Acknowledged by many to be second in popularity and numbers of books sold only to the Bible and never out of print since its original publication in 1678, John Bunyan's little Christian allegory, "The Pilgrim's Progress", is a classic beyond comparison.
Many people have been impacted and influenced by it. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who is known as the 'Prince of Preachers", said that he believed he read this book over 100 times! I'm on my 11th reading (or listening to an audio book), so I'll probably never catch his record...but I did start later in life.
I only came into contact with this book in approximately my 25th year as a born-again child of God. I was reading the monthly devotional magazine TableTalk by Ligonier Ministries and their January 2006 issue was dedicated to this astounding book. Amazingly I had never even heard of this book before!
For me it was like spiritual fireworks! Here was a source that spoke of the Christian life as a journey to heaven full of the same sort of things I was experiencing! Full of the same sorts of barriers and pitfalls that we all face, but placed in a fictional dream that explains much about what one experiences both in salvation and sanctification (or the walk of faith and maturing in Christ-likeness). Descriptions and names elicited a reaction in my mind that connected to biblical passages and images. It was awesome!
I know that The Pilgrim's Progress is not on the same level of God's inerrant, infallible, authoritative and sufficient Word. However, it has some uncanny parallels and complements our study of God's Word beautifully.
One of the adventures which most stuck with me in my first reading of Christian's journey, along and his second companion Hopeful, was when they were captured for trespassing in the lands of Giant Despair. By the way, Christian's original name was Graceless, which changed quickly as he saw his desperate situation from the Book of books in his hand, experienced the great burden of original sin on his back and spoke with Evangelist about the truth of it all. "Graceless" was regenerated by the power of God (Ephesians 2:8-9) and was born-again (John 3) and so that he became "Christian".
Giant Despair throws the pair of travelers into his dungeon. There they are tortured over and over as captives of the lord of that land. Giant Despair tells them they might as well kill themselves because he was planning to kill them in the morning anyway. That night, even while they were hurting and in terrible conditions, they began to pray. Soon after this Christian remembers that he had received a key named Promise which opens all the doors of Doubting Castle! He pulled out the key of Promise and indeed it did open all the locks and gave them their freedom!
What an incredible image of the Christian life! How easily we can place ourselves in torment and captivity because of sin and remain there rather then remembering that the promises of God's Word open all of these kinds of imprisonments...an example of this sort of release from captivity begins with a such an action verse like 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." That is written as an "If, then" clause and those are always based on a promise of assurance from the only One who is faithful in all things and trustworthy as well. After all, it says in His Word in multiple places that the Lord is faithful and also 5 separate places it says that He cannot lie (Numbers 23; 1 Samuel 15; Hebrews 6; Psalm 89; Titus 1:2).
Well, this is an amazing book full of great connections to the Word of God, and so it is no wonder that it has never been out of print and has been the most popular book after the Bible since it is based on quite a bit on God's Word. Bunyan says in his apology for the book at the beginning (or defense or it) that his idea for the book came after he was going to write another book, but he was compelled to change that plan. He simply wanted to capture the attention and curiosity of people to help improve their understanding of the normal Christian life. He succeeded in my estimation and the estimation of many over these 3+ centuries since its first publication.
John Bunyan wrote it in old English of course so it is hard to read. However, there are editions in modern English available today and one in particular has just some awesome illustrations in it (see the edition in the sidebar). There's also an audio dramatization available here! If you wish to learn more about John Bunyan, then follow the link to be more introduced to this amazing servant of the Lord. The Pilgrim's Progress is not a children's book because the themes are for all ages, but there are some various children's versions to help them understand better.
I might revisit this book in the future to give more insights and review. May the Lord richly bless you as you supplement your Bible reading with Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress". ~ The Literarian
Robert Thomas Clark, M. Div.
I love quoting Charles Haddon Spurgeon as he just seemed to always say it well...here's two I love from him about reading: