Ignorance Follows His Heart

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.

"I'm always full of good motions"

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:

  1. To draw out some important doctrines regarding the salvation of sinners
  2. 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.
(Proverbs 13:4)

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.
(Jeremiah 17:9–10)

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.
(Proverbs 28:25–26)

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.

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.

By-Path Meadow

Now, I beheld in my dream, that they had not journeyed far, but the river and the way for a time parted; at which they were not a little sorry; yet they durst not go out of the way. Now the way from the river was rough, and their feet tender, by reason of their travels; so the souls of the pilgrims were much discouraged because of the way. Wherefore, still as they went on, they wished for a better way. Now, a little before them, there was on the left hand of the road a meadow, and a stile to go over into it; and that meadow is called By-path Meadow. Then said Christian to his fellow, If this meadow lies along by our wayside, let us go over into it. Then he went to the stile to see, and behold, a path lay along by the way, on the other side of the fence. It is according to my wish, said Christian. Here is the easiest going; come, good Hopeful, and let us go over.

Hopeful: But how if this path should lead us out of the way?

Christian: That is not like, said the other. Look, does it not go along by the wayside? So Hopeful, being persuaded by his fellow, went after him over the stile. When they were gone over, and were got into the path, they found it very easy for their feet; and withal, they, looking before them, espied a man walking as they did, (and his name was Vain-confidence); so they called after him, and asked him whither that way led. He said, To the Celestial Gate. Look, said Christian, did not I tell you so? By this you may see we are right. So they followed, and he went before them. But, behold, the night came on, and it grew very dark; so that they that were behind lost the sight of him that went before.


By-Path MeadowAfter being refreshed at the Pleasant River, Christian and Hopeful resume their journey. They are saddened when they discover that the river is no longer close by. Now the Way is rough. Their feet are sore and soon the two pilgrims are discouraged. At first they are determined to keep to the Way. But as weariness and discontent sets in, they long for a better way.

Though disheartened by present trials, Christian has grown in his confidence. He and Hopeful have escaped Vanity Fair and recognized the folly of By-ends and company. The plain of Ease did not dull their watchfulness. They recognized and rebuked the temptation of Demas. They avoided the perils of the silver mine and took to heart the warning of the pillar of salt. Such successes on the journey should be cause for ongoing praise to God. But Christian has become too sure of himself. He has gained confidence, but his confidence is in his progress, not his God.

Christian’s misplaced confidence soon leads to carelessness and forgetfulness. The pilgrims see just to the left of their path a fair meadow. This meadow seems to promise relief. And it seems to lie parallel to the true path. Enticed by the hope of an easier way, Christian encourages Hopeful to follow him over the stile and into By-Path Meadow.

By-Path Meadow represents our own efforts at attaining righteousness. It is lush with pride and filled with the fruits of self-determination and good intentions. It is our attempt to define how we will live and walk before God in this life, especially when we grow discontent with the path God has us on. The stile represents how easy it is to cross over from resting our confidence in Christ to thinking too highly of ourselves. William Mason explains in his commentary on The Pilgrim’s Progress:

The transition into the by-path is easy, for it lies close to the right way; only you must get over a stile, that is, you must quit Christ’s imputed righteousness, and trust in your own inherent righteousness; and then you are in By-path Meadow directly.

The Pleasant River represents the joy and assurance that fills our hearts as we look to Christ and trust in Him for our salvation. This river does not flow near By-Path Meadow. Though Christ never fails us, we can sadly lose sight of Him. This is especially true when we forget His gospel and find confidence in our own efforts. Our hope must be in Christ and His righteousness, not our own successes along the way.

Christian forgets that he is an undeserving sinner, saved by grace. He forgets that his heart is wicked and can deceive him.

The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
(Jeremiah 17:9)

If we follow our hearts rather than God, we can easily be led astray.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
(Proverbs 14:12)

Christian forgets that God’s way is best, even when it is difficult. Earlier in the allegory, he learned at the House of the Interpreter and at Hill Difficulty that the Way can be hard and hazardous. Evangelist warned him that the Way is dangerous and those who follow Christ must endure suffering. When the Way becomes difficult, Christian feels entitled to an easier way. He and Hopeful complain and grumble like Israel in the wilderness.

Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord… (Numbers 11:1).

And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me” (Number 14:26–27).

And they become discouraged.

Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way (Number 21:4).

We must remember that, though God’s Way can be perilous, it is perfect. His Word is a trusted, proven guide. We must read it and follow it every step of the way. We can trust the Lord to be our shield and strength through every danger and difficulty.

As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
(Psalm 18:30)

Christian finds a path that is “according to” his wish rather than staying on the path that is marked out by God’s Word. Hopeful sees the potential danger and asks: “But how if this path should lead us out of the way?” Christian, however, persuades him that the path is safe. They cross over the stile and for a time their journey is easier. They even encounter a traveler on the path who assures them that he also is on the way to the Celestial Gate. But this traveler’s name is Vain-Confidence and soon Christian and Hopeful lose sight of him and find themselves lost in the darkness.

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.