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 #21

Ignorance - Now, before we go further: Do all you young gentlemen do as much as that?  Have you always been good livers?  Have you paid every man and woman their due?  Do you pray to be called prayer?  And, if so, when, and where, and what for, and for how long at a time?  I do not ask if your private prayerbook is like Bishop Andrewes’ Devotions, which was so reduced to pulp with tears and sweat and the clenching of his agonising hands that his literary executors were with difficulty able to decipher it.  Clito in the Christian Perfection was so expeditious with his prayers that he used to boast that he could both dress and do his devotions in a quarter of an hour.  What was the

longest time you ever took to dress or undress and say your prayers?  Then, again, there is another Anglican young gentleman in the same High Church book who always fasts on Good Friday and the Thirtieth of January.  Did you ever deny yourself a glass of wine or a cigar or an opera ticket for the church or the poor?  Could you honestly say that you know what tithes are?  And is there a poor man or woman or child in this whole city who will by any chance put your name into their prayers and praises at bedtime tonight?  I am afraid there are not many young gentlemen in this house tonight who could cast a stone at that brisk lad Ignorance, Vain-Hope, door in the side of the hill, and all.  He was not far from the kingdom of heaven; indeed, he got up to the very gate of it.  How many of you will get half as far? (Whyte, p. 4)

                [T]here are some persons of a sprightly disposition, who are more conceited and vainglorious than haughty and arrogant; who think well of themselves, and presume on the good opinion of their acquaintance; who are open and communicative, though they expose their ignorance continually; who fancy themselves very religious, and expect to be thought so by others; who are willing to associate with evangelical professors, as if they all meant the same thing; and who do not express contempt or enmity, unless urged to it in self-defence. ... They often intrude themselves at the most sacred ordinances, when they have it in their power; and sometimes are favourably thought of, till further acquaintance proves their entire ignorance.  Pride in one form or another is the universal fault of human nature; but the frivolous vainglory of empty talkers differs exceedingly from the arrogance and formal self-importance of Scribes and Pharisees, and arises from a different constitution and education, and other habits and associations.  This is the town of Conceit, where Ignorance resided.  A lively disposition, a weak capacity, a confused judgment, the want [that is, the lack] of information about religion and almost every other subject, a proportionable blindness to all these defects, and a pert forward self-sufficiency, are the prominent features in this portrait. (Scott, p. 273-4)

                It is best not to converse much at once with persons of this character: but after a few warnings to leave them to their reflections: for their self-conceit is often cherished by altercations, in which they deem themselves very expert, however disgusting their discourse may prove to others. (Scott, p. 275)

Turn-Away - Loose evangelical professors look down with supercilious [haughty] disdain of those who do not understand the doctrines of grace; and think themselves more enlightened, and better acquainted with the liberty of the gospel, then more practical Christians: but in dark times wanton [lewd, immoral] professors often turn out [to be] damnable apostates, and the detection of their hypocrisy makes them ashamed to show their faces among those believers, over whom they before affected a kind of superiority.  When convictions subside, and Christ has not set up his kingdom in the heart, the unclean spirit resumes his former habitation, and “takes to himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself”, who bind the poor wretch faster than ever in the cords of sin and delusion; so that his last state is more hopeless than the first.  Such apostasies make the hearts of the upright to tremble; but a recollection of the nature of Turn-away’s profession and confidence gradually removes their difficulties, and they recover their hope, and learn to take heed themselves. (Scott, p. 276)

Little-Faith - The ensuing episode concerning Little-faith was evidently intended to prevent weak Christians [from] being dismayed by the awful things spoken of hypocrites and apostates.  In times of persecution, many who seemed to be religious, openly return into the broad way to destruction; and thus Satan murders the souls of men, by threatening to kill their bodies.  This is Dead-man's-lane, leading back to Broadway-gate.  All true believers are indeed preserved from drawing back to perdition: but the weak in faith, being faint-hearted, and mistrusting the promises and faithfulness of God, are betrayed into sinful compliances or negligences; they lie down to sleep when they have special need to watch and be sober; they conceal or perhaps deny their profession, are timid and negligent in duty; or in other respects act contrary to their consciences, and thus contract guilt.  So that Faint-heart threatens and assaults them; Mistrust plunders them; and Guilt beats them down, and makes them almost despair of life. (Scott, p. 277-8)

