Tag Archives: Pilgrim’s Progress

Met by the Gardener

But, being a little strengthened, and better able to bear their sickness, they walked on their way, and came yet nearer and nearer, where were orchards, vineyards, and gardens, and their gates opened into the highway. Now, as they came up to these places, behold the gardener stood in the way, to whom the Pilgrims said, Whose goodly vineyards and gardens are these? He answered, They are the King’s, and are planted here for his own delight, and also for the solace of pilgrims. So the gardener had them into the vineyards, and bid them refresh themselves with the dainties. He also showed them there the King’s walks, and the arbors where he delighted to be; and here they tarried and slept.

Now I beheld in my dream that they talked more in their sleep at this time than ever they did in all their journey; and being in a muse thereabout, the gardener said even to me, Wherefore do you muse at the matter? It is the nature of the fruit of the grapes of these vineyards to go down so sweetly as to cause the lips of them that are asleep to speak.

So I saw that when they awoke, they addressed themselves to go up to the city; but, as I said, the reflection of the sun upon the city (for the city was pure gold) was so extremely glorious that they could not, as yet, with open face behold it, but through an instrument made for that purpose. So I saw, that as I went on, there met them two men, in raiment that shone like gold; also their faces shone as the light.

These men asked the Pilgrims whence they came; and they told them. They also asked them where they had lodged, what difficulties and dangers, what comforts and pleasures they had met in the way; and they told them. Then said the men that met them, You have but two difficulties more to meet with, and then you are in the city.

Christian then, and his companion, asked the men to go along with them; so they told them they would. But, said they, you must obtain it by your own faith. So I saw in my dream that they went on together, until they came in sight of the gate.

Met by the Gardener

The country of Beulah is a bountiful place, filled with “orchards, vineyards, and gardens” all kindly planted by the King for “his own delight, and also for the solace of pilgrims.”These gracious provisions are a welcome sight to Christian and Hopeful. They are nearing the end of their journey, preparing for death. As they continue on the Way through the country of Beulah, they are soon met by the Gardener. The Gardener takes them into the King’s gardens and vineyards and encourages them to eat and drink and be refreshed. The Gardener’s words echo the kindness and benevolence that Israel was to show when they crossed over into the Promised Land:

When you come into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes at your pleasure, but you shall not put any in your container. When you come into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not use a sickle on your neighbor’s standing grain (Deuteronomy 23:24–25).

The Gardener also shows them the King’s walks (the right way to go) and the King’s arbors (where they can find rest). It is possible that the Gardener, like Watchful at Palace Beautiful, the Shepherds in the Delectable Mountains, and Great-Grace on the King’s Highway, represents another needed aspect of pastoral ministry. The pastor is a great comfort and help to those in the flock who are on the brink of heaven. He encourages them with God’s promises, feeds them with God’s Word, and prays for them that they will end well. But just as the shepherds have a “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4), who is the “Lord Jesus,” the “great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20), Scripture reminds us that there is but one Prime Gardener.

It was God who planted the first garden:

The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food (Genesis 2:8–9).

When Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, Moses described it as a garden cared for by God.

Therefore you shall keep every commandment which I command you today, that you may be strong, and go in and possess the land which you cross over to possess, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the Lord swore to give your fathers, to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden; but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year (Deuteronomy 11:8–12).

Isaiah looked forward to the day when the Lord will restore Zion as a fruitful garden:

For the Lord will comfort Zion,
He will comfort all her waste places;
He will make her wilderness like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the Lord;
Joy and gladness will be found in it,
Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
(Isaiah 51:3)

In the Song of Solomon (where Bunyan draws much of his imagery for the land of Beulah), the King is the Gardener. He is the Beloved One who feeds “his flock in the gardens.”

My beloved has gone to his garden,
To the beds of spices,
To feed his flock in the gardens,
And to gather lilies.
I am my beloved’s,
And my beloved is mine.
He feeds his flock among the lilies.
(Song of Solomon 6:2–3)

After Jesus was crucified, He was laid in a nearby tomb in a garden.

Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby (John 19:41–42).

And when He rose again, Mary Magdalene, the first to see Him, supposed Him to be the gardener.

But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). (John 20:11–16)

In the country of Beulah, the Gardener stands in the Way near the journey’s end to see that pilgrims make it safely home. The Lord considers the death of His saints as precious.

Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.
(Psalm 116:15)

As they near the end of their journey in this life, He is near providing all they need.

As Christian and Hopeful near death, they continue their love-sickness (longing for heaven). Bunyan uses more imagery from the Song of Solomon to express their desire to depart this life and be with Christ.

The wine goes down smoothly for my beloved,
Moving gently the lips of sleepers.
I am my beloved’s,
And his desire is toward me.
(Song of Solomon 9b–10)

As Christian and Hopeful prepare to enter the Celestial City and complete their journey, they are met by two Shining Ones. The Shining Ones question them and tell them they have only two more difficulties left: getting across the River (experiencing death) and getting through the Gates of the City (entering heaven).

The City is made of “pure gold” (Revelation 21:18) and the pilgrims cannot look upon it “but through an instrument made for that purpose” (we see the glory of heaven in Scripture through the eyes of faith). In this life we can gaze upon God’s glory but dimly, as through a mirror. But one day we ourselves will be glorified and we will see Him “face to face.”

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

In this life we long for heaven—we desire to be with Christ. We long to be freed, not only from the curse and condemnation of sin, but from its very presence and power. We desire to be like Christ. One day “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2-3).

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.

The Land of Beulah

Now I saw in my dream, that by this time the Pilgrims were got over the Enchanted Ground, and entering into the country of Beulah, whose air was very sweet and pleasant, the way lying directly through it, they solaced themselves there for a season. Yea, here they heard continually the singing of birds, and saw every day the flowers appear on the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle in the land. In this country the sun shines night and day; wherefore this was beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair, neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting Castle. Here they were within sight of the city they were going to, also here met them some of the inhabitants thereof; for in this land the Shining Ones commonly walked, because it was upon the borders of heaven. In this land also, the contract between the bride and the bridegroom was renewed; yea, here, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so did their God rejoice over them.” Here they had no want of corn and wine; for in this place they met with abundance of what they had sought for in all their pilgrimage. Here they heard voices from out of the city, loud voices, saying, “‘Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh! Behold, his reward is with him!’ Here all the inhabitants of the country called them, ‘The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord, Sought out'”, etc.

Now as they walked in this land, they had more rejoicing than in parts more remote from the kingdom to which they were bound; and drawing near to the city, they had yet a more perfect view thereof. It was built of pearls and precious stones, also the street thereof was paved with gold; so that by reason of the natural glory of the city, and the reflection of the sunbeams upon it, Christian with desire fell sick; Hopeful also had a fit or two of the same disease. Wherefore, here they lay by it a while, crying out, because of their pangs, If you find my beloved, tell him that I am sick of love.

The Land of Beulah

After a long journey through the Enchanted Ground, the pilgrims arrive in the country of Beulah. Beulah is a refreshing contrast to the wearisome terrain that Christian and Hopeful have just endured. In the Enchanted Ground the air “tended to make one drowsy,” but here the air is “sweet and pleasant.” The Enchanted Ground represents our tendency to become spiritually complacent and fatigued. It is the world wearing us down in weariness—the seemingly endless struggle with temptations and trials that we face day after day. The country of Beulah represents our longing for heaven and desire to be with Jesus. It is the vision of our heavenly home lifting us up in hope—the glorious promise of eternal joy in the presence of Christ.

