Tag Archives: worldliness

Hopeful’s Testimony Part 1 Ensnared by Sin

Christian: Then Christian began and said, I will ask you a question. How came you to think at first of so doing as you do now?

Hopeful: Do you mean, how came I at first to look after the good of my soul?

Christian: Yes, that is my meaning.

Hopeful: I continued a great while in the delight of those things which were seen and sold at our fair; things which, I believe now, would have, had I continued in them, still drowned me in perdition and destruction.

Christian: What things are they?

Hopeful: All the treasures and riches of the world. Also, I delighted much in rioting, reveling, drinking, swearing, lying, uncleanness, Sabbath-breaking, and what not, that tended to destroy the soul. But I found at last, by hearing and considering of things that are divine, which indeed I heard of you, as also of beloved Faithful that was put to death for his faith and good living in Vanity Fair, that “the end of these things is death.” And that for these things’ sake “cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.”

Christian: And did you presently fall under the power of this conviction?

Hopeful: No, I was not willing presently to know the evil of sin, nor the damnation that follows upon the commission of it; but endeavored, when my mind at first began to be shaken with the Word, to shut mine eyes against the light thereof.

 Christian and Hopeful

The Pilgrim’s Progress is primarily the story of Christian. On the opening page we see him distressed, “clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back.” At the encouragement of Evangelist, he flees his home in the city of Destruction and begins his journey to the Celestial City. Through the character of Christian, Bunyan tells his own story of coming to faith in Christ. But he also gives us glimpses into the journeys of some others along the way. Faithful tells of his own escape from the City of Destruction. We hear of his encounters with Wanton, Adam the First, Moses, Discontent, and Shame. We see his powerful witness as he travels with Christian to the town of Vanity, where he is put on trial and martyred for his faith. Later in the allegory Christian relates some of the story of Little-faith, a pilgrim from the town of Sincere who struggled on his journey after he was robbed and beaten.

It is interesting to compare the testimonies of each of these pilgrims. You will find that there are many similarities—things that are true of all the accounts. But you will also find some differences. Bunyan is emphasizing by this that our pilgrimages will not all be the same. Some parts of the journey that are easy for some, will be difficult for others. There are temptations that may cause some to stray for a time, while others will immediately see the danger and not be led astray. This is why is so important for us to travel together—fellowshipping with one another, encouraging one another, and discipling one another.

To continue their journey Christian and Hopeful must traverse the Enchanted Ground. As they cross, they try to stay awake and alert by engaging in “good discourse.” At Palace Beautiful Christian learned the value of godly company and gospel conversations. Discretion, Piety, Prudence, and Charity all questioned Christian and drew out his testimony. Now Christian questions Hopeful and their dialog provides a detailed account of Hopeful’s testimony.

Christian begins by asking Hopeful how it was that he became concerned about his soul. Hopeful is from the town of Vanity. His former life reflected the spiritual state of many in this world. He was ensnared and entrenched in sin, pursuing all the vain pleasures of this life, blissfully unaware that his soul was in danger. He was blind to God’s good ways, delighting in all the world has to offer, and hoping all would turn out well in the end.

The turning point came in Hopeful’s life when Christian and Faithful came to his town. As Hopeful watched and listened to the two pilgrims, he was intrigued. He began thinking about the good of his soul.

Their lives intrigued him. When Christian and Faithful came to Vanity Fair they seemed very much out of place. They weren’t tempted by the temporary and fleeting pleasures of the world. They did not buy and sell at the Fair with others in the town. Instead, they told the merchants, “We buy the truth” (Proverbs 23:23). The town reacted with anger and scorn. Christian and Faithful were oppressed, persecuted, put on trial, and jailed. In the end Faithful was martyred for his faith. Yet in the midst of trial and temptation, Christian and Faithful stood firm for the truth.

Their words intrigued him. Christian and Faithful not only lived the truth before the town, they spoke the truth. They faithfully proclaimed and taught God’s Word. Hopeful heard that he must forsake sin or face coming wrath and judgment.

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them (Ephesians 5:3–7).

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them (Colossians 3:5–7).

Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Romans 13:13–14).

He heard that sin leads only to death.

What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death(Romans 6:21).

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

At first Hopeful refused to believe the truth. He did not want to acknowledge the evil of sin or the certainty of judgment. His eyes were closed, his ears were hard of hearing, and his heart was dull (Isaiah 6:10, Matthew 13:15, Acts 28:27).  He was enamored by the world and against the things of God.

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7–8).

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Hopeful was not looking for Christ. He was not trying to understand the Bible. He was not even aware that he was lost and in danger. He prized the riches and treasures of the world more than the Word and Way of God. Though he both heard and saw the gospel on display in the lives of Christian and Faithful, he tried at first to block the truth from his mind and hide it from his eyes.

Hopeful’s experience highlights the importance of sharing our faith with others, even with those who initially reject and scorn the truth. Christian and Faithful were willing to go through the town of Vanity (the sinful world in its opposition to God) and face opposition and persecution, even to death, so that people living in the town could see and hear the gospel proclaimed. Because of their witness, Hopeful was able to hear and consider “things that are divine.” He heard them speak truth; he saw them stand for truth, and he watched them live the truth. It made a lasting impression.

We live in a day when the world is equally opposed to truth and ensnared by sin. Truth is regarded as fluid and malleable—something to be constantly shaped as we construct our own realities and tell our own stories in order to make sense of the world around us. Evil is recast and redefined as anything that threatens or opposes our stories. The world delights in darkness, rejects the light of God’s Word, and is blind to God’s ways.

May God give us boldness in our day to live and speak truth in the midst of a lost world. And may those around us see our lives, hear our words, and be intrigued to know the hope within us.

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.

How Little-Faith Was Robbed

Then said Christian to his fellow, Now I call to remembrance, that which was told me of a thing that happened to a good man hereabout. The name of the man was Little-faith, but a good man, and he dwelt in the town of Sincere. The thing was this at the entering in at this passage, there comes down from Broad-way Gate, a lane called Dead Man’s Lane; so called because of the murders that are commonly done there; and this Little-faith going on pilgrimage, as we do now, chanced to sit down there, and slept. Now there happened, at that time, to come down the lane, from Broad-way Gate, three sturdy rogues, and their names were Faint-heart, Mistrust, and Guilt, (three brothers), and they espying Little-faith, where he was, came galloping up with speed. Now the good man was just awake from his sleep, and was getting up to go on his journey. So they came up all to him, and with threatening language bid him stand. At this Little-faith looked as white as a clout, and had neither power to fight nor fly. Then said Faint-heart, Deliver thy purse. But he making no haste to do it (for he was loath to lose his money), Mistrust ran up to him, and thrusting his hand into his pocket, pulled out thence a bag of silver. Then he cried out, Thieves! Thieves! With that Guilt, with a great club that was in his hand, struck Little-faith on the head, and with that blow felled him flat to the ground, where he lay bleeding as one that would bleed to death. All this while the thieves stood by. But, at last, they hearing that some were upon the road, and fearing lest it should be one Great-grace, that dwells in the city of Good-confidence, they betook themselves to their heels, and left this good man to shift for himself. Now, after a while, Little-faith came to himself, and getting up, made shift to scrabble on his way. This was the story.

