Category Archives: The Pilgrim’s Progress

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, A Study Guide, Lesson 11


Introduction (pp. 145-154)

Christian and Hopeful come to Beulah land and then enter the gates of the celestial city. Their death before entering heaven and their struggles with their own personal failures also come to light.



Narrator (145) – does most of the reading

Gardener (146-7) — a few lines

Christian & Hopeful have very little apart from the summary statements made by the narrator.

Shining ones, Heavenly Host, etc. — several lines here and there



“Beulah” (145 †) — “married” in Hebrew [from Isaiah 62:4, “but thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.”]


Questions (pp. 145-154)

Page #

145      What do you think the “Country of Beulah” represents?

146      Explain the “pangs” or sickness that overcame Christian and Hopeful.

147      What does the river represent? How is the depth (148) dependent upon the Pilgrim’s faith? (“You shall find it deeper or shallower, as you believe in the King of the place.”)

148      What frightened Christian as he crossed the river?

153-4   Ignorance comes up again. What was his problem? How did he get across the river of death? Explain what “Vain-hope a Ferry-man” represented.

154      Why is this sentence so important, “Then I saw that there was a way to Hell, even from the Gates of Heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction.” (154)


Observations & Notes

BEULAH (145)

Bunyan seems to view Beulah as those last sweet peaceful moments some believers face before their death. What he says of this place is remarkable: “…this was beyond the Valley of the shadow of death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair; neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting Castle.” (146) It is a scent of heaven before entering heaven (“…within the sight of the City they were going to”). It is “almost a suburb of heaven” (Horner, 273) or the “foretastes of heaven as we draw near to the River of Death” (Cheever, 454) — Bunyan calls it “the Borders of Heaven” (146). Not all believers experience this but some do. (cf. Thomas Scott, 202-3)

Horner takes this to mean the kind of pastoral ministry ministers utilize to comfort senior saints as they prepare for death (Horner, 74, 274). His interpretation seems to make sense of the experience but it could simply be the comforting grace many believers receive before they die.


This is considered spiritual love sickness. At times mystical in character, such language characterized the Puritan way of viewing the Song of Solomon. The love of the bride represented the love of the Saint/church for Christ. Thomas Scott explained “sick of love” in these words: “In the immediate view of heavenly felicity, Paul ‘desired’ to depart hence and be with Christ, as far better than life; and David ‘fainted for God’s salvation.’ In the lively exercise of holy affections, the believer grows weary of this sinful world; and longs to have his faith changed for sight, his hope swallowed up in enjoyment, and his love perfected, and secured from all interruption and abatement.” (203)


Each man must die on his own; he alone can cross the river and go to the gates of the celestial city. There is no proxy dying. A king and a pauper must both cross the river on their own and each shall obtain salvation as he looks in faith to Christ.

VAIN-HOPE (153-154)

“Vain-hope ever dwells in the bosom of fools, and is ever ready to assist Ignorance. He wanted him at the last, and he found him. He had been his companion through life, and will not forsake him in the hour of death. You see Ignorance had no bands in his death, no fears, doubts, and sorrows, no terror from the enemy, but all was serene and happy. Vain-hope was his ferryman, and he, as the good folk say, died like a lamb: ah ! but did such lambs see what was to follow, when Vain-hope had wafted them over the river — they would roar like lions!” (Mason, 190)


He was supposed to present his certificate. He did not have one. He willfully resisted all the gospel teaching he received and believed it will fare well with him. “His final fumbling for a certificate that he does not have represents Ignorance searching his heart for a faith that he never possessed. Ignorance stands for the cool, skeptical modern person who wants to ground his or her faith in conscience and conduct, not in the grace of God to an unworthy sinner.” (Calhoun, 78)


Some unacquainted with genuine saving grace die composed and assured of their salvation. But their faith is delusional. “But what do they prove? What evidence is there, that such men are saved? Is it not far more likely that they continued to the end under the power of ignorance and self-conceit; that Satan took care not to disturb them; and that God gave them over to a strong delusion, and left them to perish with a lie in their right hand? Men, who have neglected religion all their lives, or have habitually for a length of years disgraced an evangelical profession, being when near death visited by pious persons, sometimes obtain a sudden and extraordinary measure of peace and joy, and die in this frame. This should in general be considered as a bad sign: for deep humiliation, yea distress, united with some trembling hope in God’s mercy through the gospel, is far more suited to their case, and more likely to be the effect of spiritual illumination.” (Thomas Scott, 211)



John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, A Study Guide, Lesson 10


Introduction (pp. 137-145)

            Christian and Hopeful discourse about good spiritual matters. Hopeful gave a wonderful account of the Lord’s dealings with his soul. Ignorance is also invited to the conversation and his misunderstanding of God’s method of justifying sinners comes to light. After this, they discuss how or why a man would end up turning away from the faith.



Narrator (137) — not much

Christian (137) — a good amount

Hopeful (140) — not as much as Christian but a fair amount

Ignorance (137) — a good amount



tro (137; 40, 69) = trow (believe, think)

Halter (145) = noose, a rope for hanging criminals


Questions (pp. 137-145)

Page #

137-8   How does ignorance come to believe he is going to heaven? Does he believe God’s judgment of his sinfulness? Can a person be a Christian and not have the same judgment on this matter? Explain.

140      What is justification? Ignorance says he believes in it. Does he? Is anything wrong with his view? How does he respond to Christian’s explanation of what justifying faith is?

140-1   Explain the point Hopeful and Christian were trying to make regarding a need for “revelation”?

142-3   Christian and Hopeful discourse about right and godly fear. They talk about conviction of sin. What purpose does a conviction of sin serve before one comes to Christ?

143-4   In their journey, they talk about Temporary,[1] Turnback, and Save-self. Mr. Temporary’s own backsliding is rehearsed. Four reasons are given for the backsliding into hell. What are they (put them into your own words as best as you can)?

145      Christian also describes what happens once those four reasons for backsliding occur. Explain why #1 is #1. Also, explain how #1 leads to #2. Explain why #5 works. What advantage is there in doing such a thing?


Observations & Notes


Ignorance’s response indicates that he understood what Christian was saying. He draws a different (and wrong) conclusion. Ignorance believed that if we looked solely to Christ for justification, then what we do would not matter at all. He is saying that Christian’s view of justification would lead to licentiousness (or antinomianism – “lawlessness”).

All unbelievers believe the same; the wonderful doctrine of justification, if rightly preached, always prompts Rom. 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” or Rom. 3:31, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?”

Neonomians in Bunyan’s time along with Roman Catholics all responded as ignorance did in reaction to the biblical view of justification by faith. Many modern Protestants do not understand this glorious doctrine and would find ignorance’s own view to be theirs.


This is not a word we use very often. It was a common word in Bunyan’s time and a generation of two after. It denotes the experience of sinner who has been arrested by conviction and alarmed by his predicament through the preaching of the Gospel. The question for most of them was over how deep the awakening went. Did it issue in new life or did it only issue in a shallow temporary faith? Too often, people confuse awakening with conversion. One could be awakened and not converted.


