[This goes through the scene at the Interpreter’s House]
Again, we are not going to cover all the material in this study guide during our class. Our discussion will be based upon the Overview Questions. You do not need to complete all of the questions to attend or participate in the class. The Detailed Analysis below is a resource: use as little or as much as you like. You can use it as a basis for future counseling or Bible Study.
- What does the gate represent?
- Who is Goodwill? Why does he give Christian a pull?
- Why is the way “straight & narrow”?
- What is the Interpreter’s House? Who is the Interpreter?
- Who is the man in the picture? What should we do this knowledge?
- What is the dusty room?
- What is needed to clean the dusty room?
- Who are Passion and Patience?
- What is the problem with Passion? What doesn’t he know?
- What does Patience know?
- What is the fire against the wall?
- Who tries to put it out?
- What keeps the fire going?
- What is represented by the man fighting his way to the stately palace?
- Who is the man in the cage?
- What specifically can he not do?
- Who is the man of the dream?
- What is his fear?
- What was the effect of the scenes upon Christian?
- What was Interpreter’s intent in showing thes things to Christian?
- Kelman writes:
The Wicket Gate is said to have been suggested by the old church door at Elstow. But in the story it is brought out into the open and stands across the way, a mere gate without either an enclosure or a house. Obviously such a gate is there to mark a boundary. It stands for a decisive choice, separating the course of the journey into two sections, one before and the other after it. It is, as Cheever has called it, ‘a beginning and an end.’
- Kelman also notes that Christian’s problem at the outset is death: What will happen at judgment. Thus, “The wicket gate stands for an incident in life that will destroy the fear of death.” Read Hebrews 2:14-15
- Read Matthew 7:7-10: What sort of approach to God receives an answer?
It is to be noted also that at this gate, as well as at the Wicket Gate, Christian has to knock over and over. Formerly it was knocking in order to travel, here it is knocking in order to see. Spiritual illumination does not by any means always come in intuitive flashes. Far oftener, as in this instance, it is the result of severe thought and determined meditation. Even in spiritual vision a man must knock over and over in order to see.
Kelman, The Road.
- What does the attack of Satan mean?
John Banyan tells us, that hard by the wicket gate, Diabolus had a castle, and from this castle he used to shoot at all who sought an entrance. Moreover, he kept a big dog [this is in Part Two], which did always bark and howl, and seek to devour every person that knocked at the gate of mercy. I am sure that is true. When ever a sinner gets to mercy’s gate and begins knocking, that noise is heard in hell, and straightway the devil endeavours to drive the poor wretch away from the gate of hope. In the olden times, when the Algerian pirates took many Christian prisoners, they chained them to the oars of their galleys to row their masters. When Christian ships of war were seen in the distance, the captives knew that there was a hope of their being liberated; but their masters would come on deck, and cry, “Pull for your lives,” and the whip was laid on to make these poor captives fly by their efforts from their own rescue. This is what the devil does. He gets sinners to tug at the oar, and whenever Christ with his blood-red flag of liberty is seen within hail, the sinner exerts himself to the utmost to get out of Christ’s way. If that does not suffice, Satan will employ sometimes bad men and sometimes good men to stop the sinner from seeking a Saviour at all. You know the ways in which the world will try to make a crying sinner hold his peace. The world will tell him that he is crying out about a matter that does not signify, for the book is not true, there is no God, no heaven, no hell, no hereafter But if God has set you crying, sinner, I know you will not be stopped with that; you will cry yet the more exceedingly, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Then the world will try pleasure, you will be invited to the theatre, you will be attracted from one ballroom to another; but if the Lord put the cry in your mouth, the intense anguish of your spirit will not be satisfied by the noise of viols, nor by the shouts of them that make merry. Perhaps the world will call you a fool to be vexed about such things; you are melancholy and have got the mopes. They will tell you that you will soon go where many others have gone—to Bedlam; but if once God has made you cry, you will not be stopped by a fool’s laughter; the agonizing prayer will go up in secret, “Have mercy on me.”
Perhaps the world will try its cares. You will be called into more business; you will get a prosperity which will not make your soul prosper; and so it will be hoped by Satan that you will forget Christ, in accumulated wealth and growing cares. But ah! If this be such a cry as I hope it is, poor anxious sinner, thou wilt not be stopped by that. Then the world will affect to look down upon you with pity. Ah, poor creature, you are being misled, when you are being led to Christ and to heaven. They will say you have become the dupe of some fanatic, when, in truth, you are now coming to your senses, and estimating eternal things at their proper value. Ay, but the worst is that even the disciples of Christ will act as these did in this narrative—they will charge you to “hold your peace.”