Little-faith is robbed

While Christian and Hopeful reflect on the tragic end of Turn-away, Christian remembers an account of another pilgrim. Not far from where the pilgrims now stand, a man, whose name is Little-faith from the town of Sincere, was assaulted and robbed.

Little-faith represents those who are weak in faith and spiritually unprepared to face the trials and temptations of this world. He follows Christ, but lacks courage, confidence and comfort. In Lectures on The Pilgrim’s Progress, G.B. Cheeverdescribes such pilgrims as those who “go doubting and trembling through life.” Jesus often admonished his followers for having little faith:

Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:30)

Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm (Matthew 8:25–26).

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him [Peter], and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased (Matthew 14:31–32).

Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.” But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? (Matthew 16:5–8)

Unlike Turn-away, Little-faith is a true believer. His testimony is genuine (sincere) and his faith is real. He is an honest pilgrim and has gained the reputation of being “a good man.” But he has failed to prepare his soul for spiritual warfare and fit himself for battle.

Paul exhorts us to “watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). In Ephesians 6:10 he says: “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” This Little-faith has not done. He has been content to rely on his own goodness more than Christ. He has treated sin far too lightly and allowed himself to walk too closely to the way of the world. Now as he looks for a place to rest on his journey, he lies down to sleep not in the Chamber of Peace (a place of rest and confidence in Christ) at Palace Beautiful where Christian found refuge, but in Dead Man’s lane (a place of danger and temptation to sin).

Scripture warns of the danger of straying into the path of sinners:

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
(Psalm 1:6)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

We must be careful in the paths we choose. Jesus spoke of only two ways in life:

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13–14).

Dead Man’s Lane is a treacherous path that connects the Broad Way (the way of the world that leads back to the city from which Christian fled—Destruction) with the Narrow Way (the way of Christ and the Scriptures that leads to the Celestial City—Heaven). It begins at the Broad Way Gate (the wide entrance through which all who embrace the way of world pass) and meets the Narrow Way at the entrance to the dark lane (a dark stretch of the Way where the light of Scripture has grown dim).

Here at this dangerous intersection with the world, Little-faith fell asleep. He unwisely let down his guard and made himself vulnerable.  Soon he is attacked by three villains who come down from the Broad Way Gate: Faint-heart, Mistrust and Guilt. The attack is an insightful description of what happens when a believer gives into temptation and falls prey to sin.

The “three study rogues” come “galloping up with speed” and catch Little-faith off-guard. Before he has time to collect his thoughts or rouse his conscience, temptation is staring him down. The thieves threaten his life and Little-faith turns “white as a clout.” Little-faith’s fear identifies him as an easy target—a clout is a piece of white cloth used by archers for target practice (Webster Dictionary, 1828). Faint-heart (timidity) demands that he surrender his purse. Little-faith is slow to respond, but he loses his courage and offers little resistance. Mistrust (doubt and unbelief) sees an opportunity and rushes in to snatch a bag of silver from Little-faith’s pocket. The theft represents the loss Little-faith experiences when he gives into sin. No sooner does he cry out against his assailants than Guilt (shame and dishonor) moves in and beats him with a club—a club is similar to the one that Christian and Hopeful felt at the hands of Giant Despair in Doubling Castle.

Little-faith stumbles with each criminal. He is timid with Faint-heart, unbelieving with Mistrust, and ashamed with Guilt. William Mason summarizes:

Where there is a faint heart in God’s cause, and mistrust of God’s truths, there will be guilt in the conscience, and but little faith. These rogues will prevail over, and rob such souls of the comforts of God’s love and of Christ’s salvation.

Christian already had an encounter with a character named Mistrust. Earlier in the story, near the top of Hill Difficulty, Timorous (akin to Faint-heart) and Mistrust ran past Christian, fleeing the lions that prowl near the entrance to Palace Beautiful. The lions represented persecution of believers by the government and the state church. Many in Bunyan’s day were tempted to cower to political and ecclesiastical pressure. Bunyan had seen other ministers lose heart and deny the true gospel.  When Bunyan was in prison, facing the threat of hanging for being a Non-conformist, he feared that he would have little faith and fall to this temptation. He explains in his autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners:

I will tell you a pretty business; I was once above all the rest in a very sad and low condition for many weeks; at which time also I being but a young prisoner, and not acquainted with the laws, had this lay much upon my spirit, That my imprisonment might end at the gallows for aught that I could tell. Now, therefore, Satan laid hard at me to beat me out of heart, by suggesting thus unto me, But how if when you come indeed to die, you should be in this condition; that is, as not to savor the things of God, nor to have any evidence upon your soul for a better state hereafter? For indeed at that time all the things of God were hid from my soul.

Wherefore, when I at first began to think of this, it was a great trouble to me; for I thought with myself, that in the condition I now was in, I was not fit to die, neither indeed did think I could, if I should be called to it: besides, I thought with myself, if I should make a scrabbling shift to clamber up the ladder, yet I should either with quaking, or other symptoms of faintings, give occasion to the enemy to reproach the way of God and his people, for their timorousness. This therefore lay with great trouble upon me, for methought I was ashamed to die with a pale face, and tottering knees, for such a cause as this.

[Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 333-334]

Once Little-faith was robbed and beaten, the thieves did not stay long. They feared that other pilgrims would be traveling the Way, especially Great-grace from the town of Good Conscience (a pastor or fellow believer who is strong in faith). One of the best defenses God has given us as followers of Christ is our local church (Palace Beautiful) with its faithful leaders and brothers and sisters in Christ who will help us keep watch over our soul. It was a great disadvantage to Little-faith that he was traveling alone.

Little-faith is now left wounded and weakened. His purse has been plundered. Bunyan uses language from his autobiography when he tells us that Little-faith “made shift to scrabble on his way.” To shift means to change position or method when an initial attempt fails, especially in search of a way out of a difficult circumstance. To scrabble is to scrape along slowly on hands and knees as if climbing a cliff (Webster Dictionary, 1828). Little-faith is still intent on continuing his journey, but his progress now is more difficult. In the next post we will consider what exactly Little-faith lost.

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 Tragedy of Turn-away

So they both went on, and Ignorance he came after. Now when they had passed him a little way, they entered into a very dark lane, where they met a man whom seven devils had bound with seven strong cords, and were carrying of him back to the door that they saw on the side of the hill. Now good Christian began to tremble, and so did Hopeful his companion; yet as the devils led away the man, Christian looked to see if he knew him; and he thought it might be one Turn-away, that dwelt in the town of Apostasy. But he did not perfectly see his face, for he did hang his head like a thief that is found. But being once past, Hopeful looked after him, and espied on his back a paper with this inscription, “Wanton professor and damnable apostate.”

Turn-away

No sooner have the pilgrims outpaced Ignorance, than they pass by another false professor. They enter into a very dark lane and see a man bound by seven strong cords being carried in the opposite direction. Seven devils have captured him and are taking him back to the By-Way to Hell. Both Christian and Hopeful tremble at the sight. The man in bondage, it appears, is one named Turn-away from the town of Apostasy.