This is a reference to apostasy. Depending on how one defines backslide, Bunyan has in mind the ultimate backsliding, namely, the falling away from the faith (apostasy). Christians can stumble and slide back for a season but their recovery alone will show that it was a set back and not a final fall.

FOUR REASONS (143-145)

Christian explains how a person can come under conviction and yet turn away from the Lord.

  1. The conscience is awakened but the mind is not changed. Like a man feeling guilty because he was caught, he intends to mend his ways. Once the “danger” of being caught, exposed, implicated, etc. passes away, then the guilt recedes. When this happens, his religion disappears. Fear must not be the only motivation.
  2. Once the fear recedes, the fear of man dominates. They don’t want to be too religious and hazard everything (trying to be “wise” about all this).
  3. Once the sense of Hell abates, their sense of shame increases — shame of religion.
  4. They don’t like to see their guilt and sense their misery.


“See how gradually, step by step, apostates go back. It begins in the unbelief of the heart, and ends in open sins in the life. Why is the love of this world so forbidden? why is covetousness call idolatry? Because, whatever draws away the heart from God, and prevents enjoying close fellowship with him, naturally tends to apostasy from him. Look well to your hearts and affections. Daily learn to obey that command, ‘Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.’ (Prov. iv. 23) If you neglect to watch, you will be sure to smart — under the sense of sin on earth, or its curse in hell. ‘See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.’ (Eph. v. 15, 16)” (Mason, 179)

[1] “Temporary was doctrinally acquainted with the gospel, but a stranger to its sanctifying power. Such men have been forward in religion, but that is now past; for they were always graceless, and came short of honesty in their profession, if not in their moral conduct, and were ever ready to turn back into the world as convenient season.” (T. Scott, 199)

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, A Study Guide, Lesson 9


Introduction (pp. 119-137)

            Christian and Hopeful leave the delectable mountain and run into several unique characters on their way towards the Celestial City. Ignorance, Flatterer, and the Enchanted ground await them. One altercation between the two (Christian and Hopeful) is very instructive for all of us.



Narrator (119) – a good amount

Christian (120) — large amount

Ignorance (120) — very little (he’ll show up again later)

Hopeful (122) — large amount

man in the Robe -Flatterer (127) — a sentence or two

The Shining One (128) — a few lines

Atheist (129-30) — short (a few lines)



“white as a clout” († 121) = “a proverbial expression, more usually in the form ‘as place as a clout’. (A clout was a sheet.)” (p. 305)

mist (122) = missed

Caytiff (123) = a coward

“he went to the walls” († 125) = “the weakest go to the wall” was proverbial. In medieval churches, which did not have pews, benches were set along the walls for the aged and infirm.” (pp. 305-6)

Habergeon (126) = (pronounced, ha’ bur jun) “a medieval jacket of mail shorter than a hauberk” (Webster) or “a short, sleeveless coat of mail”

brunts (127) = shock or stress (as of an attack)

tro (69, 137) = trow (believe, think)


Questions (pp. 119-137)

Page #

120      How does Ignorance intend to get into the Celestial city (cf. Luke 18:12)? What is his response to Christian’s challenge?

121      Describe “little faith.” What happened to him? What did Christian mean when he said that the “Thieves got most of his spending Money”?

123      Why did Christian more or less rebuke Hopeful? Explain the nature of the issue.[1]

123      How does Christian distinguish Little Faith from Esau? What is meant by “typical” (“Esau’s Birth-right was Typical”)?

125      Christian and Hopeful discuss the differences between believers and that some are of little faith while others have great grace. We are all different when tried. How should we respond when we see other believers struggle so much?[2] Read below:

“Young converts often view temptations, conflicts, and persecutions, in a very different light than experienced believers do. Warm with zeal, and full of confidence, which they imagine to be wholly genuine, and knowing comparatively little of their own hearts, or the nature of the Christian conflict, they resemble new recruits, who are apt to boast what great things they will do: but the old disciple, though much stronger in faith, and possessing habitually more vigour of holy affection, knows himself too well to boast, and speaks with modesty of the past, and diffidence of the future…” (Scott, 178)

130      They encountered “Inchanted grounds” in their journey. What does this represent? How does this show up in our generation? What does it look like now? How does one know that he or she has not fallen prey to the woes of the enchanted ground?

132      Hopeful explains what experiences he had before coming to Christ. Are these the regular experiences of coming to Christ? Must a person undergo all of them? What ones (if any) do you think must happen?

He also talks about his attempts to mend his life (133). Why do most people respond this way? Is this conversion?

Explain the illustration of the debt to the Shop-keeper (133). Is it true to say “I have committed sin enough in one duty to send me to Hell” (134)? Explain.

135      How is this “Sinner’s Prayer” (as it were) different from the modern version? Did this one prayer convert him?

135      Bunyan revealed his remarkable pastoral and theological insight into the nature of conversion when answering why he didn’t leave off praying. Why didn’t he leave off praying when it didn’t “stick” or “work” the first time? What lessons should we learn from this?

136      NOTE: “believing and coming was all one” — two different verbs but the same idea. Coming to Christ is to believe in Him (it is not the same as coming to the “altar”).


Observations & Notes


The notation takes this to mean the Christian’s (“Little Faith’s”) sense of assurance. Faint-heart, Mistrust, and Guilt all conspired to ruin “Little Faith.” Scott says that “these robbers represent the inward effects of unbelief and disobedience” (Scott, 172). Kelman says, “It may be permissible, without pressing the allegory too far, to see in the detailed account of the attack a very definite sequence of spiritual experiences. Faint-heart speaks, Mistrust robs, Guilt strikes down.” (cited in Calhoun, 73)

JEWELS (122, 123)

All believers have jewels, namely, that they are meet for heaven and are accepted by the Lord on account of Christ. The jewel represents that they are true believers and perhaps this is the “seed of God” spoken of in 1 Jn. 3:9. Nonetheless, “But he may by sin lose his comforts, and not be able to perceive the evidences of his own safety: and even when again enabled to hope that it will be well with him in the event; he may be so harassed by the recollection of the loss he has sustained, the effects of his misconduct on others, and the obstructions he hath thrown in the way of his own comfort and usefulness, that his future life may be rendered as constant scene of disquietude and painful reflections.” (Scott, 174) David Calhoun (74) cites a passage from another author regarding this allusion:

A Scottish woman ‘underwent a dangerous operation that might have robbed her of her speech. After the operation, [her] pastor visited her in the hospital. Turning to him, she whispered, ‘The jewels are all safe!’ Her phrase refers to a scene in which the character Little Faith is robbed. The assailants make off with his spending money but fail to find his jewels—his belief in Christ. The woman in hospital uses the image to signal that both her voice and her faith have survived the operation. (Hofmeyr, The Portable Bunyan, 100)

NOTE (127): “a man black of flesh, but covered with a very light Robe” — this is a reference to a false teacher, a false minister of the gospel (cf. 2 Cor. 11:13-14) as p. 128 indicates. Unfortunately, this wicked figure (false apostle) misled Christian and Hopeful and entrapped them in a net.

