Notes and Commentary on
The Pilgrim's Progress
by Ken Puls
11. Directed to the Village of Morality
Christian: I know what I would obtain; it is Ease for my heavy Burden.
Worldly Wiseman But why wilt thou seek for ease this way, seeing so many Dangers attend it? especially, since (hadst thou but patience to hear me) I could direct thee to the obtaining of what thou desirest, without the dangers that thou in this way wilt run thyself into: Yea, and the Remedy is at hand. Besides, I will add, that instead of these dangers, thou shalt meet with much Safety, Friendship, and Content.
Christian: Pray, Sir, open this secret to me.
Worldly Wiseman: Why in yonder Village (the village is named Morality) there dwells a gentleman, whose name is Legality, a very judicious man (and a man of a very good name) that has skill to help men off with such Burdens as thine is, from their shoulders; yea, to my knowledge, he hath done a great deal of good this way: Ay, and besides, he hath skill to cure those that are somewhat crazed in their wits with their Burdens. To him, as I said, thou may'st go, and be help'd presently. His house is not quite a mile from this place; and if he should not be at home himself, he hath a pretty young man to his Son, whose name is Civility, that can do it (to speak on) as well as the old Gentleman himself: There, I say, thou may'st be eased of the Burden, and if thou art not minded to go back to thy former habitation, as indeed I would not wish thee; thou may'st send for thy Wife and Children to thee to this Village, where there are houses now stand empty, one of which thou mayest have at reasonable rates: Provision is there also cheap and good, and that which will make thy Life the more happy is, to be sure there thou shalt live by honest neighbours, in Credit and good Fashion.
Now was Christian somewhat at a stand; but presently he concluded, If this be true which this gentleman hath said, my wisest course is to take his advice; and with that he thus further spoke.
Christian: Sir, which is my way to this honest man's house?
Worldly Wiseman: Do you see yonder high Hill?
Christian: Yes, very well.
Worldly Wiseman: By that Hill you must go, and the first house you come at is his.
Notes and Commentary
Though hardly begun in his journey, Christian is already weary from his struggle in the Slough. He is yet inexperienced in his pilgrimage and feels the weight of his burden now more than ever. In his desperation to rid himself of his burden he is ripe for the tempting, beguiling speech of Mr. Worldly Wiseman, who offers him a short-cut, a refuge away from the daily battles with sin.
This refuge is the Village of Morality. The Village of Morality represents that great host of people who seek to avoid the appearance of evil and practice good apart from any fear of God or judgment. They hope by being good people and doing good things that all will turn out right in the end. They keep the law outwardly in the eyes of men and can say along with the rich young ruler, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth" (Mark 10:20). The World's advice to Christian is essentially be a good person and all will be well.
The citizens of Morality look to Mr. Legality to ease their consciences. They cling to an outward keeping of the law, a works righteousness that continually seeks to outweigh any bad with the good. If Legality is not home (ie. moral laws are not upheld within the present culture) then Civility will do. Simply try to get along with people, act with decency and benevolence towards your fellow man and again all will be well. Bunyan describes his own stay in this Village:
"Wherefore I fell to some outward reformation, both in my words and life, and did set the commandments before me for my way to heaven; which commandments I also did strive to keep, and, as I thought, did keep them pretty well sometimes, and then I should have comfort; yet now and then should break one, and so afflict my conscience; but then I should repent, and say I was sorry for it, and promise God to do better next time, and there get help again, for then I thought I pleased God as well as any man in England."
[Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 30]
This town, however, is in even greater danger than the City of Destruction. In Destruction the danger was manifest; the wickedness and enmity against God was apparent. In this city, however, burdens are discarded. Guilt is smothered and silenced. Its citizens are deceived into believing all is well. They say peace, peace! When there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14).
Let us shun the hellish lie that tells us that man can solve his own problems, that striving to do good can remove the guilt of sin. Only the cross, only the shed blood of Christ can bring peace and atone for sin (Colossians 1:20). Christian will soon learn that to stray from the Way to the cross is perilous indeed.
Continue reading 12. Beneath the High Hill
Return to 10. The World's Scorn of the Word