Turn-away represents those who have fallen away from the faith. Though they once professed to be followers of Christ, now they have turned away. They grow careless and trifle with sin to the point where it no longer disturbs them. The grow comfortable with the world and wanton (heedless and uncontrolled) in spirit. They fail to fear God and are unaffected and unrestrained by His Word. They forsake Christ only to foiled and ensnared in sin.

Those who once professed faith in Christ, who turn away from God and His Word are in danger of apostasy. The writer of Hebrews warns of the fearful consequences of apostasy:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:4–6).

To “fall away” is to persist in sin and disobedience and rejection of the gospel. It is certainly possible for a Christian to fall into sin, and even to be for a long time away from God—mired in sin and its misery. But those who are Christ’s will be rescued and restored. God will stir up their faith and renew their repentance and welcome them back in abundance of grace and mercy. But those who are truly apostate, who reject the gospel to the end, verse 6 tells us, cannot be renewed to repentance. They dishonor Christ by loving their sin more than Christ. They dishonor Him by choosing to believe that they are beyond the reach of His grace and mercy. They would persist in seeing their sins as too great for Christ to conquer.

The writer of Hebrews makes it clear in verse 6 why it is impossible for those who reject the cross to be renewed to repentance. If the cross was indeed not sufficient for them; they would need Jesus to die again. Christ would be openly shamed for not succeeding the first time in atoning for their sins. But Christ cannot be crucified again. There is no “Plan B” on God’s agenda. If one falls away there is no other gospel, no other Savior, no other salvation. Jesus is exclusive. If you reject Christ and turn away from the cross, you have no hope remaining.

Christian was warned of the dangers of apostasy earlier in his pilgrimage while he was at the House of the Interpreter. There he saw the Man in an Iron Cage who was once a “flourishing professor” on his way to the Celestial City. Like Turn-away, the Man in the Iron Cage abandoned God’s Word to pursue his lusts. He fell headlong into sin and feared that he had fallen into apostasy and was now without hope. He sat in misery and in bondage in a “very dark room.”

Bunyan uses similar language to describe the encounter with Turn-away. They enter into a “very dark lane” and see a man bound with seven strong cords. The dark lane represents the absence of the light of God’s Word. When the eye looks for sin and the mind pursues sin, the light of Scripture begins to dim.

The way of the wicked is like darkness;
They do not know what makes them stumble.
(Proverbs 4:19)

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
(Isaiah 5:20)

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22–23)

And so the psalmist prays:

Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.
(Psalm 118:37)

The imagery of the seven strong cords comes from Proverbs.

His own iniquities entrap the wicked man,
And he is caught in the cords of his sin.
He shall die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.
(Proverbs 5:22–23)

And from Jesus’ description in Matthew of a man overtaken in sin:

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation” (Matthew 12:43–45).

When Christian saw the Man in an Iron Cage, he exclaimed: “This is fearful.” But the condition of Turn-away is even more so. The man in the cage trifled with sin, but then drew back in shame and guilt. He was miserable because he feared that he had lost Christ and that God would no longer have him. Turn-away feels no guilt over his sin; he hangs his head “like a thief that is found” abashed that he has been caught, but not because he has broken the law.

The encounter with Turn-away causes Christian and Hopeful to tremble. It is a warning to us to guard our hearts and flee from sin. In his commentary on The Pilgrim’s Progress, William Mason warns:

 O beware of a light trifling spirit and a wanton behavior. It is often the forerunner of apostasy from God. It makes one tremble to hear those who profess to follow Christ in the regeneration, crying, What harm is there in this game and the other diversion? The warmth of love is gone, and they are become cold, dead, and carnal. O how many instances of these abound!

Turning away seldom happens all at once. It is more often subtle and perilously imperceptible. It can happen in many ways:

  • Growing disillusioned and discouraged with the church
  • Being swayed by a college professor who disparages the Bible and the Christian faith
  • Growing complacent and apathetic in worship
  • Becoming forgetful and infrequent with the means of grace
  • Giving more and more time to worldly pursuits and entertainments
  • Assuming the gospel, yet never giving it serious thought or weighing its crucial value
  • Excusing and rationalizing sin rather than fighting it and putting it to death

Turn-away loved his sin and so he preferred to walk in darkness.

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:19–21).

If we would avoid the deadly error of Turn-away, we must love Christ and walk in the light.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Apostasy is a fearful judgment, but it is a final judgment. Turn-away is at the end of his days and is being led back to the By-way to hell. He is justly condemned and marked for eternity as a “wanton professor and damnable apostate.”

Until that final day, we have not the insight nor the ability to discern true apostasy from backsliding (in the hearts of others as well as our own hearts). And so me must continually preaching the gospel (to others and to ourselves) and heed the gospel. May God help us to tremble with Christian and Hopeful and continually repent of our sin and look to Christ who is ever and always our only hope.

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.

Two Voices Cry Out to Be Heard

Two Ways

There are two voices vying for our attention, beckoning us to very different paths. We need to listen well. Eternity is at stake. Scripture warns us in both the Old and New Testaments: only one path leads to life; the other down to destruction.

The book of Psalms opens with the contrast between the way of the righteous and the way of the ungodly.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
(Psalm 1:6)

In the New Testament, Jesus calls His followers to choose the way of life.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13–14).

We hear the two voices at the beginning of the book of Proverbs: the enticement of sinners (from the world) and the call of wisdom (from God and His Word).

My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;
Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;
Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse”—
My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;
For their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed blood.
(Proverbs 1:10–16)

Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
She cries out in the chief concourses,
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words:
“How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.”
(Proverbs 1:20–22)

If we are to learn the fear of the Lord and find the way of life we must tune out the world and listen to the voice of wisdom. Only wisdom will speak the truth. Only wisdom will point us to God’s Word where we will find peace and rest in Christ.

Two Voices Cry Out to Be Heard

Two voices cry out to be heard;
Take heed, my soul, and listen well.
For only one voice leads to life,
The other down to death and hell.

The voice of sinners fills the streets,
There on the innocent they prey.
Take heed, my soul, do not consent,
Lest you with them be cast away.

The voice of wisdom cries aloud
Above the din of sin’s deceit.
“How long, you simple, will you choose
The evil way, the scoffer’s seat?”

It’s wisdom’s voice I long to hear
To guide my steps which way to go.
Her words of warning, I would heed;
Her wealth of knowledge, I would know.

Lord, help me find the righteous way;
Guide me in ev’ry thought and choice.
For You alone have words of life,
Atune my heart to love Your voice.

Let me hear clearly wisdom’s call;
Tune out the noise of sin’s allure.
Listen intently to God’s Word
And there in Christ find rest secure.

Words ©2018 Ken Puls

Download the lyrics and free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune FEDERAL STREET for classical guitar.