ATHEIST (129-130)

This is a very curious encounter because atheism wasn’t as prominent in that generation. There were some but most of them were not very influential or popular.


Christiana will encounter this ground as well. The Guide explains what it means: “For this inchanted Ground is one of the last Refuges that the Enemy to Pilgrims has; wherefore it is as you see, placed almost at the end of the Way, and so it standeth against us with the more advantage.” (278) One is most tired at the journey’s end and entertains a little rest. In resting, one falls asleep and never awakes. Alexander Whyte said that this enchanted ground “proved so fatal to so many false pilgrims, and so all but fatal to so many true pilgrims” (Bunyan Characters, 2:273).

Spurgeon’s initial word on this is searching and worth pondering. “There are, no doubt, many of us who are passing over this plain; and I fear that this is the condition of the majority of churches in the present day. They are lying down on the settles of Lukewarmness in the Arbours of the Enchanted Ground.” (Pictures from Pilgrim’s Progress, 182)

[1] “Bunyan, as a Calvinist, was, of course, a firm believer in the perseverance of the saints; so he could not have had Little-faith lose his jewels. Hope was not the first or last to be ‘almost angry’ in an argument about the doctrine of perseverance.” (Calhoun, 73-74)

[2] “But for such footmen as thee and I are, let us never desire to meet with an enemy, nor vaunt as if we could do better, when we hear of others that they have been foiled, nor be tickled at the thoughts of our own manhood, for such commonly come by the worst when tried.” (Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress, 126)


John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, A Study Guide, Lesson 8


Introduction (pp. 115-119)

Christian and Hopeful escaped Giant Despair’s Doubting Castle. In this session, we will read of Christian’s experience of the “delectable Mountain.” He encounters four shepherds (Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere) on that mountain.



Narrator (115) – a good normal amount

Christian (115) — normal amount

Shepherds (115, 117) — relatively short

Hopeful (119) — short



stile (115) = a step or set of steps for passing over a fence or wall (a small ladder)

staves (115) = staffs

thither (115) = to that place; there


Questions (pp. 115-119)

Page #

117      Christians come upon the “delectable Mountains” and gain some respite. What do you think these mountains represent?

117      Though the name is simple, explain the description given to the Hill called “Errour.” See 2 Tim. 2:17, 18. What kind of “errors” should we avoid in our generation?

118      Christian and Hopeful are led to Mount Caution, the very mountain in which they almost died. After that, they are shown “a By-way to Hell.” Explain what this represents.

118      Why is it important to recognize that a door to Hell can be found right in the middle of the delectable mountain? What lessons should we learn here?

119      They were given a sight of the Celestial City through the “Perspective Glass.” When did they best see the celestial city? When in peace or when afraid? Is getting a glimpse of the “Celestial City” a vital necessity? Why or why not? If someone has never gotten a sight of it, can he or she persevere?[1] Why or why not?


Observations & Notes


Maureen Bradley lists many interpretations (below, pp. 74-75). Thomas Scott says, “The Delectable Mountains seem intended to represent those calm seasons of peace and comfort, which consistent believers often experience in their old age.” (Scott, 163) Horner takes it to be “a fellowship in association with the Palace Beautiful. Instruction, comfort and rest are to be found here” (p. 271).

Various meanings have been applied to the Delectable Mountains. Some see them as representing nothing in particular other than a time of quiet rest. Others see these mountains as a picture of the local church. Still others say that the mountains represent the ministry of the Word of God by godly pastors and its effect on pilgrims. While all these are good interpretations of the Delectable Mountains, might I add another possibility? The Puritans called the Sabbath a ‘market day for the soul.” Could these mountains represent the Sabbath and all that Sabbath rest entails (i.e., a day set aside for instruction in Sunday school, for sitting under the preaching of godly ministers, and for meditation on Scripture and prayer)? If this is what they represent, how do the Delectable Mountains remind you of a market day for the soul? (Bradley, 74-5)


Whyte sees these four shepherds (Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere) as the basic characteristics of a good pastor. Thomas Scott takes these names to be “the more extensive acquaintance of many aged Christians with the Ministers and Churches of Christ…” (Scott, 163)

[1] “Sometimes this vision is revealed to Pilgrims much more clearly than at other times; but no language can describe the glory of the vision, whenever and however it is manifested to the soul; for eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God reveals them by his Spirit, and sometimes doubtless with such a revelation as language cannot compass” (Cheever, 420).

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, A Study Guide, Lesson 7


Introduction (pp. 95-115)

At this point, Hopeful joins Christian after Faithful is killed. On their journey, they encounter “By-ends” and several other men. They end up being captured by Giant Despair.



Narrator (95) – normal amount

Christian (97) — normal amount

Hopeful (97) — normal amount

By-ends (97) — a large amount

Mony-love (99) — a good amount

Mr. Save-all (99) — short

Mr. Hold-the-world (100) — short

Demas (104) — short

Vain-Confidence (108) — one line

Giant Despair (109) — little

Mrs. Diffidence — little (means a lack of faith or confidence, mistrust, distrust, doubt, etc. and not reticence as it is now used, see † 304).



By-ends († 97) = “a ‘by-end’ is a secondary consideration” (303)

Fainings (97) = feigning’s = pretender, disguiser

Conje (99) = conge, a farewell, a ceremonious bow, a formal permission to depart (Webster)

Save-all (99, see †) = “a miserly person who saves all his money. Bunyan may also intend this character to represent the belief that Christ died for all, not only the elect.” (303)

Gripe (99) = a covetous man, one who grasps and clutches tightly

cousenage (99) = cozenage (pronounced “cousin –eej”) the art of cheating, fraud

ridged (99) = rigid

benefice (101) = an ecclesiastical office which is funded by an endowment

stalking horse (102, see †) = a proverbial saying (?)

Lucre (103) = monetary gain; profit (often used negatively “filthy lucre”)

surfeit (107) = means excess, effects of excess

stile (108) = a step or set of steps for passing over a fence or wall (a small ladder)

rate (110) = to rebuke angrily or violently (berate)

halter (110) = a rope with a noose for hanging a person


Questions (pp. 95-115)

Page #

96        Christian and Hopeful enter into a “brotherly covenant.” What do you think that means? Is it a good thing? Would it help us in our generation? Why or why not?

97        Describe the kind of family from which By-ends comes. What kind of picture is he trying to paint?

98        How is he different from the “stricter sort” of religious people? Explain what he is saying.

98        How did By-ends get his name?

99        How does By-ends describe Christian and Hopeful? Why? Does this happen often?

100      By-ends understanding of the Christian walk is all wrong. What kind of people would make this statement? Explain how one can argue By-ends case.

100      Mr. Mony-love believes they have Scripture and Reason on their side. How would he come to that conclusion?

101      Explain By-ends’s question?

102      NOTE: See Jn. 6:25ff. Christian gives good examples from Scripture. By-ends and his friends could not answer and yet, they thought before they had a good case. Being convinced by something doesn’t mean you are right! It must be in accordance with Scripture.

