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The Road to Vanity & Vanity Fair

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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January 20, 2022 12:01 am

The Road to Vanity & Vanity Fair

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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January 20, 2022 12:01 am

Though we do not know what the road ahead of us may hold, God's people can be confident that He knows their needs. Today, Derek Thomas shows how The Pilgrim's Progress provides a realistic and deeply encouraging picture of the Christian life.

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Sometimes, the preposition the New Testament uses is the preposition into. We believe into Christ. And this is the fundamental thing that happens to us when we're born again, when we're converted to Christ. Our faith unites us to Him. The Spirit unites us to Him. And in that way, we are bound together. And underneath all that is the fact that in everything Jesus did, He was representing us.

And because He was representing us, everything He has done is really ours. None of these things are what we work up in ourselves. All of these things we draw down from our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is everything and He fills our nothingness. Tune in with Christ, a teaching series with Sinclair Ferguson.

Visit slash Teaching Series to learn more. Next on Renewing Your Mind. They come to the cave where Christian met with a giant. The giant accuses a great heart of being a kidnapper of women and children. And now there's a fight.

It's a sword fight. The Pilgrim's Progress is a classic. It tells the story of the Christian life, complete with joys, sorrows, trials, battles, and temptations, just like you and I face. It's an allegory, and its brilliance lies in how it points us to the trustworthiness and loving kindness of our sovereign God. Our teacher is Dr. Derek Thomas.

Well welcome back. This is lecture number 16, and the fourth one in the second book, part two of Pilgrim's Progress, the story of Christiana and the four boys. And we left Christiana and her friend Mercy and the four boys in the Porter's Lodge, where another woman, Prudence, began to catechize one of the boys. What we didn't get time to do last lecture was that Mercy is introduced to a man, actually pursued by a man, called Mr. Brisk.

She is always working. He thinks she would make a great wife for him. But Mercy thinks Mr. Brisk pretends to religion, but doesn't know anything of its power. And then she says, I will look no more on him, for I purpose never to have a clog in my soul. It's a lesson about courtship and marriage, 17th century style. And Mercy is determined not to marry at all, rather than to marry badly. And then, somewhat unexpectedly, we learn that her sister, Bountiful, had in fact married badly. Her husband had turned her out of his doors and then cried her down at the cross. Now, this was a 17th century allusion to taking your wife to the town cross and effectively divorcing her. Technically divorce wasn't legal in the 17th century, but obviously Mercy's sister, Bountiful, had married badly.

But then there's a sting in the tail, because this man who divorces Mercy's sister is said to have been a professing believer. Now, Samuel, one of the boys, becomes ill. What has happened right at the very beginning of the tale, just after they had crossed through the wicked gate, they're going along the lane, and Samuel spies branches of an apple tree coming across the path and he picks these apples. Now, the apples belong outside of the path, and therefore in the allegory he shouldn't be eating these apples. And now, having picked these apples, he started eating them and he's become very ill. And he's given some potion.

We read, and Bunyan is having a little bit of fun here. This is Beelzebub's food, and Samuel must purge and vomit through the help of a position called skill. And in the 17th century, physicians were prone to write their scripts in Latin. So, the potion that Samuel is given is carne et sanguine Christi.

Bunyan telling you that he knew a little bit of Latin. It's from the flesh and blood of Christ. And then there are tears of repentance from Samuel, and she orders twelve boxes of these potions, because she realizes with four boys she is likely to have more trouble ahead, and indeed she does. Now, Christiana and Mercy and the boys spend about a month here in the porter's lodge. And then it's Matthew, having been cured of this sickness, suggests that they now request that Mr. Great Heart come back and join them.

