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)

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Notes Regarding the Characters in Pilgrim's Progress

Lesson #6

The Cross - Christian's tears, amidst his gladness, intimate that deliverance from guilt, by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, tends to increase humiliation, sorrow for sin, and abhorrence of it; though it mingles even those affections with a sweet and solid pleasure.  By the “three shining ones”, the author might allude to the ministration of angels as conducive to the comfort of the heirs of salvation; ... And, as the “mark in the forehead” plainly signifies the renewal of the soul to holiness, so that the mind of Christ may appear in the outward conduct, connected with an open profession of faith, while the “roll with a seal upon it” denotes such an assurance of acceptance, as appears most clear and satisfactory, when the believer most attentively compares his views, experiences, desires, and purposes, with the holy Scriptures;" (Scott, p. 121)

            "I remember that one day as I was travelling into the country and musing on the wickedness and blasphemy of my heart, and considering of the enmity that was in me to God, that scripture came into my mind, ‘He hath made peace by the blood of His Cross.’  By which I was made to see both again and again and again that day that God and my soul were friends by that blood: yea, I saw that the justice of God and my sinful soul could embrace and kiss each other through that blood.  That was a good day to me; I hope I shall not forget it.’” (J. Bunyan)

The Scroll - "Now, what was that sealed roll but just the inward memory and record of all this pilgrim's experiences of the grace of God from the day he set out on pilgrimage down to that day when he stood unburdened of his guilt, unclothed of his rags, and clothed upon with change of raiment?  The roll contained his own secret life, all sealed and shone in upon by the light of God's countenance.

Simple, Sloth, and Presumption - "Many may outwardly walk in the ways of religion, and seem to be pilgrims, who are destitute of those ‘things which accompany salvation’.  The three allegorical persons next introduced are nearly related; they appear to be pilgrims, but are a little out of the way, asleep, and fettered.  Many of this description are found where the truth is preached, as well as elsewhere: they hear and learn to talk about the Gospel; have transient convictions, which are soon quieted; cleave to the world, and rest more securely in the bondage of sin and Satan, by means of their profession of religion.  They reject or pervert all instruction, hate all trouble, yet are confident that very thing is and will be well with them, while teachers, after their own hearts, lull them with a syren's song, by confounding the form with the power of godliness; and if any one attempt, in the most affectionate manner to warn them of their danger, they answer ‘Mind you own business; we see no danger; you shall not disturb our composure, or induce us to make so much ado about religion: see to yourselves, and leave us to ourselves.’  Thus they sleep on till death and judgment awake them." (Scott, p. 123)

            "The true Christian will always be troubled when he thinks of the vain confidence of many professors: but he is more surprised by it at first than afterwards; for he sets out with the idea, that all apparently religious people sincerely seek the salvation of God: but at length experience draws his attention to those parts of Scripture which mention tares among the wheat, and foolish virgins among the wise." (Scott, 124)

            "Simple - It was not the weakness of his intellects, nor his youth, nor his inexperience.  There is danger enough, no doubt, in all these things if they are not carefully attended to, but none of all these things in themselves, nor all of them taken together, will lay any pilgrim by the heels.  There must be more than mere and pure simplicity.  No blame attaches to a simple mind, much less to an artless and an open heart.  There is so much that is not simple and sincere in this world; there is so much falsehood and duplicity; there are so many men abroad whose endeavour is to waylay, mislead, entrap, and corrupt the simple-minded and the inexperienced, that it is next to impossible that any youth or maiden shall long remain in this world both simple and safe also. ... And so, too often in our own land, the maiden in her simplicity also opens her ear to the promises and vows and oaths of the flatterer, till she loses both her simplicity and her soul, and lies buried in that same bottom beside Sloth and Presumption. ... The next time John Bunyan passed that bottom, the chains had been taken off the heels of this sleeping fool and had been put round his neck.

            "Sloth - Sloth had a far better head than Simple had; but what of that when he made no better use of it. ... I often wonder as I go on working among you, if you ever attach any meaning or make any application to yourselves of all those commands and counsels of which the Scriptures are full, - to be up and doing, to watch and pray, to watch and be sober, to fight the good fight of faith, to hold the fort, to rise early, and even by night, and to endure unto death, and never for one moment to be found off your guard.  Do you attach any real meaning to these examples of the psalmists, to these continual commands and examples of Christ, and to these urgent counsels of His apostles?  Do you?  Against whom and against what do you thus campaign and fight?  For fear of whom or of what do you thus watch?  What fort do you hold?  What occupies your thoughts in night-watches, and what inspires and compels your early prayers?  It is your stupefying life of spiritual sloth that makes it impossible for you to answer these simple and superficial questions. ... We [all have] enemies in our own souls that never sleep, whatever we may do.  There are no irons on their heels.  They never procrastinate.  They never say to their master, ‘A little more slumber.’  Now, could you name any hateful enemy entrenched in your own heart, of which you have of yourself said far more than that?  And, if so, what have you done, what are you at this moment doing, to cast that enemy out?  Have you any armour on, any weapons of offence and precision, against that enemy?  And what success and what defeat have you had in unearthing and casting out that enemy?  What fort do you hold?  On what virtue, on what grace are you posted by your Lord to keep for yourself and for Him?  And with what cost of meat and drink and sleep and amusement do you lose it or keep it for Him?

            "Presumption - Now, what gave this third man who lay in fetters a little beyond the cross the name of Presumption was just this, that he had been at the cross with his past sin, and had left the cross to commit the same sin at the first opportunity.  Presumption presumed upon his pardon.  He presumed upon the abounding grace of God.  He presumed upon the blood of Christ.  He was so high on the Atonement, that he held that the gospel was not sufficiently preached to him, unless not past sin only and present, but also all future sin was atoned for on the tree before it was committed.  There is a reprobate in Dante [meaning a character in one of his writings], who, all the time he was repenting, had his eye on his next opportunity.  Now, our Presumption was like that." (Whyte, p. 112-119)

Formalist & Hypocrisy - "The perfect and finished hypocrite is not your commonplace and vulgar scoundrel of the playwright and the penny-novelist type; the finest hypocrite is a character their art cannot touch.  ‘The worst of hypocrites,’ Rutherford goes on to say, ‘is he who whitens himself till he deceives himself.  It is strange that a man hath such power over himself.  But a man's heart may deceive his heart, and he may persuade himself that he is godly and righteous when he knows nothing about it.’ ... Canon Mozley says: ‘The Pharisee did not know that he was a Pharisee.  He does not know that he is a hypocrite.  The vulgar hypocrite knows that he is a hypocrite because he deceives others, but the true Scripture hypocrite deceives himself.’  And the most subtle teacher of our century, or of any century, has said: ‘What is a hypocrite?  We are apt to understand by a hypocrite one who makes a profession of religion for secret ends, without practising what he professes; who is malevolent, covetous, or profligate, while he assumes an outward sanctity in his words and conduct, and who does so deliberately, deceiving others, and not at all self-deceived.  But this is not what our Saviour seems to have meant by a hypocrite; nor were the Pharisees such.  The Pharisees deceived themselves as well as others.’ ... For the complete and finished hypocrite is not he who thinks that he is better than all other men; that is hopeless enough; but the paragon of hypocrisy is he who does not know that he is worse than all other men.  And in his stone-blindness to himself, and consequently to all reality and inwardness and spirituality in religion, you see him intensely interested in, and day and night occupied with, the outside things of religion, till nothing short of a miracle will open his eyes. ... If the light that is in such men be darkness, how great is that darkness."

     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.
     drawings from Horner Commentary, ch. 9

David G. Barker