Great Heart and the Hill of Difficulty by John Bunyan

Great Heart and the Hill of Difficulty by John Bunyan

All the passages below are taken from John Bunyan’s book, “Pilgrim’s Progress.” It was first published in 1678. The present book is a complete and unabridged edition translated from the original 17th century text and further annotated into modern English by L. Edward Hazelbaker and published in 1998. This is the easiest and clearest translation to read and understand.

Now I SAW IN my dream that they went on, and Great Heart went before them. So they went on and came to the place where Christian’s burden fell off his back and tumbled into a tomb. Here, then, they paused and blessed God.

“What was said to us at the Gate now comes to mind,” said Christiana, “that we should receive pardon by word and deed. By word, that is, by the promise; and by deed, that is, in the way it was obtained. I know something about what the promise is, but what does it mean to have pardon by deed or in the way it was obtained? Mr. Great Heart, I suppose you know. If you please, therefore, let us hear your explanation of it.”

 Great Heart their answered, “Pardon by the deed done is pardon obtained by someone for another who has need of it. This is not speaking of a deed done by the person pardoned, but it refers to the way—as says another—in which I’ve obtained it.1 So then, to speak to the question more in general, the pardon that you, Mercy, and these boys have attained was obtained by Another—that is, by Him who let you in at the Gate. And He has obtained it in this double way: He has performed righteousness to cover you and has spilled blood in which to wash you.”2

“But if He imparts His righteousness to us, what will He have for himself?” inquired Christiana

“He has more righteousness than you have need of, or than He himself needs,” answered Great Heart.

“Please clarify that,” said Christiana.

“Gladly,” said Great Heart, “but first I must premise my remarks by saying that He of whom we are now about to speak is an Individual who has no equal. He has two natures in one person, and they are plain to be distinguished but impossible to be divided. A righteousness belongs to each of these natures, and each righteousness is essential to that nature; so that one may just as easily cause the nature to be extinct as to separate it from its justice or righteousness. We’re not, therefore, made partakers of these righteousnesses, in that they or any of them would be put upon us to make us just and lively by them. Besides these, there is a righteousness which this Person has as these two natures are joined in one. And this is not the righteousness of the Godhead as distinguished from the manhood; nor is it the righteousness of the manhood as distinguished from the Godhead; but it is a righteousness which appears in the union of both natures. This righteousness may properly be called the righteousness that was essential to His preparation by God for the responsibility of the position of Mediator, with which He was to be entrusted.”3

“If He parts with his first righteousness,” continued Great Heart, “He parts with His Godhead. If He parts with his second righteousness, He parts with the purity of His manhood. If He parts with His third, He parts with the perfection which qualifies Him for performing mediation. He has another righteousness, therefore, which is demonstrated through performance or obedience to a revealed will, and that is the righteousness that He puts upon sinners and which covers their sins. He said, therefore, `For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.’”4

Then Christiana asked, “But aren’t the other righteousnesses of use to us?”

“Yes,” answered Great Heart, “for although they are essential to His natures and position—and so can’t be given away to another—yet, it’s by the virtue of them that the righteousness that justifies is empowered for that purpose. The righteousness of His Godhead gives virtue to His obedience; the righteousness of His manhood gives capability to His obedience to justify; and the righteousness that stands in the union of these two natures to His position gives authority to that righteousness to do the work for which it was ordained.”