Some professors have no sympathy with anxious souls. Much mischief is done by the light and frothy conversation of Christian professors, especially on the Sabbath-day. How often sermons are blunted by a spirit of aviling. I have heard of a woman who prayed for her husband’s conversion very earnestly, and one day, after sermon, as she was walking home she was speaking to her friend, and pulling the sermon to pieces, the doctrine did not quite suit her taste; and her husband looked at her with wonder; that sermon had broken his heart and yet here was a woman aviling at the very truth which God had blessed to give her the desire of her heart. I do not doubt that Christian people, by their unprofitable criticisms upon ministrations which God has blessed, may mar the good work, and be the instruments in the hands of Satan of urging poor sinners to cease their cry.
But oh, poor soul, let neither saint nor sinner make thee stop. If thou hast begun to pray, though thou hast cried for months, and no sweet answer of mercy has come, cry more loudly! Oh, be yet more earnest! Take the gates of heaven and shake them with thy vehemence, as though thou wouldst pull them up post and bar and all. Stand at Mercy’s door, and take no denial. Knock, and knock, and knock again, as though thou wouldst shake the very spheres, but what thou wouldst obtain an answer to thy cries. “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Cold prayers never win God’s ear. Draw thy bow with thy full strength, if thou wouldst send thy arrow up so high as heaven. He whom God has taught to be resolved to be saved will be saved. He that will not take damnation as his fate, but who feels he must have Christ, is already under the divine operation of the Eternal Spirit; such a man bears the marks of divine election upon his very brow; such a man must and shall obtain everlasting salvation.
- H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 11 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1865), 464–466. “The Blind Man’s Earnest Cries”. C.S. Lewis makes a very similar point in the beginning of Screwtape Letters.
- Read Psalm 4:4, 18:16. What is the response of God to our cries for help?
- Goodwill here seems to be the Lord, himself. Christ is the door through which we enter. (John 10:9).
- When discussing the details of his journey thus far, how does Christian see himself, salvation, his circumstances and God?
- What does Goodwill tell Christian he will next find? John 14:15-17, 26.
‘We make no objections against any,’ said Goodwill; ‘notwithstanding all that they have done before they come hither, they are in no wise cast out.’ He told me all things that ever I did, said the woman of Samaria, telling her neighbours about our Lord’s conversation with her. And, somehow, there was something in the gatekeeper’s words that called back to Christian, if not all the things he had ever done, yet from among them the worst things he had ever done. They all rose up black as hell before his eyes as the gatekeeper did not name them at all, but only said ‘notwithstanding all that thou hast done.’ Christian never felt his past life so black, or his burden so heavy, or his heart so broken, as when Goodwill just said that one word ‘notwithstanding.’ ‘We make no objections against any; notwithstanding all that they have done before they come hither, they are in no wise cast out.
- Why is the way straight & narrow? See Isaiah 35:8, 40:3; Luke 13:24.
- How does this way differ from false ways?
- Whyte, Bunyan Characters:
With all his goodwill the grave gatekeeper could not say that the way to the Celestial City was other than a narrow, a stringent, and a heart-searching way. ‘Come,’ he said, ‘and I will tell thee the way thou must go.’ There are many wide ways to hell, and many there be who crowd them, but there is only one way to heaven, and you will sometimes think you must have gone off it, there are so few companions; sometimes there will be only one footprint, with here and there a stream of blood, and always as you proceed, it becomes more and more narrow, till it strips a man bare, and sometimes threatens to close upon him and crush him to the earth altogether. Our Lord in as many words tells us all that. Strive, He says, strive every day. For many shall seek to enter into the way of salvation, but because they do not early enough, and long enough, and painfully enough strive, they come short, and are shut out. Have you, then, anything in your religious life that Christ will at last accept as the striving He intended and demanded? Does your religion cause you any real effort — Christ calls it agony? Have you ever had, do you ever have, anything that He would so describe? What cross do you every day take up? In what thing do you every day deny yourself? Name it. Put your finger on it. Write it in cipher on the margin of your Bible. Would the most liberal judgment be able to say of you that you have any fear and trembling in the work of your salvation? If not, I am afraid there must be some mistake somewhere. There must be great guilt somewhere. At your parents’ door, or at your minister’s, or, if their hands are clean, then at your own. Christ has made it plain to a proverb, and John Bunyan has made it a nursery and a schoolboy story, that the way to heaven is steep and narrow and lonely and perilous. And that, remember, not a few of the first miles of the way, but all the way, and even through the dark valley itself.
