History of Literature

John Bunyan

"The Pilgrim's Progress"

Illustrated by three brothers (George Woolliscraft, Frederick Rhead, & Louis Rhead)


John Bunyan

John Bunyan

English author

born November 1628, Elstow, Bedfordshire, England
died August 31, 1688, London

celebrated English minister and preacher, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), the book that was the most characteristic expression of the Puritan religious outlook. His other works include doctrinal and controversial writings; a spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding (1666); and the allegory The Holy War (1682).

Early life

Bunyan, the son of a brazier, or traveling tinker, was brought up “among a multitude of poor plowmen’s children” in the heart of England’s agricultural Midlands. He learned to read and write at a local grammar school, but he probably left school early to learn the family trade. Bunyan’s mind and imagination were formed in these early days by influences other than those of formal education. He absorbed the popular tales of adventure that appeared in chapbooks and were sold at fairs like the great one held at Stourbridge near Cambridge (it provided the inspiration for Vanity Fair in The Pilgrim’s Progress). Though his family belonged to the Anglican church, he also became acquainted with the varied popular literature of the English Puritans: plain-speaking sermons, homely moral dialogues, books of melodramatic judgments and acts of divine guidance, and John Foxe’s The Book of Martyrs. Above all he steeped himself in the English Bible; the Authorized Version was but 30 years old when he was a boy of 12.

Bunyan speaks in his autobiography of being troubled by terrifying dreams. It may be that there was a pathological side to the nervous intensity of these fears; in the religious crisis of his early manhood his sense of guilt took the form of delusions. But it seems to have been abnormal sensitiveness combined with the tendency to exaggeration that caused him to look back on himself in youth as “the very ringleader of all . . . that kept me company into all manner of vice and ungodliness.”

In 1644 a series of misfortunes separated the country boy from his family and drove him into the world. His mother died in June, his younger sister Margaret in July; in August his father married a third wife. The English Civil Wars had broken out, and in November he was mustered in a Parliamentary levy and sent to reinforce the garrison at Newport Pagnell. The governor was Sir Samuel Luke, immortalized as the Presbyterian knight of the title in Samuel Butler’s Hudibras. Bunyan remained in Newport until July 1647 and probably saw little fighting.

His military service, even if uneventful, brought him in touch with the seething religious life of the left-wing sects within Oliver Cromwell’s army, the preaching captains, and those Quakers, Seekers, and Ranters who were beginning to question all religious authority except that of the individual conscience. In this atmosphere Bunyan became acquainted with the leading ideas of the Puritan sectaries, who believed that the striving for religious truth meant an obstinate personal search, relying on free grace revealed to the individual, and condemning all forms of public organization.

Some time after his discharge from the army (in July 1647) and before 1649, Bunyan married. He says in his autobiography, Grace Abounding, that he and his first wife “came together as poor as poor might be, not having so much household-stuff as a dish or spoon betwixt us both.” His wife brought him two evangelical books as her only dowry. Their first child, a blind daughter, Mary, was baptized in July 1650. Three more children, Elizabeth, John, and Thomas, were born to Bunyan’s first wife before her death in 1658. Elizabeth, too, was baptized in the parish church there in 1654, though by that time her father had been baptized by immersion as a member of the Bedford Separatist church.

Conversion and ministry

Bunyan’s conversion to Puritanism was a gradual process in the years following his marriage (1650–55); it is dramatically described in his autobiography. After an initial period of Anglican conformity in which he went regularly to church, he gave up, slowly and grudgingly, his favourite recreations of dancing and bell ringing and sports on the village green and began to concentrate on his inner life. Then came agonizing temptations to spiritual despair lasting for several years. The “storms” of temptation, as he calls them, buffeted him with almost physical violence; voices urged him to blaspheme; the texts of Scriptures, which seemed to him to threaten damnation, took on personal shape and “did pinch him very sore.” Finally one morning he believed that he had surrendered to these voices of Satan and had betrayed Christ: “Down I fell as a bird that is shot from the tree.” In his psychopathic isolation he presents all the features of the divided mind of the maladjusted as they have been analyzed in the 20th century. Bunyan, however, had a contemporary psychological instrument for the diagnosis of his condition: the pastoral theology of 17th-century Calvinism, which interpreted the grim doctrine of election and predestination in terms of the real needs of souls, the evidence of spiritual progress in them, and the covenant of God’s grace. Both techniques, that of the modern analyst and that of the Puritan preacher, have in common the aim of recovering the integrity of the self; and this was what Bunyan achieved as he emerged, from his period of spiritual darkness, gradually beginning to feel that his sin was “not unto death” and that there were texts to comfort as well as to terrify. He was aided in his recovery by his association with the Bedford Separatist church and its dynamic leader, John Gifford. He entered into full communion about 1655.

The Bedford community practiced adult Baptism by immersion, but it was an open-communion church, admitting all who professed “faith in Christ and holiness of life.” Bunyan soon proved his talents as a lay preacher. Fresh from his own spiritual troubles, he was fitted to warn and console others: “I went myself in Chains to preach to them in Chains, and carried that Fire in my own Conscience that I persuaded them to beware of.” He was also active in visiting and exhorting church members, but his main activity in 1655–60 was in controversy with the early Quakers, both in public debate up and down the market towns of Bedfordshire and in his first printed works, Some Gospel Truths Opened (1656) and A Vindication of Some Gospel Truths Opened (1657). The Quakers and the open-communion Baptists were rivals for the religious allegiance of the “mechanics,” or small tradesmen and artificers, in both town and country. Bunyan soon became recognized as a leader among the sectaries.

The Restoration of Charles II brought to an end the 20 years in which the separated churches had enjoyed freedom of worship and exercised some influence on government policy. On Nov. 12, 1660, at Lower Samsell in South Bedfordshire, Bunyan was brought before a local magistrate and, under an old Elizabethan act, charged with holding a service not in conformity with those of the Church of England. He refused to give an assurance that he would not repeat the offense, was condemned at the assizes in January 1661, and was imprisoned in the county jail. In spite of the courageous efforts of his second wife (he had married again in 1659) to have his case brought up at the assizes, he remained in prison for 12 years. A late 17th-century biography, added to the early editions of Grace Abounding, reveals that he relieved his family by making and selling “long Tagg’d laces”; prison conditions were lenient enough for him to be let out at times to visit friends and family and to address meetings.

