All posts by Ken

Ken Puls is a follower of Jesus, husband, father, worship leader, pastor and song writer. Over the past 27 years of ministry he has composed over 50 songs and hymns. He directs the music and media ministries at Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, FL.

Songs and God’s Creation

Open Bible and hymn near an ocean at sunset

This is the first of what I hope to be many posts exploring the connection between music for worship and the study of theology. Below is a list of psalm settings, hymns, and spiritual songs that teach on the doctrine of creation: natural revelation. The songs are arranged under 16 theological statements, including 5 statements for which I have not yet found related songs.  

If you have additional suggestions for songs related to the doctrine of creation that should be included in the index, please comment or send me a message.

Note: The songs are listed below by title and author. For more complete entries (including tunes and hymnal page numbers) see the page for “Songs and God’s Creation” in Theology and Song: A Theological Index of Music for Worship online. I will be updating the online Index with more songs and topics in the days ahead as I receive recommendations. 

Songs and God’s Creation: Natural Revelation 

1. Creation affirms that there is a Creator—God created heaven and earth

  • All Things Bright and Beautiful (Cecil F Alexander)
  • Before Jehovah’s Awful Throne—Psalm 100 (Isaac Watts / John Wesley)
  • God, the Lord, a King Remaineth—Psalm 93 (John Keble)
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Thomas Obediah Chisholm)
  • Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah—Psalm 146 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Hast Thou Not Known, Hast Thou Not Heard (Isaac Watts)
  • I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Isaac Watts)
  • Let All Things Now Living (Katherine Davis • Welsh melody)
  • The Spacious Firmament on High (Joseph Addison)
  • This Is My Father’s World (Maltbie Babcock)
  • Vast the Immensity, Mirror of Majesty (Edmund Clowney)
  • With Glory Clad, With Strength Arrayed—Psalm 93 (Tate and Brady’s New Version)
  • Wondrous King, All-Glorious (Joachim Neander / William Schaefer)

2. Creation glorifies God—all things exist for His glory and praise

  • All Creatures of Our God and King (St. Francis of Assisi / William H Draper)
  • All Glory to You (Steve and Vikki Cook) • Sovereign Grace Music
  • All People That on Earth Do Dwell—Psalm 100 (William Kethe / Thomas Ken)
  • All that I Am I Owe to Thee—Psalm 134:14–24 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Before Jehovah’s Awful Throne—Psalm 100 (Isaac Watts / John Wesley)
  • Behold Our God (Ryan, Jonathan & Meghan Baird / Stephen Altrogge) • Sovereign Grace Music
  • Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim—Psalm 135 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • For the Beauty of the Earth (Folliott Sandford Pierpoint)
  • From All That Dwell Below the Skies—Psalm 117 (Isaac Watts)
  • God, the Lord, a King Remaineth—Psalm 93 (John Keble)
  • Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah—Psalm 146 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Isaac Watts)
  • Let All Things Now Living (Katherine Davis • Welsh melody)
  • Of the Father’s Love Begotten (Prudentius / J. Neale / H. Baker)
  • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Joachim Neander / Catherine Winkworth)
  • Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above (Jonann Schütz / Francis Cox)
  • The Spacious Firmament on High (Joseph Addison)
  • This Is My Father’s World (Maltbie Babcock)
  • With Songs and Honors Sounding Loud—Psalm 147 (Isaac Watts)
  • Wondrous King, All-Glorious (Joachim Neander / William Schaefer)

3. Creation testifies of God’s wisdom and design

  • All that I Am I Owe to Thee—Psalm 134:14–24 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Hast Thou Not Known, Hast Thou Not Heard (Isaac Watts)
  • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Joachim Neander / Catherine Winkworth)
  • Vast the Immensity, Mirror of Majesty (Edmund Clowney)

4. The testimony of creation is insufficient for knowing the way of salvation.

  • Vast the Immensity, Mirror of Majesty (Edmund Clowney)

