John Bunyan wrote his allegory while he was in prison. His views were not accepted by the authorities (government and registered church). Since his book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, was first published in 1678, it has never been out of print and has appeared in numerous editions and languages. This classic has been around for a long time, 342 years ago, in fact. So why has its popularity lasted? What’s so important about a story of one man’s journey? For one thing, it’s not your usual travel novel. Even the towns from here to there emphasize the story’s purpose: Christian (the pilgrim) left the City of Destruction and made his way to the Celestial City.
An allegory is a journalistic devise to move the reader into the story―to connect one’s own life with the tale. This particular journey, the destination, the rest stops, and each character in the story reflect how a Christian acts out his daily life.
Bunyan wraps his tale around Scripture and in some editions, the publishers include these original references. Note the names of places that bear out his purpose: The Slough of Despond, the Interpreter’s House, Vanity Fair, and the Hill of Difficulty. Characters’ names reveal their true inner disposition: Faithful, Hopeful, Pliable, Ignorance, and Lord Hate-good. Christian must also deal with his own faults and failings, like pride and doubt.
The Pilgrim’s Progress has become a classic in Christian literature, influencing biblical scholars like Oswald Chambers and J. I. Packer. Because of the book’s saturation with Scripture, Charles Spurgeon commended Bunyan: “Prick him anywhere, . . . the very essence of the Bible flows from him.”
Bunyan’s masterpiece has the potential to be life-changing, but it must be read and applied. Sadly, it often sits on a shelf, unread. Some people find the original language difficult. Others are not fond of allegory. Still others like the story but don’t make personal application. The book’s riches are thus left unmined, which leaves them poor.
I’ve written a companion book, Journey with Bunyan’s Pilgrim, a resource to help readers get as much out of this classic as possible. My book’s format has thirteen six-day weeks. Each day includes a brief commentary on a portion of Bunyan’s book, a devotional thought on how Scripture connects with everyday life, and a question for the readers’ reflection, with an option to respond with journaling. Because both scholars and ordinary people (like me) have discovered spiritual richness in Bunyan’s classic, my passion grew to provide this guide for people to learn and apply what’s in store for our every-day journey with Christ.