More Hymns and Songs from Ken Puls Music

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Remember Lot’s Wife

Now I saw that, just on the other side of this plain, the pilgrims came to a place where stood an old monument, hard by the highway side, at the sight of which they were both concerned, because of the strangeness of the form thereof; for it seemed to them as if it had been a woman transformed into the shape of a pillar; here, therefore they stood looking, and looking upon it, but could not for a time tell what they should make thereof. At last Hopeful espied written above the head thereof, a writing in an unusual hand; but he being no scholar, called to Christian (for he was learned) to see if he could pick out the meaning; so he came, and after a little laying of letters together, he found the same to be this, “Remember Lot’s Wife.” So he read it to his fellow; after which they both concluded that that was the pillar of salt into which Lot’s wife was turned, for her looking back with a covetous heart, when she was going from Sodom for safety. Which sudden and amazing sight gave them occasion of this discourse.

Christian: Ah, my brother! This is a seasonable sight; it came opportunely to us after the invitation which Demas gave us to come over to view the Hill Lucre; and had we gone over, as he desired us, and as you were inclining to do, my brother, we had, for aught I know, been made ourselves like this woman, a spectacle for those that shall come after to behold.

Hopeful: I am sorry that I was so foolish, and am made to wonder that I am not now as Lot’s wife; for wherein was the difference between her sin and mine? She only looked back; and I had a desire to go see. Let grace be adored, and let me be ashamed that ever such a thing should be in mine heart.

Christian: Let us take notice of what we see here, for our help for time to come. This woman escaped one judgment, for she fell not by the destruction of Sodom; yet she was destroyed by another, as we see she is turned into a pillar of salt.

Hopeful: True; and she may be to us both caution and example; caution, that we should shun her sin; or a sign of what judgment will overtake such as shall not be prevented by this caution. So Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, with the two hundred and fifty men that perished in their sin, did also become a sign or example to others to beware. But above all, I muse at one thing, to wit, how Demas and his fellows can stand so confidently yonder to look for that treasure, which this woman, but for looking behind her after, (for we read not that she stepped one foot out of the way) was turned into a pillar of salt; especially since the judgment which overtook her did make her an example, within sight of where they are; for they cannot choose but see her, did they but lift up their eyes.

Christian: It is a thing to be wondered at, and it argues that their hearts are grown desperate in the case; and I cannot tell who to compare them to so fitly, as to them that pick pockets in the presence of the judge, or that will cut purses under the gallows. It is said of the men of Sodom, that they were sinners exceedingly, because they were sinners before the Lord, that is, in his eyesight, and notwithstanding the kindnesses that he had showed them; for the land of Sodom was now like the garden of Eden heretofore. This, therefore, provoked Him the more to jealousy, and made their plague as hot as the fire of the Lord out of heaven could make it. And it is most rationally to be concluded, that such, even such as these are, that shall sin in the sight, yea, and that too in despite of such examples that are set continually before them, to caution them to the contrary, must be partakers of severest judgments.

Hopeful: Doubtless you have said the truth; but what a mercy is it, that neither you, but especially I, am not made myself this example! This ministers occasion to us to thank God, to fear before Him, and always to remember Lot’s wife.

Pillar of SaltNo sooner had Christian and Hopeful crossed the Plain of Ease and made it past Demas and the Silver Mine than they encounter a strange sight near the Way. The pilgrims see an old monument that appears to be “a woman transformed into the shape of a pillar.” The monument is placed “hard by the highway side” (right next to the path so it can’t be missed). At first they are puzzled and not sure of its meaning. Finally, Hopeful sees an inscription that unravels the mystery. The monument is a warning from the pages of Scripture where God brought judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God sent angels to warn Lot and his family to flee the city lest they be destroyed, telling them:

“Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed” (Genesis 19:17).

Then God sent the promised judgment:

Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace. And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt (Genesis 19:24–29).

While fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah with her husband, Lot’s wife ignored the angel’s warning, looked back, and “became a pillar of salt.” The sight of the pillar of salt near the Way gives Christian and Hopeful pause. In their solemn discourse, Bunyan teaches us three important lessons:

1. We are saved by God’s grace alone, not by our own wits or cunning.

Christian regards the monument as a “seasonable sight.” He tells Hopeful, “Let us take notice of what we see here, for our help for time to come.” He recognizes the value and providential timing in finding the pillar on their journey. It is meant to teach them and alert them to be cautious. Had they listened to the words of Demas and stopped to look in his mine, as Hopeful was inclined to do, they might have fallen into the snare of sin. Hopeful is humbled and confesses his foolishness. He knows he strayed in his heart and is deserving of judgment. He sees his sin as far worse: Lot’s wife “only looked back,” but he “had a desire to go see.” It is only by God’s grace that he did not fall into the same condemnation. It is God, not us, who saves us and keeps us. Left to ourselves, we would stumble and fall. He alone is worthy of praise!

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7).

2. We must heed God’s warnings and take His judgment against sin seriously.

Although temptations to walk in the ways of the world are often close by, especially when we walk through times of ease, God’s warnings are also close at hand. We see these warnings set forth clearly in God’s Word and manifest starkly in the consequences of sin and the insatiable emptiness that sin leaves in its wake. Sin ultimately leads to misery and condemnation. We can be grateful that God doesn’t judge every sin with a timely display of His wrath. If He did, we would all be consumed.

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

BUT

He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
(Psalm 103:9)

And so we must heed His warnings and flee to Him for mercy and grace. Hopeful mentions another account later in the Old Testament where God displayed His wrath as “a sign” or warning to His people.

The sons of Eliab were Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. These are the Dathan and Abiram, representatives of the congregation, who contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the Lord; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah when that company died, when the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men; and they became a sign (Numbers 26:9–10).

All of God’s judgments— on Sodom and Gomorrah, on the Sons of Korah, on Lot’s wife—are warnings to us to take the wrath of God seriously. Every display of God’s wrath is a call to us to turn away from sin, and come to Christ for mercy, forgiveness, wisdom and righteousness.

The warnings are clear, placed along our path so we cannot avoid seeing them. Yet too often we ignore or discount them. The pillar stands within sight of the mine. The consequences of sin stare us in the face. Yet even with God’s warnings so close at hand, we wander off the path to trifle with sin. God’s blessings are equally clear. He sustains us—He gives us every breath. His gracious provisions are all around us. Yet even in the midst of blessing, we ignore God’s kindness and go our own way.

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were richly blessed of God. Their beauty was comparable to the garden of Eden. Yet their citizens did not honor God and rebelled against Him.

And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord (Genesis 13:10–13).

Blatant sin in midst of God’s abundant provision and kindness is nothing less than “exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.” To ignore His warnings and live as if there were no coming judgment is utter folly (Psalm 14:1, 53:1). God’s sovereign rule over His creation is evident and obvious if we would but acknowledge it. There will be no valid excuses on the Day of Judgment from the ungodly who refuse to turn from their sin and flee to Christ.

3. We must guard our hearts and not assume that because we are fleeing the consequences of sin, we are safely beyond the reach of sin.

Christian and Hopeful made it past the silver mine. They would not stray from the path even a step.  They escaped the fate that came upon By-ends and his friends. But the pillar is a warning that they must stay vigilant and guard their hearts. Lot’s wife was being rescued; she was on a right path, hastened to leave a city prepared for destruction. But she longingly looked back. She treasured what was behind her. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Her heart remained in Sodom and so she was judged as a citizen of Sodom.

