Calvinism Painted in Exquisitely Delightful Colours

Some information I acquired regarding Bunyan’s book-book (mostly from Barry E. Horner’s Pilgrim’s Progress: Themes and Issues and his Pilgrim’s Progress: An Outlined Commentary):

“I know of no book, the Bible excepted, as above all comparison, which I, according to my judgment and experience, could so safely recommend as teaching and enforcing the whole saving truth according to the mind that was in Christ Jesus, as in The Pilgrim’s Progress. It is, in my conviction, incomparably the best Summa Theologiae Evangelicae ever produced by a writer not miraculously inspired” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Literary Remains of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, vol. 3, 1838).

In his book Themes and Issues, Horner cites Luther scholar Gordon Rupp’s description of Coleridge’s description of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress:

“Coleridge called it a compendium of evangelical doctrine, and we shall be wise not to treat it as a long outmoded pious book for children” (Gordon Rupp, Six Makers of English Religion, 1500-1700 (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1957), p. 98.

Also from the pen of Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

“This wonderful work is one of the very few books which may be read over repeatedly at different times, and each time with a new and different pleasure. I read it once as a theologian –- and let me assure you that there is great theological acumen in the work –- once with devotional feelings — and once as a poet. I could not have believed beforehand that Calvinism could be painted in such exquisitely delightful colours. …Calvinism never put on a less rigid form, never smoothed its brow and softened its voice more winningly than in The Pilgrim’s Progress” (Roger Sharrock, ed., Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, A Casebook (London: Macmillan, 1976), p. 53-54.

In Bunyan’s “The Holy City; Or, The New Jerusalem” he addresses “four sorts of readers,” one of which is:


My fourth word is to the lady of kingdoms, the well-favoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, and the abominations of the earth.

MISTRESS,—I suppose I have nothing here that will either please your wanton eye or go down with your voluptuous palate. Here is bread indeed, as also milk and meat; but here is neither paint to adorn thy wrinkled face, nor crutch to uphold or undershore thy shaking, tottering, staggering kingdom of Rome; but rather a certain presage of thy sudden and fearful final downfall, and of the exaltation of that holy matron, whose chastity thou dost abhor, because by it she reproveth and condemneth thy lewd and stubborn life. Wherefore, lady, smell thou mayest of this, but taste thou wilt not: I know that both thy wanton eye, with all thy mincing brats that are intoxicated with thy cup and enchanted with thy fornications, will, at the sight of so homely and plain a dish as this, cry, Foh! snuff, put the branch to the nose, and say, Contemptible! (Mal 1:12,13; Eze 8:17). ‘But wisdom is justified of all her children’ (Matt 11:19). ‘The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee’ (Isa 37:22), yea, her God hath smitten his hands at thy dishonest gain and freaks (Eze 22:7-11, &c.). ‘Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all ye that love her; rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her; that ye may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations, that ye may milk out and be delighted with the abundance of her glory’ (Isa 66:10,11).

The Lord willing, we shall see that Bunyan’s Progress is one giant bucket of face-paint that with a SWORD-sized TROWEL may be gobbed upon the face of the Mother of Harlots in a vain attempt to shore in all her self-righteous, brazen, and haggish chasms. Next Page

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