Today we continue reading John Bunyan’s classic work The Pilgrim’s Progress, and we arrive at the fifth stage of his journey. Last week Christian’s journey took him through two valleys–Humiliation and the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Though he faced fierce trials, he made it through both of them alive and now he continues on his pilgrimage.
The fifth stage of Christian’s journey is far more about the conversation than the setting. He immediately meets Faithful and the two of them begin to converse, sharing their accounts of their pilgrimage. Here they model Christian fellowship and conversation.
There were a few things that stood out to me and the first of them was Faithful’s recounting of getting himself pummeled by Moses.
So soon as the man overtook me, it was but a word and a blow; for down he knocked me, and laid me for dead. But when I was a little come to myself again I asked him wherefore he served me so. He said because of my secret inclining to Adam the First. And with that he struck me another deadly blow on the breast, and beat me down backward; so I lay at his foot as dead as before. So when I came to myself again I cried him mercy: but he said, I know not how to show mercy; and with that he knocked me down again. He had doubtless made an end of me, but that one came by and bid him forbear.
The one who came by and “bid him forebear” was Christ. Only later did Faithful understand that it was Moses and the Law that was knocking him down and throttling him. “He spareth none; neither knoweth he how to shew mercy to those that transgress the law.” That is a very effective way of showing the power and hopelessness of the law without Christ. It is Christ who rescues from the law. (Note: Of course the law itself is not evil; however, the Christian knows that he is powerless to keep the law without the grace of Christ.)
I was also taken with the story of Shame. Shame came upon Faithful and began to convince him of the folly of true spirituality.
He objected against religion itself. He said it was a pitiful, low, sneaking business for a man to mind religion. He said, that a tender conscience was an unmanly thing; and that for a man to watch over his words and ways, so as to tie up himself from that hectoring liberty that the brave spirits of the times accustomed themselves unto, would make him the ridicule of the times. He objected also, that but few of the mighty, rich, or wise, were ever of my opinion; nor any of them neither, before they were persuaded to be fools, and to be of a voluntary fondness to venture the loss of all for nobody knows what. … It was a shame to sit whining and mourning under a sermon, and a shame to come sighing and groaning home; that it was a shame to ask my neighbor forgiveness for petty faults, or to make restitution where I have taken from any.
Faithful admits that he felt shame, he felt the hot blush of shame when faced with all of this. But then “at last I began to consider, that that which is highly esteemed among men, is had in abomination with God.” Faithful realizes and remembers that man’s way are not God’s ways and that he has to be willing to be a fool for Christ. With his heart thus re-oriented, he is able to sing a song of praise and go on his way rejoicing.
I could speak also of Wanton, a character obviously drawn from Proverbs, and Adam the First, but perhaps one of you could like to comment on them.
For next Thursday please read (or listen to) stage six. You may want to consult the CCEL version if the version you are reading has a different chapter breakdown.
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.