who turn aside from Christ and His righteousness, to trust in any wise in themselves and to their own righteousness." ––William Mason
Notice how Bunyan points out that the pilgrims were unable to resist Despair, because they knew themselves to be at fault. Their own conscience condemned them. They knew they had sought refuge in lies, and now they had given up all hope of being restored.
The pilgrims lay in the dungeon from Wednesday to Saturday night––or as long as life can be supported in such a situation.
By willful sin, the believer may be brought into a condition out of which he thinks he will never get. He can sink so low as to have no light or comfort from the Scriptures or Spirit, no help or pity from his brethren, nothing but the horrors of an accusing conscience and the dread of God as an enemy ––all of which is the price of the ease or indulgence obtained by some willful transgression!!!
And though it be doctrinally true that a child of God can never fall out of grace, he can indeed fall from grace into such a dungeon and spend many of his days there in misery. Who, that truly trusts in Christ, would willingly venture into such a place?
Would a man leap off a cliff, even if he could be sure that he would escape with his life? No, the dread of the anguish of broken bones, and of being made a cripple to the end of his days, would effectually secure him from such a madness. ––So it is with the believer, though our foolishness sometimes gets us into this Dungeon, our eternal security doesn’t encourage us toward it.
Notice that Despair doesn’t do anything to the pilgrims but at the command of his wife, Diffidence.
This is meant to teach us that the strongest hold Despair can have on a true believer amounts only to a prevailing distrust of God’s promises with respect to our own situation.
Diffidence (shyness or the lack of assertiveness), however, beats the pilgrims without mercy in order that they fail to seek mercy & relief from the Lord by prayer.
Finding them still alive the next day, Diffidence tells her husband to counsel them that the only relief from their misery is by suicide.
Giant Despair falling into a fit when suggesting suicide to the pilgrims is meant to alert us that where there is any true faith (though it may seem wholly dead in the dungeon) it will eventually overcome, 1Cor 10.13.
Christian is tempted to suicide and deems it hopeless to begin all over again. He is led to this because of his great shame in leading his brother into sin & of bringing such reproach on the gospel by his example.
Satan endeavors by this to dishearten the new convert.
But the Lord permits Christian to be overwhelmed for a while by the temptation as a warning to others of seeking a By-Path, in order to vindicate the honor of His Truth which these pilgrims have disgraced, to show that none has any strength independent of Him, and that He can make use of the feeble to assist the strong, when He sees good.
What are Hopeful’s arguments against suicide?
Suicide is prohibited by their Lord
Suicide kills the body and soul
Suicide does not offer ease beyond the grave
What are the alternatives to suicide which Hopeful suggests?
Escape, or Despair’s death, forgetfulness, or paralysis.
Bunyan writes, "only those in hell should despair, otherwise mercy is still on offer to the biggest sinners."
Hopeful is resolved to find a way out. Until then, he is patient and will endure.
Despair rages against the pilgrims the next day and Christian again contemplates suicide, and Hopeful again counsels him against it.
He recalls past victories: Apollyon, the Valley of the Shadow of Death
He confesses his own weakness as a new convert, but urges patience still, reminding Christian of how he "played the Man" at Vanity Fair, & was neither afraid of the chain nor of a bloody death.
Diffidence tells Despair to threaten the pilgrims by showing them the bones & skulls of other pilgrims in the Castle yard and promising them that they will be torn into pieces.
After a day of despair, about midnight, with the coming of the Lord’s Day, the pilgrims turn to prayer and prayed all through the night (Acts 16).
They sought ease to the flesh (By-Path) when they should have ‘watched and prayed,’ and now they must watch and pray while other sleep; and they must struggle against reluctancy and persist in repeated approaches to the mercy-seat, until they obtain a gracious answer from the Lord of mercy.
The pilgrims turn at last to crying fervently to God for mercy, with humiliating confessions, renewed application to the blood of Christ, and perseverance amidst delays and discouragements. Deliverance cannot, then, be far away now.
What was the result of prayer?
No longer looking to themselves, and no longer quenching the Holy Spirit, Christian and Hopeful are able to apply the promises of God (of forgiveness, of grace, of restoration, of healing, of mercy, of strength, of deliverance, of growth) and open every door in their way!
What was the result of their deliverance?
They return without delay into the highway of obedience, walk in it with more watchfulness and care than before, and complain no more of its roughness.
They erect a warning at the Stile to protect following pilgrims from the same error (Lk 22.31-32).
What song did they sing as they went on the Way?
"If Christians follow Vain Confidence and endeavor to keep up their hopes of heaven when neglecting their known duty, let them remember that they will surely be brought into the acquaintance of Diffidence, immured in Doubting Castle, and terribly bruised and frightened by Giant Despair; nor will they be delivered till they have learned, by painful experience, that the assurance of hope is inseparably connected with the self-denying obedience of faith and love." ––Thomas Scott
George Cheever offers the best of any summary to this gloomy section… "How much they had suffered! But they had learned a lesson by that suffering, which nothing else could have taught them, and which would remain with them to the day of their death. They had learned, from bitter experience, that anything an all things had better be endured, than to depart from God and duty; and that whereas ease sought in the way of their pilgrimage might seem as a sweet meadow for a time, it would prove in the end a more intolerable evil, than all the roughness and hardness of the King’s Highway.
They had learned also to value the light of God’s countenance as they never did before, to watch as they never did before, against everything that might interrupt that light, or shut out the Saviour from their souls. They had learned to distrust themselves more thoroughly, and to cast themselves on Christ more entirely; and these are the two great lessons which we need to learn from experience––our weakness, & Christ’s strength: they had gained new proofs of the efficacy of a Saviour’s blood, as well as new views, and a deeper sense, of the dreadful evil of sin; and in every way they were wiser, though perhaps sadder men than before. It was almost worth those fearful days and nights in Giant Despair’s Castle, to learn so much more both of themselves and of Christ: but this bringing good out of evil was God’s doing, and not theirs; they had perished in their sins, had not God had mercy on them.
And now they use, as all pilgrims should do, their own bitter experience for the good of others."
"Christian & Hopeful at the Delectable Mountains"
What do the Delectable Mountains represent?––there have been many suggestions: 1) calm seasons of peace & comfort; 2) the local church; & 3) the Word of God.
I would suggest their being covered with gardens & orchards, vineyards & fountains of water, where the pilgrims are meant to drink & eat & wash themselves, indicates that they represent the Lord’s Day which the Puritans referred to as the Market Day of the Soul. The Lord’s Day is a Delectable Mountain covered with all manner of food and drink for our soul & with fountains for our cleansing… It is the Day when we the Lord restores the joy of our salvation and reminds us of the simplicity & delight of dependence, submission, & obedience.
Having learned their lesson in Doubting Castle, the pilgrims are now seen to be leaning on their staves, which is to say, they are depending on the promises & perfections of God in assured faith and hope.
Whom do the Shepherds represent and what do their names represent?––The shepherds represent pastors; their names represent those endowments which are most essential to the pastoral office.
A congregation shouldn’t look to a man’s confidence, passion, accomplishments, delivery, eloquence, or politeness as qualifying him for the pastorate, but rather
To a man’s knowledge of the Scriptures & of every subject that relates to the glory of God & the salvation of souls
To a man’s experience of the power of divine truth in his own heart, of the faithfulness of God to His promises, of the believer’s conflicts, difficulties, & dangers, & of the manifold devices of Satan to mislead, deceive, pervert, defile, or harass the souls of men
To a man’s watchfulness over the flock as his constant business & care, to caution them against every snare, to recover them out of every error, & to protect them against every wolf & hireling
& to a man’s sincerity, manifested by a disinterested, patient, & affectionate conduct; by proving that he deems himself bound to practice his own instruction, & by a uniform attempt to convince the people that he seeks not theirs, but them.
Should the character traits of the shepherds be true of the sheep as well? Are they true of you?