The Interpreter’s House
Why does the Interpreter light a candle? Psalm 119:33-36.
- Who is depicted in the picture?
- Mark the specific details of the man depicted in the picture.
- How can a man “beget children” or nurse them? Philemon 10; 1Cor. 4:15, Gal. 4:19; 1 Thes. 2:7-12.
- What does it mean that his eyes are lifted up to heaven? Col. 3:1-4. (Kelman, The Road, “The first requisite of the Christian minister or man is that he be looking in the right direction. This not a mere pose, as in some old-fashioned photograph or engraving. . . . Those grow like Christ who see him as He is, and this must be the first task of every minister.” 42)
- What is the best of books, and why is it in his hands? How does this relate to direction of his eyes? Psalms 1, 119. (Kelman, “The Bible is and will be for ever the only thing that will permanently preach. The hunger and weariness of humanity will to the end of time refuse with indignation any other food and rest than this.” (43))
- The law of truth on his lips? Titus 1:9.
- Pleading with men? (Richard Baxter wrote that one should preach as a dying man to dying men). Review the sermons as set forth in the Book of Acts. How did the Apostles plead with men? What did he plead? 2 Cor. 5:20.
- What of the world behind him and the crown of gold? Where is the image of a crown used in the New Testament? See, e.g., 2 Tim. 4:7-8; 1 Peter 5:4 Who in this verse will receive a crown? How does this relate to the overall concept of being a stranger and a pilgrim? Heb. 11:8-16.
- Read Hebrews 13:7; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 5:1-4. What is the nature of the relationship within the church? What are the duties of leaders?
- Compare the details of the man in the picture with the description of the leader’s duty in Hebrews 13:7 & 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
- What does the Interpreter tell Christian he must do with respect to the man in the picture? How is supposed to see that man?
- Compare the details of Christian’s duty with the duty of the congregants in Hebrews 13:17.
- How should you apply this information?
- William Gouge on how to listen to a sermon:
The first is concerning the matter which we hear, “Take heed what ye hear,” Mark iv.24. We must with approbation hear nothing but what we know to be the word of God. We must, therefore, ourselves be well acquainted with the Scriptures, and by them try the things which we hear, whether they be the word of God or no; as the men of Berea did, Acts xvii.11. That which we know to be grounded upon the Scriptures we must receive, “not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God,” 1 Thess. ii.13. We must with reverence attend unto it; we must in our hearts believe, and we must in our lives obey it.
The second caveat is concerning the manner of hearing, “Take heed how ye hear,” Luke viii.18. That which we know to be grounded upon the Scripture we must receive, “not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God,” 1 Thess. ii.13. We must with reverence attend unto it; we must in our hearts believe, and in our lives obey it.
This was rephrased in more modern language by T. David Gordon in Why Johnny Can’t Preach:
If the hearer’s duty in listening to a sermon is to be willing to submit one’s will to God’s will, then one can only do this if the preacher does his duty of demonstrating that what he is saying is God’s will.
When the Westminister Confession refers to the “conscionable hearing” of the Word ,this is what it means– to hear it as an act of conscience, which is bound to obey God. But the conscience is not bound to obey the minister; The minister is only to be obeyed in so far as he demonstrates today hear what God’s will is. Therefore, there is no religious use … in a sermon that merely discloses the minister’s opinion, but does not disclose the opinion of God.
