Christian: Did you meet with no other assault as you came?
Faithful: When I came to the foot of the hill called Difficulty, I met with a very aged man, who asked me what I was, and whither bound. I told him that I am a pilgrim, going to the Celestial City. Then said the old man, You look like an honest fellow; would you be content to dwell with me for the wages that I shall give you? Then I asked him his name, and where he dwelt. He said his name was Adam the First, and that he dwelt in the town of Deceit. I asked him then what was his work, and what the wages he would give. He told me that his work was many delights; and his wages that I should be his heir at last. I further asked him what house he kept, and what other servants he had. So he told me that his house was maintained with all the dainties in the world; and that his servants were those of his own begetting. Then I asked if he had any children. He said that he had but three daughters: The Lust of the Flesh, The Lust of the Eyes, and The Pride of Life, and that I should marry them all if I would. Then I asked how long time he would have me live with him? And he told me, As long as he lived himself.
Christian: Well, and what conclusion came the old man and you to at last?
Faithful: Why, at first, I found myself somewhat inclinable to go with the man, for I thought he spoke very fair; but looking in his forehead, as I talked with him, I saw there written, “Put off the old man with his deeds.”
Christian: And how then?
Faithful: Then it came burning hot into my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his house, he would sell me for a slave. So I bid him forbear to talk, for I would not come near the door of his house. Then he reviled me, and told me that he would send such a one after me, that should make my way bitter to my soul. So I turned to go away from him; but just as I turned myself to go thence, I felt him take hold of my flesh, and give me such a deadly twitch back, that I thought he had pulled part of me after himself. This made me cry, “O wretched man!” So I went on my way up the hill.
Christian is eager to hear more about how Faithful has faired in his journey. As the two converse Faithful begins to recount his troubles at Hill Difficulty. Christian was familiar with this Hill. He had encountered it earlier in the story and had struggled to reach its summit. When Faithful arrived at the foot of the Hill, he met a very aged man named Adam the First. The old man at first attempted to lure Faithful to his home. He promised to make Faithful his heir and claimed that his house was “maintained with all the dainties in the world.” But when Faithful saw through the ruse and resisted the invitation, the old man lashed out and abused and attacked him.
Who then is Adam the First and why is he at Hill Difficulty?
Adam is of course a reference to the first man created by God (Genesis 2:20; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45). He stands at the head of creation as the representative of mankind. Hill Difficulty, as we saw earlier in Bunyan’s story, denotes the trials and difficulties we must face in this life. These trials and difficulties are designed to make us keenly aware of our need for God’s strength and help. They are also meant by God’s kind providence for our good. By confronting them we are tried (as gold is tried in a furnace to remove the dross) and sanctified (taught not to sin and made holy).
Faithful’s encounter with Adam the First at Hill Difficulty highlights an important reality. One of the greatest difficulties we must face in our pursuit of holiness is the treachery of our own sinfulness. The most dangerous sin that threatens us is not what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside.
Adam the First represents our struggle with our old nature that has been corrupted by sin. Though we are saved by grace, sin still indwells us. Though we are rescued from sin’s dominion and penalty, we still feel some of its power and presence. What often makes sin so difficult to recognize and resist is that it wells up from within us.
Adam the First is from the town of Deceit. Sin is deceitful (Romans 7:11); its pleasures are fleeting (Hebrews 11:25). Sin can never deliver the satisfaction it promises. It lures us with delight, but its wages is death (Romans 6:23). It boasts to empower us, but intends to enslave us (Romans 6:6, 17).
Faithful is almost enticed to go with Adam the First, but then he sees him for who he is—a cheat and a liar. He recognizes sin through the lens of Scripture, remembering Paul’s instruction to turn away from our former way of life and put off the old man:
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:20–24).
The Bible warns as well not to be taken in by the “three daughters” of the old man:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15–17).
As Faithful learns, resisting the old man is hard. Fighting the sin inside us can feel like we are being torn apart. In Romans 7 Paul describes his own struggle with remaining sin. He laments:
For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:22–24)
Paul asks an important question at the end of verse 24. Who is able to deliver him? The answer is in the following verses:
I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 7:25 – 8:1).
Only Christ can free us from the power and penalty of sin. He alone can bring life and lasting joy.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
Christ did what Adam the First could not do. It was through Adam’s fall that sin entered the world. In his failure to obey he brought condemnation on all men and left us an inheritance of a sinful nature. Because of Adam we are born sinners, born blind and dead in sin.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12).
But Christ by His perfect obedience saves by His grace all who come and trust in Him. His inheritance for His people is righteousness and life.
For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous (Romans 5:17–19).
It is Christ alone who can rescue us from sin. We must learn to love Him and value Him more than anything this world can offer us. We must recognize sin for what it is—deceitful and deadly—and flee from it. Sin will lie to us; Christ speaks truth. Sin will destroy us; Christ brings us life.
A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
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The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2015 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.