Beulah means married. The country is a reminder of Christ’s love for and His covenant relationship with His church (Jeremiah 31:31; Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 9:15, 12:24).  The church is the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:9). The relationship of the church to Christ is depicted in Scripture as a marriage (Ephesians 5:22–33, Revelation 19:7–9; 21:9).

Bunyan borrows language from Scripture to describe the beauty of the land—Christ’s nearness and love for His people. In the Song of Solomon, the King calls to His beloved:

My beloved spoke, and said to me:
“Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away.
For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove
Is heard in our land.”
(Song of Solomon 2:10–12)

Bunyan also draws language from Isaiah’s prophesy of the future glory of Israel with the coming of the Messiah.

You shall no longer be termed Forsaken,
Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate;
But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah;
For the Lord delights in you,
And your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a virgin,
So shall your sons marry you;
And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
So shall your God rejoice over you.
(Isaiah 62:4–5)

In Beulah there is an abundance of provision.

The Lord has sworn by His right hand
And by the arm of His strength:
“Surely I will no longer give your grain
As food for your enemies;
And the sons of the foreigner shall not drink your new wine,
For which you have labored.
But those who have gathered it shall eat it,
And praise the Lord;
Those who have brought it together shall drink it in My holy courts.”
(Isaiah 62:8–9)

Here the inhabitants of Zion (the people of God) are called “the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord,” and “Sought Out.”

Indeed the Lord has proclaimed
To the end of the world:
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Surely your salvation is coming;
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him.’ ”
And they shall call them The Holy People,
The Redeemed of the Lord;
And you shall be called Sought Out,
A City Not Forsaken.
(Isaiah 62:11–12)

The country of Beulah provides the pilgrims “a more perfect view” of their final destination, the Celestial City. What Christian and Hopeful saw in the distance from a Hill called Clear in the Delectable Mountains when they were with the Shepherds, now they see in more radiant splendor.

Their view of the city is John’s vision of the New Jerusalem (the bride of Christ) in the book of Revelation. Bunyan makes clear that what we know about heaven, we know through God’s revelation in His Word.

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.

Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass (Revelation 21:9–21).

Both Christian and Hopeful are dazzled by the site of the city and overwhelmed with wonder. Both fall sick with love. Their love-sickness represents a longing to be with Christ. This longing is seen in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better (Philippians 1:21–23).

And it is echoed in the words of the bride in Song of Solomon:

I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
If you find my beloved,
That you tell him I am lovesick!
(Song of Solomon 5:8)

The land of Beulah provides the closest and clearest glimpses of glory. Here “on the borders of heaven” saints are “within sight of the city.” They look forward with eagerness to the day when they will see Christ face to face. Here “the things of earth” “grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Bunyan places the country of Beulah near the end of his story. While this is a land that pilgrims can be blessed to visit at various seasons of life, it is especially the dwelling place of older saints—seasoned believers whose days in this life are drawing to an end. The world no longer enthralls them. Doubt and Despair no longer trouble them. Trials are momentary. Eternity looms large in their thinking. We hear the desire of their hearts in the closing words of Scripture:

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”
And let him who hears say, “Come!”
And let him who thirsts come.
Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. …
He who testifies to these things says,
“Surely I am coming quickly.”
Amen.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Amen.
(Revelation 22:17, 20–21)

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.

The Cause of Temporary’s Backsliding

Hopeful: Now I have showed you the reasons of their going back, do you show me the manner thereof.

Christian: So I will willingly.

  1. They draw off their thoughts, all that they may, from the remembrance of God, death, and judgment to come.

  2. Then they cast off by degrees private duties, as closet prayer, curbing their lusts, watching, sorrow for sin, and the like.

  3. Then they shun the company of lively and warm Christians.

  4. After that they grow cold to public duty, as hearing, reading, godly conference, and the like.

  5. Then they begin to pick holes, as we say, in the coats of some of the godly; and that devilishly, that they may have a seeming color to throw religion (for the sake of some infirmity they have espied in them) behind their backs.

  6. Then they begin to adhere to, and associate themselves with, carnal, loose, and wanton men.

  7. Then they give way to carnal and wanton discourses in secret; and glad are they if they can see such things in any that are counted honest, that they may the more boldly do it through their example.

  8. After this they begin to play with little sins openly.

  9. And then, being hardened, they show themselves as they are. Thus, being launched again into the gulf of misery, unless a miracle of grace prevent it, they everlastingly perish in their own deceivings.

Backsliding Cliff

Temporary’s falling away is tragic, but it didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow process that little by little eroded his faith and dampened his zeal. Earlier in the allegory, Bunyan portrayed the terrible end of apostasy through the encounter with Turn-Away. Now with Temporary he focuses on how it begins. So how does it happen? How can someone full of zeal and joy in the Lord, fall away? Christian outlines the treacherous progression that turned Temporary around and caused him to backslide.

  1. Backsliding begins by thinking less and less of God and His Word. Temporary knew that Scripture warned against sin and condemned him for his sin, but he found no lasting consolation looking to Christ. He loved sin too much. He lacked the will to resist it. He lacked the power to forsake it. Though he had professed faith in Christ and had convinced all around him that he was turning away from sin, he harbored a delight for sin in his heart. Though he claimed to be a Christian, he discovered that it was simply too hard to live and walk and believe as a Christian in his own strength. Even his outward attempts to do what was right condemned him as a hypocrite and fraud. He was walking toward heaven on his way to hell. He was claiming to know peace, but still felt condemned. Rather than dwell on the unpleasant realities of sin, death, and judgment, rather than ponder his growing guilt and shame, he turned his thoughts away from God and gave his attention to self, living it up, and entertainment.
  2. Backsliding continues by neglecting “private duties.” Prayer becomes less frequent. The Bible sits on the shelf unread. Temporary gave up any pretense of acting like a Christian in private. When temptations came, he guarded his privacy more than his heart. He willingly gave into sin and refused to feel any grief for wrongs he had done.
  3. Neglecting private duties soon affects public associations. Temporary no longer wanted to be around vibrant Christians. He didn’t so much mind those who were struggling or indifferent. But those who were joyful in Christ and growing in God’s Word—these he could not tolerate. Their very presence in his life added to his own feelings of unworthiness and guilt.
  4. Avoiding encounters with growing Christians then chills public duties. Temporary became less concerned with presenting himself as a Christian to others around him, even in public worship. He no longer tried paying attention during the preaching and public reading of Scripture. He was less enthused with participating in corporate prayer and singing. Soon his church attendance fell off altogether.
  5. The backslider then looks to excuse his non-attendance. Temporary justified his actions by “picking holes” in the testimony of others. His dismissed his own hypocrisy by looking for inconsistencies in the lives of church members and attenders. Their infirmities and struggles became his justification for staying away from church.
  6. The loss of church fellowship is filled with worldly association. Temporary no longer felt accepted by the church. They were hypocrites anyway. They couldn’t help him. He didn’t really belong. And so he sought friendship and belonging elsewhere. He joined clubs, went to the gym, helped charities, hung out with co-workers—all the while looking for people with whom he could relate, people he could talk to without feeling put down. He surrounded himself with people who weren’t offended by sin, people who didn’t mind having a little fun and holding on to worldly pleasures. He befriended the world and little by little, the world led him further from God, deeper into sin.
  7. The backslider grows complacent and comfortable with sin in private. Carelessness and prayerlessness opens the way to “carnal and wanton discourses in secret.” Temporary still feared men (what others might think of him), but he no longer feared the Lord. He fell into foolishness and gave into his lusts. He schemed to satisfy his sinful desires and then plotted to keep them hidden.
  8. Sin that takes root in the darkness does not remain hidden. Emboldened by the fleeting pleasure of secret sin, and craving more, Temporary began to sin more openly. Unrestrained by watchfulness and unchecked by those he called his friends, he drifted little by little into a lifestyle of unconcealed, blatant sin.
  9. Unrestrained sin calcifies the heart and deceives the mind. Temporary ended up in a worse state than before he professed faith in Christ. Now he was entrenched in sin and burned out in religion. He had discredited and dismissed the only Way to life and peace with God. He was on his way to “everlasting punishment” yet unconcerned about his soul.