Literary activity

During this imprisonment Bunyan wrote and published his spiritual autobiography (Grace Abounding, 1666). It reveals his incarceration to have been a spiritual opportunity as well as an ordeal, allowing “an inlet into the Word of God.” Bunyan’s release from prison came in March 1672 under Charles II’s Declaration of Indulgence to the Nonconformists. The Bedford community had already chosen him as their pastor in January, and a new meetinghouse was obtained. In May he received a license to preach together with 25 other Nonconformist ministers in Bedfordshire and the surrounding counties. His nickname “Bishop Bunyan” suggests that he became the organizing genius in the area. When persecution was renewed he was again imprisoned for illegal preaching; the circumstances of this imprisonment have remained more obscure than those of the first, though it does not appear to have lasted longer than six months. A bond of surety for his release, dated June 1677, has survived, so it is likely that this second detention was in the first half of that year. Since The Pilgrim’s Progress was published soon after this, in February 1678, it is probable that he had begun to write it not in the second imprisonment but in the first, soon after the composition of Grace Abounding, and when the examination of his inner life contained in that book was still strong.

Literary style

Bunyan’s literary achievement, in his finest works, is by no means that of a naively simple talent, as has been the view of many of his critics. His handling of language, colloquial or biblical, is that of an accomplished artist. He brings to his treatment of human behaviour both shrewd awareness and moral subtlety, and he demonstrates a gift for endowing the conceptions of evangelical theology with concrete life and acting out the theological drama in terms of flesh and blood.

Bunyan thus presents a paradox, since the impulse that originally drove him to write was purely to celebrate his faith and to convert others, and like other Puritans he was schooled to despise the adornments of style and to treat literature as a means to an end. Bunyan’s effort to reach behind literary adornments so as to obtain an absolutely naked rendering of the truth about his own spiritual experience causes him in Grace Abounding to forge a highly original style. In this style, which is rich in powerful physical imagery, the inner life of the Christian is described; body and soul are so involved that it is impossible to separate bodily from mental suffering in the description of his temptations. He feels “a clogging and a heat at my breast-bone as if my bowels would have burst out”; a preacher’s call to abandon the sin of idle pastimes “did benumb the sinews of my best delights”; and he can say of one of the texts of scripture that seemed to him to spell his damnation that it “stood like a mill-post at my back.” The attempt to communicate the existential crisis of the human person without style had created a style of its own.

The use of a highly subjective prose style to express personal states of mind is Bunyan’s first creative achievement, but he also had at his disposal the more traditional style he used in sermons, treatises, and scriptural exposition. In the allegories some of his greatest imaginative successes are due to his dreamlike, introspective style with its subtle personal music; but it is the workaday vigour and concreteness of the prose technique practiced in the sermons which provide a firm stylistic background to these imaginative flights.

The Pilgrim’s Progress

Bunyan’s great allegorical tale was published by Nathaniel Ponder in 1678. Because it recapitulates in symbolic form the story of Bunyan’s own conversion, there is an intense, life-or-death quality about Christian’s pilgrimage to the Heavenly City in the first part of the book. This sense of urgency is established in the first scene as Christian in the City of Destruction reads in his book (the Bible) and breaks out with his lamentable cry, “What shall I do?” It is maintained by the combats along the road with giants and monsters such as Apollyon and Giant Despair, who embody spiritual terrors. The voices and demons of the Valley of the Shadow of Death are a direct transcription of Bunyan’s own obsessive and neurotic fears during his conversion. Episodes of stirring action like these alternate with more stationary passages, and there are various conversations between the pilgrims and those they encounter on the road, some pious and some providing light relief when hypocrites like Talkative and Ignorance are exposed. The halts at places of refreshment like the Delectable Mountains or the meadow by the River of Life evoke an unearthly spiritual beauty.

The narrative of The Pilgrim’s Progress may seem episodic, but Calvinist theology provides a firm underlying ground plan. Only Christ, the Wicket Gate, admits Christian into the right road, and before he can reach it he has to be shown his error in being impressed by the pompous snob Worldly Wiseman, who stands for mere negative conformity to moral and social codes. Quite early in his journey Christian loses his burden of sin at the Cross, so he now knows that he has received the free pardon of Christ and is numbered among the elect. It might seem that all the crises of the pilgrimage were past, yet this initiation of grace is not the end of the drama but the beginning. Christian, and the companions who join him, Faithful and Hopeful, are fixed in the path of salvation, so that it is the horrors of the temptations they have to undergo that engage the reader’s attention. The reader views Christian’s agonized striving through his own eyes and shares Christian’s uncertainty about the outcome.

Though conscientiously symbolic throughout, the narrative of The Pilgrim’s Progress does not lose the feel of common life. In the character sketches and humorous passages scattered throughout the book, Bunyan’s genius for realistic observation prevents the conversion allegory from becoming too inward and obsessed. Bunyan displays a sharp eye for behaviour and a sardonic sense of humour in his portrayals of such reprobates as Ignorance and Talkative; these moral types are endowed with the liveliness of individuals by a deft etching in of a few dominant features and gestures. And finally, Christian himself is a transcript from life; Bunyan, the physician of souls with a shrewd eye for backsliders, had faithfully observed his own spiritual growth.

The Pilgrim’s Progress was instantly popular with all social classes upon its publication, though it was perhaps the last great expression of the folk tradition of the common people before the divisive effects of modern enlightened education began to be felt.

Later life and works

Bunyan continued to tend the needs of the Bedford church and the widening group of East Anglian churches associated with it. As his fame increased with his literary reputation, he also preached in Congregational churches in London. Bunyan followed up the success of The Pilgrim’s Progress with other works. His The Life and Death of Mr. Badman (1680) is more like a realistic novel than an allegory in its portrait of the unrelievedly evil and unrepentant tradesman Mr. Badman. The book gives an insight into the problems of money and marriage when the Puritans were settling down after the age of persecution and beginning to find their social role as an urban middle class.

