Notes and Commentary on
The Pilgrim's Progress
by Ken Puls
5. Ridiculed by Obstinate
Obstinate: What are the things you seek, since you leave all the World to find them?
Christian: I seek an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away; and it is laid up in heaven, and safe there, to be bestowed, at the time appointed, on them that diligently seek it. Read it so, if you will, in my Book.
Obstinate: Tush, said Obstinate, away with your Book; will you go back with us, or no?
Christian: No, not I, said the other; because I have laid my hand to the Plough.
Obstinate: Come then, neighbor Pliable, let us turn again, and go home without him. There is a Company of these crazed-headed coxcombs, that when they take a fancy by the end, are wiser in their own eyes than seven men that can render a Reason.
Pliable: Then said Pliable, Don't revile; if what good Christian says, is true, the things he looks after are better than ours; my heart inclines to go with my Neighbor.
Obstinate: What! More Fools still? Be ruled by me, and go back; who knows whither such a brain-sick fellow will lead you? Go back, go back and be wise.
Christian: Nay, but do thou come with me, neighbor Pliable; there are such things to be had which I spoke of, and many more Glories besides; if you believe not me, read here in the Book, and for the truth of what is expressed therein, behold all is confirmed by the Blood of him that made it.
Pliable: Well, neighbor Obstinate, (said Pliable) I begin to come to a point, I intend to go along with this good man, and to cast in my Lot with him; but, my good companion, do you know the way to this desired place?
Christian: I am directed by a man whose name is Evangelist, to speed me to a little Gate that is before us, where we shall receive instructions about the Way.
Pliable: Come then, good neighbor, let us be going. Then they went both together.
Obstinate: And I will go back to my place, said Obstinate: I will be no companion of such misled fantastical fellows.
Notes and Commentary
As Christian begins his discussion with Obstinate and Pliable, he wastes no time in warning them of their danger. They desire him to return to the ways of the world, but Christian, being warned in his Book and by the words of Evangelist of the coming destruction, does not heed their counsel. He tells Obstinate he will not go back with them, heeding the words of Jesus from Luke 9:62, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." The comforts and friendship of the world cannot compare to the blessings promised in Scripture. Christian is determined to escape the wrath to come and find eternal life; and he attempts to persuade the two worldlings to go with him in his journey.
In his appeal, Christian continually uses the Bible as his defense. He tells them: "Read it so, if you will, in my Book" and "if you believe not me, read here in the Book." He does not try to persuade them with his opinions or by force, rather his appeal is to God's Word. Paul tells us in Romans 10:17 "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." Bunyan highlights this truth by placing the Bible in the center of his allegory.
As the conversation unfolds, there appears to be two distinct responses to the Gospel. To Obstinate the Gospel is foolishness and he will have nothing to do with it. "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing" (1 Corinthians 1:18). "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him…" (1 Corinthians 2:14). Obstinate ridicules Christian saying, "away with your Book." Pliable, however, has become enamored with the joys and rewards promised in Christian's Book. He is moved and swayed by Christian's zeal and steadfastness in the pursuit of eternal life. As Christian and Obstinate vie for his company, Pliable makes an outward profession: "I intend to go along with this good man and cast in my Lot with him." Seeing his opinion is now the minority, Obstinate refuses to stay with them, saying, "I will be no companion to such misled, fantastical fellows."
In contrast to Obstinate, Pliable appears eager for the journey. He urges Christian on, saying, "Come then, good neighbor, let us be going." But something was lacking in Pliable's seemingly good decision. Although they part ways here, Obstinate and Pliable soon end up in the same place, back in the City of Destruction. In the next post we will examine Pliable's brief and fruitless pilgrimage and seek to discover why he did not persevere to the end.
Continue Reading: 6. Forsaken by Pliable
Return to 4. Encounter with Neighbors