The sheep must also have sincere, pure motives & keep watchful eyes over themselves as they look deep into their souls at the roots of their actions & beliefs, & continually ask God to enable them to keep their hearts clean. They must strive to have their head knowledge combined with heart knowledge until they are inflamed with genuine zeal &passion for God’s honor & glory in the world. They should never expect anything of their pastors which they themselves are unwilling to give.
Why four shepherds? ––This alerts us to the need for a plurality of pastors or elders in order to lead the flock. The presbyterian model of church government, according to which a church is governed by a plurality of elders, is the biblical model.
Whom do the sheep represent & upon what are they feeding? ––the sheep represent the church members and they are feeding upon the Word of God which the faithful pastors are administering to them, the orchards, vineyards, & fountains which are upon the Mountain.
Why did the shepherds question the pilgrims and what about their answers pleased them? ––to be sure they weren’t wolves in sheep’s clothing. They were skeptical and careful to protect the sheep from harm. Their questions were meant to bring forth a profession of faith in Christ. Having received a sound profession, they were pleased to receive them, recalling that they were commissioned by God to receive all such as call upon the Lord in faith.
In the morning the shepherds take the pilgrims to four different places for edification.
What do they learn at the Hill of Error?
The Hill of Error is made up of intricate speculations not backed up by Scripture & deceptive reasons founded on human theories. Such falsehoods lead men from the clear truths found in the Bible into dangerous & destructive errors, causing them to climb too high on loose gravel & unstable lookouts, to fall, & to be dashed to pieces.
It’s true that some errors may consist with true faith (for no Christian is without error), yet no error is absolutely harmless. All error must, in one way or another, originate from a wrong state of mind or a faulty conduct, & proportionably counteract the design of revelation; & some errors are absolutely inconsistent with repentance, humility, faith, hope, love, spiritual worship, & holy obedience, & consequently incompatible with a state of acceptance & salvation. These are represented by the Hill of Error & the example of Hymeneus & Philetus is given as a warning.
The fruit of the tree of knowledge in respect of religious opinions not expressly revealed is still forbidden (Dt 29.29) & those who think it good for food & desirable to make one wise, will fall from this Hill & be dashed in pieces.
What do they learn at Mount Caution?
Mount Caution is a place from which the pilgrims could see what awful things have happened to others & to learn from their mistakes. As Christian & Hopeful gaze upon the the blind men stumbling among the tombs, unable to get out, tears of thankfulness come to their eyes, for they realize that but for God’s graciousness & mercy to them, they would be as these blind men who had their eyes put out by Giant Despair & were thrown among the tombs.
Those professors who turn aside from the way of conscientious obedience to escape difficulties, experience great distress of mind; but being unable to endure turmoil of spirit, they endeavor to disbelieve or pervert all the religion they’ve learned & are thereby blinded by Satan & given by God over to strong delusions as the just punishment of their wickedness & refusal to believe the truth. Think of Pliable at the beginning of the journey… such happens to many all along the way at different stages.
Think now upon your own conduct & how many times you endeavored, for the sake of your sin, to unbelieve what you knew was the truth. Think of how many hair-breadth escapes you’ve had out of your sins when others around you have fallen headlong to destruction… think of how many times the Lord has snatched you as a brand from the fires of your foolishness & ignorance & presumption, while leaving others to bring themselves into great misery & pain… What thankfulness do we owe to our God!
What do they learn from the By-Way to Hell?
How close hypocrites can come to the truth & yet reject it… as did Esau, Judas, Alexander, Ananias & Sapphira. In other words, there is both an orthodox & a heterodox path to hell. This is meant to cause them to examine themselves & keep watch over their own souls, being jealous of assurance & the fruits of faith & repentance & for that consequent holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.
What do they learn upon the Hill Clear?
The shepherds give them a clearer view of the Celestial City through their looking glass (Faith) which ravishes their spirits. It was but a glimpse, & a blurry one at that, but they still saw it, they really saw it, & the remembrance of what they saw never left them…! Their hands trembled, their eyes were dim with tears, but the vision was not to be mistaken.
Such glimpses of heaven help to wean the affections from earth, strengthen us against temptations, & make us see, in the most striking light, the emptiness & vanity of the things of this world, and the folly and sinfulness of the love of the world… they make us feel, while confined to the world, what shadows we are & what shadows we pursue… they make trials also seem very small & transitory, & easy to be borne… they quicken the heart after God & make every day to be counted as a step nearer heaven… they make death no longer the king of terrors but the angel of a Father’s love & the day when he comes is the Christian’s Birthday of Eternity.
>>Oh pray for a pastor whose preaching & example opens your eyes to enjoy such transformative & determinative glimpses of Heaven!!!
What does all this teach us about the necessity to prize & guard the Sabbath? Without such a foretaste of heaven, we will struggle unnecessarily in our pilgrimage and miss out on the Lord’s greatest blessings.
What parting exhortations do they give the pilgrims? Notice how each is appropriate to the Shepherd who gives it.
Knowledge gave them a map of the way
Experience bid them to be beware of the Flatterer
Watchful bid them take heed that they don’t fall asleep upon the Enchanted Ground
& Sincere prayed for them.
Bunyan’s awaking from his dream may refer to his short release from prison.
"Christian & Hopeful meet Ignorance & Turn-Away"
This is the first of 3 appearances of Ignorance. Like Worldly-Wiseman & Talkative, he is another biblically literate latitudinarian who nevertheless proves to be a persevering apostate.
Ignorance is described:
He comes from the country of Conceit (he’s an enduring apostate)––this is the country in which we are all born, for we are ignorant by nature. Some live long in it before ever coming out, & some end their days there. Ignorance had come out of it & entered upon the Christian Way, but he still breathed his native air. So long as any sinner thinks he can do any thing towards making himself righteous before God, his name is Ignorance, he is full of self-conceit, & destitute of the faith of Christ. ––Examine yourself!
He enters from a crooked lane on the left of the Way (he’s an illegitimate pilgrim)
He walks with a lively strut (he’s confident of his false gospel)
Upon what bases does he hope to gain entrance to the Celestial City? Lk 18.9-14––his intrinsic goodness & his evident religious devotion. Again…: so long as any sinner thinks he can do any thing towards making himself righteous before God, his name is Ignorance, he is full of self-conceit, & destitute of the faith of Christ.
Their hopes are grounded upon what they are in themselves, and how different they are from their former selves and from other sinners, instead of what Christ is to us and what we are in Christ. But the profession of such people is begun with an ignorant, self-righteous heart; it is continued in pride, self-seeking, & self-exalting, & ends in awful disappointment. Gal 5.1-6
What is his assessment of the gospel of Christ? ––he’s unattracted by it & sees no need for the Wicket Gate. His society establishes its own gospel (the heart of Relativism).
What is Christian’s assessment of Ignorance? ––there’s more hope for a fool than for him; he’s wise in his own conceits & blind in his foolishness.
Ignorance will prove to be biblically & doctrinally knowledgable, zealous in Xn involvement, & persevering to the end, yet appropriately named because he is ignorant of the one true gospel.
Who is the man bound by seven devils and how did he get in this condition?
He is Turn-away because he has turned away from his profession, Heb 6.4-6.
Where do they find him?
In a dark lane––probably representing a season of prevalent impiety. In dark times, wanton professors often turn out to be damnable apostates, & the detection of their hypocrisy makes them ashamed to show their faces among those believers over whom they before affected a kind of superiority.
When convictions subside, & Christ has not set up His Kingdom in the heart (Mt 12. 43-45), the unclean spirit resumes his former habitation & takes with him seven others more wicked, who bind the sinner faster than ever in the cords of sin & delusion, so that his last state is more hopeless than the first.
Such apostasies make the hearts of the upright pilgrims to tremble… but when they recall the nature of Turn-away’s profession and walk, confidence gradually removes their difficulties & they recover their hope & learn to take heed to themselves, for he is Wanton Professor. ––What a sobering warning against wanton behavior that plays with sin & dabbles deliberately in this or that evil…! Such people know not the power & malice of the spirit with whom they play!