The Holy War (1682), Bunyan’s second allegory, has a carefully wrought epic structure and is correspondingly lacking in the spontaneous inward note of The Pilgrim’s Progress. The town of Mansoul is besieged by the hosts of the devil, is relieved by the army of Emanuel, and is later undermined by further diabolic attacks and plots against his rule. The metaphor works on several levels; it represents the conversion and backslidings of the individual soul, as well as the story of mankind from the Fall through to the Redemption and the Last Judgment; there is even a more precise historical level of allegory relating to the persecution of Nonconformists under Charles II. The Pilgrim’s Progress, Second Part (1684), tells the story of the pilgrimage of Christian’s wife, Christiana, and her children to the Celestial City. This book gives a more social and humorous picture of the Christian life than the First Part and shows Bunyan lapsing from high drama into comedy, but the great concluding passage on the summoning of the pilgrims to cross the River of Death is perhaps the finest single thing Bunyan ever wrote.

In spite of his ministerial responsibilities Bunyan found time to publish a large number of doctrinal and controversial works in the last 10 years of his life. He also composed rough but workmanlike verse of religious exhortation; one of his most interesting later volumes is the children’s book A Book for Boys and Girls (1686), vigorous poems serving as comments on emblematic pictures.

Bunyan died in 1688, in London, after one of his preaching visits, and was buried in Bunhill Fields, the Nonconformists’ traditional burying ground.


Until the decline of religious faith and the great increase in books of popular instruction in the 19th century, The Pilgrim’s Progress, like the Bible, was to be found in every English home and was known to every ordinary reader. In literary estimation, however, Bunyan remained beyond the pale of polite literature during the 18th century, though his greatness was acknowledged by Jonathan Swift and Samuel Johnson. Later literary historians noted his indirect influence on the 18th-century novel, particularly the introspective fiction of Daniel Defoe and Samuel Richardson. After the Romantic movement he was recognized as a type of natural genius and placed alongside Homer and Robert Burns. Twentieth-century scholarship has made it possible to see how much he owed to the tradition of homiletic prose and to Puritan literary genres already developed when he began to write. But the sublime tinker remains sublime, if less isolated from his fellows than was formerly thought; the genius of The Pilgrim’s Progress remains valid. Nothing illustrates better the profound symbolic truth of this noted work than its continuing ability, even in translation, to evoke responses in readers belonging to widely separated cultural traditions.

Thomas Babington Macaulay’s biography on John Bunyan appeared in the eighth edition of the Encyclopędia Britannica (see the Britannica Classic: John Bunyan).

Roger Sharrock

The Pilgrim's Progress

John Bunyan


One of the most popular works ever written in the English language, John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress continues to be published in new editions, remain on bestseller lists, and retain an enduring relevance today. Much of this appeal lies in its combination of unadorned piety with narrative simplicity, a combination that meant for centuries it was read in conjunction with the Bible as the primary work of Christian devotion and reflection. Bunyan was, however, a more controversial figure than the conservative reputation of The Pilgrim's Progress suggests. His own spiritual struggles are documented in his Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666) and he probably wrote part of The Pilgrim's Progress in prison for religious dissent. If one avoids the anodyne modern spelling versions, one can still find in the protagonist Christian's journey a powerful sense of seventeenth-century religious conviction (the first part of modern editions was published in 1678, the second part followed in 1684).
The first part follows Christian as he journeys to the Celestial City.on the way encountering memorable characters such as Talkative, Faithful, Evangelist, and Hopeful, and passing through temptation and torment in the City of Destruction, Castle Doubt, and Vanity Fair. The second part traces the same journey undertaken by Christian's wife Christiana and his children, and takes on quite a different character. Regardless of a reader's personal religious convictions, these allegorical journeys become emblematic of the spiritual and moral struggle of the individual in the world.The Vanity Fair episode, in which the protagonists are assailed by temptation, apathy, self-love, and consumerist excess, seems as relevant to twenty-first century life as it was to seventeenth-century England.


Тyре of work: Novel
Author: John Bunyan (1628-1688)
Type of plot: Religious allegory
Time of plot: Any time since Christ
Locale: Anywhere
First published: (Part I, 1678; Part II, 1684)

One of the most widely read books in English literature, The Pilgrim's Progress is a prose allegory relating the journey and adventures of Christian, who flees the City of Destruction and sets out for the Celestial City. Since Bunyan, a devout Puritan, wished his book to be accessible to the common people, he wrote in a straightforward, unadorned prose that has simple grandeur and nobility appropriate to its subject matter. Much of the success of The Pilgrim's Progress is also the result of its vivid characterizations.

