- What is meant by the “wilderness of this world”?
- What is the “den” to which Bunyan refers?
- Who is the man in rags? What does he want?
- How does his family respond to him?
- Who helps the man? What help does he offer?
- What happens to the man when tries to leave the City of Destruction? Where is the City of Destruction?
- If you were to see this man in “real life”, what would you see?
- Why does Obstinate turn back and Pliable go forward?
- What does Pliable want? How does he differ from the man in rags?
- What is the Slough of Despond?
- How does the man get out of the slough?
- Who meets the man after the slough? What advice does he offer? What is legalism and why is it dangerous?
- What happens to Christian as he tries to go the village of Morality?
- Who meets and rescues Christian?
- Where does he send him?
Detailed Material & Questions
Wilderness of this world
- In using the word “wilderness”, of what are we to think? Dt. 32.9-10.
- How does the concept of a “wilderness” relate to the concept of judgment? Is. 24:1-2; Jer. 2:13-17; Lam. 1:4.
- How was the world originally created? Gen. 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31; 2.
- How long could human beings originally have lived in the Garden of Eden (if they had so wished and had not sinned)? Gen. 3:22.
- What happened to the world as a result of Adam’s sin? Gen. 3:14-19:
- Serpent vs. Man (spiritual relations).
- Wife vs. Husband (human relations).
- Humans vs. Nature (natural relations).
- Humans Beings vs. Life/Body (self-relation).
- What is the scope of the damage caused by Adam’s sin? Rom. 8:19-22.
- What is the effect upon human beings? Rom. 5:12.
- What will be the end of this world? 2 Pet. 3:8-13.
The Biblical Concept of Pilgrimage:
- How are believers referenced in these passages: 1 Peter 1:1:1, 17; 2:11.
- How are believers to relate to the world? John 17:11-16.
- How does the world relate to believers? John 15:18-21.
- How is Abraham’s time referenced in these passages: Gen. 12:10, 15:13, 17:8.
- How did Jacob relate to his time? Gen. 47:9.
- David: Ps. 39:12; 1 Chron. 29:15.
- Read Psalm 119:19 & 54: How does the believer live while in this land? Why is the believer dependent, in this fashion, upon God’s Word.
- How does God relate to the sojourners? Ps. 146:9; Deut. 24:21, 26:11-12, 27:19, etc.
- Where is our citizenship? Phil. 3:20.
- How does the concept of pilgrimage relate to the Christian life?
- How were believers aliens before they were believers? Eph. 2:12, 19; Col. 1:21.
- Is anyone on this earth truly at home? Is there anyone who can stay? Compare the natural man with the believer: The natural man is not at home, but he also has no homeland to return to. We are all traveling toward death, believer and unbeliever. However, believers have a home with the Lord.
Applying the Ideas of Pilgrimage and Wilderness
- Since we are not of this world, since we are strangers, since our citizenship is in heaven, how are we to live? Phil. 1:27; 1 Pet. 1:13-16, 2:11; Col.3:1-4.
- What is to be our hope? Tit. 2:11-14.
- How are we to relate to this world? Heb. 11:14.
- How are we to relate to God? Ps. 39:12, 119:19.
- How do we live in hope? Consider this quotation from Thomas Manton,
“A Christian is not to be valued by his enjoyments [on this world], but by his hopes. Do not look upon the children of God as miserable, because they do not shine in outward pomp and splendour, for they have meat and drink which the world knows not of – estate, lands and honors which lie in another world. It is better to be trained up in a way of faith, than to have our whole portion here. A worldly man hath his present payment, that is all he cares for; but a Christian hath an ample portion – all the testimonies of God, and all his promises concerning this life and a better. And therefore he is a rich man, though stripped of all; his estate lieth in a country where there is no plundering, no sequestration, no alienation of inheritances [these refer to various means of taking someone’s property]. So that if he be stripped of all that the world can take hold of, he is a happier man that the greatest monarch in the world, that hath nothing but present things; . . . Turn him where you will, yet still he is happy; turn him into prison, the promises bear him company, and revive and cheer here there; turn him into a grave, still God goes with him, and will revive and raise him up again; his riches stand him in stead at death; . . . .” [Sermons on Hebrews 11, pp. 692-693.]
- Since this is true, when should we be happy, thankful, joyful? Phil. 3:4; 1 Thes. 5:16-19; Matt. 5:10-11.
- Consider this: What is this world after the Fall, after Sin has entered? Is it still a Garden or is it a Wilderness, as “howling waste”? How are believers treated here? Is this a fit home for anyone, much less those who know and love the Lord? Even if it were a safe of comfortable place, should we live in as if it were comfortable? If you had family who was anxiously awaiting your return, would it be right for you to loiter around the lobby of an airport rather than quickly return home?
- Is this true: Faith will make a believer a stranger on this world?
