One of the main reasons that I want to take part in the my52books blog is so that I have the motivation to read some of the classics that I have always wanted to read/should have read in high school but opted for cliff notes instead (but that’s for a later submission… sorry, Ron). Bunyan’s story is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious English literature, has been translated into more than 200 languages, and has never been out of print. For this reason, I thought it important enough to take a look at.
This was also the first book I read via my Kindle; I was a bit worried at the onset because Bunyan wrote the first many pages in old english poetry which made my head hurt. However, it did end eventually and began the story of Christian, a man from the “City of Destruction” on his way to the “Celestial City” after receiving the good news from a man called “Evangelist”. The call of Evangelist to enter through the Wicker Gate (an image of Christ’s work on the cross) meant leaving his family as they cried after him. “But the man (Christian) put his fingers in his ears, and ran on, crying, ‘Life! Life! Eternal life!'”.
And I think that is what makes this book so interesting and intriguing. Bunyan takes the Christian life and in beautiful prose guides us down the path towards heaven. His use of names is what particularly caught my attention. He does not try to veil the heart of the people Christian (and later, Hopeful) comes in contact with but uses their names to reveal their internal motivations. From the helpers along the way like Faithful, Evangelist, and Interpreter to those set to lead them astray–Mr. Legality/Wordly Wiseman– and fellow misguided travelers like Obstinate and Ignorant, these names give us initial insight and understanding to what Bunyan aims to portray through their interactions. The story of Christian is rich in allegory and full of deep theological truths depicted in a way that made me think of one of my other favorite authors, C.S. Lewis.
It is also striking to see the depth of Bunyan’s knowledge and accessibility to the scriptures. Next to so many passages are parenthetical documentations of scripture references, giving biblical credence to the events he describes in his dream. I stopped looking them up shortly after I began reading as it would have taken me even longer to finish the book.
One section really caught my eye since it is a timeless truth in the church. Faithful (Christian’s fellow-journeyman) gets done rebuking Talkative in a forceful and plain way to which Christian affirms, “You did well to talk so plainly to him as you did; there is but little of this faithful dealing with men now-a-days, and that makes religion to stink so in the nostrils of many, as it doth; for they are these talkative fools whose religion is only in word… I wish that all men would deal with such as you have done: then should they either be made more conformable to religion, or the company of saints would be too hot for them.”
He also confronts what we know as the prosperity gospel: “For it be unlawful to follow Christ for leaves, how much more abominable is it to make of him and religion a stalking-horse to get and enjoy the world!”
This is truly a remarkable classic. Full of timeless truths and beautiful insight to the gospel of Christ and the Christian life. I highly encourage checking it out.
“The hill, though high, I covet to ascend,
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here.
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear;
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”