We must guard our hearts in the battle against temptation. It is possible to turn out of the Way with a glance, not just a step. Lot’s wife came under God’s judgment even in the midst of escaping God’s judgment. Though her feet carried her away from destruction, her heart plunged her into the Pit. She had the same covetous heart that Israel would later display when God brought them out of their bondage in Egypt. Israel was on the way to the Promised Land, yet their hearts were addicted to slavery, and they looked back with longing.

Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (Numbers 11:4–6).

The message inscribed above the pillar reads: “Remember Lot’s Wife.” It is a message for us today. The inscription comes from Jesus’ words in Luke 17:

Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it (Luke 17:28–33).

You can turn away from God in your heart and rebel against Him in your thoughts without ever taking an obvious step. There are many in churches today who appear to be on the right path fleeing Destruction. They seek to escape the consequences of sin—its misery and condemnation, but they are looking back, longing for what they left. We must flee sin at all cost. We must flee sin in our hearts and with our eyes and ears, as well as with our hands and feet. We must not assume that because we are fleeing the consequences of sin, we are safely beyond the reach of sin. Scripture admonishes us:

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:12–13).

Let us run from sin with no looking back. And, as Hopeful instructs, let us thank God, fear Him, and always remember Lot’s wife.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Demas and the Silver Mine

Now at the further side of that plain was a little hill called Lucre, and in that hill a silver mine, which some of them that had formerly gone that way, because of the rarity of it, had turned aside to see; but going too near the brink of the pit, the ground being deceitful under them, broke, and they were slain; some also had been maimed there, and could not, to their dying day, be their own men again.

Then I saw in my dream, that a little off the road, over against the silver mine, stood Demas (gentlemanlike) to call to passengers to come and see; who said to Christian and his fellow, Ho! turn aside hither, and I will show you a thing.

Christian: What thing so deserving as to turn us out of the way to see it?

Demas: Here is a silver mine, and some digging in it for treasure. If you will come, with a little pains you may richly provide for yourselves.

Hopeful: Then said Hopeful, Let us go see.

Christian: Not I, said Christian, I have heard of this place before now; and how many have there been slain; and besides that, treasure is a snare to those that seek it; for it hinders them in their pilgrimage.

Then Christian called to Demas, saying, Is not the place dangerous? Has it not hindered many in their pilgrimage?

Demas: Not very dangerous, except to those that are careless, (but withal, he blushed as he spoke).

Christian: Then said Christian to Hopeful, Let us not stir a step, but still keep on our way.

Hopeful: I will warrant you, when By-ends comes up, if he has the same invitation as we, he will turn in thither to see.

Christian: No doubt thereof, for his principles lead him that way, and a hundred to one but he dies there.

Demas: Then Demas called again, saying, But will you not come over and see?

Christian: Then Christian roundly answered, saying, Demas, you are an enemy to the right ways of the Lord of this way, and have been already condemned for your own turning aside, by one of His Majesty’s judges; and why do you seek to bring us into the like condemnation? Besides, if we at all turn aside, our Lord and King will certainly hear thereof, and will there put us to shame, where we would stand with boldness before him.

Demas cried again, that he also was one of their fraternity; and that if they would tarry a little, he also himself would walk with them.

Christian: Then said Christian, What is your name? Is it not the same by the which I have called you?

Demas: Yes, my name is Demas; I am the son of Abraham.

Christian: I know you; Gehazi was your great-grandfather, and Judas your father; and you have trod in their steps. It is but a devilish prank that you use; your father was hanged for a traitor, and you deserve no better reward. Assure yourself, that when we come to the King, we will do him word of this your behavior. Thus they went their way.

By this time By-ends and his companions were come again within sight, and they, at the first beck, went over to Demas. Now, whether they fell into the pit by looking over the brink thereof, or whether they went down to dig, or whether they were smothered in the bottom by the damps that commonly arise, of these things I am not certain; but this I observed, that they never were seen again in the way. Then sang Christian—

By-ends and silver Demas both agree;
One calls, the other runs, that he may be
A sharer in his lucre; so these do
Take up in this world, and no further go.

Dumas and the Silver Mine

Christian and Hopeful did not enjoy the comforts of Ease for long. They crossed the Plain quickly and discovered close to Ease another danger. At the far side of the plain “was a little hill called Lucre.” In the hill was a silver mine, enticing and extraordinary, where, it is said, one can dig with little effort and find rich reward.

Lucre represents the prosperity of the world, especially money or wealth that is gained in sinful or dishonest ways. The silver mine is the inviting prospect of wealth and worldly success for all who desire to live in Ease and enjoy its comforts.

Near the mine, Christian and Hopeful are beckoned by a notorious person from the pages of Scripture. Demas calls to them to come and see the marvels of the mine. Demas is not the first Bible character to be included in Bunyan’s story. Earlier Faithful encountered Adam the First and Moses. We read of Demas in Paul’s letters. In two letters, Paul includes Demas as a “fellow laborer” in his greetings:

Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you (Colossians 4:14).

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers (Philemon 1:23–24).

But near the end of Paul’s life, we learn the sad truth that Demas became enchanted with the world and forsook Paul. Paul writes:

Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry (2 Timothy 4:9–11).

Here, in The Pilgrim’s Progress, Demas stands inviting others to turn aside to search for worldly treasures. His offer is appealing. He appears respectable and believable—a gentleman. He promises light work and a quick return. The attraction of wealth and success lures many to the mine. But to get a closer look, travelers must veer off the Way.

At this point in the story Bunyan shows again the advantage of walking with other believers in the journey. Hopeful is curious and wants to go and see the mine. But Christian recognizes the danger. He has heard of this place. It hinders pilgrims from pressing on in their journey. It distracts them from pursuing godliness and eternal life. Some in the past ventured too close to the edge of the mine and fell in. Some were slain and some were maimed.

Though Demas attempts to dismiss the dangers, Christian is not persuaded. He holds firm and will not leave the Way even a step. In Exodus, after the ninth plague, Moses held firm to God’s Word and refused to compromise when Pharaoh offered to negotiate terms. He told Pharaoh “not a hoof shall be left behind” (Exodus 10:26). Christian here exhorts Hopeful: “Let us not stir a step, but still keep on our way.” Christian was already led astray once by Worldly Wiseman and chastened by Evangelist at the foot of Mt. Sinai. He will not be taken in again.

Though Demas claims to be a fellow pilgrim and a “son of Abraham” (one who is true to the faith), Christian recognizes him and the danger he represents. He rebukes Demas for turning aside and for trying to get others to do the same. He points to Scripture and compares him to Gehazi in the Old Testament, who valued money and possessions over obedience.

But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him” (2 Kings 5:20).

And he compares him to Judas in the New Testament, who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him (Matthew 26:14–15).

In the end both faced destruction. Gehazi left Elisha’s presence stricken with leprosy and Judas took his own life.

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3–5).

