John Bunyan: The Man and the Book he Wrote
CHAPTER 1: HIS BOYHOOD
Perhaps not so very many young people of today have read “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” and yet it is a remarkable book; a book that has been translated into more languages, and gone through more editions, than any other book except the Bible. And it was written by a remarkable man—John Bunyan He was not rich, or learned, or anything the world calls great, but just a simple, honest, working man, and yet his name is today found in more than one list of “Great Writers.”
It is nearly three hundred years ago since, in the autumn of the year 1628, John Bunyan was born in a humble, straw-thatched cottage in the country village of Elstow in Bedfordshire. His parents though poor were respectable and hard-working.
The England of three hundred years ago was in some respects very unlike the England of today. There were no railway carriages, steamships or telegraphs. Motor-cars and aeroplanes were things not even dreamed of. Still, the sun shone as brightly, birds sang as sweetly, and every spring-time bands of happy children went out to gather primroses and cowslips.
No one in those days seemed to have even thought of providing free education for the boys and girls, and so children whose parents could not afford to pay the school-fees were not only allowed to grow up without knowing how to read and write, but were often sent out to help earn their living by working in fields or mills at an age when we should say they ought not very long to have left the infants’ class.
The father and mother of John Bunyan were, as he himself believed, led by the guiding hand of God to send him to the village school, where he remained long enough to learn how to read and write. But it is not as a great writer, but as a simple, humble follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, that we care most to remember him.
We do not know much about Bunyan’s boyhood, only that he was a real boy, entering with keen zest into all the sports of his village companions. We know enough of the outdoor sports of his day to be sure that they were always rough, and sometimes cruel, bull-baiting and cock-fighting being among them. The village green was on Sunday afternoons the favourite gathering-place of the village boys, and Bunyan soon became an acknowledged leader in their sports, and was as careless and godless as any of them, though he did not fall into the drinking habits that were then so common.
He seems to have learnt his father’s trade of a tinker, in those days considered a far more settled and respectable calling than it is at present. He did not travel about the country with a tiny cart or barrow, though he may have visited the neighbouring farms and cottages when his services were required to repair kitchen utensils, but had a settled home in which he carried on his trade.
Wild and reckless as his village companions often thought him, as a boy of not more than nine or ten years old, he often had a deep sense of sin and a great fear of death and judgment. He himself tells us that frightful dreams and fearful visions often made him afraid to go to sleep, and the fear of being lost, eternally lost, often came like a dark cloud over him even while engaged in some boyish sport. But these impressions were only “as the morning cloud, and as the early dew,” and soon faded away.
Still, the eye of God was upon him, and the hand of God outstretched to save him. Twice he narrowly escaped drowning, once in the river Ouse, near Bedford, and once farther north in a creek of the sea.
The death of his mother, his sister Margaret, and a very short time afterwards of his father, may have depressed his naturally high spirits, and helped to make him long for something more stirring than his quiet life at Elstow. He could hardly have been more than sixteen when he enlisted as a soldier, and for a short time tried army life during the civil war between Parliament and Charles I.
He was not more than twenty years of age when he married. The short account Bunyan wrote of his own life tells us little if anything about the orphan girl he married, not even the name of her parents, only that her father was a man who feared God, and that she brought with her to her new home two or three books that had belonged to him.
One of these, “The Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven,” was in after years greatly valued by Bunyan, though at the time of his marriage he had no taste for such reading. He himself said, “A ballad or a news-book would have pleased me better.” Mrs. Bunyan brought no marriage portion to her husband, but she proved herself a true and faithful wife and a loving mother to his children, of whom he had several. His blind daughter, Mary, a gentle, thoughtful child, had even as a baby a very warm place in his affections.
The young couple began their married life with very little of this world’s goods, and had, as he also tells us, hardly a dish or spoon between them, “We were as poor as poor could be.”
Much of the little Bunyan had learnt during his school-days had doubtless been forgotten, but he was fond of reading, and his young wife would often, when his day’s work was ended, beg him to read to her from one of the books her father had so loved and prized. She would also tell him of her father’s godly life, and how he used to reprove swearing, or the use of bad language, whenever or wherever he heard it.
Bunyan thought he would be such a man as his wife’s father had been, and began to go twice every Sunday to church, and became one of the bell-ringers. But his reformation, as far as it went, was only outward; he had not felt his need of the grace of God, or even his need of salvation through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
CHAPTER 2: EARLY IMPRESSIONS
“Trying to be a godly man,” as Bunyan himself expressed it, was poor work. He tells us that on Sunday mornings he went to the parish church, joined in the singing, and made the responses. Sometimes if he had been more than usually impressed by the sermon, he would return to his cottage home feeling very miserable; but he goes on to say that his Sunday dinner soon drove away all serious thoughts, and in the afternoon he would be found on the village green entering with all the energy of his early manhood into the sports he loved so well.
Yet even there he often felt the striving of the Holy Spirit. On one occasion, when engaged in playing tip-cat, he thought he heard a voice from heaven asking him whether he would leave his sins and go to heaven, or keep his sins and go to hell? He also seemed to see the Lord Jesus Christ looking down upon him with a look so full of love and pity that for a moment his heart was melted. Then would come the whisper of the evil one, that for him it was too late; he had sinned too often and too long to dare to hope for forgiveness; he should be eternally lost, and since he must go to hell, he might as well go there for many sins as for few.
As he worked steadily at his trade, he had not much free time during the week, but when Sunday came, though his place in church was seldom if ever empty, later in the day he entered with a keen, almost boyish delight into all the sports and games of the village lads and young men.
Poor Bunyan! He must often have found during those years that “trying to be good” was hard, weary work. He had still to learn God’s way of salvation; to learn that
“Till to Jesus’ work you cling
By a simple faith,
Doing is a deadly thing,
Doing ends in death.”
Very often in those years of wild, reckless daring he would use very bad language, and behave more like a madman than a sane person. One day when standing at a neighbour’s shop window, swearing, the woman who kept the shop, though she bore anything but a good character in the village, came out and reproved him so sharply, saying that his example was enough to spoil all the youth in the place, that he felt quite ashamed of his conduct, and went away silent and downcast.
“How could he give up swearing?” he asked himself. He resolved to try. The effort must have cost him a great deal, but before many weeks had passed he found that he could speak better, and with more pleasure, without putting an oath before every sentence, and another after it. About the same time he began to read the Bible, and was soon greatly interested in the historical books. Paul’s epistles he owned he did not get on very well with as he could not understand them.
His outward reformation continued; he thought that perhaps after all he might get to heaven if he could succeed in keeping the ten commandments (a proof that he was still a stranger to the grace of God). Now and then, when he thought he had kept them pretty well, he felt encouraged and almost happy, “but sometimes,” he said, “when I had broken one, I would repent, say I was sorry, and begin again.”
But it was not long, however, before in the mercy of God he was aroused from his weary, hopeless efforts at law keeping. Business having one day taken him to Bedford, he overheard the conversation of some godly women who, to his surprise, seemed to be sure, quite sure, that through faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ they had received the forgiveness of sins. They also spoke of the preciousness of Christ, and of the delight they found in reading the word of God and prayer.
He wrote: “They spoke with such joy, and with such an appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as persons who had found a new world.” He listened for awhile, and then passed on, but he could not forget what he had heard. He saw and felt that he needed something that he had not got. He could not, dared not, meet a holy God with no better covering than his own fancied self-righteousness; with no firmer standing ground than his own poor efforts at good works.
The Bible, he says, became a new book to him, every spare moment was given to its study. The epistles of Paul grew day by day more sweet and precious to him, though he had not then accepted salvation as the free gift of God. He was still praying to be forgiven, when he might have been rejoicing in the knowledge that God for Christ’s sake had pardoned all his sins.
He did wisely in seeking for Christian counsel and fellowship. The godly women whose conversation had made such an impression upon him were almost the first friends to whom he spoke of his desire to enjoy what he felt sure they possessed, peace with God. They did what they could to help and encourage him, and introduced him to a Mr. Gifford, an earnest Christian who was at that time preaching in Bedford, and whose friendship and godly counsel Bunyan enjoyed for many years, and always spoke of as a tender mercy from the Lord.
Sleeping or waking, Bunyan felt the reality and importance of eternal things, and his dreams often troubled, though at other times they encouraged him. Once he dreamt that he saw his Bedford friends enjoying themselves on the sunny side of a high mountain, while he on the other side was shivering in cold, darkness and despair.
How he longed to be with them! But a barrier, so high that he could not climb it, seemed to shut him in a helpless, hopeless prisoner. After what seemed a long time, he thought he saw a gap in the barrier, but it was so small and narrow, that it seemed impossible that he could force his way through. He would try, and after many efforts he succeeded, and stood with the happy company in the bright, warm sunshine. He awoke comforted; but the gladness was only short-lived, and soon gave place to doubts and fears. Perhaps, he thought, he had sinned away the day of grace, and he might as well give up seeking God, and get what pleasure he could out of the world. He did not understand that a living, risen Saviour was seeking him, and that ere long the seeking Saviour and the long-sought sinner would rejoice together.
CHAPTER 3: THE LIGHT BREAKS IN
We need not linger over the weary years during which Bunyan tried, oh, so hard, to earn or buy the salvation that was offered to him “without money and without price” as the free gift of God. His outward reformation continued, and soon became the talk of his neighbours, who were surprised, as he himself said, “as well they might be,” at the change in his words and ways.
Sometimes he was very well satisfied with himself, and thought that he had become “a godly man,” but his comfort, such as it was, did not last long. The good opinion of his neighbours could not give him rest of heart, or peace of conscience, for such words as, “The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7), would seem to stand out as if written in letters of light from the pages of his Bible, and he knew his heart was not right with God.
Looking within for any ground of hope, for any assurance of pardon, is poor, weary work; it is not until the eye of faith rests upon the Lord Jesus and His finished work that the peace and joy of known forgiveness fills the soul, and for John Bunyan that moment was very near. He tells us how, when thinking one day of the sinfulness of his own heart, the scripture came with power to his soul, “HE HATH MADE PEACE BY THE BLOOD OF HIS CROSS.” Again and again the words seemed repeated, each time with fresh power and light, and he saw that what he had been so long and vainly trying to DO had been DONE by Another, and that One the Son of God.
“From that moment,” he said, “I saw that through the blood God and my soul were friends,” and he rejoiced in the gladness of the Father’s welcome, the sweetness of the Father’s kiss. His tears fell fast, but they were not tears of sorrow, but of joy, as he praised God for His abounding mercy.
Very soon after he came upon an old copy of Martin Luther’s writing on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians. It must have been read and re-read many times, for it was so tattered and dog-eared that he thought it must fall to pieces every time he turned its pages. But as he read, he found to his wonder and delight that another had travelled by the same road of weary, hopeless effort to make himself pleasing to God, and another had found rest and peace just where he had found it, in the finished work of Christ.
