Great-Grace, the King’s Champion

Hopeful: But, Christian, these three fellows, I am persuaded in my heart, are but a company of cowards; would they have run else, think you, as they did, at the noise of one that was coming on the road? Why did not Little-faith pluck up a greater heart? He might, methinks, have stood one brush with them, and have yielded when there had been no remedy.

Christian: That they are cowards, many have said, but few have found it so in the time of trial. As for a great heart, Little-faith had none; and I perceive by you, my brother, had you been the man concerned, you are but for a brush, and then to yield.

And, verily, since this is the height of your stomach, now they are at a distance from us, should they appear to you as they did to him they might put you to second thoughts.

But, consider again, they are but journeymen thieves, they serve under the king of the bottomless pit, who, if need be, will come into their aid himself, and his voice is as the roaring of a lion. I myself have been engaged as this Little-faith was, and I found it a terrible thing. These three villains set upon me, and I beginning, like a Christian, to resist, they gave but a call, and in came their master. I would, as the saying is, have given my life for a penny, but that, as God would have it, I was clothed with armor of proof. Ay, and yet, though I was so harnessed, I found it hard work to quit myself like a man. No man can tell what in that combat attends us, but he that hath been in the battle himself.

Hopeful: Well, but they ran, you see, when they did but suppose that one Great-grace was in the way.

Christian: True, they have often fled, both they and their master, when Great-grace hath but appeared; and no marvel; for he is the King’s champion. But, I think, you will put some difference between Little-faith and the King’s champion. All the King’s subjects are not his champions, nor can they, when tried, do such feats of war as he. Is it meet to think that a little child should handle Goliath as David did? Or that there should be the strength of an ox in a wren? Some are strong, some are weak; some have great faith, some have little. This man was one of the weak, and therefore he went to the wall.

Hopeful: I would it had been Great-grace for their sakes.

Christian: If it had been, he might have had his hands full; for I must tell you, that though Great-grace is excellent good at his weapons, and has, and can, so long as he keeps them at sword’s point, do well enough with them; yet, if they get within him, even Faint-heart, Mistrust, or the other, it shall go hard but they will throw up his heels. And when a man is down, you know, what can he do?

Whoso looks well upon Great-grace’s face, shall see those scars and cuts there, that shall easily give demonstration of what I say. Yea, once I heard that he should say, (and that when he was in the combat), “We despaired even of life.” How did these sturdy rogues and their fellows make David groan, mourn, and roar? Yea, Heman, and Hezekiah, too, though champions in their day, were forced to bestir them, when by these assaulted; and yet, notwithstanding, they had their coats soundly brushed by them. Peter, upon a time, would go try what he could do; but though some do say of him that he is the prince of the apostles, they handled him so, that they made him at last afraid of a sorry girl. 

Great-Grace

Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress includes many contrasts. Christian escapes the City of Destruction (this fallen, sinful world) to journey to the Celestial City (the glories of heaven). Along the way he receives good counsel (Evangelist) and bad counsel (Worldly Wiseman). Bunyan distinguishes true converts (Christian, Faithful, Hopeful, Little-faith) from false converts (Simple, Sloth, Presumption, Formalist, Hypocrisy, By-ends, Turn-away, Ignorance).

Now, in contrast to Little-faith, we hear of another true and valiant pilgrim—Great-grace. The villains who robbed Little-faith fled in fear when they thought Great-grace might be nearby. Great-grace is the King’s champion. He is courageous, fit for battle, and adept at wielding the sword. He represents a vigilant believer or faithful pastor who is strong in faith, seasoned in spiritual warfare, and sympathetic to the needs of fellow Christians. He is one whom others can turn to in times of trial for godly counsel and encouragement. He knows the Word of God and is diligent in prayer. His strength is not in himself and his boast is not in his own works (Ephesians 2:8–9), but he lives to serve and glorify His King.

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth.
(Psalm 115:1)

He is clothed in the “whole armor of the Lord” and he stands in the strength of the Lord (Ephesians 6:10–20). He is “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). William Mason explains:

Now here you see what is meant by Great-grace, who is so often mentioned in this book, and by whom so many valiant things were done. We read, “With great power the apostles gave witness of the resurrection of Jesus.” Why was it? Because “great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33). So you see all is of grace, from first to last, in salvation. If we do great things for Christ, yet, not unto us, but unto the great grace of our Lord, be all the glory.

The contrast between Great-grace and Little-faith highlights a significant truth. Not everyone is strong in faith. Not everyone has a “great heart.” We all have differing measures of spiritual strength and maturity. Christian tells Hopeful: “All the King’s subjects are not his champions, nor can they, when tried, do such feats of war as he. … Some are strong, some are weak; some have great faith, some have little.”

Hopeful wonders why Little-faith was not more courageous. Why did he not put forth more effort to stand? But Christian understands the true intensity of Little-faith’s trial. Hopeful is evaluating temptation from a distance, but Christian has experienced it close up. Little-faith was attacked by “journeymen thieves,” but Christian faced their master, who prowls about like a roaring lion:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world (1 Peter 5:8–9).

When Christian faced Apollyon in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, he had the advantage of being dressed in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10–20). He had been to House Beautiful, the church, and was strengthened by the preaching of the gospel. Even so, he found the battle to be arduous and his foe to be fierce.

Like Hopeful, we tend to underestimate the power of sin and treat it too lightly. Sin is a much more formidable foe when it is close and threatening. Seen from a distance it appears less intimidating. We gauge its strength across a wide field of battle and wonder: How could this be a struggle? I can handle this! Yet when the assault comes, the line is broken, and the enemy breaks through our defenses, the conflict can leave us beaten, battered and bruised, as it did Little-faith.

Even those who are great in grace are not immune to the scourge of battle. Great-grace bears the scars and cuts of combat on his face. Even he can be beaten down for a time. He must be alert and keep watch, for himself as well as for others in the Way. He must keep his weapons “at sword’s point” (unsheathed, in hand, and engaged in battle).

All of the King’s champions have faced times of trial. Peter was a target of the enemy (Luke 22:31) and was brought down by fear, even fear of a servant girl who recognized him and called him out (Luke 22:54–62). Paul was “burdened beyond measure” and “despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8). He regarded himself as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). David was weighed down by his iniquities (Psalm 38:4–6). He confessed “my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:3). Heman the Ezrahite cried out: “my soul is full of troubles” and “I am like a man who has no strength, adrift among the dead” (Psalm 88:3–5). Hezekiah was “sick and near death” and he “wept bitterly” (Isaiah 38:1–3).