Those who live loosely may go merrily along exercising what they claim is their Christian liberty, saying that they are more enlightened than others about God’s great mercy & grace, but forgetting the entangling tentacles of sin &how easy it is to be enslaved & ruined by a wanton spirit. Selfishness & carnal delights are not compatible with love for God & spiritual delights. Too soon sin will cause the warmth of love for God to cool, and we will fall into a cold, dead formalism resulting in hypocrisy & finally apostasy.
The redeemed realize that there is no compatibility with the nature of Turn-away’s profession if God has truly set up His Kingdom in a person’s heart, & they take from this a warning to examine their own lives.
Where were they taking him? ––to the By-Way to Hell.
True apostates creep into the church from a side door (Jude 4). They disarm with counterfeit doctrine, they take control with counterfeit abilities, they beguile with counterfeit charm, they seduce with counterfeit morals, & they deceive with plastic words (2Pet 2.1-3).
"Lessons from the Story of Little-Faith"
Why does Christian recall the story of Little-Faith? ––because Little-Faith was robbed when he fell asleep at the head of Dead Man’s Lane, the same Dark Lane where they met Turn-away.
How is he different than Turn-away? ––He’s from the town of Sincere & possesses true faith in Christ, which means he is secure in Christ and will never turn away.
What is Dead-man’s-lane? Why was Little-Faith sleeping here? What should he have been doing? ––Dead-man’s Lane is a road which connects the Broad Way of destruction & the Narrow Way of pilgrimage at this point. It refers to a time of persecution when Satan destroys men’s souls by threatening to kill their bodies. Under threat of persecution, they abandon their profession & return to the Broad Way via Dead Man’s Lane.
––Little-Faith’s sleeping here was a foolish move. He should’ve been diligent in the pursuit of God & in the use of the means of grace, being especially watchful in persecution. But instead, he slept, as if he had already arrived at the end of his pilgrimage.
––This was a time to watch & be sober, but instead, he conceals his profession, neglects his Christian duty; and being fainthearted, he mistrusts God’s promises, acts contrary to conscience, & thereby contracts guilt.
Why do the 3 rogues come speeding up to him and rob him?––because he was sleeping where he should’ve been striving in holiness.
What do the 3 rogues represent? ––the inward effects of unbelief and disobedience. In other words, he brings these villains upon himself by his own sinful neglect & unbelieving fears in times of trial.
Mason: Where there is a faint heart in God’s cause, and mistrust in God’s truths, there will be guilt in the conscience, and but little faith in the heart, and these rogues will prevail over and rob such souls of the comforts of God’s love & Christ’s salvation.
Scott: Faint-Heart threatens and assaults them; Mistrust plunders them; and Guilt beats them down, and makes them despair of life.
Bradley: When difficult circumstances come, Mr. Faint-Heart kidnaps many believers, causing them to be discouraged and fearful; Mr. Mistrust holds hostage even more Christians trembling with doubts and lack of faith; & Mr. Guilt paralyzes pilgrims who continue to condemn themselves for past sins even though God, through Christ, has forgiven them. The efforts made to escape these rogues are feeble because of a lack of knowledge and/or doubt of the Scriptures.
Notice how Bunyan twice tells us that Little-Faith was a good man. The good thing about him was his sincerity. He only had a little faith, but what he had was true faith, a real faith unmixed with a trust in his own merits.
If your faith were stripped of all self-righteousness & vain-confidence, how much faith would be left? Would there be any left? ––In other words, it’s easy to despise Little-faith for his little faith, but how many of us would have any more faith than he does if all our dross were purged away?
Why was he unable to ward off the rogues? What did they steal? Why could they get it? What could they not steal?
––He was weak in faith because he sinfully neglected the means of grace which God has appointed for our growth. His spiritual muscles were flabby because he had no hidden life prayer, Bible study, & communion with God by which to gain strength for the conflict. He had never stretched his spiritual muscles by digging into God’s Word and by fervent, striving prayer. ––They stole his spending money (assurance, peace & joy––all his spiritual comforts); but they could not steal his faith as by this he has his union with Christ; they could not steal his adoption & his imputed robe of righteousness by which he stands before God in Christ.
Whom did they fear was coming? ––Great grace, God’s intervening grace by which He snatches his sheep from the lion’s mouth.
What does it mean that Little-Faith "scarce had enough money to bring him to his journey’s end," and "was forced to beg as he went," and "had an empty stomach the most part of the way"?
––He rode on the coattails of other believers’ experiences of joy, zeal, & knowledge. He spent his pilgrimage leaning on others, never growing for himself. He lived a life of mediocrity, never striving for more of Christ, more grace, more faith, more knowledge, more piety, more conformity to Christ. Like us all, he will be saved by the great grace of God, but again & again in Scripture, we’re charged to strive, fight, persevere, & grow, because we will reap what we sow. All will be graciously rewarded in heaven for labors done for Christ here, but not all will be equally rewarded since not all equally labor––but grace & not merit will ever be the ground & cause of all rewards, while labors will be the occasion or means to it. Don’t confuse this!
Why were they not able to steal his certificate (faith)? Heb 12.2; 1Pet 1.5––Our faith is kept by God’s power and safely grounded upon God’s covenant promise, not on our own strength or keeping.
Why did Little-Faith not "make use of his jewel" and "forget it a great part of the rest of his journey"? ––He spent the rest of life bemoaning his loss & regretting his slumber that he squandered all future opportunities for growth & recovery. He could’ve made up his loss, but his own pity party obstructed all future comforts & usefulness.
What does this teach us about the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints? What does this tell us about how a Christian may invite many a distress and misery upon his own head by neglect?
Hopeful suggests Little-Faith should have pawned or sold some of his jewels. What is Christian’s response to this? ––Absolutely not! His jewels are his ticket at the Gate. 10,000 thieves would be better than coming to the Celestial City without your jewels!
Hopeful defends his suggestion by the example of Esau. But what distinctions does Christian make between Esau and Little-Faith to show that they are not the same & neither are their jewels?
––Esau’s birthright was typical, Little-faith’s adoption is real. Esau’s belly was his god, Little-faith was enabled by grace to value his jewels as more important than all the world. Esau had no faith at all & therefore of course forfeited his soul for his flesh, but Little-faith minded heavenly things & therefore forfeited earthly things.
Faithless ones can pawn, mortgage, or sell their profession & soul, but they that have saving faith, though no bigger than a mustard seed, cannot do so!
Hopeful boasts that the rogues are cowards and he contemns Little-Faith for not putting up a fight. How does Christian respond to him? ––He tells him not to boast, for it’s easy to call these thieves cowards when you’re not in the ring with them. He perceives that if Hopeful had faced them as Little-faith had, he would’ve yielded too. Moreover, he reminds Hopeful that they are but Journeyman thieves doing the bidding of the King of the bottomless pit who will come to their aid at a second.
Hopeful suggests that Great-Grace could have overcome them. But how does Christian respond to this? Are all pilgrim’s the King’s Champions? Even Great-Grace bore the scars of combat. ––Yes, he could have, but not without many wounds and a great fight, and he must keep them at sword’s point. BUT, if they get within him, as they did Little-faith, they shall overcome even him. For even Great Grace bears the scars on his face of many battles. Remember David, Heman (Ps 88), Hezekiah, & Peter, though champions in their days, had a great fall by these rogues.
How does Christian describe Satan? How can we defeat such a one? ––Neither sword, nor spear can harm him; he esteems iron as straw & brass as rotten wood; the arrow does not scare him, nor sling-stones, nor darts, & he laughs at the sight of a spear (Job 41.26-29), for his neck is clothed with thunder, he’s not afraid of man, which is as a grasshopper; he mocks at fear, is not afraid of the sword; he swallows the ground with rage & delights in the battle (Job 39.19-25). ––what hope, then, do such footmen as us have? Let us never desire to meet with him, nor boast over others who fall at his feet.