Though he was often sorely tempted to think that he had deceived himself by believing that his many sins could have been forgiven, the written word, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7), was again and again used by the Holy Spirit to restore to him the joy of salvation.
Long before this time he had found a little company of the Lord’s people then meeting at Bedford, who became very dear to him. Among his special friends were the three poor but godly women whose conversation about the things of God, as they sat together in a doorway, had so impressed him.
About the year 1655 he left his native village, and with his wife and two little daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, went to live in Bedford. Soon after, his first wife, to whom he owed so much, died; and then he lost a Christian friend to whose counsel and spiritual help he owed much.
In his second marriage he again found a true helpmeet, one who loved and understood him, and wherever it was possible helped him in his work. His Bedford friends, knowing him to be an earnest Christian, a ready speaker, and feeling sure that he had the needed gift, asked him to preach to them. The request took him by surprise, but after much waiting upon God in prayer he consented. The Lord blessed the simple gospel service, and requests for his help came in from all the villages for miles around. While his Sundays, and often his week evenings, were thus employed, he still worked at his trade, and with the blessing of the Lord upon his industry and perseverance was able to support his family with some degree of comfort.
Wherever it became known that he was expected to preach crowds gathered to hear him, and though some, perhaps, were only curious to know what the “tinker” would have to say, numbers were aroused to a real concern about eternal things, and many were converted. Ought he not in simple faith to give himself wholly to the work of the Lord? was a question he often asked himself. He waited often and much upon God in prayer. The good Master he served had said to Andrew and Peter, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19), and in the secret of his soul John Bunyan knew that the call of God had come to him, and he must not, dared not, disobey.
At first he found it hard to believe that God could or would speak by his lips to any; the sense of his own unworthiness would often cast a dark shadow upon his spirit, and yet he seemed to have no choice but to go on telling others what God had done for his soul. He tells us that before and after preaching he always felt greatly humbled and cast down, still he must go on.
Many saw and owned his gifts as a preacher. Perhaps the secret of his power was the simple, whole-hearted way in which he believed the truth of what he sought to impress upon others. To him the pardoning grace of God, and the love of Christ, were very real.
Going one weekday to preach in a village near Cambridge, a great number of people had gathered to hear him. A Cambridge scholar passing at the time asked the meaning of the crowd, and was told that John Bunyan, the tinker, was going to preach. Calling a boy who stood near, he gave him twopence to hold his horse, saying in a careless, off-hand way, “I never heard a tinker preach, so I think I’ll stop and hear what the fellow has to say.” The gospel message was blessed to his conversion, and he afterwards became an earnest preacher, and one greatly used by God.
On another occasion, as he was going to preach, he was met by a professor, a man of great learning, who asked him how he dared to preach, not having the original scriptures. Bunyan replied by saying, “Have you the original scriptures, sir; those that were written by the apostles and prophets?” “No, I cannot say that I have, but I have what I believe to be a true copy.” “And I,” said Bunyan, “have the English Bible, which I also believe to be a true copy.” The professor passed on.
CHAPTER 4: BUNYAN THE PREACHER
We shall understand a little more clearly why so many of what we should call Bunyan’s best years were spent in prison, when we remember that “The Pilgrim’s Progress” was written in Bedford jail. We shall see the hand of God in his long imprisonment, giving him time and leisure during the weary years he spent in his prison cell, to write a book that has been read and enjoyed by countless thousands.
About the time of which I am writing, great changes had taken place in England. Oliver Cromwell had died, and the people soon grew tired of the time of misrule and lawlessness that followed his death. Thinking it would be much better to have a crowned king again, Charles Stuart, who was at that time in exile, was invited to occupy the throne of his father, Charles I. In this way the period of English history called the Restoration began.
Within six months of his landing on British ground Charles II. issued an order that all preachers must use what was called The Book of Common Prayer, and that all preaching must be on lines ordered by the king. Any who refused to obey were liable to be sent to prison.
There were many godly men who felt that even when commanded by the king they must not, dared not, disobey God. These soon became known as Nonconformists. Among them John Bunyan was perhaps one of the best known in Bedford and the neighbourhood. For five or six years he had been preaching the gospel; God had blessed his labours, and many persons had been led to a saving knowledge of Christ.
He knew that the time of trial might be very near, and doubtless often prayed that if called upon to suffer for Christ’s sake he might be found faithful, and not be allowed to deny or dishonour his Lord and Master. On 13th November, 1660, Bunyan was expected to preach at a small country place near Huntingdon. As soon as it became known that a meeting was to be held, some persons who wished to put a stop to all preaching except in churches, went to the magistrate and told him that the people who attended such meetings usually carried firearms, were disturbers of the peace, and might even lay plots for the overthrow of the newly-crowned king.
Of course such charges were untrue, but the magistrate believed them and issued an order for Bunyan’s arrest. A few of his friends heard of the danger and whispered to him that perhaps it might be better not to hold the meeting.
Some advised his escape; even the brother in whose house the meeting was to be held thought that to escape would be the best thing he could do.
“I might have escaped,” he himself said, “had I been minded to play the coward.”
It must have been a trying moment for the man whom God intended should write “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” and write it, too, not by his cottage fireside, but in a cold, damp cell in Bedford prison. How should he act? What ought he to do? If he was shut up in prison, who would provide for his wife and four children?
It still wanted some time to the hour when the meeting was to begin. He would commit his way unto the Lord, and ask counsel of the Most High. Leaving the house he went alone into a field close by. It was not long before he saw clearly that as a preacher of the glad tidings he had not said or done anything evil, and that if he had to suffer it would be “according to the will of God,” and that if the meeting were not held, many timid believers, or those who had been newly converted, might be discouraged and turned back.
Returning to the house, without any show of fear, he opened the meeting in the usual way with prayer; he read a few verses of scripture, and was beginning to preach, when the constable arrived with the warrant for his arrest. Bunyan asked to be allowed to say a few parting words to his sorrowing friends. Leave was granted, and he told them it was far better to suffer for the name and sake of Christ, than it would have been for him, or any of them, to have gone to prison as evildoers. He would have said more, but the constable grew impatient, and “would not,” Bunyan said, “be quiet till they had me away from the house.”
A few of Bunyan’s friends went with him to the house of the magistrate who had given the order for his arrest, but finding that he was not at home, one of his friends who lived near was allowed to find him shelter for the night on the understanding that he should not fail to appear the following morning.
A few truthfully-answered questions were enough to show the magistrate that he had made a mistake in giving the order for Bunyan’s arrest. The meeting was not such an one as he had been led to suppose. Bunyan and his friends were loyal, God-fearing subjects. They did not carry firearms, lay plots, or even wish to overthrow the king and his government.
The magistrate, seeing himself in the wrong, lost his temper; the whole of the following day was spent in long and trying interviews, and as Bunyan would not, could not, promise to leave off preaching, he was sent to prison until the next quarter-sessions.
CHAPTER 5: IN PRISON
That Bunyan’s imprisonment was unjust, he must have felt keenly. But before his arrest, in earnest, believing prayer, he had put the whole matter into the hands of God, and he knew that his enemies could not keep him in prison a day, or even an hour, longer than they were allowed to do by his Lord and Master. It only wanted seven weeks to the quarter-sessions. There was, he felt sure, no grave charge that could be brought against him. If he could get a fair hearing, might he not hope to be set at liberty.
But a few of his friends felt they could not take his imprisonment so quietly, so after collecting among themselves what they thought would be a sufficient sum of money to be accepted as bail for his appearance on the day of his trial, they went to a young magistrate at Elstow, thinking that by stating the case fairly they might be able to obtain an order for his release. But the magistrate had not been in office long, and though at first he seemed kind and friendly, would not accept bail, thinking, perhaps, that by doing so he might give offence to an older magistrate who had sent Bunyan to prison.
It must have been a very real disappointment, but strength and grace to take it patiently were given to the much-tried servant of the Lord. Soon after Bunyan wrote, “Verily, I did meet my God sweetly, comforting me and satisfying me that it was His will and mind that for the present I should be there.”
When his trial took place he might have been set at liberty if he could or would have promised to leave off preaching. But feeling sure that God had called him to preach the gospel he could make no such promise, saying as he did, “If they would let me out of prison today, I should, God helping me, be preaching the gospel again tomorrow.”
The judges, angry at his refusal, again sent him to prison, warning him that if within a given time he did not give the required promise he might be banished from the kingdom, or even sentenced to death.
His faithful wife, Elizabeth, rising from the sick bed on which she had lain ever since the shock of her husband’s arrest had brought on a severe illness, made her way to London, a very serious journey in those days. She even presented her husband’s petition before the House of Lords, believing that if those in high places only knew the facts of the case he would be set at liberty.
Sir Matthew Hale spoke to her kindly, and even showed the petition to one or two others of the peers who sat near him, but in the end returned it to her saying they could do nothing, and that her husband must await the next sitting of the quarter-sessions. Sad, weary, and almost broken-hearted, the poor wife turned her steps homeward.
During the first two years of Bunyan’s imprisonment he was allowed more freedom than often falls to the lot of prisoners. A warm friendship seems to have grown up between the head jailer and the prisoner, whom he not only respected, but even loved. Through his kindness Bunyan was sometimes allowed to visit his family, and now and then even to spend the night at home.
On one such occasion, to the great surprise of his wife, he got up and dressed himself soon after midnight, saying that he must return to prison. His friend, the head jailer, was not pleased at being disturbed at such an early hour, but quite unknown to either himself or Bunyan, it had been whispered abroad that too great liberty was allowed to prisoners in Bedford jail, and a special messenger was sent to observe and report. This messenger arrived very early in the morning, and asked, “Are all the prisoners safe?”
“Yes, all safe.”
“Is John Bunyan in his cell?”
Grateful for his own narrow escape from trouble, he said to Bunyan that he knew when to come back much better than he could have told him.
CHAPTER 6: A FREE MAN AT LAST
But how did Mrs. Bunyan and her family live while the husband and father was in prison, and so unable to provide for them?
Their Christian friends, and also some of their neighbours, were kind and did all in their power to help them. But they were themselves poor and could not support the family. It must often have grieved Bunyan deeply to see how pale and thin his children were looking, and to notice that their clothes, though always clean and neatly mended, could not keep them warm.
What could he do to earn even a few pence? He did not know any trade but his own, and in prison he could not work at that. Yet he felt that he must and ought to do something to help to provide food for his family. He could tag stay and shoe laces. A very small outlay would buy tape and braid enough to enable him to make a beginning. But how should he dispose of them? For that he must count upon the help of his much-loved blind daughter, Mary. With her youngest brother, Joseph, a child of six years old as a guide, she could go from house to house offering them for sale. It seemed hard to send a timid, delicate girl like Mary on such an errand, but her father knew that she would do her best to find customers.
It was not long before the children were well known in the streets and lanes of Bedford and its neighbourhood, as day by day with varying success they tried to sell the laces their father had got ready for them. Sometimes Mary’s gentle manner and pleading voice would arouse a feeling of compassion, and they would find a buyer; at others they would meet with a rough refusal, and then with her sightless eyes filled with tears Mary would try to draw her little brother past. Joseph, who was not easily discouraged, would sometimes add to his sister’s timid plea such words as “Please do buy Mary’s laces; if you don’t we shall starve, for we have no money to buy bread with.”