Bunyan highlights an important lesson about the danger of desiring worldly wealth. Prosperity and success are not inherently evil. They can be blessings from God. But the lure of prosperity and the drive to success can easily become consuming and plunge the heart into idolatry. They can cloud the mind with fears and forgetfulness of God. They can put the soul in a precarious place. Those who venture too close to the mine are in grave danger of falling in. They ground they stand on is deceitful. Asaph calls it a slippery place. In Psalm 73 Asaph was perplexed when he “saw the prosperity of the wicked” (73:3). But then he recognized their danger:

When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—
Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.
Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.
(Psalm 73:16–19)

The wicked were trusting in their own prosperity rather than God, and success became for them a slippery slope bringing them to desolation.

Before Israel entered the Promised Land, God warned His people of the dangers that come with plenty and prosperity.

Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end— then you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.” And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day (Deuteronomy 8:8–18).

In time Israel did indeed fall prey to idolatry and rebel against God. The prophet Hosea describes their sin:

For Israel is stubborn
Like a stubborn calf;
Now the Lord will let them forage
Like a lamb in open country.
Ephraim is joined to idols,
Let him alone.
Their drink is rebellion,
They commit harlotry continually.
Her rulers dearly love dishonor.
(Hosea 4:16–18)

The prosperity that God’s people enjoyed became a pathway to destruction as they forgot God and sought their own way. The plenty and harvest that they enjoyed in the Promised Land dissolved into nettles and thorns.

For indeed they are gone because of destruction.
Egypt shall gather them up;
Memphis shall bury them.
Nettles shall possess their valuables of silver;
Thorns shall be in their tents.
(Hosea 9:6)

Though Christian and Hopeful continue their journey and avoid the perils of the mine, By-ends and his friends do not. They fall prey to Demas and are not seen traveling along the Way again.

The demise of By-ends and his friends is a stark warning. Those who long for the riches of this world will in the end find only disappointment and destruction. But those who are “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21) will be abundantly satisfied (Psalm 36:8).

Scripture warns us not to set our heart on riches.

A man with an evil eye hastens after riches,
And does not consider that poverty will come upon him.
(Proverbs 28:22)

But to treasure God.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19–21).

May God anchor our hearts firmly in Him and may we remember that He alone is our greatest joy and treasure.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Religion and Worldly Gain

So they came up to each other, and after a short salutation, Mr. Hold-the-world propounded the question to Christian and his fellow, and bid them to answer it if they could.

Then said Christian, Even a babe in religion may answer ten thousand such questions. For if it be unlawful to follow Christ for loaves, (as it is in the sixth of John), how much more abominable is it to make of him and religion a stalking-horse to get and enjoy the world! Nor do we find any other than heathens, hypocrites, devils, and witches, that are of this opinion.

1. Heathens; for when Hamor and Shechem had a mind to the daughter and cattle of Jacob, and saw that there was no way for them to come at them, but by becoming circumcised, they say to their companions, If every male of us be circumcised, as they are circumcised, shall not their cattle, and their substance, and every beast of theirs, be ours? Their daughter and their cattle were that which they sought to obtain, and their religion the stalking-horse they made use of to come at them. Read the whole story.

2. The hypocritical Pharisees were also of this religion; long prayers were their pretense, but to get widows’ houses was their intent; and greater damnation was from God their judgment.

3. Judas the devil was also of this religion; he was religious for the bag, that he might be possessed of what was therein; but he was lost, cast away, and the very son of perdition.

4. Simon the witch was of this religion too; for he would have had the Holy Ghost, that he might have got money therewith; and his sentence from Peter’s mouth was according.

5. Neither will it out of my mind, but that that man that takes up religion for the world, will throw away religion for the world; for so surely as Judas resigned the world in becoming religious, so surely did he also sell religion and his Master for the same. To answer the question, therefore, affirmatively, as I perceive you have done, and to accept of, as authentic, such answer, is both heathenish, hypocritical, and devilish; and your reward will be according to your works.

Then they stood staring one upon another, but had not wherewith to answer Christian. Hopeful also approved of the soundness of Christian’s answer; so there was a great silence among them. Mr. By-ends and his company also staggered and kept behind, that Christian and Hopeful might outgo them. Then said Christian to his fellow, If these men cannot stand before the sentence of men, what will they do with the sentence of God? And if they are mute when dealt with by vessels of clay, what will they do when they shall be rebuked by the flames of a devouring fire?

Answering By-ends

In the previous post, By-ends and his companions propounded the question: Is it right for a minister or a tradesman to use religion in the pursuit of personal gain? They confidently answered in the affirmative and collectively admired their reasoning. Now they attempt to impress Christian and Hopeful and are gleefully awaiting the moment when they can watch the two pilgrims falter and fall silent.

Christian, however is not swayed or silenced. He easily sees through the superficiality of their answer. Our need in this life is not for worldly wealth or success. Jesus did not come to improve our status or increase our possessions in this life. We need forgiveness, righteousness, and new life—gifts that are afforded to us only in Christ. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16); He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last (Revelation 22:13). To follow Him for the mere trifles of this world is indeed a tragedy of eternal consequence.

While Money-Love framed his answer to By-ends’ question according to his own logic and for his own advantage, Christian draws out his answer from Scripture. He first points to John 6 where Jesus rebukes the crowd for following Him, not because they believed Him to be the Messiah sent from God, but because He fed them with loaves and fishes.

Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6:26–27).

Jesus continues in John 6 to explain that He is the true “bread of life.” The fullness and satisfaction He offers is far greater than what the crowds were seeking or expecting. He can truly satisfy the hunger and thirst of our souls. He alone can give us life that is everlasting (John 6:28–40).

Christian continues to make his point by providing four examples from Scripture of men who used religion for personal gain: heathens (those outside a covenant relationship with God), hypocrites, devils, and witches (sorcerers).

Heathens—Hamor and Shechem were willing to be circumcised along with their countrymen in order to gain wives, property, and livestock from Israel.

And Hamor and Shechem his son came to the gate of their city, and spoke with the men of their city, saying: “These men are at peace with us. Therefore let them dwell in the land and trade in it. For indeed the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters to us as wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only on this condition will the men consent to dwell with us, to be one people: if every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. Will not their livestock, their property, and every animal of theirs be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us.” And all who went out of the gate of his city heeded Hamor and Shechem his son; every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city (Genesis 34:20–23).

Hypocrites—The Pharisees used religion to increase their status and swindle money and property from unsuspecting widows.

Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation” (Luke 20:45–47).

Devils—Judas was willing to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve (John 6:70–71).

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him (Matthew 26:14–16).

Witches (Sorcerers)—Simon thought he could purchase the power of God to heal with money.

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:18–23).

Through Christian’s answer, Bunyan once again highlights the value and prominence of God’s Word. William Mason observes in his commentary on The Pilgrim’s Progress:

Here see the blessedness of being mighty in the Scripture, and the need of that exhortation, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). For the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword; it pierces through all the subtle devices of Satan, and the cunning craftiness of carnal professors; and divideth asunder the carnal reasonings of the flesh, and the spiritual wisdom which cometh from above.

By-ends and his friends are stunned by Christian’s response. They had sought to silence Christian and Hopeful with their argument, but in the end, it is they who are speechless. Christian warns that they will face a far greater rebuke in the coming judgement. Christian and Hopeful are mere men, wielding God’s Word and standing for truth; but God, who is “the Judge of all” (Hebrews 12:23), “is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29; Deuteronomy 4:24).