5. The testimony of creation leaves man inexcusable

  •  

6. God delights in creation—all things were made for His pleasure

  • All Glory to You (Steve and Vikki Cook) • Sovereign Grace Music
  • Vast the Immensity, Mirror of Majesty (Edmund Clowney)

7. God made all of creation and pronounced it good

  • I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Isaac Watts)

8. The world was spoken into existence by God’s Word.

  • I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Isaac Watts)
  • Of the Father’s Love Begotten (Prudentius / J. Neale / H. Baker)
  • Vast the Immensity, Mirror of Majesty (Edmund Clowney)

9. The world was created by God ex nihilio (out of nothing).

  •  

10. The world continues to be upheld and sustained by God

  • All Things Bright and Beautiful (Cecil F Alexander)
  • Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim—Psalm 135 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Forever Settled in the Heavens—Psalm 119:89–97 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Thomas Obediah Chisholm)
  • Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah—Psalm 146 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Hast Thou Not Known, Hast Thou Not Heard (Isaac Watts)
  • I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Isaac Watts)
  • Let All Things Now Living (Katherine Davis • Welsh melody)
  • Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above (Jonann Schütz / Francis Cox)
  • With Glory Clad, With Strength Arrayed—Psalm 93 (Tate and Brady’s New Version)
  • With Songs and Honors Sounding Loud—Psalm 147 (Isaac Watts)

11. God creates all people—He is the One who gives and sustains all life.

  • All People That on Earth Do Dwell—Psalm 100 (William Kethe / Thomas Ken)
  • Let All Things Now Living (Katherine Davis • Welsh melody)
  • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Joachim Neander / Catherine Winkworth)

12. God created man (male and female) out of the dust of the earth 

  • Before Jehovah’s Awful Throne—Psalm 100 (Isaac Watts / John Wesley)

13. Man was breathed into a living being by God.

14. God made man (male and female) in His own image

  •  

15. God gave man dominion over all other living things on the earth.

  •  

16. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

  • Today We Gather in This Place (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music

_______________

The next post in the series will be “Songs and God’s Word: Special Revelation.”

For more complete entries (including tunes and hymnal page numbers) see the Theological Index of Music and Worship online:

Entry for “Songs and God’s Creation”

TOC for Index: Theology and Song

Theology and Song

Guitar and Hymnal

Music and theology have always been closely entwined. Theology (in the broadest sense) encompasses what we understand to be true about God, His Word, and the world He has made. Music, as it comes alongside theology, helps the church say and celebrate in song what it believes and affirms to be true. 

God’s people have been writing music for thousands of years. Beginning with the rich wellspring of the psalms, music has served the church to carry the voice of God’s people in praise, prayer, and proclamation. Within the many settings of psalms, and numerous hymns and spiritual songs is an opulent banquet of truth. For those who are willing to search, there are many savory delights to be found.

Unfortunately many churches miss out on this feast of song. Some shy away from doctrinally rich lyrics and prefer instead those that are lighter and more subjective. Some, despite Paul’s paradigm in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, exhorting the church to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, impose a more narrow interpretation: “only the psalms,” “only the old hymns that have stood the test of time,” or “only what is new, contemporary, and speaks to me today.” Some are content to sing a limited number of favorites. Others select music based on emotional appeal or a catchy melody, rather than theological soundness.

In this new series, Theology and Song, I hope to encourage pastors and musicians to think theologically about music in worship. Each post will focus on a specific theological topic and will feature a portion of my Theological Index of Church Music

I began the Index 26 years ago (in 1993) as a project for one of my PhD seminars when I was at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The index listed 350 psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and arranged them according to the theological truths that they highlight. It proved especially valuable in ministry for planning worship and selecting music that would underscore the sermon. You can read more about the Index in an earlier article: “Selecting Music for Worship—Know Theology.”

