A Guide to John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress


Notes and Commentary on
The Pilgrim's Progress

by Ken Puls

Worldly Wiseman

10. The World's Scorn of the Word

Worldly Wiseman: How camest thou by thy burden at first?

Christian: By Reading this Book in my hand.

Worldly Wiseman: I thought so; and it is happened unto thee as to other weak men, who, meddling with things too high for them, do suddenly fall into thy distractions; which distractions so not only unman men (as thine I perceive have done thee) but they run them upon desperate ventures, to obtain they know not what.

Christian: I know what I would obtain; it is Ease for my heavy Burden.


Notes and Commentary

Despite the warnings of trouble and danger in the Way, and the scorn and ridicule heaped upon Evangelist, Christian is still persuaded to continue on and find deliverance. Worldy Wiseman thus raises another argument to win Christian to his side. He asks Christian about the origin of his burden. When was it that he began to feel guilty and weighed down with sin? Christian answers him truthfully; reading the Bible gave rise to his conviction. God's Word itself confirms in Psalm 19:7-11:

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold.
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them Your servant is warned.
And in keeping them there is great reward.

Worldly Wiseman, however, denounces the Bible and its impact on the life of Christian. He condemns reading the Scriptures on three grounds. First, he claims it is a sign of weakness. To the World, all religion is weakness, suitable perhaps for women or children, but certainly not a characteristic of manliness. Men are supposed to be strong and in control, not admitting helplessness under the weight of a burden. In the world's eyes Christian is a failure.

Second, Worldly Wiseman asserts that reading the Bible is distracting. He believes Christian should be out making a name for himself, seeking pleasure and wealth, enjoying himself, pursuing fame and fortune. Instead, Christian stands before him grieved and weighed down by his sin. Again, Christian is a failure in his eyes.

Finally, Worldly Wiseman insinuates that following the Bible's Way is pointless. He refers to Christian's pursuit to find peace by way of the Gospel as "desperate." The world would have men live by sight, holding and clinging to what they can see. Those who would live by faith "to obtain they know not what" are counted as foolish.

Again, behind Worldly Wiseman's ridicule and scorn, we can detect the ploys of the devil. Satan has long had contempt for God's Word. His first words to Eve in the garden were "Has God indeed said...?" (Genesis 3:1). Even today his attack continues. The words of Scripture are often ridiculed and set aside as being mythological, inaccurate, irrelevant or out-dated.

But to the Christian the Bible is a precious book. Bunyan, himself describes in Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners:

"The Bible was precious to me in those days. And now, methought, I began to look into the Bible with new eyes, and read as I never did before; and especially the epistles of the apostle Paul were sweet and pleasant to me; and indeed, I was then never out of the Bible, either by reading or meditation; still crying out to God that I might know the truth, and way to heaven and glory." [end of par. 45 and 46]

If we are to find this Way of Truth, it must be from the words of Scripture. The whole of Scripture points us to Jesus (Luke 24:27), who alone has "the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). Paul tells us: faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Let us hold fast to the Words of Life and proclaim them in spite of the world's scorn.

Continue reading: 11. Directed to the Village of Morality
Return to 9. Met by Worldly Wiseman


The text for The Pilgrim's Progress
and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©1997 Ken Puls
"A Guide to John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress"
was originally published from January 1993 to December 1997
in "The Voice of Heritage," a monthly newsletter
of Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from
the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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