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The Trek to the Palace

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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January 19, 2022 12:01 am

The Trek to the Palace

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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January 19, 2022 12:01 am

As Christiana and her sons make their way to the Celestial City, the landscape has changed since Christian made his own pilgrimage in The Pilgrim's Progress. Today, Derek Thomas discusses the unique trials we face in our Christian journey.

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In part two of the Pilgrim's Progress, Christiana and her boys make their way to the celestial city, and they see some changes along the way. They notice that the grass has grown, showing that few have passed this way of late. This is now 1684, and interestingly, few have made it as far as Pallas Beautiful.

The church isn't as well attended. The Pilgrim's Progress is an allegory of the Christian life. It brings to light the trials and tribulations we face on our journey, and the sovereign and gracious God who's with us every step of the way. Welcome to Renewing Your Mind.

I'm Lee Webb. Many people don't realize, though, that John Bunyan wrote a follow-up to Christian's story detailing the journey of his wife, Christiana, and their children. Let's listen now as Dr. Derek Thomas continues our journey. Welcome back to what is lecture number three in the second part of Pilgrim's Progress, the story of Christiana and the four boys. And the last time we left, Christiana and Mercy and the four boys are in the house of Interpreter, and they've been shown a number of things, seven things, just as Christiana had been shown seven things in the house of Interpreter.

And interestingly, in this house, Interpreter is now showing new things to Christiana. And I think Bunyan is trying to say that Interpreter, who's in the allegory, a gospel minister, is also growing in his understanding of the gospel. Now, having slept that night, although Mercy didn't sleep very much because of the joy that she felt in her heart, and she was giving thanks to the Lord on her bed, that's where we left her, they awake in the morning with the intent of pursuing what Bunyan now calls their pilgrimage.

But first, they're bidden to the garden, and they bathe to make them clean from the soil which they have gathered by traveling. I think this is Bunyan trying to allude to John 13 and the foot washing, and Jesus explained that they didn't actually need a bath because they were already clean, but they needed to be cleansed of the sins that they have accrued since becoming Christians. So, this is an allusion, I think, to sanctification rather than justification. Then they're given a seal, just like Christian was given a seal and a mark set between their eyes that they might be known in the places where they were yet to go. And Bunyan is alluding here to Ephesians 1 13, a notoriously disputed text in the 17th century, which refers to the seal of the spirit. And Puritans were on one side or the other on this issue, whether the seal of the spirit was something that was a mark of our justification or whether it was something that you receive perhaps several years after you are saved, an extra work of the Holy Spirit. We are sealed with the Spirit of promise, the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of our purchased possession. And Bunyan here places the receiving of this seal along with the assurance that's given to them in the House of Interpreter. And perhaps Bunyan is addressing this issue as a post-conversion experience of the Holy Spirit.

He would have been in the same league then as Thomas Goodwin and Richard Sibbes and others on that issue. Then a conductor is given to them, and his name is Mr. Great Heart. He is the great figure that will now accompany these two women, at least for a while until he actually returns again to the House of Interpreter.

He is a minister of the gospel. He's called to take a helmet and a sword and a shield and escort these ladies to a house called Beautiful, and off they go singing. Now, you may stand back here and accuse Bunyan of being a little sexist, I suppose, from 21st century standards. Why wouldn't the women be given gospel armor if indeed this is an allegory of the Christian life? Why should Christian and hopeful and faithful and others have gospel armor when Christiana and mercy don't have gospel armor but Mr. Great Heart does? Well, I think you have to put yourself in the 17th century. This is a story of women and children, and it is in fact in the allegory only Mr. Great Heart, who has these defensive weapons of helmet, sword, and shield, and he now will escort these ladies with all 17th century chivalry along the pilgrimage. Now, back at the wicket gate, Christiana recalls that it was said they would receive pardon by word and deed.

We talked a little bit about that last time. Now, in this section, she now asks Mr. Great Heart, what did that mean, that she would receive pardon by word and deed? And she begins to inquire, and this leads now to a fairly extensive, and by Pilgrim's Progress standards, a fairly deeply theological discussion on justification by faith. Bunyan had written a treatise on it in 1672. It was published just when he came out of his first imprisonment, Defense of the Doctrine of Justification and Justification by an Imputed Righteousness, or No Way to Heaven but by Jesus Christ.

Bunyan understood justification to consist of several features. First of all, he introduces the substitutionary work of Christ. Great Heart explains that the pardon they, Christiana and Mercy, as well as the boys, have received was obtained by another, to it by him who let you in at the gate. So, Bunyan is giving you now a signal, kind of a map, how to interpret the allegory, that the one who had let them in at the gate, the gatekeeper, was of course Jesus in the allegory, and that he has obtained this on their behalf. This is the doctrine of substitution. This is the Anselmian and Reformation doctrine that we are justified by the deeds, through the deeds of another on our behalf. Bunyan is making it clear to us here that the one at the wicket gate, the gatekeeper that had drawn Mercy and Christiana into the way, was none other than Jesus.