––Our only hope, when we hear of such robberies, is to go out harnessed in full armor, taking above all, the shield of faith, without which, Satan fears us not at all (Eph 6.10-16). Moreover, desire of the King a convoy to accompany you, or better yet, to go with you Himself when such an enemy must be faced.
In summing up his lessons, Christian offers the following advice:
We must avoid… going into battle if we can help it.
We must remember… to be well armed with Christ.
We should give thanks if… we experience the victory.
From this story we learn that Christians should always be striving earnestly to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2Pet 3.18). For when we become content with just a little bit of Christianity, we are opening ourselves up to be robbed of our joy, assurance, and strength.
There is no help, trust, strength, or safety for us, but in Christ, in His great grace in us, upon us, and for us. Great-Grace must be our champion, as he was Little-Faith’s, or it is all over with us.
And therefore instead of saying, ‘though all men deny you, I will not,’ it behoves us to use all the means of grace diligently; and to be instant in prayer, that the Lord Himself may protects us by His power and animate us by His presence: and only then shall we be enabled to overcome both the fear of man and the temptation of the devil.
"Christian and Hopeful are snared by the Flatterer & Meet Returning Atheist"
How does the appearance of this "new way" differ from "By-Path"? (2Cor 11.2-3; Gal 1.6-9)
When they stood still to consider which way to go, what did they fail to consult? (Isa 8.20; 30.21)
Whom did they heed instead? (2Cor 11.13-15)
Did they try his words by a touchstone? (Acts 17.10-12; Dt 13.1-5)
What is meant that the road turned by degrees & where did this lead them? What does this say about the toleration of "a little error"? Is "a little compromise" dangerous?
What was the Flatterer’s message by which they were deceived? Was it gross error?
His flattery found an ear in the sinful heart and soothed them into a good opinion of their state on insufficient grounds or fed their spiritual pride by expressing too favorable thoughts of their attainments.
A flatterer will not shock with gross antinomianism or legalism, but will insist disproportionately & indiscriminately on privileges, promises, & consolations, thus deceiving the heart of the simple and leading them astray.
This flattery then induced what? (Heb 3.12-14; Col 2.8, 20-23)
Satan aims less to thrust men down into error with a single blow, but prefers to to lull Christians into a fatal security and therefore flatterers are his chief agents, whether in the pulpit or in the pew. They offer a smooth undistinguishing gospel and will not deal plainly with souls, but with flattery.
It is no wonder, then, to see flattery in the pulpit, for the flattering preacher looks to be flattered in return, rewarded by the applause and praise of men; and they have their reward.
But in the mean time, they mislead unwary souls, entangle them in a net, & bring scandal & shame to the gospel of Christ. Having refused to glorify God in their ministry, God will glorify Himself upon them on that day.
What are some flattering themes being preached today? ––flattering Christians as strong & wise in Christ; flattering Christians that they are above temptation & pure in their motives; flattering Christians that grace opens the door to privileges of Christian liberty that are blatantly sinful; flattering Christians that they should follow their hearts instead of train their hearts by Scripture; flattering Christians that it is unwise to appear too zealous for religion in the eyes of the world (remember David dancing before the Lord, Michal’s rebuke, & his response!); flattering Christians that in order to become all things to all men it is okay to neglect Christian duty; &etc.
How do we then evaluate the ministries of Joel Osteen, Joseph Prince, or the like? What touchstone are we to use?
How important is this message! Beware of the Flatterer. Beware of the white devil as much as the black devil, for the white devil is but the black dressed in white! Did not the Shepherd (Experience) so warn them? Prov 29.5
"If men overlook the precepts of Scripture and forsake the practical distinguishing preachers to follow such as bolster up their hopes in an unscriptural manner, they will either be fatally deceived, or drawn out of the path of truth & duty, taken in the net of error, and entangled among injurious connections & with perplexing difficulties." ––Scott
What do the pilgrims regret?
Who is the Shining One?
What is the rod with which they are whipped?
How does the Shining One bring about conviction in the pilgrims?
Why are they whipped? ––Rev 3.19; Heb 12.7-13; Ps 23.3
How did the pilgrims respond to the chastisement they received?
No sooner do they leave the Flatterer than they are met with an openly profane & licentious mocker, Atheist.
How does Christian evaluate him?
What shows that they profited by their recent discipline under God’s rod? (Heb 12.11-13)
How does Atheist scorn the pilgrims?
Atheist says he spent 20 yrs looking for the Celestial City & found none; but what path was he on? Did he come by the Wicket Gate?
How does Atheist defend his initial belief in the City?
He now abandons his search & returns to the World. What awaits him there? 2Pet 2.20-22.
What question does Christian put to Hopeful & why? How does Hopeful respond?
The chastisements already received
The sight of faith
The ignorance & untrustworthiness of sense
The fear of further chastisement
Stop your ears to lies & believe to the saving of your soul, Prov 16.25; 19.27; Heb 10.39
How does Christian know that Atheist is blinded by the god of this world? 1Jn 2.11, 18-19; 2Cor 4.3-5
How do they know that they have the Truth? 2Cor 4.6
"Christian & Hopeful Cross the Enchanted Ground:
Lessons from Hopeful’s Conversion"
A concluding note on Little-Faith––If a man can but sincerely say, "Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief!" he need never be discouraged; let him hope in the Lord, for Little-grace can trust in Christ, and Great-grace can do no more.
Moreover, if one promise belongs to you, then so do they all, for every promise conveys a "whole Christ" unto him who believes, and to have Christ is to have every promise.
Also, remember, God doesn’t bring a pair of scales to weigh your graces, and if they be too light refuse them; He brings a touch-stone to test them, and if they be pure gold, though never so little of it, He will own it. Though it be but smoke, and not fire, though it be as a wick in the candle, likelier to go out than continue, yet, He will not quench it, but accept it, for Christ’s sake.
This is a sweet, comforting truth, but don’t let it be turned into indolence or licentiousness. For if a man would have God to work out his salvation for him, he must also be willing and industrious to work it out himself with fear & trembling, Phil 2.12-13.
What is the Enchanted Ground? ––it represents a time of relative ease in the Christian life in which the greatest temptation of all is faced: the temptation to spiritual sleep (Pr 6.9-11; Ps 13.3-4)
This is the most dangerous part of the journey and destroys more pilgrims than the lions, dragons, giants, or pits which have been faced so far.
When trials appear to be absent & prosperity abounds, the temptation is extremely high for pilgrims to grow spiritually cold & lethargic. Affections can begin to wane & a lukewarm formality begins to set in. One will continue to attend to his religious ordinances & spiritual duties, but more from habit & conscience than from delight in God & love to Christ; more as an outward form than with any zeal & earnestness.
No situation as this requires so much watchfulness upon the soul. Other situations, in which trials & afflictions try us, resemble storms which keep a man awake almost against his will; but this is a treacherous calm which invites & lulls the pilgrim to sleep.
Hopeful justifies a nap by his recent labors against Atheist, but the sleep of death usually begins with a short nap and so Christian warns him against it & urges that they must heed the counsel of the Shepherds and stay awake!
The desire to sleep is indeed sometimes a sign of spiritual fatigue, but more than not, it’s an indication of spiritual coldness, the greatest danger of which is that it comes upon us subtly & slowly, by degrees.
What exactly is this spiritual sleep, this nap in religion?
