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The Delectable Mountains

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
July 13, 2023 12:01 am

The Delectable Mountains

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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July 13, 2023 12:01 am

The Puritans called the Lord' Day "the market day of the soul," where God's people are strengthened and refreshed on their journey toward heaven. Today, Derek Thomas explores John Bunyan's illustration of the Delectable Mountains.

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The Lord's Day is something to be enjoyed.

They are delectable mountains and they are full of extraordinary blessings. The Puritans didn't see the Lord's Day as a burden. They didn't approach it in a legalistic fashion. They saw it as something to look forward to and anticipate. It is the market day of the soul. In many places, the Lord's Day, Sunday, is no longer esteemed or observed as it once was.

In recent years, some even in the church question whether or not it's really important to gather together in person. But in the 17th century, the Puritans saw the Lord's Day as a blessing and John Bunyan described it as delectable mountains. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind as this week we walk through John Bunyan's classic allegory, The Pilgrim's Progress.

I'm Nathan W Bingham. The main character of The Pilgrim's Progress is a man named Christian. So far this week, he's walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and Vanity Fair and he was held captive in Giant Despair's castle. But today, he finds himself somewhere delectable, what he called the delectable mountains.

Here's Ligonier teaching fellow Derek Thomas to guide us through this section and to help us see the value and the blessing of the Lord's Day and gathered worship. We come to the delectable mountains today. And do you remember when Christian was in the palace beautiful and on the last day he was taken to a little spot where in the distance he could see the delectable mountains? Well, since then he has been in many a different place and none of them delectable. He has just emerged from Doubting Castle and Giant Despair and Giant Despair's wife, Difidence.

They've been there from Wednesday evening until Saturday evening and Saturday evening at midnight. And then you remember that Christian suddenly remembers that he has a key in his pocket called Promise and that has been the instrument with which he managed to escape from the castle. Bunyan, of course, was teaching a lesson about prayer. Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? You should never be discouraged.

Take it to the Lord in prayer. Interesting that they were there in the castle from Wednesday until Saturday. I think I mentioned earlier in an earlier lecture that that might have reflected the period when Jesus was tried and tested in the final week of His life and the darkness of the Saturday when He was dead and buried and then resurrected on the Lord's Day. Perhaps also Bunyan is thinking of the story of Paul and Silas in Philippi and then at midnight they're singing psalms and it is at midnight that they are released from that imprisonment in Philippi. Well, Christian and Hopeful make their way now back along the path, the by-path meadow, and they cross over the stile and they get back onto the road that they were supposed to be on all along.

And now they head in the direction of the delectable mountains. Vaughan Williams, Ralph Vaughan Williams has a wonderful piece of music. It lasts about twenty minutes or so and it's called The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains because Vaughan Williams wrote something of an opera. It's not quite an opera in the classic genre of an opera, but he wrote an opera on Pilgrim's Progress. It's been revived of late.

It had been left in something of a neglect throughout much of the late twentieth century, but recently it has been revived again and it has some extraordinarily beautiful music in it. Well, let's pick up the story. Then I saw in my dream that on the morrow he got up to go forwards, but they desired him to stay till the next day also. And then, said they, we will, if the day be clear, show you the delectable mountains.

This is back in the Palace Beautiful. Which, they said, would yet further add to his comfort. So he consented and stayed, and when the morning was up they had him to the top of the house and bid him look south. So he did, and behold, at a great distance he saw a most pleasant mountainous country, beautified with woods, vineyards, fruits of all sorts, flowers also, with springs and fountains, very delectable to behold.

Then he asked the name of the country, and they said it was Emmanuel's Land. And when thou comest there, from then, said they, thou mayest see to the gate of the celestial city. So there's been some anticipation in getting to these delectable mountains, because from the delectable mountains you can actually see the gate of the celestial city. Now these delectable mountains are described then as having gardens and orchards and vineyards and fountains of water. And on the top of the mountain, Christian and Hopeful encounter shepherds, and they're feeding their flocks. We're introduced to four of them, knowledge, experience, watchful, and sincere.

Now who are they? And what does this place represent in Bunyan's allegory? Now some have suggested that the delectable mountains represents what mature Christian believers occasionally see. They rise to a spiritual maturity in which they catch little glimpses of Emmanuel's Land. That there are these experiences in the lives of Christians in which we catch a glimpse of heaven. We are taken, as it were, above the ordinary and the humdrum and the day to day and the routine, and we just catch a little foretaste, a little glimpse of Emmanuel's Land.

There would certainly have been Puritans in the 17th century who would have fought in that way. Perhaps too, this is another description, just like Pallas Beautiful, this is another description of the church and Bunyan's love for the church and his love for the ordinances of the church, and especially the shepherds then would be the teaching elders or the ministers or the pastors of the flock of God. Since they had left, you remember on a Saturday evening, this now in your mind, this event that's about to take place is taking place on the Lord's Day. And therefore, there's something to be said about that second interpretation that Bunyan is actually thinking here about the church and the blessings that come to the people of God through the means of grace and through church and through pastors and preaching and fellowship and so on.

