Christian & Hopeful come to the Enchanted Ground. Here the air makes travelers sleepy. Hopeful longs to lie down for a nap, but Christian cautions against it. He suggests they engage in good conversation to keep themselves awake. He asks Hopeful how he first became concerned with the condition of his soul.
Hopeful confesses his old fondness for the things displayed at Vanity Fair. He also reveled in sinful behavior. But upon hearing the truth from Christian and Faithful, he became convinced that such things bring judgment. He resisted these convictions at first. Yet his conscience was so tormented that he resolved to improve himself.
He forsook sinful pleasures and sinful company. He also devoted himself to religious duties. This soothed his conscience at first, but eventually he became more troubled than before. He realized that his current efforts to improve did nothing to pay off his previous debt incurred by sin. And his attempts at godliness were mixed with new sin!
He shared his desperation with Faithful. Faithful told him that unless he obtained the righteousness of a man who never sinned, nothing could save him. This man is the Lord Jesus who died on the cross for Hopeful’s sins. Following his advice, Hopeful persevered in prayer until the Father gave him a saving revelation of Jesus.
This revelation filled Hopeful’s heart with joy and love “for the name, people and ways of Jesus Christ.” Now ashamed of his former sins, it made him “love a holy life and long to do something for the honor and glory of the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Hopeful notices Ignorance lagging behind. They stop and wait for him to catch up. Christian asks, “How is your relationship between God and your soul?” Ignorance answers, “I have hope that it is well for now. My mind is always full of good ideas and beliefs to comfort me as I walk.” His heart assures him he will certainly reach heaven because he has left all for God.
Christian disagrees. He explains our thoughts are only good when they agree with God’s Word. Specifically, we must pass the same judgment on ourselves that God’s Word passes on us. It says our hearts and actions are sinful, and God sees our sin even when we don’t. Ignorance objects, “I will never believe that my heart is that bad.”
Christian asks, “How could you think that you must believe in Christ, when you don’t see your need of him?” Ignorance answers that Jesus died for sinners, and His death makes our obedience acceptable to God. “Christ makes my religious duties acceptable to His Father by virtue of His merits and so shall I be justified.”
Christian disagrees again. He explains that Jesus doesn’t save us by justifying our actions; rather, He covers us with His own righteousness. Ignorance objects that such thinking leads us to indulge our sinful desires and live however we please. He fails to perceive the “true effects of saving faith…which include the conquest and winning over of the heart to God.”
Finally, Hopeful asks if Ignorance ever had Christ revealed to him from heaven. When Ignorance loses his patience, Christian affirms Christ cannot be known any other way. He denounces Ignorance as being ignorant of true faith and exhorts him to flee to Jesus for His righteousness. Ignorance motions with a wave of his hand for them to go ahead without him.
In this stage, Bunyan teaches us how to finish our pilgrimage. He has already taught us not to rely on our own strength but God’s. Now he explains that only those who start their pilgrimage properly will go on to finish it. He does so by contrasting Hopeful and Ignorance, taking us back to how each started their journey.
Hopeful begins his pilgrimage the right way. He enters by the Wicket Gate; that is, he acknowledges his own inadequacy before God and asks for Jesus to be revealed to him. On the other hand, Ignorance bypasses the Gate and enters by means of a crooked lane. He refuses to acknowledge his inadequacy and presumes Jesus will justify his works.
Many Christians in the church today resemble Ignorance. They refuse to acknowledge the full depravity of their hearts. They maintain that they choose to follow Jesus of their own free will, and He will justify them on the basis of their choice. They insist with Ignorance, “Christ makes my religious choices acceptable to His Father by virtue of His merits and so shall I be justified.”
They resist the notion of God’s sovereignty in salvation. They balk at the idea that God must reveal Jesus to them and produce saving faith in their hearts. They hold their free will to be inviolable, the most essential part of their salvation. This is dangerous ground! It is Enchanted Ground, which lulls pilgrims to sleep with a false sense of security in their salvation.
Do you want to finish your pilgrimage? Then let me ask, how did you begin? Did you start with total reliance on Jesus and what He did on your behalf? Or did you start with confidence in your own ability to make the right choice? Heed Ignorance’s example lest you too be rejected at heaven’s gates!
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