How then can we guard against such a terrible outcome? There are four important lessons we should learn from Temporary’s backsliding:

1) We dare not toy with sin and leave off the means of grace. Nothing can be hidden from God.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
Keeping watch on the evil and the good.
(Proverbs 15:3)

 We must guard our hearts and give no place to sin in our lives (public or private). We must continually remember Christ and keep the gospel alive in our thinking. We must daily lay hold of the means of grace: prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship, worship,… God has graciously given ample provision for the good of our souls.

2) We must keep watch for the sake of others as well as ourselves. Bunyan places this lesson near the end of the enchanted ground. Christian and Hopeful are mature believers. When we toy with sin and become spiritually lazy, we not only place our own souls in jeopardy, we endanger others. Young believers are watching us. They are taking their cues from us. If we give sin a foothold, they will see less of a need to resist. If we are not alarmed with sin in our lives, they will be more prone to let down their guard. If we excuse our sin, we will teach them to do so as well.

3) For those who reject God and return to the world, judgment is swift and immediate. Facing the wrath of God in hell for eternity is a real danger for any who cast off their faith, but it is not the beginning of judgment. Paul warns those who know the truth, yet willingly suppress it to hold onto their sin:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:18–22).

Their hardness of heart is the harbinger of judgment. They become “futile in their thoughts” and can no longer discern right from wrong, good from evil. God gives them up to their sin—to pursue the desires of “their foolish hearts.” They push God from their thinking and sin rushes in to corrupt the mind.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:28–32).

4) Though backsliding is fearful, it does not have to be fatal. Christian concludes that those who have plunged “again into the gulf of misery” will be condemned for eternity “unless a miracle of grace prevent it.” There is none among the living who is beyond the reach of God’s grace. We must pray for those who are backsliding, whose faith seems fleeting and temporary. Pray that God will pursue them with mercy. Pray that He will awaken them to their danger. Pray that their misery and God’s judgment in their lives will be but warning shots across the bow to turn them around and return them to wisdom and the fear of the Lord.

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.

The Fleeting Faith of Temporary

Christian: Well, we will leave, at this time, our neighbor Ignorance by himself, and fall upon another profitable question.

Hopeful: With all my heart, but you shall still begin.

Christian: Well then, did you not know, about ten years ago, one Temporary in your parts, who was a forward man in religion then?

Hopeful: Know him! yes, he dwelt in Graceless, a town about two miles off of Honesty, and he dwelt next door to one Turnback.

Christian: Right, he dwelt under the same roof with him. Well, that man was much awakened once; I believe that then he had some sight of his sins, and of the wages that were due thereto.

Hopeful: I am of your mind, for, my house not being above three miles from him, he would ofttimes come to me, and that with many tears. Truly I pitied the man, and was not altogether without hope of him; but one may see, it is not every one that cries, Lord, Lord.

Christian: He told me once that he was resolved to go on pilgrimage, as we do now; but all of a sudden he grew acquainted with one Save-self, and then he became a stranger to me.

Hopeful: Now, since we are talking about him, let us a little inquire into the reason of the sudden backsliding of him and such others.

Christian: It may be very profitable, but do you begin.

Hopeful: Well, then, there are in my judgment four reasons for it:

  1. Though the consciences of such men are awakened, yet their minds are not changed; therefore, when the power of guilt wears away, that which provoked them to be religious ceases, wherefore they naturally turn to their own course again, even as we see the dog that is sick of what he has eaten, so long as his sickness prevails he vomits and casts up all; not that he does this of a free mind (if we may say a dog has a mind), but because it troubles his stomach; but now, when his sickness is over, and so his stomach eased, his desire being not at all alienate from his vomit, he turns him about and licks up all, and so it is true which is written, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again.” Thus I say, being hot for heaven, by virtue only of the sense and fear of the torments of hell, as their sense of hell and the fears of damnation chills and cools, so their desires for heaven and salvation cool also. So then it comes to pass, that when their guilt and fear is gone, their desires for heaven and happiness die, and they return to their course again.
  2. Another reason is, they have slavish fears that do overmaster them; I speak now of the fears that they have of men, for “the fear of man brings a snare.” So then, though they seem to be hot for heaven, so long as the flames of hell are about their ears, yet when that terror is a little over, they betake themselves to second thoughts; namely, that it is good to be wise, and not to run (for they know not what) the hazard of losing all, or, at least, of bringing themselves into unavoidable and unnecessary troubles, and so they fall in with the world again.
  3. The shame that attends religion lies also as a block in their way; they are proud and haughty; and religion in their eye is low and contemptible, therefore, when they have lost their sense of hell and wrath to come, they return again to their former course.
  4. Guilt, and to meditate terror, are grievous to them. They like not to see their misery before they come into it; though perhaps the sight of it first, if they loved that sight, might make them fly whither the righteous fly and are safe. But because they do, as I hinted before, even shun the thoughts of guilt and terror, therefore, when once they are rid of their awakenings about the terrors and wrath of God, they harden their hearts gladly, and choose such ways as will harden them more and more.

Christian: You are pretty near the business, for the bottom of all is for want of a change in their mind and will. And therefore they are but like the felon that stands before the judge, he quakes and trembles, and seems to repent most heartily, but the bottom of all is the fear of the halter; not that he has any detestation of the offence, as is evident, because, let but this man have his liberty, and he will be a thief, and so a rogue still, whereas, if his mind was changed, he would be otherwise.

Hopeful and Temporary

Christian and Hopeful are nearing the end of their journey across the Enchanted Ground. They have kept alert and resisted spiritual weariness by engaging in “good discourse.” First Hopeful shared his testimony of coming to faith in Christ. Then Christian and Hopeful met again with Ignorance and tried to show him his errors and point him to truth. Their extended conversations underscore the contrast between true faith and false faith. Hopeful, like Christian, has true faith—his hope rests in Christ alone. Ignorance has false faith—his hope is carried by his own “good motions.”

Now Bunyan adds a third contrast—fleeting faith. Christian remembers a former pilgrim named Temporary. His background gives us insight into his spiritual condition. Temporary is from the town of Graceless (he lacks true saving grace) that lies near Honesty (though he tries to live an upright and moral life). He lived next door to Turnback (one who abandoned his faith and returned to the ways of the world).