104      Who is Demas (2Tim. 4:10)? Are there men and women like him in the church today?

104-5   Why would it have been wrong for Christian and Hopeful to accept Demas’s invitation? Isn’t an effort to make a profit legitimate?

106      What made Hopeful different from Lot’s wife? Hopeful wanted to go into the Silver-mine whereas Lot’s wife only turned and looked – what was the difference between the two? How helpful was Christian in preventing Hopeful? What can we learn from him?

109      Why didn’t Hopeful express his disagreement with Christian more forcefully?

110      Giant Despair suggests that they commit suicide. Why would some Christians actually consider that?

114      How did they escape Doubting Castle?[1] How do we get the same key?


Observations & Notes


Puritans often covenanted with each other as well as privately before the Lord. This was their holy resolve to pursue godly matters. Some times, they wrote down their covenants with God.


“…Pilgrims, having been enabled to resist the temptation to turn aside for lucre, were indulged with more abundant spiritual consolations. … All believers partake of this sacred influences [of the Spirit], which prepare the soul for heavenly felicity, and are earnests and pledges of it: but there are seasons when he communicates his holy comforts in larger measure; when the Christian sees such glory in the salvation of Christ… forgets, for the moment, the pain of former conflicts and the prospect of future trials; finds his inbred corruptions reduced to a state of subjection, and his maladies healed by lively exercises of faith in the divine Savior… Then communion with humble believers, (the lilies that adorn the banks of the river) is very pleasant; and the soul’s rest and satisfaction in God and his service are safe, and his calm confidence is well grounded…” The writer takes these to be the “abundant consolations of the Spirit” (T. Scott, 150-151)

[1] “The promise of eternal life, to every one without exception, who believeth in Christ, is especially intended by the key; but without excluding any of other of ‘the exceeding great and precious promises’ of the gospel” (Thomas Scott, 162).

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, A Study Guide, Lesson 6


Introduction (pp. 83-95)

Christian and Faithful come upon the Town of Vanity. Evangelist had already warned them of its dangers. In Vanity Fair, our Pilgrims meet with men and women who are greatly offended by their speech and lifestyle. Their faith is tried and Faithful dies as a martyr.



Narrator (83) – a good amount

Christian (83) — normal amount

Faithful (83) – normal amount (he dies)

Evangelist (83) —about two pages

a citizen of Vanity (87) — one line

Lord Hate-good – a judge (90) — not too much

Envy (91) — half a page

Superstition (91) — very short

Pickthank (92) — very short

Mr. Blind-man, No-good, etc. (94-5) — short statements



“quit your selves” (85) = conduct yourselves

thorow (86, 87) = through

Bedlams (87) = madman, lunatic

Pillory (88) = “a device formerly used for publicly punishing offenders consisting of a wooden frame with holes in which the head and hands can be locked” (Merrian-Webster)

on’t (90) = “of it”

Pickthank (91 — see †) = “one who ‘picks a thank’, i.e. flatters, or curries favour” (302)

Runagate (92) — a vagabond, fugitive, runaway

Sirrah (92) — “sir” (pronounced “seer –rah”)


Questions (pp. 83-95)

Page #

85        Both the town and the fair were called “vanity.” Simple as the question might be, what does “Vanity Fair” represent? Why must all Pilgrims go through (“thorow”) it? Isn’t there a way to avoid it?

86        Explain what Bunyan is referring to on p. 86 (the exchange between Beelzebub and the Prince of Princes).[1]

87        Why was there such a “hubbub” over the Pilgrims’ arrival into the Town of Vanity? What “three” things made these Pilgrims so different from the rest of the people? Should that be the case with all Christians? Why or why not?

87-88   Why would the people of Vanity think that the Pilgrims were lunatics (“Bedlams”)? Is their anger against the Pilgrims reasonable? Is this depiction realistic? Why or why not?

88        When the Pilgrims were beaten, they did not respond in anger. Why was that? Can all Christians do that? Ought they? Why or why not? How will you know if you will be able to when the time comes?

91-94   The Judge[2] along with witnesses against the Pilgrims present their case. Explain how they come across as sane and lawful in this court of law? Are all “legal” matters necessarily holy and good? Could a trial like this happen in America? Why or why not?

95        We are told that Christian escaped. How did that happen?[3] What does this teach us?


Observations & Notes


Christian called “Evangelist” a “Prophet.” Why? Reformers and Puritans often called preachers and/or evangelists “Prophets.” Preaching was a form of prophesying. Prophesying meant either foretelling (speaking about future events) or forth-telling (setting forth God’s truth as revealed in His Word). Many of them believed that eminent godly men could prophesy regarding the future. Though we may disagree with them, some of the anecdotes are quite interesting if not persuasive.


Calhoun says that this Vanity Fair represents “the days of Charles II and the Restoration. Kelman comments that ‘in the figures of these two pilgrims austerely walking through the noisy streets of Vanity, we can see the forms of such men as Owen, Baxter, Goodwin, and Howe, walking apart amidst the dance of contemporary English life.” (Calhoun, 65)[4] Cheever gets at the essence of this city: “Vanity Fair is the City of Destruction in its gala dress, in it most seductive sensual allurements. It is this world in miniature, with its various temptations.” (Cheever, 363)

Barry Horner makes an important observation from this (something we must always remember). When the Pilgrims entered Vanity Fair, they did not “incorporate the lifestyle of Vanity into their methodology; they are not to reach out with the media that are so popular in Vanity.” Rather, they witnessed by their holy lifestyle, by speaking the truth of Scripture and by their manifest graciousness. “In this situation, it is particularly the uncluttered consistency of the truth, its uncompromising proclamation, even unto death, that begins to make inroads into Satan’s entrenched domain.”[5]

Cheever perceives another danger in Vanity Fair. It is something against which our own generation must fight. “Vanity Fair itself may be full of professed pilgrims, and the pilgrimage itself may be held in high esteem, and yet the practice of the pilgrimage, as Christian and Faithful followed it, may almost have gone out of existence. With the increase of nominal Christians there is always an increase of conformity to the world; and the world appears better than it did to Christians, not so much because it has changed, as because they have changed; the wild beasts and tame ones dwell together, not so much because the leopards eat straw like the ox, as because the ox eats flesh like the leopard.…there is not so such a marked and manifest distinction between the church and the world as there should be; their habits, maxims, opinions, pursuits, amusements, whole manner of life, are too much the same; so that the Pilgrims in our day have lost the character of a peculiar people, not so much because they have become vastly more numerous than formerly, as because they have become conformed to the world, not like strangers, but natives in Vanity Fair” (Cheever, 371-2).


Following Bishop Ussher and other similar divines, almost all the Puritans calculated the year of the earth from Adam unto their present time to be a bit over 5,000 years old. Bunyan is stating that the town of Vanity existed from the beginning.


These three “contrived here to set up a Fair…” The town is a trap, it is the world in which we live; it is seduction of the world (“This Fair therefore is an Ancient thing, of long standing, and a very great Fair.” p. 87). It is remarkably similar to the role of Babylon in the book of Revelation (chs. 17-18). The beast carries Babylon (Rev. 17:3, 7, 8) and Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion erected this Fair. The world and its “stuff” present themselves to us. Will we yield to vanity or will we reject her wares? That was the question Christian and Faithful had to answer with their very lives.

