Pilgrim’s Progress, Study Guide 9:
Christian at Doubting Castle
￼I saw then that they went on their way to a pleasant river, which David the king called “the river of God” (Psa. 65: 9.); but John “the river of the water of life.” (Rev. 22: 1, 2. Ezekiel 47.)
Now, their way lay just upon the bank of this river; here, therefore, Christian and his companion walked with great delight; they drank also of the water of the river, which was pleasant and enlivening to their weary spirits: besides, on the banks of this river, on either side, were green trees, with all manner of fruit; and the leaves they eat to prevent surfeits, and other diseases that are incident to those that heat their blood by travel.
On either side of the river was also a meadow, curiously beautified with lilies, and it was green all the year long. In this meadow they lay down and slept; for here they might lie down safely. (Psalm 23 Isa. 35: 8.) When they awoke, they gathered again of the fruit of the trees, and drank again of the water of the river, and then lay down again to sleep. Thus they did several days and nights. Then they sang,
Behold ye how these crystal streams do glide,
To comfort pilgrims, by the highway side!
The meadows green, besides their fragrant smell,
Yield dainties for them! and he who can tell
What pleasant fruit, yea, leaves, these trees do yield,
Will soon sell all, that he may buy this field.
So, when they were disposed to go on, (for they were not as yet at their journey’s end,) they ate and drank, and departed.
- Consider the river:
- Notice that this river comes after the trial of Vanity Fair, and the temptation of By-Ends/Demas? First, the fear of pain tried to stop their pilgrimmage. Second, Then the pleasures of this world tried to draw them aside from pilgrimmage. Why does the river come after the trial & temptation?
- What does the river present?
- Psalm 65:
Psalm 65:9–13 (ESV)
9 You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
Dickson writes of this passage:
Albeit temporal benefits be inferior to spiritual, yet because unto God’s children they be appendices of the spiritual, they are worthy to be taken notice of, and God should be praised for them; as here the psalmist showeth, praising God for spiritual blessings, in the beginning of the psalm, and here, in the end, for temporal benefits.
David Dickson, A Brief Explication of the Psalms, vol. 1 (Glasgow; Edinburgh; London: John Dow; Waugh and Innes; R. Ogle; James Darling; Richard Baynes, 1834), 384–385.
“Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it.” God’s visits leave a blessing behind; this is more than can he said of every visitor. When the Lord goes on visitations of mercy, he has abundance of necessary things for all his needy creatures. He is represented here as going round the earth, as a gardener surveys his garden, and as giving water to every plant that requires it, and that not in small quantities, but until the earth is drenched and soaked with a rich supply of refreshment.
O Lord, in this manner visit thy church, and my poor, parched, and withering piety. Make thy grace to overflow towards my graces; water me, for no plant of thy garden needs it more.
- H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 56-87, vol. 3 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 93.
- The River of Life
Revelation 22:1–5 (ESV)
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
- Was it any sin that they slept by this river?
- Was there any wrong in gathering the fruit?
- What lessons can we draw for our life from this scene?
- Consider how we often tell people to respond to temptation. How does this differ from the scene presented here? How can we experience such refreshment and blessing — some of age to come even now?
By Path Meadow
Now I beheld in my dream, that they had not journeyed far, but the river and the way for a time parted; at which they were not a little sorry, yet they durst not go out of the way.
Now, the way from the river was rough, and their feet tender by reason of their travel: so the souls of the pilgrims were much discouraged because of the way (Num. 21: 4.); wherefore, still as they went on they wished for a better way.
Now, a little before them, there was, on the left hand of the road, a meadow and a stile to go over into it, and that meadow is called By-path Meadow.
Then said Christian to his fellow, If this meadow lieth along by our way side, let’s go over into it Then he went to the stile to see, and behold a path lay along by the way on the other side of the fence. ‘Tis according to my wish, said Christian; here is the easiest going. Come, good Hopeful, and let us go over.
Hope. But how if this path should lead us out of the way?