He had gone back because they hadn't asked for him to stay, and was a lesson about prayer. And before they leave, Christiana is shown some things again by this woman called Prudence. She's shown an apple that Eve ate and gave to her husband, Jacob's ladder with angels ascending on it, which they can't get enough of, a golden anchor to lay hold on that which is beyond the veil, and the mount on which Abraham offered up Isaac, including the altar and the wood and the knife. And then they sing in the dining room accompanied by the virginals, an early kind of harpsichord. And then Mr. Great Heart arrives, and there's more food.

And there's wine and parched corn and pomegranates again, and figs and raisins for the boys. And as they're about to leave, the porter pronounces a blessing on the women and the children. Now they set off, Mr. Great Heart, Piety and Prudence join them.

Mercy is there, and Christiana and the four boys. And then Piety remembers that she's forgotten something, and what she's forgotten is a plan or a map of the journey which she had been given. She's left it behind because this is in the allegory of the Bible once again, and she's left her Bible behind, her map, her plan, her scheme.

And she goes back to Gadot, and then in the grove, as they're walking along, they hear birds singing. And what they hear are lines taken from two psalms, Psalm 23 and Psalm 100. Now these psalms, and they're recorded, the stanzas, some of the stanzas are recorded in the narrative, but they are taken from well-known translations of the psalms from the 16th century, 1549, the Sternhold and Hopkins translation of the psalms. One of the features, of course, of the Reformation was the reintroduction of psalm singing, congregational psalm singing into the church. And Thomas Sternhold wrote about 19 of these psalms, and they were included in the Geneva Bible. The Puritan Bible in the 17th century was not the King James version of 1611 so much as it was the Geneva Bible with its Calvinistic notes. And in the back of the Bible was included the psalms for singing in the home for family worship.

And 19 of these psalms were written by Thomas Sternhold, and then they were added to by further psalms written by a man called Hopkins, and they were included in the Book of Common Prayer. So these are the psalms that are heard in the groves sung by birds, but it's a lesson about the importance of psalm singing. Then they come to the valley of humiliation, and there's a pillar, and on it is written, let Christians slips before he came to hither, and the battles that he met with in this place be a warning to those that come after. This land is very fruitful with good soil.

There's a poor boy feeding his father's sheep, and there's more singing. And we're told that our Lord had a country house here and lived here from time to time. And it was here that Christian met with Apollyon and did his battle with Apollyon. Christian's blood is on the stones to this day. Apollyon's broken arrows can be seen lying on the ground. There's a monument.

There's an inscription and a record of the battle between Christian and Apollyon. And one of the boys especially is quite moved now when he sees his father's blood on the ground and the battle that took place there. Then they enter the valley of the shadow of death, and there are words now of lamentation, and the boys begin to quake, and the women grow pale, and the ground begins to shake.

They're to watch their feet because there are snares and pits all around them. James begins to be sick, and his mother gives him three pills. Joseph thinks he's seen a fiend on the road ahead, which his mother calls an ugly thing. Greatheart bids him stay close to resist the devil, and he will flee from you, quoting from 1 Peter 5, 8 through 9. And then Mercy looks back and thinks she sees a lion coming, and Greatheart then, who's been in the front of the lion, goes to the back to stand guard. And then Bunyan cites a passage from Isaiah that he that walks in darkness and has no light should trust in the name of the Lord and stay upon his God. And they cried and prayed to the Lord. Now it's one of these passages again in Bunyan that we've seen so many times of battle and opposition and trial and the need to call upon the name of the Lord and to engage in prayer. They go on, and they come to a place where there are great stinks and smells.

The boys are troubled with snares. There's a man cast into the ditch on the left side. They come to the cave where Christian met with a giant. The giant accuses Greatheart of being a kidnapper of women and children, and now there's a fight. It's a sword fight, and fire comes out of the giant's nostrils, and eventually Greatheart wins this battle against the giant, and another pillar is erected, and another poem is sung. They're now at the place where Christian in part one met with Faithful.

Faithful appeared just for a short time and was martyred in the city of vanity. And just as in part one this very important character emerges in the story, Bunyan introduces another character here for the benefit of Christiana and Mercy and the rest of the troop. And this man, his name is Mr. Honest, and he joins them, and they talk about whether or not they knew of a Mr.