As I post this series on my blog, I will be updating and expanding the Index so I can make it available on my website as a resource for worship leaders. My list of songs will certainly not be exhaustive. I’ll be asking for your suggestions and adding songs (as well as more topics) to the Index in the days ahead.

Here is list of some of the upcoming topics:

Songs and God’s Creation (Natural Revelation)
Songs and God’s Word (Special Revelation)
Songs and God’s Uniqueness (He alone is God)
Songs and the Trinity (One God in Three Persons)
Songs and Knowing God (God’s knowability and Incomprehensibility)
Songs and God’s Presence (God’s Immanence and Transcendence)
Songs and God’s Sovereignty

Salvation Is of Our Lord!

Sunrise over ocean waves

Here is another hymn from my archives. According to my journal, I composed my 2nd hymn 34 years ago (September 1985) as “a call to worship proclaiming God’s sovereignty in salvation as well as in creation.” The title is taken from the prayer recorded in the 2nd chapter of Jonah. In this prayer Jonah says: “Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God (2:6)” At the end of the prayer in verse 9 he declares: “Salvation is of the Lord.” 

Salvation Is of Our Lord!

But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.
(Jonah 2:9)

1. We, Your children, praise You, Father,
And receive Your love outpour’d.
We proclaim this truth in wonder:
Salvation is of our Lord!

2. We were sinners lost in darkness,
Bound to death by sin’s strong cord.
Your free grace has wrought our freedom;
Salvation is of our Lord!

3. We, Your saints beforehand chosen,
Called of God, by You adored,
Given part in Christ’s atonement;
Salvation is of our Lord!

4. Guide us, Father, as we worship,
Join our hearts in one accord.
Joyfully we sing before You:
Salvation is of our Lord!

Words ©1987, 2019 Kenneth Puls

Download free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune ST. OSWALD for classical guitar.

More Hymns and Songs from Ken Puls Music

More Hymn tunes arranged for classical guitar

The Certainty of God’s Word

Open Bible on a Rock

Everything God has said in His Word will most certainly come to pass!

This is an axiom, a truth upon which you can trust your soul. What God says will happen.

This is an anchor for your soul when your life gets stirred up and clouded by things you were not expecting.

Yet too often, (I know I find this true of myself) when temptations come and they whisper their enticing promises, I am prone to hear and pursue the false promises, rather than resting in the sure and proven promises of Scripture. When troubles come, I am too quick to be fearful, when I should be trusting; too quick to doubt, when I should cling to truth.

I have often wondered in the midst of my own struggles with doubt and sin, in the times when I am reeling in my own failures and capriciousness,… I have often wondered how much sin and misery I could avoid if I would just simply learn to take God at His Word.

The Word of God is abundant with promises. It teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, and instructs us in the path of righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

No matter what situation we may find ourselves in, God’s Word is an ever-present help and guide.

  • If we are tempted to sin, God teaches us in His Word: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  • If we are lonely, He promises: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
  • If we are weak, He tells us: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • When we are enticed to sin, He warns us: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
  • If we fall into sin, He tells us: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  • When we need wisdom, we are told: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

This list could go on and on as we think through the rich and abundant pages of Scripture.

And all God says in every verse is true and sure. We can believe it. We can trust in it. We can treasure it in our hearts and count on it.

[This excerpt is from a Sermon on Genesis 1:1–5 entitled “The Certainty of God’s Word.” You can read the full Sermon  here.]

Find More Sermons and Articles

Anna’s Song

This is the song I wrote for my daughter and sang at her wedding.