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

By-ends Asks a Question

By-ends: My brothers, we are, as you see, going all on pilgrimage; and, for our better diversion from things that are bad, give me leave to propound unto you this question:

Suppose a man, a minister, or a tradesman, etc., should have an advantage lie before him, to get the good blessings of this life, yet so as that he can by no means come by them except, in appearance at least, he becomes extraordinarily zealous in some points of religion that he meddled not with before, may he not use these means to attain his end, and yet be a right honest man?

Money-Love: I see the bottom of your question; and, with these gentlemen’s good leave, I will endeavor to shape you an answer. And first, to speak to your question as it concerns a minister himself: Suppose a minister, a worthy man, possessed but of a very small benefice, and has in his eye a greater, more fat, and plump by far; he has also now an opportunity of getting of it, yet so as by being more studious, by preaching more frequently and zealously, and, because the temper of the people requires it, by altering of some of his principles; for my part, I see no reason but a man may do this, (provided he has a call), aye, and more a great deal besides, and yet be an honest man. For why—

  1. His desire of a greater benefice is lawful, (this cannot be contradicted), since it is set before him by Providence; so then, he may get it, if he can, making no question for conscience’ sake.
  2. Besides, his desire after that benefice makes him more studious, a more zealous preacher, etc., and so makes him a better man; yea, makes him better improve his parts, which is according to the mind of God.
  3. Now, as for his complying with the temper of his people, by dissenting, to serve them, some of his principles, this argues: (1) That he is of a self-denying, temper; (2) Of a sweet and winning deportment; and so (3) more fit for the ministerial function.
  4. I conclude, then, that a minister that changes a small for a great, should not, for so doing, be judged as covetous; but rather, since he has improved in his parts and industry thereby, be counted as one that pursues his call, and the opportunity put into his hands to do good.

And now to the second part of the question, which concerns the tradesman you mentioned. Suppose such a one to have but a poor employ in the world, but by becoming religious, he may mend his market, perhaps get a rich wife, or more and far better customers to his shop; for my part, I see no reason but that this may be lawfully done. For why—

  1. To become religious is a virtue, by what means soever a man becomes so.
  2. Nor is it unlawful to get a rich wife, or more custom to my shop.
  3. Besides, the man that gets these by becoming religious, gets that which is good, of them that are good, by becoming good himself; so then here is a good wife, and good customers, and good gain, and all these by becoming religious, which is good; therefore, to become religious, to get all these, is a good and profitable design.

This answer, thus made by this Mr. Money-love to Mr. By-ends’ question, was highly applauded by them all; wherefore they concluded upon the whole, that it was most wholesome and advantageous. And because, as they thought, no man was able to contradict it, and because Christian and Hopeful were yet within call, they jointly agreed to assault them with the question as soon as they overtook them; and the rather because they had opposed Mr. By-ends before. So they called after them, and they stopped, and stood still till they came up to them; but they concluded, as they went, that not Mr. By-ends, but old Mr. Hold-the-world, should propound the question to them, because, as they supposed, their answer to him would be without the remainder of that heat that was kindled between Mr. By-ends and them, at their parting a little before.

Money-love's Lesson

One of the great dangers of sin and folly is their ability to appear reasonable and right. Sin is a form of insanity that twists our thinking, deceiving and distorting truth, until actions and attitudes obviously contrary to God’s Word seem perfectly sound and sensible. Selfishness, greed, pretense, deception—these can all emerge in our minds as virtuous as we craftily excuse them and justify our need to indulge in them.

Bunyan offers a penetrating look at our propensity to rationalize sin as he unfolds the hypocrisy of By-ends and his friends. As By-ends affirms, they are all convinced that they are pilgrims. They claim to be seeking Christ’s kingdom, but their true aim is personal gain. They think they can have both a zeal for Christ and the riches of this world. And they think they can legitimately employ the former to gain the later.

To make his point By-ends puts forth a question. Is it right for a minister or a tradesman to use religion in the pursuit of personal gain?

Money-love elaborates the question, beginning with the minister: Suppose a minister has an opportunity to move to a larger church that can pay him more. To gain the position he will be expected to study more, preach more, and be more animated and engaging in his preaching. However, to be successful in this new ministry, he will need to avoid certain topics and adjust his stance on particular matters so as not to offend or upset members of the congregation. Is it right for him to make such a move?

Money-love quickly says yes. He sees no problem with the minister modifying his religion in order to pursue the higher paying position. He reasons:

  1. It is not sinful to desire more pay and, since the opportunity has come his way, it must be in the providence of God for him to pursue it.
  2. More study and more opportunities to preach will certainly make him a better preacher.
  3. His acquiescing to the sensibilities of the congregation is not wrong—in fact, it demonstrates deference and self-denial, affirming that he has such qualities that will allow him to excel in ministry.
  4. Moving from a small church to a large church is evidence of success, improvement and advancement and should not in any way be judged as covetous.

Money-love then expounds the question of the tradesman: Suppose a tradesman, who is not doing well in his business, has an opportunity to expand his market, tap into a larger customer base, and perhaps even find a wealthy woman to be his wife. All he needs to do is to join a local church, thereby gaining the confidence and trust of its large congregation. Is it right for him to join the church and become an active, zealous church member?

Money-love again sees no problem and he affirms the tradesman’s scheme. He reasons:

  1. It is always good and beneficial to go to church and engage in religion. Being religious is a virtue regardless of the motivation.
  2. It is not sinful for a man to convince a rich woman to be his wife, or convince potential customers to do business at his store—in fact, it demonstrates the he is motivated and hard-working.
  3. Since being religious is good, and getting a wife is good, and growing your business is good—getting a wife and growing your business by being religious must certainly be good. Such an endeavor is a “good and profitable design.”

Money-love’s answers are affirmed by all. By-ends has proved his point. In the company of Christian and Hopeful, he was rebuked and offended. But now he has found companions that answer to his liking. Foolishness thrives best in the company of fools and so they fail to see their own faulty reasoning. Rather than their hypocrisy being exposed, it is applauded and admired.

By-ends and his friends now devise a plan. They are so convinced in their own minds of the soundness of their reasoning, that they believe no one can refute them. Christian and Hopeful had earlier shamed By-ends when he was alone. Now they will catch up to the pilgrims and confront them as a group, with Hold-the-world acting as spokesman. And this time it will be Christian who will falter and be silenced. In the next post we will hear Christian’s response to By-ends and his friends.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The Companions of By-ends

Now I saw in my dream that Christian and Hopeful forsook him, and kept their distance before him; but one of them looking back, saw three men following Mr. By-ends, and behold, as they came up with him, he made them a very low conge; and they also gave him a compliment. The men’s names were Mr. Hold-the-world, Mr. Money-love, and Mr. Save-all; men that Mr. By-ends had formerly been acquainted with; for in their minority they were schoolfellows, and were taught by one Mr. Gripe-man, a schoolmaster in Love-gain, which is a market town in the county of Coveting, in the north. This schoolmaster taught them the art of getting, either by violence, cozenage, flattery, lying, or by putting on the guise of religion; and these four gentlemen had attained much of the art of their master, so that they could each of them have kept such a school themselves.

