I saw then in my dream that Hopeful looked back and saw Ignorance, whom they had left behind, coming after. Look, said he to Christian, how far yonder youngster loiters behind.
Christian: Ay, ay, I see him; he cares not for our company.
Hopeful: But I think it would not have hurt him had he kept pace with us hitherto.
Christian: That is true; but I warrant you he thinks otherwise.
Hopeful: That, I think, he does; but, however, let us tarry for him. So they did.
Then Christian said to him, Come away, man, why do you stay so behind?
Ignorance: I take my pleasure in walking alone, even more a great deal than in company, unless I like it the better.
Then said Christian to Hopeful, (but softly), Did I not tell you he cared not for our company? But, however, said he, come up, and let us talk away the time in this solitary place. Then directing his speech to Ignorance, he said, Come, how do you? How stands it between God and your soul now?
Ignorance: I hope well; for I am always full of good motions, that come into my mind, to comfort me as I walk.
Christian: What good motions? pray, tell us.
Ignorance: Why, I think of God and heaven.
Christian: So do the devils and damned souls.
Ignorance: But I think of them and desire them.
Christian: So do many that are never like to come there. “The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing.”
Ignorance: But I think of them, and leave all for them.
Christian: That I doubt; for leaving all is a hard matter: yea, a harder matter than many are aware of. But why, or by what, are you persuaded that you have left all for God and heaven.
Ignorance: My heart tells me so.
Christian: The wise man says, “He that trusts his own heart is a fool.”
Ignorance: This is spoken of an evil heart, but mine is a good one.
Christian: But how dost thou prove that?
Ignorance: It comforts me in hopes of heaven.
Christian: That may be through its deceitfulness; for a man’s heart may minister comfort to him in the hopes of that thing for which he yet has no ground to hope.
Ignorance: But my heart and life agree together, and therefore my hope is well grounded.
Christian: Who told thee that thy heart and life agree together?
Ignorance: My heart tells me so.
Christian: Ask my fellow if I be a thief! Your heart tells you so! Except the Word of God bears witness in this matter, other testimony is of no value.
Ignorance: But is it not a good heart that has good thoughts? and is not that a good life that is according to God’s commandments?
Christian: Yes, that is a good heart that has good thoughts, and that is a good life that is according to God’s commandments; but it is one thing, indeed, to have these, and another thing only to think so.
During the long journey across the Enchanted Ground, Bunyan offers deeper insight into his story through two extended conversations. In the first, Hopeful shares with Christian his testimony of coming to faith in Christ. For the second, Bunyan brings back Ignorance, a character from earlier in the allegory. Bunyan’s purpose in these extended conversations is two-fold:
- To draw out some important doctrines regarding the salvation of sinners
- To more clearly highlight the differences between true faith and false faith
Bunyan knows that his readers will identify themselves with various characters and places throughout the story. He especially wants to help us see, for the sake of our own souls, the difference between a true believer (Hopeful) and a false believer (Ignorance). The contrast between the two is especially evident in where the two place their confidence. Hopeful believes the gospel and has placed his hope and trust in Christ. Ignorance is ignorant of the gospel and simply believes what his heart tells him is true.
When Christian and Hopeful last saw Ignorance, he had taken offence at their counsel, rejected their company, and continued the journey on his own. Though Ignorance is walking along the Way (intent on going to heaven), he regards the journey more causally than Christian and Hopeful. Hopeful looks back and sees that he is loitering and lagging behind. But Christian and Hopeful are willing to wait for him, desiring the opportunity to speak with him again.
Christian begins by asking Ignorance about the state of his soul before God. Hopeful has already affirmed that Christ alone can save; his soul is anchored in the sure promises of God’s Word. But Ignorance has moored his soul to wishful thinking. He hopes all is well. He rests his hope on his own “good motions” that come to his mind to comfort him along the way.
Good motions are those thoughts, feelings, and deeds that appear to be morally upright, spiritually uplifting, and truly beneficial to the soul. Ignorance has determined that if he can maintain a positive outlook and a preponderance of good things in his life, he will be welcomed at the end of his journey into the gates of the Celestial City. These good motions include: thinking about God and heaven, desiring God and heaven, and trusting his heart that he is living a good life. So long as these motions are active in his life, all must be well with his soul.
But Christian shows from Scripture that these “good motions” are insufficient to validate saving faith.
Ignorance thinks about God and heaven, but even the demons believe and tremble.
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! (James 2:19)
He desires God and heaven, but desiring alone attains nothing.
The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing;
But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.
He trusts the affirmations of his heart that his life is good, but “the heart is deceitful above all things.”
The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.
He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife,
But he who trusts in the Lord will be prospered.
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But whoever walks wisely will be delivered.
Ignorance has wrongly judged his heart to be good. He is not convinced of the depth of his sin or his need of a Savior. He finds comfort in himself—his good works, his positive outlook, his self-determination. He has wrongly concluded that because his “heart and life agree together,” he has a well-grounded hope and God will accept him. He makes it clear by his replies that, while he presents himself as a follower of Christ, he is in fact a follower of himself.
The only sure foundation on which to anchor our hope is God’s Word. It points us to Christ who alone can save us. But Ignorance has traded the sure Word of God for the shifting sensations of the heart. He believes all is well with his soul, because his heart tells him so! Christian tells him plainly: “Your heart tells you so! Except the Word of God bears witness in this matter, other testimony is of no value.”
Ignorance asks: “But is it not a good heart that has good thoughts? And is not that a good life that is according to God’s commandments?” Christian affirms that this is true.
For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43:49).
But Christian warns: “It is one thing, indeed, to have these, and another thing only to think so.” So how then can we know if our heart holds good treasure or evil treasure? In the next post Christian explains the true measure of a heart.
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 ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.