[1] Note, this small episode is not found in some versions of Pilgrim’s Progress, for example, it is not found in The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World to That which is to Come, Special Tercentenary Edition (New York: American Tract Society, n.d.).

[2] Apparently, the Judge’s words and manners mirror some of the judges who served on King Charles, cf. Cheever, 368.

[3] “But he that over-rules all things, having the power of their rage in his own hand, so wrought it about, that Christian for that time escaped them, and went his way.” (95)

[4] Calhoun is citing Kelman, The Road, A Study of John Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ (Port Washington, NY, 1970), 1:205.

[5] Horner, 368-370.


John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, A Study Guide, Lesson 5


Introduction (pp. 55-66)

Christian needed good Christian fellowship and he meets with Faithful after braving the “Valley of the shadow of Death. “ Faithful tells of his own personal encounters. After a season of godly fellowship, they run into Talkative which opens up for them another important opportunity to discuss holy matters.



Narrator (66) – a shorter role though by no means very short

Christian (67) – a great amount

Faithful (67) – more than Christian

Talkative (74) – several pages



Vale (67) = valley

bedabled (68) = bedabbled, namely, to wet or soil by dabbling

“writ for a wonder” (69, see †) = “it would be surprising”

tro (69) = trow (believe, think)

hectoring (72, 73) = intimidate, harass, bully

Prating-row (76) = from “prate” (pratingly is the adverb) to chatter, talk long and idly

bruit (77) = pronounced like “brute”; it means noise, report, rumor, etc.

churl (77) = a rude ill-bred person; peasant like

Turk (77) = often used to mean a Muslim

“you lie at the catch (80, see †) = “you are watching for an opportunity to catch me out”

peevish (82) = easily irritated or bothered


Questions (pp. 66-83)

Page #

66        Explain what “Pope and Pagan” meant. Why did he not fear them? Was his assessment of “Pagan” accurate? Of Pope?

69        What allure does “Wanton” represent (69)? Is that a concern in our generation? How is the proverb (22:14) cited by Christian relevant to the situation? What did he mean he wasn’t sure if he wholly escaped her? [

69-70   The “Old Man” was “Adam the first.” What does he represent? Who is this man that kept knocking Faithful down? What is the point of this encounter? How do we avoid this danger or pitfall?

71        Faithful met Discontent in the Valley of Humility. What was Discontent’s method of argumentation?

72        Summarize Shame’s line of argument. Is his argument used today? What was Faithful’s response? Which for you is more formidable, Discontent or Shame?

76        Is “Talkative” someone we might run into? What would he or she look like? How does Christian describe him? What kind of “religion” is found in Talkative’s house (77)?

79-80   In discussing the grace of God in the heart, Talkative mentions his first point. What was it and why did Faithful insist in making a distinction from Talkative’s first point? Explain Faithful’s answer.

80        Isn’t a great knowledge of Gospel Mysteries a sure sign that a person is a genuine convert? What was Faithful’s response? Is he right?

81        Faithful further explains what “grace in the soul” looks like. What is “an experimental confession”? Also, how does Faithful’s explanation unmask Talkative’s religion? What is the difference?


Observations & Notes


This is one of those curious historic observations Bunyan made which turned out to be incorrect. He viewed the two giants as being practically dead. Paganism suffered a severe blow in the seventeenth century but it grew in great force in the eighteenth. Papism never died and had (and still has) more power than Bunyan expected. However, Catholicism did not have the official backing like it used to in England. Perhaps it was his limited understanding of the world that made him view Catholicism as being so weak or as Calhoun suggested, maybe he had an expectation according to God’s purpose for his Church.[1] [The “old man” papism talks about more people being burned. This is a reference to Queen Mary’s bloody reign. Regarding this, Fox’s Acts and Monuments gives a thorough account and this book was the only other books Bunyan had next to the Bible (while in prison).]

This scene has been changed in the Dangerous Journey (where Paganism is alive and Papism is the same). Some versions delete the scene entirely.[2] Paganism is a growing giant in our generation and historians of philosophical ideas have shown that it had not really died during Bunyan’s era (it merely did not have the political clout to influence society).[3]


This is probably a reference to Luke 11:26, “Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” Pliable’s state is worse off than before. Apostasy does not just place a man in the same situation as before; it makes him worse. (cf. 2 Pet. 2:22)


Spurgeon’s words on Faithful’s statement are sobering. “I know not whether I did wholly escape her, or no.”

The probability is, that the temptations of the flesh, even when resisted, do us an injury. If the coals do not burn us, they blacken us. The very thought of evil, and especially of such evil, is sin. We can hardly read a newspaper report of anything of this kind without having our minds in some degree defiled. There are certain flowers which matters that they scatter an ill savour as they are repeated in our ears. So much for Wanton’s assault on Faithful. From her net, and her ditch, may every pilgrim be preserved!”[4]


Puritans held a variety of views concerning the relationship between the covenant made with Adam (Covenant of Works) and the one made with Moses (Mosaic Covenant). Many of them believed that the Mosaic Covenant was a re-publication of the Covenant of Works and in some manner very similar to it.[5] Yet, the Mosaic Covenant had an element of grace through its sacrificial system and promises.

This encounter teaches that once a believer looks to the old way of trusting in his human efforts to save himself, he will be pummeled with the harsh demands of the law — there can be no mercy in the Law. To obey the law because one is saved is proper but to be inclined towards the law (to Adam the First) in the sense depicted by Bunyan is to court spiritual disaster and death.


Puritans believed in “typological” interpretations. Namely, there is the literal sense but also a deeper Gospel sense to many parts of the Bible. It is different from the true allegorical sense found in Medieval theologians who believed each passage had four senses to it. What is truly wonderful and edifying about the Puritans was their insistence on digging deeper to gain something beneficial for their souls. We see something similar in Spurgeon. Many modern readers and exegetes find this method to be distasteful.

[1] Cf. Calhoun, Grace Abounding, 81-82 n.40.

[2] Cf. Horner, Pilgrim’s Progress: Themes and Issues, 420-422.

[3] For example, Thomas Hobbes is a good example of a type of paganism against whom men like Cudworth devoted their intellectual attacks. In the end of seventeenth century, “Deism” began to develop. Cf. Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (New York: Doubleday, 2004).

[4] Spurgeon, Pictures from Pilgrim’s Progress, 146-147. Also, see Bradley’s helpful observations in her study, p. 49.

[5] Cf. Pieter de Vries, John Bunyan on the Order of Salvation, translated by C. van Haaften (New York: Peter Lang, 1994), 100-102.

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, A Study Guide, Lesson 4


Introduction (pp. 55-66)

            In this study, Christian will go through two valleys, the Valley of Humiliation and the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He will be confronted by the dreaded Apollyon and will also encounter two men who will give a bad report. Christian’s conflicts in the Valleys represent the kinds of trials through which each believer must go.



