A lecture from February 8, 2015
In Pilgrim’s Progress, Apollyon stops Christian and seeks to turn him aside from the way. One argument which Apollyon presses is the sheer difficulty of seeking to follow after Christ in this world,
Consider again, when thou art in cool blood, what thou art like to meet with in the way that thou goest. Thou knowest that for the most part his servants come to an ill end, because they are transgressors against me and my ways. How many of them have been put to shameful deaths! And besides, thou countest his service better than mine; whereas he never yet came from the place where he is, to deliver any that served him out of their enemies’ hands: but as for me, how many times, as all the world very well knows, have I delivered, either by power or fraud, those that have faithfully served me, from him and his, though taken by them! And so will I deliver thee.
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come. As Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation.” John 16:33.
The Beatitudes which begin the Sermon on the Mount list out poor of spirit, mourning, meekness, hungering and thirsting (after righteousness), showing mercy and making peace, capped with two promises of persecution: first to the first persecuted, then he shifts and says “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
The Church is sent out as lambs among wolves. And, this side of the age to come, there is little promise of respite.However, there is a comfort in all of this.
There are two evils which come from trouble: first there is the trouble itself, second there is the response to the trouble. We can do very little with the first trouble: the world is cursed and a grave stands at the end of every life. For those who seek to follow Christ, there is often an extra measure of trouble. These troubles are largely unavoidable.
But the second trouble comes from how we think about the first.
We have many difficulties which we undertake willingly to bring about a better end. A joint replacement surgery is quite painful (from what is reported), but the end result is worth the pain. Therefore, the pain is not experienced as an unmitigated tragedy, but as a moment to be endured for a better end. We encourage children with school by pointing to the good of an education. Athletes undergo great privation to compete.
This evil which comes from the response to the unavoidable trials of life brings the greatest pain and sorrow. When we look through the first trial to see the end, we can persevere and endure. We are commend to look “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross”. Jesus lived through the cross for the good that would result.
It is hope which makes helps us to endure sorrow. We can afford to mourn, for we shall be comforted. We can afford the cost of showing mercy and making peace, because we shall receive mercy and be brought into God’s family. This will require hope and expectation and patience. But our hope and patience will be well rewarded.
Soon the pilgrims came to the place where Little-Faith was robbed. There stood a man with his sword drawn and his face all bloody, who said to them, “I am a pilgrim. My name is Valiant-for-truth. I was ambushed here by three men, who came out of the bushes there with long knives.
One of them said, “Halt! We have a question to ask you.” I said, “Well, what is it?” He said, “Will you go with us, or turn and go back where you came from, or die on the spot?”
I answered: “I have been a follower of Jesus Christ for many years, and I cannot now turn back. Where I came from is not where the Lord wants me to be. And you should know that one who has been a follower of Christ for many years would never join a band of thieves. As for the dying on the spot, that remains to be seen. If you undertake to make me choose one of your courses, you do it at your peril. I have considerable strength. I love my life and the pilgrim way, and I will not give them up easily. The Lord put me in this way, and I intend to stay with it to the end.”
Then these three, – Wildhead, Inconsiderate, and Pragmatic – came upon me with their knives. I drew my sword and fought them all. We fought for more than three hours, and they have left some of their marks of valor upon me, as you see, and they also carried away some of mine. After they saw they would not take my life immediately, they broke and ran. They must have heard you coming, for they ran just before I saw you.
Greatheart was amazed and said, “But you fought great odds – three against one.”
“Yes,” said Valiant, “but what does a person care when he knows he has the truth on his side? As one has said, “Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear.” I have read in some record that one man has fought an army, and that one Samson slew a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass.
Greatheart asked, “Why did you not cry out for help?”
“So I did—to my King,” said Valiant, “who I knew could hear me, and He provided invisible help which was sufficient.”
“You have certainly behaved very worthily” replied Greatheart, ‘What kind of sword do you have?”
It is a two-edged sword that cuts both ways. A soldier need not fear if he has this and knows how to use it.
Its edge will never blunt, and it will cut flesh and bones, and soul and spirit.
“But you fought a long time; it is a wonder you did not grow weary,” said Greatheart.
“I did,” said Valiant, “but I waited on the Lord and he renewed my strength, and I fought until the blood dripped from my face and fingers. I fought with all my strength and courage.”
Then Greatheart said, “You certainly did well. You have resisted unto blood, striving against sin. You shall abide with us, and be one of us. We will be your true companions.”
Then they took him, washed his wounds, and gave him something to eat; and they all went on together. Mr. Greatheart liked Valiant-for-Truth very much and began to ask him about his past and his hope for the future. He found him true in every respect.
Pilgrim’s Progress, Part 2
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:
The previous post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/pilgrims-progress-study-7-vanity-fair/
Christian and By-Ends
- Why do you think Christian and Hopeful immediately meet By-ends and his friends, after leaving Vanity Fair? How do these people differ from, and how are they the same as the people of Vanity Fair?
- Why is Mr. By-ends rich?
- When is By-ends willing to be religious? (Btw, for Bunyan “religion” has no bad overtones. He simply means being a Christian.)