Temporary was once acquainted with both Christian and Hopeful. Before his brief pilgrimage, when he was troubled by sin and overwhelmed with its consequences, he sought them out for help and for counsel. Christian and Hopeful pointed him to Christ and though Temporary gave some evidence of following Christ at the beginning, his faith was not enduring. When consequences abated and troubles faded, so did his faith.

Temporary is the opposite of By-ends, another fleeting follower of Christ from earlier in the story. By-ends looked to religion for personal gain and affirmation. He attended church during the good times when it was comfortable and fashionable. But when troubles arose and opposition came, he was gone. Temporary looked to religion for counseling and support. He attended church during the hard times when he was plagued with troubles and beaten down with the consequences of his sin. But when troubles subsided and all seemed well, he was gone.

Temporary represents one whose profession of faith is short-lived. Initially he was concerned about his sin, determined to become a pilgrim, and zealous for religion. He sought the Lord with tears. He had a convincing testimony. He renounced sin and expressed sorrow for sin. But despite his best intentions and efforts, he lacked the power to change. Though he gave the outward appearance of repentance, he did not truly repent. His love for sin was muted, but it persisted in his heart and festered in his mind. As a result, his determination to reform was only temporary. Once his guilt faded, he returned to a pursuit of sin.

Why did Temporary backslide? Why did he forsake the faith and fall into apostacy? Hopeful suggests four reasons:

1) Though he was aware of his sin and disturbed by its unsavory consequences, he did not hate his sin. He had no power to resist it. In his heart and mind, he still desired it. All that restrained him was the fear of what might happen as a result of his sin and the shame of being found out. When that fear and shame were strong, he strove to be upright. But when fear and shame diminished, so did his desire to pursue holiness.

2) He feared men more than God. He dreaded the trouble that sin and its consequences might bring in this life, yet thought little of the greater, unceasing terror of facing God’s wrath in eternity.

The fear of man brings a snare,
But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.
(Proverbs 29:25)

3) He saw religion as a useful refuge in times of felt weakness and need. But in good times, when he felt confident and strong, he determined that he needed no such crutch.

4) He disliked feeling guilty and ashamed. Because his heart was unchanged, the more he tried to live as a Christian, the more he stumbled and felt bad about himself. The more he failed at gaining victory over sin, the more he suppressed conviction and pushed aside guilt. He lacked grace to look to Christ and so he saw only himself troubled by sin. Rather than feel remorse, he made allowances for his sin. Rather than be continually oppressed with guilt, he gave up thinking about wrath and judgment.

Temporary is one who walks by sight and not by faith. Temptation is more real to him than the way of escape. Earthly sorrows and difficulties are more real that heavenly rest and reward. Temporary desired palpable and obvious relief from his troubles. Rather than trust Christ by faith, he sought more tangible ways to ease his conscience. He befriended Save-self (works righteousness) who convinced him that his religion need not be so radical and self-denying. Soon Temporary gave up going on a pilgrimage and was no longer interested in Christian’s company. Temporary came to the fatal conclusion that by doing things that made him feel good, he could manage his sin, avoid distasteful consequences, and successfully mend his life.

Scripture warns against false teachers who would lead people astray with “great swelling words of emptiness,” convincing those who are still in love with their sin that sin is not so bad, and that sin can somehow be tamed and kept under control.

For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage (2 Peter 2:18–19).

And it warns those who have professed faith in Christ of the great danger of becoming attracted and entangled again in the deadly snares of sin.

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20–22).

Temporary teaches us that feeling ashamed and being sorry for sin are not enough to keep us from returning to sin. Being aware of the consequences of sin, even eternal consequences, is not enough to restrain us from sinning. We must hate sin because God hates sin. Making a convincing start doesn’t guarantee a successful end. Calling Jesus Lord and making an enthusiastic display of religious devotion is not enough to anchor our faith and keep us from falling away. Jesus said, “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” (Matthew 7:21). We must love Christ, rest in Him alone, and find in Him more delight and satisfaction than anything this world can offer. And this we cannot do apart from God’s grace and the power of His Spirit at work in us.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8–9).

For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance … (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

May God grant us, by His grace and by the power of His Spirit, true repentance—that we would hate sin and turn from sin, and true saving faith—that we would love Christ and persevere to our journey’s end.

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.

Ignorance and the Fear of the Lord

Then Christian addressed thus himself to his fellow:

Christian: Well, come, my good Hopeful, I perceive that you and I must walk by ourselves again.

So I saw in my dream that they went on apace before, and Ignorance he came hobbling after. Then said Christian to his companion, It pities me much for this poor man, it will certainly go ill with him at last.

Hopeful: Alas! there are abundance in our town in his condition, whole families, yea, whole streets, and that of pilgrims too; and if there be so many in our parts, how many, think you, must there be in the place where he was born?

Christian: Indeed the Word says, “He has blinded their eyes, lest they should see”, &c. But now we are by ourselves, what do you think of such men? Have they at no time, think you, convictions of sin, and so consequently fears that their state is dangerous?

Hopeful: Nay, do you answer that question yourself, for you are the elder man.

Christian: Then I say, sometimes (as I think) they may; but they, being naturally ignorant, understand not that such convictions tend to their good; and therefore they do desperately seek to stifle them, and presumptuously continue to flatter themselves in the way of their own hearts.

Hopeful: I do believe, as you say, that fear tends much to men’s good, and to make them right, at their beginning to go on pilgrimage.

Christian: Without all doubt it does, if it be right; for so says the Word, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Hopeful: How will you describe right fear?

Christian: True or right fear is discovered by three things:

  1. By its rise; it is caused by saving convictions for sin.
  2. It drives the soul to lay fast hold of Christ for salvation.
  3. It begets and continues in the soul a great reverence of God, his Word, and ways, keeping it tender, and making it afraid to turn from them, to the right hand or to the left, to anything that may dishonor God, break its peace, grieve the Spirit, or cause the enemy to speak reproachfully.

Hopeful: Well said; I believe you have said the truth. Are we now almost got past the Enchanted Ground?

Christian: Why, are you weary of this discourse?

Hopeful: No, verily, but that I would know where we are.

Christian: We have not now above two miles further to go thereon. But let us return to our matter. Now the ignorant know not that such convictions as tend to put them in fear are for their good, and therefore they seek to stifle them.

Hopeful: How do they seek to stifle them?

Christian:

  1. They think that those fears are wrought by the devil, (though indeed they are wrought of God); and, thinking so, they resist them as things that directly tend to their overthrow.
  2. They also think that these fears tend to the spoiling of their faith, when, alas, for them, poor men that they are, they have none at all! and therefore they harden their hearts against them.
  3. They presume they ought not to fear; and, therefore, in despite of them, wax presumptuously confident.
  4. They see that those fears tend to take away from them their pitiful old self-holiness, and therefore they resist them with all their might.

Hopeful: I know something of this myself; for, before I knew myself, it was so with me.

Christian and Hopeful

Once again Christian and Hopeful continue the journey, leaving Ignorance to walk behind. They have challenged Ignorance concerning his views of himself, God, how God saves sinners, and how sinners are able to respond to the gospel. As Christian and Hopeful continue their conversation, they lament Ignorance’s spiritual blindness and identify the root of his error. Ignorance fails to grasp the seriousness of his condition because he does not truly fear the Lord.

