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A New Journey Begins

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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January 17, 2022 12:01 am

A New Journey Begins

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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January 17, 2022 12:01 am

The Pilgrim's Progress is one of the most-read pieces of literature in history. Many people do not realize there is a second part to this masterpiece by John Bunyan. Today, Derek Thomas introduces the story of Christiania and her four boys.

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In part two of the Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan introduces new characters whose faith is weak.

I think he's doing that for pastoral considerations. After all, part one was a hero's story, and part two, he's now perhaps a minister and seeing in his church the fact that there are all kinds of believers, and some of them are weak, and some of them are timid, and some of these characters are now introduced into part two. Part one of the Pilgrim's Progress is one of the most read pieces of literature in history. Many people, though, are not as familiar with part two. Today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. Derek Thomas gives us insight into the journey of Christian's wife and children to the celestial city. Along the way, we'll learn lessons about our own journey.

Well, welcome back. We start a new section on part two of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. I sometimes think that for every 100 people who have read Pilgrim's Progress, maybe two or three have read part two, and yet some of the most wonderful illustrations are actually to be found in part two of Pilgrim's Progress. He begins, just as he began, with part one with some poetry, a kind of apology right at the very beginning. And he says at the beginning of part two, Go now, my little book, to every place where my first pilgrim has but shown his face.

Call at their door. If any say who's there, then answer thou, Christiana is here. If they bid thee come in, then enter thou with all thy boys. And then, as thou knowest how, tell who they are also from whence they came.

Perhaps they'll know them by their looks or name. But if they should not, ask them yet again if formerly they did not entertain one Christian, a pilgrim. If they say they did and was delighted in his way, then let them know that these related were unto him, yea, his wife and children are. And that continues for several pages. Part two of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, the story of Christiana and the four boys, was written in 1684. This is six years after the completion of part one, which was written in 1678. Now, scholars think that part one was written during the two periods of imprisonment. He was imprisoned for 12 years initially, from 1660 to 1672, and then he was released. And then in 1676 and through into 1677, he was imprisoned for a second time.

And it's during that second period of imprisonment, maybe six to eight months or so, that Bunyan finished part one. It was published in 1678. Actually, he couldn't find a publisher for it. And it was John Owen, yes, the great Puritan John Owen, who at that time was in fairly close contact with King Charles II. And King Charles II had rebuked John Owen for going to listen to John Bunyan preach.

And Owen said to him that he would give up all of his learning if he could preach one sermon like John Bunyan. And when he heard that John Bunyan's little book, Pilgrim's Progress, they couldn't find a publisher for it, he asked his own publishers to publish it. So, we have John Owen to thank for the publication of Pilgrim's Progress, part one.

Now, there have been some critics of Bunyan's style, one TS, Thomas Sherman, a general Baptist in the late 1670s, objected to some of John Bunyan's theology and particularly John Bunyan's theology of particular redemption and some of his more predestinarian doctrines. And he wrote an improved account of Pilgrim's Progress, and it was published as part two in 1682. It was the story of Christiana and the boys, but told now by this man, Thomas Sherman.

And there were maybe two and maybe three other attempts under a pseudonym to write a sequel. You can understand why Pilgrim's Progress was a runaway success. I think it actually brought Bunyan some much-needed revenue in his latter days, and there were those who were ready to cash in on the success of part one and to write part two, which caused Bunyan himself to realize that he needs to write part two, which eventually, 1684, part two was published. There have been some contemporary critics of Pilgrim's Progress, including C.S. Lewis, who was critical, first of all, of Bunyan's theology, but he was also critical of Bunyan's literary style and especially his account of enchanted ground.

Lewis said that entering enchanted ground will not prevent drowsiness on the part of many readers, and worse still, in Lewis's estimation, was the section where talkative, several pages, and Lewis criticized that on a literary point of view. Now, one of the objections that was made to part one of Pilgrim's Progress was its lack of community, lack of communal life, lack of corporate life. It was a story of an individual. It was basically a story of Christian, whereas in part two, we have much more of a churchy sort of feel, a communal feel. Plus, of course, it's also a story of a woman. It's a woman's story, and it's a family story.

It's a mother and her four children. We encounter some of the same places and characters as in the first part, and we see something that perhaps reflects now the period of life in which Bunyan is released from prison. He's back with his family. His older daughter, of course, has now died. He has, of course, remarried.

He remarried before his first imprisonment, and this godly woman raised the children, not her children, but the first wife's children. She is a very, very godly and esteemed woman, and this second part of Pilgrim's Progress will tell the story from the point of view of a mother and four boys. Part of the awkwardness of part two, especially the first few pages, and it may be the reason why folk haven't persevered with part two. You need to get over the first 10 or 15 pages.

Bunyan introduces an awkward literary style. He tells the story through a narrator or through an interlocutor. The dreamer dreams again, and instead of immediately seeing Christiana in his dream, he meets this man, Mr. Sagacity, who tells him about Christiana and the four boys, and it's in the kind of third person, and there's something of an awkwardness to it. Eventually, when they get to the wicket gate, Mr. Sagacity leaves, and then we read the story just like part one through the eyes, as it were, and the experiences of Christiana herself. Now, the dreamer asks Sagacity about Christiana to be told, there's hardly a house in the country in which his name and exploits aren't known. Now, of course, this is the success of part one of Pilgrim's Progress.