So, let's explore these delectable mountains together. I think the first thing we see is the pattern of the Lord's Day. This would have been very important in the middle of the 17th century. It would have been important to Bunyan. Bunyan, as all of the Puritans, had a theology of the Lord's Day. They had a theology of the Sabbath. They saw the Lord's Day as a continuation of the Old Testament Sabbath with some of the ceremonial aspects having been stripped away.

But the continuity of the pattern of one day in seven. We've mentioned before in previous lectures, John Geary. John Geary was an English Puritan, and he wrote a little, a little tract. He wrote it almost at the end of his life, and it was published in 1645. And that's, that's about 20 years or so before Pilgrim's Progress, right in the middle of the Westminster Assembly, if that helps you put that into context.

The character of an old English Puritan or non-conformist, and Bunyan certainly would have been a non-conformist, by John Geary, Preacher of the Word, sometime at Tewkesbury, but now at St. Albans, published according to order in London. And this is what he has to say about the Lord's Day. The Lord's Day, he esteemed, this is how a Puritan would view the Lord's Day, the Lord's Day he esteemed a divine ordinance and rest on it necessary so far as it is conducted to holiness.

He was very conscientious in observance of that day as the mart of the soul, the market day of the soul. So, on the Lord's Day, you go to the marketplace and you acquire these wonderful things, and that's how John Geary and Puritans like Bunyan viewed the Lord's Day as the market day of the soul. I sometimes say it's like going to Walmart, and you discover things that you didn't really realize that you needed. You go along the shelves and you think, oh yes, I need that, and oh yes, I need that too. And the Lord's Day is a bit like that.

You acquire things that you didn't realize that you needed. So, for Bunyan, I think the Lord's Day of the New Covenant follows the pattern of the Sabbath of the Old Testament, a cycle, a weekly cycle of one day in seven set apart for the worship of God, and on which day we acquire some wonderful things. Now, the point I think here is that the Lord's Day is something to be enjoyed.

They are delectable mountains and they're full of extraordinary blessings. The Puritans didn't see the Lord's Day as a burden. They didn't approach it in a legalistic fashion. They saw it as something to look forward to and anticipate. It was the first day of the week. It was a pattern of the gospel, and of the Old Testament it was work followed by rest, and in the New Covenant it's rest followed by work, and that's a gospel pattern.

And especially in Viri's language, it is the market day of the soul. So, first of all, an emphasis on the Lord's Day and on the blessings and happiness and contentment of the Lord's Day. Second thing we see is the provision of godly elders or perhaps godly ministers in Bunyan's mind. These shepherds, knowledge, experience, watchful, and sincere.

These are the four that we're introduced to, and they're feeding the flock. Bunyan, of course, was involved, as many of the Puritans were in the 17th century, with trying to work out an ecclesiology. And Bunyan was a nonconformist. He was a Baptist and saw the provision of godly ministers as something that God gives to the church and a thing to be thankful for and something to which we draw attention here. These are elders.

Our terminology may be different. We view them as elders or presbyters or bishops or shepherds, reflecting some Greek words, presbuteros and episkopos and pomane, variously translated as a presbyter or a bishop or a shepherd. And it's the word shepherds, especially, that Bunyan is drawing attention to. Ministers, elders are shepherds, and they care for the sheep. And he's thinking, I think, especially of shepherds who labor in the Word, who expound the Word, who proclaim the Word, who preach the Word, who pastor according to the teaching of the Word. We've already been introduced to the man in the House of Interpreter, that picture of the man on the wall, a very grave person who has the best of books in his hand, and the world is to his back, and he begets children. He travels in birth to produce children and to nurse them and to feed them when they are born. And it's a picture of a godly elder and a shepherd who takes care of the flock.

Bunyan, of course, is one, and one thinks of him in prison for twelve years, and he had already been elected as the minister of the church, the Bedford Baptist Church, a non-conformist church. And his longing and his desire to be a pastor, and you can imagine something of the pathos with which he must have been thinking as he wrote this particular section of Pilgrim's Progress. Then, thirdly, in this section, the perseverance of the saints. Christian and hopeful find themselves near three hills in the delectable mountains, two of which have warnings of danger. Have you noticed how many times in Pilgrim's Progress there are warnings of danger, warnings about not continuing, warnings about not persevering?

This is the way that you go, and not that way, and not that way. Narrow is the path that leads to eternal life, and few there be that find it. And many times now, as we've been reading and studying together Pilgrim's Progress, we've seen examples of those who seem to be believers.

They seem to be genuine. They seem to make a credible profession of faith, but they give up. They turn back. They are frightened. Timorous and his friend, when they saw the lions, they head backwards terrified. And all along, even at the foot of the cross, you remember there were three who were asleep and didn't see the warning signs of danger.

We'll come across them again in Book Two of Pilgrim's Progress, and their circumstances will be very grave indeed when we come to Book Two. Well, here too, Christian and Hopeful see these signs, these warning signs of danger. No sooner had Christian lost his burden than he comes within sight of danger.

