Then I saw in my dream, that on the morrow he got up to go forward; but they desired him to stay till the next day also; and then, said they, we will, if the day be clear, show you the Delectable Mountains, which, they said, would yet further add to his comfort, because they were nearer the desired haven than the place where at present he was; so he consented and stayed.
When the morning was up, they had him to the top of the house, and bid him look south; so he did: and behold, at a great distance, he saw a most pleasant mountainous country, beautified with woods, vineyards, fruits of all sorts, flowers also, with springs and fountains, very delectable to behold. Then he asked the name of the country. They said it was Immanuel’s Land; and it is as common, said they, as this hill is, to and for all the pilgrims. And when you come there from here, they said, you may see to the gate of the Celestial City, as the shepherds that live there will make appear.
When Christian awakes the next morning at Palace Beautiful, he prepares to continue on his journey. He had found refuge as night was approaching; had engaged in gospel conversations with Discretion, Piety, Prudence and Charity; had enjoyed a refreshing meal, peaceful rest, and needed instruction; and he had seen the provisions of the King for battle in the armory. Now, as he is ready to depart, he is once again encouraged to stay. There is yet more to see and more benefits to receive.
Christian wisely consents and stays. The next day he is taken up to an observation point on the roof of the palace. There, as the day is clear, he sees at a great distance “a most pleasant mountainous country, beautified with woods, vineyards, fruits of all sorts, flowers also, with springs and fountains, very delectable to behold.” So what are these mountains that Bunyan vividly describes and how can they add to Christian’s comfort? As noted earlier, Palace Beautiful, Christian’s present location, represents the church from the vantage point of new believer who has not yet matured in faith. The Delectable Mountains that Christian sees in the distance (he will arrive at these mountains later in his journey), represent the church from the vantage point of a more mature believer.
The mountains are a fruitful and beautiful place. They are in Immanuel’s Land, meaning they belong to Christ, whose name is Immanuel, “God with Us” (Isaiah 7:17; Matthew 1:23). Later the shepherds will tell Christian that the Mountains are within sight of His city. It is in Immanuel’s Land where our hearts are filled with joy and delight in our King. We long to know Him and see Him and be with Him. Bunyan draws his imagery from Isaiah:
He will dwell on high;
His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks;
Bread will be given him,
His water will be sure.
Your eyes will see the King in His beauty;
They will see the land that is very far off.
The hymn The Sands of Time Are Sinking by Anne Ross Cousin based on the letters of Samuel Rutherford, offers a glorious depiction of this land. Here are but a few of the 19 verses of the hymn:
4. The King there in His beauty,
With-out a veil is seen:
It were a well-spent journey,
Though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb, with His fair army,
Doth on Mount Zion stand;
And glory—glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.
5. Oh! Christ He is the fountain,
The deep sweet well of Love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted,
More deep I’ll drink above:
There, to an ocean fullness,
His mercy doth expand,
And glory—glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.
17. The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory,
But on my King of Grace—
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand:
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel’s land.
At Palace Beautiful Christian sees the beauty and lushness of the mountains, though he himself is still a great distance away. He is yet young in the faith, but can see the promise and hope of fruit ahead. One of the great advantages a new believer has in belonging to a healthy church is interaction with and encouragement from more mature believers. It is comforting to see the testimony of those who are walking with the Lord and have done so for many years. It is a blessing to see their fruitful lives and love for God.
There are some important lessons here for us as we enjoy the benefits of belonging to a local church.
1) When in the fellowship of God’s people, we should, as Christian did, consent and stay longer. We are too often eager to be on our way when it would be more profitable for us to linger awhile. Much of the ministry of the church takes place in personal encounters and conversations: words of encouragement, words of admonishment, praying together, sharing needs, meeting needs, taking time to invest in each others’ lives. We miss this when we pass by those around us and fail to connect with others.
2) We must learn to value and seek out those in the church who are older and more mature in the faith. They have much to offer. They are closer to their journey’s end. Their faith has been tested over time and has borne fruit. Their testimony can strengthen us. Their wisdom, counsel and prayers can help us. Their love for Christ can stir our own. We need older brothers and sisters in the faith who can disciple us and encourage us to continue on. They are an important part of God’ provision for us in the church as we progress in our pilgrimage.
Christian will soon learn the value of the vantage point he now has at Palace Beautiful. In a short time he will be languishing through valleys and dark places where the view is not pleasant or clear. He will need to remember the heights that lie before him and keep the glory of his King in view to encourage him to press on and not lose heart.
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 ©2014 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.