THE HILL DIFFICULTY
An extract from The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
Then I saw that they (Christian, Formalist, and Hypocrisy) went on all, save that Christian kept before, who had no more talk but with himself, and that sometimes sighingly, and sometimes comfortably;
also he would be often reading in the roll that one of the Shining Ones gave him, by which he was refreshed.
I beheld, then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill Difficulty, at the bottom of which was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the gate: one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring, and drank thereof to refresh himself (Isa. 49.10-12);
and then he began to go up the hill, saying –
The hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here.
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear;
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.’
The other two also came to the foot of the hill; but when they saw that the hill was steep and high, and that there were two other ways to go – and supposing also that these two ways might meet again with that up which Christian went, on the other side of the hill – therefore they were resolved to go in those ways. Now the name of one of those ways was Danger, and the name of the other Destruction. So the one took the way which is called Danger, which led him into a great wood; and the other took directly up the way to Destruction, which led him into a wide field, full of dark mountains, where he stumbled and fell, and rose no more.
I looked then after Christian, to see him go up the hill, where I perceived he fell from running to going, and from going to clambering upon his hands and his knees, because of the steepness of the place. Now, about the midway to the top of the hill was a pleasant arbour, made by the Lord of the hill for the refreshment of weary travellers. Thither, therefore, Christian got, where also he sat down to rest him. Then he pulled his roll out of his bosom, and read therein to his comfort; he also now began afresh to take a review of the coat or garment that was given to him as he stood by the Cross. Thus pleasing himself awhile, he at last fell into a slumber, and thence into a fast sleep, which detained him in that place until it was almost night; and in his sleep his roll fell out of his hand. Now, as he was sleeping, there came one to him, and awakened him, saying, ‘Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.’ (Prov. 6.6.) And with that Christian suddenly started up, and sped him on his way, and went apace till he came to the top of the hill.
Now, when he was got up to the top of the hill, there came two men running amain; the name of the one was Timorous, and of the other Mistrust: to whom Christian said. Sirs, what’s the matter? you run the wrong way. Timorous answered, that they were going to the City of Zion, and had got up that difficult place: but, said he, the farther we go, the more danger we meet with; therefore, we turned, and are going back again. ,
Yes, said Mistrust, for just before us lie a couple of lions in the way, whether sleeping or waking we know not; and we could not think, if we came within reach, but they would presently pull us in pieces.
CHRISTIAN. Then said Christian, You make me afraid; but whither shall I flee to be safe? If I go back to my own country, that is prepared for fire and brimstone, and I shall certainly perish there; if I can get to the Celestial City, I am sure to be in safety there: I must venture. To go back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it: I will yet go forward. So Mistrust and Timorous ran down the hill, and Christian went on his way. But thinking again of what he heard from the men, he felt in his bosom for his roll, that he might read therein and be comforted; but he felt, and found it not. Then was Christian in great distress, and knew not what to do; for he wanted that which used to relieve him, and that which should have been his pass into the Celestial City. Here, therefore, he began to be much perplexed, and knew not what to do. At last he bethought himself that he had slept in the arbour that is on the side of the hill; and falling down upon his knees, he asked God’s forgiveness for that his foolish act, and then went back to look for his roll. But all the way he went back, who can sufficiently set forth the sorrow of Christian’s heart? Sometimes he sighed, sometimes he wept, and often-times he chid himself for being so foolish to fall asleep in that place, which was erected only for a little refreshment from his weariness. Thus, therefore, he went back, carefully looking on this side and on that, all the way as he went, if happily he might find his roll that had been his comfort so many times in his journey. He went thus till he came again within sight of the arbour where he sat and slept; but that sight renewed his sorrow the more, by bringing again, even afresh, his evil of sleeping unto his mind. Thus, therefore, he now went on, bewailing his sinful sleep, saying, 0 wretched man that I am, that I should sleep in the day-time! (1 Thess. 3.7,8; Rev. 2.4,5); that I should sleep in the midst of difficulty! that I should so indulge the flesh as to use that rest for ease to my flesh which the Lord of the hill hath erected only for the relief of the spirits of pilgrims! How many steps have I taken in vain! Thus it happened to Israel: for their sin they were sent back again by the way of the Red Sea;
and I am made to tread those steps with sorrow, which I might have trod with delight, had it not been for this sinful sleep. How far might I have been on my way by this time! I am made to tread those steps thrice over, which I needed not to have trod but once: yea, also, now I am like to be benighted, for the day is almost spent. Oh, that I had not slept!
