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 #11

 Regarding the different experiences of Faithful and Christian - Christian, in great measure, escaped the peculiar temptations that assaulted Faithful; yet he sympathized with him: nor did the latter deem the gloomy experiences of his brother visionary or imaginative, though he had been exempt from such trials.  One man, from a complication of causes, is exposed to temptations of which another is ignorant; in this case he needs much sympathy, which he seldom meets with; while they, who are severe on him, are liable to be harassed and baffled in another way, which, for want of coincidence in habit, temperature, and situation, he is equally prone to disregard.  Thus believers are often led reciprocally to censure, suspect, despise, or dislike each other, on those very grounds which should render them useful and encouraging counselors and companions. (Scott, p. 183)

                The breadth of John Bunyan's mind, the largeness of his heart, and the tolerance of his temper all come excellently out in his fine portrait of Faithful.  New beginners in personal religion, when they first take up The Pilgrim's Progress in earnest, always try to find out something in themselves that shall somewhat correspond to the recorded experience of Christian, the chief pilgrim.  And they are afraid that all is not right with them unless they, like him, have had, to begin with, a heavy burden on their back.  They look for something in their religious life that shall answer to the Slough of Despond also, to the hill Difficulty, to the house Beautiful, and, especially and indispensably, to the place somewhat ascending with a cross upon it and an open sepulchre beneath it.  And because they cannot always find all these things in themselves in the exact order and in the full power in which they are told of Christian in Bunyan's book, they begin to have doubts about themselves as to whether they are true pilgrims at all.  But here is Faithful, with whom Christian held such sweet and confidential discourse, and yet he had come through not a single one of all these things. ... Faithful had never had any such burden on his back as that was which had for so long crushed Christian to the earth.  And the all but complete absence of such a burden may have helped to let Faithful get over the Slough of Despond dry shod.  He had the good lot to escape Sinai also and the hill Difficulty, and his passing by the House Beautiful and not making the acquaintance of Discretion and Prudence and Charity may have had something to do with the fact that one named Wanton had like to have done him such a mischief.  His remarkable experiences, however, with Adam the First, with Moses, and then with the Man with holes in his hands, all that makes up a page in Faithful's autobiography we could ill have spared.  His encounter with Shame also, and soon after-wards with Talkative, are classical pas-sages in his so individual history.  Al-together, it would be almost im-possible for us to imagine two pilgrims talking so heartily together and yet so completely unlike one another.  A very important lesson surely as to how we should abstain from measuring other men by ourselves as well as ourselves by other men; an excellent lesson also as to how we should learn to allow for all possible varieties among good men, both in their opinions, their experiences, and their attainments. (Whyte, pp. 201-3)

 Faithful By-Passed the Slough - Some men are preserved from desponding fears, and the suggestions of worldly wisdom, by receiving more distinct views of the general truths of the Gospel; and thus they proceed with less hesitation and interruption in applying to Christ for salvation: yet, perhaps, their temperature, turn of mind, habits of life, and peculiar situation, render them more accessible to temptations of another kind; and they may be more in danger from the fascinations of fleshly lusts.  Thus in different ways the Lord makes his people sensible of their depravity, weakness, and exposed situation; while he so moderates the temptation, or interposes for their deliverance, that they are preserved, and taught to ascribe all the glory to his name. (Scott, p. 174)

 Faithful Confronted By Wanton - Faithful did not yield to Wanton’s tempting but he stated, ‘I know not whether I did wholly escape her or no.’  On this Spurgeon comments: ‘The probability is, that the temptation of the flesh, even when resisted, do us an injury.  If the coals do not burn us, they blacken us.  The very thought of evil, and especially of such evil, is sin.  We can hardly read a newspaper report of anything of this kind without having our minds in some degree defiled.  There are certain flowers which perfume the air as they bloom, and I may say of these matters that they scatter an ill savor as they are repeated in our ears.’ (Spurgeon)

 Faithful meets with Adam the First - Those Christians, who by strong faith or assured hope, endure hardships more cheerfully than their brethren, are often exposed to greater danger from the allurements of outward objects, exciting the remaining propensities of corrupt nature.  The old Adam, the corrupt nature, proves a constant snare to many believers, by its hankering after the pleasures, riches, honours, and pride of the world; nor can the victory be secured without great difficulty and trouble, and strong faith and fervent prayer. (Scott, p. 176)