Though Ignorance desires to go to heaven (the Celestial City) and has embarked on a pilgrimage, he remains blinded by sin and doesn’t sense that his soul is in danger. Christian compares Ignorance to unbelieving Israel who had fallen under God’s judgment.

Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:
“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts,
Lest they should see with their eyes,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.”
(John 12:39–40)

“Make the heart of this people dull,
And their ears heavy,
And shut their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart,
And return and be healed.”
(Isaiah 6:10)

Ignorance trusts his heart and believes that he is the source of the good he sees in himself. His wrong assessment causes him to undervalue grace and overvalue his piety. His religious devotion feeds pride in himself rather than praise to God. His pride causes him to fear men (how others see him and what others say about him) rather than God. He is taken aback when Christian and Hopeful cast doubt on his testimony. He takes God for granted and assumes that God is pleased to have him along on the journey.

It is pride that makes us susceptible to worldly fear and immune to godly fear. Worldly fear intimidates and weakens us. It arises from threatening or overwhelming circumstances. It causes us to tremble before men and forget God. It instills anxiety and dread. But godly fear helps and strengthens us. Christian explains how to discern true godly fear:

  1. It arises from conviction of sin, compels us to flee from sin, and helps us see our great need of a Savior.
  2. It removes all confidence in ourselves and drives us to Christ as our only hope.
  3. It instills reverence of God in the soul. Reverence is a spiritual posture of worship that keeps us mindful of God’s presence with us. It is an awareness of God that humbly acknowledges and submits to Him as Creator and Lord of all.

“True or right fear” fears God and not men.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).

It leads to blessing—

Blessed is every one who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways.
(Psalm 128:1)

And to confidence and life—

In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,
And His children will have a place of refuge.
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death.
(Proverbs 14:26–27).

True fear is the beginning of wisdom.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(Proverbs 1:7)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
(Proverbs 9:10)

And to man He said,
“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
And to depart from evil is understanding.”
(Job 28:28)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.
His praise endures forever.
(Psalm 111:10)

Even kings and judges are called to be wise and fear the Lord.

Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
(Psalm 2:10–11)

But Ignorance does not understand the difference between worldly fear and godly fear. He equates all fear as weakness and a stain on his devotion. He is a false believer who dabbles in religion but shuns conviction. He seeks to stifle fear, even godly fear that could eternally benefit his soul. Christian explains how the ignorant stifle their fears:

  1. They believe all fear is bad and wrongly attribute it to the work of the devil. They see virtue in suppressing fear because they equate it with resisting the devil.
  2. They equate faith with confidence and assurance and see fear as undermining their faith.
  3. They believe that they should “fear not” and so confidently put down their fears.
  4. They want others to see them as spiritually strong and pious. They believe fear makes them weak and less sure of themselves, so they stifle fear in an effort to feel holy inwardly and appear holy outwardly.

We live in a day when many have lost the fear of the Lord. People don’t live from the vantage point that there is a Sovereign God who has created all things and who will one day judge the world. They champion confidence and self-esteem as strength. They disparage humility and fear as weakness. Though they may be religious and acknowledge God’s existence, they try to set their own pace and make their own rules. They imagine their own ideas of truth and justice and hold God in contempt for not making the world the way they believe it should be.

We must not make the same mistake as Ignorance. Godly fear is not weakness. It is wisdom and strength. It anchors us in God and His provision for us in Christ. It leads us to true justice and righteousness found in Christ and His Kingdom. Godly fear is indeed a true treasure.

The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high;
He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness.
Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times,
And the strength of salvation;
The fear of the Lord is His treasure.
(Isaiah 33:5–6)

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.

Ignorance and Divine Calling

Hopeful: Ask him if ever he had Christ revealed to him from heaven.

Ignorance: What! you are a man for revelations! I believe that what both you, and all the rest of you, say about that matter, is but the fruit of distracted brains.

Hopeful: Why, man! Christ is so hid in God from the natural apprehensions of the flesh, that he cannot by any man be savingly known, unless God the Father reveals him to them.

Ignorance: That is your faith, but not mine; yet mine, I doubt not, is as good as yours, though I have not in my head so many whimsies as you.

Christian: Give me leave to put in a word. You ought not so slightly to speak of this matter; for this I will boldly affirm, even as my good companion hath done, that no man can know Jesus Christ but by the revelation of the Father; yea, and faith too, by which the soul lays hold upon Christ, if it be right, must be wrought by the exceeding greatness of his mighty power; the working of which faith, I perceive, poor Ignorance, you are ignorant of. Be awakened, then, see your own wretchedness, and fly to the Lord Jesus; and by his righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, for he himself is God, you shall be delivered from condemnation.

Ignorance: You go so fast, I cannot keep pace with you. Do you go on before; I must stay a while behind.

Then they said:

Well, Ignorance, wilt thou yet foolish be,
To slight good counsel, ten times given thee?
And if thou yet refuse it, thou shalt know,
Ere long, the evil of thy doing so.
Remember, man, in time, stoop, do not fear;
Good counsel taken well, saves: therefore hear.
But if thou yet shalt slight it, thou wilt be
The loser, (Ignorance), I’ll warrant thee.

Christian and Hopeful speak with Ignorance

Ignorance was gravely mistaken in his understanding of justification—how he can be made right with God. But his error extends further to divine calling—how he is able to respond to the gospel and come to Christ in the first place.

For Ignorance, it is no wonder that he is a pilgrim on his way to the Celestial City, for he fails to see the true wonder and amazement of salvation.

Ignorance believes himself to be a man of intellect and reason, capable of setting his own course and making his own choices in regard to following and serving Christ. For him religion is a personal choice—a choice he was wise enough to make.

Hopeful encourages Christian to ask Ignorance if God had ever opened his heart so he could understand the gospel and know Christ savingly. Ignorance thinks such a notion is whimsical and “the fruit of distracted brains.” How can these pilgrims question his devotion or doubt his salvation? See how far he was walked in the Way! He believes in God and wants to go to heaven. He is a religious man who acknowledges the goodness of Christ. He is trying to follow Christ and live according to God’s Law. What need does he have for “revelations”? He has already made it his goal to one day reach the Celestial City.

Ignorance’s error is once again rooted in his underestimation of his sin. He believes he is basically good and has never felt the weight of his sin. He denies that he is blinded by sin or in bondage to sin. His sin, as he compares it to others, is light, so he is perfectly capable of making amends. His religious devotion, blessed by Christ, more than makes up for any wrongs he has done.

Though Ignorance is confident that his faith is “as good as” Hopeful’s, Scripture teaches otherwise. Apart from God’s grace, we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). We would remain ensnared “in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind” and be under God’s condemnation as “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), “BUT” for “God, who is rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4).

God must open the heart if we are to heed His Word (Acts 16:14). God must give light if we are to escape darkness.

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Only God can draw us to Himself and grant us salvation in Christ.

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).

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44).

And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (John 6:65).

We need the power of God’s Spirit if we are to come to Christ and submit to Him as Lord.

Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).

We need the power of God’s Spirit to open the eyes of our understanding. Paul prays in Ephesians 1:

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power (Ephesians 1:17–19).

It is the gracious power of God that calls us, draws us, and saves us. It is not our works—including our own good sense, intellect, or reason. It is all of God—

who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began (2 Timothy 1:9).