That’s not likely, said the other. Look, doth it not go along by the way- side? So Hopeful, being persuaded by his fellow, went after him over the stile. When they were gone over, and were got into the path, they found it very easy for their feet; and withal they, looking before them, espied a man walking as they did, and his name was Vain-confidence; so they called after him, and asked him, Whither that way led? He said, To the Celestial Gate. Look, said Christian, did not I tell you so? By this you may see we are right.
- What happened that started the pair to feel uncomfortable? What does the parting of the river and the way mean?
- What did they experience as they proceeded in their way?
- What did they want? What does it mean they wanted a “better way”? Better for what purpose? Coment on these lines from a popular Christian song:
When the sun is shing down on me
When the world’s all as it should be
Blessed be the name of the Lord.
- A stile is series of steps in a wall which permits a human being to pass over a wall, but keeps sheep inside. How should we think of this stile? What is it if it works to bring pilgrims out of the way?
The stile on the left hand came like a set temptation, so opportune was it in its answer to their desire. Yet it was not quite an open gap. It was easy to cross the stile, and yet there was the stile to cross — some conscientious scruples to be overcome, some need for effort to persuade oneself to the defiance or the ignoring of the plain sense of duty. This, however, is beside the point. The interesting fact is the coincidence of the stile and the mood, of temptation within and opportunity without. There is little need for explaining this by the malice of the powers of darkness. The fact is that the whole length of the road is furnished with opportunities of escape from it, but we become aware of these and find them to be temptations, only when desire for escape is already at work within our hearts. No man who is quarrelling with the road will travel long before he finds himself at a stile of this sort. This is well worth remembering. Temptations often assume the guise of special providences, which make the step aside appear almost a predestined arrangement. And the soul is peculiarly ready to deceive itself by talcing such psychological moments as providential, and justifying its errant course by a daring attempt so to read the signs as to force God on to the side of temptation.
BY-PATH MEADOW, AND STILE
- What is the name of the meadow?
- What does Christian say about the path?
- How does Hopeful respond?
- What evidence does Christian use to support his claim that the way is safe for travel?
- What do they at first experience when they begin their travel?
- What do they see after they begin to travel?
- How do we first experience temptations? When do we begin to experience difficulty?
Proverbs 5:3–6 (ESV)
3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil,
4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps follow the path to Sheol;
6 she does not ponder the path of life;
her ways wander, and she does not know it.
Device (1). To present the bait and hide the hook; to present the golden cup, and hide the poison; to present the sweet, the pleasure, and the profit that may flow in upon the soul by yielding to sin, and by hiding from the soul the wrath and misery that will certainly follow the committing of sin. By this device he took our first parents: Gen. 3:4, 5, ‘And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened; and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.’ Your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods! Here is the bait, the sweet, the pleasure, the profit. Oh, but he hides the hook,—the shame, the wrath, and the loss that would certainly follow!2
There is an opening of the eyes of the mind to contemplation and joy, and there is an opening of the eyes of the body to shame and confusion. He promiseth them the former, but intends the latter, and so cheats them—giving them an apple in exchange for a paradise, as he deals by thousands now-a-days. Satan with ease puts fallacies upon us by his golden baits, and then he leads us and leaves us in a fool’s paradise. He promises the soul honour, pleasure, profit, &c., but pays the soul with the greatest contempt, shame, and loss that can be. By a golden bait he laboured to catch Christ, Mat. 4:8, 9. He shews him the beauty and the bravery of a bewitching world, which doubtless would have taken many a carnal heart; but here the devil’s fire fell upon wet tinder, and therefore took not. These tempting objects did not at all win upon his affections, nor dazzle his eyes, though many have eternally died of the wound of the eye, and fallen for ever by this vile strumpet the world, who, by laying forth her two fair breasts of profit and pleasure, hath wounded their souls, and cast them down into utter perdition. She hath, by the glistering of her pomp and preferment, slain millions; as the serpent Scytale,1 which, when she cannot overtake the fleeing passengers, doth, with her beautiful colours, astonish and amaze them, so that they have no power to pass away till she have stung them to death. Adversity hath slain her thousand, but prosperity her ten thousands.