It is when we are lulled into a lukewarm formality in worship, spiritual coldness in prayer & Bible reading, & hearts shut to a vivid view of spiritual realities. And it will happen to every Christian who does not remain watchful
Spurgeon put it this way––"Slumbering Christian, behold a picture of your condition. Have you sometimes mourned your insensibility? You wished you could feel; but all you felt was pain because you could not feel…. You go to the house of God; but when the multitude in the full tide of song send their music up to Heaven, you heart it, but your heart does not leap for joy at the sound. Prayer goes solemnly up to God’s throne, like the smoke of the evening sacrifice; once, you could pray, too; but, now, while your body is in the house of God, your heart is elsewhere. You have become like a formalist; you feel that there is not the savor, that unction, in the preaching, that there used to be. But there is no difference in your minister; the change is in yourself. The hymns & prayers are just the same, but you have fallen into a state of slumber…. Why are the prayer-meetings almost universally neglected? Where is the spirit of prayer, where the life of devotion? Is it not almost extinct?… This is not the sleep of Jacob, in which a ladder unites Heaven & Earth and angels tread the ascending rounds; but this is the sleep in which ladders are raised from hell and devils climb upward from the pit to seize your slumbering spirit. Sleepy Christian, let me shout in your ears–– you are sleeping while souls are being lost––sleeping while men are being damned––sleeping while hell is being peopled––sleeping while Christ is being dishonored––while the devil is grinning at your sleepy face––sleeping while demons are dancing around your slumbering carcass & telling it in hell that a Christian is asleep."
The point is this: while we sleep, the devil, like the birds of the air, snatch our spiritual treasures, but we do not see them; hell’s fire burns hot, but we do not feel it; the sermon cries a warning, but we do not hear it, the devil laughs at us, but we do not hear him.
No wonder there are so many warnings in Scripture to stay awake, to fight, to persevere, to watch & pray! Have we ever seriously thought of what would happen to us if we stop fighting against temptation, stop earnestly praying, stop sincerely studying & reading the Scriptures, stop meditating upon the things of God…? Have we ever wondered what was the worst that could happen…? Answer: spiritual sleep which leads to spiritual death, Rev 3.19!
What does Christian recommend as a means of fighting against the tendency to slumber? ––Watchfulness is best kept burning by good Christian conversation, the jealous accountability of faithful friends, & recollections of the Lord’s faithful dealings. For: pilgrims in fellowship experience mercy & stay awake–– cf. the dreamer’s poem
Christian conversation, sincere & warm from the heart, is a precious means of life, & the means, sometimes, of opening the prison doors & bringing out a sleeper.
As Christian & Hopeful conversed & sang together, the fire in their hearts burned again, & warmed their love for Christ, & the danger of spiritual sleep grew less & less.
How sad it is, then, & how imperceptibly dangerous, that most Christians are all ear & tongue when it comes to earthly & temporal conversation, but all deaf & mute when it comes to heavenly conversation! ––If they would but get one taste of the sweetness & one experience of the benefit of heavenly conversation sincerely engaged in, they would change their tune for good.
Mason––Beware of such sleepy professors. You are in danger of catching the infection. You are sure to get no spiritual edification from them; & there is little hope of being profitable to them. So prize the company of lively Christians.
They began their conversation with Hopeful telling Christian of his own Christian experience & conversion. (This is the first of three major subjects for discussion across the Enchanted Ground and it is the longest discourse section in the book). We can draw many excellent & profitable instructions from this dialogue in which Hopeful shares how Christ brought him to conviction, repentance, & conversion.
What things did Hopeful delight in before coming to Christ? (1Cor 6.9-11)––ungodliness
How did he come to see that such things end in death? (Rom 6.23)––the Spirit’s first workings
How did he at first respond to the preached Word? (Acts 26.19-21)––intensely shut his eyes to it, being unwilling to know either the evil of sin or the damnation that follows upon the commission of it.
Hopeful presents the picture of the natural man who cannot save himself but must be sovereignly saved by God. He is dead in sin (Eph 2.1); he can neither see nor enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born again by God’s sovereign power (Jn 3.3-9); he is of the flesh, which profits him nothing spiritually (Jn 6.63); he is at enmity with God and will not subject himself to God’s will or gospel invitation because he cannot (Rom 8.17); he is in bondage to his sin & does not seek after God (Rom 3.10-11); for no one can come to the Son unless the Father grants him repentance & draws him by His Holy Spirit (Jn 6.44).
What reasons does Hopeful give for his initial opposition to the sense of sin which the Spirit was working in him? (p.158)––he didn’t know that conviction is the start of conversion; he still found sin sweet & loathed to leave it; he continued to desire worldly friends; he strenuously opposed his awakening to personal sin.
What things caused his sense of sin to increase? (p.159)––if he met & talked with a godly man; if he heard the Bible read or talked about; if he became sick & felt afflicted; if he learned of his neighbors becoming sick; if he heard the bell tolling for the dead; if he thought of himself dying; if he heard death coming suddenly on another; if he thought of his imminent judgment.
Being tormented by the oppression of his sin upon his conscience, what did Hopeful do to try & deliver himself from it? (p.159)––he resolved to flee his sin, to forsake evil company, & to fulfill religious exercises
What vital & timely lesson did Hopeful learn by his striving in the flesh?––that no one will be justified by the works of the Law. ––Read 159-161.
"Christian & Hopeful Cross the Enchanted Ground:
More Lessons from Hopeful’s Conversion"
Read pp. 161-165
What message did Faithful bring to Hopeful after his vain efforts to relieve his guilt by self-righteousness? (p.161)––that he needs the righteousness of a perfect Man in order to clear his conscience.
Why was this message of Christ so timely? (the relationship of precept to promise)––earlier Hopeful would have thought the idea foolish, but now he is convinced of the proposal, and wonders if such a man existed.
––Here we learn the important relationship between precept & promise & the work that precept must do in the heart before promise can be applied.
In what ways did Faithful commend Christ to Hopeful?––He commends Him as the only perfect Man because: He lives at the right hand of the Most High; He is the only means of a sinner being justified; He has suffered for sin by dying on a cross; He is qualified as God to deal justly with sin; He is a substitute for Hopeful’s sin; He is a provider of an imputed righteousness.
Hopeful asks four questions. What are they and how does Faithful answer them?
Is Christ really willing for me to come to Him? ––Go to Him and see Jn 6.37
Is it not presumptuous for me to come to Christ? ––The Bible invites you; the Bible is true.
What must I do when I come to Christ? ––Humbly pray to the Father with heart & soul, that He might reveal His Son to you.
How do I make my plea before the Father? –– Faithful tells him what to pray: Go to God’s mercy-seat where He perpetually sits; Ask God to give you mercy & faith in His Son; Confess your trust in God’s Son for righteousness; Acknowledge your belief in God’s willingness to save; Make known your heartfelt repentance & contrition; Declare your desire that His grace be magnified.
This sounds like the ‘Easy-Believism’ of today, but how does Hopeful’s experience show that it is not? ––He struggles greatly over it and keeps returning to the Father seeking salvation.
How does his struggling show that God is at work in him even before he receives the assurance of his salvation?
He knows there is righteousness only in Christ
He knows to leave off praying is certainly to die
& he knows that to strive is certainly to attain.
How is hope in Christ at last revealed to Hopeful?––the Lord reveals Christ to his understanding through the Word. The Scriptures present to him a willing Christ ready to save him.
What doubts does Christ’s Word dispel for Hopeful?
But I am a very great sinner––come by grace.
What is believing? –– Come, eat, & drink.
Can I as a great sinner be saved? ––Come & be welcome.
How am I to regard you in coming? ––I am the Saviour of sinners, the provider of a perfect righteousness, the ground of justification, the cleanser of sinners, the Mediator between God and man, the ever living intercessor.
How did he see that his righteousness was in Christ and not in himself? ––He saw that his righteousness was in Christ because of Christ’s obedience to the Father’s Law & to the Father’s Penalty (active & passive obedience).
What effect did this have on Hopeful?
He saw that this self-righteous world was to be condemned
He saw that God the Father was both just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus
He became ashamed of his former manner of life
He awoke to his former ignorance and blindness
He now longed for godliness and holiness in his life
He now desired to labor for the glory of Christ
"Christian & Hopeful Cross the Enchanted Ground:
Lessons from Ignorance"
Read pp. 165-172
Christian & Hopeful wait for solitary Ignorance to catch up with them and proceed to ask him some questions:
How is the relationship between God and your soul?
