THE LIFE AND LITERATURE OF JOHN BUNYAN
The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World to that Which is to Come;
The Enchanted Ground
Having learned through bitter experience the dangers of neglecting warnings, Christian and Hopeful were not going to repeat their encounter with the Flatterer. With the lashes of the whip of chastening still raw upon their backs they entered The Enchanted Ground wiser and more thoughtful men.
God on occasions allows us to suffer because our sins, in order that we might be prevented from even greater errors in the future. Life is a constant learning curve we are taught by God’s Word and by our own failure to follow its guidance. We do well to be constantly following these lessons in order that our own personal pilgrimages may be improved as our walk with God is enhanced.
The Meaning of the Enchanted Ground
In other places along the journey the pilgrims experienced bitter and dangerous foes such as Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation, Vanity Fair and its fierce citizens, Giant Despair and his dark dungeon and the Flatterer with his entangling net. Here the enemy was lethargy because the air in the Enchanted Ground naturally made one drowsy.
This new region may represent the Church of Christ when there is no persecution and when the people God receive the full enjoyment of religious liberty. When under attack Christians become strong and resolute. Not so in times of ease. Complacency sets in, convictions wane and compromise becomes more likely.
Prosperity is another cause of this spirit of slumber among the people of God. Faith it seems, always becomes strong in adversity but weak in seasons of plenty when the temptation to be self-reliant is great. The Church Laodicea is the classic example being rich and increased with goods, while at the same time they were lukewarm in their devotion to Christ.
Political instability and international upheavals has the effect of driving God’s people to their knees as war and suffering become real. When there is peace in the nation, however, the tendency to become less intense and less fervent is overwhelming.
When the numbers are small within a church there is real need for all the members to support every meeting but as the crowds grow lethargy can set in and the enthusiasm can wane as a small nucleus is still left to carry the burden of prayer especially.
When one is newly converted, young in the faith, the natural inclination is to be exuberant and enthusiastic. The excitement of new born faith sometimes frightens some of the older believers who sadly are too content to remain sleeping on the Enchanted Ground. Very quickly the young believer is put to sleep by the spirit of lethargy that exists around him.
The spirit of this age in which we live is certainly conducive to spiritual drowsiness. It is not only the liberty and prosperity of our times that has made our times the Enchanted Ground of world history. The philosophy of our generation sneers at spiritual enthusiasm. This is especially so where the idea of an exclusive way of salvation is introduced. The tolerance of our age is intolerant of those who speak of one God, who speaks through His Word which is our only rule of faith and practise. Therefore, Christians and Churches tend to go into the bunker, keep their heads low for fear of being verbally humiliated.
Does God want us to live like mice on the Enchanted Ground? Is it God’s will for his people to sleep their way to the Celestial City? Are we not an army on the march, defending truth and attacking the gates of the enemy? If we are enchanted by the spirit of this age we are not doing God’s will. Rather like Peter we are denying the master.
A brief perusal of some of the descriptions of the Christian in Scripture would indicate that we need to be committed, enthusiastic and uncompromising individuals as good soldiers of Jesus Christ:
“Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11)
“Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” (Mark 13:35-37)
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1st Corinthians 15:58)
“I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:1-3)
The Tactics for the Enchanted Ground
How then did Christian and Hopeful stave off the enchanted atmosphere of this region that they were passing through?
They talked to one another about spiritual matters:
“When saints do sleepy grow, let them some hither,
And hear how these two pilgrims talk together:
Yea let them learn of them, in any wise,
Thus to keep ope their drowsy slumb’ring eyes.
Saints’ fellowship, if manag’d well,
Keeps them awake, and that in spite of Hell.”
John Bunyan uses this part of the journey to relate the testimony of Hopeful, which was the main subject matter of the conversation. We discover that he was a man who indulged in all the vices that were destructive to the soul; “swearing, lying, uncleanness, Sabbath breaking…”. When he first had contact with Faithful and was convicted of his sin he attempted to mend his life as Bunyan himself did. It was Faithful who taught Hopeful the futility of such an approach as he related himself:
“And he told me, that unless I could obtain the righteousness of a man that never had sinned, neither mine own, nor all the righteousness of the world could save me.”
As Faithful expounded the merits and efficacy of Christ Hopeful testified to the faith that was born within his soul:
“I believed that was true which had been told, to wit, that without the righteousness of this Christ, all the world could not save me; and therefore, thought I with myself, if I leave off to die, I can but die at the throne of grace.”
Hopeful described himself as coming to Christ as a very great sinner but he received the blessed response, “My grace is sufficient for thee”, as Christ was revealed to his soul.
This conversation which carried the pilgrims through the Enchanted Ground teach us that the cure for spiritual lethargy is Christ.
May God help us to love Him more, to share Him with one another and be filled with resolve to serve Him with even our dying breath!