Principal Characters

Christian, an example of all God-fearing Protestants, whose adventures are recounted as events in a dream experienced by the narrator. Originally called Graceless, of the race of Japhet, Christian becomes distressed with his life in the City of Destruction and insists that his wife and four children accompany him in search of salvation. When they refuse to leave, Christian determines to set out alone. His life thereafter consists of hardships, sufferings, and struggles to overcome obstacles—physical and emotional—which beset his path. At the outset, Christian's family and neighbors, Pliable and Obstinate, try to dissuade him from breaking away from his sins of the past. Then Evangelist appears with a parchment roll on which is inscribed, "Fly from the Wrath to Come." On his long journey, Christian finds that human beings he meets offer distractions and hindrance, even bodily harm and violence. Mr. Worldly Wiseman turns him aside from his set purpose until Evangelist intervenes. Simple, Sloth, Presumption, Formalist, Hypocrisy, Timorous, and Mistrust seek to dissuade or discourage Christian because of the rigors of the straight and narrow way. The Giant of the Doubting Castle and his wife beat and torture Christian and Hopeful. In the Valley of Humiliation Christian engages in mortal combat with a monstrous creature named Apollyon for more than half a day, but at last emerges triumphant. In many times of peril, Christian is fortunate in having companions who can assist him: Evangelist, who gets him out of difficulties or warns him of impending strife; Help, who comes to his aid when he falls into the Slough of Despond; Faithful, who is by his side at Vanity Fair; Hopeful, who comforts him at the Doubting Castle and encourages him to give up bravely at the River of Death. In this narrative of a pilgrim's adventures, Christian must constantly overcome temptations and dangers that would thwart his goal, impede his progress toward eternal life, or prevent him from reaching Heaven; but with the aid of his religious fervor and the advice and counsel of a few true friends, he achieves salvation.
Evangelist, Christian's adviser and guide, particularly in times of danger. Evangelist shows him the way to avoid destruction, directs him to the Wicket Gate, and warns him of people such as Mr. Worldly Wiseman and of the dangers at Vanity Fair.
Apollyon (a-pol'lyon), the fiend in the Valley of Humiliation. Apollyon has scales like a fish, feet like a bear, wings like a dragon, and a mouth like a lion; he spouts fire and smoke from his belly, and he discourses like a devil in his attempt to keep Christian from continuing his journey.
Giant Despair, the giant owner of Doubting Castle. He imprisons Christian and Faithful, beats them, and threatens death, until Christian uses a key of Promise to make their escape.
Faithful, Christian's traveling companion. Imprisoned, tortured, and put to death by the people of Vanity Fair, he is transported to the Celestial Gate in a chariot.
Hopeful, another wayfarer. He joins Christian at Vanity Fair and accompanies him through various adventures on the way to eternal salvation.
Good-Will, who tells Christian that if he knocks the gate that is blocking his way will be opened, so that he may see a vision of the Day of Judgment.
Ignorance, a native of the country of Conceit. Refusing to accept the beliefs of Christian and Hopeful, he continues on the journey until he is seized and thrust into Hell.
Mr. Worldly Wiseman, a dweller in the town of Carnal-Policy. He advises Christian to go to Legality and get relief from the burden of sins which Christian carries on his back.
Three Shining Ones, who clothe Christian with new raiment after his burdens fall off before the Cross.
Obstinate and Pliable, neighbors of Christian. Both try to keep Christian from leaving the City of Destruction. Obstinate remains behind, but Pliable goes with Christian until he deserts him at the Slough of Despond.
Interpreter, who instructs Christian in the mysteries of faith.
Discretion, Prudence, Piety, and Charity, virgins who arm Christian with the sword and shield of faith.
Pope and Pagan, giants whose caves Christian must pass after reciting verses from the Psalms to protect himself from devils issuing from one of the gates of Hell.
Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere, shepherds who point out the Celestial Gate to Christian and Hopeful.

The Story

One day, according to Bunyan, he lay down in a den to sleep; in his sleep, he dreamed that he saw a man standing in a field and crying out in pain and sorrow because he and his whole family as well as the town in which they lived were to be destroyed. Christian, for that was his name, knew of this catastrophe because he had read about it in the book he held in his hands, the Bible. Evangelist, the preacher of Christianity, soon came up to Christian and presented him with a roll of paper on which it was written that he should flee from the wrath of God and make his way from the City of Destruction to the City of Zion. Running home with this hope of salvation, Christian tried to get his neighbors and family to go away with him, but they would not listen and thought he was either sick or mad. Finally, he shut his ears to his family's entreaties to stay with them and ran off toward the light in the distance. Under the light, he knew he would find the wicket gate that opened into Heaven.
On his way, he met Pliant and Obstinate; Christian was so distracted by them that he fell in a bog called the Slough of Despond. He could not get out because of the bundle of sins on his back. Finally, Help came along and aided Christian out of the sticky mire. Going on his way, he soon fell in with Mr. Worldly Wiseman, who tried to convince Christian that he would lead a happier life if he gave up his trip toward the light and settled down to the comforts of a burdenless town life. Fearing that Christian was about to be led astray, Evangelist came up to the two men and quickly showed the errors in Mr. Worldly Wiseman's arguments.
Soon Christian arrived at a closed gate, where he met Good-Will, who told him that if he knocked the gate would be opened to him. Christian did so. He was invited into the gatekeeper's house by the Interpreter and learned from him the meaning of many of the Christian mysteries. He was shown pictures of Christ and Passion and Patience; Despair in a cage of iron bars; and finally, a vision of the Day of Judgment, when evil men will be sent to the bottomless pit and good men will be carried up to Heaven. Christian was filled with both hope and fear after having seen these things. Continuing on his journey, he came to the Holy Cross and the Sepulcher of Christ. There his burden of sins fell off, and he was able to take to the road with renewed vigor.
Soon he met Sloth, Simple. Presumption, Formalism, and Hypocrisy, but he kept to his way and they kept to theirs. Later, Christian lay down to sleep for a while. When he went on again, he forgot to pick up the roll of paper Evangelist had given him. Remembering it later, he hurried back to find it. Running to make up the time lost, he suddenly found himself confronted by two lions. He was afraid to pass by them until the porter of the house by the side of the road told him that the lions were chained and that he had nothing to fear. The porter then asked Christian to come into the house. There he was well treated and shown some of the relics of biblical antiquity by four virgins, Discretion, Prudence, Piety, and Charity. They gave him good advice and sent him on his journey armed with the sword and shield of Christian faith.
In the Valley of Humiliation, Christian was forced to fight the giant devil Apollyon, whose body was covered with the shiny scales of pride. Christian was wounded in this battle, but after he had chased away the devil, he healed his wounds with leaves from the Tree of Life, which grew nearby. After the Valley of Humiliation came the Valley of the Shadow of Death, in which Christian had to pass one of the gates to Hell. In order to save himself from the devils who issued out of the terrible hole, he recited some of the verses from the Psalms.
After passing through this danger, he had to go by the caves of the old giants Pope and Pagan; when he had done so, he caught up with a fellow traveler, Faithful. As the two companions went along, they met Evangelist, who warned them of the dangers in the town of Vanity Fair.
Vanity Fair was a town of ancient foundation which since the beginning of time had tried to lure men away from the path to Heaven. Here all the vanities of the world were sold, and the people who dwelt there were cruel and stupid and had no love for travelers such as Christian and Faithful. After having learned these things, the two companions promised to be careful and went down into the town. There they were arrested and tried because they would buy none of the town's goods. Faithful was sentenced to be burned alive, and Christian was put in prison. When Faithful died in the fire, a chariot descended from Heaven and took him up to God. Christian escaped from the prison. Accompanied by a young man named Hopeful, who had been impressed by Faithful's reward, he set off once more.
They passed through the Valley of Ease, where they were tempted to dig in a mine whose silver was free to all. As they left the valley, they saw the pillar of salt that had once been Lot's wife. They became lost and were captured by a giant, Despair, who lived in Doubting Castle; there they were locked in vaults beneath the castle walls. Finally, Christian remembered he had a key called Promise in his pocket; with this they escaped from the prison.
They met four shepherds, Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere, who showed them the Celestial Gate and warned them of the paths to Hell. Then the two pilgrims passed by the Valley of Conceit, where they were met by Ignorance and other men who had not kept to the straight and narrow path. They passed on to the country of Beulah. Far off they saw the gates of the city of Heaven, glistening with pearls and precious stones. Thinking that all their troubles were behind them, they lay down to rest.
When they went on toward the city, they came to the River of Death. They entered the river and began to wade through the water. Soon Christian became afraid; the more afraid he became, the deeper the waters rolled. Hopeful shouted to him to have hope and faith. Cheered by these words, Christian became less afraid, the water became less deep, and finally they both got across safely. They ran up the hill toward Heaven, and shining angels led them through the gates.

