Pilgrim's Progress | Study Guide

John Bunyan

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Pilgrim's Progress | Part 2, Chapter 3 | Summary



As the pilgrims prepare to resume their journey, the Interpreter appoints his servant Great-Heart to be their guide to their next waystation, Palace Beautiful. As the group pass by the cross where Christian's burden fell off in Part 1, Great-Heart leads a discussion on the nature of justification and righteousness. Affected by the thought of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, Christiana wishes that her neighbors back in the City of Destruction would undergo their own change of heart.

Continuing down the road, they see three hanged men. These are Simple, Sloth, and Presumption from Part 1, Chapter 3, now duly punished for dissuading pilgrims from their quest. Next comes Hill Difficulty, at the foot of which are the two deadly paths once taken by Formalist and Hypocrisy. After some remarks on the danger of taking "by-ways" to salvation, the group climb the hill, albeit slowly and laboriously. They make a brief stop for rest at the arbor midway up the hill where Christian fell asleep and lost his scroll.


Christiana's concern for her neighbors illustrates her kindheartedness, but it also shows a degree of spiritual immaturity. On the one hand it is laudable of her to wish that her worldly neighbors would experience a change of heart and be saved rather than perish in flames with the other denizens of Destruction. On the other hand she is naive in thinking that her neighbors would become devout Christians if only they saw what she has seen. After all, so many other pilgrims have made their way through the gate and past the cross, only to lose sight of their goal and fall prey to greed, carelessness, or some other vice.

In inviting the reader to think about Mrs. Timorous and the rest of Christiana's neighbors back home, Bunyan is revisiting a topic from the end of Part 1: "Many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt 22:14). Although Bunyan does not here go into the factors that make one person—Christiana—respond to God's call and others—Mrs. Timorous and company—stay behind, the point remains that not everyone will follow the pilgrim's path, even if invited. She does, however, have one clear advantage over her neighbors relative to the hope of success, and that is that her good husband, Christian, has gone before her and provided her and their children with his own example.

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