The previous post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/pilgrims-progress-study-guide-six-the-valley-of-the-shadow-of-death/
Christian at Vanity Fair
The Meeting With Evangelist
- After they greet one-another, what do the three discuss?
- Evangelist’s conversation is filled with many allusions and references to Scripture:
- What does he mean, run to obtain the incorruptible crown? 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. How do we, as a matter of practice, maintain a conscious awareness that we are running a race and seeking a reward at the end?
- What is the reference to “hold fast to what you have?” Revelation 3:7-13.
- What is “resisted unto blood”? Hebrews 12:4.
- The heart is deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9
- Face like flint. Luke 9:51
The prior post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/pilgrims-progress-study-guide-5/
Christian in the Valley of the Shadow of Death:
- Why does Christian go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death?
- This letter from Samuel Rutherford helps us understand this passage:
WELL-BELOVED AND DEAR SISTER IN CHRIST,—I could not get an answer written to your letter till now, in respect of my wife’s disease; and she is yet mightily pained. I hope that all shall end in God’s mercy. I know that an afflicted life looks very like the way that leads to the kingdom; for the Apostle hath drawn the line and the King’s market-way, “through much tribulation, to the kingdom” (Acts 14:22; 1 Thess. 3:4). The Lord grant us the whole armour of God.
….all God’s plants, set by His own hand, thrive well; and if the work be of God, He can make a stepping-stone of the devil himself for setting forward the work.
For yourself, I would advise you to ask of God a submissive heart. Your reward shall be with the Lord, although the people be not gathered (as the prophet speaks); and suppose the word do not prosper, God shall account you “a repairer of the breaches.”
And take Christ caution, ye shall not lose your reward. Hold your grip fast. If ye knew the mind of the glorified in heaven, they think heaven come to their hand at an easy market, when they have got it for threescore or fourscore years wrestling with God. When ye are come thither, ye shall think, “All I did, in respect of my rich reward, now enjoyed of free grace, was too little.” Now then, for the love of the Prince of your salvation, who is standing at the end of your way, holding up in His hand the prize and the garland to the race-runners, Forward, forward; faint not.
Take as many to heaven with you as ye are able to draw. The more ye draw with you, ye shall be the welcomer yourself. Be no niggard or sparing churl of the grace of God; and employ all your endeavours for establishing an honest ministry in your town, now when ye have so few to speak a good word for you. I have many a grieved heart daily in my calling. I would be undone, if I had not access to the King’s chamber of presence, to show Him all the business.
The devil rages, and is mad to see the water drawn from his own mill; but would to God we could be the Lord’s instruments to build the Son of God’s house….
Samuel Rutherford and Andrew A. Bonar, Letters of Samuel Rutherford: With a Sketch of His Life and Biographical Notices of His Correspondents (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1891), 50–51.
Commenting on Malachi 3:16-17, particularly the clause, “Then they that feared the LORD spake often to on another”, Thomas Watson wrote:
The profaneness of the times should not slacked but heighten our zeal. The looser others are, the stricter we should be….The more outrageous others are in sin, the more courageous we shoud be for truth. (The Great Gain of Godliness)
But why should we be so? Watson gives two reasons:
1. Because of the divine injunction….AS God’s Word is our rule, so his will is our warrant.
To be holiest in evil times is an indication of the truth of grace.
It is easy for the rich and happy to believe that they have divine approval. What better assurance could they have than the pleasure and power in which they stand? In these secure ones the nation felt itself not only prosperous but divinely favored. Since they are conscious of representing the country, interference with them and their pursuits would be interfering with the country’s welfare. To disturb their order is to disturb the social order. To criticize their religion is to prove oneself a heretic and a blasphemer. God is on the side of those in power (they think), and so to the security of financial and political position the leading people of Amos’ day added the comforting conviction that they were Jehovah’s chosen people—chosen to be thus superior and secure.
Amos, Prophet of a New Order, Lindsay B. Longacre, 1921. This sort of “belief” is precisely that held by Mr. By-Ends in Pilgrim’s Progress:
This town of Fair-speech, said Christian, I have heard of; and, as I remember, they say it’s a wealthy place.
By-ends. Yes, I will assure you that it is, and I have very many rich kindred there.
Chr. Pray, who are your kindred there, if a man may be so bold?
By-ends. Almost the whole town; but, in particular, my Lord Turn-about, my Lord Time-server, my Lord Fair-speech (from whose ancestors that town first took its name): also Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Facing-both-ways, Mr. Any-thing; and the parson of our parish, Mr. Two-tongues, was my mother’s own brother, by father’s side; and to tell you the truth, I am become a gentleman of good quality; yet my great-grandfather was but a waterman, looking one way, and rowing another; and I got most of my estate by the same occupation.
Now such people are plainly not true pilgrims nor true believers. They hold only a pretense as long as it seems to serve their end. They could no not know what to do when Amos appeared:
Amos 6:4–7 (ESV)
4 “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory
and stretch themselves out on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock
and calves from the midst of the stall,
5 who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp
and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
6 who drink wine in bowls
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
7 Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile,
and the revelry of those who stretch themselves out shall pass away.”