Led Astray by Vain-Confidence

He, therefore, that went before, (Vain-confidence by name), not seeing the way before him, fell into a deep pit, which was on purpose there made, by the Prince of those grounds, to catch vain-glorious fools withal, and was dashed in pieces with his fall.

Now Christian and his fellow heard him fall. So they called to know the matter, but there was none to answer, only they heard a groaning. Then said Hopeful, Where are we now? Then was his fellow silent, as mistrusting that he had led him out of the way; and now it began to rain, and thunder, and lighten in a very dreadful manner; and the water rose amain.

Then Hopeful groaned in himself, saying, Oh, that I had kept on my way!

Christian: Who could have thought that this path should have led us out of the way?

Hopeful: I was afraid on it at the very first, and therefore gave you that gentle caution. I would have spoken plainer, but that you are older than I.

Vain-ConfidenceIn the last post Christian and Hopeful strayed into By-Path Meadow. When God’s Way became difficult, they sought a more comfortable course. In his self-confidence, Christian believed he could find a better way. And so he led Hopeful over the stile and into what appeared to be a more pleasant yet parallel path.

At first it seemed as if they had made the right choice. The meadow was a welcome relief and the way was easier. They fell in behind another traveler who assured them that he also was on his way to the Celestial Gate. But as night came they realized their error. They were walking into great peril. They were trusting in themselves rather than God, and the one they now followed was Vain-Confidence.

We are warned in Scripture not to lean on our own understanding, but to trust in God to guide us in the Way.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5–6)

When we think ourselves to be wiser than God and forsake His Word to devise our own way, there can only be one end.

Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.
(Proverbs 6:18)

We see several examples of pride leading to a fall in Scripture: King Saul (1 Samuel 15), Jezebel (2 Kings 9), and Haman (Esther 7). Jesus asked the Pharisees, the prideful religious leaders of His day: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?” (Luke 6:39).

Vain-Confidence is not a trustworthy guide. He is unable to see the way before him. Lost in the darkness, he falls “into a deep pit” and is “dashed in pieces with his fall.” Christian and Hopeful hear him fall and try calling out to him, but there is no answer.

Hopeful then asks Christian, “Where are we now?” But Christian also has no answer. He comes to the fearful realization that he is responsible for their present danger. The error is his and he has led Hopeful out of the way.

For the leaders of this people cause them to err,
And those who are led by them are destroyed.
(Isaiah 9:16)

Just as the pilgrims realize the danger they are in, their trouble worsens. It begins to rain and thunder. The water rises “amain” (quickly, in haste without warning). Hopeful laments: “O that I had kept on my way!” When Christian first suggested that they enter the meadow, Hopeful was hesitant to object. Now he regrets not speaking more plainly, when he feared that Christian was making a mistake. He should have had the courage to offer correction, even though Christian was an older brother in Christ. Though Christian made the greater error, Hopeful accepts some of the blame for their present troubles.

Though Christian’s error is obvious, he is still surprised that his plan did not work the way he had hoped. He asks: “Who could have thought that this path should have led us out of the way?” The answer is he should have thought so, but he was not careful, and was blinded by his own pride, and lead astray by vain confidence.

The dangers faced by Christian and Hopeful are a warning to us to flee from pride and vain-confidence. Scripture warns us:

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).

We must not seek our own way or think we can find a better way. We must learn to trust God and walk in His ways, even when His Way is difficult.

David exhorts us in the psalms:

Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
(Psalm 37:5)

And he prays, as we should pray:

Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.
(Psalm 25:4–5)

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 ©2017 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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