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They that fly from the wrath to come, are a Gazing Stock to the world. Jer. 20:10

Obstinate and Pliable follow him.






2 Cor. 4:18

Luke 15:17



1 Peter 1:4

Heb. 11:16




Luke 9:62











Christian and Obstinate pull for Pliable's Soul

Heb. 13:20-21  / 9:17-21

Pliable contented to go with Christian.






Obstinate goes railing back.

Commentary and full references

They that fly from the wrath to come, are a Gazing Stock to the world. 


Jer. 20:10: 

For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.

Obstinate and Pliable follow him.



2 Cor. 4:18

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Luke 15:17

And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

1 Peter 1:4

To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

Heb. 11:16

But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Luke 9:62

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Christian and Obstinate pull for Pliable's Soul

Heb. 13:20-21  / 9:17-21

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.

For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,

Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.

Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.

Pliable contented to go with Christian.

Obstinate goes railing back.


SOME MOCKED, SOME THREATENED - Bunyan's marginal note and reference to Jeremiah 20 are offered alongside this neighborly rejection of the running Man. To be a gazing stock to the world is to be a spectacle, as well as evoking the pillorying of someone held in the stocks, a common punishment and badge of shame. The phrasing echoes Paul's observation that the apostles in facing death as fools for Christ 'are made a spectacle unto the world' (1 Cor 4:9). Jeremiah encounters opposition among his own people for his prophetic witness. Jer 20:2 sees the prophet held overnight in the stocks, and the verses Bunyan adduces in his reference indicate the mockery and insults he bore.

OBSTINATE - We don't yet know the Man's name, even as he represents an Everyman figure, and Evangelist is named by his ministry. Here, and with his companion, we have the more obviously allegorical names for those who the pilgrim encounters. Allegory personifies in these instances the character trait that is being commended or reproved. Even so, we see that Bunyan gives his characters realistic and earthy dialogue and genuine action apart from their name enacting. So, Obstinate, is the stubborn person who will not be persuaded by good news and clings to all that he holds dear without entertaining change or transformation or travel.

PLIABLE - sets of to bring the Man back home, but is then persuadable, exhibiting a flexibility of disposition and opinion.

CITY OF DESTRUCTION - This is the first time the Man's city is named. This name appears on the city above the right and shoulder of the sleeping Bunyan made famous in the frontispiece to the third edition in 1679. Curiously there is one extant copy of that edition where the name of the city is given as Vanity (from a later episode in the book). This could have been a type setting error, but might indicate something theologically apt in conflating the city and town that are of this world.

I WAS BORN - being a native son of Destruction points to the theological affirmation of total depravity, that all humans are in and subject to Adam's sin

FIRE AND BRIMSTONE - although the paring of 'fire and brimstone' endures in contemporary imagination as a caricature of angry evangelism, the reference is to the common enough description of the punishment of divine wrath. Notably this is so in the destruction of Sodom (Gen 19:24, Luke 17:29), and the repetition of 'lower than the grave' in reference to Tophet (Isaiah 30:33) which we have already encountered; see also Psalm 11:6, and Revelation 9:17-18, 14:10, 19:10 , 20:10, 21:8.

LEAVE OUR FRIENDS AND COMFORTS BEHIND US! - a clear recognition that fleeing wrath as the Man is doing is seen by his neighbors as giving up goods to held onto dearly. Such is the call to discipleship, see ALL WHICH YOU FORSAKE below.

SAID CHRISTIAN (FOR THAT WAS HIS NAME) - Although not obviously the Man's given name, we later find out he was named Graceless, it is significant that the narrator recognizes his name as Christian right at the beginning of his journey. In many ways the difference between becoming and being Christian in one's journey is not of interest to Bunyan in the way that it is to many interpreters. This seems to be a disposition learned from Luther's influence through the Galatians commentary. This is a significant pastoral gain over the insecurities Bunyan shares over his own salvation in Grace Abounding. There is still instruction and assurance to be gained ahead but Evangelist's call might be understood along with Calvin as effectual.

ALL WHICH YOU FORSAKE - Matthew 19:37-39 (also Luke 14:33) in which Jesus speaks of forsaking all for this name's sake to inherit everlasting life. 

