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

Notes and Commentary

by Ken Puls

on John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress

Part Two

Christiana and her four sons

4. News About Christian's Wife and Children

"But pray, sir, while it is fresh in my mind, do you hear anything of his wife and children? Poor hearts! I wonder in my mind what they do.

Sagacity: Who? Christiana and her sons! They are like to do as well as did Christian himself; for though they all played the fool at the first, and would by no means be persuaded by either the tears or entreaties of Christian, yet second thoughts have wrought wonderfully with them; so they have packed up, and are also gone after him.

"Better and better," said I. "But what! Wife and children and all?"

Sagacity: 'Tis true. I can give you an account of the matter; for I was upon the spot at the instant, and was thoroughly acquainted with the whole affair.

"Then," said I, "a man, it seems, may report it for a truth?"

Sagacity: You need not fear to affirm it. I mean, that they are all gone on pilgrimage, both the good woman and her four boys; and being we are, as I perceive, going some considerable way together, I will give you an account of the whole of the matter.

 

Notes and Commentary

The conversation between Bunyan and Mr. Sagacity now turns to Christian’s family. Perhaps the most perplexing question left unanswered in Part 1 of The Pilgrim’s Progress is: What became of Christian’s wife and children who remained behind in the City of Destruction?

In Part 1 Christian shared his distress with his family. He told them of his burden. He feared that tragedy would come upon them if they remained in Destruction. But his words were to no avail. They were not persuaded. Rather, they thought that “some frenzy distemper had got into his head.” So they ridiculed and scorned him. We read in Part 1:

But they began to be hardened; they thought to drive away his distemper by harsh and surly carriages to him: Sometimes they would deride, sometimes they would chide, and sometimes they would quite neglect him.

But Christian bore their derision. He loved them and prayed for them:

Wherefore he began to retire himself to his Chamber, to pray for and pity them; and also to condole his own misery: He would also walk solitarily in the fields, sometimes reading and sometimes praying; and thus for some days he spent his time.

Christian lamented his family’s decision throughout Part 1, but there is no indication in Part 1 that they ever regretted their decision or had second thoughts. Now Bunyan asks the question that his readers had been asking him since the publication of Part 1: What news do you have about Christian’s wife and children?

The answer is good news indeed! Mr. Sagacity affirms that Christiana and her four sons had a change of heart. They are now pilgrims. Though they rejected the warnings to flee when Christian was alive, now “second thoughts have wrought wonderfully with them.” They have determined to pack their bags and follow after Christian.

This sets the stage for the remainder of the book: the story of Christiana and her sons as they make the journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City.

Bunyan has much wisdom to offer in Part 2, adding to his insights in Part 1. But even in these early pages, his sequel offers hope and encouragement. We learn at the outset of Part 2 that Christian’s entreaties and tears have finally born fruit. Though he did not live to see his family repent and come to Christ, we hear news that they are on the Way to the Celestial City. We must never give up praying for and pleading with those we love. God sees our tears and hears our entreaties. And he can use our tears and entreaties even after we are gone. We don’t know His timing or His plans. Even if unbelieving family and friends turn away, reject our words, and give no evidence of repentance or faith in our lifetime, God may yet turn their hearts. So, as long as you have breath, pray without ceasing, share the good news of the gospel, and live in hope that grace may prevail.

Return to 03. News About Christian and His Reward

Continue Reading 05. Stirrings of Grace in a Time of Sorrow

 

The text for The Pilgrim's Progress
and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2021 Ken Puls

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from
the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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