As we begin reading Part II, we are greeted again by Bunyan who transmits this story to us as the sharing of his dream, and from the very first paragraph, we discover the subject of this tale: Christian’s wife and children that he left behind in the City of Destruction. Yet unlike the First Part, Bunyan does not throw us immediately into a vision of Christian’s family; instead, he tells us of his conversation with a man called Mr. Sagacity. It is from Mr. Sagacity that Bunyan learns how the news of Christian’s pilgrimage has spread. Indeed, he reports that everyone in the City of Destruction now knows of Christian, and he notes that many now speak very highly of him:
For tho’ when he was here, he was Fool in every man’s mouth, yet now he is gone, he is highly commended of all; for, ’tis said, he lives bravely where he is: Yea, many of them that are resolved never to run his hazards, yet have their mouths water at his gains.205
While this is by no means a concrete rule, it is certainly the case that some who are ridiculed for their zeal in life are sometimes highly esteemed by those same mouths after their death. Very much among those who profess at least to believe in God, godly men and women of the past are often held in honor, even if few dare to venture along the same difficult path to life. Many look with longing at the rewards of faithfulness, yet few will endure its tribulations and afflictions.
Mr. Sagacity goes on to recount the rumors that spread abroad about Christian’s glorious dwelling among the shining ones and with his beloved King. In this brief telling, I would particularly call our attention to a few sentences:
Moreover, it is expected of some, that his Prince, the Lord of all that country, will shortly come into these parts, and will know the reason, if they can give any, why his neighbors set so little by him, and had him so much in derision, when they perceived that he would be a Pilgrim.
For they say, that now he is so in the affections of his Prince, and that his Sovereign is so much concern’d with the indignities that were cast upon Christian, when he became a Pilgrim, that he will look upon all as if done unto himself: and no marvel, for ’twas for the Love that he had to his Prince, that he ventured as he did.205-206
These are marvelous words to read, especially whenever we are slandered by others because of our zeal for Christ. It is not for us to raise our fists against such enemies; rather, we proclaim their need of repentance. And should they fail to repent, our Lord’s return will right all wrongs done, for each word or deed of cruelty against His children will be counted as if done to Him directly. Of course, Jesus said so Himself: “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:45). Let us set our hope upon that coming justice whenever we are in the midst of slander and hatred. Christ will soon return to right all wrongs.
Christiana Becomes a Pilgrim
Bunyan then asks Mr. Sagacity if he had heard any report of what became of Christian’s family. The traveler then reports that Christian’s wife and children became pilgrims just as Christian had become, and upon Bunyan’s prompting, he tells how that came to pass.
First, we learn that Christiana became just as burdened by her guilt as Christian was before he set out for his journey. Yet much of her guilt came from how she mocked Christian as he wept over his burden and how she refused to go with him as a pilgrim. After weeping also with her four sons over this guilt, she fell asleep and saw a series of dreams. In her first dream, she saw a black parchment that had all of her sins listed out upon it. When she awoke, crying for mercy, she saw two devilish figures beside her bed, fearing that they would soon lose her as they lost Christian. Then falling asleep again, she dreamed a second dream of Christian in the bliss of the Celestial City.
Through all of this Bunyan is displaying for us the necessity of being convicted of sin. Of course, we must take care because guilt can easily lead to condemnation rather than conviction. Yet condemnation is the result of a hopeless guilt, and it is the agony that Satan often employs to twist the dagger of sin ever deeper. Conviction, however, is hopeful guilt, even if that hope may be slight at times. The glimpse at Christian’s bliss and the visions at the fretting demons were given to Christiana so that her guilt would not turn to despair but that it would lead her to repentance.
But how can anyone call upon the Lord in repentance unless they have heard the good news that the heavenly King welcomes all who come to Him in humility?
In the morning, such a messenger of good news came to Christiana and her children, a man named Secret. I agree with one commentator who explained:
The silent influences of the Holy Spirit are here personified. The intimations of Secret represent the teachings of the Holy Spirit, by which the sinner understands the real meaning of the Sacred Scriptures as to the way of salvation.
Secret’s marvelous message to Christiana and her sons is this:
Christiana, the Merciful One has sent me to tell thee, That he is a God ready to forgive, and that he taketh Delight to multiply the pardon of offences. He also would have thee know, that he inviteth 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.209-210
This is, of course, the glorious invitation of the gospel that we as Christians are called to proclaim, and if you are reading this and are not a Christian, this is your invitation from Christ to follow Him, to be His pilgrim.