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 12–13.
- Compare the two offers: the River of God & By-Path Meadow.
- Whom did they trust? What evidence did he give?
1 John 4:1–3 (ESV)
4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
- As you think of this scene compare the first temptation of Jesus. There was no sin per se in making bread to eat. Jesus will make bread out of bread for thousands. What then was a great sin hidden in the temptation?
So they followed, and he went before them. But, behold, the night came on, and it grew very dark; so they that were behind lost sight of him that went before.
He therefore, that went before (Vain-confidence by name), not seeing the way before him, fell into a deep pit, which was on purpose there made, by the prince of those grounds, to catch vain-glorious fools withal, and was dashed in pieces with his fall.
Now Christian and his fellow heard him fall. So they called to know the matter, but there was none to answer; only they heard a groaning. Then said Hopeful, Where are we now?
Then was his fellow silent, as mistrusting [Giant Despair’s wife is named Diffidence, which means suspicion or mistrust] that he had led him out of the way. And now it began to rain, and thunder, and lighten in a most dreadful manner, and the water rose amain.
Then Hopeful groaned within himself, saying, O! that I had kept on my way.
Chr. Who could have thought that this path should have led us out of the way?
Hope. I was afraid on’t at the very first, and therefore gave you that gentle caution. I would have spoken plainer, but that you are older than I.
Chr. Good brother, be not offended: I am sorry I have brought thee out of the way, and that I have put thee into such imminent danger. Pray, my brother, forgive me; I did not do it of an evil intent.
Hope. Be comforted, my brother, for I forgive thee; and believe too that this shall be for our good.
Chr. I am glad I have with me a merciful brother: but we must not stand here; let us try to go back again.
Hope. But, good brother, let me go before.
Chr. No, if you please, let me go first, that if there be any danger, I may be first therein; because by my means we are both gone out of the way.
No, said Hopeful, you shall not go first; for your mind being troubled may lead you out of the way again.
Then, for their encouragement, they heard the voice of one saying, “Let thine heart be towards the highway; even the way that thou wentest, turn again.” (Jer. 31:21.) But by this time the waters were greatly risen; by reason of which the way of going back was very dangerous. Then I thought that it is easier going out of the way when we are in, than going in when we are out. Yet they adventured to go back; but it was so dark, and the flood was so high, that in their going back, they had like to have been drowned nine or ten times.
- What is the first trouble which they faced?
- How did God spare them worse trouble? What happened to Vain-confidence? Why? Who laid the trap?
- As they troubles worsen, what does Hopeful do and say?
Proverbs 5:7–14 (ESV)
7 And now, O sons, listen to me,
and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
8 Keep your way far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house,
9 lest you give your honor to others
and your years to the merciless,
10 lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,
11 and at the end of your life you groan,
when your flesh and body are consumed,
12 and you say, “How I hated discipline,
and my heart despised reproof!
13 I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
or incline my ear to my instructors.
14 I am at the brink of utter ruin
in the assembled congregation.”
Proverbs 1:20–33 (ESV)
20 Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
23 If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
25 because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
27 when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
32 For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”
- What do we see illustrated by the back-and-forth between Christian and Hopeful? What manner of thought makes their situation worse?
- Why can’t they just return to the highway straight-off? Kelman writes:
They had forgotten all about the stile when it could easily have been found, and now they cannot get back to it. Mind and conscience both have been deranged by disobedience, and neither of them can get into the position where they will feel the old conscience scruples that were so lightly overcome. Their one thought is of danger, and after a few blind and futile plunges for the road, they settle down, sick with reaction and disgust, wearied out with transgression and peril, and fall asleep. One cannot but feel that strenuousness would even yet have brought deliverance. Stile or no stile, floods or no floods, why did they not force their way back to the road? Easy words to say, but the soul that has wandered knows but too well how that wandering has impaired the very power of returning to duty: and that is the last farthing of the full payment that an exacting Nemesis wrings out from the sinner.
