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


Notes and Commentary on
The Pilgrim's Progress

by Ken Puls

Passion and Patience

25. Passion and Patience

I saw, moreover, in my dream, that the Interpreter took him by the hand, and had him into a little room, where sat two little children, each one in his chair. The name of the eldest was Passion, of the other Patience. Passion seemed to be much discontent, but Patience was very quiet. Then Christian asked, What is the reason of the discontent of Passion? The Interpreter answered, the Governor of them would have him stay for his best things, 'till the beginning of the next year; but he will have all now: Bu Patience is willing to wait.

Then I saw that one came to Passion, and brought him a bag of Treasure, and poured it down at his feet; the which he took up and rejoiced therein, and withall laughed Patience to scorn: But I beheld but a while, and he had lavished all away, and had nothing left him but rags.

Christian: Then said Christian to the Interpreter, Expound this matter more fully to me.

Interpreter: So he said, These two lads are Figures; Passion of the men of this World, and Patience of the men of that which is come: For as here you see, Passion will have all now, this year; that is to say, in this world; so are the men of this world. They must have all their good things now; they cannot stay till next year, that is, until the next world, for their portion of good. That proverb, A Bird in the Hand is worth two in the Bush, is of more authority with them, than are all the Divine testimonies of the Good of the World to come. But as you saw, that he had quickly lavished all away, and had presently left him nothing but rags; so will it be with all such men at the End of this world.

Christian: Then said Christian, Now I see that Patience has the best Wisdom, and that upon many accounts: 1. Because he stays for the best things. 2. And also because he will have the Glory of his, when the other has nothing but rags.

Interpreter: Nay, you may add another, to wit, the Glory of the next World will never wear out; but these are suddenly gone. Therefore Passion had not so much reason to laugh at Patience, because he had his good things first, as Patience will have to laugh at Passion, because he had his best things last; for first must give place to last, because last must have its time to come; but last gives place to nothing; for there is not another to succeed. He therefore that has his portion first, must need have a Time to spend it; but he that has his portion last, must have it lastingly: Therefore it is said of Dives, In your Lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and you are tormented.

Christian: Then I perceive it is not best to covet things that are now, but to wait for things to come.

Interpreter: You say truth: For the things that are seen are Temporal; but the things that are not seen are Eternal. But though this be so, yet since things present, and our fleshly appetite are such near neighbors one to another; and again, because things to come, and carnal Sense, are such Strangers one to another: Therefore it is, that the first of these so suddenly fall into Amity, and that Distance is so continued between the second.


Notes and Commentary

In the third lesson of Christian's guided study through the House of the Interpreter, Christian observes two boys as they react to the wishes of their Governor. Passion is very discontent, but Patience is calm and quiet. The Governor would have them wait for His best things. Passion refuses to wait, but Patience trusts the word of the Governor and is content. As in the previous lesson, the Interpreter provides a clear explanation of what Christian sees.

Passion represents those of this world who live only for the here and now. Just as Passion rejects the word of the Governor, the world is unwilling to believe God's Word and chooses to ignore the promises and warnings of Scripture. For Passion seeing is believing and he desires his prosperity "this year" (meaning in this life). Bunyan observes that Passion is the eldest. This is true of our own hearts. All are born in sin, naturally depraved and unable to accept or understand spiritual truths. Only through a miraculous rebirth wrought by the power of God's Spirit in regeneration can we receive a change of heart and find true peace and contentment.

Patience depicts those who have had their hearts conquered by grace and subdued by God's Spirit. Patience is content to wait for the best things, things that are lasting and eternal. Those who are spiritually minded can endure the trials of this life with joy, because they know the best is yet to come.

We can glean several applications from this lesson.