This is only six years later, but it was a runaway success. Every Christian home, every Puritan home, certainly, in England in the late 17th century had a copy of Pilgrim's Progress. And then there's a beautiful description of Christian in heaven. Some say that he now walks in white, that he has a chain of gold about his neck, that he has a crown of gold beset with pearls about his head. Others say that the shining ones that sometimes showed themselves to him in his journey have become his companions, and that he is as familiar with them in the place where he is as here one neighbor is with another. Besides, it is confidently affirmed concerning him that the king of the place where he is has bestowed upon him already a very rich and pleasant dwelling at court, and that he every day eateth and drinketh and walketh and talketh with him, and receiveth of the smiles and favors of him that is judge of all there, going on to say that the prince is so indignant at what was done to Christian that it is as though what was done to him was done to the prince himself, and that he is coming to ask for an accounting of it.

Well, that's how we're introduced to part two. We're told about a Christian who is now, of course, in heaven, and the question that arises, what about Christian's wife? What about Christiana and the four boys? Part two of Pilgrim's Progress is, first of all, a gospel story. Bunyan was a Puritan.

He was shaped in everything that he wrote by the gospel. This was an Augustinian understanding and a Reformation understanding of the gospel, a gospel which, first of all, emphasizes natural inability in our fallenness and the love of God in the gospel in providing the Lord Jesus, in providing a substitute, urging sinners to repent and emphasizing their total inability to do anything to merit their own salvation. Bunyan's understanding of the gospel emphasizes three things, the atoning death of Christ, where our punishment was diverted to him, our justification through faith in which we are clothed, reckoned to be righteous, clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven, and we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and the gift of faith in Christ.

Those are the three things that Bunyan emphasizes so much. Now, in his dream, Bunyan meets Mr. Sagacity. He inquires after Christian's wife and family and to hear that a great change has overtaken them, and so they have packed up and have also gone after Christian. Now, after Christian has gone over the river and she hears no more about him, she begins to be sorry for her behavior toward him and the stubbornness in refusing to accompany him.

At first, I think the motivation was purely a human one, impelling Christiana to begin this journey, but her thoughts began to work in her mind first for that she had lost her husband and for that the loving bond of that relation was utterly broken betwixt them. But then it becomes something more than that, and first she thought him mad, but now she realizes that the light of life has been given him so that he had escaped the snares of death. Christiana, back in the city of destruction, dreams and sees a parchment containing the sum of her ways, she begins to cry, Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.

And then in a second dream, she sees Christian in a state of bliss, and next morning she is visited by someone called Secret. He comes with a message from the merciful one, an invitation to come into his presence. This is the invitation of the gospel coming to her, a fine statement, I think, of effectual calling, that a summons from heaven to come into his presence. This is an effectual call, God's special working in the elect so that they respond with faith, and he tells her to go to the wicket gate. It comes with a message, God is ready to forgive and that He taketh delight to multiply pardon to offenses.

He also would have thee know that He invited thee to come into His presence, to His table, and that He will feed thee with the fat of His house and with the heritage of Jacob, thy father. It's a gospel story. Secondly, it's a road story. It's a pilgrimage, and these stories of pilgrimages, of course, were already famous in English literature. One thinks of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Of course, that was a Catholic tale in which there'd be indulgences for sins. Pilgrim's Progress was more along the line of Luke. In Acts, you remember that Luke calls Christianity the way. They were followers of the way. There was a road along which Christians travel. Now, it begins with a passage through the wicket gate where one leaves the world behind.

One knocks and first becomes a Christian. The next great issue is assurance when you come to the cross, and along the road, Christiana, as much as Christian, must learn the way of holiness. By Demas, she learns certain spiritual truths along this path to resist temptations, to leave the road, to keep on persevering, whether it's individuals like Demas or the flatterer or Madame Wanton or the allurement of By-Path Meadow that will lead to the castle of giant despair.

All of these things, she also will learn. It's a road story with a great deal of adventure, secret says to her at the very outset. Thou must through troubles, as did he that went before thee, enter the celestial city. And I think Bunyan is alluding to Paul's statement in Acts 14 at Lystra when he comes back to Antioch, and he says, through many tribulations, we enter the kingdom of God. It's a road story.

It's a road trip, if you like, Bunyan's part 2. It's also a family story, a woman, a mother, and her children. It's about the importance of family religion, and the Puritans in the seventeenth century saw that as very important. There was certainly a personal life, there was a church life, but there was also a family life. They talked about personal worship and church worship, but they also talked about the importance of family worship. The world of Pilgrim's Progress part 1 is one of masculine heroism. It's the story of heroes. Christiana's story, Christiana and the four boys are not converted with him, and therefore, they had to be abandoned.

They cried out after him, you remember, and he put his fingers in his ears and ran away and said, life, life, eternal life. Now, women had played a significant part in the church where Bunyan was the minister. While Bunyan was twelve years in prison during the 1660s and the first half of the 1670s, women had played a very significant part in the church at Bedford. There are some very interesting minutes that you can read in the church minute book, and these are still extant.