“So,” continued Great Heart, “here then is a righteousness that Christ, as God, has no need of; for He is God without it. Here is a righteousness that Christ, as Man, has no need of to make Him so; for He is perfect Man without it. Again, here is a righteousness that Christ, as God-man, has no need of; for He is perfectly so without it. Here then is a righteousness that Christ, as God, Man, and God-man, has no need of with reference to himself. So He can set aside a justifying righteousness that He doesn’t need for himself, and therefore, He gives it away. That’s why it’s called the Gift of Righteousness.”5

Great Heart continued, “Since Christ Jesus the Lord has made himself righteous under the Law, this righteousness must be given away; for the Law not only binds the one who is under it to do justly but to also use love. Since He must do these, according to the Law he who has two coats ought to give one to him who has none.6 Now our Lord, indeed, has two coats, one for himself and one to spare. He, therefore, freely places one upon those who have none; and so, Christiana and Mercy, and the rest of you who are here, your pardon comes by deed, or by the work of another Person. Your Lord Christ is He who has worked, and what He labored for He has given away to the next poor beggar He meets.”

“But again,” Great Heart went on, “in order to pardon by deed, something must be paid to God as a price as well as for something prepared with which to cover us.7 Sin has delivered us up to the just curse of a righteous Law. Now from this curse we must be justified by way of redemption, a price being paid for the harms we have done; and this is by The Blood of your Lord who came and stood in your place and stead, and who died your death for your transgressions.8 Thus, He has ransomed you from your transgressions by blood and covered your polluted and deformed souls with righteousness. For the sake of this, God passes by you and will not hurt you when He comes to judge the world.”9

“This is wonderful,” said Christiana. “Now I see there was something to be learned by our being pardoned by word and deed. Good Mercy, let’s labor to keep this in mind. And, my Children, you remember it, too. But, Sir, wasn’t this what made my good Christian’s burden fall from off his shoulder? And what made him give three leaps for joy?”

“Yes,” responded Great Heart, “it was the belief of this that cut out those strings that couldn’t be cut by other means, and he was permitted to carry his burden to the Cross to give him proof of the virtue of this.”

“I thought so,” said Christiana, “for although my heart was light and joyous before, yet it’s ten times more lightsome and joyous now. And I’m persuaded by what I’ve felt—even though I’ve felt only a little as yet—that if the most burdened man in the world was here, and he saw and believed as I now do, it would make his heart more merry and glad.”

Then Great Heart said, “Not only is comfort and ease from a burden brought to us by the sight and consideration of these, but also an endearing affection is conceived in us by it. For if a person just once considers that pardon comes not only by promise but from this, who could keep from being affected with the way and means of redemption, and also with the Man who worked to prepare it for him?”

“True,” agreed Christiana, “I think it makes my heart bleed to think He should bleed for me. Oh, You loving One! Oh, You blessed One! You deserve to have me, for You have bought me. You deserve to have me all, for You paid for me ten thousand times more than I’m worth. It’s no marvel this made the tears stand in my husband’s eyes and made him step so nimbly on. I’m persuaded he wished me to be with him, but vile wretch that I was, I let him come all alone. Oh, Mercy, if only your father and mother were here! Yes, and Mrs. Fearful also! No, with all my heart I now wish that Madam Wanton were here, too. Surely, surely, their hearts would be affected; nor could the fear of one nor the powerful lusts of the other convince them to go home again and cause them to refuse to become good Pilgrims.”

Great Heart then said, “You now speak in the warmth of your affections. Do you think it will always be like this with you? Besides, this is not communicated to everyone nor to everyone who saw your Jesus bleed.10 There were those who stood by and saw the Blood run from His heart to the ground, and yet they were so far off this that instead of lamenting, they laughed at Him; and instead of becoming His disciples, they hardened their hearts against Him. So, all you have, my Daughters, you have by a peculiar impression made by a divine contemplating upon what I’ve spoken to you. Remember, it was told you that the hen, by her common call, gives no meat to her chickens. This, therefore, you have by a special grace.”

Now I saw still in my dream that they went on until they had come to the place where Simple, Sloth, and Presumption lay and slept when Christian went by on Pilgrimage. And there, they were hanged up in irons a short distance off on the other side.

Then Mercy asked him who was their Guide and Leader, “Who are those three men? And why were they hanged there?”

