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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 #13

Evangelist’s Encouragement - The able and faithful minister can foretell many things, from his knowledge of the Scriptures, and enlarged experience and observation, of which his people are not aware.  He knows beforehand, that ‘through much tribulation they must enter into the kingdom of God’; and the circumstances of the times aid him in discerning what trials and difficulties more especially await them.  A retired life shelters a believer from the enmity of the world: and timid men are often tempted on this account to abide in the wilderness; to choose obscurity and solitude for the sake of quiet and safety, to the neglect of those active services for which they are qualified.  But when Christians are called forth to more public situations, they need peculiar cautions and instructions: for inexperience renders men inattentive to the words of Scripture; and they often do not at all expect, or prepare for the trials which are inseparable from those scenes, on which they are perhaps even impatient to enter. (Scott, p. 204)

Description of Vanity Fair -  In  general,  Vanity  Fair  represents  the  wretched  state  of things, in those populous

 places especially where true religion is neglected and persecuted, and indeed of ‘the whole world lying in wickedness’, as distinguished from the church of redeemed sinners.  This continues the same (in respect of the general principles, conduct, and pursuits of mankind) through all ages and nations: but Christians are called to mix more with it, at some times than at others; and Satan, the god and prince of it, is permitted to excite fierce persecution in some places, and on some occasions, while at other times he is restrained.  Many, therefore, seem to spend all their days in the midst of Vanity Fair, and of continual insults or injuries; while others are only sometimes thus exposed, and pass most of their lives unmolested: and a few are favoured with so obscure a situation, and such peacable times, that they are very little acquainted with these trials. ... Worldly men covet, pursue, grasp at, and contend for the things of time and sense, with eagerness and violence, so that their whole conduct aptly resembles the bustle, selfishness, artifice, dissipation, riot, and tumult of a large crowded Fair.  The profits, pleasures, honours, possessions, and distinctions of the world, are as transient and frivolous as the vents of the fair-day; with which the children are delighted, but which every man of sense condemns. ... Yet this traffic of vanities is kept up all the year: because the carnal mind always hankers after one worldly trifle or other, its feverish thirsts are always at hand to allure it, deriving their efficacy from continually pressing, as it were, on the senses. (Scott, p. 206-7)

The Disturbance - Consistent believers, appearing in character among worldly people, and not disguising their sentiments, always excite this opposition; but more accommodating professors escape it.  An avowed dependence on the righteousness and atonement of Christ for acceptance gives vast offence to those who rely on their own good works for justification: ... [A]nd conformity to the example and obedience to the commandments of the Redeemer are deemed [narrow] and uncouth in the judgment of those who ‘walk according to the course of this world’; and they deem the Christian insane or outlandish for his peculiarities.  His discourse, seasoned with piety, humility, and spirituality, so differs from the ‘filthy conversation of the wicked’, and the polite dissimulation of the courtly, that they can have no [communication] with him, or he with them: and when he speaks

of the love of Christ and the satisfaction of communion with Him, while they ‘blaspheme the worthy name by which he is called’; ... [T]hey must seem barbarians each to the other.  But above all, the believer’s contempt of worldly things, when they interfere with the will and glory of God, forms such a testimony against all the pursuits and conduct of carnal men, as must excite their greatest astonishment and indignation; while he shuns with dread and abhorrence, as incompatible with salvation, those very things to which they wholly addict themselves without the least remourse. (Scott, p. 210)

                When the scoffs of those, ‘who think it strange that Christians will not run with them to the same excess of riot’, extort from them a full and explicit declaration of their principles, it may be expected that the reproaches and insults of their despisers will be increased; and then all the mischief and confusion which follow will be laid to their charge. ... Thus Satan takes occasion to excite persecution, when he fears lest the servants of God should successfully disseminate their principles.  [P]ersecuting princes and magistrates, ... molest and punish their peacable subjects for conscientiously refusing conformity to the world ... .  Thus the most valuable members of the community are banished, imprisoned, or murdered; multitudes are tempted into hypocrisy; encouragement is given to time-servers to seek secular advantages by acting contrary to their consciences, the principles of sincerity and integrity are generally weakened or destroyed by multiplied prevarications and false professions; and numerous instruments of cruelty and oppression are involved in this complication of atrocious crimes. (Scott, p. 211-12)


             The contempt, injustice, and cruelty, with which persecutors treat the harmless disciples of Christ, gives them an occasion of discovering that amiable conduct and spirit which accord to the precepts of Scripture and the example of persecuted prophets and apostles.  [T]his often produces the most happy effects on those who are less prejudiced which still more exasperates determined opposers.  [Y]et it frequently procures a short respite for the persecuted, while worldly people quarrel about them among themselves. ... God will be with them to comfort and deliver them, he will be honoured by their profess-sion and be-haviour, and many will de-rive the most important ad-vantage, from their patient sufferings and cheerful for-titude in ad-hering to the truths of the gospel.  But when believers are put off their guard by ill usage; when their zeal is rash, contentious, boasting, or disproportionate; when they are provoked to render ‘railing for railing’, or to act contrary to the plain precepts of Scripture: they bring their guilt on their consciences, stumble their brethren, harden the hearts and open the mouths of opposers, dishonour God and the gospel, and gratify the great enemy of souls; who malignantly rejoices in their misconduct, but is tortured when they endure sufferings in a proper manner. (Scott, p. 213-4)


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.


David G. Barker