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 #5


Law/Grace - Christian “had known most thoroughly what the Law could do with a burdened conscience; he had but begun to know what grace could do to ease it.” (Cheever)  "All true believers desire sanctification, of which the moral law is the standard: yet every attempt to produce conformity in heart and life to that standard, by regarding the precepts, apart from the truths and promises of Scripture, excites and discovers the evils which lay dormant in the heart." (Scott, p. 107)

            It is like the feeling a Christian gets when the worse he feels about himself is when he tries the hardest.  A Christian makes great effort to strive for sanctification but soon is weary and discouraged and beaten.  Not only has he "chased the dust" but he has uncovered even more in his soul that would speak of his laziness, self-loving sinfulness and rebellion against God than he was aware of before.  "I never feel so bad about myself as when I try to be good!"

            A little discouragement of this kind prevails with many to cease, therefore from trying, at least for a while - supposing it impossible for them to serve God and, maybe, wrong for them to try so hard in themselves.  But others will be humbled more than discouraged and self-excused and therein lies the key: they are thus prepared to understand and welcome the free salvation of the gospel.  It is not a fault in the broom or in the sweeping but in the effort to do it with self-confidence rather than with the influence of God's grace and gospel upon your efforts.  "The law then appears disarmed of its curse, as the rule and standard of holiness; while righteousness and strength are sought by faith in Jesus Christ: the believer is encouraged by the truths and promises of the Gospel, excited by its motives, and inclined by the Holy Spirit, to desire advancing sanctification: while by the continuing of hope and love his inward enmity is subdued, and he delights in `cleansing himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfecting holiness in the fear of God'." (Scott, p. 107)


Passion - "Passion here represents the choosing of carnal affections over reason and faith."  Reason determines that a greater and more permanent good hereafter is preferable to a less and fleeting enjoyment at present.  Faith realizes a happiness and joy infinitely of more value than all which this world can possibly offer.  In this respect, the life of faith is the reign of reason over passion, while unbelief makes way for the triumph of passion and emotion over reason. (Scott, p. 109)

            "Let us look for a moment or two at some of our own ruling and tyrannizing passions.  And let us look first at self-love - that master-passion in every human heart.  Let us give self-love the first place in the inventory and catalogue of our passions, because it has the largest place in all our hearts and lives.  Nay, not only has self-love the largest place of any of the passions of our hearts, but it is out of self-love that all our other evil passions spring.  It is out of this parent passion that all the poisonous brood of our other evil passions are born.  The whole fall and ruin and misery of our present human nature lies in this, that in every human being self-love has taken, in addition to its own place, the place of the love of God and of the love of man also.  We naturally now love nothing and no one but ourselves.  And as long as self-love is in the ascendant in our hearts, all the passions that are awakened in us by our self-love will be selfish with its selfishness, inhumane with its inhumanity, and ungodly with its ungodliness.  And it is to kill and extirpate our so passionate self-love that is the end and aim of all God's dealings with us in this world.  All that God is doing with us and for us in providence and in grace, in the world and in the church, - it is all to cure us of this deadly disease of self-love.  We may never have had that told us before, and we may not like it, and we may not believe it; but there can be no better proof of the truth of what is now said than just this, that we do not like it and will not have it. ... My brethren, till you begin to crucify yourselves and to pluck up your self-love by the roots, you will never know what a cruel and hopeless task the Christian life is.


Fire On the Wall - The doctrine of the true believer's perseverance is here stated.  The soul is indeed quickened by special grace, and endued with holy affections; and this heavenly flame is not almost extinguished or covered with ashes only to be revived just before death but burns `brighter and hotter' in spite of the opposition of one's depraved nature and the continuing efforts of Satan to quench the flames.  For it is the Lord who secretly feeds it with the oil of his grace.  Unbelievers can persevere in nothing but hypocrisy: when such a man remarkably loses the vigor of his affections, the reality of his conversion becomes doubtful, and he can take no encouragement from such a doctrine as this.  But when anyone grow more spiritual, zealous, humble, and exemplary, in the midst of harassing temptations, while he gives the whole glory to the Lord, he may take comfort from the assurance that `he shall be kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation'.  Yet, the way the tempted are preserved, often so far exceeds their expectations, that they are a wonder to themselves; everything seems to concur in giving Satan advantage against them, and his efforts appear very successful; yet they continue from year to year, `cleaving with purpose of heart unto the Lord', trusting in his mercy, and desirous of living to his glory. (Scott, p. 112)


The Palace Gate - Many desire the joys and glories of heaven (according to their carnal ideas of them,) but few are willing to `fight the good fight of faith': yet, without this fixes purpose of heart, the result of Divine grace, profession will end in apostasy: - `the man began to build, but was not able to finish'.  Salvation is altogether free and without price: but we must learn to value it so highly as to venture or suffer `the loss of all things that we may win Christ'; or we shall not be able to break through the combined opposition of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  If we fear any mischief that our enemies can attempt against us, more than coming short of salvation, we shall certainly perish, notwithstanding our notions and convictions.  We should, therefore, count our cost, and pray for courage and constancy, that we may give our names a in earnest to win the prize: then, `putting on the whole armor of God', and relying on his grace, we must fight our way through with patience and resolution; while many, `being harnessed and carrying bows', shamefully `turn back in the day of battle'. (Scott, p. 113)


The Man in the Cage - “The man had a knowledge of his sin, but there is no indication that God had given him true repentance.  True repentance consists not only in recognizing sin and its danger but also in seeing its ugliness, as a result of which one grieves for and hates sin because it is offense to the holy, gracious God of the universe, whose mercy has been exhibited through Christ’s atoning sacrifice.  There must be a desire to forsake sin for the right reasons if it is true evangelical repentance.  As Spurgeon has stated.  ‘Men who only believe their depravity but do not hate it are no further than the devil on the road to heaven. ... True repentance is a turning of the heart, as well as the life, it is the giving up of the whole soul to God, to be his forever and ever; it is a renunciation of the sins of the heart as well as the crimes of life.’ (New Park Street Pulpit, 5:85)  The man in the cage teaches us not to venture one step on so dangerous a path as he took in his willful sinning and to cling to Christ in prayer and obedient conduct.” (Bradley, p. 25)

The Man Arising - “The sinful world we live in, along with the Devil, seeks to hide the fact that there is a Day of Judgment coming, and a great many consciences are easily lulled to sleep by this deception.  Only as people are exposed to the truth contained in the Bible are they awakened from this deadly soul-sleep.  Oh, that we could cause more people to shake and tremble before it is too late and the Judgment Day is upon us.  Christian learns from his visit with the Interpreter that where there is a gospel hope, there will be a godly fear; both are necessary, and both are graces of the Holy Spirit.” (Bradley, p. 25)


notes taken from:

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

                Lectures on the Pilgrim’s Progress and on the life and Times of John Bunyan by George Cheever, New York:Robert Carter & Bros., 1875.

                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 Pub., Co., 1994.


David G. Barker