Great Heart answered, “These three were men of very bad qualities. They had no mind to be Pilgrims themselves, and they hindered whomever they could. They were in favor of slothfulness and folly themselves, and they made whomever they could persuade with these things the same way, too, and thereupon taught them to presume they should do well at last. They were asleep when Christian went by, and now as you go by they are hanged.”

“But could they persuade anyone to be of their opinion?” asked Mercy.

“Yes,” answered Great Heart, “they turned several out of the Way. There was Slow Pace, whom they persuaded to do as they do. They also convinced one named Shortwind, one named Noheart, one named Linger Afterlust, one named Sleepy Head, and a young woman named Dull, to turn out of the Way and become like them. Besides that, they brought up a bad report of your Lord, persuading others that He was a taskmaster. They also brought up an evil report of the Good Land, saying it wasn’t half as good as some pretended it to be. They also began to denounce His servants and to count the very best of them as meddlesome, troublesome busybodies. Furthermore, they would call the Bread of God, husks; the comforts of His children, fancies; and the travel and labor of Pilgrims, things to no purpose.”

“No,” said Christiana, “if they were such, they’ll never be wept for by me. They have just what they deserve. And I think it’s good they hang so near the Highway, so that others may see and take warning. But wouldn’t it have been good if their crimes had been engraved in some plate of iron or brass and left here—even where they made their mischief—for a caution to other bad men?”

“So it is,” answered Great Heart, “as you may very well see if you’ll go a little toward the Wall.”

“No, no,” said Mercy, “let them hang, their names rot, and their crimes live forever against them. I believe it to be a high favor that they were hanged before we came here. Who knows what else they might have done to such poor women as we?”

Then she turned it into a song, saying:

Now then you three hang there, and be a Sign 

To all that shall against the Truth combine. 

And let him that comes after, fear this End, 

If unto Pilgrims he is not a Friend.

And thou, my Soul, of all such men beware, 

That unto Holiness opposers are.

Thus, they went on until they came to the foot of the Hill Difficulty, where their good friend Mr. Great Heart took an occasion to tell them about what happened there when Christian himself went by. He took them first to the Spring and said, “Look, this is the Spring from which Christian drank before he went up this hill. It was clear and good then, but now it’s dirty from the feet of some who aren’t desirous that Pilgrims should quench their thirst here.”11

At that, Mercy asked, “Why do you suppose they’re so envious?”

“But it’ll do if it’s taken up and put into a sweet and good vessel,” said the Guide, “for then the dirt will sink to the bottom, and the water will come out by itself more clear.”

Therefore, that is what Christiana and her companions had to do. They took it up and put it into an earthen pot and let it stand until the dirt had gone to the bottom, and then they drank of it.

Great Heart next showed them the two byways at the foot of the hill where Formality and Hypocrisy lost themselves. “These,” he said, “are dangerous paths. Two were cast away when Christian came by, and although, as you see, these ways have been barricaded with chains, posts, and a ditch, there are yet those who will choose to venture here rather than take the pains to go up this hill.”12

“The way of transgressors is hard,”13 said Christiana. “It’s a wonder they can get into those ways without the danger of breaking their necks.”

“They’ll attempt it,” responded Great Heart. “Yes, if at any time any of the King’s servants happen to see them, call to them, tell them they’re in the wrong ways, and advise them to beware of the danger, then in return they’ll scornfully answer them and say, `We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the King! We will certainly do everything we said we would.’”14

“No,” he continued, “if you look a little farther, you’ll see that these ways are made ominous enough, not only by these posts, ditch, and chain, but also by being bordered by thorn hedges. Yet, they’ll choose to go there.”

“They’re idle,” said Christiana. “They love not to take pains. The Up-hill Way is unpleasant to them, so it is fulfilled to them as it is written, `The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns.’15 Yes, they’ll rather choose to walk upon a snare than to go up this hill and the rest of this way to the City.”