Fearing who had passed that way. Now there's a lengthy discourse now about Mr. Fearing. Mr.

Fearing is a character who is a little bit like Mercy, of little faith, somewhat timid, somewhat shy, somewhat retiring, easily spooked, and there's quite a lengthy discourse. And again, I think Bunyan is trying to minister pastorally to the needs of those whose faith is weak and who are tried and tested and are found to be stumbling along the way. Mr.

Honest says about Mr. Fearing, he was a man that had the root of the matter in him, that he was one of the most troublesome pilgrims that ever I met with in all my days. Perhaps Bunyan is reflecting on pastoral ministry and that he genuinely believes this man was a Christian, that he had the root of the matter in him. That's a phrase that we don't hear so much today. I remember 30 or 40 years ago when I was first a Christian, that was a phrase I would come across all the time about folk who you weren't sure whether they were Christians or not, and you would sort of say, well, I think the root of the matter is in him. I think he is regenerate, but he was one of the most troublesome pilgrims that ever I met with in all my days. Why should such a good man be all his days in such darkness? That's the question that's asked. Why should somebody who's essentially a believer, who's regenerate, who trusts in the Lord but seems to live out his days in darkness, in fear, in trembling, in doubt?

And Great Heart answers, the wise God will have it so. This is a sovereign thing. And Mr. Fearing, and then he says about Mr. Fearing, he played upon the bass string.

Isn't that an interesting expression? He played upon the bass string. He tended to see dark things. He tended to view life as the glass is half empty, as it were. And God himself plays upon this string when he sets upon the soul at first.

In other words, when God first comes to us, he convicts us of sin. He makes us see the misery. He makes us see the darkness. Before the gospel comes as a remedy, he must first show us the darkness. So, God himself plays upon this bass string at first. And then he says about Mr.

Fearing, that he feared that he could play no other string but the bass string. They now arrive at an inn called Gaius. There's a man there by the name of Gaius, and he's a lover of pilgrims. This is again a picture of the church.

We've seen so many of them along the way. This is a place to rest. It's a place for refreshment. It's a place to have a little sleep. It's a place to eat and drink and learn certain things. And I think this is a picture of the church.

There's a cook. His name is Taste That Which Is Good. And he tells them of Christian's relatives. Stephen, who was killed. James, slain by the sword. Paul and Peter. Ignatius, cast to the lions. Romanus, whose flesh was torn from him. Polycarp, who played the man in the fire. Remember, Polycarp was martyred. Oh, he was 86, I think, when he was martyred. And again, I think this is reflecting something of the importance of Foxe's Book of Martyrs in the 17th century, that some of the great saints who had been killed for the gospel's sake. And these are our brothers, and these are our sisters, and we are to remember them and think about them.

And then he suggests, this is Gaius, Indian. He suggests that the oldest son, Matthew, marry Mercy. And Mercy, who had turned someone down, you remember, earlier on, and had more or less said that she would rather live her life unmarried than marry the wrong person. You weren't expecting it as you were reading this story.

You'd never thought, oh, yes, I can see something developing between Mercy and the oldest son, Matthew. But a marriage is to take place. You know, in the 17th century, you married in order to fall in love. And in the 21st century, you fall in love in order to get married. But that's the difference, I think, between the 17th century and the 21st century. You didn't necessarily have to love someone to marry them in the 17th century. You married them in order to love them. And I think that's indicative of the way Banyan here is approaching the whole business of marriage.

There wasn't any particular feeling between Mercy and Matthew, but they are now to be married. And then Great Heart and Gaius walk into the woods to see if they can see a giant by the name of Slaygood, who has been troubling pilgrims in the way. They hear this tale in the inn that there's a giant out in the woods, and his name is Slaygood. And Great Heart and Gaius walk into the woods to see if they can spy him. And of course, the boys go with them into the woods, and they find him. And he has captured a man by the name of Mr. Feeble Mind and is actually preparing to kill him.

