The Devil’s Garden

Fruit from the Devi's Garden

Now there was on the other side of the wall that fenced in the way up which Christiana and her companions were to go, a garden; and that garden belonged to him whose was that barking dog of whom mention was made before. And some of the fruit trees that grew in that garden shot their branches over the wall; and being mellow, they that found them did gather them up, and oft ate of them to their hurt. So Christiana’s boys—as boys are apt to do—being pleased with the trees, and with the fruit that did hang thereon, did pluck them, and began to eat. Their mother did also chide them for so doing; but still the boys went on.

“Well,” said she, “my sons, you transgress; for that fruit is none of ours.” But she did not know that they did belong to the enemy; I’ll warrant you if she had, she would have been ready to die for fear. But that passed, and they went on their way.

Notes and Commentary

No sooner had the pilgrims left the comforts of the Gate than they again faced impending danger. When they were approaching the Gate, danger had been evident. The barking of the dog sounded fierce and menacing. But now danger is craftily disguised and dressed up as delight. The pilgrims would not flee from terror, so perhaps they will fall in temptation. 

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The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain.

Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2023 Ken Puls

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

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2

If the Lord Wills

Ship's Helm at Sunrise

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:13–17).

Verse 13 reminds us that life is filled with opportunities and choices. We hear of people making plans, setting goals, and engaging in travel and commerce. You see here that these plans are well thought out. They are filled with self-confidence and self-certainty. They say:

  • we will go—to a certain city” (literally “to this city”)
  • “we will spend the year there in that place”
  • “we will buy and sell and make a profit”

Now, in one sense, there is much to be commended here. We see confidence and ambition. There is initiative and determination. We read in Proverbs, “The preparations of the heart belong to man” (Proverbs 16:1a). And there are certainly preparations being made here in verse 13 of James 4. But there is something noticeably absent. What is missing? If you know the rest of Proverbs 16:1, you know the answer: “But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:1b).

It is right and good to make our plans, but we must always acknowledge the Lord. The answer is from Him. The outcome is in His hands, not our own.

Continue Reading this sermon from James 4:13–17

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See Amid the Winter’s Snow

Classical Guitar and Snowy Road

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5–8).

See Amid the Winter’s Snow

See, amid the winter’s snow,
Born for us on earth below,
See the tender Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Hail, thou ever blessed morn!
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies:
He who, throned in height sublime,
Sits amid the cherubim.

Say, ye holy shepherds, say,
What your joyful news today?
Wherefore have ye left your sheep
On the lonely mountain steep?

“As we watched at dead of night,
Lo! we saw a wondrous light;
Angels singing, peace on earth,
Told us of the Savior’s birth.”

Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this!

Teach, O teach us, holy Child,
By thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble thee,
In thy sweet humility.

Words by Edward Caswell, 1851
Music by Sir John Goss, 1870

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Christiana’s Song

The King Shall Rejoice

Then Christiana began to talk of their journey, and to inquire after the way. So he fed them, and washed their feet; and set them in the way of his steps, according as he had dealt with her husband before.

So I saw in my dream that they walked on in their way, and had the weather very comfortable to them.

Then Christiana began to sing, saying:

“Blest be the day that I began
A pilgrim for to be;
And blessed also be that man
That thereto moved me.

‘Tis true, ‘twas long ere I began
To seek to live forever:
But now I run fast as I can;
‘Tis better late, than never.

Our tears to joy, our fears to faith,
Are turned, as we see:
Thus our beginning (as one saith)
Shows what our end will be.”

Notes and Commentary

As Christiana sets out again with her children and Mercy on their journey to the Celestial City, Christiana’s heart is full of joy. At the Gate, they have been well fed, refreshed, and shown the right path to take. Now they walk in favorable weather.

Christiana expresses her joy with singing. Music is a fitting way to declare our delight in God and make known His manifest kindnesses.

Continue Reading Notes and Commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain.

Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2022 Ken Puls

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

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2

The Power of the Dog

Barking Dog

So at last he came down to them again; and Mercy fell to the ground on her face before him, and worshipped, and said, “Let my Lord accept of the sacrifice of praise which I now offer unto him with the calves of my lips.”

So he said unto her, “Peace be to thee: stand up.”

But she continued upon her face and said, “You are Righteous, O Lord, when I plead with You; yet let me talk with You of Your judgments: why do You keep so cruel a dog in Your yard, at the sight of which such women and children as we are ready to fly from Your gate for fear?”