Though during the first years of Bunyan’s imprisonment he had, owing to the kindness of the head jailer, been allowed a good deal of liberty, it was not to be continued. Many of his friends had urged him if possible to obtain leave of absence for two or three days, believing that if he could go to London and himself present a petition to the king, be might be set at liberty. Leave was granted, and there is every reason to believe that the journey was taken with no other object. But false reports were spread by his enemies, some even saying that his intention was to stir up a rebellion against the king. Though he was himself a loyal and peaceable subject, he did not get an opportunity of presenting his petition, and the only result of his journey appeared to be that his friend, the head jailer, received official notice during his absence that the prisoners committed to his charge were not to be allowed under any pretext to leave the prison.
Trying as this order must have seemed to Bunyan, he soon found that he had more leisure for writing. It was during the later years of his imprisonment that his great work, “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” was written. He also wrote “Grace Abounding,” in which, in simple, though well-chosen words, he told the story of his own conversion. His “Holy War” was also written while he was in prison, and one or two other less known works.
After he had spent six years in Bedford jail he was granted a short interval of liberty, but was again arrested on the old charge that he would not give up preaching the gospel. In the year of the great fire of London he was again sent to prison, where he remained another six years.
Early in 1672 his imprisonment came to an end. The long-closed gates were opened, and he went forth a free man, rejoicing in what he held dearer than personal liberty—freedom to preach the gospel.
But little is known of the closing years of Bunyan’s life. He had ever sought to be a peacemaker, and his last effort to persuade a father to forgive a son who had, he thought, greatly offended him, brought on the illness that a few days later caused his death. The father pardoned the son, and, rejoicing in the success of his mission, he mounted his horse and began a ride of forty miles from Reading to London. The rain fell in torrents, and when he reached his journey’s end he was soaked, chilled, and exhausted. He only lived about a fortnight after, and on 31st August, 1688, in the sixtieth year of his age, the Lord put him peacefully to sleep.
CHAPTER 7: THE BOOK HE WROTE
A copy of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” lies before me as I write, and though I think of almost countless thousands of heads that have bent over its pages, not only in our own but in other lands, I feel sure that it is not by any means worn out. Shall we try with our mind’s eye to peep into the prison cell at Bedford, in which John Bunyan dreamed his dreams and wrote his book?
But boys and girls have not been the only ones who have loved the book; men and women whose heads were hoary with the snows of many winters have been among its readers. It has been read in log cabins, by the cheery blaze of wood fires, while the snow lay deep upon the hard, frozen ground and all outdoor work was at a standstill. Colporteurs have carried it across the dense forests of Russia and Siberia to the far-scattered homes of peasants, and it has found a welcome, too, in the halls and castles of the rich and noble. It has been read in their own language to the children of mission schools in India, China and Japan.
Bunyan was not a man of many books. Two only, we are told, formed his prison library: the Bible and “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.” But we cannot read his pilgrim tale without noticing how he had loved and studied the word of God.
It is under the likeness or figure of a dream that the gifted writer chose to tell his story. Now and then, perhaps, we may read between the lines, and it is not unlikely that the “den” where, in his own words, he lay down and slept refers to his cell in the old Bedford prison, where the book was written. He says, “I saw a man clothed in rags, standing in a certain place with his face from his own house, with a book in his hand, and a heavy burden upon his back.” We will use the names Bunyan used, and though from the first he calls the man “Christian,” he seems more like one in whose soul the Holy Spirit had begun to work by awakening him to a sense of need and danger. He felt the burden of his sins, but being still a stranger to the finished work of the Lord Jesus, did not know how to get rid of them.
Once again turning homewards, he tried to hide his misery even from his wife and children; but the longer he kept silence, the heavier his burden seemed to grow. At last he told them with loving words and many tears that he had found by reading the book he carried that they were all living in a place of terrible danger; that one day, and it might be at any moment, the judgments of God would fall upon the city in which they had thought themselves so safe. “We shall all,” he said, “perish, except some way of escape can be found.”
Did they believe his words of warning? No, they only thought that his mind had given way, and thinking that rest and sleep might do him good, persuaded him to go to bed. But the night was worse than the day had been; he could not sleep, but spent it in tears and sighs.
When in the morning they asked how he was, he told them, “Worse and worse,” and began again to tell them of their danger, and begged them to seek with him some way of escape from the doomed city that could never again be a home to him.
Some of his friends tried to laugh him out of what they called “his folly,” others would not even listen to his pleadings, and others met him with cruel, mocking words. Finding no comfort or help in his home-circle he often shut himself up in his room, and spent much of his time in prayer. He also began to take long, lonely walks in the fields, sometimes reading the book he still carried, at others groaning under the weight of his load, and wishing, oh! so earnestly, that if there were any way of escape, some one might be sent to show him in which direction to look for it.
But Christian had not far to go, or long to wait for the help of which he was in such great need, for in one of his walks he met a messenger of glad tidings, a man whose name was Evangelist, who saw by his sad face that the weight of his burden was far too heavy for him, and kindly asked the cause of his distress. Poor Christian, only too glad to have a friend to whom he could speak freely, replied, “Sir, I find by the book which I am reading that I am condemned to die, and I am not ready to die.”
CHAPTER 8: THE BEGINNING OF THE JOURNEY
Evangelist asked, “Why are you afraid to die since you are so unhappy now, and find in this life so much care and sorrow?”
“Sir,” said Christian, “I read in this book that ‘It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment’ (Heb. 9:27), and it is that that makes me so afraid, for knowing as I do that I am not fit to die, how can I be fit to come into judgment? For if I come into judgment, I know that there is nothing for me but to be eternally lost.”
Evangelist was really a messenger of glad tidings, for after bidding Christian “Flee from the wrath to come” (Matt. 3:7), he pointed to a wicket-gate still at some distance, and asked if he could see it. But poor Christian’s eyes, swollen and almost blinded with tears as they were, could not see so far off.
Evangelist then asked if he could see a shining light. Christian thought he did. Then Evangelist bade him keep the light in view, and go on toward the gate; when he reached it he would be told what to do.
Christian began to run, but he had not got many yards from his own door before he heard voices calling to him to come back, and looking round, he saw that his own wife and children, who the day before had said he was going out of his mind, were calling upon him to return.
Many neighbours also came out of their houses to look and wonder; but for all he had but one answer. He told them that he dared not stay in the City of Destruction, for he did not know how soon the judgments of God might fall upon it; if there was time he must escape. Very gladly would he have taken his wife and children with him, but they laughed at his warnings, and refused to leave the land of their birth.
Two of his neighbours, whom Bunyan calls Obstinate and Pliable, made up their minds to follow him, never for a moment doubting that they should be able to persuade him to go back with them to the doomed city.
He had gone some distance before they overtook him. They began to urge him to go back with them to the city. But his answer was, “That cannot be: I like yourselves was born in the City of Destruction, but if I remain there my soul will be eternally lost, for after death follows judgment. Be content, good neighbours, to go along with me.”
“What,” cried Obstinate, “and leave all our friends and comforts behind us?”
“Ah,” Christian replied, “the things you forsake are of such little value, that they are not worth being put by the side of those I seek, which are eternal joys and will last for ever.”
“Tell us,” said Obstinate, “what are the things you seek, that you are leaving all the pleasures of this world to find them?”
“I seek,” said Christian, “‘an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away’ (1 Pet. 1:4). You may read about it for yourself in my book, if you will.”
“Take away your book,” said Obstinate, “all we want to know is, will you go back with us or not?”
Finding that Christian had fully made up his mind to go forward, Obstinate said to his neighbour Pliable, “Since he will not turn back with us, let us go home without him; there are others like himself, whom I could name, who if they take a fancy into their heads, will not be talked out of it, and think they are wiser than seven wise men.”
“Wait a little,” said Pliable, “if what neighbour Christian says is true, and the things he seeks are really as good as he believes them to be, I have more than half a mind to go with him.”
After a little more conversation, Obstinate and Pliable parted company, Obstinate to return to his own house, and Pliable to go a little way with our pilgrim.
“But tell me, neighbour,” said Pliable, “do you know the way to the far-off place we have set out to seek?”
“I was told,” said Christian, “by a man named Evangelist, to make all speed I could toward the little gate that is before us, and there we shall receive directions as to the way.”
“Come then, good neighbour,” said Pliable, “let us be going.” As they walked Pliable had many questions to ask about the place to which they were going; what company they should find there, and other things of which Christian told him he had read in his book.
For some time they went on without taking much notice of which way they were going, till they came to a large miry bog, which lay just across their path, called the Slough of Despond, into which they both fell. After a few struggles Pliable began to be offended, and called out to his companion, “Where are you now?”
“I hardly know,” said Christian, “for the burden upon my back is so heavy, that I am almost ready to sink in the mire of the slough.”
CHAPTER 9: MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN
We left Bunyan’s pilgrim, though still a stranger to the grace of God, a truly anxious awakened soul; he saw and felt himself to be a sinner. Light, some light from God had shone into his heart, or he would not have seen his danger, or felt his need of pardon.
Perhaps what I am writing may be read by some dear boy or girl who says, “I think that is just about where I am; I know that I am a sinner and I do really want to be saved, but though I sometimes read my Bible, and very often hear the gospel preached, I cannot say that I am really a Christian. Many of my friends love the Lord Jesus, and they seem so bright and happy, while I am often almost miserable.”
Courage, dear disheartened one. The work of God has begun in your soul, or you would not have that weary, restless longing for peace and pardon. Take heart again! For you there is a sure and precious word of encouragement, “Seek, and ye shall find . . . he that seeketh findeth” (Luke 11:9-10). There is really no need for long, weary struggles in the Slough of Despond.
Salvation through faith in the finished work of Christ is the free gift of God. Accept the gift, and then, ah! then you will love and thank the Giver. But we must follow our pilgrim a little farther on his way toward the Celestial City.
Pliable having fallen into the Slough of Despond lost heart, and after a few struggles, forgetting what he had heard of the terrible judgments that might at any time fall upon the guilty city, and destroy all who had not escaped from it, got out on the side nearest to his home, to which as quickly as possible he returned. Some of his neighbours called him a wise man for having done so, others said he ought never to have made the attempt, while others were of the opinion that having set out, it was a pity he did not go on and see what the end would be.
So Christian was left to struggle on alone, but not for long, for as he was in the midst of the slough a man whose name was Help came so near that by grasping his friendly hand Christian was enabled to get out on the side farthest from the city he had left, but a little nearer to the Wicket-gate he wished so much to reach.
Christian had not got far on his journey before he noticed a stranger coming to meet him. This gentleman’s name was Mr. Worldly Wiseman. He lived in a large and busy town called Carnal Policy, not far from the City of Destruction.
