I wonder how many thousands of times this book has been reviewed and written about and what I can possibly add that hasn’t been said before. The Pilgrim’s Progress is a classic of English literature and has been studied in classrooms around the world. Written in 1678, the book has been translated into over 200 languages, and has never been out of print.
Rather than giving a synopsis of the story, which you can easily find online, I think I will just try and briefly comment on what the book means to me, having just read it for the first time.
My desire to read the book was sparked when I heard the book had a huge impact on the life of the famous Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, who is said to have read the book countless times. Spurgeon was a powerful preacher and often used to refer to the book in his sermons, so when I learned that, the book became a ‘must-read’.
The book’s power lies in its faithfulness to the Christian journey, and the trials experienced by the characters in the book are relatable to the life of the Christian reader. While there are not many direct Scripture citations, Biblical passages are mentioned and paraphrased, and stories from the Bible alluded to in the book’s infamous allegorical style.
The book does not make light of the Christian journey. If there is a message that comes out of the book, it’s that yes, the rewards of heaven are amazing, but that anyone who embarks on the Christian journey is going to face tremendous hardship and many trials in their attempt to ‘enter through the narrow gate’ into paradise.
I can see why Spurgeon loved this book. It’s engaging, vivid, truthful, and interesting. If I had to sum up the book’s depiction of Christianity in one word I would say the key word is perseverance. Under the Christian worldview, this is the harsh reality that pilgrims face; they are to endure and remain faithful through whatever onslaughts the devil throws at them. Only then can they at last expect to receive a crown of victory when their lives are over.
If anything, the book has helped cement my understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Readers of this blog will know that I find it hard to commit to the faith, not because I am daunted by it (I would do anything to avoid hell!) but because the Christian worldview presents certain philosophical and theological problems for me that I am yet to find answers to. This book won’t help you tackle the intellectual side of religion and theology, but it will make you appreciate the importance of simple and committed faith to the Christian journey.
You can find The Pilgrims Progress in bookstores everywhere, and because the book is out of copyright you can buy it very cheaply. I would highly recommend giving it a read, because it’s part of English literary history and also captures the essence of Christianity in a unique and wonderful way.