If we see such bruises and scars on our champions, how much more seriously should we regard our fight against sin? We need to guard our hearts.  We need to take up—

the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:16–18).

This is a battle we can only win with our Bibles open (“at sword’s point”) and the promises of the gospel ringing in our hearts and minds.

The battle is hard because it is not a fight we can wage from a distance. It is not a fight we can wage on our own. The battleground is our own hearts and minds. Our fight is against sin and weakness within ourselves. Again William Mason explains:

Who can stand in the evil day of temptation, when beset with Faint-heart, Mistrust, and Guilt, backed by the power of their master, Satan? No one, unless armed with the whole armor of God; and even then, the power of such infernal foes makes it a hard fight to the Christian. But this is our glory, the Lord shall fight for us, and we shall hold our peace. We shall be silent as to ascribing any glory to ourselves, knowing our very enemies are part of ourselves, and that we are more than conquerors over all these (only) through HIM who loved us (Rom. 8:37).

Christ alone is our victory. We need His great grace if we are to prevail. He alone has power to conquer and defeat sin and death.

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:56–58).

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The Value of Little-faith’s Jewels

Hopeful: But it is a wonder that his necessity did not put him upon selling or pawning some of his jewels, that he might have wherewith to relieve himself in his journey.

Christian: You talk like one upon whose head is the shell to this very day; for what should he pawn them, or to whom should he sell them? In all that country where he was robbed, his jewels were not accounted of; nor did he want that relief which could from thence be administered to him. Besides, had his jewels been missing at the gate of the Celestial City, he had (and that he knew well enough) been excluded from an inheritance there; and that would have been worse to him than the appearance and villainy of ten thousand thieves.

Hopeful: Why are you so tart, my brother? Esau sold his birthright, and that for a mess of pottage, and that birthright was his greatest jewel; and if he, why might not Little-faith do so too?

Christian: Esau did sell his birthright indeed, and so do many besides, and by so doing exclude themselves from the chief blessing, as also that caitiff did; but you must put a difference between Esau and Little-faith, and also between their estates. Esau’s birthright was typical, but Little-faith’s jewels were not so; Esau’s belly was his god, but Little-faith’s belly was not so; Esau’s want lay in his fleshly appetite, Little-faith’s did not so. Besides, Esau could see no further than to the fulfilling of his lusts; “Behold, I am at the point to die, (said he), and what profit shall this birthright do me?” But Little-faith, though it was his lot to have but a little faith, was by his little faith kept from such extravagances, and made to see and prize his jewels more than to sell them, as Esau did his birthright. You read not anywhere that Esau had faith, no, not so much as a little; therefore, no marvel if, where the flesh only bears sway, (as it will in that man where no faith is to resist), if he sells his birthright, and his soul and all, and that to the devil of hell; for it is with such, as it is with the donkey, who in her occasions cannot be turned away. When their minds are set upon their lusts, they will have them whatever they cost. But Little-faith was of another temper, his mind was on things divine; his livelihood was upon things that were spiritual, and from above; therefore, to what end should he that is of such a temper sell his jewels (had there been any that would have bought them) to fill his mind with empty things? Will a man give a penny to fill his belly with hay; or can you persuade the turtle-dove to live upon carrion like the crow? Though faithless ones can, for carnal lusts, pawn, or mortgage, or sell what they have, and themselves outright to boot; yet they that have faith, saving faith, though but a little of it, cannot do so. Here, therefore, my brother, is your mistake.

Hopeful: I acknowledge it; but yet your severe reflection had almost made me angry.

Christian: Why, I did but compare thee to some of the birds that are of the brisker sort, who will run to and fro in untrodden paths, with the shell upon their heads; but pass by that, and consider the matter under debate, and all shall be well between you and me.

 Bandits rob Little-Faith

In the last post Christian and Hopeful discussed the grievous robbery of Little-faith. Three villains attacked Little-faith near Dead Man’s Lane. They plundered his coin purse but were not able to reach his jewels. Christian told Hopeful that after the assault Little-faith was forced to beg to stay alive and complete his journey, “for his jewels he might not sell.” Christian’s comment stirs a question in Hopeful’s mind that leads to a debate. Why could Little-faith not sell his jewels? Why did he not pawn some of his jewels to increase his wealth in his life, that his journey might be more comfortable? Was he greedy? Was he prideful? Was he ashamed? Why would he resort to begging and presume upon the kindness of others if he had the means to pay his own way?

Christian is at first astounded by the question. He considers Hopeful’s thinking to be lunacy. Theologically he is right to address Hopeful’s error. The value of Little-faith’s jewels is immeasurable. He must not and cannot ever part with them.

In regard to both security and worth, there is a great difference between the jewels and the coin purse. The coin purse can be increased or emptied. We carry it with us. It represents our spiritual comfort and peace of mind. The purse is filled when we experience and sense the grace of God at work in our lives. It is plundered when we fall prey to sin and are assaulted by spiritual weakness, doubt, and shame. But our jewels are secure. They are safe with Christ. They represent our heavenly reward and our inheritance in God’s Kingdom.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3–4).

This inheritance is ours in Christ.

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:11–14).

Our inheritance with Christ in heaven is the pearl of great price, more valuable than anything we might possess in this life.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45–46).

The comparison that Bunyan draws between Little-faith’s treasure (his jewels) and his coin purse (his spending money) comes from Bunyan’s autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. When Bunyan came to faith in Christ, he knew Christ to be of all-surpassing worth and glory.

It was glorious to me to see his exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of all his benefits, and that because of this: now I could look from myself to him, and should reckon that all those graces of God that now were green in me, were yet but like those cracked groats and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is in their trunks at home! Oh, I saw my gold was in my trunk at home! In Christ, my Lord and Savior! Now Christ was all; all my wisdom, all my righteousness, all my sanctification, and all my redemption.

[Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 232]

His treasure was Christ! In Christ is all wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30–31).

And this treasure is eternally secure. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35–39).

Little-faith did not earn or deserve his treasured inheritance. It is a gift of grace. He cannot be separated from it and he certainly would not consider selling it.

Hopeful further presses his point by comparing Little-faith to Esau who despised his birthright (his inheritance) and sold it to Jacob for a pot of stew (Genesis 25:29–33). But Esau is not like Little-faith. Esau was worldly and profane. He lacked faith and was driven by lust. Scripture warns:

looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears (Hebrews 12:15–17).

Christian regards Esau as a caitiff (a “contemptable or cowardly person”). Esau acted according to his worldly passions, “as it is with the donkey, who in her occasions cannot be turned away.”

A wild donkey used to the wilderness,
That sniffs at the wind in her desire;
In her time of mating, who can turn her away?
All those who seek her will not weary themselves;
In her month they will find her.
(Jeremiah 2:24)

But Little-faith was a true pilgrim bound for the Celestial City. He possessed faith enough to cause him to press on and continue looking to Christ. He prized his jewels and knew that without them he would have no eternal inheritance. His suffering and lack of comforts in this life, unlike Esau, caused him to value his heavenly reward even more.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).

Hopeful acknowledges his error but admits that he almost got angry with Christian’s reply. Christian gave the right answer, but it came across to Hopeful as “tart” and “severe.” He encourages Hopeful not to take offense but to engage willingly in honest debate. Like Christian and Hopeful, we will often have differences in our understanding and grasp of truth. It is to our advantage to be quick to listen and slow to take offense (James 1:19). Their exchange is a reminder that when we see matters differently, we must be concerned with winning our brother, not just winning an argument.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Guitar Music for the 4th of July

Fireworks

If you are a guitarist and are looking for music to celebrate Independence Day this July 4th, here is a patriotic song that became popular during the American Revolutionary War.

The words and music were both composed by America’s first prolific composer, William Billings (1746–1800). Billings lived in Boston and made his living as a tanner. He was part of an effort in Protestant churches in America to help congregations learn to sing well. He composed over 100 songs and taught in a “singing school” in his church.

The first verse and tune of the hymn “Chester” were published by Billings in The New England Psalm Singer (1770). The remaining verses were added during the war and published in The Singing Master’s Assistant (1778).

CHESTER

Let tyrants shake their iron rod,
And Slav’ry clank her galling chains,
We fear them not, we trust in God,
New England’s God forever reigns.

Howe and Burgoyne and Clinton too,
With Prescot and Cornwallis join’d,
Together plot our Overthrow,
In one Infernal league combin’d.

When God inspir’d us for the fight,
Their ranks were broke, their lines were forc’d,
Their ships were Shatter’d in our sight,
Or swiftly driven from our Coast.

The Foe comes on with haughty Stride;
Our troops advance with martial noise,
Their Vet’rans flee before our Youth,
And Gen’rals yield to beardless Boys.

What grateful Off’ring shall we bring?
What shall we render to the Lord?
Loud Halleluiahs let us Sing,
And praise His name on ev’ry Chord.

Download a transcription of the tune CHESTER for classical guitar (PDF sheet music).

Download a transcription of the national anthem (The Star Spangled Banner) for classical guitar (PDF sheet music).

More music for classical guitar

What Little-Faith Lost

Hopeful: But did they take from him all that ever he had?

Christian: No; the place where his jewels were they never ransacked, so those he kept still. But, as I was told, the good man was much afflicted for his loss, for the thieves got most of his spending-money. That which they got not (as I said) were jewels, also he had a little odd money left, but scarce enough to bring him to his journey’s end; nay, if I was not misinformed, he was forced to beg as he went, to keep himself alive; for his jewels he might not sell. But beg, and do what he could, he went (as we say) with many a hungry belly the most part of the rest of the way.

Hopeful:  But is it not a wonder they got not from him his certificate, by which he was to receive his admittance at the Celestial Gate?

Christian:  It is a wonder; but they got not that, though they missed it not through any good cunning of his; for he, being dismayed with their coming upon him, had neither power nor skill to hide anything; so it was more by good Providence than by his endeavor, that they missed of that good thing.

Hopeful:  But it must needs be a comfort to him, that they got not his jewels from him.

Christian:  It might have been great comfort to him, had he used it as he should; but they that told me the story said, that he made but little use of it all the rest of the way, and that because of the dismay that he had in the taking away his money; indeed, he forgot it a great part of the rest of his journey; and besides, when at any time it came into his mind, and he began to be comforted therewith, then would fresh thoughts of his loss come again upon him, and those thoughts would swallow up all.

Hopeful: Alas! poor man! This could not but be a great grief to him.

Christian: Grief! ay, a grief indeed. Would it not have been so to any of us, had we been used as he, to be robbed, and wounded too, and that in a strange place, as he was? It is a wonder he did not die with grief, poor heart! I was told that he scattered almost all the rest of the way with nothing but doleful and bitter complaints; telling also to all that overtook him, or that he overtook in the way as he went, where he was robbed, and how; who they were that did it, and what he lost; how he was wounded, and that he hardly escaped with his life.

 Little-faith

In the last post Christian described for Hopeful the assault and robbery of Little-faith. Little-faith was a pilgrim who strayed into Dead Man’s Lane and was attacked by three villains: Faint-heart, Mistrust and Guilt. They snatched a bag of silver from his pocket and left him on the road, wounded and bleeding. With no one around to help him, Little-faith had to stagger on by himself.

But what exactly did Little-faith lose?

Each of the villains contributed to Little-faith’s loss. Faint-heart (timidity and weakness) attacked his strength and courage. Mistrust (doubt and unbelief) undermined his trust and confidence. Guilt (shame and dishonor) bludgeon his peace and contentment.

Little-faith suffered great loss, but he did not lose all. Christian explains: though the thieves were able to take Little-faith’s spending money, they were not able to ransack his jewels. Little-faith lost his coin purse, but retained his treasure.

The coin purse represents our spiritual comfort and peace of mind in this life. It is our awareness of God’s grace at work in our lives and our joy as we rest in work of Christ for our salvation. The coin purse holds spending money—our daily confidence and assurance that we will reach our journey’s end. When Little-faith was robbed (gave into temptation and sin), he lost his purse—his comfort and peace of mind. And he lost most of his spending money—he was overcome with grief that overwhelmed much of his hope and confidence. He was left with scarcely enough money to bring him to his journey’s end.

Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
(1 Peter 4:18)

The thieves were able to snatch his coin purse, but they could not get to his treasure. The jewels represent our heavenly reward (kept safe with Christ). They display the many glorious blessings of our spiritual union with Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

Our salvation is safe in heaven where thieves cannot break in and steal.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19–21).

Our salvation is safe with God. No one can pluck us from His hand.

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:28–29).

Our salvation is safe with Christ. Nothing can separate us from His love.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38–39).

The robbers also did not take Little-faith’s certificate to gain admittance to the Celestial City. The certificate represents his faith in Christ. The thieves missed “that good thing” not by Little-faith’s cunning or ability, but by the kind Providence of God. William Mason explains:

What was this good thing? His precious faith, whose author, finisher, and object is precious Jesus. And where he gives this precious gift of faith, though it be but little, even as a grain of mustard-seed, not all the powers of earth and hell can rob the heart of it. Christ prayed for His disciple that his faith should not fail, or be totally lost; therefore, though Peter lost his comforts for a season, yet not his faith totally, not his soul eternally; for, says Jesus, of all his dear flock, yea, of those of little faith too, None shall pluck them out of My hand. There is one blessed security, not in ourselves, but in our Lord.

Even small faith can accomplish great things.

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you (Luke 17:5–6).

Though Little-faith’s faith is small, he has a Savior who intercedes for him.

… It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us (Romans 8:34).

When Jesus prayed for Peter, He prayed that his faith would not fail.

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31–32).

The reality that Little-faith still had his certificate and jewels should have been cause for hope and joy. They assured the completion of his journey—the salvation of his soul.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6–9).

But Little-faith was so perplexed at losing his purse, he could not take lasting comfort in his jewels. The robbery did not threaten the final outcome of the journey, but it did impact the journey itself. Little-faith pressed on, but he traveled hungry and as a beggar. He was harassed and hindered by his own pain and grief. Thomas Scott summarizes in his Explanatory Notes:

The believer’s union with Christ, and the sanctification of the Spirit, sealing his acceptance and rendering him meet for heaven, are his invaluable and unalienable jewels. But he may by sin lose his comforts, and not be able to perceive the evidences of his own safety: and even when again enabled to hope that it will be well with him in the event; he may be so harassed by the recollection of the loss he has sustained, the effects of his misconduct on others, and the obstructions he hath thrown in the way of his own comfort and usefulness, that his future life may be rendered a constant scene of disquietude and painful reflections. Thus the doctrine of the believer’s final perseverance is both maintained and guarded from abuse: and it is not owning to a man’s own care, but to the Lord’s free mercy, powerful interposition, and the engagements of the new covenant, that unbelief and guilt do not rob him of his title to heaven, as well as of his comfort and confidence.

Little-faith complained and lamented, telling everyone he encountered in the Way about his misfortune. He should have looked to Christ—His atoning death—His perfect righteousness—His abundant mercy—but the weakened pilgrim was too consumed with himself. Little-faith is the example we should avoid—eyes fixed on self in bitter pride. Christian is the example we should follow—eyes fixed on Christ in humble praise. When Christian was confronted with temptation and assaulted by Apollyon, he responded not with pride, but with humility, acknowledging his sin, but speaking much of his great and merciful King.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

How Little-Faith Was Robbed

Then said Christian to his fellow, Now I call to remembrance, that which was told me of a thing that happened to a good man hereabout. The name of the man was Little-faith, but a good man, and he dwelt in the town of Sincere. The thing was this at the entering in at this passage, there comes down from Broad-way Gate, a lane called Dead Man’s Lane; so called because of the murders that are commonly done there; and this Little-faith going on pilgrimage, as we do now, chanced to sit down there, and slept. Now there happened, at that time, to come down the lane, from Broad-way Gate, three sturdy rogues, and their names were Faint-heart, Mistrust, and Guilt, (three brothers), and they espying Little-faith, where he was, came galloping up with speed. Now the good man was just awake from his sleep, and was getting up to go on his journey. So they came up all to him, and with threatening language bid him stand. At this Little-faith looked as white as a clout, and had neither power to fight nor fly. Then said Faint-heart, Deliver thy purse. But he making no haste to do it (for he was loath to lose his money), Mistrust ran up to him, and thrusting his hand into his pocket, pulled out thence a bag of silver. Then he cried out, Thieves! Thieves! With that Guilt, with a great club that was in his hand, struck Little-faith on the head, and with that blow felled him flat to the ground, where he lay bleeding as one that would bleed to death. All this while the thieves stood by. But, at last, they hearing that some were upon the road, and fearing lest it should be one Great-grace, that dwells in the city of Good-confidence, they betook themselves to their heels, and left this good man to shift for himself. Now, after a while, Little-faith came to himself, and getting up, made shift to scrabble on his way. This was the story.

Little-faith is robbed

While Christian and Hopeful reflect on the tragic end of Turn-away, Christian remembers an account of another pilgrim. Not far from where the pilgrims now stand, a man, whose name is Little-faith from the town of Sincere, was assaulted and robbed.

Little-faith represents those who are weak in faith and spiritually unprepared to face the trials and temptations of this world. He follows Christ, but lacks courage, confidence and comfort. In Lectures on The Pilgrim’s Progress, G.B. Cheeverdescribes such pilgrims as those who “go doubting and trembling through life.” Jesus often admonished his followers for having little faith:

Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:30)

Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm (Matthew 8:25–26).

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him [Peter], and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased (Matthew 14:31–32).

Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.” But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? (Matthew 16:5–8)

Unlike Turn-away, Little-faith is a true believer. His testimony is genuine (sincere) and his faith is real. He is an honest pilgrim and has gained the reputation of being “a good man.” But he has failed to prepare his soul for spiritual warfare and fit himself for battle.

Paul exhorts us to “watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). In Ephesians 6:10 he says: “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” This Little-faith has not done. He has been content to rely on his own goodness more than Christ. He has treated sin far too lightly and allowed himself to walk too closely to the way of the world. Now as he looks for a place to rest on his journey, he lies down to sleep not in the Chamber of Peace (a place of rest and confidence in Christ) at Palace Beautiful where Christian found refuge, but in Dead Man’s lane (a place of danger and temptation to sin).