He answered, and said, “That dog has another owner; he also is kept close in another man’s ground, only my pilgrims hear his barking. He belongs to the castle which you see there at a distance, but can come up to the walls of this place. He has frightened many an honest pilgrim from worse to better by the great voice of his roaring. Indeed, he that owns him does not keep him of any good will to Me or mine; but with intent to keep the pilgrims from coming to Me, and that they may be afraid to knock at this gate for entrance. Sometimes also he has broken out, and has worried some that I love; but I take all at present patiently. I also give my pilgrims timely help; so that they are not delivered up to his power, to do to them what his doggish nature would prompt him to. But what! My purchased one, I trow, had you known never so much beforehand, you wouldst not have been afraid of a dog. The beggars that go from door to door will, rather than they will lose a supposed alms, run the hazard of the bawling, barking, and biting too, of a dog; and shall a dog, a dog in another man’s yard, a dog whose barking I turn to the profit of pilgrims, keep any from coming to Me? I deliver them from the lions, their darling from the power of the dog.”

Then said Mercy, “I confess my ignorance; I spoke what I did not understand: I acknowledge that You do all things well.”

Then Christiana began to talk of their journey, and to inquire after the way. So he fed them, and washed their feet; and set them in the way of his steps, according as he had dealt with her husband before.

Notes and Commentary

The pilgrims are relieved and grateful that they have gained entrance to the Gate. But Mercy is perplexed. She remembers her distress and the peril that caused her to faint just outside the Gate and she cannot make sense of what she experienced. The Wicket Gate is a place of hope and refuge for needy pilgrims. How then can it also be a place of such danger and trepidation? She is intent on seeking an answer from the Gate Keeper. 

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The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain.

Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2022 Ken Puls

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

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2

Pardon at the Gate

Mercy fainting by the Gate

And now was Christiana and her boys, and Mercy, received of the Lord at the head of the way, and spoke kindly unto by him.

Then said they yet further unto him, “We are sorry for our sins, and beg of our Lord his pardon; and further information what we must do.”

“I grant pardon,” said he, “by word and deed: by word, in the promise of forgiveness; by deed, in the way I obtained it. Take the first from my lips with a kiss, and the other as it shall be revealed.”

Now I saw in my dream that he spoke many good words unto them, whereby they were greatly gladdened. he also had them up to the top of the gate, and showed them by what deed they were saved; and told them withal, that that sight they would have again as they went along in the way, to their comfort.

So he left them awhile in a summer parlor below, where they entered into talk by themselves. And thus Christiana began, “O Lord, how glad am I that we are got in hither!”

Mercy: So you well may; but I, of all, have cause to leap for joy.

Christiana: I thought one time, as I stood at the gate (because I had knocked, and none did answer), that all our labor had been lost; specially when that ugly cur made such a heavy barking against us.

Mercy: But my worst fear was after I saw that you were taken into his favor, and that I was left behind. Now, thought I, “tis fulfilled which is written, Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.”

I had much ado to forbear crying out, Undone, undone! And afraid I was to knock any more; but when I looked up to what was written over the gate, I took courage. I also thought that I must either knock again, or die. So I knocked; but I cannot tell how, for my spirit now struggled between life and death.

Christiana: Can you not tell how you knocked? I am sure your knocks were so earnest, that the very sound of them made me start. I thought I never heard such knocking in all my life. I thought you would have come in by violent hands, or have taken the Kingdom by storm.

Mercy: Alas! to be in my case, who that so was could but have done so? You saw that the door was shut upon me; and that there was a most cruel dog thereabout. Who, I say, that was so fainthearted as I, that would not have knocked with all their might? But pray, what said my Lord to my rudeness? Was he not angry with me?

Christiana: When he heard your lumbering noise, he gave a wonderful innocent smile. I believe what you did pleased him well enough; for he showed no sign to the contrary. But I marvel in my heart why he keeps such a dog. Had I known that afore, I fear I should not have had heart enough to have ventured myself in this manner. But now we are in, we are in; and I am glad with all my heart.

Mercy: I will ask, if you please, next time he comes down, why he keeps such a filthy cur in his yard. I hope he will not take it amiss.

“Aye, do,” said the children; “and persuade him to hang him, for we are afraid he will bite us when we go hence.”