O pilgrim, it is hard getting back again to the right road. Every believer knows how wise John Bunyan was when he depicted Christian as bemoaning himself bitterly when he had to go back to the arbour where he had slept and lost his roll. He had to do a triple journey; first to go on, and then to go back, and then to go on again. The back step is weary marching. Remember, also, Bypath Meadow, and Doubting Castle, and Giant Despair. ’Twas an ill day when the pilgrims left the narrow way. No gain, but untold loss, comes of forsaking the way of holiness and fellowship. What is there in such a prospect to attract you from the happy way of communion with Christ? Perhaps, the last time you wandered, you fell into sin, or you met with a grief which overwhelmed you: ought not these mishaps to teach you? Having been already burned, will you not dread the fire? Having aforetime been assaulted when in forbidden paths, will you not now keep to the King’s highway, wherein no lion or any other ravenous beast shall be found?
- H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, “Gadding About”, vol. 52, no. 3007 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1906), 477.
2 Samuel 12:7–15 (ESV)
7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’ ” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.” 15 Then Nathan went to his house. And the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick.
- Did God leave Christian and Hopeful utterly without hope?
Captured Giant Despair
Neither could they, with all the skill they had, get again to the stile that night. Wherefore, at last, lighting under a little shelter, they sat down there till the day brake; but, being weary, they fell asleep.
Now there was not far from the place where they lay, a castle, called Doubting Castle, and the owner whereof was Giant Despair, and it was in his grounds they now were sleeping; wherefore he getting up in the morning early, and walking up and down in his fields, caught Christian and Hopeful asleep in his grounds.
Then, with a grim and a surly voice, he bid them awake, and asked them whence they were, and what they did in his grounds? They told him they were pilgrims, and that they had lost their way.
Then said the Giant, you have this night trespassed on me, by trampling in and lying on my grounds, and therefore you must go along with me. So they were forced to go, because he was stronger than they. They also had but little to say, for they knew themselves in a fault.
The Giant therefore drove them before him, and put them into his Castle, in a very dark dungeon, nasty and stinking to the spirits of these two men. Here then they lay, from Wednesday morning till Saturday night, without one bit of bread, or drop of drink, or light, or any to ask how they did. They were therefore here in evil case, and were far from friends and acquaintance. Now, in this place, Christian had double sorrow, because ‘twas through his unadvised counsel that they were brought into this distress.
- What did they finally do?
- Where did they fall asleep? Spurgeon:
Master John Bunyan, whom I cannot help quoting, tells us the result of Christian and Hopeful going over the stile into By-Path Meadow. They thought it would be much smoother walking just on the other side of the fence, and Christian tried to assure his companion that the path ran along by the way-side. No doubt they thought that they could keep so close to the King’s highway that they would see, in a minute, when the path began to turn away from the right road, and then they would just jump over the fence, and get into the right way again. They felt sure it would be all right; at least, Christian did, for Hopeful was doubtful all the while, though he gave way to his older companion. But when Giant Despair found them sleeping in his grounds, and drove them off into his dungeon, and came, the next morning, with a great crab- tree cudgel, and gave them, not a mouthful of bread, nor a drink of water, but plenty of crab- tree; and when, the day after, he counselled them to destroy themselves, and left them lying, day after day, pining in their filthy prison,—then they understood that smooth walking is not always safe walking, and that it is best to walk in the right road even though it may be a rough one. Let us be careful where we walk, for we may lose our comfort very speedily unless we keep strictly to the path of obedience. Let us, at all times, with a cheerful and willing spirit, wear our Master’s yoke, for his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.
- H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, God’s Time for Comforting , vol. 53, no. 3027 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1907), 91–92.
- What does Giant Despair ask of them?
- If they are pilgrims, then how did they end up on the Giant’s grounds? Does he field cross the highway to the City?