Critical Analysis

John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress represents a work that is at once fascinating theology, political tract, and literary masterpiece. It is also a book that exemplifies the post-Gutenberg power of the press to elevate and make universal the experiences of one writer or thinker above centuries of tradition. As Bunyan's most famous work, it was a by-product of the Protestant Reformation, which—by making available to individuals copies of the Bible—inevitably multiplied interpretations of the Bible and, thereby, advanced the notion of Christian personal experience. When the King James Version of the Bible was published in 1611, English Christians were freed from the tyranny of monolithic biblical interpretation by autocratic churchmen. A Bible in the vernacular emancipated the spirit and the imagination of members of the Protestant churches, evoking new metaphors and symbols for the Christian's journey through the world. The Pilgrim's Progress undermines the notion of a normative brand of Christian discipleship or path ;o Heaven created by the institutional church. At the s^rre time, The Pilgrim's Progress shares with the medieval 'radition of mystery and morality plays the technique or' allegory, wherein the author uses archetypal char:,ters or situations to advance his narrative and confin.i its meaning. This tradition is itself built upon the charact, istic teaching of Christ, who used parables to teach his most poignant lessons to his first century audience. It should be noted, however, that the book was not written or published without risk to both Bunyan himself and the band of Christian Baptists to whom he ministered and for whom he wrote The Pilgrim's Progress. Writing the manuscript from jail (he was frequently incarcerated for preaching without a license), Bunyan discovered that even in Protestant England certain sects and demoninations could be despised and regarded as heterodox. Bunyan's Puritanism—a call for the church to be separate from the world while at the same time claiming it for God, the only rightful king—continually brought him into conflict with his religious critics and rivals.
To call The Pilgrim's Progress a religious allegory is to draw attention to the fact that its characters and situations symbolize particular qualities and actions that should inform the Christian's life. Christian, the pilgrim of the story, is simultaneously Bunyan and any of his fellow Protestant believers as they face a world whose signposts and boundaries have been knocked down. What appears to be true may be misleading or, worse, a ruse of the Devil; the circumspect believer trusts not in his senses but in the revelation of God—namely, the Bible. In Christian, we find an undisguised proclamation of Bunyan's belief that salvation is a gift of God's mercy and not a laurel or achievement won by good works or adherence to either civil or Mosaic law. As a pilgrim, Christian is on a journey to the Celestial City, a journey that will comprise both his conversion and his eventual death. His progress toward that destination is measured by his triumphs over distractions, perilous spiritual battles, temptations to unbelief, and general weariness. His obstacles include not only himself but also erstwhile friends and associates such as Mr. Worldly Wiseman and demonic influences such as Apollyon, who appear to speak authoritatively about faith and discipleship but are deluded sirens attempting to waylay him in "the wilderness of the world." Bunyan makes it abundantly clear, however, that Christian's final success is conditional not on his own cleverness or artful dodging but on his enduring trust in the irresistible grace of God.
It is important, then, to see Bunyan's creation as a political defense of the Separatist church and a worthy attempt to work out its radical theology in allegory. Despite the attempts of critics in later ages to see in Christian an Everyman character, Bunyan is most likely writing about one of the elect—the man or woman whose life is touched by grace—and not the prototypical agnostic or uncommitted soul who searches for God out of his own curiosity. The Puritan believer that Bunyan depicts here defines his faith very particularly in terms of his relationship to four realms: selfhood, Scripture, church, and world. Regarding his own selfhood, the Puritan believer names himself as a sinful creature, called to abstain from all appearance of evil, casting a jaundiced eye toward anything that smacks of worldliness. As a reader of Scripture, he is, with few exceptions, a consistent literalist, conceiving of its mode of revelation in inerrant, monolithic, encyclopedically authoritative terms. As a member of the church, he embraces its separatism, its hard-won peculiarity and anachronistic nature in relation to the world; it is for him an outpost on the edge of chaos. As one in but not of the world, he views the cosmos as basically irredeemable without the intervention of God— occupied territory under the dominion of the Devil. He awaits rescue from another world.
As a representative Puritan writer, Bunyan is, one might say, much more interested in proclaiming the revelation of the Bible than in narrating events from imagined histories, as a William Shakespeare or Samuel Johnson might do. Consequently, for Bunyan, the range of characters and character traits, plot lines and resolutions, and options in form, diction, and tone are fixed in advance by the propriety of biblical modesty and decorum. The Puritan, in a word, mistrusts Western literacy, the great tradition of worldly inspired texts and endless textual analysis. A good, righteous text should speak for itself, univocally; as an author, Bunyan is undismayed by charges that his characters are stock or obvious. That is exactly his point of view. His confidence that Scripture has "thoroughly equipped him for every good work" encourages him to use its content as the sole source of his characterizations and plot. Thus, Bunyan projected the original readers of The Pilgrim's Progress as an interpretive community prepared to receive it as a work parallel in spirit and content to the Bible, a commentary or elaboration of sorts that sent them back to the real text, which could reveal the ultimate source of their faith and salvation.
Bunyan shares with Christians outside of his Puritanism an acceptance of the fact that all are exiles of Eden, but there is one difference: He does not want to return to the Garden. It is enough for him to know that Adam and Eve have eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; he himself has no interest in digesting such fruit, rejecting the futile attempt to substitute other dramas, stories, and predicaments for the simple truth of the one true predicament: All are lost and without hope, save for God's mercy. Other kinds of nondidactic narratives are read, or rather dismissed, as worldly competition for the allegiance and energy of the believer—secular attempts to undermine the authority of the Bible. The world is already full of texts to distract, annoy, and alienate mankind. What possible interest could the pilgrim take in stories that galvanize or privilege the polyphonic, problematic fiction of sinful post-Babel humanity? How could such cacophony yield anything salutary or illuminating?
Thus, Christian, Bunyan's stalwart protagonist, leaves the Garden behind; he does not seek a heaven on earth, which would be merely a Vanity Fair. While he and Faithful both understand that there is no way back to it, even for the born-again, and both are prepared for martyrdom, only Faithful is called to it. God has another destiny for Christian. Sacred history is a line leading to a final resolution, not a cycle and still less a random occurrence of unconnected events. Bunyan's agenda has nothing to do with broadening, pluralizing, or expanding. His focus is the Narrow Path, the Single Eye, the One Way. He is interested in winning souls, not granting them college degrees. Thus, in a sense, he creates in Christian a pilgrim who holds his faith unreflectively—not in the sense that it is unexamined but in the sense that he rejects attempts to validate it with secular wisdom. That is Christian's charm; trusting fully in what he believes, he is called to put his faith on the line and into play in dramatic confrontations with the voices of despair and unbelief. Bunyan demonstrates consistently that the pilgrim must resist attempts to objectify his faith and become self-conscious and prideful about it. If Christian's life is a significant story in any way, it is the same as anyone's might be: "Once I was lost, but now I'm found." His story—history—is God's story, not his. His heavenly commission is to announce the terms of the kingdom, not to debate its merits, as if it were somehow contingent. He and his brethren know that their true battle is against principalities and powers, not flesh and blood—and thus present themselves as perfect for development in an allegorical treatment.
Bunyan's narrative, like Bunyan himself, is unpretentious, earnest, and amazingly unsentimental. Defiant, insular, certain though the world says he has no right to certainty, he espouses a faith which cannot be artificially stimulated or enriched by civil religion or ritualistic piety. Christ and the Bible alone are the source of salvation and his guide through the perils of earthly life. Like his pilgrim, Bunyan is interested most of all not in the faith he holds but in the faith that holds him.