God alone can save us and He alone receives the glory.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:26–29).

Apart from the grace of God, we will continue to walk in ignorance.

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart (Ephesians 4:17–18).

Christian tells Ignorance plainly that “no man can know Jesus Christ but by the revelation of the Father.” Only God can give sight to the blind, light to those in darkness, and life to those who were once “dead in trespasses and sins.” Yet Christian then calls Ignorance to repent and come to Christ: “Be awakened, then, see your own wretchedness, and fly to the Lord Jesus; and by his righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, for he himself is God, you shall be delivered from condemnation.” Here Christian echoes Matthew 11 where Jesus prays in verses 25–27:

 “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:25–27).

Jesus affirms in His prayer that the truth of the gospel is hidden to some and revealed to others. God must open the eyes of our understanding if we are to find rest in Christ. But He follows His prayer with a consoling call to repentance and faith.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

Here we see the glorious union of two essential truths: the sovereignty of God (He must give us understanding) and the responsibility of man (we must come to Christ). In Christian’s counsel to Ignorance, Bunyan points us to both truths. We must give God all the glory, for He alone saves. And we must ever plead with men to repent and believe in Christ, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

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.

Ignorance and Justification

Ignorance: Do you think that I am such a fool as to think God can see no further than I? or, that I would come to God in the best of my performances?

Christian: Why, how do you think in this matter?

Ignorance: Why, to be short, I think I must believe in Christ for justification.

Christian: How! Do you think you must believe in Christ, when you do not see your need of him! You neither see your original nor actual infirmities; but have such an opinion of yourself, and of what you do, as plainly renders you to be one that did never see a necessity of Christ’s personal righteousness to justify you before God. How, then, do you say, I believe in Christ?

Ignorance: I believe well enough for all that.

Christian: How do you believe?

Ignorance: I believe that Christ died for sinners, and that I shall be justified before God from the curse, through His gracious acceptance of my obedience to His law. Or thus, Christ makes my duties, that are religious, acceptable to His Father, by virtue of His merits; and so shall I be justified.

Christian: Let me give an answer to this confession of your faith:

  1. You believe with a fantastical faith; for this faith is nowhere described in the Word.
  2. You believe with a false faith; because it takes justification from the personal righteousness of Christ, and applies it to your own.
  3. This faith does not make Christ a justifier of your person, but of your actions; and of your person for your actions’ sake, which is false.
  4. Therefore, this faith is deceitful, even such as will leave you under wrath, in the day of God Almighty; for true justifying faith puts the soul, as sensible of its condition by the law, upon flying for refuge unto Christ’s righteousness, which righteousness of His is not an act of grace, by which He makes for justification, your obedience accepted with God; but His personal obedience to the law, in doing and suffering for us what that required at our hands; this righteousness, I say, true faith accepts; under the skirt of which, the soul being shrouded, and by it presented as spotless before God, it is accepted, and acquit from condemnation.

Ignorance: What! would you have us trust to what Christ, in His own person, has done without us? This conceit would loosen the reins of our lust, and tolerate us to live as we list; for what matter how we live, if we may be justified by Christ’s personal righteousness from all, when we believe it?

Christian: Ignorance is thy name, and as your name is, so you are; even this your answer demonstrates what I say. You are ignorant of what justifying righteousness is, and as ignorant how to secure your soul, through the faith of it, from the heavy wrath of God. Yea, you also are ignorant of the true effects of saving faith in this righteousness of Christ, which is, to bow and win over the heart to God in Christ, to love His name, His word, ways, and people, and not as you ignorantly imagine.

Christian Instructs Ignorance

As Christian continues to press Ignorance with the truth of God’s Word, Ignorance responds with what appears to be a sound answer. Ignorance denies that his confidence is in himself and that he can come to God on the basis of his own works, even in his “best performances.” He claims: “I must believe in Christ for justification.” Christian, however, won’t allow him to get by with using the language of salvation while missing the truth of salvation. Ignorance speaks of believing in Christ, but he doesn’t grasp his need for believing in Christ. He sees value in Christ’s righteousness, but he doesn’t see Christ’s righteousness as his only hope.

Ignorance rightly believes that Christ died on the cross for sinners, but he thinks that his justification rests in his own obedience to God’s Law, made acceptable to the Father through the merits of Christ’s righteousness.

Ignorance’s error is rooted in a false assumption. He has grossly underestimated the vastness and vileness of sin. And he has greatly overvalued his own righteousness in comparison. He believes he is basically a good person. He sees his righteousness as humanly weak, but not filthy (Isaiah 54:6) and wretched (Romans 7:24). He trusts that God will graciously infuse the divine goodness and perfections of Christ with his own sincere efforts of religious devotion and, by virtue of Christ’s merit now fortifying his own, accept him as righteous.

Christian rightly concludes that Ignorance has a “false” and “fantastical” faith.

  1. What Ignorance believes is not in accord with the revelation of Scripture, but contrived from the logic of religion.
  2. Though acknowledging Christ for divine assistance, Ignorance believes he will be justified by God’s gracious acceptance of his own obedience to the Law.
  3. He is coming not as a wretched, condemned sinner looking to Christ to justify his person, but rather as a sincere, devout follower looking to Christ to justify his religious duties.
  4. Therefore, his faith is deceitful and dangerous because it leaves him under God’s wrath and condemnation, while convincing him that all is well.

God’s Word is clear. We cannot be justified—declared righteous before God—by our own works.

knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified (Galatians 2:16).

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:19–20).

If we are to be justified, it can only be by a gift of God’s grace through the redemption provided for us in Christ. We cannot stand before God in our sinfulness. We cannot reach God through our own meager righteousness. We need the righteousness that is found in Christ alone for all who believe in Him by faith!

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:21–24).

God does not justify us by our works made acceptable in Christ, but by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:5–8).

Our justification rests solely upon the person and work of Christ. God takes the guilt of our sin and places it on (or imputes it to) Christ, so that Christ is treated as we deserve to be treated. We deserve the wrath and condemnation of God; we deserve death. Though Christ was (and still is) perfect and holy, He died for us on the cross, paying our debt and bearing God’s wrath for us that we might live. This is God’s wondrous mercy! But there is more! God takes the perfect righteousness of Christ and places it on (or imputes it to) us, so that we are treated as Christ deserves to be treated—as sons and daughters. Though we are sinners (and continue to struggle with sin even as Christians) we are regarded as perfect and holy. We are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and stand acceptable before God, not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ has done. Because of Christ, we are purified, cleansed, forgiven, accepted, and made right with God. Christ’s perfect life of obedience and sacrificial death on the cross, purchased this for us. He is the only hope for sinners to be rescued from sin and the dire consequences of sin.

Ignorance argues that if God accepts us as righteous solely on the basis of Christ’s obedience, then sin would be given free reign. We would presume upon God, live however we want, and plunge headlong into sin. Paul anticipated this line of reasoning in Romans:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1–2)

Ignorance again has based his conclusion on a false assumption. He thinks that free grace from God would embolden sinners rather than restrain them. But true saving grace not only justifies, it also sanctifies. In Christ we have not only forgiveness of sin, but power to turn away from sin (Romans 1:16–17, 1 Corinthians 1:18).God not only declares us righteous in Christ, He gives us a heart that loves righteousness and desires to pursue righteousness. He takes away our love of sinning and more and more causes us to “love His name, His word, ways, and people.” By God’s grace we can live for Christ and not in sin. We can walk by faith and not walk in ignorance.