Noticing the pilgrim’s sad face and slow steps (for the burden he carried seemed to grow heavier with every step he took), and really wanting to hinder Christian on his way, though he pretended that he only wished to do him a kindness, he began by asking him where he was going with such a heavy load.
“It is, indeed, sir, as heavy a load as ever a poor creature carried,” was Christian’s reply, and then went on to tell him that he was on his way to the Wicket-gate, as he had been told that there he would find one who would tell him how and where he might lose his burden.
Worldly Wiseman then asked who had told him to go that way to get rid of his load, and upon hearing that it was a man whose name was Evangelist, said, “Do not believe him, there is not a more dangerous or troublesome fellow in this part of the country. I can see that even now the mire of the Slough of Despond is upon your clothes; I can tell you that if you follow his advice the troubles you have already met with are only the beginning of sorrows. Listen to me, I am older than you, and can tell you of some of the trials and dangers you will meet with if you are so foolish as to persist in going this way; pain and weariness, hunger, thirst, scorn and reproach, lions and dragons, and at the end death. And what for?”
“Ah, sir,” said Christian, “the burden upon my neck is so heavy that it is more terrible to me than all the things you have told me of.”
“But how did you come by such a burden?” was the next question Mr. Worldly Wiseman put to the pilgrim.
“It was through reading this book,” said Christian, holding forth the Bible he still held in his hand.
“Ah, I thought so! people of weak minds, both men and women, are often upset by meddling with matters too high for them. Take my advice, and I will show you a much shorter and pleasanter way to get rid of your burden.”
CHAPTER 10: TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF
Mr. Worldly Wiseman, though professing to take a great interest in and to be really anxious to help Christian, soon proved himself to be neither a true friend nor a safe guide. He began by telling the pilgrim that he was taking a great deal of needless trouble to get rid of his burden.
He would not advise Christian to seek the Wicket-gate, of which Evangelist had not only spoken, but had pointed out the way. If he would follow his advice, he would turn a little, only just a little, out of his way; not quite a mile from where they had met he would come to a village, the name of which was Morality. He need not go beyond the first house, as the gentleman who lived there, Mr. Legality, was known for miles round as one who had great skill in the treatment of just such cases as that of Christian; and if he should not be at home, his son, Mr. Civility, a polite and well-spoken young man, would, there was no doubt, give him counsel which it might be worth his while to follow.
“Do you see,” said Worldly Wiseman, “that high hill?”
“Yes,” said the pilgrim, “it looks as if it could not be far off.”
“All you have to do,” continued his would-be counsellor, “is to climb that hill, knock at the door of the first house you come to, follow the advice you will receive, and you will soon lose your burden.”
Poor Christian! he stood in slippery places. What he needed was to have been told the old, yet ever new, story of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious blood cleanseth “from all sin.” He was advised to seek rest and peace by what is sometimes called “turning over a new leaf”; told that by leading a moral life, and by doing his best to keep the commandments, he would lose all fear of death and judgment.
A great many boys and girls, as well as grown-up people, are taking that road nowadays. Shall I tell you of one I heard of quite lately? Margaret F—— was very ill, far worse than she believed herself to be. She kept at work as long as she could, perhaps longer than she ought to have done; but a day came when she was obliged to give up work, and soon after to go as an inpatient into the E—— Hospital. The ward in which she was placed was very often visited by a lady who, having found the Lord precious to her own soul, loved to tell others of His power and willingness to save.
It was not until after several visits that she found an opportunity of speaking to Margaret, as on each visit she appeared to be asleep, so the visitor would lay a few flowers and a gospel book upon the locker near her bed, and pass quietly on. After a few weeks, however, the Lord, in answer to prayer, Himself gave the opportunity. Margaret was fond of flowers, and one day the visitor took a few growing plants, in flower-pots, into the ward, one of which, a tiny rosebush just bursting into bloom, was placed by the nurse opposite to her bed.
She was delighted with its beauty, and it was easy to draw her into conversation. She said she was getting better, and hoped soon to be able to leave the hospital, though when she entered she was so ill that she thought herself dying.
“Would death have been a friend or an enemy to you?” asked her visitor.
“Oh, a friend,” she replied, “I have lost all I loved best on earth, and I have no desire to live.”
“Then you are safe, safe for eternity?”
“Why should I not be safe? I do not know what you mean. I have never done any harm. I have gone to church, read my Bible, said my prayers, and worked hard to earn my living, and I thank God I have done it.
It was all so sad; tears were in the eyes of her visitor, and for a few moments she was silent, not knowing what to say. Then very simply she said, “I am so sorry for you.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because the Lord Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and you do not own yourself to be a sinner.”
“No,” she replied, “I could never call myself a sinner even in church, though I know most people do there, because I never felt that I was one.”
“Do you believe the Bible to be the word of God?”
“Oh, yes, of course I do.”
“May I read you one or two short verses?” Consent was given, and her visitor read from the third chapter of Romans, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
My story would indeed be a sad one if I could not tell you that by the mighty power of God all poor Margaret’s self-righteousness was swept away, and she saw and owned herself to be a sinner. Only a few days later there was joy in heaven, and joy on earth, for a seeking Saviour and a long-sought sinner had met. Margaret had accepted salvation as the free gift of God; and how could she help loving and thanking the Giver?
CHAPTER 11: THE WICKET-GATE
So Christian, who had been so easily persuaded to follow the advice of Worldly Wiseman, turned aside. The way to the hill that had been pointed out to him seemed much longer and more difficult than he had expected to find it, but he kept on till he reached the foot of the hill. It was, however, so steep that he was afraid to climb it, and besides that he noticed that the side of it nearest the road was so overhanging, that he was afraid it would fall upon him and crush him at any minute.
As he stood looking at the hill, he saw flashes of fire coming out of it, and he was more afraid than he had been before. How he wished he had never met Mr. Worldly Wiseman, and he saw how wrong and foolish he had been in following his counsel. But help was nearer than he had dared to hope for or expect, for on looking up he saw Evangelist coming toward him.
His face was grave, and his voice was sad and low as he said, “What doest thou here, Christian?” The pilgrim, not knowing what answer to give, stood silent and trembling before Evangelist, who asked another question, “Art not thou the man whom I saw not long ago weeping just outside the walls of the City of Destruction?”
“Yes, sir, I am that man,” said Christian, still trembling.
“Did I not direct thee,” said Evangelist, “the way to the Wicket-gate?”
“Yes, sir,” was all poor Christian had courage to say.
“How is it, then, that thou art so quickly turned aside, for thou art now quite out of the way?”
Christian began to tell his story by saying that almost as soon as he got out of the Slough of Despond he met one, who told him that in the village on the brow of the bill he would find a man who could and would relieve him of his burden. He had, he confessed, been persuaded to turn aside from the straight and narrow way which Evangelist had pointed out to him, but when he got to the foot of the hill and saw how it seemed about to fall, a great fear came over him, so great that he could not take another step.
Then said Evangelist, “Listen to the word of God, ‘Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him’ (Heb. 10:38)”.
He then faithfully spoke to him of the folly and danger of listening to such advice as had been given to him by Mr. Worldly Wiseman, who was, he said, not only a stranger to the grace of God, but one who appeared to take a great delight in turning pilgrims out of their way.
On being told what he had already begun to think, that Worldy Wiseman was no true friend to him, Christian was greatly distressed, and falling at the feet of Evangelist cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” Evangelist raised him up, and as he did so repeated a promise from the word of God, “All manner of sin . . . shall be forgiven unto men” (Matt. 12), and added, “Be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). Christian then said, “May I still hope for mercy?” He owned he had been wrong in leaving the straight way to the Wicket-gate that had been pointed out to him, but if not too late he would gladly retrace his steps, and hoped he should not find the gate closed against him.
Evangelist bade him go, and assured him that the gate would not be closed against any who humbly sought leave to enter. And though still trembling, but making all the speed he could, Christian again got into the path that he had left to follow, the counsel of Worldly Wiseman. As he came in sight of the gate he saw some words written in large letters above it, and going still nearer he was able to read, “KNOCK, AND IT SHALL BE OPENED UNTO YOU.”
Greatly encouraged, he knocked, saying:
“May I now enter here? Will He within
Open to sinful me, though I have but
An unbecoming robe? Then shall I
Not fail to sing His saving power on high.”
After waiting a little while, a grave person, whose name was Goodwill, came to the gate and asked who was there, where he came from, and what he wanted.
Christian made answer, “Here is a poor burdened sinner who comes from the City of Destruction, for I would escape from the wrath to come; I have been told that by this gate is the way to the Celestial City, and I would know if you are willing to let me in?”
Goodwill replied, “Yes, I am willing with all my heart;” and as he spoke he opened the gate.
Just as Christian was stepping over the threshold, Goodwill gave him a pull, and when Christian asked him why he did so, Goodwill told him that not far from the gate a strong castle had been built, the captain of which was a great enemy to the Prince of Peace, and he, with his servants, was constantly employed in shooting arrows at pilgrims as they approached the gate, so it was well to get them safely inside.
CHAPTER 12: THE HOUSE OF THE INTERPRETER
After some further conversation Goodwill told Christian that since the Lord Jesus had Himself said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37), none who come to the gate are turned away, even though before coming they may have done many wrong and even wicked things, for they are invited to listen to such words of grace as, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18).
Christian then asked which way he should go, and was pointed to a straight and narrow path, which he was told he must follow. “But,” he said, “are there no turnings or windings in the path by which I, who am a stranger, may miss my way?” He was told that there were many, but they were all wide and crooked, the right way only being narrow.
Now Christian was still bearing the burden of his sins, a burden from which he longed to be free, but from which he could not free himself.
His friend then told him that he must be content to bear his burden until he came to the place of deliverance, when it would fall off of itself.
As I turn the pages of the copy of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” that lies before me as I write, I cannot help feeling that Christian was sent a long and weary way round before being told of a finished work, of a risen, living Saviour; for though, as we have seen, its author, John Bunyan, loved the Lord, and suffered for His sake, it is possible that at the time when the first part of his really wonderful book was written he did not see quite clearly that all the burdened sinner is required to do, is to take salvation as the free gift of God. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).
Perhaps some dear boy or girl who will read what I am writing may be saying, “I think I am just a little like Christian; I have heard the gospel preached a great number of times, I read my Bible, and I have a real desire to be saved, but I cannot, dare not say that my sins are forgiven.”
It may be that you are trying to make yourself pleasing to God by efforts of your own. Give up trying and put trusting in its place.
But we must return to Christian. We left him about to set out once more upon his journey; his next place of call was to be at the house of the Interpreter, who would, he was assured, show him wonderful things.
After walking some distance he came to the house that had been so clearly described to him that he could make no mistake, and knocked. When the door was opened, he asked leave to speak with the master of the house, who did not keep him waiting long. The interpreter kindly but gravely asked where he came from and of what he was in search. Christian again told his story, how he had left the City of Destruction, and how he had been told by the man at the gate that in the house of the Interpreter many things which so far he had failed to understand would be explained to him.