The Pilgrim's Progress

Illustrated by three brothers (George Woolliscraft, Frederick Rhead, & Louis Rhead)



WHEN at the first I took my pen in hand

Thus for to write, I did not understand

That I at all should make a little book

In such a mode: nay, I had undertook

To make another; which, when almost done,

Before I was aware I this begun.

And thus it was: I, writing of the way

And race of saints in this our gospel-day,

Fell suddenly into an allegory

About their journey, and the way to glory,

In more than twenty things which I set down

This done, I twenty more had in my crown,

And they again began to multiply,

Like sparks that from the coals of fire do fly.

Nay, then, thought I, if that you breed so fast,

I’ll put you by yourselves, lest you at last

Should prove ad infinitum, Without end. and eat out

The book that I already am about.

Well, so I did; but yet I did not think

To show to all the world my pen and ink

In such a mode; I only thought to make

I knew not what: nor did I undertake

Thereby to please my neighbor; no, not I;

I did it my own self to gratify.

Neither did I but vacant seasons spend

In this my scribble; nor did I intend

But to divert myself, in doing this,

From worser thoughts, which make me do amiss.

Thus I set pen to paper with delight,

And quickly had my thoughts in black and white;

For having now my method by the end,

Still as I pull’d, it came; and so I penned

It down; until it came at last to be,

For length and breadth, the bigness which you see.

Well, when I had thus put mine ends together

I show’d them others, that I might see whether

They would condemn them, or them justify:

And some said, let them live; some, let them die:

Some said, John, print it; others said, Not so:

Some said, It might do good; others said, No.

Now was I in a strait, and did not see

Which was the best thing to be done by me:

At last I thought, Since ye are thus divided,

I print it will; and so the case decided.

For, thought I, some I see would have it done,

Though others in that channel do not run:

To prove, then, who advised for the best,

Thus I thought fit to put it to the test.

I further thought, if now I did deny

Those that would have it, thus to gratify;

I did not know, but hinder them I might

Of that which would to them be great delight.

For those which were not for its coming forth,

I said to them, Offend you, I am loath;

Yet since your brethren pleased with it be,

Forbear to judge, till you do further see.

If that thou wilt not read, let it alone;

Some love the meat, some love to pick the bone.

Yea, that I might them better palliate,

I did too with them thus expostulate:

May I not write in such a style as this?

In such a method too, and yet not miss

My end-thy good? Why may it not be done?

Dark clouds bring waters, when the bright bring none.

Yea, dark or bright, if they their silver drops

Cause to descend, the earth, by yielding crops,

Gives praise to both, and carpeth not at either,

But treasures up the fruit they yield together;

Yea, so commixes both, that in their fruit

None can distinguish this from that; they suit

Her well when hungry; but if she be full,

She spews out both, and makes their blessing null.

You see the ways the fisherman doth take

To catch the fish; what engines doth he make!

Behold how he engageth all his wits;

Also his snares, lines, angles, hooks, and nets:

Yet fish there be, that neither hook nor line,

Nor snare, nor net, nor engine can make thine:

They must be groped for, and be tickled too,

Or they will not be catch’d, whate’er you do.

How does the fowler seek to catch his game

By divers means! all which one cannot name.

His guns, his nets, his lime-twigs, light and bell:

He creeps, he goes, he stands; yea, who can tell

Of all his postures? yet there’s none of these

Will make him master of what fowls he please.

Yea, he must pipe and whistle, to catch this;

Yet if he does so, that bird he will miss.

If that a pearl may in toad’s head dwell,

And may be found too in an oyster-shell;

If things that promise nothing, do contain

What better is than gold; who will disdain,

That have an inkling of it, there to look,

That they may find it. Now my little book,

(Though void of all these paintings that may make

It with this or the other man to take,)

Is not without those things that do excel

What do in brave but empty notions dwell.

“Well, yet I am not fully satisfied

That this your book will stand, when soundly tried.”

Why, what’s the matter? “It is dark.” What though?

