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)

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