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 and Mercy journey with the children

23. Grace in Time of Danger

Mercy: Then said Mercy, “What a sudden blank is here! I made account we had now been past all danger, and that we should never see sorrow more.”

Christiana: “Your innocency, my sister,” said Christiana to Mercy, “may excuse you much; but as for me, my fault is so much the greater, for that I saw this danger before I came out of the doors, and yet did not provide for it, where provision might have been had. I am, therefore, much to be blamed.”

Mercy: Then said Mercy, “How did you know this before you came from home? Pray open to me this riddle.”

Christiana: Why, I will tell you. Before I set foot out of doors, one night, as I lay in my bed, I had a dream about this; for I thought to myself that I saw two men, as like these as ever the world they could look, stand at my bed’s feet, plotting how they might prevent my salvation. I will tell you their very words. They said (’twas when I was in my troubles), “What shall we do with this woman; for she cries out, waking and sleeping, for forgiveness? If she be suffered to go on as she begins, we shall lose her as we have lost her husband.” This, you know, might have made me take heed and have provided when provision might have been had.

Mercy: “Well,” said Mercy, “as by this neglect we have an occasion ministered unto us to behold our own imperfections, so our Lord has taken occasion thereby to make manifest the riches of his grace. For he, as we see, has followed us with unasked kindness; and has delivered us from their hands that were stronger than we of his mere good pleasure.”


Notes and Commentary

As Christiana and Mercy resume their journey, they reflect on their recent peril. Though neither one was expecting danger, they were caught off guard for different reasons.

Mercy was truly surprised by the encounter. She did not see the danger coming. She had been accepted at the Gate and was joyfully following the Way to Life. Her expectations were unrealistic, believing that now safely through the Gate, the dangers of the journey were past. She confesses to Christiana, “What a sudden blank is here!” In other words, “I never imagined that such a thing was even possible.” She didn’t realize that by stepping through the Gate, she was entering a battlefield. The pathway may be walled, but the enemy is still near.

Christiana, however, was not surprised. She was aware of the spiritual warfare going on around them. She had been warned of the craftiness and deceitfulness of sin. She knew of the battles fought by Christian, her husband, on his journey to the Celestial City. And she had been warned of the dangers that threatened her own pilgrimage. Before leaving home, in a dream she saw the two ill-favored ones conspiring together as the enemy of her soul devised a scheme to derail her faith and prevent her from completing her journey. Christiana confesses that this warning should have made her wary, yet she did not make provision. The pilgrims set out, even from the Gate, without protection or a guide to keep watch over their souls.

Though the pilgrims were not prepared for the danger they encountered, they learned a valuable lesson. God uses even the hardest trials for our good and sanctification. Though we may be unprepared and unaware, God is always watching and caring for us.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
(Psalm 121:1–4)

Our failures and struggles provide “an occasion ministered unto us to behold our own imperfections.” We see how far we fall short of God’s glory. But they also provide God an “occasion thereby to make manifest the riches of his grace.”

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4–7).

In the midst of our insufficiency, we see God’s sufficiency. In our infirmities, we see His power. In our weakness, we see His strength.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).

God follows us with mercy and kindness, even as we walk through dark and difficult days. He accomplished this in many ways:

Though evil may overtake and threaten us, even as we walk in right paths, we are never without hope. Even when we don’t see danger coming, or when we should have seen it coming and failed to make provision, God pursues us with His kindness and delivers us “according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.”

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself (Ephesians 1:7–9).

Continue reading 24. Greeted by Innocent

Return to 22. Relief in Time of Danger


The text for The Pilgrim's Progress
and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2021–2023 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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