A Guide to John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress


Notes and Commentary on
The Pilgrim's Progress

by Ken Puls

Shown the Way

21. Christian Is Directed in the Way

Goodwill: We make no objections against any, not withstanding all that they have done before they come hither. They are in no wise cast out; and therefore, good Christian, come a little way with me, and I will teach thee about the way thou must go. Look before thee; dost thou see this narrow way? That is the way thou must go. It was cast up by the Patriarchs, Prophets, Christ and his Apostles, and it is as strait as a Rule can make it: This is the Way thou must go.

Christian: But, said Christian, are there no turnings nor windings, by which a Stranger may lose his way?

Goodwill: Yes, there are many ways butt down upon this; and they are crooked and wide: But thus thou mayst distinguish the right from the wrong, the Right only being strait and narrow.

Then I saw in my dream, That Christian asked him further, If he could not help him off with his Burden that was upon his back? For as yet he had not got rid thereof, nor could he by any means get it off without help.

He told him, As to thy Burden, be content to bear it, until thou comest to the place of Deliverance; for there it will fall from thy back of itself.


Notes and Commentary

Although Christian has tasted of God's goodness within the Gate, he finds that his journey is only just beginning, and that he must continue on a while longer still bearing his Burden. Before Christian continues, however, he must be given further instruction concerning the Way. Christian has completed his journey thus far to the Gate, as Evangelist had directed him, and has found an open Door, but many dangers yet lay ahead. Goodwill provides Christian with wise counsel that can protect him from these dangers. Goodwill teaches five things about the Way:

1. It is narrow.

Jesus taught:

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

It is a narrow, difficult Way, which the natural man finds unpleasant and offensive. Few find this Way; none find it except by the grace and power of God. Thomas Scott said of the Way:

In the broad road every man may chose a path suited to his inclinations, shift about to avoid difficulties, or accommodate himself to circumstances; and he will be sure of company agreeable to his taste. But Christians must follow one another in the narrow way, along the same track, surmounting difficulties, facing enemies, and bearing hardships, without any room to evade them: nor is any indulgence given to different tastes, habits, or propensities.

The Way all Christians must take is a Way that conforms us to the image of our Savior. We must follow one by one in His footsteps. The road is not wide enough for some to travel the right side, others to take the left, and still others to wander to and fro between lanes as it seems convenient. This is a Way of self-denial and sacrifice, not self gratification and ease.

2. It was cast up by the patriarchs, prophets, Christ, and His apostles.

That is, the Way is found in God's Holy Word. Paul teaches us that we are "members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:19-20). "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Peter explains to his readers:

Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:1-2).

God's Word holds promises and instruction to keep us alert and prepared in the face of spiritual danger.

3. It is straight as a rule can make it.

Psalm 125:5 teaches that the ways of men are crooked. God's Way, however, is straight, never straying or turning from its course. With God "there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). The Rule or Standard of this Way is God's Word, which "is the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience" (1689 Baptist Confession 1:1).

4. It is the Way Christian must go.

This Way is the only Way. Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). No other Way leads to the Celestial City and into the presence of the King.

5. There are many wrong ways that cross it and veer from it.

While the Way itself does not stray or turn aside, many false paths intersect and branch off the Way, threatening to entice Pilgrims from the truth. Christian must be careful to stay on the straight and narrow Way. Later in the allegory, Goodwill's instruction will prove to be true and serve to preserve Christian's life.

As Christian enjoys the company of Goodwill and hears his valuable counsel, he again becomes anxious about his Burden. Evangelist had already taught Christian that the true Way leads to the cross, but Christian wants immediate relief. He asks for help that he might here remove it and be free of its weight and bondage. Goodwill, however, is not able to remove the baggage. Christian must have more than just encouraging words and counsel in order to find relief. His sin is serious and only the atoning work of Christ accomplished upon the cross can do him any good. Christian must be content to bear his Burden until he finds the Place of Deliverance.

In God's plan of salvation, more than Goodwill was needed to bring about forgiveness and cleansing from sin. The writer of Hebrews tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no remission (Hebrews 9:22). In due time it was necessary that Christ come and lay down His life and make atonement for the sins of His people. Christ came that He might shed His blood to redeem and cleanse for Himself all whom the Father had given to Him. When the angels announced goodwill toward men, it was because the Son of God was come, not just as a good Man who would exemplify godliness and holiness, but as the pure Lamb of God, who in time would be sacrificed for the sins of His people.

If we would help those who are burdened with sin, we also must be careful to point the Way to the cross, the only Place of Deliverance. We may desire to bring them ease and comfort, but we cannot remove their Burden. Only Christ has power to save; they must go to Him.

Continue reading: 22: The House of the Interpreter
Return to 20. Christian Reflects on God's Mercy


The text for The Pilgrim's Progress
and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©1997 Ken Puls
"A Guide to John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress"
was originally published from January 1993 to December 1997
in "The Voice of Heritage," a monthly newsletter
of Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas
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