But there's also here a fairly extensive discussion of the doctrine of double imputation. He hath obtained it in this double way. He has performed righteousness to cover you and spilt his blood to wash you in. So, Bunyan is giving here the twofold, the twin idea of double imputation. Our sins are reckoned to Jesus, and he's punished for them, and his obedience, his righteousness, reckoned, imputed to our account. 2 Corinthians 5 17 and following, God made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be reckoned the righteousness of God in him. So, there's both this negative and positive aspect. Jesus being punished for our sin, Jesus reckoning his obedience to the law, to our account. The doctrine then of double imputation. Then in the narrative, we read something that gets fairly complicated. Let me give you a little flavor of it. Great Heart continues, With all my heart, he's willing now to make it clear what it is that he's been saying. But first, I must premise that he of whom we are now about to speak is one that has not his fellow.

There's no equal. He has two natures in one person, plain to be distinguished, impossible to be divided. This is Chalcedon. This is Chalcedonian Christology of 451. Remember that Bunyan hasn't had much of an education. He certainly hasn't been to college or seminary, hadn't studied with the great Puritans in Oxford or Cambridge. But he's telling you, here, he knows his Chalcedonian Christology. He has two natures in one person, plain to be distinguished, impossible to be divided. And to each of these natures, a righteousness belongeth. And each righteousness is essential to that nature, so that one may as easily cause the nature to be extinct as to separate its justice or righteousness from it. Of these righteousnesses, therefore, we are not made partakers, for as that they, any of them, should be put upon us what we might be made just and live thereby. Besides these, there is a righteousness which this person has, and these two natures are joined in one. And this is not the righteousness of the godhead as distinguished from the manhood, nor the righteousness of the manhood as distinguished from the godhead, but a righteousness which standeth in the union of both natures, and may properly be called the righteousness that is essential to his being prepared of God to the capacity of the mediatory.

And so it goes on. And all of a sudden, you're reading a pilgrimage, you're reading a road trip, you're reading a story of a journey, and then all of a sudden, you descend into the very depths of this rather difficult theology. Well, it's 1684 now, when the second part of Pilgrim's Progress is being published, and we know that in the background, in the late 17th century, there were a great deal of discussions about the two natures of Christ, Chalcedonian, Christology, the nature of the atonement, double imputation, the doctrine of justification. All of these were hotly debated, and Bunyan had written to them all. And Bunyan may be wanting to let his readers know something of his credentials, something of his theological ability.

He's thoroughly versed then in orthodox theology. Now, as they journey on, they come to a place where, remember, simple sloth and prejudice are now hanged up in irons. They were sleeping, remember, at the foot of the cross, and now they're hanged up.

They're hanging at the side of the road. They've been executed, and Christian had met them, as we remember, in part one of the story. They had persuaded many. They read a little sign that says that they had persuaded many of their opinions, including somebody called No Heart and somebody called Linger After Lust and somebody called Dull and another called Sleepy Head. And they're now a warning with a plague that warns people who pass by.

They come now to hill difficulty. Great Heart, who is now their conductor, reminds them how Christian had first drunk from the spring before embarking on the hill. And then the stream was clear, and he had drunk this very clear water, but now the water is all muddied. People have trampled in the water, and the water has become all muddied to prevent the faithful from gaining refreshment. Opposition, again, and what they need to do is to take some of this water in an earthen pot and let it stand for a while and let the sediment sort of sink to the bottom, and then they'll have clear water to drink to prepare them for this hill that lies before them. At the foot of the hill were two ways. Formality and hypocrisy had taken these two ways instead of climbing the hill. And despite the fact that this way has now been stopped up by stones, some will still venture down this path.

So, they begin to climb the hill, and they get exhausted in the process. It's very hot, and mercy, and one of the little boys wants to rest, but Great Heart urges them to continue to a place that is called the Prince's Arbor. You remember this place. This is where Christian fell asleep and forgot his certificate.

Do you remember? And he has to go back and get it. Now, Christiana will also lose something in this place. For the journey, she had been given provisions, and along with the provisions, she had been given a little bottle of spirits.

We're not sure what this is, something to help her along the way, but she will she will forget this. It will fall, and it will be forgotten. And that leads Bunyan to say through the words of mercy that this is a losing place. There is a losing place. Then he speaks with one of the boys.

This is Great Heart. His name is James. Now, James will get married quite shortly, as will his brother Matthew.

So, there are two weddings coming up, so bear that in mind. So, these boys are not as young as you might think they are. They're well into their late teens now. The boy says, he has learned from his mother that the way to heaven is up a ladder, and that the way to hell is down a hill. But I'd rather go up a ladder to heaven than down a hill to hell.

And then there's a proverb, to go downhill is easy, but the day will come when going down the hill will not be easy. And little James, or teenager James, learns then this little proverb. Now, they eat. They eat pomegranate and honeycomb. Once again, I think Bunyan is telling you that the food that Christians eat is rich food and delicacies.

Pomegranates do not grow in England. It's surprising that Bunyan would even know about a pomegranate, and so some foreign merchant must have passed through Bedford at one time and brought these pomegranates. And certainly, Bunyan has perhaps heard of them or perhaps even tasted one.