Then they set forward and began to climb the hill, and up the hill they went. But before they got to the top, Christiana began to pant and said, “I dare say, this is a breathing hill. It’s no marvel that they who love their ease more than their souls choose a smoother way for themselves.”

Then Mercy said, “I must sit down.”

Also, the youngest of the children began to cry.

“Come, come!” said Great Heart. “Don’t sit down here, for a short distance above is the Prince’s Arbor.” Then he took the little boy by the hand and led him up to it.

When they had come to the Arbor, they were very willing to sit down, for they were all beaten down from the heat. Then Mercy said, “How sweet rest is to them who labor.16 And how good the Prince of Pilgrims is to provide such resting places for them. I’ve heard much about this Arbor, but I never saw it before. Let’s beware of sleeping here, though, for I heard it cost poor Christian dearly.”

Then Mr. Great Heart said to the little ones, “Come, my fine Boys, how are you doing? What do you think now about going on Pilgrimage?”

“Sir, I had almost lost heart,” said the youngest, “but I thank you for lending me a hand in my need. I remember now what my mother has told me, namely that the way to Heaven is like a ladder and the Way to Hell is like down a hill. But I’d rather go up the ladder to life than down the hill to death.”

Then Mercy said, “But the proverb is: `To go down the hill is easy.’”

But James (for that was his name) said, “In my opinion, the day is coming when going down the hill will be the hardest of all.”17

“That’s a good boy,” said Great Heart. “You’ve given her a right answer.”

Then Mercy smiled, but the little boy blushed.

“Come,” said Christiana, “will you eat a bit, a little to sweeten your mouths while you sit here to rest your legs? For I have here a piece of pomegranate that Mr. Interpreter put into my hand just as I went out of his doors.18 He also gave me a piece of honeycomb and a little bottle of spirits.”19

“I thought he gave you something,” said Mercy, “for he called you aside.”

“Yes, so he did,” said Christiana. “But, Mercy, it will still be as I said it would when we first left home. You’ll be a sharer of all the good I have because you so willingly became my companion.”

Then she gave to them, and they ate, both Mercy and the boys. Christiana said to Mr. Great Heart, “Sir, will you do as we?”

But he answered, “You’re going on Pilgrimage, and I’ll soon return. May what you have to eat do much good for you. Every day at home I eat the same as you do now.”

Now when they had eaten and drunk, and had chatted a little longer, their Guide said to them, “The day wears away. If you think it good, let’s prepare to be going.”

So they got up to go, and the little boys went in front. However, Christiana forgot to take her bottle of spirits with her, so she sent her little boy back to fetch it.

Then Mercy said, “I think this is a Place of Losing. Here Christian lost his Book, and here Christiana left her bottle behind her. Sir, what is the cause of this?”

So their Guide answered and said, “The cause is sleep or forgetfulness. Some sleep when they should stay awake, and some forget when they should remember. This is the exact cause why often at the resting places some Pilgrims, in some things, come away losers.20 During their times of greatest enjoyment, Pilgrims should watch and remember what they’ve already received.21 But for failing to do so, oftentimes their rejoicing ends in tears, and their sunshine in a cloud. Witness the story of Christian in this place.”

When they had come to the place where Mistrust and Fearful met Christian to persuade him to go back for fear of the lions, they saw as it were a platform and in front of it, towards the road, a wide plate with a copy of verses written upon it. Underneath was written the reason of the construction of the platform in that place. The verses were these:

Let him that sees this Stage, take heed

Unto his Heart and Tongue: 

Lest if he do not, here he speed 

As some have long agone.

The words underneath the verses were: “This platform was built to punish upon those who through fearfulness or mistrust shall be afraid to go further on Pilgrimage. Also, on this platform, both Mistrust and Fearful were burnt through the tongue with a hot iron for endeavoring to hinder Christian on his journey.”