Great Heart slays the giant and rescues Feeble Mind and brings him to the inn. He's from a town called Uncertain. He's been determined to be a pilgrim despite his weakness. Once again, you've got another character who's got the root of the matter in him. He comes from a town called Uncertain.

His name is Mr. Feeble Mind. Again and again in this second part, Bunyan seems to be concentrating on those who are weak in faith and troubled in their spirit. And this is a contrast, I think, to part one of the story where most of the figures in part one are very much heroes, and in part two, not so much, I think. Bunyan's marginal note, I think I said in the previous lecture, that in editions of Pilgrim's Progress that include Bunyan's marginal notes, and they'll be obviously printed in the margin, Bunyan has, mark this, and he has it twice, mark this, mark this, that because he was taken by the giant unwillingly, he would not be killed. I think Bunyan is trying to say something here about the whole business of perseverance.

What is the difference between somebody who willingly turns back? And in such cases, Bunyan is rather skeptical of whether they have the root of the matter in them. This is like Hymenaeus and Philetus or Demas who have forsaken me, having loved this present evil world. But this man, Mr. Feeblemind, had been captured against his will, even though he was feeble of mind. And so, I think Bunyan again pastorally is trying to say that even though Feeblemind finds himself in trouble, and that partly because of the feebleness of his mind, he was taken unwillingly in the end, and therefore he would not be killed. And the second note he says is that this I have resolved to run when I can, to go when I cannot run, and to creep when I cannot. Again, Bunyan is underlining that somehow or other we persevere.

Even when there's tremendous opposition, even when I cannot run, I will endeavor to creep. Now they spend two months now in Gaius' inn, and there isn't just one wedding, Matthew and Mercy, but James, the second eldest son, and Phoebe, one of the women, Gaius' daughter, are also married. So, there's a double wedding in part two of Pilgrim's Progress, and it's described in wonderful terms. It's a very happy moment in part two. And then after spending two months here in Gaius' inn, off they go to vanity, the city of vanity, with vanity fair.

And this, of course, is the place where Christian and faithful were arrested and faithful after the trial was burnt, was executed, and horses and a chariot come and take faithful to the nearest gate to the celestial city. So, there's some unease now as we think of turning the page here to go off to the city of vanity, things, you know, double wedding. There's almost bound to be trouble just around the corner. Well, we shall see in our next lecture.

And we'll have to see how that turns out tomorrow. I hope you'll join us. As Christiana follows the King's Highway, the troop continues to grow as they experience new joys and challenges. Dr. Derek Thomas is our teacher this week here on Renewing Your Mind.

His guided tour of the Pilgrim's Progress is giving us some great insight into John Bunyan's brilliant allegory, and this week we've concentrated on Christiana's story in Part 2. We're making the entire series available, though, in a three-DVD set. Just contact us today with a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries, and we'll send it to you. To make your request and give your gift online, you can go to, or if you prefer, you can call us. Our number is 800-435-4343. And over three weeks into 2022, how are you doing on your New Year's resolutions?

I have to admit that I'm good at making them, not good at keeping them, though. Putting a plan into place is key, and when it comes to our resolve to study God's Word, Table Talk is helpful in that regard. It features daily Bible studies and a plan to read through the Bible in a year. If you've never subscribed to Table Talk before, I hope you'll sign up for a free three-month trial subscription.

You can do that when you go to Tomorrow on Renewing Your Mind, Christiana and her boys face new challenges as they reach Doubting Castle. I hope you'll join us Friday for another lesson from Dr. Derek Thomas here on Renewing Your Mind. Dr. Thomas, I hope you'll join us Friday for another lesson from Dr. Thomas here on Renewing
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-21 17:33:04 / 2023-06-21 17:41:36 / 9

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