What can we learn from The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan?The Pilgrim's Progress (more fully, The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which is to Come, Delivered Under the Similitude of a Dream) is a Christian allegory written by John Bunyan and published in 1678 with Part Two published in 1684. It's a religious allegory, folk story, fairy tale, epic, and early novel all in one. Bunyan presents the story as a dream he experienced and wants to share with the reader.
John Bunyan was a tinker by trade but became a Reformed Baptist and Puritan preacher three years after his conversion. Bunyan was not a state-sanctioned preacher and did not use the Book of Common Prayer as the king had commanded, so he was jailed. In fact, it was during his time in jail that Bunyan began writing The Pilgrim's Progress. He wrote over thirty books in his lifetime. But what makes The Pilgrim's Progress particularly notable is its vast use of Scripture.
The story follows Christian as he travels from his home, the City of Destruction, to the Celestial City, detailing all of his trials and adventures along the way. This journey is meant to represent the spiritual development of every Christ follower from conviction and repentance through life's ups and downs to physical death and finally entrance into heaven. Christian passes through many places, including the Slough of Despair, the Valley of Humiliation, the Town of Vanity, Doubting Castle, and the Delectable Mountains, finally crossing a river before being admitted into the Celestial City. Along the way, he meets many people including the Evangelist, the Interpreter, Faithful, Hopeful, Discretion, Obstinate, Sloth, and Ignorance. Each person either helps or hinders Christian's travels as he experiences dangers at many times and refreshment and blessing at others.
Part Two follows his wife, Christiana, and their four sons as they, too, leave the City of Destruction and travel to the Celestial City. Characters from Part One participate in Part Two, but several new characters are also introduced—for example, Mr. Greatheart, Mercy, Much-Afraid, and Honest. By faithfully following God's promises, Christiana also arrives safely at the Celestial City.
Because the book was written as a picture of the Christian life, no matter where readers are currently in their spiritual journey, they find themselves reflected in this epic. The Pilgrim's Progress provides deeper understanding for what it means to be released from the burden of sin, warnings about temptations that may arise, encouragement during difficult circumstances, and hope in the promises of God yet to be fulfilled.
Reading the Scriptures brought to life in Bunyan's fictional telling often helps readers grasp biblical truths in new ways. It is these timeless biblical truths that explain the success of The Pilgrim's Progress as a top-selling and widely popular book for over 300 years. It has been translated into over 200 languages and even been edited for children's editions, making it accessible to as many people as possible. Any reader would be blessed by taking the time to get lost in the pages of The Pilgrim's Progress and see biblical truths brought to life in this delightful allegory.
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