- Why did they go with the giant? 6. What happened to them in the dungeon? 7. What made the place especially evil for Christian? 8. What does it feel like to be depressed?
- What was it that lead to Christian and Hopeful to Giant Despair? Cheever:
It is easy for fallen beings to get into Doubting Castle. Conviction of sin, unaccompanied by a sense of the mercy of Christ, will take any man there at once; and the last possession and abode of the soul hardened in sin and abandoned of God must be DESPAIR. There are many ways in which even a Christian may come there. Some men enter by unbelief; and whatever state of mind or habit of sin shuts out the Saviour, is sure to bring a man there at once. Some men enter by pride and self-righteousness. If a man trust in his own merits, instead of the blood and righteousness of Christ, for justification, he may seem for a time to be at large; but when he comes to know his own state, the bars of the prison will be round about him, and Giant Despair will be his keeper.
Some men enter this castle by habits of self-indulgence; some by particular cherished sins; some by dallying with temptations; some by sudden falling into deep sins; some by neglect of watchfulness and prayer; some by a gradual, creeping coldness and stupor in the things of religion, the dangerous spirit of slumber not being guarded against and resisted. Some men get into this prison by natural gloom and despondency of mind, of which Satan takes an advantage; others by brooding over the threatenings, and neglecting the promises; others by going to penances and duties for the relief of conscience, and not to Christ. Neglect of duty takes most men to prison; but duties themselves may bring us there, if we trust in duties for acceptance, and not in Christ. Neglect of God’s word will take men to this prison, and leaning to one’s own understanding. Distorted views of Divine truth, speculative error, and the habit of speculation rather than of faith and life in Divine things, may shut up the soul in darkness. Some get into this prison by spiritual sins, others by sensual; some by the lusts of the flesh, some by the lust of the eyes, some by the pride of life; some by conformity to the world, and obedience to fashion; some by the pressure of business, others by the cares of life and the deceitfulness of riches; they that will be rich are always on the way to this castle, if not in it.
Threats and Escape:
Now Giant Despair had a wife, and her name was Diffidence [One who does not trust; Suspicion]. So, when he was gone to bed, he told his wife what he had done, to wit, that he had taken a couple of prisoners, and cast them into his dungeon, for trespassing on his grounds. Then he asked her also, What he had best to do further with them?
So she asked him, What they were, whence they came, and whither they were bound? and he told her. Then she counselled him, that, when he arose in the morning, he should beat them without mercy.
So, when he arose, he getteth him a grievous crab-tree cudgel, and goes down into the dungeon to them, and there first falls to rating of them, as if they were dogs, although they never gave him a word of distaste; then he fell upon them, and beat them fearfully, in such sort that they were not able to help themselves, or to turn them upon the floor. This done, he withdraws, and leaves them there to condole their misery, and to mourn under their distress; so all that day they spent their time in nothing but sighs and bitter lamentations.
The next night she talking with her husband further about them, and, understanding that they were yet alive, did advise him to counsel them to make away with themselves; so, when morning was come, he goes to them in a-surly manner as before, and perceiving them to be very sore with the stripes that he had given them the day before, he told them, that since they were never like to come out of that place, their only way would be forthwith to make an end of themselves, either with knife, halter, or poison: for why, said he, should you choose to live, seeing it is attended with so much bitterness?
But they desired him to let them go. With that he looked ugly upon them, and, rushing to them, had doubtless made an end of them himself, but that he fell into one of his fits (for he sometimes, in sun- shiny weather, fell into fits,) and lost for a time the use of his hands; wherefore he withdrew, and left them, as before, to consider what to do.
[Discussion of Suicide]
Then did the prisoners consult between themselves, whether it was best to take his counsel or no; and thus they began to discourse:
Brother, said Christian, what shall we do? The life that we now live is miserable! For my part, I know not whether is best, to live thus, or to die out of hand. “My soul chooseth strangling rather than life;” (Job. 7:15.) and the grave is more easy for me than this dungeon! Shall we be ruled by the Giant?