- Spurgeon from his sermon “The Secret Food and the Public Name”:
The man who could very easily be a tradesman or a merchant had better not be a minister. A preacher of the gospel should always be a volunteer, and yet he should always be a pressed man, who serves his King because he is omnipotently constrained to do so. Only he is fit to preach who cannot avoid preaching, who feels that woe is upon him unless he preach the gospel, and that the very stones would cry out against him if he should hold his peace. I have said that Jeremiah lets us into a secret. His outer life, consisting in his perpetual faithful ministry, was to be accounted for by his inward love of the word which he preached. Depend upon it, this secret unriddles all true spiritual life. If ever you see any one who walks in holiness stand fast in temptation, and is upheld under affliction, you may rest assured there is a something about him that is not perceived by every eye; there is a secret which the world knoweth not of, — a hidden fountain, which sustains the stream of his life, — an invisible spring of vitality which keeps him vigorous even in the midst of surrounding death Bunyan’s metaphor was, that he saw a fire which was burning under singular circumstances, for one stood before it who continually threw water upon it to quench it, but though he did so, yet the fire was not put out. Christian could not understand the marvel till the Interpreter took him behind the wall, and there he saw one that cast oil upon the fire as perseveringly as the enemy cast the water, so that the fire being secretly nourished could not be extinguished. Every Christian’s life is of that sort: there is abundance to destroy it, but, if it be sustained, there is a secret something
The Dusty Parlor
- What is the room?
- What is the dust?
- What is the broom?
- Who brought the water?
- What is the water?
- What is the purpose of the law as stated in Romans 3:19-20?
- What is the righteousness of God manifested as noted in Romans 3:21-22.
- What is the effect of the law? Romans 7:7-20
- How are we justified? Romans 3:24-25
- Who is justified? Romans 4:5-8, 5:1.
- What is the result of this justification? Romans 8:1
- Who is Gospel brought? Romans 10:5-13.
- Explain this parable in terms of “real life”.
Passion & Patience
The key to this passage is: “Passion, of the men of this world, and Patience, of the men of that which is to come”. The image of Passion taking all now and having nothing in the world to come and Patience seeking a city whose builder and maker is God underscores the basic theme of the book of being a Pilgrim in this world. The Christian is Patience who may suffer much trial in this life but who seeks a better world. Passion is a picture of the Worldling who seeks nothing more than to have immediate desires satisfied.
A particular application of this passage is as to American Consumer culture: materialism, instate gratification, “Just Do It” thinking. The Christian must be strange to this world. The Christian must be patient. We need to examine our lives and consider how do we actually live. We do we seek our solace: Do we want the world and want it now; or do we seek the world to come?
Relocate your happiness in the future, in a world that doesn’t exist yet except in the promise of God. If you do that, you won’t be devastated when the idols of human pride are trashed, as they will be. In God you can possess both the present and the future.
Ortlund, Raymond C. (2005-10-21). Isaiah: God Saves Sinners (Preaching the Word) (Kindle Locations 751-753). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- What is the initial description of Passion’s temperament?
- What of Patience’s temperament?
- What does Passion do with his treasure?
- How does Passion treat Patience?
- Where is Passion from?
- Where is Patience from?
- Which of the two is a pilgrim?
- What does Passion want?
- What is best to desire?
- The Interpreter provides an explanation as to why Passion acts as he does:
- What things does the Interpreter describe as close to one another (“neighbors”)?
- What things does Interpreter describe as far apart (“strangers”)?
- What sorts of things do you find yourself desiring?
- What do Passion and Patience represent? What happened to Passion? What biblical examples are there of these two characters?
- Why is Passion such a strong influence in our lives?
- When or in what situations or circumstances does Passion give you the must difficulty?
- What can be done to strengthen the Patience aspect of our lives and weaken the Passion ascpet? What has been most helpful to you?
- What reasons did Bunyan give for saying that, “Patience has the best wisdom?”
Additional Bible Study
- What does the concept of “passion(s)” mean?
- Read Mark 7:20-23 & Galatians 5:19-21: Which of the things described could be called “passions” or be related to “passions”?
- Read Luke 15:11-32: What was driving the younger son to act as he did? Reason? Prudence? Love for his family?
- Read 1 Sam. 13:8-14. How do Saul’s actions compare to those of Passion & Patience?
- Are all “passions” sinful? John 2:15-19; Luke 22:15.
- What makes a passion/a strong desire sinful? Think of this in terms of the difference between Passion & Patience. 1 Peter 1:13; Phil. 1:21-23, 3:12-16.
- Where from where do sinful passions come?
- Romans 7:5, 8:5-8.
- James 1:16-17, 4:1-4:
- How do our passions relate to us; how do they function?