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.

Right Thoughts About God

Ignorance: What are good thoughts concerning God?

Christian: Even as I have said concerning ourselves, when our thoughts of God do agree with what the Word says of him; and that is, when we think of his being and attributes as the Word has taught, of which I cannot now discourse at large; but to speak of him with reference to us: Then we have right thoughts of God, when we think that he knows us better than we know ourselves, and can see sin in us when and where we can see none in ourselves; when we think he knows our inmost thoughts, and that our heart, with all its depths, is always open unto his eyes; also, when we think that all our righteousness stinks in his nostrils, and that, therefore, he cannot abide to see us stand before him in any confidence, even in all our best performances.

Word of God

Ignorance was hindered from coming to faith in Christ because he did not believe the truth about himself. His heart was darkened by sin. His life was in defiance of God’s Law. He was a justly condemned sinner in need of God’s grace and mercy. But he simply could not believe that his heart was that bad. His heart told him so!

If we are to rightly understand ourselves, we must measure ourselves according to God’s Word. This is true of what we believe about ourselves and it is true of what we believe about God. Having good thoughts about God is not necessarily thinking highly of Him or hoping that He will answer our prayers just as we desire. We are not free to imagine God as we want Him to be. He is not defined by our feelings, our felt needs, or our own sense of justice. If we are to know God truly, we must know Him as He as revealed Himself in His Word.

Consider for a moment some of what the Bible says is true about God.

God is solitary. He alone is God; there is none like Him.

Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders?
(Exodus 15:11)

For who is God, except the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?
(Psalm 18:31)

Now see that I, even I, am He,
And there is no God besides Me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.
(Deuteronomy 32:39)

No one is holy like the Lord,
For there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
(1 Samuel 2:2)

God is holy. He alone is perfect, pure, and righteous.

Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.
(Revelation 15:4)

but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15–16).

And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3).

Because He is holy, He hates sin and He will judge sin.

God is a just judge,
And God is angry with the wicked every day.
(Psalm 7:11)

For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,
Nor shall evil dwell with You.
The boastful shall not stand in Your sight;
You hate all workers of iniquity.
(Psalm 5:4–5)

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
(Psalm 1:5–6)

God is supreme. He is above all things; He is first and primary. Nothing is greater; nothing is higher. Nothing is more vital or more important.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord,
And You are exalted as head over all.
(1 Chronicles 29:11)

“You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3)

God is omniscient. He knows all thing. He knows everything about us down to the smallest detail. Nothing can be hidden from God. Nothing can surprise Him or catch Him off guard.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
(Psalm 139:1–3)

Known to God from eternity are all His works (Acts 15:18).

God is sovereign. He rules over all things. He is LORD and King. He directs all things and “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).

But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases
(Psalm 115:3)

Whatever the Lord pleases He does,
In heaven and in earth,
In the seas and in all deep places.
(Psalm 135:6)

God is immutable. He never changes.

For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
(Malachi 3:6)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17).

His Word is certain.

Forever, O Lord,
Your word is settled in heaven.
(Psalm 119:89)

His plans are certain.

The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations
And His love is everlasting.
(Psalm 33:11)

And His love is everlasting.

The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
(Jeremiah 31:3)

God is good. He always does what is right and just.

He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
(Psalm 33:5)

For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.
(Psalm 100:5)

God is merciful and gracious. He has provided a way of hope, forgiveness, and life in Christ.

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 (1 Peter 1:3).

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4–5).

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
(Psalm 103:8)

But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.
(Psalm 86:15)

These are only a few of God’s attributes revealed to us in Scripture (see The Attributes of God by Arthur W. Pink, 1975 for an excellent study on what the Bible teaches about God).

Ignorance thought he knew God. But he was not thinking “good thoughts concerning God.” His concept of God was shaped by his experience and imagination. Christian affirms that the only way to think rightly about God is to “think of his being and attributes as the Word has taught.”

The problem with Ignorance is not that he is dispassionate or indolent. He is devout and has walked a long way on his journey. He is intent on going to the Celestial City. He has not been dissuaded to turn aside or turn back. It’s not that he is openly rebellious or intentionally deceptive. He is sincere in what he believes. He is earnest in his conversation with Christian. His problem is the standard by which he walks. As he grapples to understand life, God, and the world around him, he looks to his heart rather than God’s Word. He has made himself the standard and believes what he wants to believe. Where Scripture affirms his fancies, he heartily agrees with it. But where Scripture confronts his notions, he readily ignores it. It is his unwillingness to submit to God in His Word that has bound him to walk in Ignorance.

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.

The True Measure of the Heart

Ignorance: Pray, what count you good thoughts, and a life according to God’s commandments?

Christian: There are good thoughts of divers kinds; some respecting ourselves, some God, some Christ, and some other things.

Ignorance: What be good thoughts respecting ourselves?

Christian: Such as agree with the Word of God.

Ignorance: When do our thoughts of ourselves agree with the Word of God?

Christian: When we pass the same judgment upon ourselves which the Word passes. To explain myself—the Word of God says of persons in a natural condition, “There is none righteous, there is none that doeth good.” It says also, that “every imagination of the heart of man is only evil, and that continually.” And again, “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Now then, when we think thus of ourselves, having sense thereof, then are our thoughts good ones, because according to the Word of God.

Ignorance: I will never believe that my heart is thus bad.

Christian: Therefore you never had one good thought concerning yourself in your life. But let me go on. As the Word passes a judgment upon our heart, so it passes a judgment upon our ways; and when OUR thoughts of our hearts and ways agree with the judgment which the Word giveth of both, then are both good, because agreeing thereto.

Ignorance: Make out your meaning.

Christian: Why, the Word of God says that man’s ways are crooked ways; not good, but perverse. It says they are naturally out of the good way, that they have not known it. Now, when a man thus thinks of his ways—I say, when he does sensibly, and with heart-humiliation, thus think, then has he good thoughts of his own ways, because his thoughts now agree with the judgment of the Word of God.

Christian Instructs Ignorance

It is one thing to have a good heart, and another thing only to think your heart is good. It is one thing to live a good life, and another thing only to think your life is good. So how can you be sure? How do you rightly measure the heart? How do you know what thoughts are good? How can you truly know if your life is in accord with God’s commands?

As Christian instructs Ignorance, he gets to the heart of the difference between a true believer and a false believer. Ignorance (a false believer) sets his own standards. His understanding of what is right is shaped by how he feels about his place in the world, how he desires to live his live, and how much he has prospered or suffered in this life. Ignorance remains true to his heart. If in his heart, he sincerely believes something to be true, then it must be true. But Christian and Hopeful look to a better and surer standard. The true measure of the heart is not our feelings and passions. It is not our hopes and aspirations. Nor is it our experiences or obstacles we have overcome. The true measure of the heart is the Word of God.

If we are to rightly measure the heart, we should not believe what our heart tells us is true. Instead, we must believe what God’s Word tells us is true.

How do you know if your thoughts are good? Ask yourself: Do my thoughts agree with God’s Word? How do you know if your life is good? Ask yourself: What does God’s Word say about my life? Am I passing the same judgment on myself which the Word passes?