Hope. Indeed our present condition is dreadful, and death would be far more welcome to me, than thus for ever to abide.
1] But yet let us consider, the Lord of the country to which we are going hath said, “Thou shalt do no murder:” no, not to another man’s person: much more, then, are we forbidden to take his counsel to kill ourselves. Besides, he that kills another can but commit murder upon his body; but for one to kill himself, is to kill body and soul at once.
2] And, moreover, my brother, thou talkest of ease in the grave; but hast thou forgotten the hell whither for certain the murderers go? for “no murderer hath eternal life,” &c.
3] And let us consider again, that all the law is not in the hand of Giant Despair; others, so far as I can understand, have been taken by him as well as we, and yet have escaped out of his hands. Who knows but that God, who made the world, may cause that Giant Despair may die; or that, at some time or other, he may forget to lock us in; or but he may, in a short time, have another of his fits before us, and may lose the use of his limbs?
4] and if ever that should come to pass again, for my part, I am resolved to pluck up the heart of a man, and to try my utmost to get from under his hand.
5]I was a fool that I did not try to do it before; but, however, my brother, let’s be patient, and endure a while; the time may come that may give us a happy release; but let us not be our own murderers.
With these words Hopeful at present did moderate the mind of his brother; so they continued together, in the dark, that day, in their sad and doleful condition.
Well, towards evening, the Giant goes down into the dungeon again, to see if his prisoners had taken his counsel; but when he came there, he found them alive; and, truly, alive was all; for now, what for want of bread and water, and by reason of the wounds they received when he beat them, they could do little but breathe. But, I say, he found them alive: at which he fell into a grievous rage, and told them that, seeing they had disobeyed his counsel, it should be worse for them than if they had never been born.
At this they trembled greatly, and I think that Christian fell into a swoon; but, coming a little to himself again, they renewed their discourse about the Giant’s counsel, and whether yet they had best take it or no. Now Christian again seemed for doing it; but Hopeful made his second reply as followeth:
My brother, said he, rememberest thou not how valiant thou hast been heretofore? Apollyon could not crush thee; nor could all that thou didst hear, or see, or feel, in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. What hardship, terror, and amazement, hast thou already gone through! and art thou now nothing but fears? Thou seest that I am in the dungeon with thee, a far weaker man by nature than thou art; also this Giant hath wounded me as well as thee, and hath also cut off the bread and water from my mouth, and with thee I mourn without the light. But let us exercise a little more patience. Remember how thou playedst the man at Vanity-fair, and wast neither afraid of the chain nor cage, nor yet of bloody death. Wherefore let us (at least to avoid the shame that becomes not a Christian to be found in) bear up with patience as well as we can.
Now, night being come again, and the Giant and his wife being in bed, she asked him concerning the prisoners, and if they had taken his counsel? To which he replied, they are sturdy rogues; they choose rather to bear all hardships than to make away with themselves. Then said she, Take them into the Castle-yard to-morrow, and show them the bones and skulls of those that thou hast already despatched; and make them believe, ere a week comes to an end, thou wilt tear them in pieces, as thou hast done their fellows before them.
So, when the morning was come, the Giant goes to them again, and takes them into the Castle-yard and shows them as his wife had bidden him. These, said he, were pilgrims as you are once; and they trespassed on my grounds as you have done; and when I thought fit, I tore them in pieces: and so within ten days I will do you. Go, get you down to your den again! and with that he beat them all the way thither. They lay, therefore, all day on Saturday, in lamentable ease, as before. Now, when night was come, and when Mrs. Diffidence and her husband the Giant were got to bed, they began to renew their discourse of their prisoners; and withal the old Giant wondered that he could neither by his blows nor counsel bring them to an end.
And with that his wife replied, I fear, said she, that they live in hopes that some will come to relieve them; or that they have pick-locks about them, by the means of which they hope to escape. And sayest thou so, my dear, said the Giant; I will therefore search them in the morning.