- Rom. 6:12-13 & ; 7:23:
- 1 Pet. 2:11:
- 2 Pet. 2:18, 3:13:
- Gal. 5:17:
- What are the effects of leading a life of such “passion”:
- Pr. 1:19l
- Ec. 4:7-8
- 1 Tim. 6:9-10:
- Ps. 10:3:
- Lk.: 16:25:
- Prov. 11:28
- What does a person who has no patience for the things of God look like in “real life”? 2 Tim.4:10 (Demas).
- What treasures are we to seek:
- Col. 3:1-4:
- What is entailed in such seeking?
- What is the effect upon our earthly interests? Col.3:5-8:
- 2 Cor.4:16-18:
- What is the effect of seeking treasure? Matt. 5:20-21
- Where must our treasure be kept?
- What happens to earthly treasure? (What happened to Passion’s treasure?)
- Read 1 John 2:15-17:
- What are we not supposed to do?
- What happens if we love the world?
- What things are in the world?
- What will happen to the things in the world? 2 Cor.4:16-18.
- Do you agree or disagree with this statement: “Nay, not only has selflove the largest place of any of the passions of our hearts, but it is out of self-love that all our other evil passions spring. It is out of this parent passion that all the poisonous brood of our other evil passions are born. The whole fall and ruin and misery of our present human nature lies in this, that in every human being self-love has taken, in addition to its own place, the place of the love of God and of the love of man also. We naturally now love nothing and no one but ourselves. And as long as self love is in the ascendant in our hearts, all the passions that are awakened in us by our self-love will be selfish with its selfishness, inhumane with its inhumanity, and ungodly with its ungodliness. And it is to kill and extirpate our so passionate self-love that is the end and aim of all God’s dealings with us in this world. All that God is doing with us and for us in providence and in grace, in the world and in the church, — it is all to cure us of this deadly disease of self-love. We may never have had that told us before, and we may not like it, and we may not believe it; but there can be no better proof of the truth of what is now said than just this, that we do not like it and will not have it.” (Whyte, vol. 1, pp. 57-58)
- Quotation: Kelman, The Road, “The eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth – on his salary, his ritual, politics, or the faces in the pew . . .” (42)
- If passion is a desire to have the world’s goods now, then what must patience be?
- How are we to relate to the things of this world?
- 1 Tim. 6:17-19:
- James 1:9-10:
- Jer. 9:23-24:
- 1 Tim. 6:6-8:
- What connection is there between contentment with one’s current status and patience?
- Must a Christian be patient? Col.3:12-13; Gal. 5:22-26; Eph. 4:1-3.
- What has a Christian crucified? Gal. 5:24.
- How does one obtain patience? James 1:1-5. Can one have patience without temptation?
- What reason does James give to patient in this passage? James 5:7-11. How was Job patient?
- Patience and the pilgrim: Read Hebrews 11:8-16.
- What did Abraham receive?
- What did Abraham seek?
- For what did Abraham and Sarah seek?
- What did they see?
- What did their sight lead them to conclude about themselves?
- What did they desire?
- What should we desire?
- What we will need, in this life and world, to seek the heavenly country?
- Patience and endurance: Read Hebrews 10:34-39:
- What did they suffer?
- Why did they accept the suffering? Hab. 3:17-18.
- What do they need?
- What will we be tempted to do?
- What must we do?
- Can one be patient without faith in God? Can one have faith without being patient? Can one be anxious and patient? Anxious and faithful?
- Definition of patience:
It is a constant, thankful, joyful enduring, with perseverance to the end of a man’s life, all the trials that are grevious, how great, how long, how hopeless soever as to coming out of them; mortifying [putting to death] and [repressing] the inordinacy [excessiveness, wrongness of] opposite passions, as fear, grief, care, anxiety, which will arise upon such afflictions; with submitting to God’s will, for God’s glory, and his good pleasure’s sake; still blessing and sanctifying God in all, waiting on God, and relieving one’s self by faith in what is to be had in God, and from God, in communion with him, and from his love, in this life; in expectation also of that glory which is the reward after this life ended. 2 Goodwin, Patience and its Perfect Work, 438.
- Based upon the answer to the previous question
- Why are people impatient? What would make one impatient with another person?
- What is like to be a patient or an impatient person?
- Can a person be impatient and hopeful? Patient and anxious?
- What is the relationship between patience and humility? Can one be proud and patient?
- Can one be content and patient?
Use of Passion & Patience
- To teach the basis upon which temptation and sin function is the life of the believer and unbeliever.
- To teach that worldly things are incapable of providing lasting contentment.
