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The Pilgrim’s Progress (Week 4 of 13)

The Yoke of Slavery: The Worldly Wiseman

pilgrim's progress We continue with our look at the “bad guys” of The Pilgrim’s Progress by investigating the character of Worldly Wiseman, Christian’s greatest foe before coming to the cross.

After his brief fall into the Slough of Despond, Christian is met by Mr. Worldly Wiseman who encourages him to venture to the Eternal City by another way. This takes him to Mount Sinai where he encounters great terrors. He flees and is rescued by Evangelist who helps him to understand the error of Wiseman’s advice.

Getting Started: Finish reading the first stage of Christian’s journey, specifically his encounter with Worldly Wiseman and Evangelist. 

1. Character sketch of Mr. Worldly Wiseman

a. He’s from the town Carnal Policy, a large town close to the City of Destruction.

b. He is an elderly, learned gentleman who claims to know a better way for someone to be rid of their burdens of guilt. Bunyan portrays him as a sort of liberal pastor.

c. He approaches Christian with a demeanor of sympathy and concern.

d. He condemns Evangelist’s directions to the Wicket-gate. “There is not a more dangerous and troublesome way in the world than is that unto which he hath directed thee.” He tells Christian he will get weary, experience pain, hunger, threats, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, and death. (Wiseman obviously does not think the cross is the one way to salvation.)

e. Wiseman believes Christian got the burden on his back by meddling affairs too high for him to understand. It is Christian’s amateur understanding of the Bible that is responsible for his unyielding guilt. (Wiseman thinks common man misinterprets the Bible when it comes to matters of sin, guilt, and salvation. It is not for the weak-minded.)

f. Wiseman has a better way:

i. Wiseman’s way will avoid the dangers of Evangelist’s way and will give Christians “safety, friendship, and content.”

ii. Go see Legality in the village of Morality. (Interpretation: Live a moralistic lifestyle by following the law of God.)

1. Legality is a judicious, thoughtful, and sensible person.

2. He has a good reputation. He is well-liked by many.

3. He is skilled in taking burdens off of other’s backs.

4. He is skilled in curing people who are “crazed in their wits with their burdens.”

5. His son Civility is also skilled in these things. (Interpretation: “Civil” religion is one of the offspring of this kind of moralism.)

iii. Live in Morality instead: It has homes available for rent and would be better suited for Christian and his family to live.

iv. To get to Morality, Christian needs to climb the hill. (We later learn this hill is actually Mt. Sinai.)

2. Christian attempts to climb the hill.

a. The hill is very high and steep.

b. The hill makes his burden seem even heavier (see Romans 3:20).

c. The hill is surrounded by flashes of fire (see Hebrews 12:18-21).

3. Evangelist rebukes Christian about his mistake.

a. “How is it then that thou art so quickly turned aside?” – These words quote the Apostle Paul’s opening words of rebuke to the Galatians (1:6).

i. Worldly Wiseman is of a “carnal temper.” He thinks one can be made perfect by his flesh (see Galatians 3:1-3).

ii. Worldly Wiseman favors only “the doctrine of this world,” taught by the Church of Morality, because “it saveth him best from the cross” (see Galatians 6:12-14).

iii. Legality is the “son of the bond-woman” and is “Mount Sinai” (see Galatians 4:21-5:1).

iv. Legality cannot free Christian from his burden because “ye cannot be justified by works of the law” (see Galatians 2:10-11).

v. Evangelist calls to the heavens to confirm his teaching, and a voice comes from the mountain echoing Galatians 3:10.

b. Evangelist tells Christian there are three things about Worldly Wiseman’s advice that Christian must despise

i. Hate the teaching that tries to turn you from the one narrow path to salvation (see Matthew 7:13-14).

ii. Hate the teaching that tries to make you hate the suffering way of the cross (see Mark 8:34-38).

iii. Hate anything that encourages you to revert back to the “administration of death” (see 2 Corinthians 3:7-11).

pilgrim's progress wiseman

Questions for Personal Reflection (please comment):

  • Have you heard preaching that would suggest that true believers should not have to experience trials?
  • Have you heard preaching today that suggests that if the Bible were read in a more learned way, we wouldn’t be so consumed with ideas of wrath, judgment, or guilt before God?
  • Have you tried harder to overcome a sin and found yourself only more weighed down with guilt? Have you ever tried to become more spiritual in order to feel “right” before God?
  • Do you think Evangelist’s rebuke of Christian is too harsh? Why or why not?


  1. Sadly, I have heard preaching that suggested that Christians should not go through trials or if they did, it’s because they sinned. That thinking is not true, and I believe quite harmful for those who are Christians and struggling. Sadly, I have tried to overcome sin and it gets harder and harder to do, but that’s what so freeing about the Gospel. I am a sinner and there has been NOTHING I can do on my own; it’s ALL Christ. One of my favorite pastors for listen to is Iain Duguid; his preaching is so freeing and constantly points to Christ.

    • Luke Gilkerson says:

      Hi Sarah. Yes, unfortunately many people falsely believe trials must be a sign of a lack of faith. I find it impossible to open the Bible and get that impression. At every turn the faithful people of God faced trials, temptations, and limitations, but God was their all in all.

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