Redimete Diem!

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16, ESV)

Home  |  The Pilgrim's Progress Worship  |  Sermons | Courses
Christian Ethics  |  Miscellany  | FamilyQuestions, etc.

Notes Regarding the Characters in

Pilgrim's Progress

Lesson #3


Worldly Wiseman - Mr. Wiseman is in earnest for worldly prosperity, praise, and position.  He makes his religion fit into his agenda.  Mr. Wiseman is against any kind of religion that would interfere with a man’s getting ahead in this world, trouble his mind over sin, and ruin his pleasure in satisfying his fleshly appetites.  He is for using religion for secular advantage.  He is a member of the ‘right church’ - the one of which all the well-educated, wealthy, prominent people in the community are members.  It does not matter what kind of theology is taught at the church; it only matters that the right kind of people attend there and that he is seen with them.  The belief system Mr. Wiseman represents is that of the humanist (human wisdom).  Man’s way of righteousness and salvation (how to get rid of the burden) is through doing good works and living a moral life.  However, because people have such a bent towards sin, they must make and observe a standard of morals at a level they are able to attain, thus lowering God’s perfect standard of righteousness.  They call certain sins “mistakes”, not sin.  And if they should actually sin, it is never their fault and therefore, they are not accountable.  They are victims of abusive parents, they were raised in poverty, they were not given the advantages of higher education, etc.

            He does not say, that Evangelist has not pointed out the way of salvation, or that wicked men are not in danger of future misery; but he urges, that so much concern about sin and the eternal world takes men off from a proper regard to their secular interests, to the injury of their families; that it prevents their enjoying comfort in domestic life, or in other providential blessings; that it leads them into perilous and distressing situations, of which their first terror and despondings are only an earnest; that a troubled conscience may be quieted in a more expeditious and easy manner; and that they may obtain credit, comfort and manifold advantages, by following prudent counsel.


Graceless Responding to Worldly Wiseman - “Why, sir, ... I care not what else I meet with if only I also meet with deliverance.”  There speaks the true pilgrim.  There speaks the man who drew down the Son of God to the cross for that man’s deliverance.  There speaks the man, who, mire, and rags, and burdens and all, will yet be found in the heaven of heavens where the chief of sinners shall see their Deliverer face to face, and shall at last and for ever be like him.  This is what our Lord calls a pilgrim having the root of the matter in himself.  This poor soul had by this time so much wearisomeness, painfulness, hunger, perils, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, death, and what not in himself, that all these threatened things outside of himself were but so many bugbears and hobgoblins wherewith to terrify children; they were but things to be laughed at by every man who is in earnest in the way.  Listen again to this slough-stained, sin-burdened, sighing and sobbing pilgrim, who, in spite of all these things - nay, in virtue of all these things - is as sure of heaven and of the far end of heaven as if he were already enthroned there.  “O God!  Let this same mind be found in me.”  That strong outburst from this so forfoughten man for a moment quite overawed Worldly-Wiseman.  He could not reply to an earnestness like this.  He did not understand it, and could not account for it.

            “Thou wilt never be settled in thy mind ... .”  That was so true that it made the pilgrim look up.  His appeal is understandable.  The attraction of his alternative sounds familiar.  We all take something of some ancestor, remote or immediate, who was wise only for this world.  You may not have chosen your church wholly with an eye to your shop; but you must admit that you see as good and better men than you are doing that every day.  And it is a sure sign to you that you do not yet know the plague of your own heart, unless you know yourself to be a man more set upon the position and the praise that come from God only.  Set a watch on your own worldly heart.  Watch and pray, lest you also enter into all Worldly-Wiseman’s temptation.


Comparing Worldly-Wiseman to Evangelist: “It is instructive to contrast the characters of Worldly-Wiseman and Evangelist regarded as advisers. The first is hail-fellow-well-met, slight, and hypothetical; the second dignified and even official, but thorough and imperative. The first has no horizons (the sure sign of a false kind of breadth), and in consequence there is no real clearness of vision in him even for things near; the horizons of the second are Heaven and Hell, which he sees as tremendous ramparts of the Universe, and within the space between, his insight and his outlook are pitilessly clear. The first, with all his show of friendliness, is hard, cold, and untender; his comfort is a mere narcotic, and he lacks the manly virtues of chivalry and a sense of honour. The second is tender and compassionate; his healing is by surgery which wounds in order to cure, and his bearing is that of the soldier of Jesus Christ. Finally, the first is mistaken in his dealing with a burdened man; the second is correct. Both are there to help the man off with his burden, and they have at least this much in common, that neither of them attempts himself to take it off. The difference lies in the fact that the former sends him for relief to certain inconsiderable and helpless persons; the latter passes him over to God and the Christ of God” (Kelman, The Road, Vol. I, pp. 38-39).


notes taken from:

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan with Explanatory Notes by Thomas Scott, Swengel, PA:Reiner Pub., 1976.

Bunyan Characters in the Pilgrim's Progress by Alexander Whyte, London:Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier, 1902.

The Pilgrim’s Progress: A Study Guide by Maureen L. Bradley, Phillipsburg, NJ:P&R, 1994.


David G. Barker