- To teach the basis upon which one can avoid temptation by seeking something better.
For the nature of it; it seems to consist in a violent, heady, pertinacious pressing unto evil or sin. Violence, importunity, and pertinacy are in it. It is the tearing and torturing of the soul by any sin to force its consent and to obtain satisfaction. It riseth up in the heart, is denied by the law of grace, and rebuked; — it returns and exerts its poison again; the soul is startled, casts it off; — it returns again with new violence and importunity; the soul cries out for help and deliverance, looks round about to all springs of gospel grace and relief, trembles at the furious assaults of sin, and casts itself into the arms of Christ for deliverance. And if it be not able to take that course, it is foiled and hurried up and down through the mire and filth of foolish imaginations, corrupt and noisome lusts, which rend and tear it, as if they would devour its whole spiritual life and power. [1 Timothy 6:9, 10; 2 Peter 2:14; Isaiah 57:17.]
[Acting on such things is “madness”; God rebukes those who would sin, but] Doth this work the effect? No; they go on frowardly still, as men mad on their covetousness. Nothing can put a stop to their raging lusts. This is plain madness and fury. We need not seek far for instances. We see men mad on their lusts every day; and, which is the worst kind of madness, their lusts do not rage so much in them, as they rage in the pursuit of them. Are those greedy pursuits of things in the world, which we see some men engaged in, though they have other pretences, indeed any thing else but plain madness in the pursuit of their lusts? God, who searcheth the hearts of men, knows that the most of things that are done with other pretences in the world, are nothing but the actings of men mad and furious in the pursuit of their lusts.
Indwelling Sin, Chapter. 7
How will those be laden with curses another day who abuse the judgment of others by sophistry and flattery, `deceiving and being deceived’ (2 Tim. 3:13)? Then the complaint of our first mother Eve will be taken up, but fruitlessly: `The serpent beguiled me’ (Gen. 3:13); Satan has deceived me in such and such; sin has deceived me; a foolish heart has deceived me. It is one of the highest points of wisdom to consider on what grounds we venture our souls. Happy men will they be who have, by Christ’s light, a right judgment of things, and suffer that judgment to prevail over their hearts.
The souls of most men are drowned in their senses, and carried away with weak opinions, raised from vulgar mistakes and shadows of things. And Satan is ready to enlarge the imagination of outward good and outward ill, and make it greater than it is, and spiritual things less, presenting them through false glasses. And so men, trusting in vanity, vanquish themselves in their own apprehensions. A woeful condition, when both we and that which we highly esteem shall vanish together. And this will be, as truly as Christ’s judgment shall come to victory; and in the measure that the vain heart of man has been enlarged to conceive a greater good in the things of this world than there is, by so much the soul shall be enlarged to be more aware of misery when it sees its error. This is the difference between a godly, wise man and a deluded worldling: that which the one now judges to be vain the other shall hereafter feel to be so when it is too late. But this is the vanity of our natures, that though we shun above all things to be deceived and mistaken in present things, yet in the greatest matters of all we are willingly ignorant and misled.
- What did Christian see?
- What does the fire represent? (Kelman: The Road: “Life is a wasting thing, a waning lamp, a dying fire.”).
- Who is throwing water?
- What is the water?
- What does Christian see on the other side of the wall?
- What is meant by having the man with the oil on the other side of the wall?
- What is meant by the oil?
- How does the man behind the wall keep the fire burning?
- What does the parable mean?
The picture illustrates a doctrine know as The Perseverance of the Saints. The doctrine itself and all implications are quite complex. For those who are extremely diligent, I direct you to John Owen’s The Saints Perseverance (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/owen/perseverance.html)
Here are two theological definitions for the doctrine:
Berhkoff: Perseverance is “that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart, is continued and brought to completion.” 546
We are kept “in Christ”, not elsewhere: “That God’s called and sanctified people are preserved and kept in their state of grace and holiness in and by Jesus Christ. The point asserteth two things – that they are kept by Christ and in Christ; that is, not only for his sake, but by virtue and of union with him. Jesus Christ is the cabinet wherein God’s jewels are kept; so that if we would stand, we must get out of ourselves, and get into him, in whom alone there is safety.” 5 Manton 43.
Now compare these theological definitions with the picture in Bunyan’s work. If you can understand the picture, you can understand the doctrines.
The Stately Palace
- What is the stately palace?
