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

Innocent from the House of the Interpreter

24. Greeted by Innocent

Thus now, when they had talked away a little more time, they drew nigh to a house which stood in the way, which house was built for the relief of pilgrims; as you will find more fully related in the first part of these records of the “Pilgrim's Progress.” So they drew on towards the house (the house of the Interpreter); and when they came to the door, they heard a great talk in the house. They then gave ear, and heard, as they thought, Christiana mentioned by name; for you must know that there went along, even before her, a talk of her and her children's going on pilgrimage. And this thing was the more pleasing to them, because they had heard that she was Christian’s wife—that woman who was some time ago so unwilling to hear of going on pilgrimage. Thus, therefore, they stood still; and heard the good people within commending her who, they little thought, stood at the door. At last Christiana knocked, as she had done at the gate before. Now when she had knocked, there came to the door a young damsel named Innocent, and opened the door, and looked, and behold two women were there.

Damsel: Then said the damsel to them, “With whom would you speak in this place?”

Christiana: Christiana answered, “We understand that this is a privileged place for those that are become pilgrims, and we now at this door are such; wherefore, we pray that we may be partakers of that for which we at this time are come. For the day, as you see, is very far spent, and we are loath tonight to go any farther.”

Damsel: Pray what may I call your name, that I may tell it to my Lord within?

Christiana: My name is Christiana. I was the wife of that pilgrim that some years ago did travel this way; and these be his four children. This maiden also is my companion, and is going on pilgrimage too.

Innocent: Then ran Innocent in (for that was her name), and said to those within, “Can you think who is at the door? There is Christiana and her children, and her companion, all waiting for entertaining here.”

Then they leaped for joy, and went and told their master. So he came to the door, and looking upon her, he said, “Are you that Christiana whom Christian, the good man, left behind him when he betook himself to a pilgrim's life?”

Christiana: I am that woman that was so hard hearted as to slight my husband's troubles, and that left him to go on in his journey alone, and these are his four children; but now I also am come, for I am convinced that no way is right but this.

Interpreter: Then is fulfilled that which also is written of the man that said to his son, “Go, work today in my vineyard.” And he said to his father, “I will not,” but afterwards repented and went.

Christiana: Then said Christiana, “So be it. Amen. God make it a true saying upon me; and grant that I may be found at the last of him in peace without spot and blameless.”

Interpreter: “But why do you stand thus at the door? Come in, you daughter of Abraham. We were talking about you just now, for tidings have come to us before how you have become a pilgrim. Come, children, come in; come, maiden, come in.” So he had them all into the house.

So when they were within, they were bidden to sit down and rest; the which when they had done, those that attended upon the pilgrims in the house came into the room to see them. And one smiled, and another smiled, and they all smiled for joy that Christiana had become a pilgrim. They also looked upon the boys; they stroked them over the faces with the hand, in token of their kind reception of them; they also carried it lovingly to Mercy, and bade them all welcome into their master’s house.


Notes and Commentary

The pilgrims now arrive at “a house which stood in the way, which house was built for the relief of pilgrims.” The House of the Interpreter is a familiar place in The Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian spent much time here in Part 1, learning lessons and seeing “excellent things.”

The House of the Interpreter is a splendid representation of God’s Word. Each room and object in the house points to profitable truths from the Bible. The Interpreter, who welcomes the pilgrims to “come in,” is the Holy Spirit, who illumines Scripture and helps us rightly understand and apply its truths.

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you (John 16:13–14).

Bunyan describes the house as standing “in the way” and “built for the relief of pilgrims.” It is “in the way” in the sense that it is a necessary and unavoidable stop for all who would walk the Way and travel to the Celestial City. Only the Word of God has the words of life. It is “built for the relief of pilgrims” in that it reveals truth and points us to Christ for the comfort and salvation of our souls.

At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:25–30).

When the pilgrims knock, they are greeted by a damsel named Innocent. She is amazed when she sees who is at the door. Like the girl Rhoda in Acts 12:13–14 (who was overcome with gladness when Peter knocked at the door), Innocent runs inside to share the news. Those within the house had just been talking about Christiana; the joyful news of her pilgrimage was already known.

Innocent tells them that the pilgrims are “waiting for entertaining.” By “entertaining” Bunyan means the provision of hospitality and lodging, not the offering of amusement and diversion. The Interpreter aims to see to his guests’ needs, not delight them with spectacle. He intends for his guests to stay awhile. He warmly welcomes them in. They have much to see and learn! He entreats them not to “stand thus at the door,” but to come in, “sit down and rest.” The Way is often difficult and fraught with trial. To continue their journey, they need the refreshing, life-giving truth that leads to Christ.

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).

Innocent represents the mindset we should have as we enter into God’s Word.

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious (1 Peter 2:1–3).

This mindset is drastically different than the one Christiana once had toward the Word of God. At first she was “hard-hearted,” now she is eager to learn. Though once she slighted her husband’s distress when he read in his book. Now she is “convinced that no way is right but this.” Christiana now understands that the House of the Interpreter “is a privileged place for those that are become pilgrims” and she repents of her unwillingness to join her husband in embarking on “a pilgrim’s life.”

The Interpreter responds to Christiana’s change of heart with Scripture. He compares Christiana’s late repentance to a repentant son in one of Jesus’ parables.

“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said to Him, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him” (Matthew 21: 28–32).

Christiana was one who at first refused to leave Destruction, but then repented and is now traveling to the Celestial City. She responds to the Interpreter’s words with another reference to Scripture, expressing hope that she will be included in the church, the bride of Christ, and be found “without spot and blameless.”

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25–27).

Bunyan offers much hope at the entrance to the Interpreter’s house. To those who once scoffed and mocked God’s Word, we can say: Take heart! If you but repent and come with a willing and open heart, you will be lovingly welcomed and received with joy.

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)

And for those who, like Christian, have loved-ones who are blind and have resisted the truth, there is still hope. God may yet open their eyes and soften their hearts. Though the day is “very far spent,” they may yet follow the Way and arrive with joy at the truth.

Continue reading 25. The Man with the Muck Rake

Return to 23. Grace 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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