Notes and Commentary

Mercy now joins Christiana and the children within the Gate. Each of them willingly set out on the journey as pilgrims. Now they are all lovingly welcomed. They enter by faith, not with boasting or presumption, but rather with humility and repentance. They confess to the Gate Keeper, “We are sorry for our sins, and beg of our Lord his pardon; and further information what we must do.” 

Continue Reading Notes and Commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain.

Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2022 Ken Puls

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

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2

Mercy at the Gate

Mercy at the Gate

Now all this while poor Mercy did stand without, trembling and crying for fear that she was rejected. But when Christiana had gotten admittance for herself and her boys, then she began to make intercession for Mercy.

Christiana: And she said, “My Lord, I have a companion of mine that stands yet without, that is come hither upon the same account as myself: one that is much dejected in her mind; for that she comes, as she thinks, without sending for, whereas I was sent to by my husband’s King to come.”

Now Mercy began to be very impatient, for each minute was as long to her as an hour; wherefore she prevented Christiana from a fuller interceding for her, by knocking at the gate herself: and she knocked then so loud, that she made Christiana to start. Then said the keeper of the gate, “Who is there?” And said Christiana, “It is my friend.”

So he opened the gate, and looked out; but Mercy was fallen down without in a swoon, for she fainted, and was afraid that no gate would be opened to her.

Then he took her by the hand, and said, “Damsel, I bid you arise.”

“Oh, sir,” said she, “I am faint; there is scarce life left in me.” But he answered that “one once said, ‘When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came in unto You, into Your holy temple.’

Fear not, but stand upon your feet, and tell Me why you have come.”

Mercy: I am come for that unto which I was never invited, as my friend Christiana was. Hers was from the King, and mine was but from her; wherefore I fear I presume.

Keeper of the Gate: “Did she desire you to come with her to this place?”

Mercy: Yes; and, as my Lord sees, I am come. And if there is any grace or forgiveness of sins to spare, I beseech that I, your poor handmaid, may be partaker thereof.

Then he took her again by the hand, and led her gently in, and said, “I pray for all them that believe on Me, by what means soever they come unto Me.” Then said he to those that stood by, “Fetch something, and give it to Mercy to smell on, thereby to stay her fainting.” So they fetched her a bundle of myrrh, and awhile after she was revived.

Notes and Commentary

While sounds of music celebrate the arrival of Christiana and her children, Mercy is still outside the Gate. She has been fearful from the beginning that she would not be received. Now it seems her fears are coming true. 

Continue Reading Notes and Commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain.

Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2022 Ken Puls

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

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2

Knocking at the Gate

Christiana at the Gate

And now Mr. Sagacity left me to dream out my dream by myself. Wherefore I thought I saw Christiana, and Mercy, and the boys, go all of them up to the gate. To which when they were come, they betook themselves to a short debate about how they must manage their calling at the gate, and what should be said to him that did open to them. So it was concluded, since Christiana was the eldest, that she should knock for entrance; and that she should speak to him that did open for the rest. So Christiana began to knock; and as her poor husband did, she knocked and knocked again. But instead of any that answered, they all thought that they heard as if a dog came barking upon them. A dog, and a great one too; and this made the women and children afraid. Nor durst they for awhile to knock any more, for fear the mastiff should fly upon them. Now, therefore, they were greatly tumbled up and down in their minds, and knew not what to do. Knock they durst not, for fear of the dog; go back they durst not, for fear that the keeper of that gate should espy them as they so went, and should be offended with them. At last they thought of knocking again, and knocked more vehemently than they did at the first. Then said the keeper of the gate, “Who is there?” So the dog left off to bark, and he opened unto them.

Then Christiana made low obeisance, and said, “Let not our Lord be offended with his handmaidens, for that we have knocked at his princely gate.”

Then said the keeper, “From whence do you come, and what is that you would have?”

Christiana answered, “We are come from whence Christian did come, and upon the same errand as he; to wit, to be, if it shall please you, graciously admitted by this gate into the way that leads to the Celestial City. And I answer my Lord in the next place, that I am Christiana, once the wife of Christian that now is gotten above.”

With that the keeper of the gate did marvel saying, “What, is she become now a pilgrim, that but awhile ago abhorred that life?” Then she bowed her head, and said, “Yes; and so are these my sweet babes also.”

Then he took her by the hand, and let her in and said also, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me.” And with that he shut up the gate. This done, he called to a trumpeter that was above over the gate, to entertain Christiana with shouting and sound of trumpet for joy.