                God's truth and man's goodness cannot dwell together in the same heart.  Either the truth will kill the goodness, or the goodness will kill the truth.  Little-Faith, in short, was such a good man, and had always been such a good man, and had led such an easy life in consequence, that his faith had not been much exercised, and therefore had not grown, as it must have been exercised and must have grown, had he not been such a good man.  In short, and to put it bluntly, had Little-Faith been a worse sinner, he would have been a better saint. ... All things which happen to the saints are so overruled by God that what the world regards as evil the issue shows to be good.  For what Augustine says is true, that “even the sins of saints are, through the guiding providence of God, so far from doing harm to them, that, on the contrary, they serve to advance their salvation.” ... And always pungent Thomas Shepard of New England: “You shall find this, that there is not any carriage or passage of the Lord’s providence toward thee but He will get a name to Himself, first and last, by it.  Hence you shall find that those very sins that dishonour His name He will even by them get Himself a better name; for so far will they be from casting you out of His love that He will actually do thee good by them.  Look and see if it is not so with thee?  Doth not thy weakness strengthen thee like Paul?  Doth not thy blindness make thee cry for light?  And hath not God out of darkness oftentimes brought light?  Thou hast felt venom against Christ and thy brother, and thou hast on that account loathed thyself the more.  Thy falls into sin make thee weary of it, watchful against it, long to be rid of it.  And thus he makes thy poison thy food, thy death thy life, thy damnation thy salvation, and thy very greatest enemies thy very best friends.”  And hence Mr. Fox said that he thanked God more for his sins than for his good works.  And the reason is, God will have His name. ... Grace and mercy have more abounded where sin had much abounded.  I am by my sins made much more humble, watchful, revengeful against myself.  I am made to see a greater need to depend more upon Him and to love Him the more.  I find that true which Shepard says, “sin loses strength by every new fall.”  Have you followed all that, my brethren?  Or have you stumbled at it?  Do you not understand it? (Whyte, p. 13ff)

                As these robbers represent the inward effects of unbelief and disobedience, and not any outward enemies, Great-grace may be the emblem of those believers or ministers, who, having honourably stood their ground, endeavour to restore the fallen in the spirit of meekness, by suitable encouragements.  The compassionate exhortations or honourable examples of such eminent Christians keep the fallen from entire despondency, and both tend to bring them to repentance, and to inspire them when penitent, and trembling at the word of God, with some hope of finding mercy and grace in this time of urgent need; which seems to be allegorically represented by the flight of the robbers, when they heard that Great-grace was on the road. (Scott, p. 278)

The Jewels - The believer’s union with Christ, and the sanctification of the Spirit, sealing his acceptance and rendering him meet for heaven, are his invaluable and unalienable jewels.  But he may by sin lose his comforts, and not be able to perceive the evidences of his own safety: and even when again enabled to hope that it will be well with him in the event; he may be so harassed by the recollection of the loss he has sustained, the effects of his misconduct on others, and the obstructions he hath thrown in the way of his own comfort and usefulness, that his future life may be rendered a constant scene of disquietude and painful reflections.  Thus the doctrine of the believer’s final perseverance is both maintained and guarded from abuse: and it is not owing to a man's own care, but to the Lord's free mercy, powerful interposition, and the engagements of the new covenant, that unbelief and guilt do not rob him of his title to heaven, as well as of his comfort and confidence. (Scott, p. 280)

Christian & Hopeful Discourse - Young converts often view temptations, conflicts, and persecutions, in a very different light than experienced believers do.  Warm with zeal, and full of confidence, which they imagine to be wholly genuine, and knowing comparatively little of their own hearts, or the nature of the Christian conflict, they resemble new recruits, who are apt to boast what great things they will do; but the old disciple, though much stronger in faith, and possessing habitually more vigour of holy affection, knows himself too well to boast, and speaks with modesty of the past, and diffidence of the future; like the veteran soldier, of approved valour, who has often been in actual service.  They, who have boasted beforehand what they would do and suffer, rather than deny the faith, have generally either proved apostates, or been taught their weakness by painful experience.  And when a real believer has thus fallen, the reollection of past boastings adds to his remorse and terror; and Satan will attempt to drive him to despair: so that, indeed, “no man can tell what in such a combat attends us, but he that has been in the battle himself”.  Even they, who were most remarkable for strength of faith have often been overcome in the hour of temptation; and, when guilt got within them, they found it no easy matter to recover their hope and comfort; how then can the weak in faith be expected to overcome in conflict, seems merely intended to imply, that the assaults of Satan on these occasions, are more terrible than any thing in the visible creation can be: and that every possible advantage will be needful in order to withstand in the evil day. (Scott, p. 286)

                Instead of saying, ‘though all men deny thee, yet will not I’, it behooves us to use all means of grace diligently; and to be instant in prayer that the Lord himself may protect us by his power, and animate us by his presence; and then only shall we be enabled to overcome both the fear of man, and the temptations of the devil. (Scott, p. 287)


notes taken from:

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, vol. 2, by Alexander Whyte, London:Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier, 1902.


David G. Barker