You can study these books. The Bedford church book records regular meetings for prayer and for breaking of bread, and mothers and children had more or less held the church together during that period. Of course, his own second wife and children had survived, and she had raised them and run the house and engaged in a great deal of industry while Bunyan was in prison. There was also in Bunyan's church something of a broadening of views of church membership, and especially those who could or could not take the Lord's Supper in the church, and Bunyan had an open communion view, not a closed communion view, and those who hadn't received believer's baptism were also entitled to become members and to participate in the Lord's table at the church. Now, such was this broadening—don't exaggerate this too much—but this broadening of views in the church in Bedford had also led to women in the church demanding a separate prayer meeting. Now, that doesn't phase us in any way, I suppose, today, but in the 1670s it certainly did, and actually Bunyan resisted that.

He contested it and defeated that, and there's an account of it, a case of conscience resolved in 1683. That's just a year before part two, the story of Christiana. So, some of the issues about women and just how much freedom women could have in church life and the whole issue of and the whole issue of women in office and separate women's prayer meetings, some of those issues had already raised themselves in the church in Bedford. Even the token of grace that comes to her from the king seems to be highly feminine. It's a letter smelling of all the best perfume, and during the conversations she always remains a widow and a mother to her children. So, it's a family story, and Bunyan is keen now to introduce family piety.

It's also a war story, an adventure story. Right at the start of the journey, Christiana meets two ill-favored ones who say, what shall we do with this woman? For she cries out for mercy, waking and sleeping. If she be suffered to go as she begins, we shall lose her as we have lost her husband. No sooner than mercy and Christiana sit out, and mercy is her friend, than we meet with two neighbors, women, Timorous, and mercy, and Timorous leaves, and mercy joins Christiana on the journey. Mercy decides to walk this sunshine morning a little way with her to help her on her way. Timorous calls her neighbors, Mrs. Batsize, Mrs. Inconsiderate, Mrs. Lightmind, and Mrs. Know-Nothing, and they gossip.

And it's actually quite telling, the conversation, it's full of gossip about Christiana. Doubts of acceptance by mercy arise, and the portrait of mercy is a very interesting one. She's fearful. She has weak faith. Christiana invites her to accompany her, and mercy is conscious of having no personal invitation. What draws her initially is her friendship to Christiana.

We will need to look at this in further studies. The fact that Bunyan introduces a woman of considerably weak faith into the narrative, and I think he's doing that for pastoral considerations. After all, part one was a hero story, and part two, he's now perhaps a minister, and seeing in his church the fact that there are all kinds of believers, and some of them are weak, and some of them are timid, and some of these characters are now introduced into part two.

They go to the Slough of Despond and pass through that. Unlike part one, it proves no difficulty for these women, and then they come to the Wicket Gate, and mercy for a season is left outside. Christiana gets through, and then it is Christiana on the other side of the Wicket Gate who pleads for mercy, and mercy gets in not easily, and already right at the very beginning of this story you have this emphasis on the weakness of mercy's faith. Now, some critics of Bunyan and liberals in the 20th century think that what Bunyan is doing here is to say that the non-elect can actually get into heaven, and that Bunyan is now watering down his doctrine of election.

I don't think anything of the sort is happening. I think Bunyan is being a pastor and saying that there is strong faith, but there's also weak and timid faith, the like of which we see in mercy. And we'll continue this in our second lecture on part two of Pilgrim's Progress. And we hope you'll join us for that tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. This week, Dr. Derek Thomas is taking us through John Bunyan's classic work, part two of The Pilgrim's Progress. We'd like to send you the complete series covering both parts one and two.

The 19-message series is contained on three DVDs. Simply contact us today with your donation of any amount, and we'll be glad to send them to you. You can do that online at, or you can call us.

Our number is 800-435-4343. Dr. Thomas is senior minister of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, and a teaching fellow here at Ligonier Ministries. His careful explanation of The Pilgrim's Progress shows us the pastoral care that John Bunyan had for God's people.

This series is a helpful study companion for those who've read The Pilgrim's Progress many times or maybe never at all. Perhaps you'd like to use it in a Sunday school class at your church or in a small group meeting in your home. So contact us and request the series for your gift of any amount. Our phone number again is 800-435-4343, and our web address is We are dedicated here at Ligonier Ministries to reaching people around the world with biblical truth, but we're able to do that only through the generosity of listeners like you, so we're grateful for your support. Your donations support many areas of ministry, including RefNet. That's our 24-hour internet radio station. When you tune in, you'll hear sound biblical teaching from a Reformed perspective. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Alistair Begg, Dr. John MacArthur, and of course, our founder, Dr. R.C. Sproul, are featured on RefNet. You can listen anytime at or when you download the free RefNet app. Tomorrow, as Dr. Thomas mentioned, we will continue our journey with Christiana and her children as they make their way to Interpreter's house. I hope you'll join us Tuesday for Renewing Your Mind. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-23 16:10:13 / 2023-06-23 16:18:50 / 9

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