Pilgrim's Progress | Study Guide

John Bunyan

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Pilgrim's Progress | Part 1, Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

Pausing to take in a scenic view, Christian spots his friend Faithful up ahead and rushes to catch up with him. Faithful, who is glad to have company on his pilgrimage, fills Christian in on the happenings back in their hometown of Destruction. He then tells of the dangers of his own journey, which was nearly turned aside at the foot of Hill Difficulty. There, Faithful met an ancient man—Adam the First—who tried to lure Faithful into becoming his servant. Rejecting Adam's offer, he proceeded to climb the hill but was chased, knocked down, and beaten by Moses, who "[knew] not how to show mercy." In the Valley of Humiliation he met with many who attempted to halt his journey, including Discontent, Pride, and Shame, but he shook them off and continued through the two valleys to where he stands now.

As the two friends continue, they are joined by Talkative, who quickly proves himself worthy of his name. Faithful admires Talkative because he speaks a great deal about religious matters, but Christian warns him to beware. Together, the two bait Talkative into admitting that he may know and say a great deal about religion without actually being a good Christian. Irritated by their behavior, Talkative parts ways with them just as they come to a wilderness.

Analysis

Bunyan continues to stress the distinction between faith and works and to insist on the value of both in Christian life; that is, faith instigates and guides the execution of good works something on the order in which a horse —in action—is directed by its rider—in intent. In the first half of this chapter Faithful recalls his encounters with a cast of characters who showcase the need for faith. Moses, who assaults Faithful as he is already climbing up Hill Difficulty, is for Christians the archetypal lawgiver of the Hebrew Bible. In making Moses such a violent figure here, Bunyan underscores the emptiness of merely following the law without a saving faith in Jesus. This is one of a few points in The Pilgrim's Progress at which Bunyan contrasts obedience to God's law in the Hebrew Bible with the fulfillment of God's law through Christ in the Gospels. In this, he puts the New Testament firmly as a refinement to the Old.

The group of malcontents in the Valley of Humiliation further showcases the need for faith. If Faithful were not so faithful, he might easily be convinced by their arguments, which are grounded in this world. Discontent, Pride, and Shame all seek to appeal to Faithful's vanity—a recurring point of attack for Bunyan's "bad guy" characters. Faithful, however, has his eyes on a bigger prize, and his belief in the Celestial City and its king draws him onward.

In the second half of the chapter, Bunyan introduces a new character who shows the folly of faith without works—or, more accurately, who shows that a true faith is an active faith. For Bunyan faith is more than mere belief in the fact of Jesus's resurrection: it is an inward change that inspires virtuous living. This view draws support from the New Testament letters of Paul and other early Christian leaders, but there is a certain "chicken-or-egg" quality to the way Bunyan presents it in The Pilgrim's Progress. Talkative may have faith in some sense, as he professes to, but if he really had faith, he would practice what he preaches. Thus, it isn't the case that good works are necessary, per se; rather, they serve as a sign that one's faith is resilient and mature.

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