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

The Devil's Garden

20. The Devil's Garden

Now there was on the other side of the wall that fenced in the way up which Christiana and her companions were to go, a garden; and that garden belonged to him whose was that barking dog of whom mention was made before. And some of the fruit trees that grew in that garden shot their branches over the wall; and being mellow, they that found them did gather them up, and oft ate of them to their hurt. So Christiana’s boys—as boys are apt to do—being pleased with the trees, and with the fruit that did hang thereon, did pluck them, and began to eat. Their mother did also chide them for so doing; but still the boys went on.

“Well,” said she, “my sons, you transgress; for that fruit is none of ours.” But she did not know that they did belong to the enemy; I'll warrant you if she had, she would have been ready to die for fear. But that passed, and they went on their way.


Notes and Commentary

No sooner had the pilgrims left the comforts of the Gate than they again faced impending danger. When they were approaching the Gate, danger had been evident. The barking of the dog sounded fierce and menacing. But now danger is craftily disguised and dressed up as delight. The pilgrims would not flee from terror, so perhaps they will fall in temptation.

Christiana and her companions see on the other side of the wall a garden, enticing to behold, filled with trees laden with fruit. Everything about the fruit beckons them to indulge. It is “mellow” (pleasant and tasty), plentiful (who would notice if some went missing?), and convenient (the branches of the trees extend over the walls near the pilgrim’s path). But these trees were growing in the enemy’s garden, and Bunyan warns that those who gather their fruit “oft ate of them to their hurt.”

The garden represents the temptations of this world: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15–16). It lies on the castle grounds of Beelzebub (the world under the sway of the devil). The fruit trees, though inviting, “belong to the enemy.” They are laden with danger, yet the pilgrims admire them unaware. The fruit trees allude to man’s fall into sin in the Garden of Eden where Satan tempted Eve.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:6).

In Bunyan’s allegory, Christiana’s boys see the fruit hanging over the wall. They desire to have it and so they pluck it and begin to eat. Although Christiana chides them, her scolding isn’t taken seriously and the transgression is soon put out of mind.

The pilgrims’ carelessness at the garden highlights some important lessons when facing temptation.

  1. Temptation appears delightful. It is alluring. When it crosses our path, it vies for our attention. It offers pleasure, contentment, gratification, and fulfillment. It seldom requires waiting and promises to satisfy us now. But, as the pilgrims will soon learn, sin never delivers the satisfaction it promises. It can only disappoint and destroy.
  2. We are more susceptible to temptation when our guard is down. When the pilgrims were approaching the Gate, they were alerted to the presence of danger. They were wary and kept watch. But now they are rested and at ease. They are not expecting or looking for danger. Though they were well-cared for at the Gate, they grow careless in the Way.
  3. We can be tempted to sin even when we are following the right path. The pilgrims have found the Way and are walking the straight path. But “some of the fruit trees that grew in that garden shot their branches over the wall.” Temptation doesn’t wait for us to stray or stumble. It doesn’t stay away because we are on a good path. We have an enemy who desires to trip up our soul. And so temptations are everywhere: on street corners, in the market place, on the Internet, on social media. We must always stay alert. We must be on guard even when think our path is clear and the Way is safe.
  4. The consequences of sin can seem for the moment to be inconsequential. Often the repercussions of falling into sin are delayed or diminished. Sins can seem small and harmless. “No one saw. No one got hurt. Others do it all the time.” Though the Bible warns us, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), we don’t immediately feel its sting (1 Corinthians 15:56). We can be lulled into complacency and discount the danger that threatens our soul.
  5. We do a disservice to ourselves and others when we treat sin lightly. Christiana knew her boys were stealing. They took fruit that was not theirs to take. She even made an effort to scold them. But her words of warning fell short and did not dissuade her sons. The teachable moment “passed, and they went on their way.” The incident is soon forgotten, but as we shall see, the sin will soon have consequences. Christiana is unaware of the danger her sons are in. Had she recognized the danger, Bunyan tells us, “she would have been ready to die for fear.”

Continue reading 21. Encounter with Ill-Favored Ones

Return to 19. Christiana's Song


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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