Tag Archives: Discipleship

The Enchanted Ground

I saw then in my dream, that they went till they came into a certain country, whose air naturally tended to make one drowsy, if he came a stranger into it. And here Hopeful began to be very dull and heavy of sleep; wherefore he said unto Christian, I do now begin to grow so drowsy that I can scarcely hold up mine eyes, let us lie down here and take one nap.

Christian: By no means, said the other, lest sleeping, we never awake more.

Hopeful: Why, my brother? Sleep is sweet to the laboring man; we may be refreshed if we take a nap.

Christian: Do you not remember that one of the Shepherds bid us beware of the Enchanted Ground? He meant by that that we should beware of sleeping; “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober.”

Hopeful: I acknowledge myself in a fault, and had I been here alone I had by sleeping run the danger of death. I see it is true that the wise man says: Two are better than one. Hitherto hath thy company been my mercy, and thou shalt have a good reward for thy labor.

Christian: Now then, said Christian, to prevent drowsiness in this place, let us fall into good discourse.

Hopeful: With all my heart, said the other.

Christian: Where shall we begin?

Hopeful: Where God began with us. But do you begin, if you please.

Christian: I will sing you first this song:

When saints do sleepy grow, let them come hither,
And hear how these two pilgrims talk together:
Yea, let them learn of them, in any wise,
Thus to keep ope their drowsy slumb’ring eyes.
Saints’ fellowship, if it be managed well,
Keeps them awake, and that in spite of hell.

 The Enchanted Ground

Since meeting in the town of Vanity, Christian and Hopeful have faced many dangers and difficulties together. As they near the end of their journey they face another peril—one that is subtler and much harder to discern. They enter the Enchanted Ground—a country where the air tends to make unsuspecting travelers drowsy and lethargic. The Enchanted Ground represents dullness brought about by spiritual complacency and fatigue.

When Christian and Hopeful enter the Enchanted Ground, Hopeful begins “to be very dull and heavy of sleep.” He suggests to Christian that they stop and take a nap. Christian, however, is adamant that they press on. He fears that if they sleep, they might never awake. But Hopeful is not convinced. He questions Christian’s resistance and quotes Scripture to make his point: “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet…” (Ecclesiastes 5:12). The verse that Hopeful quotes is certainly true. Christian learned the value of rest at House Beautiful. But this is not the time for sleep. Christian remembers the instructions of the Shepherds and recognizes the ground. The Shepherds warned the pilgrims to beware of the Enchanted Ground. They dare not sleep in this place.

Consider and hear me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death.
(Psalm 13:3)

How long will you slumber, O sluggard?
When will you rise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to sleep—
So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man.
(Proverbs 6:9–11)

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed (Romans 13:11).

Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober (1 Thessalonians 5:6).

Christian has already seen the dangers of spiritual sleep. Earlier in the allegory he found Simple, Sloth, and Presumption asleep not far from the cross. Simple saw no need to study, understand, or apply doctrine. Sloth saw no need to do hard or costly things. Presumption settled where, if needed, he could see the cross and assumed all would be well. Christian himself later fell asleep at the Arbor while he was climbing Hill Difficulty. He lost his roll (his assurance of salvation) for a time and his carelessness placed him in greater danger.

The danger of the Enchanted Ground is spiritual complacency and fatigue.

When life is comfortable and religion becomes rote, we can grow complacent and careless in our walk with God. We can settle in and grow too comfortable in our faith. Our worship loses its wonder and becomes too routine. We go to church week after week, hearing the same old Sunday School lessons, singing the same old songs, hearing the same preacher saying the same things. And we begin to think: I’ve heard that before—and we don’t listen as intently—Didn’t we sing this hymn just last week?—and we stop paying attention to the words. We grow too familiar with the content and form of worship—and we tune out. Our minds wander and spiritual sleep overtakes us. We come week after week to feed on God’s Word but fail to “taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8). In his commentary on The Pilgrim’s Progress, William Mason warns:

Christian, beware of sleeping on this enchanted ground! When all things go easy, smooth, and well, we are prone to grow drowsy in soul.  How many are the calls in the Word against spiritual slumber! and yet how many professors, through the enchanting air of this world, are fallen into the deep sleep of formality! Be warned by them to cry to thy Lord to keep thee awake to righteousness, and vigorous in the ways of thy Lord—(Mason).

