Notes and Commentary on
The Pilgrim's Progress
by Ken Puls
24. A Dusty Parlor
Then he took him by the hand, and led him into a very large parlor that was full of dust, because never swept; the which after he had reviewed a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a Damsel that stood by, bring hither Water, and sprinkle the room; the which when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure.
Christian: Then said Christian, What means this?
Interpreter: The Interpreter answered, This parlor is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet Grace of the Gospel: The dust is his Original Sin, and inward Corruptions that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first, is the Law; but she that brought Water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now, whereas you saw that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did fly about, that the room by him could not be cleansed, but that you were almost choked therewith; this is to show you, that the Law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from Sin, does revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it does discover and forbid it, for it does not give Power to subdue.
Again, as you saw the Damsel sprinkle the room with Water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure; this is to show you, that when the Gospel comes in, the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then, I say, even as you saw the Damsel lay the dust by sprinkling the floor with Water, so is Sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean, through the Faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of Glory to inhabit.
Notes and Commentary
For the second lesson, the Interpreter leads Christian by the hand to a large parlor that is full of dust. Bunyan himself provides an explanation of the nature of the allegory at this point. The parlor represents the heart of man and the dust is original sin and corruptions that have defiled man and made him unfit for the presence of God.
Bunyan portrays here in a simple illustration the essence of Paul's teaching in Romans concerning the relationship between the Law and the Gospel. The man who comes in first to sweep is the Law. While the Law is holy, righteous and good in that it is a reflection of God's perfect character, it cannot and was never meant to save men from their sins. The Law defines sin, as Paul explains:
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:7-13).
The Law can expose the vileness of a man's heart, but it is powerless as a remedy to cleanse the heart. In fact the coming of the Law, rather than purifying, stirs up sin and makes it more obvious. As Paul says, "Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound" (Romans 5:20). The harder men try to save themselves by keeping the Law, the more sin is revealed and brought to light. Christian already found this to be true in his experience on the slopes of Mount Sinai. Christian learned then that his only hope for salvation would be found at the Cross, not in the Town of Legality.
Once the Law had failed to cleanse the room, a Damsel came and sprinkled the room with Water. The Damsel represents the Gospel, which can take a heart clouded by sin and misery and bring forgiveness, cleansing and peace.
Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:20-21).
What the Law could not do, the Gospel does with pleasure. What we could never do in our attempts to serve and please God through the Law, our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us! Paul cries out at the end of Romans 7, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" The answer to his plea is in the following verse, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 7:25). Only in Jesus can sinners ever find cleansing and forgiveness. Only dressed in His imputed righteousness will they ever be fit for the presence of God. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone!
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
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