     Old Adam has three daughters.  Unfortunately, we all know them intimately.  ‘The Lust of the Flesh, we have already spoken [of] under the head of wantonness.  Then there is the Lust of the Eyes.  The eye can scarcely look upon a thing of beauty without desiring it.  We soon become covetous unless the Spirit of God keeps our mind under proper restraint.  ‘Thou shalt not covet’ is a commandment which is often broken by us almost unconsciously. ... As to the Pride of Life, I am afraid that many Christians trickle to this third daughter of the First Adam by self-indulgence in dress, in expenses, in all sorts of showiness.  Mark you, this Pride of Life, though the most respectable of the three, as people think, is as genuine a daughter of the Old Adam as is the Lust of the Flesh.’ ... Each of us should have a conscience alert enough to realize that self-indulgence is not right for followers of Christ, who gave us the opposite example while here on earth. (Spurgeon)

    Adam the First seizes Faithful

Faithful attacked by Moses - As Jesus explained in the Sermon On the Mount, the Law of God is meant not only to encompass the outward actions but to reach so far as the thoughts and intents of the heart.  So strict, so spiritual is the holy Law of God that it will knock any man flat on the ground and leave him despairing.

     The doctrine of Moses did not essentially differ from that of Christ: but the giving of the law, the ministration of condemnation to all sinners, formed so prominent a part of his dispensation, in which the Gospel was exhibited under types and shadows, that ‘the law’ is said to have been ‘given by Moses’, while ‘grace and truth came by Jesus Christ’; especially, as the shadows were of no further use when the substance was come.  Even such hankerings after worldly objects, as are effectually opposed and repressed, being contrary to the spirituality of the precept, ‘Thou shalt not covet’, often greatly discourage the new convert; who does not duly recollect, that the Gospel brings relief to those who feel themselves justly condemned by the law.  Yet these terrors produce deeper humiliation, and greater simplicity of dependence on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, as ‘the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth’.  Many for a time escape discouragement, because they are but superficially acquainted with their own hearts; yet it is proper they should be further instructed by such experiences as are here described, in order to their greater stability, tenderness of conscience, and compassion for their brethren, in the subsequent part of their pilgrimage. (Scott, p. 178)

 Shame - In the present disorder of our souls, we are all acutely ashamed of many things that are not the proper objects of shame at all; while, on the other hand, we feel no shame at all at multitudes of things that are really most blameworthy, dishonorable, and contemptible. (Whyte)

     There is a good story told to this present point about Sir Robert Peel, a Prime Minister of our Queen.  When a young man, Peel was one of the guests at a select dinner-party in the West-end of London.  And after the ladies had left the table the conversation of the gentlemen took a turn such that it could not have taken as long as the ladies were present.  Peel took no share in the stories or the merriment that went on, and, at last, he rose up and ordered his carriage, and, with a burning face, left the room.  When he was challenged as to why he had broken up the pleasant party so soon, he could only reply that his conscience would not let him stay any longer.  No doubt Peel felt the mocking laughter that he left behind him, but, as Shame said to Faithful, the tenderness of the young statesman's conscience compelled him to do as he did.  But we are not all Peels.  And there are plenty of workshops and offices and dinner-tables in our own city, where young men who would walk up to the cannon's mouth without flinching have not had Peel's courage to protest against indecency or to confess that they belonged to an evangelical church.  If a church is only sufficiently unevangelical there is no trial of conscience or of courage in confessing that you belong to it.  But as Shame so ably and honestly said, that type of religion that creates a tender conscience in its followers, and sets them to watch their words and their ways, and make them tie themselves up from all hectoring liberty - to choose that religion, and to cleave to it to the end, will make a young man the ridicule still of all the brave spirits round about him.  Ambitious young men get promotion and reward every day among us for desertions and apostasies in religion, for which, if they had been guilty of the like in war, they would have been shot. ... And so you are a Christian I am told. (Whyte, p. 175-6)

David G. Barker, 2005


notes taken from:

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

Pictures From Pilgrim’s Progress by C.H. Spurgeon, Pasadena, TX:Pilgrim Pub., 1992.

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 Bradley, Phillipsburg:NJ, 1994.


David G. Barker