Blue Rose and Guitar

Composed for the wedding of Anna Puls and Joey Johnson
August 10, 2019

Anna’s Song

From little girl to radiant bride
From dolls and toys to dresses sewn
God’s hand has guided every step
With joy I’ve watched you as you’ve grown

In early days when you were small
To fountains, shops and malls we went
Your hand I held to keep you close
And treasured all the time we spent

For years you dreamed about this day
In patience waited, made your plans
You prayed and rested in God’s hands
You sought your prince, now here he stands

The day has come to say your vows
Now two are one for all of life
Your hand in marriage now I give
To make a home as man and wife

Now in your home may Christ be known
In you His gospel on display
Your lives committed to His hands
His love your anchor day by day

For years you dreamed about this day
In patience waited, made your plans
You prayed and rested in God’s hands
You sought your prince, now here he stands

Words and Music ©2019 Kenneth A Puls

Listen to the recording of the song from the wedding on youtube

 

Download Sheet Music and a Chord Chart for this song

Wedding music for classical guitar

More music for classical guitar

 

Lord We Come to Hear Your Word

Pulpit and Bible

When we hear or read God’s Word, we should always pray for understanding and wisdom. And when we have opportunity to gather with the church and sit under the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, we should pray for the pastor. Apart from God’s grace, all our efforts to worship and serve Him will be in vain.

Lord We Come to Hear Your Word

A Prayer for God’s Grace in Worship

Lord, we come to hear Your Word.
Shine Your light! Unsheathe Your sword!
Send Your Spirit forth in pow’r.
Come and bless Your church this hour.
We confess, our thoughts have strayed;
Minds distracted and dismayed.
On the Son fix now each thought;
Help us worship as we ought.

Lord, as we prepare to hear,
Wake each soul, unstop each ear.
Conquer every stubborn heart;
Mercy, saving grace impart.
We confess, without Your grace,
Vain our efforts in this place.
Send illumination’s light;
Open eyes and give us sight.

Lord, we lift up to Your care
Him who stands now to declare
Truth that teaches, warns, consoles;
Bless this feast to feed our souls.
For Your Word, O Lord, we yearn;
Empty, let it not return.
Come, accomplish all Your will —
Draw, convict, give life and fill.

For Your Word, O Lord, we yearn;
Empty, let it not return.
Come, accomplish all Your will —
Draw, convict, give life and fill.
Draw, convict, give life and fill.

Words ©1998 Kenneth A Puls

New Music and Arrangement by Drew Hodge ©2012 Desert Springs Church

Listen to this setting of “Lord, We Come to Hear Your Word” recorded at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM.

 

And download the music from band camp:

 

More Music on Bandcamp by Desert Springs Church

More Music on Bandcamp by Ken Puls

Seek First the Kingdom of God

Mountain Pathway

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Pressing on We Journey

Christ our greatest treasure,
He our highest aim!
Christ our deepest comfort,
Him we now acclaim!
By His death, He saved us,
By His life, we live.
To the King of glory,
All our lives we give .

Pressing on, we journey,
Christ we now confess,
Seeking first His kingdom
And His righteousness.

Rescued from destruction,
Told to seek the light;
Pulled up from the mire,
Fitted for the fight.
Christ, in every instance
Guides us in the Way,
Graciously providing
Mercies every day.

Pressing on, we journey,
Pilgrims we progress,
Seeking first His kingdom
And His righteousness.

Fret not for tomorrow,
Fear not past regrets.
He heals every sorrow,
Sure the course He sets.
All these things are added,
What to eat and wear;
All our needs provided,
By His loving care.

Pressing on, we journey,
Joys we now possess,
Seeking first His kingdom
And His righteousness.

We long for that day when
We’ll see face to face
Christ, the King of Glory,
Full of truth and grace.
But until that moment,
Finally He descends,
We will ever seek Him,
Faithful to the end.

Pressing on, we journey,
Hope we now express,
Seeking first His kingdom
And His righteousness.

Words ©2017 Kenneth A Puls

This hymn, from the album The Lord is My Delight, is based on Jesus’ command in Matthew 6:33 to seek “first His kingdom and His righteousness” and on John Bunyan’s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Check out the lyric video on youtube:

And download the music from band camp:

Click here to download lyrics and free sheet music, including an arrangement of the hymn tune WYE VALLEY for Classical Guitar.