Well, when they had, as I said, thus saluted each other, Mr. Money-love said to Mr. By-ends, Who are they upon the road before us? (for Christian and Hopeful were yet within view).

By-ends: They are a couple of far countrymen, that, after their mode, are going on pilgrimage.

Money-Love: Alas! Why did they not stay, that we might have had their good company? for they, and we, and you, Sir, I hope, are all going on pilgrimage.

By-ends: We are so, indeed; but the men before us are so rigid, and love so much their own notions, and do also so lightly esteem the opinions of others, that let a man be never so godly, yet if he jumps not with them in all things, they thrust him quite out of their company.

Save-All: That is bad, but we read of some that are righteous overmuch; and such men’s rigidness prevails with them to judge and condemn all but themselves. But, I pray, what, and how many, were the things wherein you differed?

By-ends: Why, they, after their headstrong manner, conclude that it is duty to rush on their journey all weathers; and I am for waiting for wind and tide. They are for hazarding all for God at a clap; and I am for taking all advantages to secure my life and estate. They are for holding their notions, though all other men are against them; but I am for religion in what, and so far as the times, and my safety, will bear it. They are for religion when in rags and contempt; but I am for him when he walks in his golden slippers, in the sunshine, and with applause.

Hold-the-World: Ay, and hold you there still, good Mr. By-ends; for, for my part, I can count him but a fool, that, having the liberty to keep what he has, shall be so unwise as to lose it. Let us be wise as serpents; it is best to make hay when the sun shines; you see how the bee lieth still all winter, and bestirs her only when she can have profit with pleasure. God sends sometimes rain, and sometimes sunshine; if they be such fools to go through the first, yet let us be content to take fair weather along with us. For my part, I like that religion best that will stand with the security of God’s good blessings unto us; for who can imagine, that is ruled by his reason, since God has bestowed upon us the good things of this life, but that he would have us keep them for his sake? Abraham and Solomon grew rich in religion. And Job says, that a good man shall lay up gold as dust. But he must not be such as the men before us, if they be as you have described them.

Save-All: I think that we are all agreed in this matter, and therefore there needs no more words about it.

Money-Love: No, there needs no more words about this matter, indeed; for he that believes neither Scripture nor reason (and you see we have both on our side) neither knows his own liberty, nor seeks his own safety.

The Companions of By-endsIn the last post, Christian and Hopeful met a traveler named By-ends. By-ends claimed to be a fellow pilgrim, but his religion proved to be a pretense. Though he was walking on the pathway claiming to follow Christ, he was in fact following his own heart in pursuit of personal gain. Life in Christ was not his aim or reward, rather, it was a means to another end, a way to attain a more advantageous position in this life.

By-ends is certainly a regular church attender in our day, especially in communities where the church is looked on favorably and where the cost of identifying with Christ is low. But the emphasis given to By-ends in The Pilgrim’s Progress indicates that he must have been active in Bunyan’s day as well. Though Christian and Hopeful leave By-ends behind, Bunyan keeps the focus of the story on him and gives us more insight into his character. The falseness of By-ends’ faith is evident especially in: 1) his choice of companions, 2) his opinion of Christian and Hopeful, and 3) his view of religion.

By-ends Choice of Companions

Not long after Christian and Hopeful’s departure, three other travelers catch up to By-ends. They are all former acquaintances and By-ends readily welcomes them as his preferred companions. They greet him with a respectful bow and a compliment. Their names reveal a like-mindedness to By-ends’ way of thinking: Mr. Hold-the-world, Mr. Money-love, and Mr. Save-all. They all grew up together in the town of Love-gain in the country of Coveting. Their school teacher was Mr. Gripeman. Bunyan here uses an archaic definition of gripe meaning “to clutch or grasp or seize.” Mr. Gripeman’s students learned “the art of getting”—how to accrue possessions, power, pleasure and profit by any means necessary: violence, cozenage (deception), flattery, lying, or even by putting on the guise of religion. Though they prefer the treasures of this world to heavenly treasure, they all regularly attend church. They value the church, not as a place of humble worship and sacrificial service, but as a useful place to make connections, explore prospects, and gain people’s trust. They have learned well how to manipulate religion to their advantage in their pursuit of personal gain.

By-ends’ Opinion of Christian and Hopeful

Though By-ends considers himself to be a pilgrim, he distances himself from Christian and Hopeful. He describes them to his current companions as “far countrymen” not near neighbors or relations. His complaints against them are numerous: He does not count them as brothers, but feels slighted that they would not affirm his “reasonable” way of thinking. He thinks them to be rash and radical; they have their own “mode” of going on a pilgrimage. They are rigid and in love with their own notions. They lightly esteem the opinions of others. They won’t accept the company of any who do not act and think as they do. They are self-righteous in their condemnation of others. By-ends’ friends all agree with his assessment. They conclude that Christian and Hopeful have no regard for their own safety, have cast off their liberty, and are indeed unreasonable and even unbiblical.

By-ends’ View of Religion

It is clear from the testimony of By-ends and his companions that they believe themselves to be on a pilgrimage. Their faith is false. Their souls are in great peril. They are in love with the world, enamored by its mirage of prosperity and imprisoned by its fleeting comforts. Yet they believe all is well. Their guise of religion has fooled even themselves.

Though By-ends regards Christian and Hopeful as radical and unreasonable, he believes himself to be sensible and balanced. He will not journey in all weathers (willing to press on in faith even when the storms of life come), but waits for wind and tide (favorable conditions and comfortable circumstances). He will not hazard all for God “at a clap” (when tragedy or an adverse circumstance strikes), but takes every advantage to secure own his life and estate. He will not stand for truth when it is opposed, but seeks first for his own welfare and safety. He will not hold religion while in rags or contempt, but only when it “walks in his golden slippers, in the sunshine, and with applause.”

By-ends is enthusiastic in justifying and rationalizing his views. He does so by:

  • Complaining about and degrading Christian and Hopeful
  • Offering his own ideas as the voice of reason
  • Seeking the support and encouragement of friends who think the same way as he does

Hold-the-world affirm his views. He does so by:

  • Appealing to nature and common sense—He draws analogies from serpents and bees, sunshine and rain, winter and harvest.
  • Appealing even to Scripture and biblical illustration—He refers (though out of context) to Abraham, Solomon and Job.

By-ends and his companions are convinced that they are right and that Christian and Hopeful are harsh and unloving for not accepting them on their own terms. They desire to hold to the world, love money and save all for themselves. But the Bible clearly contradicts them. We cannot follow Christ and hold to the world.

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4).

We cannot love money and serve God as well.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:10).

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).

And we cannot save all for ourselves and value our own life above all.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:24–26).

The faith of By-ends and his friends is not confirmed by Scripture. Their love is not ultimately for Christ, but for themselves. Their religion is self-seeking and not God-honoring. In the next post By-ends and his friends defend their reasoning for using religion as a means to acquire personal gain.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.