Puritan Sundays: John Bunyan

I have recently started another attempt at John Bunyan’s most famous work, The Pilgrim’s Progress. I read the children’s version to my kids years ago but have always struggled for some reason to get through the original. As of today I am about halfway through and am enjoying it. This post will hopefully act as accountability.

John Bunyan lived from 1628-1688 and endured much sorrow and suffering in his life. He was born to a poor family and lost his mother and sister at the age of 15. His first wife died after having borne four children, the oldest of whom was blind. He married again but was soon faced with another period of suffering. The English government went through another upheaval and the religious freedom that the Puritans had enjoyed was suddenly revoked. Bunyan and others were forced into a crisis of conscience and Bunyan chose to be imprisoned for twelve years, away from his wife and children, rather than stop preaching. He said this about his decision:

“If nothing will do unless I make of my conscience a continual butchery and slaughter-shop, unless, putting out my own eyes, I commit me to the blind to lead me, as I doubt not is desired by some, I have determined, the Almighty God being my help and shield, yet to suffer, if frail life might continue so long, even till the moss shall grow on mine eye-brows, rather than thus to violate my faith and principles.”

If you’d like to know more about his life, I highly recommend this message that John Piper gave over 20 years ago.

Bunyan began writing The Pilgrim’s Progress while in prison and it has become one of the most famous works ever published. It is an allegory written in two parts, first about The Pilgrim’s (Christian) journey toward heaven and then his wife and children’s. Fair warning: it is written in the Old English style and takes a little while to get used to, but I recommend sticking it out. There are several modern translations out there but in my opinion, you lose some of the charm by choosing to go that route.

One of my favorite passages in the allegory so far finds Christian trapped in a place called Doubting-Castle. When I read it the truths contained there made me smile thinking about my own struggles lately to remember the promises of God.

Now a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out in this passionate speech, What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking Dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty? I have a Key in my bosom, called Promise, that will, (I am persuaded) open any Lock in Doubting-Castle. Then said Hopeful, That’s good news; good Brother pluck it out of they bosom, and try: Then Christian pulled it out of his bosom, and began to try at the Dungeon door, whose bolt (as he turned the Key) gave back, and the door flew open with ease, and Christian and Hopeful both came out.

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