First, we must learn the value of patience. Our culture has lost touch with patience. We want everything now and with the least possible effort. While past generations worked months to grow their own food and spent hours preparing a meal, we stand in front of our microwave ovens saying: "Come on! Hurry up!" But with God time is precious and useful. He delights in taking time in working out His purposes. Patience is an essential element of our sanctification. Although we are declared righteous in justification the moment we trust in Christ on the basis of His imputed righteousness, sanctification—growing in grace and being conformed to Christ's image—takes time. We will be pursuing holiness for the rest of our lives, as we wait for the day when we will be glorified, when we see our Savior face to face.

Second, we must learn the deception of passion. Passion was enamored by the glitter of the present. The riches of this world are fleeting and fragile. They appear enticing and desirable, but can be gone in a moment. We see the reality of this vividly displayed in natural disasters. When wildfires, tornados or hurricanes sweep across an area, homes, vehicles and other valuables can swiftly be destroyed. Those whose hope and security are wrapped up in such possessions can easily be left with nothing but devastation and heartbreak. Jesus said:

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19-20).

We must be careful to hold the treasures of this world with an open hand and not allow them to capture our hearts. Our true and lasting treasure is in heaven. Having Christ is more valuable that all this world has to offer. He is the Pearl of great price (Mark 13:46).

Third, we must learn to have faith in what God has promised. God has promised in His Word blessings and eternal life to those who persevere and endure. He has also promised judgment upon those who ignore His warning and live for their own pleasures and lusts. We must believe what God says, heeding His warnings and hoping in His promises. We must always live in light of the truth that everything God says in His Word is true and will certainly come to pass.

Finally, we must learn to live with an eternal perspective. In all our choices and decisions, we must consider how our actions will affect the future, both in this life and in the life to come. We must invest our time and resources wisely, with eternity in view. Those who are worldly-minded have no such perspective. They are bound by temporal near-sightedness and restrained by bondage to sin. A Christian, however, understands that there is much more to life than what we see in this world. There is much more at stake than finding happiness and satisfaction in this life. Real happiness and joy must be anchored in Christ and lived out in the satisfaction in knowing and serving Him. We must set our priorities upon those things that are eternal: not in the promises of men, which will fail, but in the Word of God, which stands forever; not in the material possessions of this life, which will all one day crumble and fade away, but the everlasting souls of men, women, boys and girls, who all will spend an eternity in heaven or hell.

Bunyan concludes by expressing the difficulty of our present situation. The "present" and our "flesh" are near neighbors. "Things yet to come" seem distant and far off. It is easy for us to befriend the "here and now" because it offers immediate gratification. But if we are to reach the Celestial City, nothing of this world must distract us from the Way.

Later in Bunyan's allegory, when Christian and Hopeful come to a Silver-Mine, Christian remembers this lesson:

Then I saw in my dream, that a little off the road, over against the silver mine, stood Demas (gentlemanlike) to call to passengers to come and see; who said to Christian and his fellow, Ho! turn aside hither, and I will show you a thing.

Christian: What thing so deserving as to turn us out of the way to see it?

Demas: Here is a silver mine, and some digging in it for treasure. If you will come, with a little pains you may richly provide for yourselves.

Hopeful: Then said Hopeful, Let us go see.

Christian: Not I, said Christian, I have heard of this place before now; and how many have there been slain; and besides that, treasure is a snare to those that seek it; for it hinders them in their pilgrimage. Then Christian called to Demas, saying, Is not the place dangerous? Has it not hindered many in their pilgrimage?

Demas: Not very dangerous, except to those that are careless, (but withal, he blushed as he spoke).

Christian: Then said Christian to Hopeful, Let us not stir a step, but still keep on our way.

At the Silver-Mine Christian tells Hopeful, "Let us not stir a Step; but still keep on our Way." Other travelers are not so fortunate. My By-ends and his worldly-minded companions, Mr. Hold-the-World, Mr. Money-Love and Mr. Save-all, all fall into the pit and perish in their pursuit of worldly gain. We must also heed the words of Christian and follow the example of Patience. Let us seek first the Kingdom of God and learn to wait for the best things.

Continue Reading 26. A Fire Burning Against the Wall
Return to 24. A Dusty Parlor


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.
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