John Bunyan (1628-1688) was born near Bedford at Elstow, England. His Pilgrim’s Progress is considered to be one of the most influential works of fiction ever written. Here are a few blurbs by other influential persons who esteem it highly:
Pilgrim’s Progress is read with the greatest pleasure. – George Whitefield (1714-1770)
I find this book so full of matter, that I can seldom go through more than a page or half a page at a time.– John Newton (1725-1807)
Next to the Bible, the book that I value most is Pilgrim’s Progress. I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times…Prick him anywhere, and you will find that his blood is ‘bibline,’ the very essence of the Bible flows from him.– Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
That tenderest and most theological of books is pulsating with life in every word. – J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937)
In the introductory defense (i.e., “author’s apology”) of his book-book, Bunyan rhymes that his
“book will make a Traveller of thee,
If by its Counsel thou wilt ruled be;
it will direct thee to the Holy Land,
If thou wilt its directions understand:
Yea, it will make the slothful, active be;
The blind also delightful things to see…This book is writ in such a dialect,
As may the minds of listless men affect:
It seems a novelty, and yet contains
Nothing but sound and honest Gospel-strains.”
One frequent objection that came up during Bunyan’s time was his use of allegory (Bunyan had quoted Hosea 12:10, “I have used similitudes,” on the title page of the Pilgrim’s Progress):
“But they lack solidness. Speak man your mind;
They drowned the weak; metaphors make us blind.”
To which Bunyan replied:
“The Prophets used much by metaphors
To set forth truth; yea, whos considers
Christ, His Apostles too, shall plainly see,
That truths to this day in such mantles be.”
J-Bun, in his conclusion to the first part of The Pilgrim’s Progress, spits the following lines:
Now, READER, I have told my dream to
See if thou canst interpret it to me,
Or to thyself, or neighbour; but take heed
Of misinterpreting; for that, instead
Of doing good, will but thyself abuse:
By misinterpreting, evil ensues.
Take heed also, that thou be not extreme,
In playing with the outside of my dream:
Nor let my figure or similitude
Put thee into a laughter or a feud.
Leave this for boys and fools; but as for thee,
Do thou the substance of my matter see.
Put by the curtains, look within my veil,
Turn up my metaphors, and do not fail;
There, if thou seekest them, such things to
As will be helpful to an honest mind.
What of my dross thou findest there, be bold
To throw away, but yet preserve the gold;
What if my gold be wrapped up in ore?—
None throws away the apple for the core.
But if thou shalt cast all away as vain,
I know not but ’twill make me dream again.
In the part two of Bunyan’s little book-book, he sends Christiana on her way:
“Go now, my little book, to every place,
Where my first Pilgrim has but shewn his face:
Call at their door: If any say, Who’s there?
Then answer thou, Christiana is here.”
And in response to various and sundry objections, Bunyan doth say:
But some there he that say, He laughs too loud
And some do say, His head is in a cloud.
Some say, His words and stories are so dark,
They know not how, by them, to find his mark.
One may, I think, say, Both his laughs and
May well be guess’d at by his wat’ry eyes.
Some things are of that nature, as to make
One’s fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache.
When Jacob saw his Rachel with the sheep,
He did at the same time both kiss and weep.
Whereas some say, A cloud is in his head,
That doth but show how wisdom’s covered
With its own mantles, and to stir the mind
To a search after what it fain would find.
Things that seem to he hid in words obscure,
Do but the godly mind the more allure
To study what those sayings should contain,
That speak to us in such a cloudy strain.
I also know a dark similitude
Will on the fancy more itself intrude,
And will stick faster in the heart and head,
Than things from similes not borrowed.
Wherefore, my book, let no discouragement
Hinder thy travels. Behold, thou art sent
To friends, not foes; to friends that will give
To thee, thy Pilgrims, and thy words embrace.
Besides, what my first Pilgrim left conceal’d
Thou, my brave second Pilgrim, hast reveal’d;
What CHRISTIAN left lock’d up, and went his
Sweet CHRISTIANA opens with her key.
Bunyan says that part two of The Pilgrim’s Progress clarifies some of the alleged muddiness of the first part.
Bunyan’s final prefatory paragraph before beginning his second reverie:
THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS;
IN THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM. THE SECOND PART.
“Now may this little book a blessing be
To those who love this little book and me;
And may its buyer have no cause to say,
His money is but lost or thrown away;
Yea, may this Second Pilgrim yield that fruit,
As may with each good Pilgrim’s fancy suit;
And may it persuade some that go astray,
To turn their feet and heart to the right way,
Is the hearty prayer of
The Lord willing, I will walk through select portions of Bunyan’s book-book (part one, first; then part two) in subsequent posts. This is not what I would call an “exhaustive book review,” but a relatively brief review and commentary on certain sections. Next Page