Thus far, Christian’s progress has been one many of us will recognise; a journey long and tiring with perils on the way. But as he reaches the highway with a wall called Salvation on either side, he sees a Cross and a sepulchre – and his burden falls from his back and rolls to the mouth of the tomb. Quickened by Faith, he has come thus far – and by Grace, Grace unmerited and undeserved, by the action of the Cross, the burden has gone. But it is not the end of Christian’s journey. Now as he stood looking and weeping, three
Shining Ones came to him, and saluted him with, “Peace be to thee.” So the first said to him, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” Mark 2:5; the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment, Zech. 3:4; the third also set a mark on his forehead, Eph. 1:13, and gave him a roll with a seal upon it, which he bid him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the celestial gate: so they went their way.
As Christian continues on his way, he is joined by two strangers who have taken a short-cut over the wall rather than coming by the narrow gate. His contemporaries, like ours, had no doubts who ‘Hypocrisy’ and ‘Formalist’ were. Their justification for their action gave the game away – they had many years of tradition which verified that their way was approved of – by men, of course. That they end up following the roads of Death and Destruction is no surprise.
Christian, however, falls asleep and fears he has lost the roll given to him by the Shining Ones – and is relieved when he retraces his steps and finds it. But the loss makes him realise the need for vigilance, and means he turns up after dark at the palace where he is to rest. Like all of us, he had taken his eye off the ball – and there were consequences.
At the Palace Beautiful four maidens – Discretion, Prudence, Piety and Charity – advise him and provide him with counsel and weapons for his journey. Although it is a place of rest and calmness, for the Pilgrim, there is no respite from the challenges he will meet. His answer to their question of what he seeks and why he journeys is one we all know:
Why, there I hope to see Him alive that did hang dead on the cross; and there
I hope to be rid of all those things that to this day are in me an annoyance to me: there they say there is no death, Isa. 25:8; Rev. 21:4; and there I shall dwell with such company as I like best. For, to tell you the truth, I love Him because I was by Him eased of my burden; and I am weary of my inward sickness. I would fain be where I shall die no more, and with the company that shall continually cry, Holy, holy, holy.