He was then led into several rooms, in each of which were pictures that, when explained, helped to make some Bible truth plain and fix it upon his memory. But as the contents of one room will have a special interest for my young readers, I will not attempt to describe the others.
In this room were two little boys, each sitting in a chair. The name of one was Passion, and the name of the other was Patience. Passion looked restless and discontented, but Patience was quiet and looked cheerful and contented. So Christian asked the Interpreter why Passion seemed so unhappy? The Interpreter answered, “The Governor of these boys wished them to wait for their best things till the beginning of next year. Passion got very angry, and said he would have them at once, but Patience was willing to wait.”
Then one came to Passion with a bag of gold, which he poured out at his feet, so Passion forgot his discontent, and seemed greatly pleased, but he spoke in a very unkind manner to Patience. It was not long, however, before he began to spend his gold in a reckless and foolish way, and soon had nothing left.
Then said Christian, “I should like to understand this more fully. Will you kindly explain it to me?” The Interpreter told him that Passion was a picture of the men of the world, who wanted to have all their good things in this life; but Patience, having learnt something of the value of unseen and eternal things, was content to wait for them. “For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).
“I see clearly,” said Christian, “that Patience has the true wisdom.”
CHAPTER 13:THE BURDEN LOST
We left Christian at the house of the Interpreter, learning lessons he would do well to remember all his journey through. It will help us to understand better if we keep in mind that the wonderful book we are reading together, “THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS,” was written by its author under the figure of a dream, in which the varied states of soul of which he writes are often so truthfully described, that it reads more like a waking dream than “a vision of the night.”
Space will not allow us to linger over many other things that our pilgrim saw and heard in the house of the Interpreter, for a long journey yet lay before him; so with words of faithful warning and wise counsel he was allowed to depart.
The way he was to take was clearly pointed out to him. It was a road or highway fenced in on both sides by high walls; these walls were called Salvation. If we open our Bibles at Isaiah 26:1, we shall understand better what was in the mind of John Bunyan as he wrote. He was doubtless looking onward to a day yet to come, when the sons of Jacob (the nation of Israel), restored to their own land, and having owned that the lowly Jesus, who by wicked hands was crucified and slain, was their own long-promised Messiah, will sing with heart as well as voice, “We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.”
Christian found the road he had been directed to take was somewhat uphill, and as he was still carrying his burden, the weight of which seemed to grow heavier the farther he carried it, he only made slow and toilsome progress. But a glad and never-to-be-forgotten moment in the history of his soul was drawing very near. As soon as he came in sight of a cross, near which was an open grave, his burden began to get loose, and as he gazed with wonder and delight it fell into the open grave, and he saw it no more.
Happy Christian! He had taken a faith look, not at an actual cross of wood, but at the work that had long, long ago been done upon the cross on Mount Calvary by the Son of God.
So Christian knew that his sins were gone, for they had been borne by the Lord Jesus upon the cross, and looking up to God as his Father, he was able to say in the words of scripture, “Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back” (Isa. 38:17). We, to whom a very clear gospel, the gospel of the grace of God, is so often preached, are almost tempted to wonder how it was that Christian took such a roundabout way before he by faith saw Jesus, the Lamb of God, as having not only borne his sins but received their just judgment. Looking unto Jesus,
“The child of faith perceives
Judgment all gone by;
And reads the sentence fully met,
‘The soul that sins shall die.’”
At last Christian was really a pilgrim, ready to run with patience the race that was set before him, and no one runs either fast or far until sure where they are going. Christian, knowing that his sins were all forgiven, was free to go on his way with a glad heart, singing softly to himself, “He has given me rest by His sorrow, and life by His death.”
Now and then he stood still for a few moments to look and wonder why such grace and favour had been shown to him, and in his dream a strange thing happened: a shining one came to him, the rags of the “far country” were exchanged for the “best robe,” a mark was set upon his forehead, and a roll given to him, of which he was told to take great care, and to read very often as he journeyed.
Christian, whose pilgrim journey had really only just begun, had not gone far before he saw in a house just a little off the strait road he was taking, three men fast asleep, their feet bound with fetters. Their names were Slothful, Simple, and Presumption. Christian, seeing that they were in a place of danger, and wishing to rouse and if he could to help them, went to them, crying out, “Awake, awake and escape; you are like men who sleep on the shores of the Dead Sea, which may at any moment open and swallow you up, and if the one who walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, should come your way, I am afraid you would fall an easy prey to his teeth. Come, rouse up, and let me help you off with your fetters.”
Simple, who seemed only half awake, replied, “I see no danger”; Slothful said, “Yet a little more sleep, and a little more slumber,” and Presumption answered, “I’m as good as most people.” So Christian, finding that his kind offer of help was not accepted, and his words of warning unheeded, went on his way.
He had not gone far before he saw two men climbing over the left-hand wall. The name of one was Formalist, and the name of the other Hypocrisy. They went up to Christian and seemed anxious to enter into conversation.
CHAPTER 14: THE HILL DIFFICULTY
“Gentlemen, whence came ye? and whither be ye going?” were the first questions Christian asked of the new-comers.
He had not long to wait for an answer, for they replied together, “We were born in the land of Vain-glory, and are going for praise to Mount Zion.”
“Why came you not in at the gate which standeth at the beginning of the way? Know you not that it is written, ‘He that cometh not in by the door, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber’?”
“You need not trouble yourself about us,” was the rather ungracious reply, “to climb the wall is a very old custom, which has been practised for more than a thousand years by many of our townsmen, and since we are in the way, we do not see that it can be of much consequence how we got in. You are in the way, and so are we. What is the difference?”
“I walk,” said Christian, “by the rule of my Master; you walk by the working of your own will, and if by the Lord of the way you are counted thieves already, how can you expect to be found true men at last? You came in without His direction, and I fear you may have to go out without His mercy.”
To this they made but little answer, only telling Christian he had better look to himself, and glancing at the robe he wore, said to each other that they supposed it had been given to him by some of his neighbours to hide the disgrace of his rags.
“This coat or robe,” Christian replied, “was given me, not, as you suppose, by my neighbours, but by the Lord of the place Himself. He clothed me with it when He took away my rags; to me it is a token of His loving-kindness, for I believe that when I reach the gate of the city to which I am going, He will remember that it was His own gift to me, a helpless, heavy-laden sinner.”
After such plain speaking, at which Formality and his companion only laughed, Christian went on for a little way alone. Now and then he would take a brief rest, and opening his roll, not only renew his strength, but find refreshment and comfort in reading some of the precious promises written for the instruction and encouragement of pilgrims.
Christian kept steadily on till he came to the foot of a hill, so steep that it looked almost impossible for him to climb it, so he stood for a few moments as if uncertain what to do. The way he was to take was straight and narrow, leading up the hill Difficulty, but at the foot of the hill a road branched off to the left; it was broad, and looked pleasant and easy. In some parts flowers grew by the wayside, but it was a downward road, and Christian remembered that he had been warned not to forsake the narrow way. So he took a deep draught of pure clear water that he saw bubbling up from a spring at the foot of the hill, and feeling refreshed, began to climb the hill. At first he walked with a firm, brisk step, but as the ascent grew steeper his pace grew slower, till he could only climb by creeping upon his hands and knees.
Stopping for a moment to take breath, he exclaimed, “Rightly was this hill called Difficulty, for it is a rough and toilsome piece of road, but since I have read in my roll that it is through much tribulation that we must enter the kingdom of God, I have no need to be discouraged.” So with fresh hope and courage our pilgrim went on until he was about half way up the hill, where to his surprise and delight he came to a pleasant arbour, which had been made by the Lord of the place for the use of weary pilgrims. There he sat down to rest, and took out his roll to read, and after a time fell asleep.
How long he slept he could not tell, but while he slept the roll fell out of his hand. He did not know whether he was dreaming, or whether some one said to him, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Prov. 6:6). He awoke with a start, and looking around saw it only wanted an hour to sunset, and that evening shadows were already beginning to gather. “I must reach the top of the hill before night comes on,” he said, and got up and went on till he reached the top of the hill. Pausing for a moment to recover his breath, he met two men, who told him their names were Timorous and Mistrust, and who appeared to be retracing their steps.
Christian asked why they were running in such haste, but the wrong way? Timorous answered that they were going to Mount Zion, and had even climbed the hill Difficulty, but the farther they went the greater dangers they met with. Mistrust added that only a little way from the top of the hill they had seen several lions, whether awake or asleep they could not tell, but they were afraid that if they tried to pass they might be torn in pieces.
“What,” said Christian, “shall I do to be safe? If I return to the City of Destruction, I know that I must perish, there is nothing for me to do but to go forward. I will open my roll and read.” But to his great distress he found that he had lost it. Remembering how long he had slept in the arbour, he fell upon his knees to ask forgiveness from God for having been so foolish and careless.
CHAPTER 15: THE LOST ROLL
Though Christian had asked the forgiveness of God for his carelessness for having taken so little care of his precious roll, he could not forgive himself. Without it he felt sure he should not be able to find his way, but he would not give up hope that if he retraced his steps as far as the arbour where he had last had the roll, that he might yet find it.
“Ah!” he said, “how much time have I this day lost; how many steps have I taken in vain! Still, I shall have time to reach the arbour before sunset.” So he set out on his return journey, often stopping to look for the lost roll that had been so precious to him. The way seemed long, and when he reached the arbour he was very tired. But his weariness was forgotten in the joy of seeing his roll under the very seat on which he had sat and slept.
He caught it up, pressed it to his heart and lips, put it carefully into his bosom, and after lingering for a few moments to give thanks to God, whose mercy had guided his steps to the very place where it lay, went on his journey with a quicker step and a lighter heart.
It was already beginning to grow dark, and as he remembered what he had been told about the lions by Mistrust and Timorous he certainly felt a little anxious and afraid, but though he could hear them in the distance, none came near him.
Christian had not gone far before he came in sight of a large and stately house. “Here,” he said, “as it is almost dark, I had better stop and try to get a night’s lodging.” He hastened on till he came in sight of the porter’s lodge, then stood still as if uncertain what to do. He had, however, been seen by the porter, whose name was Watchful, who, seeing that Christian seemed more than half inclined to turn back, called out to him in a pleasant and encouraging tone of voice, “Is thy strength so small? Fear not the lions, for they are all chained and can do thee no harm,” adding that however loudly they might roar, they could not break their chains, and though they might frighten pilgrims they could not devour them.
So with fresh hope and courage our pilgrim went on, and said to Watchful, “Sir, what house is this, and may I lodge here tonight?”
“This,” replied Watchful, “is the Palace Beautiful, it was built by the Lord of the land for the rest and refreshment of weary pilgrims.” The porter also asked Christian where he came from, and where he was going.
Very simply and truthfully Christian replied that he came from the City of Destruction, but was on his way to the Celestial City.
The porter then told him that he would be received and made welcome, and in reply to the next question, addressed to him by the porter, who wanted to know his name, the pilgrim replied, “My name now is Christian, but once it was Graceless.”