Now, by this time he was come to the arbour again, where for a while he sat down and wept; but at last (as Providence would have it), looking sorrowfully down under the settle, there he espied his roll; the which he, with trembling and haste, catched up and put into his bosom. But who can tell how joyful this man was when he had gotten his roll again? For this roll was the assurance of his life, and acceptance at the desired haven. Therefore, he laid it up in his bosom, gave thanks to God for directing his eye to the place where it lay, and with joy and tears betook himself again to his journey. But oh, how nimbly now did he go up the rest of the hill! Yet, before he got up, the sun went down upon Christian; and this made him again recall the vanity of his sleeping to his remembrance; and thus he began again to condole with himself: O thou sinful sleep! how for thy sake am I like to be benighted in my journey! I must walk without the sun, darkness must cover the path of my feet, and I must hear the noise of the doleful creatures, because of my sinful sleep! Now, also, he remembered the story that Mistrust and Timorous told him, of how they were frightened with the sight of the lions. Then said Christian to himself again, these beasts range in the night for their prey; and, if they should meet with me in the dark, how should I shift them? how should I escape being by them torn in pieces? Thus he went on his way. But while he was thus bewailing his unhappy miscarriage, he lift up his eyes, and behold there was a very stately palace before him, the name of which was Beautiful, and it stood just by the highway-side.
So I saw in my dream that he made haste and went forward, that if possible he might get lodging there. Now, before he had gone far, he entered into a very narrow passage, which was about a furlong off the porter’s lodge; and, looking very narrowly before him as he went, he espied two lions in the way. Now, thought he, I see the danger that Mistrust and Timorous were driven back by. (The lions were chained, but he saw not the chains.) Then he was afraid, and thought also himself to go back after them, for he thought nothing but death was before him; but the porter at the lodge, whose name was Watchful, perceiving that Christian made a halt as if he would go back, cried unto him, saying. Is thy strength so small? (Mark 4.40.) Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith, where it is; and for the discovery of those that have none: keep in the midst of the paths and no hurt shall come unto thee.
Then I saw that he went on, trembling for fear of the lions; but taking good heed to the directions of the porter, he heard them roar, but they did him no harm. Then he clapped his hands, and went on till he came and stood before the gate where the porter was. Then said Christian to the porter. Sir, what house is this? and may I lodge here to-night? The porter answered, this house was built by the Lord of the hill, and He built it for the relief and security of pilgrims. The porter also asked whence he was, and whither he was going?
CHRISTIAN. I am come from the City of Destruction, and am going to Mount Zion; but, because the sun is now set, I desire, if I may, to lodge here to-night.
PORTER. What is your name?
CHRISTIAN. My name is now Christian, but my name at the first was Graceless; I came of the race of’ Japheth (Gen. 9.27), whom God will persuade to dwell in the tents of Shem.
PORTER. But how doth it happen that you come so late? The sun is set.
CHRISTIAN. I had been here sooner, but that, wretched man that I am, I slept in the arbour that stands on the hillside! Nay, I had, not-withstanding that, been here much sooner, but that in my sleep I lost my evidence, and came without it to the brow of the hill; and then, feeling for it, and finding it not, I was forced, with sorrow of heart, to go back to the place where I slept my sleep, where I found it; and now I am come. ,
PORTER. Well, I will call out one of the virgins of this place, who will, if she likes your talk, bring you in to the rest of the family, according to the rules of the house. So Watchful, the porter, rang a bell, at the sound of which came out of the door of the house a grave and beautiful damsel, named Discretion, and asked why she was called.
The porter answered. This man is on a journey from the City of Destruction to Mount Zion; but, being weary and benighted, he asked me if he might lodge here to-night: so I told him I would call for thee, who, after discourse had with him, mayest do as seemeth thee good, even according to the law of the house.