Skip to content ↓

The Delectable Mountains

Reading Classics Together Collection cover image

Reading Classics Together
Today we continue to read through John Bunyan’s classic work The Pilgrim’s Progress, and we arrive at the eighth stage of his journey. This week Christian and Hopeful journey on and come to the Delectable Mountains. This is a chapter that required me to re-read it (or really to listen to it and then to read it).

Discussion

If my understanding is correct, Bunyan uses the Delectable Mountains to point to the place and the power of the local church in the life of the Christian. It is a place of rest, a place of feeding and a place to be warned of error, all under the care and oversight of loving shepherds. In this case the shepherds are called Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere.

You can see the care Bunyan used in welcoming people into his own church. He was obviously a man who highly valued church membership and sought to extend it only to those who were truly converted.

I saw also in my dream, that when the shepherds perceived that they were wayfaring men, they also put questions to them, (to which they made answer as in other places,) as, Whence came you? and, How got you into the way? and, By what means have you so persevered therein? for but few of them that begin to come hither, do show their face on these mountains. But when the shepherds heard their answers, being pleased therewith, they looked very lovingly upon them, and said, Welcome to the Delectable Mountains.

You can also see a plurality of elders here, with different character qualities of an elder displayed in each of these men. Having concluded that Christian and Hopeful are genuine in their pilgrimage, they now act in unity: “Then said the shepherds one to another, Shall we show these pilgrims some wonders? So when they had concluded to do it, they had them first to the top of a hill called Error, which was very steep on the farthest side, and bid them look down to the bottom.” They proceed to teach them about error, to caution them about going astray, to give them a glance into hell, and to provide them with a glimpse of the Celestial City.

It is interesting to me how the shepherds proceed from warning about error somewhat in the abstract (I don’t think either Christian or Hopeful were given to the error of Hymenius and Philetus) to giving a caution based on a sin the two men had fallen prey to. And having proceeded from error to caution, now the shepherds give the men a view of their great destination. This says something about the way Bunyan would pastor and preach, I am sure. “Then Christian and Hopeful looked upon one another, with tears gushing out, but yet said nothing to the shepherds.” They were deeply affected as they understood that only grace had kept them from being destroyed.

I will leave it to someone else to discuss the by-way to hell as I want to make mention of another important little detail. The shepherds lead Christian and Hopeful to a hill named Clear where they are able to use a telescope to gaze at the Celestial City way off in the distance. Yet the recent glimpse of hell has so affected them that their hands shake, allowing them only a shaky, dim view of heaven. “Then they tried to look; but the remembrance of that last thing that the shepherds had shown them made their hands shake, by means of which impediment they could not look steadily through the glass; yet they thought they saw something like the gate, and also some of the glory of the place.” I love how Bunyan illustrates this verse: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” For now our sin keeps us from seeing heaven with a clear focus. We see it dimly and long for it, knowing that the reality will be far greater than all we can see and imagine.

Next Week

For next Thursday please read (or listen to) stage nine. You may want to consult the CCEL version if the version you are reading has a different chapter breakdown. We are nearing the end of Christian’s journey!

Your Turn

The purpose of this program is to read these books together. If you have something to say, whether a comment or criticism or question, feel free to use the comment section for that purpose.


  • Free Stuff Fridays (Help The Persecuted)

    This weeks giveaway is sponsored by Help The Persecuted. Help The Persecuted rescues, restores, and rebuilds the lives of persecuted believers in the Islamic World through spiritual support and tangible help. Every week, they send out an email with specific, real-time prayer requests of persecuted believers to their global Prayer Network. You can join the…

  • A La Carte Friday 2

    A La Carte (March 1)

    A La Carte: Rumblings of revival among Gen Z / Addition by subtraction / Seeing red / Burying the talents of the Great Rewarder / Inviting evaluation of your preaching / Book and Kindle deals / and more.

  • New and Notable Books

    New and Notable Christian Books for February 2024

    February is typically a solid month for book releases, and this February was no exception. As the month drew to its close, I sorted through the many (many!) books that came my way this month and arrived at this list of new and notables. In each case, I’ve provided the editorial description to give you…

  • A La Carte Thursday 1

    A La Carte (February 29)

    A La Carte: Is it ever right to lie? / When the “perfect” fit isn’t / An open letter to Christians who doubt / When a baby is a disease / The long view of preaching / and more.

  • A Freak of Nature (and Nurture)

    A Freak of Nature (and Nurture)

    We are probably so accustomed to seeing bonsai trees that we don’t think much about them. But have you ever paused to consider how strange and freakish they really are?

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 28)

    A La Carte: Can Christians buy expensive things? / You are probably WEIRDER than you think / Our limits are a gift from God / Big dreams impress. Ordinary faithfulness delivers / The biggest problem in worship education / Children’s books / and more.