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Originally published in 1678 under the title The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come, Delivered Under the Similitude of a Dream, this book has been a staple among Christian literature for nearly 350 years. It was written during a time of great suffering by John Bunyan as he was placed in jail for being unwilling to cease his gospel preaching.
An unnamed narrator falls asleep one day and dreams a dream of a man once named Graceless from the City of Destruction who is renamed Christian and begins his journey toward the Celestial City. The book is an allegory of the Christian life as it tells the story of a man’s pilgrimage toward heaven, recounting his preconverted state, his conversion to Christ, and the perils of his journey on to heaven.
Bunyan writes this book with a pastoral heart seeking to have his readers understand both how to become a Christian and what the Christian life really looks like, including its blessings and dangers. This book is for Christians from all walks of life. It has even served for centuries as a favorite among parents to read to their children.
Every age deals with discussions on what truly constitutes a genuine Christian and what the Christian life really looks like. The Pilgrim’s Progress takes readers on a fictional journey that is grounded in biblical truth.
“Then I saw in my Dream that the Shining Men had them call at the gate as they did, some from above looked over the gate, and it was Enoch, Moses, and Elijah. The Shining Men said to them, ‘These Pilgrims have come from the City of Destruction for the love they bear to the King of this place.'” (p. 232)
This allegorical tale encourages and equips true believers on their Christian walk. In doing so, it also helps convict and perhaps even convert those who have seen Christianity as something less than how the Bible defines it. Scripture saturates every page as verses, references, or concepts from Holy Writ are woven into each aspect of the story.
Every Christian should read The Pilgrim’s Progress (perhaps multiple times!) as it will help strengthen their resolve to follow Christ, warn them of the dangers that can befall even the most seasoned of believers, fuel their joy in Christ, and enlarge their hope for heaven. It can be used in evangelistic endeavors as well as with children to help explain some of the great truths of the Christian faith.
John Bunyan (1628-1688) was a Puritan preacher and writer in England. Bunyan had very little schooling. He followed his father in the tinker’s trade, and served in the parliamentary army from 1644 to 1647. In 1655, Bunyan became a deacon and began preaching. He experienced marked success from the start and was the pastor of the Bedford church.
Bunyan is the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress which he wrote in 1676 while imprisoned for preaching without a license. His numerous other titles include Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners and Holy War.
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Main Idea of Pilgrim's Progress
Key Insight 1: Scripture is Sufficient
Key Insight 2: Biblical Order of Conversion
Key Insight 3: Pilgrims Progress Personally not Privately
Chapter 1: The Beginning of Christian’s Journey and the Burden He Carried
Chapter 2: The Interpretation of Things Christian Will Need to Know
Chapter 3: Christian Loses His Roll and Meets Three Damsels
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“If you do not believe me, read here in this Book. And for the truth of what is expressed in it, look, all is confirmed by the blood of Him who made it.” (p. 10) So says Christian to his neighbor Pliable as he seeks to persuade him to join him on his journey toward the Celestial City to escape the coming judgment.
The significance of the Book Christian refers to is exemplified by the fact that countless references are made to Scripture throughout the work. Any argument stands or falls so far as it aligns with the truthfulness of God’s Word. Thus, The Pilgrim’s Progress makes the appeal to the Bible as its highest authority. Every situation, character, and plot is intended to symbolize biblical truth.
Vastly more important than this allegory is “God’s Book” (p. 197) which is the Christian’s sufficient source of truth by which to try all experiences. “‘And do you think that the words of your book are certainly true?’ ‘Yes, truly. For it was made by him who cannot lie.'” (p. 11)
True, the Bible was written by men, but the Holy Spirit of God breathed in and through these men in their work in such a way that every jot and tittle is the very voice of God Himself in written form. The Christian’s hope for understanding the Christian life must ultimately be derived from Scripture.
All pilgrims will make their progress by seeing Scripture alone as their highest and sufficient authority for judging all actions, experiences, and doctrines. This book is really a giant arrow pointing readers to understand that Book.
His burden of sin became unbearable. He did not merely feel burdened but was literally weighed down by the physical presence of the pack of sin upon his back. The man, Christian, after reading God’s Book, feared the coming judgment against sinners but did not know how to escape it. Thankfully, one named Evangelist came to his aid and implored him to run to “yonder Wicket gate” (p. 8).
Thus begins Christian’s journey. His pilgrimage is difficult from the beginning as he followed Evangelist’s instructions despite his own family and friends calling him back. Then, the Slough of Despond almost ended his journey before it began. This slough is where one gets caught in despair for conviction without then looking to Christ.
Next, Worldly-Wiseman attempted to convince Christian to erase his burden with the works of the Law. This only made Christian miserable. Once again Evangelist stepped in and pointed Christian toward the gate. At this point, Christian wasn’t sure what this gate had in store, but he became convinced that it was the only place where his burden could be lifted.
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