But the food now that Mercy and the boys are eating are pomegranates and honeycomb and some of the bottle of spirits which Interpreter had given to them when they left the house. Now, Bunyan says, mark this in the margin. Depending on which version of Pilgrim's Progress, part one or part two that you buy, if you buy one that's published, say, by Oxford University Press, one of the Roger Sharrock editions or one of the Roger Pooley editions, you'll see in the margin Bunyan's own little notes. And these were written after the fact. Some of them appear in the second edition during Bunyan's lifetime when he might have been asked certain questions about what this means. And in the margin, you'll see some of Bunyan's notes.

And they're fascinating reading. But here he says, mark this, that both Christian and Christiana left something behind in the arbor. And this is the note that he adds. Pilgrims should watch and remember what they have already received under their greatest enjoyments. But for want of doing so, oft times their rejoicing ends in tears and their sunshine in a cloud.

You know, God has given you rich treasures to help you along the way. But if you forget them and there is a forgetting place, all the rejoicing will end in tears and their sunshine in a cloud. Now, next they come to a place where timorous and mistrust, you remember, they had been running back because at the palace, beautiful, there were two lions and these lions had scared them and they had run backwards. Now they come to a place where timorous and mistrust had been burned through their tongues with a hot iron and placed on a stage. And when they come within sight of a palace, beautiful, the lions are outside again. It was these lions that had made timorous and mistrust run backwards. Now, this time, as a great heart draws his sword to make in a way for his companions, they meet one on the side of the lions called grim or bloody man.

And when they come to man. Now, the two lions in part one, you remember from our studies of part one of Pilgrim's Progress, we suggested that the two lions represented the state on the one hand and the church, the Anglican church and the persecuting church at that time on the other. These lions, you remember, had been asleep when faithful came his way and that suggested that faithful may well have been one of the moderate Anglicans, such a wonderful figure that faithful was in part one of Pilgrim's Progress. They noticed that the grass has grown, showing that few have passed this way of late. Now, this is now 1684 and Puritanism is waning. That whole revival period and the growth of Puritanism in the seventeenth century, by the middle of the 1680s, all of that is beginning to wane.

And interestingly, few have made it as far as palace beautiful. The church isn't as well attended as it had been in previous decades, even in Bunyan's own memory. And grim is preventing them from going any further.

There's a fight, it's actually the first of many, in which grim is killed and the women pass by but are terrified. Then they come to the porter's lodge and it's at this point that Great Heart returns home and he returns to the house of Interpreter, and that despite the pleas of the women and children. Now again, Bunyan is teaching a lesson. They hadn't asked for him to go with them the whole length of the journey. They'd only asked for somebody to take them on the next stage of the journey. And Bunyan has another little lesson here about prayer, that that which is not asked for is sometimes not given.

And the reason why Great Heart hadn't accompanied them all the way was because they hadn't asked for him. Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? You should never be discouraged.

Take it to the Lord in prayer. Well, that night in the porter's lodge, they eat again and this time it's roast lamb and mint sauce and music and wonderful music in the house, music in the heart and music also in heaven for joy that we are here. I think that tells you a little bit about how Bunyan himself felt after 12 years in prison and now enjoying life as a pastor and with his wife and with his children. That night Mercy has a dream, and Christiana makes a comment that we need not stay up all night talking to God.

He can come to us while we sleep and speak to us. And next, they decide to stay here for a while and talk with three women, prudence, piety, and charity. There's an instruction time, and the boys are catechized. And there's a question that's put to the boys.

Bunyan wrote his own catechism in 1675, just nine years before the second part of Pilgrim's Progress. Instruction for the ignorant being a salve to cure that great want of knowledge which so much reigns both in young and old. And we'll look at this catechism next time, but it is interesting.

This is a family story, and these are boys. And what is it that Bunyan now inserts into the story of family religion? Catechisms that young boys need to be catechized in the faith.

We'll pick this up in our next lecture. That's Dr. Derek Thomas helping us understand the pastoral heart of John Bunyan. In his own ministry, Bunyan stressed the importance of teaching children the faith, and we see that echoed here in part two of the Pilgrim's Progress. We're glad you've joined us today for Renewing Your Mind as Dr. Thomas continues his guided tour of this classic piece of literature. We'd like to send you Dr. Thomas's 19-part series. Simply contact us today with your donation of any amount, and we will send you the three-DVD set. So again, we invite you to request the series. It's titled The Pilgrim's Progress, A Guided Tour.

Our phone number again is 800-435-4343 and our web address, And on behalf of all of my colleagues here at Ligonier Ministries, thank you for your generosity. By the way, you can also study this series on Ligonier Connect. That's our library of interactive video courses. Your entire congregation at church, your Sunday school class, homeschool group, or your family can all study together online. Affordable pricing is available for communities of all sizes. You can create a subscription that best suits your discipleship needs. To learn more, just go to I hope you'll join us again tomorrow as Christiana and her boys take the harrowing road to Vanity Fair. That's Thursday, here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-22 11:20:51 / 2023-06-22 11:29:18 / 8

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