Monday, October 5, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress - Hill Difficulty

Running, then walking, and finally clambering upon hands and knees

Leaving Simple, Sloth and Presumption, Christian is soon joined by two more rogues, two who thought they could get in the Way by climbing over the wall. Christian, though still young, wisely counsels and warns them that the only proper way to go to the celestial city is to enter in through the gate. But they thinking that they have over a 1000 years of tradition behind them are certain that for them there is no need to enter in through the gate.

Jesus is that Gate. John 10:10
No one can come but by him. John 14:6
There is no other name under heaven but his whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12
If you come by any other way than Christ you are but a thief and robber. John 10:1

Bunyan lays out his dialog so that Formalist and Hypocrisy, interestingly, speak as one man. Their discourse is always headed with a "Formalist and Hypocrisy:" A study guide we are referring to said simply that Hypocrisy is Formalist full grown.

They said the following in order to justify themselves and their way which seemed right unto themselves:

If we are in, we are in: thou art but in the way, who, as we perceive, came in at the gate; and we also are in the way, that came tumbling over the wall: wherein now is thy condition better than ours?

I've had this exact conversation before with one who thought himself quite religious. He knew some things but Christ he did not claim to know. He persuaded himself by custom, tradition and good works that he was in same as I was in. "How is my state any different than yours?" I was young, like Christian, and not nearly so well equipped as him. I remember responding something like: "You seek to enter heaven by the good works you do, I know I can never do enough good works and seek to enter heaven by Christ alone who has already done the work."

I asked my girls: "How can someone appear to be in the Way as Formalist and Hypocrisy now appear so, and yet they entered not in at the gate?"

Some of their answers were:

Good works
Going to Church
By keeping up their religious tradition noting that they appealed much to "our custom...our custom... our custom.

Note there was a great deal of difference between Christian and these two:

Christian had a coat: clothed in the righteousness of Christ himself, a coat which brings him great comfort knowing that at the gates to the Celestial City..."will know me for good, since I have his coat on my back."

Mark on His Forehead: marking him as one of God's elect. Eze 9:1-7

Roll Sealed: The Holy Spirit of Promise, an earnest of our inheritance. Eph 1:13-14
(I'm still thinking on what and how to apply this symbol.)


Now as the trio approaches Hill Difficulty we read:

To these things they gave him no answer; only they looked upon each other, and laughed. Then I saw that they went all on, save that Christian kept before, who had no more talk but with himself, and that sometimes sighingly, and sometimes comfortably: also he would be often reading in the roll that one of the Shining Ones gave him, by which he was refreshed.

I beheld then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill Difficulty, at the bottom of which there was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the gate: one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring, Isa. 49:10, and drank thereof to refresh himself, and then began to go up the hill, saying,

Christian did not keep company with these two rogues. He warned them at first but now he must walk alone. Their company not suitable finally for one truly heading for the celestial city lest they also corrupt him.

Christ had "talk...with himself." This reminded me so much of "Preach the Gospel to Yourself Everyday." and also D. M. Lloyd Jones' book, Spiritual Depression, where we learn not to listen to ourselves but to talk to ourselves - to take our soul in hand and speak gospel truths and gospel promises, not to listen and dwell in despair but to speak God's word to our own soul as David in Psa 42:5 and Psa 42:11.

And so Christian drinks and refreshes himself and then begins up the hill. While Formalist and Hypocrisy each determining "That's too difficult," and going around in opposite directions to their own doom.

And as he starts up the hill he encourages himself with this:

“The hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here:
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear.
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”

I love this little poem which upon reflection thought of the following:

The Hill difficult may presently lie before me but this is the way of Life.

How high or how difficult does not matter.

To follow around the hill will in the end be of far worse consequence than climbing now what righteousness requires.

So "COME, PLUCK UP HEART." Drink from the streams of grace, read from the roll which comforts, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. A difficult, difficult hill lies before me but thanks be to God, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Search the great and precious promises for by these I shall be a partaker of his divine nature.

Better to follow RIGHTEOUSNESS though HARD.

THAN to go the Wrong way where the end is WOE!

And to God be all the Glory.

You may enjoy reading further from a Commentary on Pilgrim's Progress by clicking here.

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