IS NOT WORTHY TO BE COMPARED WITH -The reference Bunyan gives is to 1 Cor 18 pointing to the permanence of things eternal rather than that which fades. The wording 'not worthy to be compared with' also exactly echoes Romans 8:18 contrasting present sufferings to the glory to be revealed.

I SEEK TO ENJOY - if Puritanism is often characterized, even in a reading of The Pilgrim's Progress as shunning worldly enjoyment in the 'flesh', it is still part of the attraction of the Christian life that it promises enjoyment. 

AND HOLD IT - it is not immediately clear what Christian is commending his neighbors to hold onto. It seems this is the promise of future enjoyment.

PROVE MY WORDS - both taste and test my words, see how they will come true. 

LEAVE ALL THE WORLD TO FIND IT - finding is an instructive verb in the logic of loss and reward, self-denial and following Christ, seeking the Kingdom of God in the gospels, Matthew 7:14, 10:39, 16:25, 18:13, and  Luke  11:9-10, 15:4, 8.

I SEEK AN INHERITANCE....LAID UP IN HEAVEN - Bunyan gives the reference for the direct quotation of 1 Peter 1:4, which passage indicates that this salvation is 'reserved' in heaven.  But Bunyan prefers to offer Hebrews 11:16 in relation to heaven in his text, supporting the logic of his narrative toward another city. That the Hebrews verse also tells readers that God will not ashamed to be called their God is significant in countering the social shame in following the narrow way that Bunyan is expounding in this episode. 

TO BE BESTOWED, AT THE TIME APPOINTED - history for Bunyan is providentially ordered, directed toward the last day of God's judgment. 'Appointed' echoes Hebrews (1:2, 3:2), in relation to Jesus as the agent of the great salvation that will be bestowed at the judgment (Hebrews 9:27, also Acts 17:31).

THEM THAT DILLIGENTLY SEEK IT - Diligence has been recently indicated as the stand out virtue on display in The Pilgrim's Progress (Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well (2019)). And although Bunyan has little to say expositionally about virtues, it is plausible that his allegorical study naturally opens up this aspect as characters personify their habitual virtues or vices.  Seeking language will always evoke Jesus's injunction to "Seek first the Kingdom of God", but this allusion is again most directly to Hebrews 11:6 "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

READ IT SO...IN MY BOOK - Another emphatic deferral to the authority of Christian's book, the Bible, and the power of reading for discipleship, commending the very activity that Bunyan's writing is promoting to his Christian community.

TUSH - originally an exclamation of disapproval, disbelief or dismissal (see e.g. Shakespeare, Hamlet, (I.i.30 Horatio: "Tush, tush, 'twill not appear."). Not the current meaning in US English of a person's buttocks!

LAID MY HAND TO THE PLOUGH - supported by the marginal reference to Luke 9:62. The phrase becomes a proverb for persisting in what one has begun to do or committed to. The plow and the plowman had been significant typical commoner Christians in the Lollard appropriation of Langland's medieval allegorical dream vision Piers Plowman, and then Protestantized through William Tyndale's expressed desire that the Bible be made available through his translation efforts in vernacular English “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives a plough to know more of the scriptures than you do.”

CRAZY-HEADED COXCOMBS - Another fun earthy insult, coxcomb meaning fool, from the court jester's hat, both meanings are in Shakespeare, e.g. Henry V, IV.i.77, King Lear, I.iv.95ff.

TAKE A FANCY BY THE END-  indulge a fantastical notion to its end point. 'Fancy' indicates a whimsical rather than well deliberated desire.

WISER IN THEIR OWN EYES - Proverbs 26:16 "The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason."

MORE FOOLS STILL?...BRAIN-SICK FELLOW...BE WISE - Having just quoted from Proverbs, Bunyan piles up the allusions to the twin dynamic of wisdom and folly here from that book, as also from Jesus teaching (e.g. Matthew 7:24-27).