Narrator (55)

Christian (57)

Apollyon or ‘foul Fiend’ (57) — three pages

“two Men” (62) — one page



Apollyon (55) = destroyer, the Devil

strodled (59) = straddled

bestir (59) = to rouse to action, to get going

amain (59) = with all his strength (adv.)

brast (61) = burst

dint (61) = stroke, blow; “by dint of” means “by force of” or “because of the sword”

Satyr (62) = Greek mythology, half horse/goat and man; can mean a lascivious or lewd man

Quagg (63) = quagmire

Gin (66) = a snare or trap


Questions (pp. 55-66)

Page #

55        What does the “Valley of Humiliation” represent? Why does it follow his stay in the “house Beautiful”?

57        Explain what this encounter with Apollyon (Rev. 9:11) represents in a Christian’s life.

57        Why would Apollyon call himself “Prince and God”? What might he be referring to when he mentions “after a while to give him the slip; and return again to me…”? Would you say that this was common?

58        What does Apollyon mean when he says that THE PRINCE (Christ) “never came …to deliver any that served him out of our hands”? Is that true? What was Christian’s answer?

58        Apollyon accused Christian of many failures. The second sentence helpfully explains why Christian had to carry the burden so long. He says, “Thou didst attempt wrong ways to be rid of thy burden, whereas thou shouldest have stayed till thy Prince had take it off.” Explain this accusation, this (shall we say) “insightful” statement — or what would this look like in someone’s experience?

59        When Christian was beaten down by Apollyon, he “nimbly reached” out to grab the “Sword” to stab Apollyon. What does this represent? What does the sword represent (cf. Eph. 6).

62        Christian meets “two Men” who give a bad report about what is ahead. Who do they represent? Are there people like that on every Christian’s journey?

63        What does the Valley of the Shadow of Death represent? Is it a metaphor of spiritual death or a picture of literal physical death? Something else? Explain the kind of ditches mentioned on pp. 62-63. What is Bunyan talking about when he mentions King David?

63        In this Valley, Christian takes up the weapon “All-prayer.” Why didn’t the sword work? Also, explain how this is different from the occasional prayers found in religious people and many professing Christians.

65        What kind of struggle did Christian have with these voices? Do all believers go through this? Have you?


Observations & Notes


As Spurgeon notes, Christian was equipped with his armor. Spurgeon believed that Christians are led to this point when they slowly depart from God (Pictures from Pilgrim’s Progress, 133). We do read that “he caught a slip or two” (p. 55). However, it is not uncommon for Christians to fall into such a valley after fellowshipping with the saints in the church of Jesus Christ. Quite often, we go down to the Valley of Humiliation after enjoying a mountain experience in the Lord’s assembly. In that valley, we often meet our enemy, Satan who accuses us (and has ample ammunition on account of slips and falls).


When Christian “nimbly reached” for the sword, he was able to thrust Apollyon with it to ensure his safety. Thomas Scott says, “The Christian, therefore, ‘almost pressed to death,’ and ready ‘to despair of life,’ will, by the special grace of God, be helped again to seize his sword, and to use it with more effect than ever. The Holy Spirit will bring to his mind, with the most convincing energy, the evidences of the divine inspiration of the Scripture, and enable him to rely on the promises: and thus at length the enemy will be put to flight, by testimonies of holy writ pertinently adduced, and more clearly understood than before.” (pp. 83-84)


Thomas Scott says that this represents “the present benefits of the redemption of Christ.” (p. 85) He notes that the Lord often heals the Christian, pardons his sins, and renews his strength and comforts after his victory over temptations.

TWO MEN (62)

“These men were spies, not Pilgrims: and they related what they had observed at a distance, but had never experienced.— They represent those who have been conversant with godly people and ‘bring an evil report on the good land,’ to prejudice the minds of numbers against the right ways of the Lord.” (Thomas Scott, 97)


In this valley, men and women may fall into heresy (‘deep Ditch’) or despairing of God’s mercy (‘Quagg’) which is similar to the “Slough of Despond.”[1] It is often a “dark” time (p. 63) and the believer is not sure which way to go. It is “night in Christian’s soul” (says Cheever, p. 334) and one that tries most Christians. “In these opposite ways,” says Thomas Scott, “multitudes continually perish; some concluding that there is no fear, others is no hope.” (p. 99) The editor takes the Quagg to mean moral failures, like David’s sin with Bathsheba (p. 299).

This valley represents “a variation of inward discouragement, distress, conflict and alarm, which arises from prevailing darkness of mind, and want of lively spiritual affections; by which a man is rendered reluctant to religious duties and heartless in performing them…” (Thomas Scott, 85).


Maureen Bradley’s words on this are very helpful. “Christian passes hard by the mouth of hell in the midst of the valley. Such were the sparks and hideous noises coming out of this hole, which cared not for Christian’s sword (the Word of God), that he was forced to use another weapon, which was called All-prayer. Many are the times when a person is so distressed that he is not even able to read the Word of God but can only cry out in agonizing prayer to God and cling to Christ.” (The Pilgrim’s Progress: Study Guide, 43)


As the editor of this edition of Pilgrim’s Progress notes (p. 299), Bunyan struggled with blaspheming against God. The Puritans often spoke of this and one of the methods to distinguish between one’s own voice and the voice of the “Fiend” was to consider two things. Did this wicked thought rush upon you out of no-where? If yes, then they rightly suggested that the thought did not erupt from our nature (most likely). Second, Did you embrace the thought or suggestion? In other words, once this “voice” was heard, did you consider it and make it your own or did you reject it with holy hatred? If you rejected it and ran from the thought, then you are not guilty, they would have argued. (cf. Thomas Brook’s Precious Remedy Against Satan’s Devices)

[1] Mason says, “The ditch on the right hand is error in principle, into which the blind— as to spiritual truths, blind guides — lead the blind, who were never spiritually enlightened. The ditch on the left hand, means outward sins and wickedness, which many fall into. Both are alike dangerous to pilgrims; but the Lord will keep the feet of his saints. (1 Sam. ii. 9)” (p. 74)

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, A Study Guide, Lesson 3


Introduction (pp. 41-55)

Christian will meet with false professors as well as good brethren in the faith. In this study, Christian will encounter the Porter and the Beautiful House.



Narrator (41) – large amount of reading

Christian (42)

“there came one to him” (42) – one line

Timorous (42) – very small amount

Mistrust (42) – very small amount

Porter named “Watchful” (45, 53)

Discretion (48) – short

Piety (48) – a good amount

Prudence (50) – a page

Charity (51) – almost two pages



amain (42) = with all your strength (adv.)

chid (44) = chided, scolded, rebuked

benighted (45) = in a pitiful condition or overtaken by darkness

doleful (45) = woeful, sorrowful, sad, etc.

ake (49) = ache

conversation (52) = this word often means one’s lifestyle, behavior

accoutred (55) = clothed or equipped


Questions (pp. 41-55)

Page #

41        Must every believer climb up the hill (Difficulty)? Why or why not? What if the person says that he has not met with any difficulties? (see Lions†)

42        What is Bunyan saying when he mentions that the “Roll fell out of his hand”? What was the lesson in this incident (44)? What does the loss of the Roll represent?

