carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
Notes Regarding the Characters in
Wicket Gate - This is a picture of Christ, the way by which a penitent sinner actually enters into a state of acceptance with God. Jesus told us about this gate: a man's finally & decidedly renouncing worldly, sinful pursuits and engaging with diligence and self-denial a life of devotedness to God (Mt. 7:13-14; cf. Is. 53:6; Eph. 2:3); as it is "strait" (here depicted as a wicket or little gate), the convert cannot carry along with him any of his sinful practices, ungodly companions, worldly idols or carnal confidences; but along with this struggle to enter, all glory must still be given to God - genuine repentance comes from him and leads to him (rf. Is. 55:11). To enter is so contrary to man's pride & lusts, to the course of the world and to the temptations of the devil that striving or wrestling is more necessary in this then it can be conceived to be in any other kind of conversion.
Knocking at the Gate - Many give themselves no concern for their souls; others, after counsels of worldly wisdom; but all, who come to Christ with a real desire of his whole salvation, are cordially welcomed; over them angels rejoice, and in them the Redeemer `sees the travail of his soul and is satisfied.' So that inquirers are greatly mistaken when they fear lest Christ should reject them; since they need only dread being tempted to reject him, or being partial and hypocritical in their application to him.
The Arrows - The arrows shot from Beelzebub’s castle are those of Satan, which he lets fly with excellent aim to hit their target; these are the arrows with which he would keep us from Christ. It is sad to think of how many people have fallen victim to these arrows. They come in the form of thoughts such as “There’s plenty of time before I die; I’ll come to Christ later” and “I’m too bad to come to Christ’ I must reform and clean up my act first” or of satisfaction with a form of godliness, as in the case of Mr. Worldly Wiseman. Each Christian must praise the arm of Christ’s omnipotent grace for pulling him or her (Jn. 6:44) in through the gate before one of those arrows found its mark.
Good-Will - an allegorical person, the emblem of the compassionate love of God to sinners, in and through Christ (Lk. 2:14, rf. Ps. 84:10). The gravity of the gatekeeper was the first thing that struck the pilgrim. And it was the same thing that so struck some of the men who saw most of our Lord that they handed down to their children the true tradition that He was often seen in tears, but that no one had ever seen Him laugh. Terror, horror, despair, remorse, chased men and women up to that gate. They would often fall before his threshold more dead than alive. and then, after the gate was opened and the pilgrims pulled in, the gate had only opened on a path of such painfulness, toil, and terrible risk, that at whatever window Goodwill looked out, he always saw enough to make him a grave, if not a sad, man. So full of love (and sobriety for his task) was the gatekeeper’s heart that he was not satisfied with one pilgrim received and assisted that day. How is it, he asked, that you have come here alone? Is the Celestial Glory of so small esteem that they counteth it not worth running the hazard of a few difficulties to obtain it?
Narrow Way - Goodwill directs Christian to the narrow Way that has been clearly set forth by the teachings of the patriarchs, the prophets, Christ, and his apostles which are contained in the Bible. In the broad road every man may choose a path suited to his inclinations, shift about to avoid difficulties, or accommodate himself to circumstances; but he will be sure of company agreeable to his taste. But Christians must follow one another in the narrow way, along the same track, surmounting difficulties, facing enemies, and bearing hardships, without any room to evade them: nor is any indulgence given to different tastes, habits, or propensities. It is, therefore, a straitened, or, as some render the word, an afflicted way; being indeed an habitual course of repentance, faith, love self-denial, patience, and mortification to sin and the world, according to the rule of the Holy Scriptures. Christ himself is the way, by which we come to the Father and walk with him; but true faith works by love, and `sets us in the way of his steps' (Ps. 85:13). This path is also straight, as opposed to the crooked ways of wicked men (Ps. 125:5) for it consists in a uniform regard to piety, integrity, sincerity, and kindness, at a distance from all the hypocrisies, frauds, and artifices by which ungodly men wind about, to avoid detection, keep up their credit, deceive others, or impose on themselves. The question proposed by Christian implies, that believers are more afraid of missing the way, than encountering hardships in it: and Good-will's answer, that many ways butted down on it, or opened into it, in various directions, shows, that the careless and self-willed are extremely liable to be deceived: but it follows, that all these ways are crooked and wide; they turn aside from the direct line of living faith and holy obedience, and are more soothing, indulgent, and pleasing to corrupt nature than the path of life; which lies straight forward, and is everywhere contrary to the bias of the carnal mind."
There are many wide ways to hell, and many there be who crowd them, but there is only one way to heaven, and you will sometimes think you must have gone off it, there are so few companions; sometimes there will be only one footprint, with here and there a stream of blood, and always as you proceed, it becomes more and more narrow, till it strips a man bare, and sometimes threatens to close upon him and crush him to the earth altogether. Our Lord in as many words tells us all that. Strive, He says, strive every day. For many shall seek to enter into the way of salvation, but because they do not early enough, and long enough, and painfully enough strive, they come short, and are shut out. Have you, then, anything in your religious life that Christ will at last accept as the striving He intended and demanded? Does your religion cause you any real effort - Christ calls it agony? Have you ever had, do you ever have, anything that He would so describe? What cross do you every day take up? In what thing do you every day deny yourself? Name it. Put your finger on it. Write it in the cipher on the margin of your Bible. Would the most liberal judgment be able to say of you that you have any fear and trembling in the work of your salvation? If not, I am afraid there must be some mistake somewhere. There must be great guilt somewhere. At your parents' door, or at your minister's, or, if their hands are clean, than at your own. Christ has made it plain to a proverb, and John Bunyan has made it a nursery and a schoolboy story, that the way to heaven is steep and narrow and lonely and perilous. And that, remember, not a few of the first miles of the way, but all the way and even through the dark valley itself
Interpreter - “It is given to you,” said our Lord to his disciples, “to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” In his former life, and while still on the other side of the gate, our pilgrim had no interest in such things as he is now to see and hear; and if he had seen and heard them in his former life, he would not, with all the interpreter’s explanation, have understood them. But now, there is no house in all the earth, after the gate itself, that is more dear to the true pilgrim heart than just the Interpreter’s House. The significant rooms of that divine house instruct us also that all the lessons requisite for our salvation are not to be found in any one scripture or in any one sermon but that all that is required by any pilgrim or any company of pilgrims should all be found in every minister’s ministry as he leads his flock on from one Sabbath-day to another, rightly dividing the word of truth.
notes taken from:
Bunyan Characters in the Pilgrim's Progress by Alexander Whyte, London:Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier, 1902.
The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan with Explanatory Notes by Thomas Scott, Swengel, PA:Reiner Pub., 1976.
The Pilgrim’s Progress Study Guide by Maureen l. Bradley, Phillipsburg, NJ:P&R, 1994.
|David G. Barker