Now at the further side of that plain was a little hill called Lucre, and in that hill a silver mine, which some of them that had formerly gone that way, because of the rarity of it, had turned aside to see; but going too near the brink of the pit, the ground being deceitful under them, broke, and they were slain; some also had been maimed there, and could not, to their dying day, be their own men again.
Then I saw in my dream, that a little off the road, over against the silver mine, stood Demas (gentlemanlike) to call to passengers to come and see; who said to Christian and his fellow, Ho! turn aside hither, and I will show you a thing.
Christian: What thing so deserving as to turn us out of the way to see it?
Demas: Here is a silver mine, and some digging in it for treasure. If you will come, with a little pains you may richly provide for yourselves.
Hopeful: Then said Hopeful, Let us go see.
Christian: Not I, said Christian, I have heard of this place before now; and how many have there been slain; and besides that, treasure is a snare to those that seek it; for it hinders them in their pilgrimage.
Then Christian called to Demas, saying, Is not the place dangerous? Has it not hindered many in their pilgrimage?
Demas: Not very dangerous, except to those that are careless, (but withal, he blushed as he spoke).
Christian: Then said Christian to Hopeful, Let us not stir a step, but still keep on our way.
Hopeful: I will warrant you, when By-ends comes up, if he has the same invitation as we, he will turn in thither to see.
Christian: No doubt thereof, for his principles lead him that way, and a hundred to one but he dies there.
Demas: Then Demas called again, saying, But will you not come over and see?
Christian: Then Christian roundly answered, saying, Demas, you are an enemy to the right ways of the Lord of this way, and have been already condemned for your own turning aside, by one of His Majesty’s judges; and why do you seek to bring us into the like condemnation? Besides, if we at all turn aside, our Lord and King will certainly hear thereof, and will there put us to shame, where we would stand with boldness before him.
Demas cried again, that he also was one of their fraternity; and that if they would tarry a little, he also himself would walk with them.
Christian: Then said Christian, What is your name? Is it not the same by the which I have called you?
Demas: Yes, my name is Demas; I am the son of Abraham.
Christian: I know you; Gehazi was your great-grandfather, and Judas your father; and you have trod in their steps. It is but a devilish prank that you use; your father was hanged for a traitor, and you deserve no better reward. Assure yourself, that when we come to the King, we will do him word of this your behavior. Thus they went their way.
By this time By-ends and his companions were come again within sight, and they, at the first beck, went over to Demas. Now, whether they fell into the pit by looking over the brink thereof, or whether they went down to dig, or whether they were smothered in the bottom by the damps that commonly arise, of these things I am not certain; but this I observed, that they never were seen again in the way. Then sang Christian—
By-ends and silver Demas both agree;
One calls, the other runs, that he may be
A sharer in his lucre; so these do
Take up in this world, and no further go.
Christian and Hopeful did not enjoy the comforts of Ease for long. They crossed the Plain quickly and discovered close to Ease another danger. At the far side of the plain “was a little hill called Lucre.” In the hill was a silver mine, enticing and extraordinary, where, it is said, one can dig with little effort and find rich reward.
Lucre represents the prosperity of the world, especially money or wealth that is gained in sinful or dishonest ways. The silver mine is the inviting prospect of wealth and worldly success for all who desire to live in Ease and enjoy its comforts.
Near the mine, Christian and Hopeful are beckoned by a notorious person from the pages of Scripture. Demas calls to them to come and see the marvels of the mine. Demas is not the first Bible character to be included in Bunyan’s story. Earlier Faithful encountered Adam the First and Moses. We read of Demas in Paul’s letters. In two letters, Paul includes Demas as a “fellow laborer” in his greetings:
Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you (Colossians 4:14).
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers (Philemon 1:23–24).
But near the end of Paul’s life, we learn the sad truth that Demas became enchanted with the world and forsook Paul. Paul writes:
Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry (2 Timothy 4:9–11).