What is Ignorance’s hope and the ground of it? (3 things)––He has good thoughts about God & Heaven; He desires God & Heaven; He has left all for God & Heaven.
What are Christian’s responses?––So do the devils; many (like the Sluggard) desire but do not find; leaving all for God & Heaven is much harder than many think.
By what are you persuaded that you have left all for God & Heaven?
What is the ground of Ignorance’s persuasion? (4 things)––My heart is assured of Heaven; my heart hopes for Heaven; my heart & life agree; my heart & life conform to Scripture.
What are Christian’s responses?––The heart is deceitful & only a fool would trust his own heart; heart hopes are unreliable because the heart is deceitful; heart testimony is invalid & unreliable because the heart is deceitful; who says your heart & Scripture agree…unless God says so, no other testimony matters.
What does Christian say is the true ground by which a man has hope in God?––The testimony of Scripture.
The only hope we can have that we think truly is when we think God’s thoughts after Him, agreeing with the testimony of Scripture. ––Ignorance boasts of good thoughts, but are his thoughts right, true, & trustworthy? This is what Christian sets out to discover:
What does the Bible tell us to think with regard to ourselves?––that we are unrighteous at heart: totally depraved in every part from birth, & that we are crooked & perverse in all our ways.
But what does Ignorance believe?––He will never believe that his heart is bad and would lie to him.
And what does Christian then tell him?––That he has never had one good thought about himself in his whole life because he has not thought agreeably to God’s Word.
What does the Bible tell us to think with regard to God? ––That He knows us better than we know ourselves, & that He knows our sin.
What does the Bible tell us to think with regard to Christ and His righteousness?––That we must come into possession of the righteousness of Christ by faith if we are to be justified before God.
But what does Ignorance believe?––He says he believes in Christ for justification, but he sees no need for Christ Himself, he sees no original corruption in his life and no actual sin. In other words, he sees no need of Christ’s personal righteousness to justify him before God. He believes Christ died in order that our own righteousness and good works might be found acceptable before God.
How does Christian critique his faith? (Here Christian describes the precise nature of the Christian gospel, it being an objective and complete work of Christ crucified that is embraced through faith alone for total justification. In contrast is the false gospel of Ignorance whereby the human heart cooperates with the indwelling grace of Christ, originating with baptism, so as to produce works that gradually obtain justification.) ––This is justification by sanctified works, a subjective justification. Christian says such faith is based on fancy, not on God’s Word, such faith clings to personal righteousness, not Christ’s, such faith is not in Christ but in Christ justifying our own actions, & such faith brings the threat of God’s wrath. ––True justifying faith directs the soul to flee for refuge to Christ’s righteousness as a pardoning & justifying righteousness which God worked outside of us and gifts to us by free grace.
Ignorance believes in a subjective justification. Why does he denounce an objective justification, justification by the gift of an imputed righteousness?––He finds that it will give a license to sin.
Hopeful asks Ignorance if he has ever had Christ revealed to his understanding. What is Ignorance’s response?––He declares to have a different faith and has no place for such revelations.
How does Christian say one comes to understand the gospel and believe? ––saving knowledge and faith are given by God as gifts because the natural man cannot believe & come to Christ on his own.
How does Christian exhort Ignorance? ––He exhorts Ignorance to confess his wretchedness & fly to Christ for righteousness. But Ignorance prefers to straggle along behind.
"Christian & Hopeful Cross the Enchanted Ground:
More Lessons from Ignorance & Temporary"
Read pp. 172-178
Pressing on without Ignorance, Christian & Hopeful continue their discourse…
Pilgrims like Ignorance are prompted by fear to take to the right way, but they do not understand the work of the Spirit in it and so stifle it, which leads them away from Christ. ––remember the parchment roll which Evangelist gave Christian at the first, upon which was written, "Flee from the wrath to come!"
God uses fear of the consequences of sin to cause people to examine themselves, & if it is to be a profitable examination, it must be done in the light of Scripture.
What then is a right fear of the Lord? In what three ways is it to be identified? ––A right fear of the Lord is that which arises in the heart of person by the work of the Spirit, which leads them to flee from the wrath of God to Christ for refuge. ––It can therefore be identified by the saving convictions of sin… the desire to believe in Christ for salvation… and the abiding reverence for God, His Word, & His Ways.
Godly fear keeps the heart sensitive towards sin & hesitant to turn from what is pleasing to God. It keeps a soul humble & dependent upon the Holy Spirit to enable holy living. And therefore the person who has this fear desires not to grieve the Holy Spirit.
Why, then, do the ignorant stifle this fear? (4 things) ––(This second conversation reveals Ignorance to be a man who is not only essentially ignorant of the biblical gospel, but also a man who fears fear to the point where it must be suppressed rather than received as a warning. In this abandonment of fear (a right fear of the Lord), God responds with the abandonment of Ignorance, as we will soon see). ––they are convinced that this fear comes from the Devil… they believe fear spoils their faith… they presume to have confidence rather than fear… and they find fear detracts from the supposed self-righteousness… –But such presumption in the unbeliever is fatal because as long as they stifle the fear of God, they will never come to Christ for salvation.
––Hopeful confesses to have been ensnared by such ignorance before he came to Christ… & so may we all… Let us then give thanks to God for opening our eyes to His work in our hearts… ]]
Christian now recalls his acquaintance with Temporary which will lead us to the end of the Enchanted Ground.
Temporary dwelt in Graceless, away from Honesty, & next door to Turn-back.
He had some strong spiritual awakenings of the sinfulness of sin & the wages due upon it and was determined to go on pilgrimage until he met Save-self and turned back (Mk 8.34-36). –– Here we learn why so many people’s religion is temporary, why so many run well for a time & then stand still, & then turn back…
What four reasons does Hopeful give for Temporary’s backsliding? ––His conscience was awakened without his mind being changed and so when his guilt weakens, his religion wanes; when hell loses its terror, so does his desire for Heaven (2Pet 2.22)… His fears of men overwhelmed him rather than the fear of God & so when hell loses its terror, he opts for his possessions and returns to the world… His dislike for the shame that religion brings… His desire for relief by means of a hardening heart…
What does Christian offer as the essential reason why Temporary fell away? ––there was no change in the mind and will. (cf. worldly grief and sorrow 2Cor 7.9-10; cp. 1Thes 1.9-10). Temporary had a desire for religion because he didn’t want to go to hell, not because his heart had been changed to love God and spend eternity with Him. But when he meets with shame, he renounces his faith and turns back.
The root of the matter is that Temporary’s conviction of sin isn’t complete or deep enough. Sin is not bitter to him, only inconvenient. Thomas Shepard, "Be sure your wound for sin at first is deep enough. For all the error in a man’s faith & sanctification springs from his first error in his humiliation. If a man’s humiliation be false, or even weak or little, then his faith and his hold on Christ are weak & little and his sanctification is counterfeit. But if a man’s wound be right and his humiliations deep enough, that man’s faith will be right and his sanctification will be glorious." ––Though they have been alarmed by conviction, Temporaries are not dead to every hope of saving themselves. For terror without humiliation for sin will never subvert self-confidence and they will always be ready to turn back to the world at an expedient time.
Christian then describes the process of falling away in 9 steps. What are they? ––Serious thoughts about God are willfully supplanted… profitable religious duties are gradually neglected… the company of lively Christians is shunned… coolness develops toward public worship… they develop a critical spirit toward the godly… association with godless people becomes preferable… they delight to expose hypocrites in order to justify themselves… little sins are dallied with openly… bold godlessness then unveils their corrupt heart…
Here we should learn that all backsliding begins in the heart, the seat of our affections. When we neglect prayer & our Bibles & are preoccupied with the pursuit of the things of this world, it’s a sure indication that our affections are going astray & becoming lukewarm towards God. We should diligently make use of the means of grace to keep fuel in the heart that it might burn hot in its affections toward God (Prov 4.23). ––The Christian walk is like going up a down escalator, always an uphill battle which requires constant ground if we’re ever to gain ground. But what happens if we stand still? We lose ground & are carried backward (Phil 3.12-16).