Scripture warns of the danger of straying into the path of sinners:

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
(Psalm 1:6)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

We must be careful in the paths we choose. Jesus spoke of only two ways in life:

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13–14).

Dead Man’s Lane is a treacherous path that connects the Broad Way (the way of the world that leads back to the city from which Christian fled—Destruction) with the Narrow Way (the way of Christ and the Scriptures that leads to the Celestial City—Heaven). It begins at the Broad Way Gate (the wide entrance through which all who embrace the way of world pass) and meets the Narrow Way at the entrance to the dark lane (a dark stretch of the Way where the light of Scripture has grown dim).

Here at this dangerous intersection with the world, Little-faith fell asleep. He unwisely let down his guard and made himself vulnerable.  Soon he is attacked by three villains who come down from the Broad Way Gate: Faint-heart, Mistrust and Guilt. The attack is an insightful description of what happens when a believer gives into temptation and falls prey to sin.

The “three study rogues” come “galloping up with speed” and catch Little-faith off-guard. Before he has time to collect his thoughts or rouse his conscience, temptation is staring him down. The thieves threaten his life and Little-faith turns “white as a clout.” Little-faith’s fear identifies him as an easy target—a clout is a piece of white cloth used by archers for target practice (Webster Dictionary, 1828). Faint-heart (timidity) demands that he surrender his purse. Little-faith is slow to respond, but he loses his courage and offers little resistance. Mistrust (doubt and unbelief) sees an opportunity and rushes in to snatch a bag of silver from Little-faith’s pocket. The theft represents the loss Little-faith experiences when he gives into sin. No sooner does he cry out against his assailants than Guilt (shame and dishonor) moves in and beats him with a club—a club is similar to the one that Christian and Hopeful felt at the hands of Giant Despair in Doubling Castle.

Little-faith stumbles with each criminal. He is timid with Faint-heart, unbelieving with Mistrust, and ashamed with Guilt. William Mason summarizes:

Where there is a faint heart in God’s cause, and mistrust of God’s truths, there will be guilt in the conscience, and but little faith. These rogues will prevail over, and rob such souls of the comforts of God’s love and of Christ’s salvation.

Christian already had an encounter with a character named Mistrust. Earlier in the story, near the top of Hill Difficulty, Timorous (akin to Faint-heart) and Mistrust ran past Christian, fleeing the lions that prowl near the entrance to Palace Beautiful. The lions represented persecution of believers by the government and the state church. Many in Bunyan’s day were tempted to cower to political and ecclesiastical pressure. Bunyan had seen other ministers lose heart and deny the true gospel.  When Bunyan was in prison, facing the threat of hanging for being a Non-conformist, he feared that he would have little faith and fall to this temptation. He explains in his autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners:

I will tell you a pretty business; I was once above all the rest in a very sad and low condition for many weeks; at which time also I being but a young prisoner, and not acquainted with the laws, had this lay much upon my spirit, That my imprisonment might end at the gallows for aught that I could tell. Now, therefore, Satan laid hard at me to beat me out of heart, by suggesting thus unto me, But how if when you come indeed to die, you should be in this condition; that is, as not to savor the things of God, nor to have any evidence upon your soul for a better state hereafter? For indeed at that time all the things of God were hid from my soul.

Wherefore, when I at first began to think of this, it was a great trouble to me; for I thought with myself, that in the condition I now was in, I was not fit to die, neither indeed did think I could, if I should be called to it: besides, I thought with myself, if I should make a scrabbling shift to clamber up the ladder, yet I should either with quaking, or other symptoms of faintings, give occasion to the enemy to reproach the way of God and his people, for their timorousness. This therefore lay with great trouble upon me, for methought I was ashamed to die with a pale face, and tottering knees, for such a cause as this.

[Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 333-334]

Once Little-faith was robbed and beaten, the thieves did not stay long. They feared that other pilgrims would be traveling the Way, especially Great-grace from the town of Good Conscience (a pastor or fellow believer who is strong in faith). One of the best defenses God has given us as followers of Christ is our local church (Palace Beautiful) with its faithful leaders and brothers and sisters in Christ who will help us keep watch over our soul. It was a great disadvantage to Little-faith that he was traveling alone.

Little-faith is now left wounded and weakened. His purse has been plundered. Bunyan uses language from his autobiography when he tells us that Little-faith “made shift to scrabble on his way.” To shift means to change position or method when an initial attempt fails, especially in search of a way out of a difficult circumstance. To scrabble is to scrape along slowly on hands and knees as if climbing a cliff (Webster Dictionary, 1828). Little-faith is still intent on continuing his journey, but his progress now is more difficult. In the next post we will consider what exactly Little-faith lost.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Be Still and Know That Thou Art God

Still Waters

A prayer for those facing suffering and affliction.

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
(Psalm 46:10)

Let me, Thou sovereign Lord of all,
Low at Thy footstool humbly fall;
And while I feel affliction’s rod,
Be still and know that Thou art God.

Let me not murmur nor repine
Under these trying strokes of Thine;
But while I walk the mournful road
Be still and know that Thou art God.

When and wherever Thou shall smite,
Teach me to own Thy sovereign right;
And underneath the heaviest load,
Be still and know that Thou are God.

Still let this truth support my mind,
Thou canst not err or be unkind;
And thus approve Thy chastening rod,
And know Thou art my Father, God!

When this afflicted soul shall rise
To ceaseless joys above the skies,
I shall, as ransomed by Thy blood,
Forever sing, “Thou art my God!”

Amen.

“Be Still and Know That Thou Art God”
Words by Samuel Medley (1738–1799)
Music by Tom Wells, 2001
Words ©Public Domain
Music ©2001 Tom Wells (Used by Permission)

Tom Wells (Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas) composed the tune for this hymn. Download free sheet music (PDF), including a guitar chord charts and an arrangement of the hymn tune TROUT for classical guitar.

More Hymns from History

More hymns arranged for Classical Guitar

 

The Tragedy of Turn-away

So they both went on, and Ignorance he came after. Now when they had passed him a little way, they entered into a very dark lane, where they met a man whom seven devils had bound with seven strong cords, and were carrying of him back to the door that they saw on the side of the hill. Now good Christian began to tremble, and so did Hopeful his companion; yet as the devils led away the man, Christian looked to see if he knew him; and he thought it might be one Turn-away, that dwelt in the town of Apostasy. But he did not perfectly see his face, for he did hang his head like a thief that is found. But being once past, Hopeful looked after him, and espied on his back a paper with this inscription, “Wanton professor and damnable apostate.”