And now that he's within sight of Beulah Land, he's still getting warnings about danger. He needs to persevere. He that perseveres to the end shall be saved. And the Puritans emphasized the end.

We need to persevere right up to the gates of the celestial city. The first hill is called Ere, and it brought about the death of Hymenaeus and Philetus. This is a reference, of course, to 2 Timothy chapter 2 and verses 17 and 18. Their teaching, Hymenaeus and Philetus, their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Puritans read these passages in the New Testament, even though they believed in the perseverance of the saints, that the elect will get to glory.

Having begun a good work, he will complete it unto the day of Jesus Christ. But that was only true of the elect. You could profess to be a Christian and not be one of the elect. You could make a credible profession of faith in the eyes of others around you, and even in the eyes of the church, and still not be one of the elect.

You could be a Judas. And the Puritans emphasized that a great deal. Now, this hill sloped upward innocently enough, but on the other side of the hill called Ere, there is a fearful precipice, and over that precipice, many a professing Christian seems to fall, and that's what they see. Then there's another hill, and it's called Caution. And Christian and Hopeful can see over the edge of the hill called Caution, and down in the valley below, they see blind men, and they're walking about among the tombs, and they are those who have been blinded by giant despair. This is the castle from which they've just escaped, and giant despair has blinded these men, and they're wandering about among the tombs. It's a very vivid picture, and you can imagine they're wandering about and reaching out, and they're touching the headstones of these tombs, and perhaps there's a kind of mist in the area, and they look down. It's a very eerie sight, and we're told that the pilgrims, Christian and Hopeful, look at each other and weep for the sadness of it. And then the shepherds show them a door in the side of the hill from which they hear tormented cries, and they smell brimstone. This is a byway to hell, a way that hypocrites go in. Now, this puts the book, doesn't it, so firmly in the 17th century, and these are Puritans. Bunyan believed in hell.

Bunyan believed in eternal torment. But especially Bunyan believed that the Bible teaches that you can make a profession of faith, that you can even pass certain external standards and still be a hypocrite. You can still be a Judas. It's part of the teaching of the perseverance of the saints. The saints actually do persevere, but there's always a possibility that you don't persevere, and if you don't persevere, you're not one of the saints. And even at this late stage in the journey, there is a door in the side of the hill, and if you enter that door, it leads straight to hell.

What a warning! How solemn! What urgency there would be to persevere, to keep on going, to demonstrate that we do have marks, signs, evidences that we are actually one of the elect, that we are regenerate, that we're indwelt by the Holy Spirit, that the gospel is truly the foundation upon which we are building our lives. Now, Christian and hopeful look at this. They see these three things, this precipice over which certain professing Christians are falling over. They're reminded of Hymenaeus and Philetus. They see this tombstone area, this cemetery in which blind folk, blinded by giant despair, are wandering about, and then they see this doorway in the side of the hill, a byway to hell, a way that hypocrites go in. Well, they see a pattern of the Lord's day. They see the wonderful provision for the godly. They see something about the need to persevere to the end, but they also see in the fourth place a prospect of what is to come. Christian and hopeful come near the foothills of the delectable mountains, and they come to a ridge called Clea, and from there, with the aid of what Bunyan calls a perspective glass, a telescope if you will, they see something like the gate and also some of the glory of the place. They're looking now toward Beulah Land. They're looking toward the eternal city. They're looking through this telescope, and they see something like the gate and also some of the glory of that place.

Now, do you understand what Bunyan is saying? Remember, this is an allegory of the Lord's day and of the church and of shepherds who are feeding you, and sometimes on the Lord's day, you catch with the aid of a perspective glass, the Bible, the Scriptures, a little glimpse of heaven, a little glimpse of Emmanuel's land. That was the Puritan view of the Lord's day, that you gather together under the oversight and teaching of godly shepherds, and every now and then you catch just a little glimpse of heaven. Now, that's why I think the Puritans loved the Lord's day, and that's why they called it the market day of the soul. Isn't that a beautiful image of the Lord's day? And in a world that continues to get busier and noisier, we need these reminders to cherish Sunday and gathered worship as the marketplace of the soul, as delectable mountains. You're listening to the Thursday edition of Renewing Your Mind as Derek Thomas is taking us on a guided tour through the classic Christian allegory, The Pilgrim's Progress.

John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress is beloved by many families, mine included, and Dr. Thomas' series is an immersive study that helps to explain the allegory so that you don't miss the significance of the characters and the places as Bunyan intended. His series has 19 messages, and it can be yours for your donation of any amount. When you give your gift at, we'll send you the free DVD set, give you digital access to all of the messages, and digital access to the study guide. So give your gift today by visiting or by calling us at 800 435 4343. And as you wait for the DVD set to arrive, you can begin streaming the messages from your learning library in the free Ligonier app. Every journey must come to an end, and for Christian, he and his companion Hopeful are about to reach the Celestial City. That's tomorrow, here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-13 03:45:57 / 2023-07-13 03:54:51 / 9

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