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

Notes and Commentary

by Ken Puls

on John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress

Part Two

Christiana at the Gate

15. Knocking at the Gate

And now Mr. Sagacity left me to dream out my dream by myself. Wherefore I thought I saw Christiana, and Mercy, and the boys, go all of them up to the gate. To which when they were come, they betook themselves to a short debate about how they must manage their calling at the gate, and what should be said to him that did open to them. So it was concluded, since Christiana was the eldest, that she should knock for entrance; and that she should speak to him that did open for the rest. So Christiana began to knock; and as her poor husband did, she knocked and knocked again. But instead of any that answered, they all thought that they heard as if a dog came barking upon them. A dog, and a great one too; and this made the women and children afraid. Nor durst they for awhile to knock any more, for fear the mastiff should fly upon them. Now, therefore, they were greatly tumbled up and down in their minds, and knew not what to do. Knock they durst not, for fear of the dog; go back they durst not, for fear that the keeper of that gate should espy them as they so went, and should be offended with them. At last they thought of knocking again, and knocked more vehemently than they did at the first. Then said the keeper of the gate, “Who is there?” So the dog left off to bark, and he opened unto them.

Then Christiana made low obeisance, and said, “Let not our Lord be offended with his handmaidens, for that we have knocked at his princely gate.”

Then said the keeper, “From whence do you come, and what is that you would have?”

Christiana answered, “We are come from whence Christian did come, and upon the same errand as he; to wit, to be, if it shall please you, graciously admitted by this gate into the way that leads to the Celestial City. And I answer my Lord in the next place, that I am Christiana, once the wife of Christian that now is gotten above."

With that the keeper of the gate did marvel saying, “What, is she become now a pilgrim, that but awhile ago abhorred that life?” Then she bowed her head, and said, “Yes; and so are these my sweet babes also.”

Then he took her by the hand, and let her in and said also, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me.” And with that he shut up the gate. This done, he called to a trumpeter that was above over the gate, to entertain Christiana with shouting and sound of trumpet for joy.

So he obeyed and sounded, and filled the air with his melodious notes.


Notes and Commentary

Soon after crossing the Slough of Despond, the pilgrims arrive at the Wicket Gate. Evangelist first told Christian to seek the Gate in Part 1 of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Earlier in Part 2 Christiana received the same instructions. Secret told her: “Go to the wicket gate yonder, over the plain, for that stands in the head of the way up which you must go.” But unlike Christian, who was beguiled and led astray for a time by Worldly Wiseman, Christiana goes directly to the Gate.

The Gate represents Christ. There can be no deliverance from Destruction or joyful welcome in the Celestial City apart from the salvation God has provided in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 7 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).

The Gate is narrow because it is exclusive.

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12).

Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).

Christiana knocks first at the Gate, and like Christian, “she knocked and knocked again.” Faith and repentance are not simple steps that are quickly completed. Rather, they are disciplines that we must exercise with persistence. It is by fleeing from sin (repentance) and turning to Christ (faith) that we enter into the Way of life. But repenting and believing are the way of life for a Christian. They are the breathing out and breathing in of our spiritual life that sustains us throughout our journey.

As Christiana begins knocking at the gate, the pilgrims hear in the distance a large menacing dog. The fierce barking of the dog made them fearful of knocking. Bunyan saves the explanation for the dog until later in the allegory, but the dog denotes opposition to the gospel and his barking is an attempt to hinder those who would seek the Way of life.

But we must flee to Christ even when opposition and contempt seem to threaten our progress. Christiana is more concerned with offending the Gate Keeper than with the sounds of the dog. Though the dog’s barking is fearful, Christiana chooses to fear the Lord.

Blessed is every one who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways. (Psalm 128:1).

She knocks again “more vehemently” and the gate is opened.

We learn in Part 1 of The Pilgrim’s Progress that the Gate Keeper’s name is Goodwill. He represents the kindness and favor of God toward sinners in providing a Way that leads to forgiveness of sin and eternal life. God manifested His love to the world in sending His only begotten Son “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This favor of God toward men was announced at Christ’s birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14).

When Christiana tells the Gate Keeper her name, Goodwill marvels. She who once scoffed at God’s judgment and rejected His gospel, now stands at the Gate in humble submission. Christiana’s heart is changed. She is now willing in the day of God’s power (Psalm 110:3) and has become a pilgrim. And not just her. Her children have also fled from Destruction to find the Way of life. Goodwill welcomes the children with Jesus’ words in the Gospels: “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). And he celebrates Christiana’s faith and repentance with music. Goodwill calls the trumpeter “to entertain Christiana with shouting and sound of trumpet for joy.”

I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7).

When we repent of our sins and turn to Christ there is great joy in heaven. God Himself rejoices over us with singing.

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
(Zephaniah 3:17)

Continue Reading 16. Mercy at the Gate

Return to 14. Look Well to the Steps


The text for The Pilgrim's Progress
and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2021–2022 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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