Monday, January 14, 2013

Pilgrim's Progress, Part II (and Part I too)

by John Bunyan
originally published in 1684
Kessinger Publishing (Sep 10, 2010)
406 pages

This edition actually contains both Part One and Part Two of Pilgrim's Progress, but since so many know much about the first part, and much less about the second part, let's look at Part Two. As generations have known for over three centuries, Part One of Pilgrim's Progress is an allegory depicting the progress of a pilgrim named Christian from bearing a burden of sin, to finding the remedy by going through the wicket gate to the foot of the cross, to fighting the enemies of faith (representing the devil, the world, and our own flesh), to a final glimpse of the pilgrim's destination (see Hebrews 11:13-16).

What many forget is that the beginning of Christian's journey is particularly difficult because his family refuses to come with him out of the City of Destruction (the prospect of God's judgment on our sin). Christian goes through his entire pilgrimage without his wife Christiana and his four sons.

While Part One thus shows how lonely (yet finally rewarding) faith in Christ can be, Part Two stresses much more the beauty of the communion of saints. Christiana, inspired belatedly by the faith of her husband, embarks on the same pilgrimage with her four sons. Along the way -
  • they meet other citizens who refuse to join them, or seek to tempt them away from the pilgrimage, like Mrs. Timorous, Mrs. Bats-Eyes, Mrs. Inconsiderate, Mrs. Light-Mind, Mrs. Know-Nothing, Mr. Brisk, and Madame Bubble;
  • they meet others (many of them older pilgrims) who support them on the journey, like Mercy, Mr Great-Heart, Old Honest, Mr. Valiant-for-Truth, and Mr. Stand-Fast;
  • the company supports such weaker pilgrims as Mr. Fearing, Mr. Feeble-Mind, Mr. Ready-to-Halt, Mr. Despondency, and Mr. Much-Afraid;
  • Christiana's sons marry various and virtuous female pilgrims they meet;
  • all are strengthened by visiting Gaius's Inn and the House Beautiful, and passing through the Wicket Gate and the Delectable Mountains;
  • they come upon some of the same terrors as Christian did in Part One, like the Doubting Castle and the Valley of the Shadow of Death; and
  • the pilgrims encounter such other dangers as chained lions, Giant Grim, the apples of Beelzebub, Giant Maul, Giant Slay-Good, and the Enchanted Ground.
Through it all, the communion of saints makes for a journey full of good fellowship and mutual adventure - not quite like Christian's harrowing odyssey, but a great twist on it that shows that faith not only unites us with Christ, but also with other children of God in Christ. Combined with the many poems sung by the characters, the story in both Parts makes for a really good read that is both entertaining and inspiring.

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