On one side of John Bunyan’s tomb in London, there is a portrayal of the pilgrim Christian, struggling with his burden. The other side of the tomb shows Christian kneeling at the cross, with the burden rolled away.
That scene captures (for me) the most memorable part of Pilgrim’s Progress, where Christian finds salvation from his sins at the cross.
“He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.”
Have you ever read Pilgrim’s Progress? Charles Spurgeon remarked, “Next to the Bible, the book that I value most is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times.” I’ve never read any book a hundred times. But in the handful of times I have read this book, I at least glimpse the value that Spurgeon understood.
Pilgrim’s Progress is valuable because the story is bursting with the Scriptures. The overall tale reflects the Bible’s theme of God’s provision of salvation through Christ. Characters like Evangelist and Interpreter explain and apply the Bible as Christian grows in faith, while enemies Giant Despair and Worldly Wiseman illustrate Christian’s struggle to persevere. Objects and places reflect biblical teaching, such as the narrow gate, Christian’s sword of the Word, the key of Promise, Vanity Fair, and the Delectable Mountains. The dialogue often includes direct quotations from Scripture, and there are helpful Bible references everywhere.
All of these elements serve to teach the Bible to our minds and to stir our emotions to treasure our lives in Christ all the more.
As a boy, I recall reading with fascination as Christian battled Apollyon. I chuckled at some of his companions’ bumbling along the way. I’ve pondered the insights from his conversations. Perhaps you can remember similar experiences.
This story is accessible to all kinds of Christians, of all ages. You can read it in the classic version, or a modern-language version, and in pictures. (I’m currently looking for a good children’s edition. Recommendations, anyone?)
I wince a little when Christians excitedly describe the Twilight books or latest movie or TV show, while being ignorant of a genuinely helpful classic like Pilgrim’s Progress. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. This is a book for your enjoyment and faith.