Even churches can drift into spiritual lethargy. As God’s people, we can become drowsy, asleep near the cross, like Simple, Sloth, and Presumption. We can dismiss and discard the teaching of difficult doctrine, so not to offend anyone. We can settle into a comfortable routine and stop doing hard things and challenging things. We can pare down ministry so it is manageable and predictable. We can grow complacent and languid—no longer sharing our faith with others, no longer engaging one another about our spiritual welfare. We can assume all is well and fail to encourage and admonish one another. As Keith Green has said, we can fall “asleep in the light.”

Oh, can’t you see such sin?!
The world is sleeping in the dark,
That the church just can’t fight,
’cause it’s asleep in the light!

Keith Green
©1978 from the album No Compromise

Spiritual complacency is not the only thing that lulls us to sleep. Spiritual fatigue does so as well. Living as a Christian in a world filled with sin is hard. Rising day after day, fighting the same old battles against sin, can be wearisome. It is easy to wonder at times—wouldn’t it be nice if I just didn’t have to fight anymore? Satan tempts us to give up the fight of faith. He tries to allure us away from what is true when we are weak and weary.

In Part II of The Pilgrim’s Progress, the pilgrims find two travelers asleep on the Enchanted Ground: Heed-less and Too-Bold. They rushed in with confidence, but failed to stay alert. They did not heed the truth of God’s Word and grew weary in crossing. They weren’t prepared for the long haul. Great-heart, the pilgrims’ guide in Part II, explains their demise.

This, then, is the mischief of it, when heedless ones go on pilgrimage, it is twenty to one but they are served thus; for this Enchanted Ground is one of the last refuges that the enemy to pilgrims has. Wherefore it is, as you see, placed almost at the end of the way, and so it stands against us with the more advantage. For when, thinks the enemy, will these fools be so desirous to sit down, as when they are weary? and when so like to be weary, as when almost at their journey’s end? Therefore it is, I say, that the Enchanted Ground is placed so nigh to the Land Beulah, and so near the end of their race.

The Enchanted Ground lies near the end of the journey because spiritual fatigue is a danger we can easily slip into when we have followed the Way for a long time.

How then are we to avoid the dangers and make it across the Enchanted Ground?

The solution for making it across such a treacherous place is threefold:

1) Never walk alone. When Hopeful realizes his error, he is grateful for Christian’s company. He quotes from Ecclesiastes:

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9–10)

Had he been by himself, Hopeful might have fallen asleep and not completed his journey. By God’s kindness, Christian walked with him and prevented him from succumbing to spiritual slumber.

2) Look to God’s Word. God has given us instruction in His Word that we must heed and follow. He has given us faithful Shepherds to teach us God’s Word and to exhort us to follow its instruction. We must remember God’s Word and preach it continually to ourselves and to one another as we press on to our journey’s end.

3) Engage in godly discourse. Christian tells Hopeful, “to prevent drowsiness in this place, let us fall into good discourse.” Here Bunyan highlights the value of Christian discipleship. The pilgrims sing and discuss together spiritual things that edify their souls. Discipleship involves helping and encouraging others, and letting others help and encourage us. It involves investing time in others, rejoicing in truth with others, and sharing testimony of God’s goodness with one another. We need to continually rehearse the gospel, and never simply presume the gospel.  Discipleship is the means of grace whereby God keeps the gospel new and fresh in our hearts. It is the means whereby new believers are taught to cherish and walk in the faith. And it is the means whereby mature believers are heartened to continue cherishing and walking in the faith.

In the next several posts we will see discipleship in action. Christian will question Hopeful, draw out his testimony, and offer encouragement and instruction. God is gracious in insisting that we journey to the Celestial City together. We should always be grateful for the opportunity to walk together, look to God’s Word together, and share testimonies of God’s goodness our lives. We need discourse on the truth to keep us from growing dull and falling asleep in the Way.

Father, help them not grow drowsy
As they cross Enchanted Ground;
Stir their souls with lively discourse
Of the precious grace they’ve found.