“But how is it that you are so late? The sun set nearly an hour ago,” asked Watchful.
“Ah, sir,” replied Christian, “it is my own fault that I am so late, I might have been here much sooner, but foolish and careless man that I am, I not only slept in the arbour on the hillside, but while I slept I lost my roll, and fearing to go on without it, I had to go back to the arbour, where I found it, and now I am here.”
“Well,” said Watchful, “it is now getting late, so I will call one of the family, who, if she is satisfied, will take you into the house and introduce you to other wise and godly women.”
So Watchful rang a small bell, and a young woman whose name was Discretion came out of the house and asked why she was wanted. The porter answered, “Here is man who says that his name is Christian, that he comes from the City of Destruction, and is on his way to Mount Zion. He looks tired and is sorely in need of rest and a night’s lodging. Will you converse with him, and if it seems good to you take him into the house.”
After some further talk with Christian, during which he told her much that had happened since the day that he turned his back upon the City of Destruction, Discretion called three of her companions, whose names were Prudence, Piety and Charity. Though their manners were somewhat grave, their faces and voices were kind and pleasant, and it did not take Christian long to feel himself at home and happy in their society.
He was then taken into the house, where he received a kind welcome from several fellow-pilgrims whom he found there. Some met him as he crossed the threshold, grasped his hand, and said as they did so, “Come in, thou blessed of the Lord; why standest thou without?”
Knowing that after his day’s journey Christian must be very tired, some refreshment was brought to him. When he had taken it, Piety said that it would not be long before supper was ready; she thought they could pass the time pleasantly and profitably if he would tell them what led him to leave the City of Destruction and set out upon his journey.
CHAPTER 16: THE PALACE BEAUTIFUL
Piety asked Christian how he was first led to become a pilgrim. His answer was, “I was driven out of my native land by a terrible sound that seemed always ringing in my ears. Sleeping or waking I heard it. Sometimes it said, ‘Escape for thy life,’ at others, ‘Flee from the wrath to come,’ but it never ceased to remind me that the judgments of God were about to fall upon the guilty city, and I knew not how soon they might fall. One thing I saw clearly, that if I remained there I should perish with my race.”
“But how was it,” asked Piety, “that you came this way.”
“It was as God would have it; for as I stood trembling, fearing sudden destruction, a man came to me whose name was Evangelist; he was truly unto me a messenger of glad tidings, he showed me the way to the Wicket-gate, which had I been left to myself, I certainly should not have found; but it was not until by a look of faith I saw the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, that the burden which I had borne so long, and of which I was so weary, fell from my back and rolled into an open grave and I saw it no more.”
“But,” asked Prudence, “did you not call at the house of the Interpreter?”
“Yes,” replied Christian, “and there many things which I hope never to forget were shown and explained to me.”
“But do you not often think of the land of your birth, and of the home and friends you left there?” asked Prudence.
“Yes; and truly I can say, as the Apostle Paul wrote of the Hebrew believers, ‘And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city’” (Heb. 11:15-16).
“Will you tell us,” asked Piety, “why it is that you are so anxious to reach Mount Zion?”
“It is,” said Christian, “because there I shall see the Lord, who in His love and pity died for me; whose precious blood has washed away my sins; the One who in His grace has eased me of my burden. He loved me, and saved me; He now lives and pleads for me, and when I reach my home I shall neither fear nor meet sin, sorrow, temptation or death. There I shall spend eternity in the great company of the redeemed, and find a happy and blessed occupation in praising Him whose grace and patience bore with all my waywardness and self-will, and brought me there at last.”
“But,” asked Charity, “did you not leave any who were dear to you in the land of your birth?”
“Ah, yes; for I have a wife and four small children,” Christian answered with a sigh.
“But why did you not bring them with you?” asked Charity.
“Most gladly would I have done so, but they refused to leave the City of Destruction. In vain I endeavoured to persuade them, telling them not only of the terrible judgments that were about to fall on the city, but seeking to encourage them by telling them what little I knew of the joys and glories of the Celestial City. But all was in vain. They not only refused to join me, but did all they could to prevent me becoming a pilgrim.”
Supper now being ready, the whole party took their places at the well-spread table, and as they partook of the good things that had been provided for their refreshment, they spoke together of the Lord, who in His loving-kindness had built that house and furnished it. Christian also learnt that the Lord had been a great warrior, that He had fought with and overcome him that had the power of death, the devil, but that in doing so He had suffered more than words could tell. As he listened his heart glowed with a deeper love to that Saviour who had not only suffered, but died and rose again for him.
And so they talked until late at night; and after they had committed themselves to God, they went to their rest. Christian’s room was a large one, with the window facing towards the sun-rising, and the name of which was Peace.
Before Christian was allowed to proceed on his journey, he was taken into the Armoury. There he saw with wonder and delight how the thoughtful love of his Lord, who knew beforehand how many dangers and trials pilgrims might meet with by the way, had provided all needful armour, and had said to each: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph. 6:13-16).
The shoes provided for the journey would not, he was told, wear out, even though he might have to travel by rough roads, or climb steep hills. After being again taken to the Armoury, and clothed with suitable armour, he was, with many a fervent God-speed and friendly goodbye, allowed to depart.
CHAPTER 17: A HARD STRUGGLE
Christian had not been allowed to leave the house where he had been so kindly entertained without provision for the journey that lay before him. As good-byes were said Charity gave him a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine and a bunch of raisins.
His way next led through the Valley of Humiliation, and before he had gone far he saw a bitter enemy crossing a field to meet him. The name of this enemy was Apollyon. Poor Christian trembled from head to foot as he saw what a number of darts he carried, for he felt sure that many if not all of them would be aimed at him; but he wisely made up his mind to go on and meet the foe, and also to stand his ground. Apollyon on meeting him looked at him with contempt, and asked him where he came from.
Christian replied that he came from the City of Destruction, and was on his way to Mount Zion. “By your answer,” said Apollyon, “I know that you are one of my subjects, for all that country is mine; I am its prince and god. How was it that you dared to run away from your king?”
“It is true,” Christian said, “that once I was your subject, but I found your service very hard, and your wages such as no man could live upon, ‘for the wages of sin is death.’”
“There is no prince,” Apollyon replied, “who will thus lightly lose his subjects. I am not willing to lose you, but since you complain of my service and my wages, if you will return at once, I promise that the best the country can afford shall be yours.”
Christian’s reply was, “But I have given myself to another, even to the King of kings; how can I in fairness leave His service?”
“Ah,” said Apollyon, “you have changed bad for worse, but I have known some who have professed to be His servants who after a time have given Him the slip and returned to me. Do the same and all will be well.”
It was some time before Apollyon would give up the contest, but finding that he could not either by threats or promises induce Christian to turn back he threw darts at him; they fell thick and fast, and the pilgrim was wounded in his head, hand and foot. He lost a little blood, but Apollyon had no sooner left him than a hand holding some leaves from the tree of life was stretched out to him. As soon as he applied them to his wounds the blood ceased to flow, the wounds healed, and he went on his way refreshed and comforted.
As he left the Valley of Humiliation, he saw that his way must lie through a strange and lonely land, called the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Its darkness and gloom were so great that none but Christians were able to pass through it safely. They and they only saw light amid the darkness, and many while passing through had been heard to sing such words as, “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4).
Though Christian often sighed and trembled, at last through the mercy of the Lord he got safely through with a very sweet song of praise making music in his heart. He had not gone far before he saw another pilgrim whose name was Faithful only a few yards ahead of himself. He called out to him, “Wait for me, I will bear you company, and we will travel together to the Celestial City” for they had not reached the end of their journey. Christian, who was more swift of foot than Faithful, not only overtook his fellow pilgrim, but got before him. He was very much pleased with himself, and said, “Now the last shall be first.” But they had not gone far before Christian, who paid no attention to which way he was going, stumbled and fell, and he was quite unable to rise until Faithful, seeing what had happened, went to his help, and he was very soon on his feet again.
Christian, though humbled and somewhat shaken by his fall, felt that God in His tender mercy had sent him a friend and brother in Christ who would help and encourage him in his way, for Faithful like himself was a native of the City of Destruction. As they conversed together, Christian asked him among other questions if he had seen anything of their old neighbour Pliable.
“Yes,” said Faithful, “I remember quite well that he set out with you, and talked of going to Mount Zion, but falling into the Slough of Despond he lost heart and courage and turned back; now he does not like to have any one speak of it, or indeed to know that he ever set out to be a pilgrim.”
“Were the neighbours glad to see him? Did they give him a right hearty welcome?” asked Christian.
“The less that is said about that the better,” Faithful replied. “As far as I know, they laughed at him and mocked him, saying it was a pity as he made a start that he did not go on and see what the end would be. I met him only a day or two before I left the city, but as soon as he saw me he crossed the road and turned down a side street.”
CHAPTER 18: MR. TALKATIVE
Feeling that they had said enough about Pliable, Christian and Faithful walked on together, speaking of things touching the King, reminding each other how grace taught their wandering feet, to tread the heavenly road. The time passed quickly, for the love of God was shed abroad in the heart of each, and as brethren in Christ they enjoyed happy fellowship with each other.
After going a little way they saw another man who looked like a pilgrim, and whose name they soon afterwards learnt was Talkative. Faithful turned a little aside to converse with the stranger, who had a good deal to say about himself and his own goodness. At first Faithful thought that a man who could talk so fluently and appeared to have such a knowledge of the things of God, must indeed be a wonderful pilgrim, but after a time he did not feel quite satisfied. So again joining Christian, who had fallen a little way behind, he asked him if he knew Mr. Talkative.
“Yes,” replied Christian, “I know him well, I wonder you do not know him. He, like ourselves, was born in the City of Destruction, but as it is a very large town it is possible you may not have met him. He is the son of Mr. Say-well, and lived in Prating Row. He is a ready speaker, but not a man to be trusted.”
Faithful was greatly surprised and said, “I have then been greatly deceived; I know that saying and doing are two things, but this will, I trust, teach me to be more careful in future, and to remember that ‘Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world’ (Jas. 1:27), and I remember having read, ‘Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.’
“That,” said Christian, “is quite true, if good works are the fruit of love to Christ, they are pleasing to God, but if they only spring from a love of praise, or a desire to be thought pious and godly by others, they will not bear the test of the judgment-seat of Christ, but will only prove to have been ‘wood, hay and stubble.’”
After some further conversation, Talkative, finding their company did not altogether suit his taste, left them. Their way next led through a wilderness; the pilgrims found it indeed to be a dry and thirsty land. There were few if any springs of water, the ground was rough and stony, and there was no proper road. Still, they were together, and the way seemed shorter as they cheered and encouraged each other by speaking of the Celestial City to which they were journeying, and of the Saviour whose welcome would more than repay them for all the dangers and hardships they might meet with by the way.
