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 #15

Hopeful - ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’: for sufferings properly endured, form the most convincing and useful kind of preaching.  The name of Christian’s new companion denotes the opinion, which established believers form at first, of such as begin to profess the gospel in an intelligent manner. (Scott, p. 225)

            They now enter into a brotherly covenant.  Though Bunyan does not give details of what was involved in this covenant, might we imagine that the two agreed to have one goal - the advancement of God’s Kingdom and his glory?  We also see as we journey on, that godly advice was exchanged between them and that they stirred up one another’s affections as they talked about the God they adored.  And would not there be agreement of times of prayer together during which they would go hand in hand before God’s throne of grace?  Also, we will witness evidence of the fat that they had agreed to confront each other with the sin they perceived in each other’s lives - a very much neglected act in Christian fellowships today. ... So we see the benefit of Christian friendship, for as ‘iron sharpens iron’, so one man (Christian) sharpens another (Hopeful). (Prov. 27:17) (Bradley, p. 68)


By-Ends - When rest is given to the church, hypocrites often multiply more than real Christians.  The name of this man, and those of his town and relations, do not merely describe his original character and situation, (as Christian was at first called Graceless of the City of Destruction); but they denote the nature of his religious profession.  Believers look back on their former principles and behavior with shame and abhorrence; but hypocrites, when reproved for evident sins, excuse them, because Christ came to save the lost, and because he is merciful to the chief of sinners.  Christian would readily have granted that ‘no good lived’ at his native city; and on that very account he had renounced it with all his old connexions; but By-ends hoped better of Fair-speech, and gloried in his honorable relations there.  Yet he was ashamed of his name; for men are unwilling to allow that they seek nothing more than worldly advantages by religion.  The names here selected are most emphatically descriptive of that whole company of professed Christians, who, under various pretences, suppose that ‘gain is godliness’. ... The grand difference betwixt this whole tribe, and the body of true Christians, consists in these two things: Christians seek the salvation of their souls, and at the same time aim to glorify God, and be useful to their neighbours; but hypocrites profess to be religious in order to obtain friends, patrons, customers, or applause: those follow the Lord habitually, whatever tribulations arise because of the word; but these conceal or deny their profession, when, instead of gaining by it, they are exposed to reproach or persecution. (Scott, p. 227-8)

            The people of the world, who avow their real character, know how to serve Mammon by neglecting and despising God and religion; and the disciples of Christ can serve God by renouncing the world and its friendship: but time-servers talk as if they had found out the secret of uniting these two discordant interests, and thus of ‘knowing something more than all the world.’ (Scott, p. 228)

            When hypocrites are charged with their double-dealing and obvious crimes, they commonly set it down to the account of persecution, and class themselves with that blessed company, of whom ‘all manner of evil is spoken falsely, for the name of Christ’: as if there were no difference between suffering as a Christian, and being a scandal to the very name of Christianity!  Thus they endeavour to quiet their minds, and keep up their credit; deeming themselves at the same time very prudent and fortunate, in shifting about so as to avoid the cross, and secure their temporal interests.  The Apostle says concerning these men, ‘from such turn away’, and the decided manner in which Christian warns By-ends, and renounces his company, though perhaps too plain to be either approved or imitated in this courtly candid age, is certainly warranted and required by the Holy Scriptures. (Scott, p. 329-30)

            Come, then, all my brethren, ... waken up to the tremendous importance of that which you have utterly neglected, it may be ostentatiously neglected, up to this hour, - the true nature, the true character, of your motives and your end.  Enter into yourselves.  Be not strangers and foreigners to yourselves.  Let not the day of judgment be any surprise to you.  Witness against, judge, and execute yourselves, and that especially because of your by-aims and by-ends.  Take up the touchstone of truth and lay in upon your most secret heart.  Do not be afraid to discover how double-minded and deceitful your heart is.  Hunt your heart down.  Track it to its most secret lair.  Put its true name, and continue to put its true name, upon the main motive of your life.  Extort an answer by boot and by wheel, only extort an answer from the inner man of the heart, to the torturing question as to what is his treasure, his hope, his deepest wish, his daily dream.  Watch not against any outward enemy, keep all your eyes and all your ears to your own thoughts.  God keeps His awful eye on your thoughts.  His eye goes at every glance to that great depth in you.  Even His all-seeing eye can go no deeper into you than to your secret thoughts.  Go you as deep as God goes, and you will be a wise man; go as deep as often as He does, and then you will soon come to see eye to eye with God, not only about your own thoughts, but about His thoughts too, and about everything else. (Whyte, p. 220-21)

            How different is Christ!  He never had to be ashamed of any such motives. ... All the things that men strive so desperately for gave him cause to feel only indifference or contempt.  Christ’s goal and aim was to please his Father by doing his will. ... Though Christ was tempted to do things with wrong motives, he never yielded to these temptations.  O Lord, enable us to imitate Christ and forget our self-centered desires, seeking only your glory in all that we do. (Bradley, p. 69-70)

            Till you begin to watch your own thoughts, and to watch them especially in their aims and their ends, you will have no idea what that moral and spiritual life is that all God's saints live; that life that Christ lived, and which He this night summons you all to enter henceforth upon. (Whyte, pp. 220-1)


By-Ends & His Three Friends - How dangerous are evil motives hidden under the guise of a good cause!  So true is the saying, ‘The motive is everything; it makes the man.’ ... When our motives are revealed by the light of God’s brilliant holiness on the last day, how many of our supposed good deeds will be found to have been less than honorable and based on carefully concealed self-interest and greed? (Bradley p. 70)

            This dialogue is not in the least more absurd and selfish, than the discourse many who attend on the preaching of the gospel, and expect to be thought believers.  They connect the wisdom of the serpent with his craft and malice, not with the harmlessness of the dove: if worldly lucre be the honey, they imitate the bee, and only attend to religion when they can gain by it: they cut and shape their creed and conduct to suit the times, and to please those among whom they live: they determine to keep what they have at any rate, and to get more, if it can be done without open scandal; never seriously recollecting that they are mere stewards of providential advantages, of which a strict account must at last be given; and instead, of willingly renouncing or expending them, for the Lord's sake, when his providence or commandment requires it, they determine to hoard them up for themselves and families, or spend them in worldly indulgence; and then quote and pervert scripture to varnish over this base idolatry. (Scott, p. 233)


notes taken from:

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.

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

David G. Barker