(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 ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Conversation with By-ends

So I saw that quickly after they were got out of the fair, they overtook one that was going before them, whose name was By-ends: so they said to him, What countryman, Sir? and how far go you this way? He told them that he came from the town of Fair-speech, and he was going to the Celestial City (but told them not his name).

From Fair-speech! said Christian. Is there any good that lives there?

By-ends: Yes, said By-ends, I hope.

Christian: Pray, Sir, what may I call you? said Christian.

By-ends: I am a stranger to you, and you to me: if you be going this way, I shall be glad of your company; if not, I must be content.

Christian: This town of Fair-speech, said Christian, I have heard of; and, as I remember, they say it is a wealthy place.

By-ends: Yes, I will assure you that it is; and I have very many rich kindred there.

Christian: Pray, who are your kindred there? if a man may be so bold.

By-ends: Almost the whole town; and in particular, my Lord Turn-about, my Lord Time-server, my Lord Fair-speech, (from whose ancestors that town first took its name), also Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Facing-both-ways, Mr. Any-thing; and the parson of our parish, Mr. Two-tongues, was my mother’s own brother by father’s side; and to tell you the truth, I am become a gentleman of good quality, yet my great-grandfather was but a waterman, looking one way and rowing another, and I got most of my estate by the same occupation.

Christian: Are you a married man?

By-ends: Yes, and my wife is a very virtuous woman, the daughter of a virtuous woman; she was my Lady Feigning’s daughter, therefore she came of a very honorable family, and is arrived to such a pitch of breeding, that she knows how to carry it to all, even to prince and peasant. It is true we somewhat differ in religion from those of the stricter sort, yet but in two small points: first, we never strive against wind and tide; secondly, we are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers; we love much to walk with him in the street, if the sun shines, and the people applaud him.

Then Christian stepped a little aside to his fellow, Hopeful, saying, It runs in my mind that this is one By-ends of Fair-speech; and if it be he, we have as very a knave in our company as dwells in all these parts. Then said Hopeful, Ask him; methinks he should not be ashamed of his name. So Christian came up with him again, and said, Sir, you talk as if you knew something more than all the world doth; and if I take not my mark amiss, I deem I have half a guess of you: Is not your name Mr. By-ends, of Fair-speech?

By-ends: This is not my name, but indeed it is a nick-name that is given me by some that cannot abide me: and I must be content to bear it as a reproach, as other good men have borne theirs before me.

Christian: But did you never give an occasion to men to call you by this name?

By-ends: Never, never! The worst that ever I did to give them an occasion to give me this name was, that I had always the luck to jump in my judgment with the present way of the times, whatever it was, and my chance was to get thereby; but if things are thus cast upon me, let me count them, a blessing; but let not the malicious load me therefore with reproach.

Christian: I thought, indeed, that you were the man that I heard of; and to tell you what I think, I fear this name belongs to you more properly than you are willing we should think it does.

By-ends: Well, if you will thus imagine, I cannot help it; you shall find me a fair company-keeper, if you will still admit me your associate.

Christian: If you will go with us, you must go against wind and tide; the which, I perceive, is against your opinion; you must also own religion in his rags, as well as when in his silver slippers; and stand by him, too, when bound in irons, as well as when he walks the streets with applause.

By-ends: You must not impose, nor lord it over my faith; leave me to my liberty, and let me go with you.

Christian: Not a step further, unless you will do in what I propound as we.

Then said By-ends, I shall never desert my old principles, since they are harmless and profitable. If I may not go with you, I must do as I did before you overtook me, even go by myself, until some overtake me that will be glad of my company.

Meeting with By-ends

Now joined by Hopeful, Christian has set out from Vanity Fair. But not long into their journey, they overtake another traveler. This stranger is at first reluctant to give his name, but reveals that he is from the town of Fair-Speech and is also on his way to the Celestial City.