They were nearly through the wilderness when Faithful noticed some one coming toward them, and asked Christian if he knew who it was. Christian, after looking for a moment, exclaimed with a glad smile, “I know him well; it is my old friend Evangelist! He is a messenger of glad tidings. He met me as I was turning my back on the City of Destruction and directed me to the Wicket Gate. Let us hasten to give him a loving welcome.”
Evangelist soon joined our pilgrims, and greeted them by saying, “Peace be to thee, dearly beloved.”
Christian cried, “Welcome, a thousand times welcome, my dear Evangelist. The sight of your face and the tones of your voice bring to remembrance our last meeting, the good counsel you then gave me, and how earnestly you sought my eternal happiness.”
“You are indeed welcome,” added Faithful. “Thy company, dear Evangelist, is delightful to us poor pilgrims.”
“How has it fared with you, my friends?” said Evangelist. “Tell me, I pray you, Christian, how it has fared with you since our last meeting.”
Evangelist listened with great interest to all the pilgrims had to tell him of what had happened to them by the way, and of the trials they had met with since leaving the land of their birth. When they had told him all they could remember, he encouraged them by saying, “My dear sons, I rejoice to find that you have not grown weary in well-doing. It does not in the least surprise me to hear that you have met with trials, for have you not read that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. That honoured servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, did not have or expect an easy path. When he was getting near the end of his journey he wrote, ‘The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city that bonds and afflictions abide me.’ You will yet meet with trials, but do not grow faint-hearted: ‘Have faith in God.’ ‘Be thou faithful unto death,’ and the Lord Himself will give each overcomer a crown of life.”
CHAPTER 19: VANITY FAIR
After telling our pilgrims that their way must next lie through the town of Vanity, where all through the year they would find that a large and well-attended fair was being held, Evangelist affectionately commended them to God and the word of His grace (Acts 20:32), and then bade them farewell.
The town which the writer of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” has called Vanity is of very great age. If we want to know by whom it was founded, we must open our Bibles at the Book of Genesis, and we shall read how between five and six thousand years ago a man whose hands were stained with his brother’s blood, Cain, “went out from the presence of the Lord,” and tried to make himself happy without God. “And he builded a city” (Gen. 4:15-17), and from that far-away time to the day in which we live, the men of the world have been doing their best to make the town of Vanity a very pleasant and attractive place.
A great deal of buying and selling is always going on there. The fair attracts great numbers, not only of the young and thoughtless, but, alas! many of those whose hoary heads ought to be found in the way of righteousness. Shows and amusements, too many to count, are provided for those who care for such things, but there is nothing to suit the taste or meet the needs of the children of God, who like others have to pass through Vanity Fair on their way to the Celestial City.
Satan, who is the god of this world, tried his utmost to tempt the Lord Jesus when He was passing through the fair to buy some of the goods exposed for sale, but that blessed, holy One, whose object was always to do the will of His Father in heaven, only answered “It is written,” and passed on.
But we must return to our pilgrims and learn how they fared in passing through the town of Vanity, and how they were treated by its citizens. They had no right to expect an easy time or smooth sailing, for when they turned for direction to their guide-book, the word of God, they found that their Lord had said of His disciples, “They are not of the world” (John 17:16), and that they might not lose heart He had also said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
We will not linger over all that Christian passed through before he was allowed to leave the city, though the writer of “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” John Bunyan, has given a somewhat lengthy account of all that happened to Christian and Faithful there. The townspeople came out in crowds to gaze and stare at them. The clothes of the pilgrims were neither so showy nor so fashionable as those in which the people of Vanity Fair loved to dress themselves and their families. As they did not usually speak the same language, they appeared to them to be men from a foreign country.
Another thing at which many of the crowd took offence was that the pilgrims did not spend any money in the fair, and took little if any interest in the wares that were exposed for sale in the windows of the shops and upon the stalls in the market-place. But gazing and staring did not long content the crowd who had gathered. One man called out in a loud, mocking tone, “What will ye buy?” and received for answer, “We buy the truth and sell it not.”
That was the signal for a general uproar. The noise soon became so deafening that the captains and rulers of the city came out to learn the cause of the riot, the blame of which was at once laid upon the pilgrims, and they were asked who they were, and where they were going. They said they were pilgrims and strangers, and were going to a “better, that is, a heavenly country,” and that all they desired was to be allowed to pass quietly through the fair on their way to Mount Zion.
By that time the uproar and excitement had become so great, that the people would not go quietly to their homes, so the rulers decided that the pilgrims instead of being allowed to depart should be put into an iron cage to make sport and be a gazing-stock to all the people of the fair.
Christian and Faithful were soon surrounded by a crowd of idlers, who did not long content themselves with staring at and mocking the prisoners, but began to pelt them with mud, and some even threw stones; but even then they were not left without comfort, for they reminded each other not only of the warning Evangelist had given them, how as the followers of a rejected Lord they must not expect an easy time, but also they remembered that it was written of Him, the Master they served, “He is despised and rejected of men: a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).
CHAPTER 20: THE TRIAL OF CHRISTIAN AND FAITHFUL
After spending some time in the iron cage, a few of the townspeople who were somewhat more kindly disposed than their neighbours, who had all along thought the pilgrims had been hardly dealt with, at last found courage to say so. This was the signal for another uproar; so the unoffending pilgrims were taken out and cruelly beaten and ill-used as a warning to any who should be disposed to speak for them.
They comforted and encouraged each other by repeating the warning Evangelist had given them, saying that it was really no strange thing that had happened to them. While they lay in the cage quite a number of men offered to appear against them as witnesses at the trial, which would, they expected, shortly take place. The prisoners were to be tried before the Chief Justice, Lord Hate-good. The names of a few of the witnesses were Mr. Envy, Mr. Superstition and Mr. Pickthank.
When the day fixed for their trial came, the prisoners were taken into the court, which even at an early hour was filled to overflowing with people who wanted to see and hear as much as they could. Lord Hate-good was on the bench looking very grand, but very severe in his gown and wig; the jury took their places and the clerk read the charge against the prisoners. It was this:
“That they were enemies to and disturbers of the trade of the town of Vanity; that they had caused riots and divisions among the citizens and had even won some to their way of thinking, which was not only dangerous, but was quite against the law of the land.”
On being asked what they had to say for themselves, Faithful replied they could not plead guilty to have been the cause of the riots that had taken place in the town, for they were men of peace, and followers of the Prince of Peace. They only set their faces against that which was evil, and desired the blessing and salvation of all men.
The witnesses were then called upon, Mr. Envy was the first to speak, and said somewhat as follows:
“My lord, I have known these men for many years, and am ready to declare upon my oath that notwithstanding their pretty names, they are among the most dangerous and disloyal fellows in this part of the country. They have no respect for our king, our laws, or customs. Wherever they go they make it their business to spread their opinions, which they call words of faith and holiness, but which condemn not only all our doings but us in doing them.”
Mr. Superstition was the next to enter the witness box, and after going through the customary forms thus addressed the jury: “My lord, I have no great acquaintance with the prisoner, whose name is Faithful, neither do I desire any better knowledge of him, but having on more than one opportunity held conversation with him, I know him to be a very dangerous person. I heard him say that all man-made religion was vain and could not be pleasing to God, since it was not founded upon the word of God, and that those who followed it would, when too late, find out their error. It would take up too much of your time were I to repeat all that I heard him say, but I have said more than enough to prove that he is no friend to our king, who is the god of this world. He has no respect for our laws, and says that many of our customs are worse than folly.”
Other witnesses were then called upon, but there is no need to repeat all they had to say against the pilgrims. They all, however, agreed that the prisoners were worthy of death. Faithful then asked if he might be allowed to say a few words in his own defence. After some demur and delay on the part of Lord Hate-good, leave was granted, and he said:
“I can only answer to what Mr. Envy said, that I spoke the truth and nothing but the truth when I said that any laws or customs which are opposed to the plain teaching of the Word of God could not rightly be called Christian. If you can prove to me that I was in error, I will before you all confess and renounce my error. It is true, as Mr. Superstition said, that I hold that a man-made religion is not, and cannot be pleasing to God, for the Lord Jesus Himself said, ‘The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:23-24).”
CHAPTER 21: CHRISTIAN AND HOPEFUL
Faithful did not get a fair trial; the jury, who had taken great offence at the bold and fearless way in which he had confessed his Lord and Master, did not take long to make up their minds that he was not to be allowed to leave the town alive, and the Chief Justice, Lord Hate-good, put on his black cap and pronounced sentence of death upon the prisoner, who was taken back to prison, and a few days later by a violent death reached his heavenly home.
But how did it fare with Christian? He was taken back to prison for a time, and then was released and allowed to leave the town and go on his journey.
Although at first he felt keenly the loss of his friend and brother in the faith, he soon proved the tender care and compassion of the Lord in providing him with a fellow-pilgrim to whom he could speak freely of the things that grace had made dear to the hearts of both.
Christian had only journeyed a short distance from the town of Vanity, when he was joined by a young brother whose name was Hopeful, who had been induced to become a pilgrim by overhearing the godly conversation Faithful and Christian had with each other and observing their ways, so unlike those of the townspeople.
He told Christian that as they were both going to the Celestial City, he would be glad to travel in his company. Christian gave him the right hand of fellowship, and from that moment they were friends and fellow-travellers.
They had not gone far before they overtook a pilgrim who was a little in advance of them, and whose name they soon afterwards learnt was Mr. By-ends. “What countryman may you be, sir?” the pilgrims asked, “and how far may you be going on our way?”
The stranger, who did not seem inclined to tell his name, said that he came from the large and well-to-do town of Fair-speech, where he had many rich relations.
“If I am not making too bold, sir,” said Christian, “perhaps you will tell us the names of some of your kindred?”
“Nearly the whole town is related to me,” replied Mr. By-ends, “but I will only name two or three. You may have heard of my Lord Time-server, also of my Lord Turn-about, not forgetting my Lord Fair-speech, from whose ancestors the town took its name.
“You will see that I am a gentleman of good family. We have also among our leading men Mr. Smooth-man, Mr Facing-both-ways, Mr. Anything, and Mr. Two-tongues, who is my mother’s own brother, all of whom are well known and greatly respected.”
“May I ask, sir, if you are a married man?” said Christian.
“Yes, my wife, who is the daughter of Lady Feigning, belongs to an old and honourable family, and is herself a perfect model of good breeding. We are both very religious, though perhaps not so strict as some. We find it most convenient to row with but never against wind and tide; we are always most zealous when everything is going well, but if anything like persecution is felt or feared, we think it best and safest to keep out of danger.”
By the time By-ends had got to the end of his speech Christian, who had heard quite enough to convince him that the stranger was not a true pilgrim, had fallen a little way behind, and took the opportunity of whispering to Hopeful “If I am not greatly mistaken, the stranger with whom we have joined company is none other than By-ends, of the town of Fair-speech, one of whom I have heard many things that are not at all to his credit.”
“Ask him his name,” suggested Hopeful; “an honest man ought never to be ashamed of his name.”
