Friday, February 25, 2011

The Pilgrim's Progress

This is the most famous book that you’ve (probably) never heard about. The Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the most published works in the entire history of the world, and may be second only to the Bible (which occupies the undisputed first place). It was first published in 1678 and has never been out of print up to this day.  It has been translated into over 200 languages. Also, authors such as Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, and Louisa May Alcott, among many others, have drawn inspiration from its rich literary and Biblical content.

Why I Love It

Pilgrim's Progress is my favorite Christian book, hands down. Over the years, I've read it, listened to it, and watched it many times and in many forms, and I'd do it all over again if I only had the luxury! It's a little difficult to read in it's original Ye Olde English form, but every page is well worth the effort. It's a great adventure-drama, to be sure, but one that is brimming with Biblical truth, and I find that it's even more edifying than it is entertaining.

The Story Behind the Story

The Pilgrim's Progress was written, of all people, by a convict named John Bunyan, and it can be interpreted as an allegorical version of his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. But Bunyan wasn't sent to prison for murder or theft, but for preaching. He was a Puritan, someone who rejected the politicized tenets of the Church of England, which enjoyed the official backing of the British crown in the 17th century. As a "non-conformist," he was sent to prison for twelve years, unable to provide for his wife and young children.

The remarkable thing was that he could have walked out of jail of he would only agree to stop preaching, but he was so committed to what he believed was God's calling that he (and his family) persevered. His friend, the famous John Owen, tried unsuccessfully to free Bunyan, but in it all God was at work. I like what John Piper says about it:
One of the best illustrations of God's hiding a smiling face behind a frowning providence is the story of how Owen failed to help Bunyan get out of prison. Repeatedly when Bunyan was in prison Owen worked for his release with all the strings he could pull. But to no avail. But when John Bunyan came out in 1676 he brought with him a manuscript "the worth and importance of which can scarcely be comprehended". In fact Owen met with Bunyan and recommended his own publisher, Nathaniel Ponder. The partnership succeeded, and the book that has probably done more good, after the Bible, was released to the world—all because Owen failed in his good attempts to get Bunyan released, and because he succeeded in finding him a publisher. The lesson: "Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,/but trust him for his grace;/behind a frowning providence/he hides a smiling face."
Amen. Out of Bunyan's trial came the most enduring allegories of the Christian life that has brought grace and truth to countless of people the world over. The Bunyan family suffered greatly, but by God's grace, they (and we) are all the richer for it.

Where to Get It

I wouldn't think you'd find the book at National Bookstore, but it's worth a try. Fully Booked and other dedicated bookstores might have it in one form or another. I recommend any one of the digital versions that are available online for free.

Related Posts
 - Encouragement from John Bunyan

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