Read A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (including notes and commentary on Bunyan’s allegory by Ken Puls)

Behold It Was a Dream

Conclusion to Part 1 of the Pilgrim’s Progress

So I awoke, and behold it was a dream.

Now, Reader, I have told my dream to thee;
See if thou canst interpret it to me,
Or to thyself, or neighbor; but take heed
Of misinterpreting; for that, instead
Of doing good, will but thyself abuse:
By misinterpreting, evil ensues.

Take heed, also, that thou be not extreme,
In playing with the outside of my dream:
Nor let my figure or similitude
Put thee into a laughter or a feud.
Leave this for boys and fools; but as for thee,
Do thou the substance of my matter see.

Put by the curtains, look within my veil,
Turn up my metaphors, and do not fail,
There, if thou seekest them, such things to find,
As will be helpful to an honest mind.

What of my dross thou findest there, be bold
To throw away, but yet preserve the gold;
What if my gold be wrapped up in ore?
None throws away the apple for the core.
But if thou shalt cast all away as vain,
I know not but ’twill make me dream again.

Behold it was a dream

Bunyan opened The Pilgrim’s Progress by describing his book as a dream: “As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream.” He closes his story by saying: “So I awoke, and behold it was a dream.”

Bunyan wrote his masterful work as an allegory. As we have seen, in Bunyan’s dream all the characters and events have meaning. Some are easy to interpret; others take more thought and consideration. Bunyan concludes The Pilgrim’s Progress with a poem inviting his readers to “put by the curtains, look within my veil” and challenging them to use discernment. He cautions against “playing with the outside of my dream” by pressing his analogies too far or reading too much into his plot lines. And he warns of regarding it too lightly—thinking of it simply as an entertainment. His story is endearing and enjoyable, but his substance is weighty. He speaks of matters of eternal consequence and he wants he readers to sense the gravity of his message.

Bunyan understands the challenge of writing about such glorious themes and he readily owns his limitations as an author. He encourages his readers to cast away any dross they find, “but yet preserve the gold.”

Many novels and stories can be compared to a change purse. They have only a little value, and with one or two readings, they are emptied out. But great books are like deep mines. Each time you return and put forth more effort to read and understand them, they yield more riches. The Pilgrim’s Progress is such a treasure. It is indeed filled with much gold. Those who accept Bunyan’s challenge to read and interpret his book will find their efforts richly rewarded. It should be read over and over. As you read the book at different stages in your own journey, you will gain more insight and more readily understand different characters and places.

God has used Bunyan’s writings in amazing ways. In 1660 he was imprisoned for preaching the gospel in a non-conformist church. This turn of events could have discouraged him and deterred his ministry. But Bunyan was determined to continue serving the church. He cared for his congregation and sought for ways to teach and encourage them. During the 12 years he was in prison (from 1660 to 1672) he published five books and numerous pamphlets, including his auto-biography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, where he shared his own story of how God had rescued him from his sin and eventually called him to gospel ministry. He also began shaping his experience into an allegory that would later develop into The Pilgrims Progress.

These books not only allowed Bunyan to continue serving his own congregation, they extended his ministry far beyond his town of Bedford. Through his writings, he became very well known, especially in his willingness to suffer for the cause of Christ.

When Bunyan was released in 1672, he set aside his writing to resume his responsibilities as pastor in his church. But in God’s providence, his freedom was short-lived. He was imprisoned again from 1675 to 1678 in a prison known in Bedford as the Den where he completed The Pilgrims Progress (Part 1).

The book was published the year Bunyan was released (1678). He had become a popular author and The Pilgrims Progress was an immediate success. A second edition was published the same year. A third edition followed in 1679, two more in 1680. At the time of Bunyan’s death the book has gone through 13 editions, over 100,000 copies. Over time it became the most widely read book in the English language apart from the Bible.

Bunyan hints at a sequel in his concluding poem, saying that he might “dream again.” His hint suggests that his sequel will focus on those who turn away from the gospel:

But if thou shalt cast all away as vain,
I know not but ’twill make me dream again.