“But it is feigned.” What of that? I trow

Some men by feigned words, as dark as mine,

Make truth to spangle, and its rays to shine.

“But they want solidness.” Speak, man, thy mind.

“They drown the weak; metaphors make us blind.”

Solidity, indeed, becomes the pen

Of him that writeth things divine to men:

But must I needs want solidness, because

By metaphors I speak? Were not God’s laws,

His gospel laws, in olden time held forth

By types, shadows, and metaphors? Yet loth

Will any sober man be to find fault

With them, lest he be found for to assault

The highest wisdom! No, he rather stoops,

And seeks to find out what, by pins and loops,

By calves and sheep, by heifers, and by rams,

By birds and herbs, and by the blood of lambs,

God speaketh to him; and happy is he

That finds the light and grace that in them be.

But not too forward, therefore, to conclude

That I want solidness—that I am rude;

All things solid in show, not solid be;

All things in parable despise not we,

Lest things most hurtful lightly we receive,

And things that good are, of our souls bereave.

My dark and cloudy words they do but hold

The truth, as cabinets inclose the gold.

The prophets used much by metaphors

To set forth truth: yea, who so considers

Christ, his apostles too, shall plainly see,

That truths to this day in such mantles be.

Am I afraid to say, that holy writ,

Which for its style and phrase puts down all wit,

Is everywhere so full of all these things,

Dark figures, allegories? Yet there springs

From that same book, that lustre, and those rays

Of light, that turn our darkest nights to days.

Come, let my carper to his life now look,

And find there darker lines than in my book

He findeth any; yea, and let him know,

That in his best things there are worse lines too.

May we but stand before impartial men,

To his poor one I durst adventure ten,

That they will take my meaning in these lines

Far better than his lies in silver shrines.

Come, truth, although in swaddling-clothes, I find

Informs the judgment, rectifies the mind;

Pleases the understanding, makes the will

Submit, the memory too it doth fill

With what doth our imagination please;

Likewise it tends our troubles to appease.

Sound words, I know, Timothy is to use,

And old wives’ fables he is to refuse;

But yet grave Paul him nowhere doth forbid

The use of parables, in which lay hid

That gold, those pearls, and precious stones that were

Worth digging for, and that with greatest care.

Let me add one word more. O man of God,

Art thou offended? Dost thou wish I had

Put forth my matter in another dress?

Or that I had in things been more express?

Three things let me propound; then I submit

To those that are my betters, as is fit.

1. I find not that I am denied the use

Of this my method, so I no abuse

Put on the words, things, readers, or be rude

In handling figure or similitude,

In application; but all that I may

Seek the advance of truth this or that way.

Denied, did I say? Nay, I have leave,

(Example too, and that from them that have

God better pleased, by their words or ways,

Than any man that breatheth now-a-days,)

Thus to express my mind, thus to declare

Things unto thee that excellentest are.

2. I find that men as high as trees will write

Dialogue-wise; yet no man doth them slight

For writing so. Indeed, if they abuse

Truth, cursed be they, and the craft they use

To that intent; but yet let truth be free

To make her sallies upon thee and me,

Which way it pleases God: for who knows how,

Better than he that taught us first to plough,

To guide our minds and pens for his designs?

And he makes base things usher in divine.

3. I find that holy writ, in many places,

Hath semblance with this method, where the cases

Do call for one thing to set forth another:

Use it I may then, and yet nothing smother

Truth’s golden beams: nay, by this method may

Make it cast forth its rays as light as day.

And now, before I do put up my pen,

I’ll show the profit of my book; and then

Commit both thee and it unto that hand

That pulls the strong down, and makes weak ones stand.

This book it chalketh out before thine eyes

The man that seeks the everlasting prize:

It shows you whence he comes, whither he goes,

What he leaves undone; also what he does:

It also shows you how he runs, and runs,

Till he unto the gate of glory comes.

It shows, too, who set out for life amain,

As if the lasting crown they would obtain;

Here also you may see the reason why

They lose their labor, and like fools do die.

This book will make a traveler of thee,

If by its counsel thou wilt ruled be;

It will direct thee to the Holy Land,

If thou wilt its directions understand

Yea, it will make the slothful active be;

The blind also delightful things to see.

Art thou for something rare and profitable?

Or would’st thou see a truth within a fable?

Art thou forgetful? Wouldest thou remember

From New-Year’s day to the last of December?

Then read my fancies; they will stick like burs,

And may be, to the helpless, comforters.

This book is writ in such a dialect

As may the minds of listless men affect:

It seems a novelty, and yet contains

Nothing but sound and honest gospel strains.

Would’st thou divert thyself from melancholy?

Would’st thou be pleasant, yet be far from folly?

Would’st thou read riddles, and their explanation?

Or else be drowned in thy contemplation?

Dost thou love picking meat? Or would’st thou see

A man i’ the clouds, and hear him speak to thee?

Would’st thou be in a dream, and yet not sleep?

Or would’st thou in a moment laugh and weep?

Would’st thou lose thyself and catch no harm,

And find thyself again without a charm?

Would’st read thyself, and read thou know’st not what,

And yet know whether thou art blest or not,

By reading the same lines? O then come hither,

And lay my book, thy head, and heart together.










[1] AS I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold, I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying, "What shall I do?"

In this plight, therefore, he went home, and restrained himself as long as he could, that his wife and children should not perceive his dis- [2] tress; but he could not be silent long, because that his trouble increased. Wherefore at length he brake his mind to his wife and children; and thus he began to talk to them: "O, my dear wife," said he, "and you the children of my bowels, I, your dear friend, am in myself undone by reason of a burden that lieth hard upon me; moreover, I am certainly informed that this our city will be burnt with fire from heaven; in which fearful overthrow, both myself, with thee my wife, and you my sweet babes, shall miserably come to ruin, except (the which yet I see not) some way of escape can be found whereby we may be delivered." At this his relations were sore amazed; not for that they believed that what he had said to them was true, but because they thought that some frenzy distemper had got into his head; therefore, it drawing towards night, and they hoping that sleep might settle his brains, with all haste they got him to bed. But the night was as troublesome to him as the day; wherefore, instead of sleeping, he spent it in sighs and tears. So when the morning was come, they would know how he did. He told them, "Worse and worse:" he also set to talking to them again; but they began to be hardened. They also thought to drive away his distemper by harsh and surly carriage to him; sometimes they would deride, sometimes they would chide, and [3] sometimes they would quite neglect him. Wherefore he began to retire himself to his chamber to pray for and pity them, and also to condole his own misery; he would also walk solitarily in the fields, sometimes reading, and sometimes praying: and thus for some days he spent his time.

