Notes and Commentary on
The Pilgrim's Progress
by Ken Puls
22. The House of the Interpreter
Then Christian began to gird up his loins, and to address himself to his Journey. So the other told him, That by that he was gone some distance from the Gate, he would come at the house of the Interpreter, at whose door he should knock, and he would show him excellent things. Then Christian took his leave of his Friend, and he again bid him God speed.
Then he went on till he came at the house of the Interpreter, where he knocked over and over; at last one came to the door, and asked, Who was there?
Christian: Sir, here is a Traveler, who was bid by an acquaintance of the Good Man of this house, to call here from my profit; I would therefore speak with the Master of the house: So he called for the Master of the house; who after a little time came to Christian, and asked him what he would have?
Christian: Sir, said Christian, I am a man that am come from the City of Destruction, and am going to the Mount Zion; and I was told by the Man that stands at the Gate, at the head of this way, that if I called here, you would show me excellent things, such as would be a help to me in my Journey.
Interpreter: Then said the Interpreter, Come in; I will show you that which will be profitable to you. So he commanded his man to light the Candle, and bid Christian follow him.
Notes and Commentary
Once Christian has tasted of the Goodwill of God, he is directed to go and spend time searching God's Word for "excellent things" that will be of great benefit to him in his journey to heaven. Bunyan portrays God's Word as the House of the Interpreter. Cheever said of this portion of Pilgrim's Progress:
It would be difficult to find twelve consecutive pages in the English language, that contain such volumes of meaning, in such beautiful and instructive lessons, with such heavenly imagery, in so pure and sweet a style, and with so thrilling an appeal to the best affections of the heart, as these pages descriptive of Christian's sojourning in the house of the Interpreter. This good-man of the house, Interpreter, we are, without doubt, to take as the representative of the Holy Spirit, with His enlightening and sanctifying influences on the heart.
When Christian arrives, he knocks over and over. This is not to say that the Spirit of God is slow or reluctant to illumine truth; but rather, that we must be diligent and responsible to search the Scriptures and pray earnestly that the Spirit will teach us and apply its truths to our hearts and lives. Bunyan described his own desire to know and search the Scriptures in Grace Abounding:
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 (Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 46).
As Christian enters the house, the Interpreter commands his servant to light the Candle. This Candle is representative of the Spirit's work of illumination. Without this light, the hallways and rooms of the house would be dark and unprofitable. In 1 Corinthians 2:14 Paul instructs us: "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Only by the power of the Spirit can one who is by nature dead and blind, see and understand the Word of God. "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).
In the next several posts, we will explore together the various rooms and objects in this house, for they are as profitable for us as they were to Christian on his pilgrimage.
Continue reading: 23: A Portrait of a Minister
Return to 21. Christian Is Directed in the Way