Then Christian, again joining By-ends, said to him, “Though I do not think we have ever met before, I have a guess that you are Mr. By-ends, of the town of Fair-speech.” By-ends, looking somewhat confused, said, “That is not my real name, it is only a nickname that has been given me by some who do not like me or my ways. However, as we are all going one way, if you care for my company, I am willing to travel with you; if not, I must be content to do as I did before we met, go on alone, until I come up with some who will be glad of my company.”
“If you wish to go with us,” said Christian, “you must be willing to go by the same road that we do, and that will often be to row against wind and tide.”
Not liking the terms the pilgrims had proposed, By-ends, after some further conversation, took leave of them, and for some distance they continued their journey along the king’s highway. But the road was rough, and the stones and brickbats lying about made walking difficult and often painful. The day, too, was sultry, and the sky was overcast with heavy thunder-clouds. Feeling very weary, they began to wonder if it would not be possible to find some smoother path. Looking over a stile on their left hand, they saw green fields, bright with many coloured flowers. They got over the stile, little thinking that by so doing they had entered By-path Meadow.
CHAPTER 22: DOUBTING CASTLE
The pilgrims had not gone far before they began to fear that they had made a mistake in leaving the king’s highway, and thought it would be well to find their way back to the stile. But now it began to rain and thunder and lighten and the waters of a stream that ran through the fields had risen so rapidly that they saw it would be dangerous to attempt to cross, and as night was coming on they could not find the path leading to the stile. So after looking about for some time, they found a shelter, where they decided to rest and wait for the morning.
Now not far from the place where they rested was a large and gloomy-looking old castle, called Doubting Castle, the owner of which was Giant Despair. It was in his grounds they were sleeping, for being very tired they had soon fallen asleep.
The next morning the giant, who was an early riser, was walking about his fields, as he often did, and came upon the two sleeping pilgrims. He shook them roughly, bade them get up and tell him who they were, where they came from, and what business they had to be sleeping in his grounds.
He told them that they had trespassed by entering upon his grounds, and therefore must go along with him. So driving them before him, for he was much stronger than they were, he took them and shut them up in a dark and ill-smelling dungeon underneath the castle. There they were left from Wednesday morning till Saturday with no food or water, and without any one entering the dungeon to ask how they fared.
When the giant told his wife, Diffidence, that he had found two men sleeping on his grounds and had put them into the dungeon, her advice was that he should beat them severely. So in the morning, arming himself with a stout stick he went to the dungeon, and after abusing the prisoners as if they had been dogs, he beat them with many stripes, leaving them so sore that they could not even turn themselves on the earthen floor of their prison.
On his next visit he again beat them, telling them that as he did not intend to set them free, he thought it would be much better to make an end of themselves than to live in such misery. The giant then made them follow him to the castle-yard, where they saw many bones lying about. “These,” said he, “are the bones of those who once, like yourselves, were pilgrims, but who, having trespassed upon my grounds, fell into my hands and were put into the dungeon. When I thought fit, I tore them in pieces; within ten days you, too, will come to the same end. Now get you down to your den again.” With these words he drove them back to their prison. There they lay, still sore and sorrowful, till nearly midnight on Saturday, when they began to pray and continued in prayer, until, though no light came into their prison, they knew it must be almost morning.
Then said Christian, and his voice sounded strong and cheerful, “How foolish we have been to lie in such misery in this wretched dungeon, when I have in my bosom a key called Promise, that will, I believe, unlock every door in Doubting Castle, and we may then go forth free men.”
“That is indeed good news, dear Christian,” said Hopeful, “find your key and let us try it without losing any more time.”
Then Christian drew out his key, and it no sooner began to turn in the lock than the door of their prison flew open, and they soon reached another door that also opened to them. Only the great outer gate of the castle then stood between them and liberty; that, too, they were able to open with their key. But the hinges were very rusty, and it made such a creaking that the noise awoke the giant, who got up in a great rage and would again have caught the pilgrims, but at that moment one of the fits, from which he often suffered, came on, so that he could not go after them. And thus they were able to escape, and finding their way to the stile, they were soon again on the king’s highway.
Glad and thankful as they were for their own escape, they felt they should like to do something that might prevent other pilgrims who might go that way from crossing the stile and falling into the clutches of Giant Despair. So before going further, they decided to erect a small pillar, and to engrave upon the side of it words of warning, by which there is no doubt that some at least of the many pilgrims who stopped to read it were saved from leaving the king’s highway and turning into By-path Meadow.
With praise-filled hearts, Christian and Hopeful continued their journey, and soon afterwards reached the Delectable Mountains. Here they saw large flocks of sheep feeding under the care of shepherds, who, as soon as they saw the pilgrims, gave them a friendly greeting, and told them they were welcome not only to drink from the springs that watered the pleasant land to which they had come, but to enter the orchards and vineyards, and eat of the ripe fruit. They told them that the mountains were in Emmanuel’s Land, and that they were only under-shepherds, but the great Shepherd to whom the mountains and the sheep belonged had laid down His life for the sheep.
CHAPTER 23: THE PILGRIMS AND IGNORANCE
When the evening came on, the shepherds gave them shelter in their tents, and there the pilgrims went to their rest for the night. In the morning the shepherds told them to be careful to avoid turning into a lane which they would pass on their left, which though it looked shady and pleasant led them to the town of Conceit.
They then bade them God-speed, and the pilgrims went on their way. Just as they got to the lane they noticed a youth coming up who seemed to wish to join them. His name, they soon learnt, was Ignorance, and when asked where he came from, and where he was going, he replied, “I was born in the good old town of Conceit, and like yourselves I am going to the Celestial City.”
“But why,” asked Christian, “did you not enter by the Wicket-gate?” “Oh,” said Ignorance, “it is too far out of the way, and not worth the trouble it would take to get there: besides, I am not sure that any of my townsmen even know the way to it. I am sure I did not.”
“But,” asked Hopeful, “do you not fear that when you come to the Gate of the City, you may be counted as a thief and a robber?”
Ignorance replied, “I have never done any harm, and have always been a good-living, moral young man; I read my Bible, pray, and give money to the poor. I think you had better go your way, and I will go mine, so good-day.”
So the pilgrims went on, Ignorance a short distance behind them.
Hopeful whispered to Christian, “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Prov. 26:12).
Christian and Hopeful, happy in each other’s society, went on their way, and though sometimes they began to feel weary, they encouraged one another by speaking of the welcome that awaited them in the home to which they were going. There they would see the King in His beauty, and the trials and sufferings of the way would seem as nothing compared with the glory they would then behold.
Not far from Broad-way Gate they saw a dark, winding lane, which they were told was called Dead-man’s Lane, so many dark deeds having been committed thereabouts. “Ah,” said Christian, “I am reminded of what I once heard happened to a poor pilgrim whose name was Little-faith, and who not far from where we now are was attacked by three thieves, who after beating him with a heavy club, tried to take from him his money and jewels. Poor Little-faith was sorely tempted to give way and think that his end had come, but just at the moment of his greatest need, the thieves hearing some one coming and thinking it might be one whom they did not wish to meet, Great-grace, who lived in the town of Good-confidence, lost no time in taking themselves off, and Little-faith, though sore from his bruises, was able to get up and continue the journey.”
Dangers were not all past for our pilgrims, who were nearing the end of their journey, for a little further on they were met by a man whose name was Flatterer, against whom the shepherds had given them a friendly warning. With many soft and honeyed words he tried to persuade them to leave just for a little the king’s highway, and offered to show them a much easier path to Mount Zion; but paying no attention to his evil counsel they kept on their way.
Soon after parting company with the Flatterer, they met a very dangerous person whose name was Atheist. His back was turned to the Celestial City, and he told the pilgrims that at the end of their long and toilsome journey they would meet with nothing but disappointment, as there was no Celestial City. But on turning to their guide-book, the holy scriptures, they found written, “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). So taking a firmer hold of the shield of faith, they were able to turn aside the fiery darts of the wicked one.
CHAPTER 24: THE END OF THE JOURNEY
Now, dear young friends, the last chapter of the pilgrim-tale, that has had almost countless numbers of readers, both old and young, has to be written.
Soon after their escape from those well-known enemies to pilgrims, Atheist and the Flatterer, Christian and Hopeful entered the Enchanted Ground, which, though pleasant and shady, was not without its dangers. It was not safe to linger there, for the air made those who did so, so overcome by sleep that they were unable to continue their journey and they often slept much longer than was good for them.
They had not gone far before Hopeful complained of being very tired, and said he was so sleepy that he could not keep his eyes open, he must lie down to sleep and rest just for a little while. However, Christian encouraged him to try to keep awake, and they both went on, keeping up a brisk conversation so that their drowsiness should not overcome them. Presently they entered the country of Beulah, a very pleasant land, where the flowers were always blooming, and the sweet songs of the birds were to be heard. Here the King’s own vineyards were, which He had planted for His own pleasure, and for the comfort of pilgrims.
They were now drawing near to the gate of the Celestial City, but before entering, a river, whose name was Death, must be crossed. “But is there no other way?” they asked trembling. “Two men, and two only, Enoch and Elijah, have been taken by another way,” was the answer, “but a great company of the redeemed have already passed the river; they overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and are safe on the other side.”
Just then a horror of great darkness came over the soul of Christian. He could not remember that his Lord had said, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” Almost in despair he cried out, “I sink in deep waters where there is no standing; the billows go over my head.”
But his faithful friend, Hopeful, who was still by his side, proved a great comfort and help to him, for he whispered words of faith and hope and bade him look away from himself to the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ and rest upon the promise, “I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” And as Christian looked unto Jesus, darkness melted away, and the light of his Saviour’s love again shone into his soul, so he crossed the river with a song of triumph, and entered into the joy of his Lord, more than a conqueror through Him.
How did it fare with Hopeful? He too had reached the end of his journey, and sheltered by the precious blood of Christ, and trusting no merits but those of his Redeemer, he too safely passed the river, and went to wait with his Lord for the hour that cannot be very far distant now, the hour of the Lord’s return, when He shall come with all His saints to take His kingdom and reign, no longer despised and rejected, as by many He still is, but to be owned as King of kings, and Lord of lords.
And now we must bid farewell to John Bunyan. Many of you will, I expect, one day read “The Pilgrim’s Progress” for yourselves, and if you do, do not forget that its author wrote it under the figure of a dream, and that some portions of scripture, on which in these closing days clearer light has been given, the writer could only have seen dimly. John Bunyan wrote a second part to the book in which we are told that the wife and children of Christian, who were at first so unwilling that he should become a pilgrim, with a friend whose name was Mercy, afterwards left the City of Destruction and became pilgrims too.
But I cannot lay down my pen without a word of personal appeal. Are you a pilgrim, dear young reader? Is your face towards the Celestial City? If you are, do your friends and schoolfellows know it? Have you confessed Christ before them? or has the fear of being laughed at kept you silent? Oh, do not be
“Ashamed of Jesus, of the Friend
On whom our hopes of heaven depend;
No, when we blush be this our shame,
That we no better love His name.”