Turn-away

No sooner have the pilgrims outpaced Ignorance, than they pass by another false professor. They enter into a very dark lane and see a man bound by seven strong cords being carried in the opposite direction. Seven devils have captured him and are taking him back to the By-Way to Hell. Both Christian and Hopeful tremble at the sight. The man in bondage, it appears, is one named Turn-away from the town of Apostasy.

Turn-away represents those who have fallen away from the faith. Though they once professed to be followers of Christ, now they have turned away. They grow careless and trifle with sin to the point where it no longer disturbs them. The grow comfortable with the world and wanton (heedless and uncontrolled) in spirit. They fail to fear God and are unaffected and unrestrained by His Word. They forsake Christ only to foiled and ensnared in sin.

Those who once professed faith in Christ, who turn away from God and His Word are in danger of apostasy. The writer of Hebrews warns of the fearful consequences of apostasy:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:4–6).

To “fall away” is to persist in sin and disobedience and rejection of the gospel. It is certainly possible for a Christian to fall into sin, and even to be for a long time away from God—mired in sin and its misery. But those who are Christ’s will be rescued and restored. God will stir up their faith and renew their repentance and welcome them back in abundance of grace and mercy. But those who are truly apostate, who reject the gospel to the end, verse 6 tells us, cannot be renewed to repentance. They dishonor Christ by loving their sin more than Christ. They dishonor Him by choosing to believe that they are beyond the reach of His grace and mercy. They would persist in seeing their sins as too great for Christ to conquer.

The writer of Hebrews makes it clear in verse 6 why it is impossible for those who reject the cross to be renewed to repentance. If the cross was indeed not sufficient for them; they would need Jesus to die again. Christ would be openly shamed for not succeeding the first time in atoning for their sins. But Christ cannot be crucified again. There is no “Plan B” on God’s agenda. If one falls away there is no other gospel, no other Savior, no other salvation. Jesus is exclusive. If you reject Christ and turn away from the cross, you have no hope remaining.

Christian was warned of the dangers of apostasy earlier in his pilgrimage while he was at the House of the Interpreter. There he saw the Man in an Iron Cage who was once a “flourishing professor” on his way to the Celestial City. Like Turn-away, the Man in the Iron Cage abandoned God’s Word to pursue his lusts. He fell headlong into sin and feared that he had fallen into apostasy and was now without hope. He sat in misery and in bondage in a “very dark room.”

Bunyan uses similar language to describe the encounter with Turn-away. They enter into a “very dark lane” and see a man bound with seven strong cords. The dark lane represents the absence of the light of God’s Word. When the eye looks for sin and the mind pursues sin, the light of Scripture begins to dim.

The way of the wicked is like darkness;
They do not know what makes them stumble.
(Proverbs 4:19)

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
(Isaiah 5:20)

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22–23)

And so the psalmist prays:

Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.
(Psalm 118:37)

The imagery of the seven strong cords comes from Proverbs.

His own iniquities entrap the wicked man,
And he is caught in the cords of his sin.
He shall die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.
(Proverbs 5:22–23)

And from Jesus’ description in Matthew of a man overtaken in sin:

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation” (Matthew 12:43–45).

When Christian saw the Man in an Iron Cage, he exclaimed: “This is fearful.” But the condition of Turn-away is even more so. The man in the cage trifled with sin, but then drew back in shame and guilt. He was miserable because he feared that he had lost Christ and that God would no longer have him. Turn-away feels no guilt over his sin; he hangs his head “like a thief that is found” abashed that he has been caught, but not because he has broken the law.

The encounter with Turn-away causes Christian and Hopeful to tremble. It is a warning to us to guard our hearts and flee from sin. In his commentary on The Pilgrim’s Progress, William Mason warns:

 O beware of a light trifling spirit and a wanton behavior. It is often the forerunner of apostasy from God. It makes one tremble to hear those who profess to follow Christ in the regeneration, crying, What harm is there in this game and the other diversion? The warmth of love is gone, and they are become cold, dead, and carnal. O how many instances of these abound!

Turning away seldom happens all at once. It is more often subtle and perilously imperceptible. It can happen in many ways:

  • Growing disillusioned and discouraged with the church
  • Being swayed by a college professor who disparages the Bible and the Christian faith
  • Growing complacent and apathetic in worship
  • Becoming forgetful and infrequent with the means of grace
  • Giving more and more time to worldly pursuits and entertainments
  • Assuming the gospel, yet never giving it serious thought or weighing its crucial value
  • Excusing and rationalizing sin rather than fighting it and putting it to death

Turn-away loved his sin and so he preferred to walk in darkness.

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:19–21).

If we would avoid the deadly error of Turn-away, we must love Christ and walk in the light.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Apostasy is a fearful judgment, but it is a final judgment. Turn-away is at the end of his days and is being led back to the By-way to hell. He is justly condemned and marked for eternity as a “wanton professor and damnable apostate.”

Until that final day, we have not the insight nor the ability to discern true apostasy from backsliding (in the hearts of others as well as our own hearts). And so me must continually preaching the gospel (to others and to ourselves) and heed the gospel. May God help us to tremble with Christian and Hopeful and continually repent of our sin and look to Christ who is ever and always our only hope.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Met by Ignorance

And I slept, and dreamed again, and saw the same two Pilgrims going down the mountains along the highway towards the city. Now, a little below these mountains, on the left hand, lies the country of Conceit; from which country there comes into the way in which the Pilgrims walked, a little crooked lane. Here, therefore, they met with a very brisk lad, that came out of that country; and his name was Ignorance. So Christian asked him from what parts he came, and whither he was going.

Ignorance: Sir, I was born in the country that lies off there a little on the left hand, and I am going to the Celestial City.

Christian: But how do you think to get in at the gate? for you may find some difficulty there.

Ignorance: As other people do, said he.

Christian: But what have you to show at that gate, that may cause that the gate should be opened to you?