So he obeyed and sounded, and filled the air with his melodious notes.

Notes and Commentary

Soon after crossing the Slough of Despond, the pilgrims arrive at the Wicket Gate. Evangelist first told Christian to seek the Gate in Part 1 of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Earlier in Part 2 Christiana received the same instructions. Secret told her: “Go to the wicket gate yonder, over the plain, for that stands in the head of the way up which you must go.” But unlike Christian, who was beguiled and led astray for a time by Worldly Wiseman, Christiana goes directly to the Gate. 

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The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain.

Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2022 Ken Puls

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

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2

Look Well to the Steps

Stepping Stones through the Slough

Now my old friend proceeded, and said, “But when Christiana came up to the Slough of Despond, she began to be at a stand: ‘For,’ said she, ‘this is the place in which my dear husband had like to have been smothered with mud.’ She perceived also, that notwithstanding the command of the King to make this place for pilgrims good, yet it was rather worse than formerly.” So I asked if that was true? “Yes,” said the old gentleman, “too true. For that many there be that pretend to be the King’s laborers, and that say they are for mending the King’s highway, that bring din and dung instead of stones, and so mar instead of mending. Here Christiana therefore, with her boys, did make a stand. But said Mercy, ‘Come, let us venture, only let us be wary.’ Then they looked well to the steps, and made a shift to get staggeringly over.
“Yet Christiana had like to have been in, and that not once nor twice. Now they had no sooner got over, but they thought they heard words that said unto them, ‘Blessed is she that believes; for there shall be a performance of those things that have been told her from the Lord.’

“Then they went on again. And said Mercy to Christiana, ‘Had I as good ground to hope for a loving reception at the wicket gate as you, I think no Slough of Despond would discourage me.’

“‘Well,’ said the other, ‘you know your sore, and I know mine, and, good friend, we shall all have enough evil before we come at our journey’s end. For can it be imagined, that the people that design to attain such excellent glories as we do, and that are so envied that happiness as we are, but that we shall meet with what fears and scares, with what troubles and afflictions, they can possibly assault us with that hate us?’”

Notes and Commentary

Not far into their journey, Christiana and Mercy come to the Slough of Despond. It was here in Part 1 of The Pilgrim’s Progress that Christian and Pliable “being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog.”

The Slough is a miry swamp “in the midst of the plain” that lies near the City of Destruction. Its ground can be unstable and treacherous. It represents the horrifying awareness of how evil and vile sin truly is. Those who come under conviction of sin, who are seeking to flee the Destruction of sin, can easily tumble in and become mired in the depth of their own guilt and shame.

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The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain.

Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2022 Ken Puls

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

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2

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Tears in a Bottle

Tear Drops

So they went on together; and Mercy began to weep. Then said Christiana, “Wherefore weeps my sister so?”

Mercy: “Alas!” said she, “who can but lament that shall but rightly consider what a state and condition my poor relations are in that yet remain in our sinful town? and that which makes my grief the more heavy is, because they have no instructor, nor any to tell them what is to come.”

Christiana: “Bowels becomes pilgrims. And you do for your friends as my good Christian did for me when he left me; he mourned for that I would not heed nor regard him; but his Lord and ours did gather up his tears, and put them into his bottle; and now both I, and your, and these my sweet babes, are reaping the fruit and benefit of them. I hope, Mercy, these tears of yours will not be lost: for the truth has said, that ‘they that sow in tears shall reap in joy, in singing. And he that goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.’”

Then said Mercy:

Let the Most Blessed be my guide,
If it be his blessed will,
Unto his gate, into his fold,
Up to his holy hill.

And let him never suffer me
To swerve or turn aside
From his free grace and holy ways,
Whate’er shall me betide.

And let him gather them of mine
That I have left behind.
Lord, make them pray they may be Thine,
With all their heart and mind.

Notes and Commentary

No sooner does the journey to the Celestial City begin, that Mercy begins to weep. Though she has determined to leave the City of Destruction, she is leaving behind many friends and family members. She laments that their souls remain in danger. Christiana’s words of comfort imply that Mercy has pled with them and tried to warn them. Mercy could not convince them to join her and now she fears they will have no one else to warn them of the judgment to come.

As her name implies, Mercy is caring and compassionate. Christiana says of Mercy: “Bowels becomes pilgrims.” Bowels were considered the seat of deep emotion.

Continue Reading Notes and Commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain.

Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2022 Ken Puls

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

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2

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