44        What is “sinful sleep”? [“He that sleeps is a loser.” 42]

48        What does this [Beautiful] “House” represent?

50        Christian said that he had “much shame and detestation” when he thought about the Countrey he left. Is this the experience of all true Christians? What if the overall (secret) tendency and affection is to yearn for that Countrey? What does this show? (see Observations and Notes)

50        Prudence asks about the country Christian left and wondered he still had remnants of that country in him (“Do you not yet beat away with you some of the things that then you were conversant withal?). What was his answer and what does it illustrate?

50        How does Christian get strength to fight his inner corruptions? What are the “Golden Hours”?

51-2     Explain what Christian means when he says, “I know also that a man by his conversation, may soon overthrow what by argument or perswasion he doth labour to fasten upon others for their good.”

52        What do you suppose the “supper” represented?

53        What do you think the “Study” represents? What happened in the study?

54        Christian is led into the “Armory.” Again, what do you think this represents? Do all Christians avail themselves of this? How is the “Armory” related to the “Study”?


Observations & Notes

LIONS (42)

Unlike our generation, many believers were jailed for their convictions. Baptists and other Non-Conformists did not follow the Church of England or the established church of the land. They were not allowed to preach or meet without conforming to the religion of the land (that is why some of them “Pilgrims” went to America and Holland). Bunyan most likely was referring to the civil and ecclesiastical powers that vexed him and other believers.

However, on p. 45 we read: “fear not the Lions, for they are Chained; and are placed there for trial of faith where it is; and for discovery of those that have none…” This suggests it may simply be the trials we meet on our pilgrimage. If they are before the House Beautiful, then it may be best to view the lions as trials and persecutions believers encounter in their endeavors to attend the church.


This represents the church. Cheever says, “It is well to remark here that the House Beautiful stands beside the road; it does not cross it, so as to make the strait and narrow way run through it, so as that there is no possibility of continuing in that way without passing through it.”[1] He takes this to be Bunyan’s way of saying that the Visible Church is not necessary to salvation. Several other comments are offered. Perhaps Cheever’s point is not entirely accurate. Whatever he should draw from this imagery, the church is necessary (though not absolutely in the Roman Catholic sense). She is the body of Christ and no man is ordinarily saved outside of the visible church. Yet, his point that “he staid not there for pleasure; that was not the end of the journey, nor the object of it” (p. 307) is worthy of note.

ROLL (45)

“For this Roll was the assurance of his life, and acceptance at the desired Haven.”  (45) He also calls it his “Evidence” (47) — “but that in my sleep I lost my Evidence…” Assurance can be lost and regained. It is often lost when we sin (as in this case).


“Those who stood by and observed Prudence wondered at her delight in the sad discourse on which the pilgrim now entered. But she had her own reasons for her delight in this particular kind of discourse, and it was seldom that she lighted on a pilgrim who both understood her questions and responded to them as did this man now sitting beside her. Now, my brethren, all parable apart, is that your religious experience? Are you full of shame and detestation at your inward cogitations? Are you tormented, enslaved, and downright cursed with your own evil thoughts?” (Whyte, Bunyan Characters, First Series, 152-153)


“The golden hours, (fleeting and precious,) are earnests of the everlasting holy felicity of heaven.” (Thomas Scott, 71)


“The following allusions in the scriptural history, which have a peculiar propriety in a allegory, intimates that the means of grace are made effectual by the power of God, which we should depend on, in implicit obedience to his appointments.” (Thomas Scott, 76) Also note, there is no armor on our backs (which we will see on p. 55).

[1] George B. Cheever, Lectures on the Pilgrim’s Progress (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1891?), 306.

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, A Study Guide, Lesson 2


Introduction (pp. 27-41)

Christian meets Goodwill and the Interpreter in this section. In addition, he will cast off his burdens. He has already been misled by Mr. Worldly-wise and will meet someone who will give him better counsel. In a sense, that is what this section is all about, namely, we should receive good instruction in our Christian walk. Bad counsel can lead to the “Slough of Despond” so we should heed godly warnings and instructions.



Goodwill (27)

Christian (27)

Interpreter (29)

Man in an Iron Cage (only 34-5)

Man rising out of Bed (35)

Simple, Sloth, & Presumption (39- very brief)

Formalist (39)

Hypocrisie (39)



Dives (32) = rich man (Latin divitiae)

amity (32) = a friendly relationship (Latin amicus)

Professor (34) = one who professes to be a Christian. Puritans usually used the word negatively.

Garner (36) = granary or grain bin

Fatt (39) = this is apparently a proverb, “every tub”, ergo, “everyone must look after himself” (296)

tro (40) = trow (believe, think)


Questions (pp. 27-41)

Page #

27        What do you think the arrows represented? (cf. Eph. 6:16)[1]

28        Good Will’s words “…is the coelestial Glory of so small esteem with him, that he counteth it not worth running the hazards of a few difficulties to obtain it?” are important. Isn’t this way reasoning applicable to all who forsake the faith?

29        Note, he went through the wicket gate. Why was the burden not lifted? Good or bad? (see Observations & Notes on “Burden Loosed” or see question on p. 37 below)

30        Interpreter explains the picture. Who do you think the Interpreter represents? [see Observations & Notes]

30        Explain what Interpreter means when he says, “…is the only Man, whom the Lord of the Place…hath Authorized, to be thy Guide in all difficult places thou mayest meet with in the way…”[2]

30-1     Dust in the Parlor represents original sin. How does the “law” give strength to sin?

31-2     One room leads Christian to “two little Children” named Patience and Passion. What does “Passion” represent and is it an apt name?[3] Why do you think Passion “laughed Patience to scorn”? Why is Patience better off? (see Luke 16:19ff.)

32-3     “Fire burning against a Wall” — what role does the devil play in this picture? Who is the man behind the wall and explain the image? What is the point of the man behind the wall?[4]

33        The story of the “Palace” should be simple to understand. What does it mean?

34        “Man in an Iron Cage” How did he become a “Man of Despair”? Can this happen? Explain his answer to the question, “Is there no hope but you must be kept in this Iron Cage of Despair.”

35-6     A man rose from his bed and was frightened of what he saw. What did he see that made him afraid? Are Christians supposed to live in fear like this?

37        Christian came to the Cross and “his burden loosed from off his Shoulders.”  What is the meaning of this? (see margin) What does it mean when he says that the sight of the Cross “should thus ease him of his burden”? Does this happen once, often, daily, etc. to a believer? (see Observations & Notes on “Burden Loosed”)

39        Simple, Sloth, and Presumption resist Christian’s warnings. Do you know of anyone like one of these? Explain each one.

40        Formality and Hypocrisie were convinced that the way they came in was tolerable. They argued, “[W]hat’s matter which way we get in? if we are in, we are in…” Is there another way of saying this same thing (as said in our generation)? Explain their discussion over the “Coat” (40).