His first idea for a sequel was published in 1680. It was called: The Life and Death of Mr. Badman; Presented to the World in a Familiar Dialogue Between Mr. Wiseman and Mr. Attentive. It was written as a companion book to The Pilgrim’s Progress to show the end of those who remained in their sin at death.

The book was good, but it was never received as “the sequel.” It went a different direction and left some important questions unanswered. The questions that Bunyan’s readers wanted him to address were: What happened to Christian’s family? What about his wife and his four sons that stayed behind in the City of Destruction? Did they perish? Did they escape! Tell us more!

So Bunyan was compelled to write the real sequel to the story. The Pilgrim’s Progress (Part 2) was later published in 1684. It tells the story of Christiana and her children as they set out on their own journey to the Celestial City. Part 2 emphasizes the importance of the family and bringing the gospel to our children. And it emphasizes the church and how the family serves and benefits from the ministry of the church. If you enjoyed Part 1 of the story, Part 2 offers more of Bunyan’s gold.

Accept Bunyan’s challenge. Read and reread his books. But as you enjoy the endearing characters and following the exciting adventures, don’t miss the main message. Bunyan is pointing us to the Word of God that we might seek and find the Savior. Don’t miss Christ! He is the One who can take away our burden. He is the One who gives light on our path. And He is our joy at our journey’s end. He and He alone can save!

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 ©2019 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

More Guitar Music for Independence Day

Guitar and Fireworks

If you are a guitarist looking for patriotic music in preparation for July 4th, Independence Day, check out these new transcriptions:

Download 3 new transcriptions (PDF sheet music) for classical guitar:

AMERICA — “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”

BATTLE HYMN — “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory”

MATERNA (America, the Beautiful) — “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies”

Download also a transcription of the tune CHESTER — “Let Tyrants Shake Their Iron Rod”

Download a transcription of the National Anthem (The Star Spangled Banner)

More Music for Classical Guitar

The End of Ignorance

Now while I was gazing upon all these things, I turned my head to look back, and saw Ignorance come up to the river side; but he soon got over, and that without half that difficulty which the other two men met with. For it happened that there was then in that place, one Vain-hope, a ferryman, that with his boat helped him over; so he, as the other I saw, did ascend the hill, to come up to the gate, only he came alone; neither did any man meet him with the least encouragement. When he was come up to the gate, he looked up to the writing that was above, and then began to knock, supposing that entrance should have been quickly administered to him; but he was asked by the men that looked over the top of the gate, Whence came you, and what would you have? He answered, I have eat and drank in the presence of the King, and he has taught in our streets. Then they asked him for his certificate, that they might go in and show it to the King; so he fumbled in his bosom for one, and found none. Then said they, Have you none? But the man answered never a word. So they told the King, but he would not come down to see him, but commanded the two Shining Ones that conducted Christian and Hopeful to the City, to go out and take Ignorance, and bind him hand and foot, and have him away. Then they took him up, and carried him through the air to the door that I saw in the side of the hill, and put him in there. Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction.

Ignorance cast into the abyss

As Bunyan nears the end of his story, he turns from one of the most glorious scenes in the book (the final entrance of Christian and Hopeful into the Celestial City) to one of the most fearful. He turns to look back and he sees Ignorance preparing to cross the River.

Christian and Hopeful first met Ignorance when they were coming down from the Delectable Mountains. Ignorance professed himself to be a pilgrim and informed them that he was “going to the Celestial City.” He was from the nearby country of Conceit, a country that prided itself on its nearness to the Lord’s mountains. But Ignorance did not enter the Way via the Wicket Gate (this gate represents Christ as the only way of salvation). The Wicket Gate was too far away. Rather, he followed the tradition of his countrymen and entered by a little crooked lane that came into the Way (this lane represents religion that offers salvation by works). Nor did Ignorance have a certificate (evidence of faith in Christ sealed by the work of the Spirit) to present upon arrival at the Celestial City. He was trusting in his own understanding of God’s will and presuming upon religion and good works to save him. Christian rightly surmised that Ignorance would “find some difficulty” getting in at the Gate to the Celestial City. He was, as his name implied, ignorant of the true gospel of grace.  But when Christian attempted to warn him, Ignorance took offense. Ignorance sincerely believed himself to be a good person, so of course he was going to heaven.

