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To make another, which when almost done,
And thus it was. - I writing of the way
And race of saints in this our Gospel day,
About the journey and the way to glory
In more than twenty things which I set down.
Like sparks that from the coals of fire do fly.
Well, so I did; but yet I did not think
Neither did I but vacant seasons spend
From worser thoughts which make me do amiss.
And quickly had my thoughts in black and white;
For having now my method by the end,
Still as I pulled it came; and so I penned
It down until at last it came to be
For length and breadth the bigness which you see.
Well, when I had thus put my ends together,
And some said, Let them live; some, Let them die;
Now was I in a strait, and did not see
The difference of opinion among Bunyan's friends is easily explicable. The allegoric representation of religion to men profoundly convinced of the truth of it might naturally seem light and fantastic, and the breadth of the conception could not please the narrow sectarians who knew no salvation beyond the lines of their peculiar formulas. The Pilgrim though in a Puritan dress is a genuine man.
His experience is so truly human experience, that Christians of every persuasion can identify themselves with him; and even those who regard Christianity itself as but a natural outgrowth of the conscience and intellect, and yet desire to live nobly and make the best of themselves, can recognize familiar footprints in every step of Christian's journey. Thus "The Pilgrim's Progress" is a book, which, when once read, can never be forgotten. We too, every one of us, are pilgrims on the same road, and images and illustrations. come back upon us from so faithful an itinerary, as we encounter similar trials, and learn for ourselves the accuracy with which Bunyan has described them. There is no occasion to follow a story minutely which memory can so universally supply. I need pause only at a few spots which are too charming to pass by.
How picturesque and vivid are the opening lines:
"As I walked through the wilderness of this world I lighted on a certain place where there was a den,1 and I laid me down in that place to sleep, and as I slept I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a man,
1 The Bedford Prison.
a man clothed in rags, standing with his face from his own home with a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back.”
The man is Bunyan himself as we see him in “Grace Abounding." His sins are the burden upon his back. He reads his book and weeps and trembles. He speaks of his fears to his friends and kindred.
some frenzy distemper has got into his head." He meets a man in the fields whose name is Evangelist. Evangelist tells him to flee from the City of Destruction. He shows him the way by which he must go, and points to the far-off light which will guide him to the wicketgate. He sets off, and his neighbors of course think him mad. The world always thinks men mad who turn their backs upon it. Obstinate and Pliable (how well we know them both!) follow to persuade him to return. Obstinate talks practical common sense to him, and as it has no effect, gives him up as a fantastical fellow. Pliable thinks that there may be something in what he says, and offers to go with him.
Before they can reach the wicket-gate, they fall into a "miry slough." Who does not know the miry slough too? When a man begins for the first time to think seriously about himself, the first thing that rises before him is a consciousness of his miserable past life. Amendment seems to be desperate. He thinks it is too late to change for any useful purpose, and he sinks into despondency.
Pliable finding the road disagreeable has soon had enough of it. He scrambles out of the slough "on the side which was nearest to his own house" and goes home. Christian struggling manfully is lifted out "by a man whose name was Help," and goes on upon his
journey, but the burden on his back weighs him down. He falls in with Mr. Worldly Wiseman who lives in the town of Carnal Policy. Mr. Worldly Wiseman, who looks like a gentleman, advises him not to think about his sins. If he has done wrong he must alter his life and do better for the future. He directs him to a village called Morality, where he will find a gentleman well known in those parts, who will take his burden offMr. Legality. Either Mr. Legality will do it himself, or it can be done equally well by his pretty young son, Mr. Civility.
The way to a better life does not lie in a change of outward action, but in a changed heart. Legality soon passes into civility, according to the saying that vice loses half its evil when it loses its grossness. Bunyan would
have said that the poison was the more deadly from being concealed. Christian after a near escape is set straight again. He is admitted into the wicket-gate and is directed how he is to go forward. He asks if he may not lose his way. He is answered Yes, "There are many ways (that) butt down on this and they are crooked and wide. But thus thou mayest know the right from the wrong, that only being straight and narrow."
Good people often suppose that when a man is once "converted," as they call it, and has entered on a religious life, he will find everything made easy. He has turned to Christ, and in Christ he will find rest and pleasantness. The path of duty is unfortunately not strewed with flowers at all. The primrose road leads to the other place. As on all other journeys, to persevere is the difficulty. The pilgrim's feet grow sorer the longer he walks. His lower nature follows him like a shadow watching opportunities to trip him up, and ever appear
ing in some new disguise. In the way of comfort he is allowed only certain resting-places, quiet intervals of peace when temptation is absent, and the mind can gather strength and encouragement from a sense of the progress which it has made.
The first of these resting-places at which Christian arrives is the "Interpreter's House." This means, I conceive, that he arrives at a right understanding of the objects of human desire as they really are. He learns to distinguish there between passion and patience, passion which demands immediate gratification, and patience which can wait and hope.
He sees the action of grace
on the heart, and sees the Devil laboring to put it out. He sees the man in the iron cage who was once a flourishing professor, but had been tempted away by pleasure and had sinned against light. He hears a dream too— one of Bunyan's own early dreams, but related as by another person. The Pilgrim himself was beyond the reach of such uneasy visions. But it shows how profoundly the terrible side of Christianity had seized on Bunyan's imagination and how little he was able to forget it.
"This night as I was in my sleep I dreamed, and behold the heavens grew exceeding black: also it thundered and lightened in most fearful wise, that it put me into an agony; so I looked up in my dream and saw the clouds rack at an unusual rate, upon which I heard a great sound of a trumpet, and saw also a man sit upon a cloud attended with the thousands of heaven. They were all in a flaming fire, and the heaven also was in a burning flame. I heard then a voice, saying, Arise ye dead and come to judgment; and with that the rocks rent, the graves opened, and the dead that were therein