Well, on Saturday, about midnight, they began to pray, and continued in prayer till almost break of day.
Now, a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out into this passionate speech: What a fool, quoth he, am I, to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty! I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, f140 that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting-castle. Then said Hopeful, That’s good news: good brother, pluck it out of thy bosom, and try.
Then Christian pulled it out of his bosom, and began to try at the dungeon-door, whose bolt, as he turned the key, gave back, and the door flew open with ease, and Christian and Hopeful both came out. Then he went to the outward door, that leads into the Castle-yard, and with his key opened that door also. After that he went to the iron gate, for that must be opened too; but that lock went damnable hard, yet the key did open it. Then they thrust open the gate to make their escape with speed; but that gate, as it opened, made such a creaking, that it waked Giant Despair, who hastily rising to pursue his prisoners, felt his limbs to fail; for his fits took him again, so that he could by no means go after them. Then they went on, and came to the King’s highway, and so were safe, because they were out of his jurisdiction.
Now, when they were gone over the stile, they began to contrive with themselves what they should do at that stile, to prevent those that should come after from falling into the hands of Giant Despair. So they consented to erect there a pillar, and to engrave upon the side thereof this sentence: “Over this stile is the way to Doubting-castle, which is kept by Giant Despair, who despiseth the King of the Celestial Country, and seeks to destroy his holy pilgrims.” Many, therefore, that followed after read what was written, and escaped the danger. This done, they sang as follows:
Out of the way we went, and then we found, What ‘twas to tread upon forbidden ground; And let them that come after have a care, Lest heedlessness makes them as we to fare; Lest they, for trespassing, his prisoners are, Whose castle’s Doubting, and whose name’s Despair.
- Why is Despair married to Suspicion?
- What does the Giant seek from the captives at this point? Cheever notes:
Christian never dreamed of destroying himself when he was fighting with Apollyon, in passing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death: but a sense of sin, and of God’s wrath on account of it, quite unmans the soul; none can stand against God’s terrors. A thousand fiends may easier be met with, than the remembrance of one sin. Besides, in the conflict with Apollyon, and the passage of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Christian was in the course of his duty; both these dangers lay directly in the path to the Celestial City, so that, though hard beset, and pressed out of measure, Christian was not despairing, for he knew he met those evils in the right way; but here he was out of the way. Giant Despair’s Castle could not even be seen from the King’s highway; it was so far off that he wandered a long distance before he came in sight of it, and here the Pilgrims were far from the road, they knew not how far. They were in such desperation, that for a long time they could do nothing but brood over their gloomy thoughts, and they hardly dared to pray.
- Why does the Giant have a wife named Suspicion? Kelman explains:
Her name is Diffidence, and the word had a stronger meaning in Bunyan’s time than in ours. It meant suspicion or mistrust, words which remind us that in Puritan theology doubt was regarded always in connection with sin, and indeed as in itself sinful. Here then we discover the active and voluntary element in doubt, the will not to believe, the spirit which loveth and maketh a he.
- This section of the book seems very long for the amount of story in it. Bunyan provides far more detail about Doubting Castle then about many other things. Why do you think this is so?
- What were the five reasons Hopeful gave for not committing suicide? How was Hopeful prepared for this work?
- What act of ministry would we call the work of Hopeful in this place? How is he treating Christian? 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
- What is it that the Giant principally seeks to do to the pilgrims? What is it that keep them going? (Look at the question of the Giant’s wife).
- What do they begin to do?
The main art in the manner of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, you have to preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul, “Why art thou cast down?” — what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: “Hope thou in God” — instead of muttering in this depressed unhappy way. And you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man:
“I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, “General Consideration” 9. What do they remember which leads to their escape?
- Why are there three gates through which to escape? Why is the last gate so difficult to open? What does Bunyan mean to say about depression?
- Which character from the Interpreter’s House did Christian resemble?
- What do Christian and Hopeful do after they leave the Giant’s territory?