The Plain of Ease

Then Christian and Hopeful outwent them again, and went till they came to a delicate plain called Ease, where they went with much content; but that plain was but narrow, so they were quickly got over it.

The Plain of Ease

Have you ever wondered: Why does life have to be so hard? Admittedly, we are sinners living in a fallen world. But we have come to Christ whose “yoke is easy” and whose “burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). So why does “the way which leads to life” have to be “difficult” (Matthew 7:14)? Why do we have to walk through so many troubles and trials in this world?

Many times in The Pilgrim’s Progress Bunyan has made it clear that the life of a Christian is not easy. Already Christian has faced many difficulties. We have seen him weighed down with his burden, mired in the Slough of Despond, diverted by Worldly Wiseman, slowed by Hill Difficulty, confronted by Apollyon, confounded in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and tried in the town of Vanity. Now Christian and Hopeful come to the Plain of Ease. Here the Way is simple and they walk “with much content.” At this place in the allegory Bunyan emphasizes his point through brevity. All too quickly the pilgrims cross the plain and it is past.

The Plain of Ease represents times in life when all seems well and troubles are few. Spiritual warfare is at an ebb and peace and contentment abound. God grants such times for our rest and refreshment, but even with ease there is attending danger. Bunyan identifies this danger in his description of the plain.

The plain of Ease is delicate. In other words, it is subtle, not prominent. When crossing the plain, the plain itself is hardly perceptible. Unlike trials and troubles that disrupt our lives and demand our attention, ease doesn’t intrude or interrupt. Ease leaves us alone to settle in and relax in our comforts.

The plain is also narrow. It is short-lived and quickly traversed. Days of ease are fleeting—gone before we really notice them or appreciate them. It is easy to drift through days of ease. Our determination wanes, our guard comes down, and too easily we begin to forget just how much we need God.

Scripture exhorts us to remember:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits.
(Psalm 103:2)

Remember His marvelous works which He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth,
(Psalm 105:5)

In Deuteronomy Moses warned Israel not to forget God when they enjoyed the ease and comforts of the Promised Land.

“So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full—then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Deuteronomy 6:10–12).

We are always desperately dependent upon God for His grace and mercy. But in times of ease we can too easily forget our dependence on God and fail to thank Him for His mercies as we should. In times of trouble when the way is steep and hard, our need is more evident. Because the Plain of Ease is delicate, God, in His mercy, often makes it narrow.

The subtlety of ease is a danger. But there is another danger that lies close to ease. In the next post, we will examine a second hazard that threatens the pilgrims: a little hill at the further side of the plain called Lucre.

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 ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

How Dear and Treasured Is the Church

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. … Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:13, 19–22).

The church is dear to Christ! He shed His blood and laid down His life that we might be brought near to God. He made us “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” We are “a holy temple in the Lord” with “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” We are “being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” In times of joy we celebrate together and lift our voices in praise. In times of sorrow we walk together and lift up each other in our prayers. We proclaim God’s Word and magnify Christ to the world: His great worth and our great need of Him.

Many in our day fail to see the value of the church. We are too quick to leave or stay away when difficulties arise. In times of disappointment we may be tempted to give up on the church. But we have reason to stay and press on. Commitment to God’s Word compels us. The magnitude of our mission convinces us. Sound theology steadies us. Troubles and trials, as we walk through them together, will teach us and anchor us more firmly in the grace and mercy of God. May God help us to love the church as He does.

How dear and treasured is the church!

pillar of the truth

“if I delay, [I write so that] you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

How dear and treasured is the church,
With voices joined in praise and prayers,
For God has made us one in Christ,
To share our sorrows, joys and cares.

Entrusted with the truth of God,
Called out to make the gospel known,
We boldly as His church proclaim:
There’s grace and hope in Christ alone!

God fashions us as living stones;
Assembled as His dwelling place.
Though we were dead, He gives us life,
Each soul a miracle of grace.

Built as a buttress of the truth,
A pillar rising to the sky,
God sets His church before the world,
His Word and name to magnify.

To all the world we testify,
Our lives display in word and deed
The matchless worth of knowing Christ,
The boundless depth of our great need.

Brought near to God by Christ’s shed blood,
Loved and adopted as His own,
A household built upon the Word,
With Christ Himself the Cornerstone.

Built on this Rock, the church will stand,
The gates of hell shall not prevail,
All who are Christ’s shall be raised up,
The Word of God will never fail.

Words ©2017 Ken Puls

Download the lyrics and free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune ERHALT UNS HERR for classical guitar.

More Hymns and Songs from Ken Puls Music

Religion and Worldly Gain

So they came up to each other, and after a short salutation, Mr. Hold-the-world propounded the question to Christian and his fellow, and bid them to answer it if they could.

Then said Christian, Even a babe in religion may answer ten thousand such questions. For if it be unlawful to follow Christ for loaves, (as it is in the sixth of John), how much more abominable is it to make of him and religion a stalking-horse to get and enjoy the world! Nor do we find any other than heathens, hypocrites, devils, and witches, that are of this opinion.

1. Heathens; for when Hamor and Shechem had a mind to the daughter and cattle of Jacob, and saw that there was no way for them to come at them, but by becoming circumcised, they say to their companions, If every male of us be circumcised, as they are circumcised, shall not their cattle, and their substance, and every beast of theirs, be ours? Their daughter and their cattle were that which they sought to obtain, and their religion the stalking-horse they made use of to come at them. Read the whole story.

2. The hypocritical Pharisees were also of this religion; long prayers were their pretense, but to get widows’ houses was their intent; and greater damnation was from God their judgment.

