Hopeful: But it is a wonder that his necessity did not put him upon selling or pawning some of his jewels, that he might have wherewith to relieve himself in his journey.
Christian: You talk like one upon whose head is the shell to this very day; for what should he pawn them, or to whom should he sell them? In all that country where he was robbed, his jewels were not accounted of; nor did he want that relief which could from thence be administered to him. Besides, had his jewels been missing at the gate of the Celestial City, he had (and that he knew well enough) been excluded from an inheritance there; and that would have been worse to him than the appearance and villainy of ten thousand thieves.
Hopeful: Why are you so tart, my brother? Esau sold his birthright, and that for a mess of pottage, and that birthright was his greatest jewel; and if he, why might not Little-faith do so too?
Christian: Esau did sell his birthright indeed, and so do many besides, and by so doing exclude themselves from the chief blessing, as also that caitiff did; but you must put a difference between Esau and Little-faith, and also between their estates. Esau’s birthright was typical, but Little-faith’s jewels were not so; Esau’s belly was his god, but Little-faith’s belly was not so; Esau’s want lay in his fleshly appetite, Little-faith’s did not so. Besides, Esau could see no further than to the fulfilling of his lusts; “Behold, I am at the point to die, (said he), and what profit shall this birthright do me?” But Little-faith, though it was his lot to have but a little faith, was by his little faith kept from such extravagances, and made to see and prize his jewels more than to sell them, as Esau did his birthright. You read not anywhere that Esau had faith, no, not so much as a little; therefore, no marvel if, where the flesh only bears sway, (as it will in that man where no faith is to resist), if he sells his birthright, and his soul and all, and that to the devil of hell; for it is with such, as it is with the donkey, who in her occasions cannot be turned away. When their minds are set upon their lusts, they will have them whatever they cost. But Little-faith was of another temper, his mind was on things divine; his livelihood was upon things that were spiritual, and from above; therefore, to what end should he that is of such a temper sell his jewels (had there been any that would have bought them) to fill his mind with empty things? Will a man give a penny to fill his belly with hay; or can you persuade the turtle-dove to live upon carrion like the crow? Though faithless ones can, for carnal lusts, pawn, or mortgage, or sell what they have, and themselves outright to boot; yet they that have faith, saving faith, though but a little of it, cannot do so. Here, therefore, my brother, is your mistake.
Hopeful: I acknowledge it; but yet your severe reflection had almost made me angry.
Christian: Why, I did but compare thee to some of the birds that are of the brisker sort, who will run to and fro in untrodden paths, with the shell upon their heads; but pass by that, and consider the matter under debate, and all shall be well between you and me.
In the last post Christian and Hopeful discussed the grievous robbery of Little-faith. Three villains attacked Little-faith near Dead Man’s Lane. They plundered his coin purse but were not able to reach his jewels. Christian told Hopeful that after the assault Little-faith was forced to beg to stay alive and complete his journey, “for his jewels he might not sell.” Christian’s comment stirs a question in Hopeful’s mind that leads to a debate. Why could Little-faith not sell his jewels? Why did he not pawn some of his jewels to increase his wealth in his life, that his journey might be more comfortable? Was he greedy? Was he prideful? Was he ashamed? Why would he resort to begging and presume upon the kindness of others if he had the means to pay his own way?
Christian is at first astounded by the question. He considers Hopeful’s thinking to be lunacy. Theologically he is right to address Hopeful’s error. The value of Little-faith’s jewels is immeasurable. He must not and cannot ever part with them.
In regard to both security and worth, there is a great difference between the jewels and the coin purse. The coin purse can be increased or emptied. We carry it with us. It represents our spiritual comfort and peace of mind. The purse is filled when we experience and sense the grace of God at work in our lives. It is plundered when we fall prey to sin and are assaulted by spiritual weakness, doubt, and shame. But our jewels are secure. They are safe with Christ. They represent our heavenly reward and our inheritance in God’s Kingdom.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3–4).
This inheritance is ours in Christ.
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:11–14).
Our inheritance with Christ in heaven is the pearl of great price, more valuable than anything we might possess in this life.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45–46).
The comparison that Bunyan draws between Little-faith’s treasure (his jewels) and his coin purse (his spending money) comes from Bunyan’s autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. When Bunyan came to faith in Christ, he knew Christ to be of all-surpassing worth and glory.
It was glorious to me to see his exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of all his benefits, and that because of this: now I could look from myself to him, and should reckon that all those graces of God that now were green in me, were yet but like those cracked groats and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is in their trunks at home! Oh, I saw my gold was in my trunk at home! In Christ, my Lord and Savior! Now Christ was all; all my wisdom, all my righteousness, all my sanctification, and all my redemption.
[Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 232]
His treasure was Christ! In Christ is all wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30–31).
And this treasure is eternally secure. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35–39).
Little-faith did not earn or deserve his treasured inheritance. It is a gift of grace. He cannot be separated from it and he certainly would not consider selling it.
Hopeful further presses his point by comparing Little-faith to Esau who despised his birthright (his inheritance) and sold it to Jacob for a pot of stew (Genesis 25:29–33). But Esau is not like Little-faith. Esau was worldly and profane. He lacked faith and was driven by lust. Scripture warns:
looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears (Hebrews 12:15–17).
Christian regards Esau as a caitiff (a “contemptable or cowardly person”). Esau acted according to his worldly passions, “as it is with the donkey, who in her occasions cannot be turned away.”
A wild donkey used to the wilderness,
That sniffs at the wind in her desire;
In her time of mating, who can turn her away?
All those who seek her will not weary themselves;
In her month they will find her.
But Little-faith was a true pilgrim bound for the Celestial City. He possessed faith enough to cause him to press on and continue looking to Christ. He prized his jewels and knew that without them he would have no eternal inheritance. His suffering and lack of comforts in this life, unlike Esau, caused him to value his heavenly reward even more.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).
Hopeful acknowledges his error but admits that he almost got angry with Christian’s reply. Christian gave the right answer, but it came across to Hopeful as “tart” and “severe.” He encourages Hopeful not to take offense but to engage willingly in honest debate. Like Christian and Hopeful, we will often have differences in our understanding and grasp of truth. It is to our advantage to be quick to listen and slow to take offense (James 1:19). Their exchange is a reminder that when we see matters differently, we must be concerned with winning our brother, not just winning an argument.
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.