Observations & Notes

Goodwill (27)

Goodwill represents the grace of God and/or the Lord Himself. On p. 27 we read: “So when Christian was stepping in, the other gave him a pull…” “The pull given by Goodwill makes it clear: it is God—not man—who opens the gate and pulls the sinner in. Just as Goodwill was the only one who could open the gate, so God alone can bring the sinner into the covenant of grace. It is true that the sinner must knock and must step in, but the faith and repentance that are required of the sinner are the gifts of God.” (Calhoun, 51)

However, Goodwill could simply be the growing conviction of the Lord’s goodness to him. A believer must be persuaded of the Lord’s goodwill towards him or he will despair. This encounter may be the growing conviction of Christian that God is merciful and gracious to the broken hearted. Nonetheless, Goodwill is most likely a reference to Christ (“I am willing with all my heart, said he” 27).


Interpreter (30)

Some “interpreters” of Bunyan’s work are divided. Some take him to be the Holy Spirit (Maureen Bradley, 21; Calhoun, 54) while other believers take him to be a faithful preacher of the Word of God (the editor of the edition of the book we’re studying takes it to be Bunyan’s faithful preacher, see p. 295). Alexander Whyte says that “every minister of the gospel is an interpreter, and every evangelical church is an interpreter’s house…” (Whyte, Bunyan Characters, First Series, 76) On the other hand, Bunyan does talk about the need for “illumination” (p. 29) as allegorized by the “Candle.” The Interpreter seems to illumine, just like the Holy Spirit. As he explains the various scenes, he gives illumination. We cannot be absolutely certain.


The Man in the Iron Cage (34-35)

This episode is considered by some to be Bunyan’s darkest picture. What exactly is the point? Most take this to be someone like Francis Spira (lived in the 1500s).[5] He was a lawyer in Italy who became one of the Protestants. However, later on he recanted and went back to the Catholic church. This apostasy is recounted in A Relation of the Fearful Estate of Francis Spira. He was remorseful but found no hope. There is another example with which Bunyan was very familiar. One of his own friend in Bedford (John Child) also died hopeless like Spira. John Child was a Baptist minister who in great fear of persecution conformed to the Church of England. John Child ended up taking his own life on Oct. 15, 1684.

Each reference to Spira is used as an example of someone who was in an irrecoverable condition. In Pilgrim’s Progress he says, “I am now a Man of Despair, and am shut up in it, as in this Iron Cage. I cannot get out; O now I cannot.” In his Grace Abounding, Bunyan himself believed that he had come to this same predicament. On reading of Spira, he feared greatly and almost despaired.

Here is the Poem that comes with the Spira story. It introduces the frightening story.

Here see a soul that’s all despair; a man

All hell; a spirit all wounds; who can

A wound spirit bear?

Reader, would’st see, what may you never feel

Despair, racks, torments, whips of burning steel!

Behold, the man’s the furnace, in whose heart

Sin hath created hell; O in each part

What flames appear:

His thoughts all stings; words, swords;

Brimstone his breath;

His eyes flames; wishes curses, life a death;

A thousand deaths live in him, he not dead;

A breathing corpse in living, scalding lead.[6]

What this man in the cage represents are those men and women who have been sealed in their unbelief. In recounting this, Christian described this man in the cage to Piety as “the Man [who] had sinned himself quite out of hopes of Gods mercy” (p. 49). Bunyan says in another place, “The day of grace ends with some men before God takes them out of this world.”[7] See Ex. 9:12, 14; Deut. 29:18-19; 1 Sam. 28:4-6; Is. 66:4; Rom. 1:28-31; 2:3-5; Eph. 4:18-19; 2 Th. 2:10-12; 1 Tim. 4:2; Heb. 6:4-6 and Jude 5, 6, 13. Thomas Scott says, “But we should leave the doom of apparent apostates to God; and improve [i.e. make use of] their example, as a warning to ourselves and others, not to venture one step in so dangerous a path.”[8]

Let us remember Esau who “found no place for repentance, though he sought it with tears” (Heb. 12:17). Though we cannot determine who has fallen into this sad condition, we should take it to heart and not provoke God by our hard-heartedness. Heed Interpreter’s warning: “Let this mans misery be remembered by thee, and be an everlasting caution to thee.” (35)


Burden Loosed (37)

Remember, he was told “As to the burden, be content to bear it, until thou comest to the place of Deliverance; for there it will fall form thy back it self.” (29) Why did he bear it up to this time? Horner’s explanation is helpful here:

Having been directed by Good-will (Jesus Christ), burdened Christian arrives at the House of Interpreter (the Holy Spirit) for edification, in parallel with John 15:26. Here this new believer portrays Bunyan who, though still burdened, was likewise edified for his journey through the profitable instruction of Pastor John Gifford. So in Grace Abounding we are told, ‘At this time, also, I sat under the ministry of holy Mr. Gifford, whose doctrine, by God’s grace, was much for my stability.’ It is significant that the first room in Interpreter’s house displays a portrait of the godly pastor, as epitomized by Gifford, thus following very closely…the sequence of events described in Grace Abounding. For Christian, the burden remains while the balm of instruction is applied; and so he continues to struggle with temptation, troubling questions and fluctuations between hope and fear; and so it was the case with Bunyan until the cross came into clear view.

…Here Christian, like Bunyan as a believer who has at last come into a state of enlightenment, stability  and assurance, gains a much clearer understanding of the atonement, with all its attendant benefits, and especially that of the saving substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. Thus the burden of doubt falls away…Hence it would appear that Bunyan incorporates his own testimony into the narrative of The Pilgrim’s Progress as a help to those who, like himself, have needlessly floundered. …” (Horner, 137-138)

Remember, Christian passed through the Wicket Gate, the Interpreter’s House, and then the Place of Deliverance. Not all Christians experience it that way and one need not necessarily go through the same sequence. One writer says, “Bunyan symbolically intimated that in his opinion a longer or shorter period of time will elapse between coming to Christ and possessing the comfort and assurance that one’s sins are forgiven.” (Pieter de Vries cited in Horner, 140)

[1] Spurgeon says, “Bunyan alludes to the fact that, when souls are just upon the verge of salvation, they are usually assailed by the most violent temptations. …They are seeking the Saviour; they have begun to pray; they are anxious to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; yet they are meeting with difficulties such as they never knew before, and they are almost at their wits’ end.” (Pictures from Pilgrim’s Progress, 67)

[2] Note, Christian has already met him, Evangelist.

[3] “…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.” (31)

[4] Note, “…that it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of Grace is maintained in the soul” (33).

[5] The dagger notation to this Oxford edition indicates this (p. 296). Bunyan refers to Spira at least five times in the course of his writings. For a superb overview of Spira and Bunyan, see Barry Horner, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: Themes and Issues (Auburn, MA: Evangelical Press, 2003), 223-235.

[6] Cited in Horner, Themes and Issues, 230.

[7] Bunynan, Works (Offor ed.), 3:579.

[8] Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress…, with original notes by Thomas Scott (Hartford: Silas Andrus, 1830), 53.