- Read Matthew 11:12 and look at the surrounding context. While this verse is extraordinarily difficult to interpret, Bunyan is plainly using this text as well as Luke 16:16 as the basis for the image.
- What is the point of needing to sign up for the work of entering the Palace? Perhaps the title of Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship will help. Luke 14:25-33 & Acts 14:22
- Cheever Lectures:
What mingled encouragement and warning did it convey to Christian’s mind, to prepare him for the many trials before him! It was necessary that the Holy Spirit should show him in some measure what he would have to encounter, should make him feel that if he gained heaven, it must be by a great conflict and a great victory. Mr. Worldly Wiseman had predicted some of the dangers he was to meet with; but Mr. Worldly Wiseman could have no conception of the exceeding weight of glory that was to follow; but here the vision of the glory follows so close upon the sight of the conflict, that the conflict even adds to its charms, and makes it a thousand times the more exciting. Here is the sentence, “Through much tribulation,” but here is also “the kingdom of heaven;” and who so pitiful as not to be willing to undergo the tribulation, to encounter the hazard, to run the gauntlet of these armed men against him, for the glory of that kingdom!
Yea, saith Christian, verily I think I can understand this. But here you will remark how great a multitude stood round the gate of this palace, fearing, yet desiring — desiring, yet fearing, to enter in. And you see that Christian found, while he was there, only one among them of like spirit with himself, only one who would come up and say, Set down my name, sir. Ah, what a multitude there are, who have some faint desires after heaven, and half a mind, a thousand times, to set out in the way thither, but who never do it, who always shrink back! These men around the gate were so many Pliables, who were sure to go back to the City of Destruction; and we would say to those many persons in just their situation, Unless you come to a fixed resolution, unless you step quickly and boldly to the gate, with your heart on fire, and say, Set down nay name, sir, in a tone that shall make Christian rejoice, and the armed men tremble, you are not likely ever to fight your way into this palace, or ever to be walking with those upon its top in glory.
- Read Hebrews 10:32-39 and reflect on this passage helps you to understand the image (and the image to understand the passage).
The Man in the Iron Cage
- Immediately after the pictures of perseverance and taking heaven by storm is the man in the iron cage. This is a difficult one to handle and the subject of much dispute: Does the man in the cage represent a true Christian who has “lost his profession”, or a false professor (one who merely claimed to be Christian) who has hardened his heart?
- William Gouge (Hebrews; 6:4-6 §40): “It is therefore a very vain conceit to think that a man can repent when he will. Satan doth exceedingly beguile men herein. This makes many to lead all their life in sin, upon conceit that at their death they may repent.”
- True repentance is a supernatural work of God, which cannot be performed by a person merely mouthing a few words; even if accompanied by tears and desires: “That repentance is a mighty work, a difficult work, a work that is above our power. There is no power below that power that raised Christ from the dead, and that made the world, that can break the heart of a sinner or turn the heart of a sinner. Thou art as well able to melt adamant, as to melt thine own heart; to turn a flint into flesh, as to turn thine own heart to the Lord; to raise the dead and to make a world, as to repent. Repentance is a flower that grows not in nature’s garden. ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil’ (Jer. 13:23). Repentance is a gift that comes down from above.”‘ Men are not born with repentance in their hearts, as they are born with tongues in their mouths : (Acts 5. 3I) : ‘Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.’ So in 2 Tim. 2. 25: ‘In meekness instructing them that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.’ It is not in the power of any mortal to repent at pleasures” Some ignorant deluded souls vainly conceit that these five words, ‘Lord! have mercy upon me,’ are efficacious to send them to heaven; but as many are undone by buying a counterfeit jewel, so many are in hell by mistake of their repentance. Many rest in their repentance, though it may be but the shadow of repentance, which caused one to say, ‘Repentance damneth more than sin.’” [Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies].
- What do 2 Timothy 2:25, Acts 11:18 and 5:31 teach about repentance?
- How does one come to true repentance? 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5.
- Without seeking to answer the questions about whether the one who falls was ever saved, notice the impossibility designated in Hebrews 6:6.
- What lesson can all Christians learn from this scene?
The Dream of Judgment
- What terrifies this man?
- What is Bunyan’s point with this scene?
- “What do these seven different scenes tell us about Bunyan’s pastoral priorities?”
- What has been the affect upon Christian?
- What was Interpreter’s purpose in this work?