The Man in Rags
- Christian (the character we first meet) lives in the City of Destruction. Where is this city, and who lives there?
- Look at this four aspects of the man and explain what they mean:
- Clothed in rags
- Facing away from his house
- Book in his hands
- Burden on his back.
- How does the burden on his back relate to the book?
- What does he see in book? Hebrews 4:12-14.
- What do you make of his response to what he is reading?
- How does conscience fit into this circumstance?
- This man seems to have no peace at all from reading? Doesn’t the Gospel bring peace? Romans 5:1-2 & 8-11.
- What do you notice in his relationship with his family? Why does their response to the book differ from Christian’s?
- Read Matthew 10:34-38. Is Bunyan’s description of the relationship inside a family fair?
- Is the man wrong to persist in seeking escape even to the point of alienating his family?
- Why do the family members not believe his warning? 2 Corinthians 4:3-4.
- Would the family members believe if an angel from heaven told the to go? Genesis 19; Luke 16:30-31.
- Then why does he see what his family does not?
- When does Evangelist come to him? Do you make anything from the fact that Evangelist comes to him alone and not to others?
- What does Evangelist tell Christian? What is meant by the light & by the gate?
- Why is the gate of escape a narrow gate?
- There is a great deal of difference in how Christians understood coming to Christ before the 18th Century and afterwards. We tend to think of conversion as an instantaneous process: someone hears the Gospel and is immediately saved. Prior to the 18th Century – and in particular among the Puritans – salvation was seen as more an extended process. What do you suppose are the differences in how one understands salvation when viewed as a instant event or the result of extended work of the Spirit? Consider this question in light of Spurgeon’s observation about Pliable:
It is possible that the difficulties of an expedition may be intensely aggravated by a lack of knowledge as to the country to be invaded. Under such circumstances it is hard to anticipate the contingencies that may arise. In the battle of life this is the rub. Who knows what lies next before him? How can we forestal the surprises that may await us? “Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” If I were aware of the temptations that would befall me a year hence, I think I could guard myself against them, but I do not even know what pinch or peril may befall me before the hour has passed. You cannot tell the provocations that to-night may occur before you close your eyes in slumber. You may have a trial or a temptation such as never crossed your path before. Hence I beseech you to consider the greatness of the charge of this warfare. You have to pass through an experience which no man before you has proved. All the path of life is new to you, unmapped, untrodden, unanticipated. Yet all you lack of clear statistics is made up for in dire prognostics. No doubt the climate is baneful, and will subject you to fever or ague. Our British soldiers, rank and file, must press forward though they are landed on a blazing beach, across which they have to march; nor will it ever do for them to be dismayed by steep mountains, dismal swamps, or savage tribes. Bent on victory, they brave the incidents of the campaign before they sight the adversaries they attack, while their heads and hearts are full of honour, promotion, stars, stripes, and Victoria crosses. But in our eventful battle of life the checks and bars to progress, the dangers and temptations that we shall all have to meet with in our natural constitution and our secular calling, the unnavigable currents and the impassable barriers that thwart us before we grapple with the main enterprise to enter heaven, are more than I can describe in one sermon. No marvel to me that Mr. Pliable should say, as he turned back, “You may have the brave country yourselves for me.” The Slough of Despond, as a first part, put him into a dudgeon and he said, “I do not like it; I will have no more of it.”
Apart from divine strength, Pliable was a wise man, wise in his generation, to shrink from the adventure, for it is a hard journey to the skies. They spake the truth who said that there were giants to fight with, dragons to be slain, mountains to be crossed, and black rivers to be forded. It is so, and I pray you count the cost. There is no “royal road” to heaven, except that the King’s highway leads there. There is no easy road skilfully levelled or scientifically macadamised. The labour is too exhaustive, the obstructions are too numerous, the difficulties are too serious, unless God himself come to our help. I wittingly put these dilemmas before you that I may constrain you to say, “Who can go this warfare at his own charges?”
- H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 62 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1916), 223–224.
- What it would look like in “real life” for one to start running toward the gate?
- What does true repentance look like? 2 Corinthians 7:8-11?
- Thomas Watson:
Repentance is a grace of God’s Spirit, whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and outwardly reformed. For a further amplification, know that repentance is a spiritual medicine made up of six special ingredients:
- Sight of sin
- Sorrow for sin
- Confession of sin
- Shame for sin
- Hatred for sin
- Turning from sin
If any one ingredient is left out, it loses its virtue.
Obstinate & Pliable:
1, Why would anyone want to bring Christian back? 1 Peter 4:3-6; Romans 1:28-32.
2, Why did Obstinate say Christian should turn back?