Let me close with these comments by the Rev. John Gulliver on how to prevent backsliding: "It begins in the unbelief of the heart & ends in open sins in the life. What is the love of this world so forbidden? Why is covetousness called idolatry? Because whatever draws away the heart from God and prevents enjoying close fellowship with Him naturally tends to apostasy from Him. Look well to your own hearts & affections. Daily learn to obey that command, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov 4.23). If you neglect to watch, you will be sure to smart under the sense of sin on earth or its curse in hell."
The Enchanted Ground Discourse in summary:
Hopeful, the authentic pilgrim
Ignorance, the authentic heretic
Temporary, the authentic apostate
Beware, then, of an ignorance of the gospel and of a temporary faith with no change of heart. Look rather to a genuine conviction, repentance, and conversion by the power of God, with the evidence of good works as fruit.
"The Comforting Delights of Beulah Land"
Read pp. 178-180
The Country of Beulah (married) represents the sweet peace and confidence that believers should experience towards the close of their lives. (Isa 62.4-12; Song 2.10-12)
In Beulah the Christian enjoys visions of eternity, longings to to depart and be with the lover of his soul, desires to be free from the sin that continually tries to entrap them, & desires for fellowship with the saints in heaven.
Here in Beulah the Christian’s engagement to Christ is renewed as the Wedding Day draws nearer (death).
It is a place of constant sunshine with no backward look.
The Valley of the Shadow of Death is out of reach
The terror of Giant Despair cannot influence this region
The dismal outline of Doubting Castle is lost to view
It’s a place of encouragement with a forward look
It’s a place of fellowship with Shining Ones
It’s a place where Christ’s rejoicing and covenant love hovers
As they draw nearer the Celestial City its radiance is overwhelming. Their heart increases with desire and their strength increases.
The Gardener’s tour:
The land provides orchards, gardens, & vineyards
Comfort for future distress
Food for future health
Mediation for future assurance
Rest for future struggle
All these are for the pilgrims equipping as they near the River of Death.
Read Cheever pp.219-222
"Christian & Hopeful Encounter the River of Death"
Read pp. 180-183
Awaking from their rest in Beulah the two pilgrims arise and prepare to go to the City, and as they do, they are met with two Shining Ones. ––Perhaps Bunyan is speaking of those pre-intimations of death that some persons seem to receive & ascribes them to guardian angels who watch over the believer as he draws near to death.
What questions do they ask them & why? –– They’re checking their credentials… they ask them: from where they had come, where they had lodged, what difficulties & dangers they had met with, what comforts and pleasures they had experienced along the way.
What do they advise them? –– that they have only two difficulties left to face: death without & unbelief within, i.e., the River of Death & the scrutiny at the gate of Heaven.
The pilgrims ask if the Messengers would accompany them the rest of the way, and the men agree. But they remind them that they must complete the journey through their own faith.
Here we learn that death is the last enemy for the true believer. Christ has conquered death, removing its sting, which is sin & the curse of the law (1Cor 15.54-58), and so we need not fear the consequences of death. But we are not immune from the pain of death and this is what many fear.
As the pilgrims came within sight of the City and it seemed within their reach, suddenly the River appeared between them and it. ––Death is represented as a deep river without a bridge which separates the believer from his heavenly inheritance, as Jordan flowed between Israel and the Promised Land.
The men tell them they must pass through the River, but what do the pilgrims ask? ––if there is another way?
Why do the pilgrims look for another way? ––because of their natural fear of death & because of the threat of unbelief… Our nature shrinks from this River, even when faith, hope, & love are in lively exercise, but when these decline, then alarm & dread unites with fear…
What do we fear in death? ––We fear leaving our friends/family; we fear the separation of our soul & body; we fear the dark & cold grave; we fear the launch into eternity––& all of these fears make Death the King of Terrors…
How can the believer face death without fear? –– Faith in a crucified, buried, risen, & ascended Saviour; the experience of His faithfulness & love in times past; hope of an immediate entrance into His presence where temptations, conflicts, sin & suffering have no admission; & the desire of perfect knowledge, holiness, & happiness, will reconcile the mind to the inevitable stroke, & sometimes give a complete victory over every fear. ––but if faith & hope are weakened, the comforts & consolations of the Spirit are not felt.
The only way we can be sure to come to death in peace is to live at peace with God, for only a conscientious life is favored with a peaceful close: attend to the duties of our calling & improve our talents. For those who live negligently & yield to temptation make an appointment with terror to meet them at their death-beds, to meet them at that place & time when comfort is more to be desired than health itself. But that said, no man is guaranteed consolation in death, & even the strongest Christian’s only hope in death is to depend entirely on the righteousness & blood of Christ & the free mercy of God to all who believe in Him.
Why do they ask about the depth of the River? ––if they must face death, they want it to be easy, quick & painless… What are they told? ––the depth is regulated by faith. Remember, they must complete this journey through faith; angels cannot help or comfort us in death; we must die as we lived, by faith. (cf. my Promises book!)
Death is the final test of faith (Job 13.15), the last enemy (1Cor 15.26), involving a solo encounter that yet can be upheld by loving saints at our side. ––The Puritans had a life-long concern about preparing for death & dying well. Bunyan said, "Consider thou must die but once; I mean as to this world, for if thou, when you goest hence, does not die well, thou canst not come back again & die better." ––Copy Taylor’s picture for the overhead!
>>When we come to the River, we must not look at ourselves, but away from ourselves to Jesus, the Author & Finisher of our faith, who has conquered death for us, because, for the Christian’s soul, death is our Lover’s kiss. ––Read Cheever quotes from Bradley’s book, pp.103-4
As the two pilgrims cross the River, we meet with two different encounters with death.
Christian is overwhelmed with anxiety and despair. What sort of thing trouble him? ––he thrashes about in fear… he doubts he will make it to the other side… he is troubled by both his sins as an unbeliever and his sins as a believer… he is plagued by visions of hell… he believes he is discarded by Christ…
How does Hopeful encourage him in this dark hour? ––He holds his head above water and sought to comfort him by telling him that he could see the men at the gate waiting for him, and that it is the wicked who have no pain in death (Ps 73.4-5), & that the troubles & distresses he’s experiencing are no indication that Christ has abandoned him, but are rather sent to test him whether he will recall the Lord’s past goodness & now rely upon Him to see him through this last trial…
Christian contemplates this & his hope is revived with a new sight of Christ… he remembers the words of His Lord, I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, I will be with you (Isa 43.1-2). At this, the enemy (unbelief & doubts) became as stones which sank to the bottom of the River & they crossed over on solid ground and shallow water.
Hopeful crosses over with great faith.
He immediately finds the bottom of the River… he points to men waiting for them… He commends the Word of God to Christian… He rightly interprets Christian’s fears, explaining that his faith is being tested… He directs Christian toward his Saviour in this trial which is no different than any other he’s faced…
And so we learn that death comes to all the same, but not all come to death in the same way. How we face our death will depend entirely upon our relationship with Christ and, then, upon the measure of our faith in His Word and promises.
"Christian & Hopeful are Welcomed into Heaven"
Read pp. 183-188
The pilgrims have safely come out of the River and meet the two Shining Ones again who led them up to the gate. ––When Lazarus died (Lk 16), he was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom… & so we have every reason to believe that the angels serve the souls of departed saints to bring us to the Lord.
The ascent to the gate was a great climb. How were the pilgrims able to climb it? (1Cor 15.53-57; 2Cor 5.1-10) ––they had shed their mortal garments.