CONFIRMED BY THE BLOOD OF HIM THAT MADE IT - Bunyan makes clear in the accompanying marginal note that in this entreaty by Christian that both he and Obstinate are 'pulling for', that is, seeking to influence, persuade and direct the course of Pliable's soul. The conversation is about eternal spiritual destiny. The phrase that Christian uses to bolster the authority of his Book is interesting. Bunyan gives Hebrews 13, 20-21 as the reference, in later editions amended to Hebrews 9:17-21. While both speak of the shed blood of Jesus on the cross, the Heb 9 reference is to the blood of the covenant, which might analogously apply to the Bible as the written testament, such as that which the writer to the Hebrews, whom Bunyan would take to be Paul, mentions as his own writing. Still it could be that Bunyan later reflected that an even stronger resonance would be in Heb 9, where Moses sprinkles the book of the law with the mediating blood of sacrifice, in comparison to whom Jesus is a better mediator of a new convenant by his blood. In any case it is implied that the one whose blood is sprinkled is the maker of the book. This is picked up and asserted again in Hopeful's testimony later on in the story. The allusion to Jesus is still couched in allegory that does not name him. Again this is an instance where we see that the narrative universe of The Pilgrim's Progress is foundational biblical, such that the narrator and allegorist assume a lot of the readers i terms of recognition.

MISLED FANTASTICAL FELLOWS- the repeated emphasis is that Christian's torment has been a mental/psychological one in its spirituality, as also perceived in the criticism of his mockers and detractors thus far. This locates the seat of Christianity in the interior world of the heart or mind rather than in external action or ecclesiastical observance.

The neighbors also came out to see him run, ; and as he ran, some mocked, others threatened, and some cried after him to return; and among those that did so, there were two that were resolved to fetch him back by force. The name of the one was Obstinate and the name of the other Pliable. Now by this time the man was got a good distance from them; but, however, they were resolved to pursue him, which they did, and in a little time they overtook him. Then said the man, “Neighbors, wherefore are you come?” They said, “To persuade you to go back with us.” But he said, “That can by no means be: you dwell,” said he, “in the city of Destruction, the place also where I was born: I see it to be so; and dying there, sooner or later, you will sink lower than the grave, into a place that burns with fire and brimstone: be content, good neighbors, and go along with me.”

Obstinate: What, said Obstinate, and leave our friends and our comforts behind us!

Christian: Yes, said Christian, (for that was his name,) because that all which you forsake is not worthy to be compared with a little of that I am seeking to enjoy, ; and if you will go along with me, and hold it, you shall fare as I myself; for there, where I go, is enough and to spare. Come away, and prove my words.

Obstinate: What are the things you seek, since you leave all the world to find them?

Christian: I seek an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away; and it is laid up in heaven, and safe there, , to be bestowed, at the time appointed, on them that diligently seek it. Read it so, if you will, in my book.

Obstinate: Tush, said Obstinate, away with your book; will you go back with us or no?

Christian: No, not I, said the other, because I have laid my hand to the plough.

Obstinate: Come then, neighbor Pliable, let us turn again, and go home without him: there is a company of these crazy-headed coxcombs, that when they take a fancy by the end, are wiser in their own eyes than seven men that can render a reason.

Pliable: Then said Pliable, Don’t revile; if what the good Christian says is true, the things he looks after are better than ours: my heart inclines to go with my neighbor.

Obstinate: What, more fools still! Be ruled by me, and go back; who knows whither such a brain-sick fellow will lead you? Go back, go back, and be wise.

Christian: Nay, but do thou come with thy neighbor Pliable; there are such things to be had which I spoke of, and many more glories besides. If you believe not me, read here in this book, and for the truth of what is expressed therein, behold, all is confirmed by the blood of Him that made it.

Pliable: Well, neighbor Obstinate, said Pliable, I begin to come to a point; I intend to go along with this good man, and to cast in my lot with him: but, my good companion, do you know the way to this desired place?

Christian: I am directed by a man whose name is Evangelist, to speed me to a little gate that is before us, where we shall receive instructions about the way.

Pliable: Come then, good neighbor, let us be going. Then they went both together.

Obstinate: And I will go back to my place, said Obstinate: I will be no companion of such misled, fantastical fellows.

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