The Word tells us that in our natural condition we are not good.

As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
(Romans 3:10–12)

Apart from Christ our hearts are evil.

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).

… Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done” (Genesis 8:21).

Left to ourselves, our ways are crooked and dark.

As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways,
The Lord shall lead them away
With the workers of iniquity.
Peace be upon Israel!
(Psalm 125:5)

To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things,
From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;
Who rejoice in doing evil,
And delight in the perversity of the wicked;
Whose ways are crooked,
And who are devious in their paths.
(Proverbs 2:12–15)

Though we may think we are on the way to heaven, if we are navigating this world according to our own standards (and even doing so sincerely) then we do not yet know the way of peace.

And the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
(Romans 3:17–18)

This is what the Bible says is true about us. If left to ourselves, this is our natural condition. This is the true measure of the heart. If this is what we believe about ourselves, then we are thinking good thoughts. Good thoughts are not necessarily thoughts about pleasant things; good thoughts are thoughts that reflect the truth of God’s Word.  If we anchor our judgments in God’s Word, then we will think rightly about our ways. If we acknowledge that what God has said about us in His Word is true, then there is hope that we will be humbled—that we will come to our senses and see our desperate need of a Savior. There is hope that we will stop trusting ourselves, resting in our own righteousness, and look to Christ, who alone gives “light to those who sit in darkness” and guides “our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).

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.

Ignorance Follows His Heart

I saw then in my dream that Hopeful looked back and saw Ignorance, whom they had left behind, coming after. Look, said he to Christian, how far yonder youngster loiters behind.

Christian: Ay, ay, I see him; he cares not for our company.

Hopeful: But I think it would not have hurt him had he kept pace with us hitherto.

Christian: That is true; but I warrant you he thinks otherwise.

Hopeful: That, I think, he does; but, however, let us tarry for him. So they did.

Then Christian said to him, Come away, man, why do you stay so behind?

Ignorance: I take my pleasure in walking alone, even more a great deal than in company, unless I like it the better.

Then said Christian to Hopeful, (but softly), Did I not tell you he cared not for our company? But, however, said he, come up, and let us talk away the time in this solitary place. Then directing his speech to Ignorance, he said, Come, how do you? How stands it between God and your soul now?

Ignorance: I hope well; for I am always full of good motions, that come into my mind, to comfort me as I walk.

Christian: What good motions? pray, tell us.

Ignorance: Why, I think of God and heaven.

Christian: So do the devils and damned souls.

Ignorance: But I think of them and desire them.

Christian: So do many that are never like to come there. “The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing.”

Ignorance: But I think of them, and leave all for them.

Christian: That I doubt; for leaving all is a hard matter: yea, a harder matter than many are aware of. But why, or by what, are you persuaded that you have left all for God and heaven.

Ignorance: My heart tells me so.

Christian: The wise man says, “He that trusts his own heart is a fool.”

Ignorance: This is spoken of an evil heart, but mine is a good one.

Christian: But how dost thou prove that?

Ignorance: It comforts me in hopes of heaven.

Christian: That may be through its deceitfulness; for a man’s heart may minister comfort to him in the hopes of that thing for which he yet has no ground to hope.

Ignorance: But my heart and life agree together, and therefore my hope is well grounded.

Christian: Who told thee that thy heart and life agree together?

Ignorance: My heart tells me so.

Christian: Ask my fellow if I be a thief! Your heart tells you so! Except the Word of God bears witness in this matter, other testimony is of no value.

Ignorance: But is it not a good heart that has good thoughts? and is not that a good life that is according to God’s commandments?

Christian: Yes, that is a good heart that has good thoughts, and that is a good life that is according to God’s commandments; but it is one thing, indeed, to have these, and another thing only to think so.

"I'm always full of good motions"

During the long journey across the Enchanted Ground, Bunyan offers deeper insight into his story through two extended conversations. In the first, Hopeful shares with Christian his testimony of coming to faith in Christ. For the second, Bunyan brings back Ignorance, a character from earlier in the allegory. Bunyan’s purpose in these extended conversations is two-fold:

  1. To draw out some important doctrines regarding the salvation of sinners
  2. To more clearly highlight the differences between true faith and false faith

Bunyan knows that his readers will identify themselves with various characters and places throughout the story. He especially wants to help us see, for the sake of our own souls, the difference between a true believer (Hopeful) and a false believer (Ignorance). The contrast between the two is especially evident in where the two place their confidence. Hopeful believes the gospel and has placed his hope and trust in Christ. Ignorance is ignorant of the gospel and simply believes what his heart tells him is true.

When Christian and Hopeful last saw Ignorance, he had taken offence at their counsel, rejected their company, and continued the journey on his own. Though Ignorance is walking along the Way (intent on going to heaven), he regards the journey more causally than Christian and Hopeful. Hopeful looks back and sees that he is loitering and lagging behind. But Christian and Hopeful are willing to wait for him, desiring the opportunity to speak with him again.

Christian begins by asking Ignorance about the state of his soul before God. Hopeful has already affirmed that Christ alone can save; his soul is anchored in the sure promises of God’s Word. But Ignorance has moored his soul to wishful thinking. He hopes all is well. He rests his hope on his own “good motions” that come to his mind to comfort him along the way.

Good motions are those thoughts, feelings, and deeds that appear to be morally upright, spiritually uplifting, and truly beneficial to the soul. Ignorance has determined that if he can maintain a positive outlook and a preponderance of good things in his life, he will be welcomed at the end of his journey into the gates of the Celestial City. These good motions include: thinking about God and heaven, desiring God and heaven, and trusting his heart that he is living a good life. So long as these motions are active in his life, all must be well with his soul.

But Christian shows from Scripture that these “good motions” are insufficient to validate saving faith.

Ignorance thinks about God and heaven, but even the demons believe and tremble.

You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! (James 2:19)

He desires God and heaven, but desiring alone attains nothing.

The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing;
But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.
(Proverbs 13:4)

He trusts the affirmations of his heart that his life is good, but “the heart is deceitful above all things.”

The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.
(Jeremiah 17:9–10)

He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife,
But he who trusts in the Lord will be prospered.
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But whoever walks wisely will be delivered.
(Proverbs 28:25–26)

Ignorance has wrongly judged his heart to be good. He is not convinced of the depth of his sin or his need of a Savior. He finds comfort in himself—his good works, his positive outlook, his self-determination. He has wrongly concluded that because his “heart and life agree together,” he has a well-grounded hope and God will accept him. He makes it clear by his replies that, while he presents himself as a follower of Christ, he is in fact a follower of himself.

The only sure foundation on which to anchor our hope is God’s Word. It points us to Christ who alone can save us. But Ignorance has traded the sure Word of God for the shifting sensations of the heart. He believes all is well with his soul, because his heart tells him so! Christian tells him plainly: “Your heart tells you so! Except the Word of God bears witness in this matter, other testimony is of no value.”

Ignorance asks: “But is it not a good heart that has good thoughts? And is not that a good life that is according to God’s commandments?” Christian affirms that this is true.

For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43:49).

But Christian warns: “It is one thing, indeed, to have these, and another thing only to think so.” So how then can we know if our heart holds good treasure or evil treasure? In the next post Christian explains the true measure of a heart.

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.