Honest, Fearing, & Gaius

Having previously ventured through the Valleys of Humiliation and the Shadow of Death and defeated the giant Maul in combat, we continue onward with the pilgrims’ journey. Over the course of this stage, they meet a fellow pilgrim named Honest, who recounts for them the pilgrimages of Mr. Fearing and Mr. Self-will. Lastly, they are greeted warmly into the home of Gaius.

Our reading begins with the pilgrims discussing the battle against Maul with Great-heart. Ministers would do well to consider Great-heart’s example. As shepherds, pastors must be prepared to be a loving and gentle guide, as well as fend off wolves that come near. Such battles as Great-heart has had with Grim and with Maul are inevitable, and as with any battle, ministers are likely to be wounded in the fray. Yet like Great-heart, we must look upon every wound as proof of one’s love for Christ and for His people. Also, like Great-heart, the minister must readily say, “It is my duty to distrust mine own ability, that I may have reliance on Him that is stronger than all” (293).

Continuing onward, the pilgrims found an older pilgrim asleep beneath an oak tree. As they quickly learn, this pilgrim’s name is Mr. Honest. George Offer notes well that:

The character of Honesty is beautifully drawn by a masterly hand. The aged pilgrim, worn out with fatigue, can say without fear, ‘I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.’ He blushed when his name was mentioned, and proved to be a most valuable acquisition to the Pilgrim party.[1]

I find it interesting that Honest comes from the town of Stupidity, which “lieth about four degrees beyond the City of Destruction” (295). As the dialogue between Great-heart and Honest shows, Bunyan clearly considered stupidity to be a great danger. Bunyan is seconded in this thought by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who in his essay about the ten years leading up to 1943, wrote:

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed–in such moments the stupid person even comes critical–and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.[2]

Of course, we all have the capacity for stupidity. Even Asaph wrote that “when my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you” (Psalm 73:21-22). Thankfully, as Honest said even if a man were a mountain of ice, “yet if the Sun of Righteousness will arise upon him, his frozen heart shall feel a thaw; and thus it hath been with me” (295). And I am certain that most Christians can say the same.

After meeting all the pilgrims and blessing the boys and Mercy, Honest was then asked by Great-heart if he knew of another pilgrim named Mr. Fearing. Honest notes that he certainly did and, after learning that Great-heart was his guide, asked to be told of how his pilgrimage fared.

Rather than commenting upon particular aspects of Fearing’s journey, let us focus upon what Bunyan is broadly teaching through this particular part of his allegory. We should first note that Fearing is called by both Honest and Great-heart a very troublesome pilgrim, yet he nevertheless proved to be a true pilgrim indeed. Living up to his name, Fearing walked the pilgrim’s path in a perpetual fright. Yet here was the key to Fearing’s completion of his journey: “When he came at the Hill Difficulty he made no stick at that, nor did he much fear the Lions: For you must know, that his trouble was not about such things as those, his fear was about his acceptance at last” (299-300). His great fear was not of the worldly dangers around him but of not being accepted by the King.

Fearing was one who “carried the Slough of Despond in his mind everywhere with him.”[3] And there are certainly many like him. They are brothers and sisters in Christ who can never take hold of any assurance of their salvation, even as they continue forward in the faith and bear perhaps even more fruit than others. For them, all of life is as the Valley of the Shadow of Death. We ought to take comfort that Fearing was, at the end of his journey, delivered from his fears at last. Many Christians will pass through seasons that resemble Fearing, and some will bear that burden throughout their lives. Great-heart is again a wonderful example for ministers in particular to bear with such companions in love, counting it all joy to strengthen them along their journey.

Indeed, let us all consider the following counsel: 

Here is a very striking lesson for professors. Talk not of your great knowledge, rich experience, comfortable frames, and joyful feelings; all are vain and delusive, if the gospel has not a holy influence upon your practice. On the other hand, be not dejected if you are not favoured with these; for if a holy fear of God, and a godly jealousy over yourselves, possess your heart, verily you are a partaker of the grace of Christ.[4]

Yet we will let little James have the last word on Mr. Fearing: “No fears, no Grace; though there is not always Grace where there is the fear of Hell, yet to be sure there is no Grace where there is no fear of God” (303).

In contrast to Fearing, the pilgrims briefly discussed another man named Self-will. This man only pretended to be a pilgrim, though Honest was convinced that he had never entered through the Wicket-gate. If Fearing represents the somewhat unhealthy self-deprecation that marks some Christians, Self-will represents the wicked presumption that marks many false Christians. Twisting Scripture to his justify his sin, Self-will argued that a sufficiently virtuous man could practice without fear many of the vices that some of God’s own people committed. Let us learn from Self-will’s wicked example that a toleration of sin is never to be tolerated. Christians will certainly continue to sin after being justified by Christ, yet we must never make peace with our sin. We must, rather, war against it until our dying breath. And woe be to any who like Self-will encourage other Christians to be at peace with their sin!

For the final portion of our reading, the pilgrims come upon the owner of an Inn named Gaius, who joyfully welcomes the company. The margin references Romans 16:23 here, which reads, “Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you.” We should also note that 3 John is addressed to a man named Gaius, and verses 5-8 sound very much like the behavior of Bunyan’s Gaius:

Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

Both biblical Gaiuses were evidently hospitable and gracious hosts like this Gaius is, for he gladly welcomed them and gave them a feast to eat. I will make three quick notes upon these final pages to conclude our discussion.

First, notice again the beauty of sitting around the table for a shared meal and fruitful discussion in the life of a Christian. Just as many important moments of Jesus’ ministry occurred while at a dinner table, so too will many crucial moments in our own lives occurred while dining with our brothers and sisters.

Second, notice the great honor that Gaius gives to the legacy of Christian and of his great lineage of ancestors. Of course, Christian’s family is our family as well. Stephen, Paul, Peter, Ignatius, Polycarp, and countless others are our brothers and sisters in the faith. And as Christian’s sons coveted to tread in his steps, so should we with them. Indeed, when reading biographies of Christians from the past with my daughter, I frequently remind her that one day we will have the great honor of meeting them face to face and of worshiping Christ alongside them.

Third, consider Giaus’ advice for Christiana’s sons to be married and have offspring, that “Christian’s family is like still to spread abroad upon the face of the ground, and yet to be numerous upon the face of the earth” (311). I have much that I could say about this topic, for it is dear to my heart, but I will be brief.[5] It is my fear that many Christians today have a zeal for the Great Commission while neglecting the importance that the First Commission still plays in that task. To my estimation, the most basic strategy for making disciples of all nations ought to be for Christians to be fruit, to multiply, to fill the earth, and subdue it.

I say basic because there are certainly many ways to make disciples, yet the Christian household ought to be the core strategy. Indeed, though I am firm believer in the benefits of small groups (we call them community groups at our church), I do fear that many place upon them the hope of growth and multiplication that ought to rightly be placed upon households. After all, God built necessary multiplication into the fabric of the family.

The great problem with upholding the household as the central disciple making strategy is that is not quick. It is the planting of a forest rather than a garden. The fruit is multigenerational and may not be tasted in one’s lifetime. Yet I do believe that this ought to be our aim, and as Gaius suggests, most young Christians ought to get married and have children “to preserve a posterity in the earth.”

[1] The Works of John Bunyan Vol III, 211-212.

[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, 9.

[3] The Works of John Bunyan Vol III, 215.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Also, I hope to write a series of articles on this topic next year.

The page numbers refer to the Banner of Truth hardcover, which can be found here.


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