Ignorance: I know my Lord’s will, and I have been a good liver; I pay every man his own; I pray, fast, pay tithes, and give alms, and have left my country for whither I am going.

Christian: But you did not come in at the Wicket-gate that is at the head of this way; You came in hither through that same crooked lane, and therefore, I fear, however you may think of yourself, when the reckoning day shall come, you will have laid to your charge that you are a thief and a robber, instead of getting admittance into the city.

Ignorance: Gentlemen, you are utter strangers to me, I don’t know you. Be content and follow the religion of your country, and I will follow the religion of mine. I hope all will be well. And as for the gate that you talk of, all the world knows that that is a great way off of our country. I cannot think that any man in all our parts does so much as know the way to it, nor need they matter whether they do or no, since we have, as you see, a fine, pleasant green lane, that comes down from our country, the next way into the way.

When Christian saw that the man was “wise in his own conceit”, he said to Hopeful, whisperingly, “There is more hope of a fool than of him.” And said, moreover, “When he that is a fool walks by the way, his wisdom fails him, and he says to everyone that he is a fool.” What, shall we talk further with him, or out-go him at present, and so leave him to think of what he has heard already, and then stop again for him afterwards, and see if by degrees we can do any good to him?

Then said Hopeful—

Let Ignorance a little while now muse
On what is said, and let him not refuse
Good counsel to embrace, lest he remain
Still ignorant of what’s the chiefest gain.
God says, those that no understanding have,
Although He made them, them He will not save.

Hopeful: He further added, It is not good, I think, to say all to him at once; let us pass him by, if you will, and talk to him anon, even as he is able to bear it.

 IgnoranceIn the last post Bunyan awoke from his dream just as Christian and Hopeful were preparing to leave the Delectable Mountains. The mountains were a welcome destination. The pilgrims grew in their understanding of God’s Word. Their faith was strengthened; their repentance deepened. But the journey is not yet over. As Bunyan dreams again, he sees the pilgrims descending from the mountains.  Just below the mountains a little crooked lane comes into the Way. Here Christian and Hopeful meet Ignorance, a false professor who is certain that he is on his way to the Celestial City.

Ignorance is not the first false professor to appear in The Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian has encountered many: Simple, Sloth and Presumption (who were asleep near the cross), Formalist and Hypocrisy (who climbed into the Way over the wall), Timorous and Mistrust (who were running away from difficulty and persecution), Talkative (who spoke well of religion, but did not live out what he professed to be), By-Ends and his companions (who used religion to pursue worldly gain), and Vain Confidence (who blindly led the pilgrims astray in By-Path Meadow).

Ignorance is an energetic, vivacious lad who comes from the country of Conceit. His name at first suggests that he is unfamiliar with the Bible and religion, but his country exposes the true defect of pilgrimage.

Ignorance is not someone who is unconcerned with eternity or knows nothing of heaven or hell. He is not someone who has never read a Bible or heard a sermon. Ignorance represents someone who is ignorant of the true gospel— salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Christian has heard of the country of Conceit. It is a land of vanity, pride and self-satisfaction. “God resists the proud” (James 4:6), and Christian suspects that Ignorance “may find some difficulty” ending his journey well. He asks Ignorance how he expects to enter the gate of the Celestial City. Ignorance assumes that his efforts will be acceptable, all will be well, and he will enter “as other people do.” Christian then presses him further, asking what evidence he will present to gain entrance. Ignorance replies:

  1. He knows the Lord’s will. He reads and studies his Bible.
  2. He has been a “good liver.” He tries to deal honestly with others. He faithfully attends church. He prays, fasts, gives tithes and alms.
  3. He has left his country. He has turned his back on the world that he might attain the reward of heaven.

At first Ignorance’s response might sound commendable. It is good to know God’s will. It is good to be honest and pray, and it is good to seek the reward of heaven. Where Talkative failed to live out his profession, Ignorance tries hard to excel. But Christian recognizes the fatal deficiency of Ignorance’s testimony. Ignorance is resting his confidence in himself—in his own works. He truly believes that he is a good person. After all, he’s tried to live a good life. He goes to church and knows what the Bible says. He knows the liturgy and sings the hymns. He wants to go to heaven. Hell is for bad people—not good people like him. Heaven is for good people—so of course he will get in the gate. His pride and confidence in himself have blinded him to his true need for grace and mercy.

Ignorance is resting in a false hope “for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16). In God’s assessment, he is not a good person.

The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.
(Psalm 14:2–3)

Christian fears for Ignorance’s soul and speaks plainly to him. He warns him that he did not come in at the Wicket-Gate (Christ), but entered through a crooked lane (his own works). On the Day of Judgment, he will be found to be a thief and a robber and will not gain entrance to the city.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber” (John 10:1).

Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). No one will enter the Celestial City (enter into the joy of God’s presence in heaven) without coming to Christ and receiving the grace and mercy that only He can provide.

Ignorance is offended that Christian should so quickly judge him. He knows of none from his country that would venture so far as to come in by the Wicket Gate. The Crooked Lane is closer, pleasant, and much more convenient. He tells Christian, you practice religion your way and I’ll practice it my way.

Ignorance discounts the gospel and imagines he can make the journey in his own righteousness. Though he is walking in the Way to the Celestial City, his self-conceit identifies him as a fool.

Even when a fool walks along the way,
He lacks wisdom,
And he shows everyone that he is a fool.
(Ecclesiastes 10:3)

He claims to have left his country of Conceit, but true to his native land, he is indeed conceited—confident in the path he has taken and satisfied in himself. In his commentary on The Pilgrim’s Progress,William Mason concludes:

So long as a sinner thinks he can do anything towards making himself righteous before God, his name is Ignorance; he is full of self-conceit, and destitute of the faith of Christ.

Though Christian has tried to speak truth, Ignorance remains entrenched in religion built upon good works. He sees that Ignorance is “wise in his own conceit” and that there is little hope in convincing him of truth.

Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
(Proverbs 26:12)

Christian sees no point in continuing the conversation. Error, especially when it is deep-seated and pervasive, is nearly impossible to root out all at once. It takes patience and discernment to know when to speak, how much to say, and when to stop. He wants to give Ignorance time to think about what he has heard. He suggests that he and Hopeful go on ahead and meet up with Ignorance at a later time to see if he can be helped. Hopeful agrees. They will wait for another opportunity and “talk to him anon [soon or shortly], even as he is able to bear it.”