What do the Shining Ones tell them they will find in the City? ––the company of angels & just men made perfect; the paradise of God (a perfected , consummate Eden, which sin had before defaced) and the tree of life; the apparel of white robes fitting for the King’s presence; the fellowship of the King; the absence of all earthly troubles & sorrows; the holy company.
What do the Shining Ones tell them what they will do there? ––they shall receive comfort, joy, and the harvest of their labors, the fruit of all their prayers & tears & sufferings; crowns of gold; the perpetual sight of Christ; they shall perpetually serve Christ; they shall delight to see & hear the Mighty One; they shall be reunited with friends; they shall have glory and ride with the King of Glory; they shall sit with Christ and share in His judgment; they shall reside with Christ forever.
How do the Shining Ones introduce the pilgrims at the gate? ––these men loved the King in the world, have left all for the King’s name, & desire to behold the King… and how are they received? ––a great invitation, a band of the King’s trumpeters sounds a thousand welcomes. Their arrival was anticipated.
What inscription is written over the gate? (Rev 22.14 KJV)––The commandments of God, which are given to sinners under a dispensation of mercy, call them to repentance, faith in Christ, and the obedience of faith & love. The true believer habitually walks in the way of God’s commandments from his conversion & thereby evidences his interest in all the blessings of the covenant of grace & proves that he has a right through grace to the heavenly inheritance (Jn 15.8).
Who looked over the top of the gate when the pilgrims called out and what report did the angel give about the pilgrims? ––Enoch, Moses, & Elijah… that these pilgrims have left the City of Destruction for the love they had for the King of this place.
What are the certificates which the pilgrims presented?
The King examines their certificates & then invites the pilgrims to enter. What does this teach us? ––that though all may desire entrance here, none will enter but upon the King’s terms.
What happened to the pilgrims when they entered through the gate? ––they were transfigured & received heavenly tokens of their new citizenship…: raiments of gold, instruments of praise, crowns of reward. The bells ring in their honor & they immediately join in singing the King’s praises.
The gate is closed, but not before Bunyan gets a glimpse inside, which makes him long to be there himself.
"The Fearful End of Ignorance"
Read pp. 188-189
This closing of the Pilgrim’s Progress and third appearance of Ignorance reflects Bunyan’s pastoral concern for those who persevere in unbelief. He would have them know beyond doubt that their end will be fearful & terrible if they die in their unbelief.
How does Ignorance cross the River of Death? What does this tell us about our condition at death? ––A peaceful death in this life does not guarantee a peaceful entrance into heaven… cf. my Promises book
How does he ascend the Hill to the Gate of the City without the help of the angels who accompanied the pilgrims? ––Here is the supreme delusion, that confidence in entering heaven, based on self-righteousness shrouded in a Christian profession will stand the test at the Gate.
How does he face the Gate? ––he misinterprets the inscription… knocks boldly expecting immediate entrance… only to falter at the investigation by the gatekeepers.
The gatekeepers ask for a testimony. What does Ignorance reply? ––that he had intimate fellowship with the King; that he has heard the teaching of the King.
They ask for a certificate. What does he do?
How did the King respond to this? ––He declared He would not even come down to meet him & commanded him to be bound & taken away… & so he is cast into the by-way to hell.
What conclusion does Bunyan make of Ignorance’s fate? ––that the road to hell may pass by the very gate of heaven… Here is a most sobering, mouth-stopping warning. A man may traffic in religion & attend church all of his life with the expectation of going to heaven. Yet at the end of his earthly pilgrimage, against fervent self-righteous protests, there is the unmasking of counterfeit faith & the horror of unexpected consignment to hell (Mt 7.22-23)
We frequently hear of persons that have lived strangers to evangelical religion, and the power of godliness, dying with great composure and resignation; and such instances are brought forward as an objection to the necessity of faith, or of a devoted life. But what do they prove? What evidence is there, that such men are saved? Is it not far more likely that they continued in the end under the power of ignorance & self-conceit; that Satan took care not to disturb them; & that God gave them over to a strong delusion, & left them to perish with a lie in their right hand? ––Men, who have neglected religion all their lives, or have habitually for a length of years disgraced an evangelical profession, being when near death visited by pious persons, sometimes obtain a sudden and extraordinary measure of peace & joy, and die in a happy frame. This should in general be considered as a bad sign; for deep humiliation, yea distress, united with some trembling hope in God’s mercy through the gospel, is far more appropriate to their case, and more likely to be the effect of spiritual illumination. ––But when a formal visit from a minister, a few general questions, & a prayer, calm the mind of a dying person whose life has been unsuitable to the Christian profession; no doubt, could we penetrate the veil, we should see him wafted across the River in the boat of Vain-hope & meeting with the awful doom that is here described. From such delusions, good Lord, deliver us. Amen. ––Thomas Scott
Read Gulliver’s closing comments in Bradley’s book, p.105-6.
Interpret The Pilgrim’s Progress truthfully.
In other words, Bunyan holds us to the keeping of his original purpose and meaning as intended in his text. The invitation to recite back to the author, if it were possible, the carefully discovered interpretation, only rein for Some say the Pilgrim’s Progress is not mine, Insinuating as if I would shine, In name and fame by the worth of another, Like some made rich by robbing of their brother.
Interpret The Pilgrim’s Progress substantially.
Bunyan is only too well aware of the pitfall that his attractive style of writing may present, namely infatuation with the graphic language pictures, mere appreciation of the simple yet artistic manner of composition, and the sheer enjoyment of the apt illustrations. People quite naturally delight in skillfully composed literature, such as with a novel by a Charles Dickens. Ezekiel had this same problem with regard to the appeal of his prophetic preaching: They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them (Ezek. 33:31-32). Hence, we are here warned of being fascinated with signs while neglecting there significance. We are also warned about being amused and simply leaving it at that. It is difficult not to smile at the foolishness of Christian when his confident and accelerating pace causes him to race past Faithful, only to then stumble in abject humiliation. But truth is more important than titillation and entertainment. Our grinning must turn to serious personal analysis. Certainly let children enjoy the outward sense of adventure in the allegory in their own childish way. We expect that of them and understand. But for those who are adult, let them act in an adult manner, seeking to digest the meat and substance, the truth and reality that Bunyan intends should have priority.
Interpret The Pilgrim’s Progress allegorically.
Thus effort and concentration and thought are required. There is a degree of mystery and intended concealment here that calls for unveiling. Such is the intention of Bunyan’s purpose. He strews bait and unresolved situations along the way that can only be understood by means of deep, investigative reflection. But is there not a peculiar sense of satisfaction gained when an intricate puzzle is solved? The Pilgrim’s Progress is not really intended for the lazy mind, yet such is its exceptional quality that it is able to arouse the lethargic and indifferent of this world to a sense of newfound curiosity and desire for spiritual enlightenment. So metaphors must be recognized and understood. And what better opportunity could there be to put such a skill to the test than in the following four lines?
Interpret The Pilgrim’s Progress discriminatingly
Addressed particularly to friends who were at the same time critics, this final verse by Bunyan calls for an eclectic and peaceable appraisal. It would at first seem that the author is confessing the lesser value of some parts of his allegory while vigorously upholding the enriching value of other segments. On the other hand, while he really is in no way of the opinion that his distinctive style of writing is of mixed value, could it not be that he is making a concession to his antagonists merely for the purpose of pressing home a reasonable point? Whatever the case may be, it must be admitted that Bunyan is going to great lengths to be conciliatory. Further, his metaphors are exquisitely appropriate and convincing. And history would seem to have judged that there certainly is a lot of gold in this rich literary ore. But then, there are always those whose supposed holy caution is really a stubborn rigidity that opposes any novel, though legitimate, means of communication. Bunyan seems to feel almost frustrated at this point. He might even have to dream once more and try again! Perhaps this was a hint that Part Two of The Pilgrim’s Progress was already germinating in his spiritually fertile soul.