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 #29

Climbing the Hill - The beautiful description that follows admits of no elucidation: some of the images indeed are taken from modern customs; but in all other respects it is entirely scriptural, and very intelligible and animating to the spiritual mind. (Scott, p. 328)

            Ah, children, none can conceive or describe what it is to live in a state free from the body of sin and death.  Some in such happy, highly-favoured moments, have had a glimpse, a foretaste of this, and could realize it by faith.  Oh for more and more of this, till we possess and enjoy it in all its fullness!  If Jesus be so sweet by faith below, who can tell what he is in full fruition above?  This we must die to know. ... Though Mr. Bunyan has been very happy in this spirited description, (observes the Rev. Mr. mason,) yet were he alive, I am sure he would not be offended, though I were to say, it is short and faint, infinitely so, of the reality: and were he permitted to come in person, and give another description, he could only say, what the prophet and apostle tell us, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them who love him.” (Is. 64:4; 1 Cor. 2:9)  Oh for the increase of faith, to behold more clear the heavenly vision; and for love to Jesus, the God of our salvation, that we may have more of heaven in our souls, even while we are pilgrims here on the earth.  For none but those who love him on earth, can enjoy him in heaven. (Gulliver, p. 169)

            The righteous nation, who are they?  Oh, say the self-righteous pharisees of the day, they are those who by their good works and righteous actions have made themselves to differ from others, and are thus become righteous before God.  To whom shall the Lord command the gate of glory to be opened but to these good righteous people.  But Peter tells us, “the righteous nation is a chosen generation: from among the world, and of a different generation to them.  They see no righteousness in themselves, and therefore are little, low, and mean in their own eyes; being begotten by the world of truth, and born again of the Spirit, they receive and love the truth as it is in Jesus.  By this truth they regulate their life and walk; and this truth they hold fast in life, and keep unto death; and thus living and dying in the belief of the truth, they can say with Paul: “I have kept the faith, and henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord of the righteous Judge give to me and to all who love his appearing.” (Gulliver)

The Fate of Ignorance - Vain-hope ever dwells in the bosom of fools, and is ever ready to assist Ignorance.  He wanted him at the last, and he found him.  He had been his companion through life, and will not forsake him in the hour of death.  You see Ignorance had no bands in his death; no fears, doubts, and sorrows, no terror from the enemy, but all appeared serene and happy.  Vain-hope was his ferry-man, and he, as the good folks say, died like a lamb; ah, but did such lambs see what was to follow, when Vain-hope had wafted them over the river, they would roar like lions.  Hence see, that Ignorant, vain-confident professors may keep up a profession, even unto the end; yea, and maintain a self-righteous hope to the very last, without any internal operation of the spirit upon their hearts, quickening them to a life of faith on the Son of God.  Such, when they are called upon for their certificate, find themselves destitute of one.  They set out in nature, and have nothing more about them than what their natural notions furnish them with.  Spiritual revelations of Christ to the heart, through faith in his word, they despised; and therefore, when searched to the bottom, behold they are speechless.  They could talk of their moral powers faithfulness in life, but they have not one word to say of precious Christ, and his full salvation; what he hath wrought in them, whereby he becomes altogether lovely in their eyes; and his truths, promises, and commands, the choice, the delight, and the glory of their hearts.  Oh without this the profession of being a pilgrim will end in awful delusion. (Gulliver, p. 170)

            We frequently hear of persons that have lived strangers to evangelical religion, and the power of godliness, dying with great composure and resignation: and such instances are brought forward as an objection to the necessity of faith, or of a devoted life.  But what do they prove?  What evidence is there, that such men are saved?  Is it not far more likely that they continued to the end under the power of ignorance and self-conceit; that Satan took care not to disturb them; and that God gave them over to a strong delusion, and left them to perish with a life in their right hand?  Men, who have neglected religion all their lives, or have habitually for a length of years disgraced an evangelical profession, being when near death visited by pious persons, sometimes obtain a sudden and extraordinary measure of peace and joy, and die in this frame.  This should in general be considered as a bad sign: for deep humiliation, yea distress, united with some trembling hope in God's mercy through the gospel, is far more suited to their case, and more likely to be the effect of spiritual illumination.  But when a formal visit from a minister of any sect, a few general questions, and a prayer, (with or without the sacrament), calm the mind of a dying person, whose life has been unsuitable to the Christian profession; no doubt, could we penetrate the veil, we should see him wafted across the River in the boat of Vain-hope, and meeting with the awful doom that is here described.  From such delusions, good Lord, deliver us.  Amen. (Scott, p. 334)

            Of such a deluded believer’s funeral Spurgeon writes: “At the head of the mournful cavalcade is Beelzebub, leading the procession, and looking back with twinkling eye, and leer of malicious joy, says, ‘Here is fine pomp to conduct a soul to hell with!’  Ah! plumes and hearse for the man who is being conducted to his last abode in hell!  A string of carriages to do honor to the man whom God has cursed in life and cursed in death, for the hope of the hypocrite is evermore in an accursed one.  And a bell is ringing, and the clergyman is reading the funeral service, and is burying the man ‘in sure and certain hope’.  Oh! what a laugh rings up from somewhere a little lower down than the grave! ‘In sure and certain hope,’ says Satan; ‘ha! ha! your sure and certain hope is folly indeed.  Trust to a bubble, and hope to fly to the stars; trust to the wild winds, that they shall conduct you safely to heaven; but trust to such as that, and thou are a madman indeed.’” (Spurgeon, New Park Street Pulpit, 4:284-85) (Bradley, p. 104-105)

 Conclusion:  Consider deeply.  Weigh attentively, so as to get good satisfaction from the word, to these important questions: Am I in Christ the way, the only way to the kingdom, or not?  Do I see that all other ways, whether of sin or self-righteousness, lead to hell?  Does Christ dwell in my heart by faith?  Am I a new creature in him?  Do I renounce my own righteousness, as well as abhor my sins?  Do I look to Christ alone for mercy, and depend only on him for holiness?  Is he the only hope of my soul, and the only confidence of my heart?  And do I desire to be found in him, knowing by the Word, and feeling by the teaching of his Spirit, that I am totally lost in myself?  Thus is Christ formed in me, the only hope of glory?  Do I study to please him, as well as hope to enjoy him?  Is fellowship with God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ so prized by me, as to seek it and esteem it above all things?  If so, though I may find all things in nature, in the world, and from Satan, continually opposing this, yet I am in Christ the way, and he is in me the truth and the life.  I am one with him, and he is one with me. (Gulliver, p. 170-71)


notes taken from:

Bunyan Characters in the Pilgrim's Progress, vol. 2, by Alexander Whyte, London:Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier, 1902.

The Complete Works of John Bunyan with an introduction and comments by Rev. John P. Gulliver, D.D., Philadelphia:William Garretson & Co., 1872.

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