Secret also gave to Christiana a letter from the King, bidding her to come to the Celestial City “and to dwell in his Presence with Joy for ever” (210). Then after warning her of the bitter trials that would surely come along the way, he counseled her to keep the letter always at hand, “that thou read therein to thyself, and to thy Children, until you have got it by root-of-heart: For it is one of the songs that thou must sing while thou art in this House of thy Pilgrimage” (210). The margin notes that we should consider Psalm 119:54 as being reflected in these words: “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojournings.” Songs are significant because they are one of the quickest and surest ways to root truths within both the mind and the heart. And during the bitterness of life’s trials, God’s people must be rooted in His Word, if we are to have any hope of enduring to the end. Thus, a triumphant pilgrim is most certainly a pilgrim who sings the songs of Zion!
Of Mrs. Timorous
After the visit from Secret, Christiana resolved to become a pilgrim and to follow the King’s path just as her husband had done. When she told her plans to her sons, they were overcome with joy to set out after their father. Here we might pause for a moment to pray that our own walk with the Lord would leave just such a testimony, that our loved ones who once mocked our faith would soon long to follow and know Christ as we have followed and known Him. Yet particularly husbands and fathers ought to take this to heart. If you would have your wife and children zealous for Christ, then show them a life of zeal for the Lord!
Before Christiana and her children are able to set out, they are met by two of their neighbors, Mrs. Timorous and Mercy. Mrs. Timorous, who we are told is the daughter of the very Timorous who attempted to dissuade Christian from facing the lions, inquires of Christiana’s plans and attempts to dissuade her from embarking upon her path. Like her father, Mrs. Timorous notes the dangers that lay before as reasons for remaining in the City of Destruction. Of course, Christiana has already been warned of those very dangers, yet she is willing to face them because of the promise of a greater joy that is sure to follow.
We should note of particular interest that Mrs. Timorous cites Obstinate and Pliable as wise men who refused to follow after Christian. Yet if we remember how Pliable was treated for the rest of his life upon returning to the City of Destruction, we can easily see the character of this woman. Like the rest of her fellow citizens, she no doubt despises Pliable, yet in this moment, it is convenient to call him wise.
Christiana’s response is one to take to heart:
Tempt me not, my neighbour: I have now a price put into my hand to get gain, and I should be a Fool of the greatest size, if I should have no heart to strike in with the opportunity. And for that you tell me of all these Troubles that I am like to meet with in the Way, they are so far off from being to me a Discouragement, that they shew I am in the right. ‘The Bitter must come before the Sweet,’ and that also will make the Sweet the sweeter. (213-214)
This reminds us of Jim Elliot’s famous saying: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Christiana is like Mary who chose “the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). Indeed, she is also right to note that rather than being discouraged by the difficulties, they actually point to her that she is sharing in the affliction of her King.
As Christiana parts from Mrs. Timorous, Mercy clings to her, and we will discuss her more specifically in the next reading. Our present passage closes with Mrs. Timorous returning to tell several of her neighbors about the news of Christiana’s departure. This brief dialogue between Mrs. Timorous, Mrs. Bat’s-eyes, Mrs. Inconsiderate, Mrs. Light-mind, and Mrs. Know-nothing is clearly a display of what Paul warned women to avoid: “Besides, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (1 Timothy 5:13). Such gossip is a particular temptation for women precisely because women tend to be more socially conscious than men. Thus, gossip and busybodying very often masquerading themselves as simply staying up-to-date with everyone. We should also take note that social media has now placed such gossip and busybodying at everyone’s fingertips and behind a screen, so that the guilt of talking about others behind their back now feels even more distant.
In contrast to such foolish and sinful babble, let us conclude with one of Bunyan’s most significant moments that led to his conversion:
But upon a day, the good providence of God did cast me to Bedford, to work on my calling, and in one of the streets of that town, I came where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door in the sun, and talking about the things of God; and being now willing to hear them discourse, I drew near to hear what they said, for I was now a brisk talker also myself in the matters of religion, but now I may say, I heard, but I understood not; for they were far above, out of my reach; for their talk was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature; they talked how God had visited their souls with his love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil… And methought they spake as if joy did make them speak; they spake with such pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me, as if they had found a new world, as if they were people that dwelt alone, and were not to be reckoned among their neighbors.
Sisters in Christ, which group most closely reflects your conversations? Are you a gossip and busybody like Mrs. Timorous and her friends? Or does your speech sound as if it came from another world, like a citizen of heaven who is sojourning here on earth?