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

 

Notes and Commentary on
The Pilgrim's Progress

by Ken Puls

Mount Sinai

13. Admonished by Evangelist

Then Evangelist proceeded, saying, Give more earnest Heed to the things that I shall tell thee of. I will now show thee who it was that deluded thee, and who it was also to whom he sent thee. The man that met thee, is one Worldly Wiseman, and rightly is he so called; partly, because he savoreth only the doctrine of this world; (therefore he always goes to the town of Morality to church) and partly, because he loveth that doctrine best; for it saveth him from the Cross; and because he is of this carnal temper, therefore he seeketh to pervert my ways, though right. Now there are three things in this man's counsel that thou must utterly abhor.

1. His turning thee out of the Way.

2. His laboring to render the Cross odious to thee.

3. And his setting thy feet in that way that leadeth unto the administration of death.

First, Thou must abhor his turning thee out of the Way; yea, and thine own Consenting thereto; because this is to reject the counsel of God for the sake of the counsel of a Worldly Wiseman. The Lord says, Strive to enter in at the Strait Gate, the gate to which I sent thee; for strait is the Gate that leadeth unto Life, and few there be that find it. From this little Wicket Gate, and from the Way thereto, hath this wicked man turned thee, to the bringing of thee almost to destruction: hate, therefore, his turning thee out of the Way, and abhor thyself for hearkening to him.

Secondly, Thou must abhor his laboring to render the Cross odious unto thee; for thou art to prefer it before the treasures in Egypt: Besides, the King of Glory hath told thee, That he that will save his life shall lose it: And, he that comes after him, and hates not his Father, and Mother, and Wife, and Children, and Brethren, and Sisters, yea and his own Life also, he cannot be my Disciple. I say therefore, for a man to labor to persuade thee that That shall be thy Death, without which, the Truth hath said, thou canst not have Eternal Life: This doctrine thou must abhor.

Thirdly, Thou must hate his setting of thy feet in the way that leadeth to the ministration of Death. And for this thou must consider to whom he sent thee, and also how unable that Person was to deliver thee from the Burden.

He to whom thou wast sent for Ease, being by name Legality, is the son of the Bondwoman which now is, and is in bondage with her children, and is in a mystery this Mount Sinai, which thou hast feared will fall on thy head. Now if she with her children are in Bondage, how canst thou expect by them to be made free? This Legality, therefore, is not able to set thee free from the Burden. No man was as yet ever rid of his Burden by him; no, nor ever is like to be: Ye cannot be justified by the Works of the Law; for by the deeds of the law no man living can be rid of his burden: Therefore Mr. Worldly Wiseman is an alien, and Mr. Legality a cheat: And for his son Civility, notwithstanding his simpering looks, he is but a hypocrite, and cannot help thee. Believe me, there is nothing in all this noise that thou hast heard of this sottish man, but a design to beguile thee of thy Salvation, by turning thee from the Way in which I had set thee.

 

Notes and Commentary

In this portion of Pilgrim's Progress Evangelist makes good on his promise to show Christian "the words of God." He proceeds to quote Scripture after Scripture, exposing Christian's error, teaching him to recognize and hate his sin, and explaining to him why it was foolish to depart from the Way. Worldly Wiseman spoke out of "the doctrine of this world," as 1 John 4:5 teaches: "They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them." For Christian to have listened to and heeded Worldly Wiseman's counsel is a serious matter, for the world hears and follows its own. Had Christian known more of God's Word, he would have been better equipped to recognize the world's contempt of God's ways. Worldly Wiseman was of that company who desires ease and pleasure, avoiding persecution and suffering that come to those who seek the Cross (Galatians 6:12).

Evangelist reminds Christian that there is only one way to life, and that through the Straight and Narrow Gate:

"Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24).

"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 7:1314).

When Christian had first cried out: "What shall I do to be saved?" Evangelist had pointed the way. But Christian had lost sight of the Way that would take him to the cross. So Evangelist directs him again to heed the warnings of Scripture.

He warns Christian to count the cost, as Moses did when he identified himself with the people of God:

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward" (Hebrews 11:2426).

And as Jesus did when He taught His disciples:

"For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35).

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:2627).

Christian had turned away from the cross. He had forsaken the Way to Grace to search after ease in the Law. But again, the warning is clearly sounded in Scripture:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: "Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband." Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free (Galatians 4:2131).

Even Paul in his instruction emphasizes the crucial question: What does the Scripture say? Verse after verse, warning after warning, truth after truth, God's servant lovingly corrects and reproves this wandering Pilgrim by bringing him again and again to God's Word.

Bunyan reveals in this dialog the great benefit of knowing and understanding Scripture. Evangelist finds a brother in need, indeed, a brother who is about to stray from the Way into grave danger. But Evangelist is prepared and ready to help. He has the Word of God hidden in his heart. He has kept the Sword of the Spirit sharpened at his side and now draws it for the good of his brother. May we be just as prepared and equipped, that we might keep ourselves from straying down erroneous paths as well as teach and admonish one another in truth and love.

Continue reading 14. Christian Returns to the Way
Return to 12. Beneath the High Hill

 

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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