Then Mercy said, “This is similar to the saying of the Beloved, `What will he do to you, and what more besides, 0 deceitful tongue? He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom tree.”22

So they went on until they came within sight of the lions. Now Mr. Great Heart was a strong man, so he was not afraid of a lion; but, when they had come up to the place where the lions were, the boys who walked in front were glad to cringe behind, for they were afraid of the lions. So they stepped aside and went to the back.

At this, their Guide smiled, and said, “How’s this, my Boys? Do you love to take the lead when no danger approaches but love to take the rear as soon as the lions appear?23

Now, as they went up, Mr. Great Heart drew his Sword with the intention of making a way for the Pilgrims in spite of the lions. Then there appeared one who, it seemed, had taken upon himself to support the lions and said to the Pilgrims’ Guide, “What’s the reason you’ve come here?” The name of that man was Grim (or Bloody Man) because of his slaying of Pilgrims, and he was of the race of the Giants.

The Pilgrim’s Guide then said, “These women and children are going on Pilgrimage, and this is the way they must go. And go it they shall, in spite of you and the lions.”

“This isn’t their road,” answered Grim, “neither shall they travel in it. I’ve come here to withstand them, and to that end I’ll back the lions.”

 Now to tell the truth, by reason of the fierceness of the lions and of the grim behavior of him who backed them, this way had lately been much unoccupied and was almost grown over with grass.

Then Christiana said, “Though the roads were abandoned, and though the travelers have been made at times to walk on winding paths, it must not be so now that I’ve risen to be `a mother in Israel.’”24

Then Grim swore by the lions that it should be so. Therefore, he commanded the Pilgrims to turn aside, for they should not have passage there. But their Guide approached Grim the first time and attacked him so heavily with his Sword that he forced him to retreat.

Then Grim asked, “Will you kill me upon my own ground?”

“It’s the King’s Highway we’re in,” said Great Heart, “and it’s in this path that you’ve placed your lions. But these women and children, though weak, shall continue on their way in spite of your lions.”

And with that, he again gave him a tremendous blow and brought him to his knees. With the next blow he broke his helmet, and with the next he cut off an arm. Then the Giant roared so hideously that his voice frightened the women, but they were glad to see him lie, sprawled out on the ground.

Now the lions were chained, and so of themselves could do nothing. Therefore, when old Grim, who intended to back them, was dead, Great Heart said to the Pilgrims, “Come now and follow me. You’ll not be hurt by the lions.”

They therefore went on, but the women trembled as they passed by them. The boys also looked as if they would die, but they all got by with no further harm. (271-282)


1. 2 Titus 3:5. A comment upon what was said at the Gate, or a discourse of our being justified by Christ. 

2. Revelation 1:5 (KJV); Revelation 7:14.

3. 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6-9:15, 12:24.

4. Romans 5:19.

5. Romans 5:17.

6. Luke 3:11.

7. 1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23.

8. Romans 4:23-25; Galatians 3:13.

9. Psalm 98:8-9; Exodus 12:12-13, 21-23.

10. To be affected with Christ, and with what he has done, is a thing special.

11. ‘Tis difficult getting of good doctrine in erroneous times. Ezekiel 34:17-19.

12. By-paths, though barred up, will not keep all from going in them.

13. Proverbs 13:15 (KJV).

14. Jeremiah 44:16-17. 

15. Proverbs 15:19.

16. Matthew 11:28.

17. Which is hardest, up hill or down hill? 

18. Deuteronomy 8:6-10.

19. The Honeycomb mentioned in the Bible is a symbol for the good provision of the land. The word “spirits” is often used to speak of good moods, positive feelings, and courage. The pomegranate figured prominently in the Old Testament text. Its fruit provided food and drink, and images and carvings of pomegranates were used to adorn buildings and clothing, including the clothing of the Hebrew priests.

20. Mark this.

21. Revelation 2:25; Philippians 3:16. 

22. Psalm 120:3-4.

23. An emblem of those who go on bravely when there is no danger, but shrink when troubles come.

24. Judges 5:7; Judges 5:6-7.

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