In Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2 (aka Christiana’s Progress), Christian’s wife is finally persuaded that she needs to follow her husband (after his death) to the Celestial City, when a visitor delivers to her a summons from the King himself inviting her. As she prepares for the journey, two neighbors drop in to visit her. Mrs. Timorous poses all kinds of arguments against taking this dangerous journey. (“Think of your children!”). The other neighbor, Mercy, agrees to accompany her at least as far as the Wicket Gate. Mercy is apprehensive because she has not received so clear and direct and encouraging an invitation from the King himself, But Christiana promises that she will inquire on Mercy’s behalf for admittance at the Wicket Gate.
When they reach the gate and knock, however, the sudden, ferocious barking of a large dog on the other side terrifies them. At first Christiana is afraid that more knocking will only provoke the dog further; but she summons her courage, knocks even more vigorously than before, and is at once admitted with her children. (The dog, she later discovers, belongs to a neighbor whose property adjoins the Wicket Gate in order to discourage those who would enter there.)
But what about Mercy?
Now all this while poor Mercy did stand without, trembling and crying, for fear that she was rejected. But when Christiana had gotten admittance for herself and her boys, then she began to make intercession for Mercy.
“My Lord, I have a companion that stands yet without, that is come hither upon the same account as myself; one that is much dejected in her mind, because she comes (as she thinks) without sending for, whereas I was sent to by my husband’s king to come.”
Now Mercy began to be very impatient, for each minute was as long to her as an hour, until finally she began knocking at the gate for herself. And she knocked then so loud that she startled Christiana within….
So he opened the gate and looked out, but Mercy had fallen down in a swoon, for she fainted and was afraid that no gate would be opened to her. Then he took her by the hand and said, “Damsel, I bid thee arise…. Fear not, but stand upon thy feet and tell me why thou art come.”
“I am come for that unto which I was never invited as my friend Christiana was. Hers was from the King, and mine was but from her. Wherefore I fear I presume.”
“Did she desire thee to come with her to this place?”
“Yes, and as my Lord sees, I am come. And if there is any grace and forgiveness of sins to spare, I beseech that I thy poor handmaid may partake thereof.”
And here, Bunyan himself adds in the margin, “Mark this”:
Then he took her again by the hand and led her gently in, and said, “I pray for all them that believe on me, by what means soever they come to me.”
“And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17).
Come, ye weary, heavy-laden, lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better you will never come at all.
Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him.