Here, in The Pilgrim’s Progress, Demas stands inviting others to turn aside to search for worldly treasures. His offer is appealing. He appears respectable and believable—a gentleman. He promises light work and a quick return. The attraction of wealth and success lures many to the mine. But to get a closer look, travelers must veer off the Way.
At this point in the story Bunyan shows again the advantage of walking with other believers in the journey. Hopeful is curious and wants to go and see the mine. But Christian recognizes the danger. He has heard of this place. It hinders pilgrims from pressing on in their journey. It distracts them from pursuing godliness and eternal life. Some in the past ventured too close to the edge of the mine and fell in. Some were slain and some were maimed.
Though Demas attempts to dismiss the dangers, Christian is not persuaded. He holds firm and will not leave the Way even a step. In Exodus, after the ninth plague, Moses held firm to God’s Word and refused to compromise when Pharaoh offered to negotiate terms. He told Pharaoh “not a hoof shall be left behind” (Exodus 10:26). Christian here exhorts Hopeful: “Let us not stir a step, but still keep on our way.” Christian was already led astray once by Worldly Wiseman and chastened by Evangelist at the foot of Mt. Sinai. He will not be taken in again.
Though Demas claims to be a fellow pilgrim and a “son of Abraham” (one who is true to the faith), Christian recognizes him and the danger he represents. He rebukes Demas for turning aside and for trying to get others to do the same. He points to Scripture and compares him to Gehazi in the Old Testament, who valued money and possessions over obedience.
But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him” (2 Kings 5:20).
And he compares him to Judas in the New Testament, who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
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 26:14–15).
In the end both faced destruction. Gehazi left Elisha’s presence stricken with leprosy and Judas took his own life.
Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3–5).
Bunyan highlights an important lesson about the danger of desiring worldly wealth. Prosperity and success are not inherently evil. They can be blessings from God. But the lure of prosperity and the drive to success can easily become consuming and plunge the heart into idolatry. They can cloud the mind with fears and forgetfulness of God. They can put the soul in a precarious place. Those who venture too close to the mine are in grave danger of falling in. They ground they stand on is deceitful. Asaph calls it a slippery place. In Psalm 73 Asaph was perplexed when he “saw the prosperity of the wicked” (73:3). But then he recognized their danger:
When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—
Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.
Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.
The wicked were trusting in their own prosperity rather than God, and success became for them a slippery slope bringing them to desolation.
Before Israel entered the Promised Land, God warned His people of the dangers that come with plenty and prosperity.
Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end— then you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.” And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day (Deuteronomy 8:8–18).
In time Israel did indeed fall prey to idolatry and rebel against God. The prophet Hosea describes their sin:
For Israel is stubborn
Like a stubborn calf;
Now the Lord will let them forage
Like a lamb in open country.
Ephraim is joined to idols,
Let him alone.
Their drink is rebellion,
They commit harlotry continually.
Her rulers dearly love dishonor.
The prosperity that God’s people enjoyed became a pathway to destruction as they forgot God and sought their own way. The plenty and harvest that they enjoyed in the Promised Land dissolved into nettles and thorns.
For indeed they are gone because of destruction.
Egypt shall gather them up;
Memphis shall bury them.
Nettles shall possess their valuables of silver;
Thorns shall be in their tents.
Though Christian and Hopeful continue their journey and avoid the perils of the mine, By-ends and his friends do not. They fall prey to Demas and are not seen traveling along the Way again.
The demise of By-ends and his friends is a stark warning. Those who long for the riches of this world will in the end find only disappointment and destruction. But those who are “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21) will be abundantly satisfied (Psalm 36:8).
Scripture warns us not to set our heart on riches.
A man with an evil eye hastens after riches,
And does not consider that poverty will come upon him.
But to treasure God.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19–21).
May God anchor our hearts firmly in Him and may we remember that He alone is our greatest joy and treasure.
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.