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Two Voices Cry Out to Be Heard

Two Ways

There are two voices vying for our attention, beckoning us to very different paths. We need to listen well. Eternity is at stake. Scripture warns us in both the Old and New Testaments: only one path leads to life; the other down to destruction.

The book of Psalms opens with the contrast between the way of the righteous and the way of the ungodly.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
(Psalm 1:6)

In the New Testament, Jesus calls His followers to choose the way of life.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13–14).

We hear the two voices at the beginning of the book of Proverbs: the enticement of sinners (from the world) and the call of wisdom (from God and His Word).

My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;
Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;
Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse”—
My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;
For their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed blood.
(Proverbs 1:10–16)

Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
She cries out in the chief concourses,
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words:
“How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.”
(Proverbs 1:20–22)

If we are to learn the fear of the Lord and find the way of life we must tune out the world and listen to the voice of wisdom. Only wisdom will speak the truth. Only wisdom will point us to God’s Word where we will find peace and rest in Christ.

Two Voices Cry Out to Be Heard

Two voices cry out to be heard;
Take heed, my soul, and listen well.
For only one voice leads to life,
The other down to death and hell.

The voice of sinners fills the streets,
There on the innocent they prey.
Take heed, my soul, do not consent,
Lest you with them be cast away.

The voice of wisdom cries aloud
Above the din of sin’s deceit.
“How long, you simple, will you choose
The evil way, the scoffer’s seat?”

It’s wisdom’s voice I long to hear
To guide my steps which way to go.
Her words of warning, I would heed;
Her wealth of knowledge, I would know.

Lord, help me find the righteous way;
Guide me in ev’ry thought and choice.
For You alone have words of life,
Atune my heart to love Your voice.

Let me hear clearly wisdom’s call;
Tune out the noise of sin’s allure.
Listen intently to God’s Word
And there in Christ find rest secure.

Words ©2018 Ken Puls

Download the lyrics and free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune FEDERAL STREET for classical guitar.

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More Hymn tunes arranged for classical guitar

A Hill Called Clear

By this time the Pilgrims had a desire to go forward, and the Shepherds a desire they should; so they walked together towards the end of the mountains. Then said the Shepherds one to another, Let us here show to the Pilgrims the gates of the Celestial City, if they have skill to look through our perspective glass. The Pilgrims then lovingly accepted the motion; so they had them to the top of a high hill, called Clear, and gave them their glass to look.

Then they essayed to look, but the remembrance of that last thing that the Shepherds had shown them, made their hands shake; by means of which impediment, they could not look steadily through the glass; yet they thought they saw something like the gate, and also some of the glory of the place. Then they went away, and sang this song—

Thus, by the Shepherds, secrets are reveal’d,
Which from all other men are kept conceal’d.
Come to the Shepherds, then, if you would see
Things deep, things hid, and that mysterious be.

When they were about to depart, one of the Shepherds gave them a note of the way. Another of them bid them beware of the Flatterer. The third bid them take heed that they sleep not upon the Enchanted Ground. And the fourth bid them God-speed. So I awoke from my dream.

Mount Clear

The time has come for Christian and Hopeful to resume their journey. But Christian has learned the value of patience and the reward of lingering to learn more. Earlier in the allegory, at both the House of the Interpreter and Palace Beautiful, Christian desired to depart before he was ready. At both places, he was convinced—to the benefit of his soul—to stay longer. At Palace Beautiful he was taken up to an observation point, and because the day was clear, he was able to see the Delectable Mountains off in the distance. Now, from the Delectable Mountains, the Shepherds offer to give the pilgrims a glimpse of their journey’s end—to show them the very gates of the Celestial City.

Near the end of the Delectable Mountains is Mount Clear. This mountain provides an unparalleled view! From the top of this mountain the shepherds test the skill of the pilgrims at looking through the perspective glass. Mount Clear represents our unobstructed view of Christ and His glory, especially as we mature in our faith and near the end of life’s journey. As our time on earth grows shorter and the allure of the world grows weaker, our desire for the glories of Christ in heaven grows stronger. The Perspective Glass is the application of God’s Word to the well-being of our soul. William Mason describes it as “the glass of God’s word of grace and truth held up by the hand of faith to the eye of the soul.” Through it we see the hope of eternal life in Christ. Scripture shows us errors and cautions. It uncovers the depths of sin and warns of wrath and judgment. But it also takes us to the glories of heaven and gives us glimpses of the joy that awaits us in eternity.

Christian and Hopeful are not able to “look steadily through the glass.” Their hands shake as they hold up the scope. The reminder of remaining sin and conviction of past sins impede their view. Though we look intently through the lens of God’s Word at the realities of this life and eternal life to come, our view, this side of glory, is clouded. Paul tells us: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Though Christian and Hopeful cannot see as clearly as they would like, yet they continue their gaze. There reward is a glimpse of the glory of the Celestial City.

This glimpse of glory on Mount Clear comes through the clear teaching and compassionate ministry of the Shepherds. It is the shepherds’ task to make know “things deep, things hid, and that mysterious be.” Paul describes the ministry of the gospel as a

… stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:25–28).

The pilgrims are grateful for the truths they have learned in the Delectable Mountains. They desire others to come and see from their vantage point. They descend the mountain with song, delighting in the mysteries of God and encouraging others to seek wisdom and guidance from the Shepherds.

Before the pilgrims depart, the Shepherds prepare them for the journey ahead. They give them:

  • A note of the way—instruction on finding and staying on the right path
  • Warnings of dangers that lie ahead on their path: a warning to beware of the Flatterer and a warning not to sleep on the Enchanted Ground
  • And a prayer that God will go with them and bring them safely to their journey’s end.

The shepherd’s sermon on this mountain is clear. We must look steadfastly to Christ and the promises of the gospel. It is a sermon we must heed! Mount Clear and the By-Way to Hell remind us that eternity is at stake. This world is not all there is. When we are troubled and tempted by the world, our view of heaven is hazy and less certain. But when we look to Christ and His promises—and He is the one who delights our soul—it is the world that dims. Our view of heaven is bright and clear. Helen H. Lemmel expressed it beautifully in her hymn (1922):

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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