The town of Fair Speech represents those who live in duplicity and hypocrisy in their conversations and dealings with others. Christian has heard of Fair-Speech and is at once skeptical. The town has a reputation for its elegance and wealth, but it is also known for being pragmatic and self-seeking. On the surface, it is awash in civility and pleasant conversation, but underneath it is submerged in hidden agendas and ulterior motives. The stranger affirms that he is from an affluent family and is related to many in the town:

  • Lord Turn-about (one who indicates that he is going one way, but then changes his course to go the opposite way)
  • Lord Time-server (one who changes his views and opinions to fit the times)
  • Lord Fair-speech (one who speaks kindly but hides deceit in his heart)
  • Mr. Smooth-man (one who speaks “smooth words”—Isaiah 30:10, saying what people want to hear)
  • Mr. Facing-both-ways (one who hold contradictory views and opinions, and attempts to gain favor by agreeing with everyone)
  • Mr. Any-thing (one who will believe, say or do whatever it takes to reach his personal goals or achieve his personal agenda)
  • Mr. Two-tongues, the parson (one who shades the truth and deceives people with his words, saying one thing to some and something contrary to others), whom, the stranger confoundedly notes, “was my mother’s own brother by father’s side.”

The stranger also points out that he is an oarsman just like his great-grandfather, who “would look one way and row another,” and that he is married to Lady Feigning’s daughter (one who pretends or gives a false impression of herself).

Though the stranger will not give the pilgrims his name, Christian recognizes that he is By-ends of Fair-speech. Christian also identifies him as a knave, a false professor.

A by-end is “a subordinate end” most often rooted in “private interest, secret purpose or selfish advantage.” By-ends represents the duplicity of openly following Christ and honoring God, while truly living for self and seeking selfish gain. He believes that he has a good understanding of the times in which he lives and can adapt or adjust circumstances to his own advantage. By-ends is not ashamed of his religion or opposed to being identified with Christ, but he is rather selective as to when and how he wields his religion.

He wants life, including his religion, to be easy and simple. He is in favor of religion only when it is to his advantage. He is more motivated by a desire to be satisfied and in control of his life than to be sanctified and in submission to God’s Word. His religion is relaxed and flexible, not strict and rigid, as he perceives Christian and Hopeful to be. He shapes his religion at will to obtain what he believes will be the most favorable outcome:

  • He likes a religion that is calm and comfortable (doesn’t “strive against wind or tide”)
  • He likes a religion that is fashionable and favorable (goes in “silver slippers”)
  • He likes a religion that is amiable and applaudable (always in the sunshine)

The Danger of Following Christ for Worldly Gain

By-ends is a hypocrite who presents himself as something he never intends to be. He holds religion in high esteem. He claims to follow Christ. His words sound good; he is, after all, from Fair-Speech. But he has embraced religion for personal gain, not personal holiness. His aim is not to love and glorify God. He uses religion as a means to another end. For him Christ is but a useful ally in the pursuit of self-advancement, self-fulfillment, and self-gratification.

The Bible warns about being deceptive and sinful with our words:

He who hates, disguises it with his lips,
And lays up deceit within himself;
When he speaks kindly, do not believe him,
For there are seven abominations in his heart;
Though his hatred is covered by deceit,
His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
(Proverbs 26: 24–26)

They speak idly everyone with his neighbor;
With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
And the tongue that speaks proud things,
(Psalm 12:2–3)

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so (James 3:8–10).

Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money (1 Timothy 3:8).

And the Bible reproves and calls us to repentance when we are double-minded in our motives:

I hate the double-minded,
But I love Your law.
(Psalm 119:113)

He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:8).

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:8).

By-ends wanted to join Christian and Hopeful in their pilgrimage, but he was only willing to walk in fair weather and favorable paths. Christian gives him the truth about following Christ:

  • You must be willing to go against wind and tide.
  • You must be willing to own religion in rags as well as silver slippers.
  • You must be willing to be imprisoned as well as applauded.

Jesus taught in the Gospel of Luke:

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (Luke 14:27–30).

Christian is insistent that By-ends counts the cost. True discipleship involves sacrifice and suffering (bearing the cross); concepts that By-ends would find foreign and distasteful. By-ends responds the way many false professors respond when confronted with the truth of Scripture. He is offended and sees Christian and Hopeful as a threat to his liberty. He will not have anyone impose on him, or lord it over his faith. And so, for now, he parts company.

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.