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


Notes and Commentary on
The Pilgrim's Progress

by Ken Puls

Pilgrim Prayer

20. Christian Reflects on God's Mercy

Christian: Truly, said Christian, I have said the truth of Pliable, and if I should also say all truth of myself, it will appear there is no betterment between him and myself. 'Tis true, he went back to his own house, but I also turned aside to go in the way of Death, being persuaded thereto by the carnal arguments of one Mr. Worldly Wiseman.

Goodwill: Oh! did he light upon you? What, he would have had you have sought for ease at the hands of Mr. Legality; they are both of them a very cheat; but did you take his counsel?

Christian: Yes, as far as I durst; I went to find out Mr. Legality, until I thought that the Mountain that stands by his house would have fallen upon my head; wherefore there I was forced to stop.

Goodwill: That mountain has been the death of many, and will be the death of many more: 'Tis well you escaped being by it dashed in pieces. Christian: Why truly I do not know what had become of me there, had not Evangelist happily met me again as I was musing in the midst of my dumps: But it was God's Mercy, that he came to me again, for else I had never come hither. But now I am come, such a one as I am, more fit indeed for death by that mountain, than thus to stand talking with my Lord: But O! what a Favor is this to me, that yet I am admitted entrance here?


Notes and Commentary

It is with the humbled heart of one touched by the Holy Spirit that Christian responds to Goodwill's lament over Pliable. As Christian told of Pliable's desertion of the Way, he was reminded of his own unfaithfulness and waywardness. Both had set out with high hopes and dreams of reaching the Celestial City, yet Pliable was resting again in Destruction, while Christian was within the Gate of Goodwill. Christian knew the darkness of his heart and understood clearly who had made the difference in his life. It was nothing in himself that made him better than Pliable or Obstinate. He says rather, "But it was God's Mercy!" Only the grace and mercy of God caused him to differ. Paul reminds us that "we were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:4-5). Salvation is of the LORD! (Jonah 2:9). Christian was fit only for death, but God was preparing to fit him for heaven.

Spurgeon drew a similar conclusion in his life:

After I had found grace and salvation a little time elapsed before I had surveyed the work of the Lord upon me; and when I did so, I learned much. Sitting down, one day, I meditated upon where I was, and what I was. I said to myself, "I have believed in Jesus Christ, and I have passed from death unto life. To God be praise!" Then my train of thought ran thus: "How have I come to be in this condition? Did I make this change in myself? No. Must I praise my own free will? No. Was there originally in me some betterness which led me to Christ, while my companions have not come?" I dared not say so, and therefore I perceived that the difference was made by the sovereign grace of God. I do not know whereabouts in theology I might have wandered else, but those reflections made me a Calvinist, that is to say one who traces salvation to the Lord alone. I saw that my salvation was of the Lord from first to last, and I have never had a doubt about the matter since. It is no wish of mine to preach salvation by the will of man, or by the will of the flesh, but salvation all of grace, from beginning to end, according to the eternal purpose which the Lord purposed in Christ Jesus or ever the world was. It did not need any intricate reasoning to land me on the rock of free grace doctrine. If the Lord saved me, then He intended to save me; He did not do so by accident or inadvertence. Then if He once intended to save me, there could be no reason why that intention should begin at any one moment; He must have purposed to save me from all eternity. God has His plan and purpose, and what He actually does must have been known to Him, and purposed by Him, from of old. Then I saw, as in a glass, the ways of God towards me: but it was not till the Lord Himself appeared unto me that I had this conception of His ways. He Himself, by His Spirit, expounded to me the whole system after this fashion: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (from Spurgeon Sermons, volume 32, "Secret Drawings Graciously Explained" delivered on August 15, 1886).

Continue reading 21. Christian Is Directed in the Way
Return to 19. Christian Laments His Neighbors


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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