Obstinacy is mistaken for strength by shallow people, but really it is often a kind of instinctive trick of self- protection for the weakest characters, and its refusal to argue is an instinctive cover for the conscious ignorance of the most poorly equipped minds. Yet this man will persist in it with determination to the very last. He is ‘obstinate in destruction.’
- Alexander Whyte in Bunyan Characters, First Series notes that we can easily designate our obstinacy as “conviction”. Now while it would much easier to see this in others, see if you can find an example in your life.
- Whyte also notes about Pliable that he as the one in the parable of The Sower, or the Four Soils: the plant that has no root in itself. The confession of Christ has no depth; his “religion” is all on the outside. It may be rooted in morality or the congregation or his family, but it does not actually descend into his heart nor ascend to Christ. It is a social or psychological matter; it is not a matter of ultimate reality. What could cause you to give up your confession of Christ as Lord? How deep and how high does your confession run?
- Here is an example of how Pliable’s lack of root could show up in a professing Christian:
The apocalyptic side of some men’s imaginations is very easily worked upon. No kind of book sells better among those of our people who have no root in themselves than just picture-books about heaven. …And at home a magic-lantern [an old fashioned slide-projector] filled with the splendours of the New Jerusalem would carry multitudes of rootless hearts quite captive for a time. ‘Well said; and what else? This is excellent; and what else?’ [Whyte]
Christianity as a show. Have you seen such things; what would be an example?
- Charles Spurgeon:
Beware, I pray you, of getting the mere religion of poetry, enthusiasm, and rhapsody. Many profess Christ, and think to follow him, without counting the cost. They fancy the road to heaven is all smooth, forgetting that the way is rough, and that there are many foes. They set out, like Mr. Pliable, for the Celestial City; but they stumble into the first bog, and then they say that, if they can but get out on the side nearest to their own house, Christian may have the brave country all to himself for them. Oh, the many we have seen, at divers times, that did seem to run well, but they ran in the strength of the flesh, and in the mists of ignorance. They had never sought God’s strength; they had never been emptied of their own works and their own conceits; consequently, in their best estate they were vanity; they were like the snail that melts as it crawls, and not like the snow-flake upon the Alps, which gathers strength in its descent, till it becomes a ponderous avalanche. God make you to be, not meteors, but stars fixed in their places.
- H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 53 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1907), 43.
Slough of Despond
Who, then, any more will withhold such help as it is in his power to give to a sinking brother? And you do not need to go far afield seeking the slough of desponding, despairing, drowning men. This whole world is full of such sloughs. There is scarce sound ground enough in this world on which to build a slough-watcher’s tower. And after it is built, the very tower itself is soon stained and blinded with the scudding slime. Where are your eyes, and full of what? Do you not see sloughs full of sinking men at your very door; ay, and inside of your best built and best kept house? Your very next neighbour; nay, your own flesh and blood, if they have nothing else of Greatheart’s most troublesome pilgrim about them, have at least this, that they carry about a slough with them in their own mind and in their own heart. Have you only henceforth a heart and a hand to help, and see if hundreds of sinking hearts do not cry out your name, and hundreds of slimy hands grasp at your stretched-out arm. Sloughs of all kinds of vice, open and secret; sloughs of poverty, sloughs of youthful ignorance, temptation, and transgression; sloughs of inward gloom, family disquiet and dispute; lonely grief; all manner of sloughs, deep and miry, where no man would suspect them. And how good, how like Christ Himself, and how well-pleasing to Him to lay down steps for such sliding feet, and to lift out another and another human soul upon sound and solid ground.
- Read Psalm 32 and see how this Psalm relates to the matter of despondency. How would that look in your own life?
- C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters, Letter 8 discusses the fact that God will allow his people to go through “troughs”, to become discouraged and to not receive any obvious good so that they will learn to freely love God:
Our cause [the cause of the dead] is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
- Whom does Help represent?
- How does help describe the Slough of Despond?
- Why does the Slough remain even though the King would have it removed?
- Notice when Mr. Worldly Wiseman appear: What do you think is the significance of meeting him after the slough? What problem does Worldly Wiseman offer to resolve?
- What does Christian desire and how does it compare to what Worldly Wiseman offer?
- How does conscience figure into this advice?
- What is legalism?
- Why is legalism attractive to many Christians?
- What is the danger of legalism?
- How does legalism differ from seeking holiness?
- What would his advice should you meet tomorrow?
You may not have chosen your church wholly with an eye to your shop; but you must admit that you see as good and better men than you are doing that every day. And it is a sure sign to you that you do not yet know the plague of your own heart, unless you know yourself to be a man more set upon the position and the praise that this world gives than you yet are on the position and the praise that come from God only. Set a watch on your own worldly heart. Watch and pray, lest you also enter into all Worldly-Wiseman’s temptation. This is one of the words of God to you.
1.What happens to Christian as he approaches the village of Morality?
- What does the mountain represent?