Later in the story, Christian and Hopeful encountered him again and had a longer conversation to draw out his thinking. Ignorance further confirmed that his hope was resting not in Christ alone, but in his own “good motions.” Though he professed to be a pilgrim in the Way, he was not walking in the way of truth according to God’s Word. He was walking in the comfort of his own truth according to his heart.

Now as Ignorance comes to the River (approaches death), he is still self-assured. Unlike Christian, who struggled with doubts and fears and nearly sank, Ignorance is confident. He has no doubt in his mind that he will be let in at the gate. His passage across the river is easy. He rides over the waters with ease in a boat steered by Vain-hope.

For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For there are no pangs in their death,
But their strength is firm.
(Psalm 73:3–4)

When Ignorance arrives at the Gate, there is no one there to greet him. He knocks, still assuming that he will quickly gain entrance. When he is challenged at the Gate, Ignorance responds by saying: “I have eat and drank in the presence of the King, and he has taught in our streets.” His words echo the response of those seeking to enter through the Narrow Gate:

And He [Jesus] said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’” (Luke 13:24–26).

When he is asked for his certificate, he is speechless, like the man in Jesus’ parable of the Wedding Feast who arrived without a wedding garment:

But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” And he was speechless (Matthew 22:11–12).

Ignorance assumed that his devotion to religion was the same as nearness to God. He had lived well. He had been faithful to the church. He had been catechized and confirmed. He had taken holy communion, eaten the bread and drank of the cup in the presence of the Lord. Yet his eating and drinking proved to be in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27). Worthy recipients are “only those who repent of their sins, believe in Christ for salvation and love their fellow men” (A Catechism for Boys and Girls). Ignorance had ventured from Conceit only to trust in himself.

When the King was informed that Ignorance was at the Gate, the King “would not come down to see him.” The King did not know him and so turned him away.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21–23).

The same Shining Ones who welcomed Christian and Hopeful to the City are commanded to bind Ignorance and cast him out. This is the fearful end of those in Luke 13 who fail to enter through the narrow gate:

But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out (Luke 13:27–28).

The man who arrived without a wedding garment in the parable of the Wedding Feast faced a similar outcome:

Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13).

Ignorance is carried away to the By-Way to Hell and Bunyan concludes: “Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction.”

It is an eternal tragedy for someone to believe he or she is at the doorstep of heaven, and yet be at the brink of hell. Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress with the heart of a pastor. He longs to see everyone in his flock, and everyone who reads his book, arrive safely and be welcomed at the journey’s end. He doesn’t want us to assume all is well and miss Christ! And so, he ends with a sober warning.

Take heed to the end of Ignorance. Do not presume that your good works or devotion to Christ will save you. Do not presume that the sacraments of the church or your sincere intentions to do what is right will save you. Do not presume that your familiarity with religion or faithful service will save you. Christ and Christ alone can save! Turn to Him, trust Him, abide in Him.

Jesus said:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6).

Only in Christ will you be welcomed and not cast out. We have His promise!

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out (John 6:37).

So come! Wait no longer! Come to Christ and live!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Lord, we pray for ev’ry Pilgrim,
Final entrance we’ll not miss;
For beside the Gates to Heaven
Lies a way to the Abyss.
Father, fit us for Your kingdom,
From the greatest to the least,
Clothe us in Your righteous garments
For the coming wedding feast.
(from “A Prayer for Pilgrims” by Ken Puls)

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 ©2019 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.