Run in with Wanton

Christian: Well, neighbor Faithful, said Christian, let us leave him, and talk of things that more immediately concern ourselves. Tell me now, what you have met with in the way as you came; for I know you have met with some things, or else it may be writ for a wonder.

Faithful: I escaped the Slough that I perceived you fell into, and got up to the gate without that danger; only I met with one whose name was Wanton, who had like to have done me a mischief.

Christian: It was well you escaped her net; Joseph was hard put to it by her, and he escaped her as you did; but it had like to have cost him his life. But what did she do to you?

Faithful: You cannot think, but that you know something, what a flattering tongue she had; she lay at me hard to turn aside with her, promising me all manner of content.

Christian: Nay, she did not promise you the content of a good conscience.

Faithful: You know what I mean; all carnal and fleshly content.

Christian: Thank God you have escaped her: “The abhorred of the Lord shall fall into her ditch.”

Faithful: Nay, I know not whether I did wholly escape her or no.

Christian: Why, I trust, you did not consent to her desires?

Faithful: No, not to defile myself; for I remembered an old writing that I had seen, which said, “Her steps take hold on hell.” So I shut mine eyes, because I would not be bewitched with her looks. Then she railed on me, and I went my way.

Faithful and WantonAs Faithful continues his account of how he escaped the City of Destruction, he begins to describe some of the dangers he has faced. He escaped falling into the Slough of Despond that slowed Christian and stopped Pliable from reaching the Gate, but he came near a more perilous pit (Proverbs 22:14, 23:27). He encountered “one whose name was Wanton.”

Wanton represents sexual immorality and moral failure. Her name means licentious and loose, reckless and unrestrained, lewd and lustful, wild and wandering. She has a flattering tongue (Proverbs 2:16, 5:3, 6:24, 7:5, 21), makes persuasive and persistent overtures (Proverbs 7:13), and promises “all manner of content” (Proverbs 7:18), but her proposal is deceitful. Scripture warns:

Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways,
Do not stray into her paths;
For she has cast down many wounded,
And all who were slain by her were strong men.
Her house is the way to hell,
Descending to the chambers of death.
(Proverbs 7:25-27)

The danger of falling prey to Wanton is nothing new. Christian recalls the account in Genesis 39 when Joseph was enticed by Potiphar’s wife and fled.

But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside (Genesis 39:11-13).

Faithful’s resistance to Wanton teaches us some helpful lessons in fighting temptation.

1. He does not entertain sinful thoughts, but turns away.

Faithful is determined he will not start down a treacherous path by sinning with his eyes.

“I have made a covenant with my eyes;
Why then should I look upon a young woman.”
(Job 31:1)

When his eyes see an opportunity to sin, he shuts them, and though Wanton curses him, he turns away and departs.

Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.
(Psalm 119:37)

2. He remembers and heeds God’s Word in the midst of temptation.

Faithful knows the Scriptures and preaches them to himself in time of need.

Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
(Psalm 119:11)

He remembers wise words from the Book of Proverbs:

My son, pay attention to my wisdom;
Lend your ear to my understanding,
That you may preserve discretion,
And your lips may keep knowledge.
For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey,
And her mouth is smoother than oil;
But in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
Sharp as a two- edged sword.
Her feet go down to death,
Her steps lay hold of hell.
(Proverbs 5:1-5)

When Christian gives thanks for Faithful’s escape, he also quotes from Proverbs:

The mouth of an immoral woman is a deep pit;
He who is abhorred by the Lord will fall there.
(Proverbs 22:14)

Faithful is able to resist temptation because he believes and values the Word of God more than the alluring voice of Wanton. He takes refuge in the sure promises and warnings of Scripture.

3. He does not assume victory over sin by letting down his guard.

Faithful does not congratulate or commend himself for escaping from Wanton. When Christian speaks of Faithful’s escape, Faithful responds by saying: “Nay, I know not whether I did wholly escape her or no.” Though he assures Christian that he did not fall into sin, he doesn’t reassure himself with his fortitude or spiritual maturity in being able to resist sin. He understands how forceful temptation can be. He doesn’t speak of the encounter lightly. Rather, he has a healthy suspicion of his own heart and a lingering grief over the charm of sin that would so entice him. The experience has humbled him and made him more cautious, more dependent upon God’s grace. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34). It is the humble who will stand in the evil day, not the proud or self-confident.

Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.
(Proverbs 16:8)

Wanton remains a danger for pilgrims in our day. There have been times and places in history where Wanton was frowned upon by society. She had to sneak around to do her mischief. At other times and in other places she has found more acceptance and been more bold in her overtures. Today she is not only accepted, she is championed as a goddess of freedom. She stands beckoning on billboards and in magazines. Her snare is laid on the screens of TVs, computers and mobile devices. We must be diligent and watchful. May God help us to guard our hearts, remember His Word, and turn away from every sin.

As we have seen in Christian’s pilgrimage, his trials and lessons often prove to be preparation for even greater perils that lie ahead. Faithful has resisted sin and held to truth. Soon Christian and Faithful will encounter a place where they will feel very much out of place. They will be severely tested and enticed to forsake God’s way and buy into the pleasures of the world. They will need a strong faith to stand firm in the truth in Vanity Fair.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2015 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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