3. Judas the devil was also of this religion; he was religious for the bag, that he might be possessed of what was therein; but he was lost, cast away, and the very son of perdition.

4. Simon the witch was of this religion too; for he would have had the Holy Ghost, that he might have got money therewith; and his sentence from Peter’s mouth was according.

5. Neither will it out of my mind, but that that man that takes up religion for the world, will throw away religion for the world; for so surely as Judas resigned the world in becoming religious, so surely did he also sell religion and his Master for the same. To answer the question, therefore, affirmatively, as I perceive you have done, and to accept of, as authentic, such answer, is both heathenish, hypocritical, and devilish; and your reward will be according to your works.

Then they stood staring one upon another, but had not wherewith to answer Christian. Hopeful also approved of the soundness of Christian’s answer; so there was a great silence among them. Mr. By-ends and his company also staggered and kept behind, that Christian and Hopeful might outgo them. Then said Christian to his fellow, If these men cannot stand before the sentence of men, what will they do with the sentence of God? And if they are mute when dealt with by vessels of clay, what will they do when they shall be rebuked by the flames of a devouring fire?

Answering By-ends

In the previous post, By-ends and his companions propounded the question: Is it right for a minister or a tradesman to use religion in the pursuit of personal gain? They confidently answered in the affirmative and collectively admired their reasoning. Now they attempt to impress Christian and Hopeful and are gleefully awaiting the moment when they can watch the two pilgrims falter and fall silent.

Christian, however is not swayed or silenced. He easily sees through the superficiality of their answer. Our need in this life is not for worldly wealth or success. Jesus did not come to improve our status or increase our possessions in this life. We need forgiveness, righteousness, and new life—gifts that are afforded to us only in Christ. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16); He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last (Revelation 22:13). To follow Him for the mere trifles of this world is indeed a tragedy of eternal consequence.

While Money-Love framed his answer to By-ends’ question according to his own logic and for his own advantage, Christian draws out his answer from Scripture. He first points to John 6 where Jesus rebukes the crowd for following Him, not because they believed Him to be the Messiah sent from God, but because He fed them with loaves and fishes.

Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6:26–27).

Jesus continues in John 6 to explain that He is the true “bread of life.” The fullness and satisfaction He offers is far greater than what the crowds were seeking or expecting. He can truly satisfy the hunger and thirst of our souls. He alone can give us life that is everlasting (John 6:28–40).

Christian continues to make his point by providing four examples from Scripture of men who used religion for personal gain: heathens (those outside a covenant relationship with God), hypocrites, devils, and witches (sorcerers).

Heathens—Hamor and Shechem were willing to be circumcised along with their countrymen in order to gain wives, property, and livestock from Israel.

And Hamor and Shechem his son came to the gate of their city, and spoke with the men of their city, saying: “These men are at peace with us. Therefore let them dwell in the land and trade in it. For indeed the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters to us as wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only on this condition will the men consent to dwell with us, to be one people: if every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. Will not their livestock, their property, and every animal of theirs be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us.” And all who went out of the gate of his city heeded Hamor and Shechem his son; every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city (Genesis 34:20–23).

Hypocrites—The Pharisees used religion to increase their status and swindle money and property from unsuspecting widows.

Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation” (Luke 20:45–47).

Devils—Judas was willing to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve (John 6:70–71).

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him (Matthew 26:14–16).

Witches (Sorcerers)—Simon thought he could purchase the power of God to heal with money.

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:18–23).

Through Christian’s answer, Bunyan once again highlights the value and prominence of God’s Word. William Mason observes in his commentary on The Pilgrim’s Progress:

Here see the blessedness of being mighty in the Scripture, and the need of that exhortation, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). For the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword; it pierces through all the subtle devices of Satan, and the cunning craftiness of carnal professors; and divideth asunder the carnal reasonings of the flesh, and the spiritual wisdom which cometh from above.

By-ends and his friends are stunned by Christian’s response. They had sought to silence Christian and Hopeful with their argument, but in the end, it is they who are speechless. Christian warns that they will face a far greater rebuke in the coming judgement. Christian and Hopeful are mere men, wielding God’s Word and standing for truth; but God, who is “the Judge of all” (Hebrews 12:23), “is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29; Deuteronomy 4:24).

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 ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Increase Our Faith O Lord

Too often we become discouraged and infrequent in our prayers because we focus on our troubles rather than the power of God and the promises in His Word. We don’t know God as we should, we don’t think of Him as we should, and so we fail to trust Him as we should. We don’t cry out to Him as we should in prayer and praise.

This hymn is the fruit of a study on prayer from a prayer meeting at Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL, taught by our Associate Pastor, Jared Longshore. It is an exhortation to pray and look to God in faith. And it is a prayer that God would stir up faith in us that we would be quick to remember Him and seek Him.

Increase Our Faith O Lord

“… for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move;  and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

Increase our faith, O Lord!
We look to You today.
Remind us of Your Word and pow’r,
Come stir our hearts to pray.

Look down on us in love,
Draw near us in this place.
With confidence, we come in Christ
To seek the throne of grace.

Because we do not ask,
We often lack what’s good.
If we would only look to God
And trust Him as we should!

Our faith, it seems so small,
Yet You, Lord, are so great!
So help us bring petitions large,
In You we trust and wait.

If we but had the faith,
Small as a mustard seed,
Then we would see the mountains move
For God has power indeed.

There’s nothing that’s too hard,
No good thing He’ll withhold.
So let us bring our prayers in faith,
We cannot be too bold.

Look down with mercy, Lord
And hear the prayers we raise,
That we might see Your power displayed
And offer thanks and praise.

Words ©2017 Ken Puls

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

More Hymns and Songs from Ken Puls Music