Now I saw, upon a time, when he was walking in the fields, that he was (as he was wont) reading in his book, and greatly distressed in his mind; and as he read, he burst out, as he had done before, crying, "What shall I do to be saved?"

I saw also that he looked this way, and that way, as if he would run; yet he stood still because (as I perceived) he could not tell which way to go. I looked then, and saw a man named Evangelist coming to him, and he asked, "Wherefore dost thou cry?"

He answered, "Sir, I perceive, by the book in my hand, that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to judgment, and I find that I am not willing to do the first, nor able to do the second."

Then said Evangelist, "Why not willing to die, since this life is attended with so many evils?" The man answered, "Because, I fear that this burden that is upon my back will sink me lower than the grave, and I shall fall into Tophet. And Sir, if I be not fit to go to prison, I am not fit to go to judgment, and from thence to execution; and the thoughts of these things make me cry."


[4] Then said Evangelist, "If this be thy condition, why standest thou still?" He answered, "Because I know not whither to go." Then he gave him a parchment roll, and there was written within, "Fly from the wrath to come." Matt. 3:7.

The man therefore read it, and looking upon Evangelist very carefully, said, "Whither must I fly?" Then said Evangelist, (pointing with his finger over a very wide field,) "Do you see yonder wicket-gate?" The man said, "No." Then said the other, "Do you see yonder shining light?" He said, "I think I do." Then said Evangelist, "Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto, so shalt thou see the gate; at which, when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do." So I saw in my dream that the man began to run. Now he had not run far from his own door when his wife and children, perceiving it, began to cry after him to return; but the man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on crying, Life! life! eternal life! So he looked not behind him, but fled towards the middle of the plain.


The neighbors also came out to see him run, and as he ran, some mocked, others threatened, and some cried after him to return; and among those that did so, there were two that were resolved to fetch him back by force. The name of the one was Obstinate and the name of the other Pliable. Now by this time the man was got a good distance from them; but, however, they were resolved to pursue him, which they did, and in a little time they overtook him. Then said the man, "Neighbors, wherefore are you come?" They said, "To persuade you to go back with us." But he said, "That can by no means be: you dwell," said he, "in the city of Destruction, the place also where I was born: I see it to be so; and dying there, sooner or later, you will sink lower than the grave, into a place that burns with fire and brimstone: be content, good neighbors, and go along with me."

What, said Obstinate, and leave our friends and our comforts behind us!

Yes, said Christian, (for that was his name,) because that all which you forsake is not worthy to be compared with a little of that I am seeking to enjoy, and if you will go along with me, and hold it, you shall fare as I myself; for there, where I go, is enough and to spare. Come away, and prove my words.

[6] OBSTINATE: What are the things you seek, since you leave all the world to find them?

CHRISTIAN: I seek an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, and it is laid up in heaven, and safe there, to be bestowed, at the time appointed, on them that diligently seek it. Read it so, if you will, in my book.

OBSTINATE: Tush, said Obstinate, away with your book; will you go back with us or no?

CHRISTIAN: No, not I, said the other, because I have laid my hand to the plough.

OBSTINATE: Come then, neighbor Pliable, let us turn again, and go home without him: there is a company of these crazy-headed coxcombs, that when they take a fancy by the end, are wiser in their own eyes than seven men that can render a reason.

PLIABLE: Then said Pliable, Don't revile; if what the good Christian says is true, the things he looks after are better than ours: my heart inclines to go with my neighbor.

OBSTINATE: What, more fools still! Be ruled by me, and go back; who knows whither such a brain-sick fellow will lead you? Go back, go back, and be wise.

CHRISTIAN: Nay, but do thou come with thy neighbor Pliable; there are such things to be had which I spoke of, and many more glories besides. If you believe not me, read here in this book, and for the truth of what is expressed therein, behold, all is confirmed by the blood of Him that made it.

PLIABLE: Well, neighbor Obstinate, said Pliable, I begin to come to a point; I intend to go along with this good man, and to cast in my lot with him: but, my good companion, do you know the way to this desired place?

CHRISTIAN: I am directed by a man whose name is Evangelist, to speed me to a little gate that is before us, where we shall receive instructions about the way.

PLIABLE: Come then, good neighbor, let us be going. Then they went both together.

OBSTINATE: And I will go back to my place, said Obstinate: I will be no companion of such misled, fantastical fellows.

Now I saw in my dream, that when Obstinate was gone back, [7] Christian and Pliable went talking over the plain; and thus they began their discourse.

CHRISTIAN: Come, neighbor Pliable, how do you do? I am glad you are persuaded to go along with me. Had even Obstinate himself but felt what I have felt of the powers and terrors of what is yet unseen, he would not thus lightly have given us the back.

PLIABLE: Come, neighbor Christian, since there are none but us two here, tell me now farther, what the things are, and how to be enjoyed, whither we are going.

CHRISTIAN: I can better conceive of them with my mind, than speak of them with my tongue: but yet, since you are desirous to know, I will read of them in my book.

PLIABLE: And do you think that the words of your book are certainly true?

CHRISTIAN: Yes, verily; for it was made by Him that cannot lie.

PLIABLE: Well said; what things are they?

CHRISTIAN: There is an endless kingdom to be inhabited, and everlasting life to be given us, that we may inhabit that kingdom for ever.

PLIABLE: Well said; and what else?

CHRISTIAN: There are crowns of glory to be given us; and garments that will make us shine like the sun in the firmament of heaven.

PLIABLE: This is very pleasant; and what else?

CHRISTIAN: There shall be no more crying, nor sor- [8] row; for he that is owner of the place will wipe all tears from our eyes.

PLIABLE: And what company shall we have there?

CHRISTIAN: There we shall be with seraphims and cherubims, creatures that will dazzle your eyes to look on them. There also you shall meet with thousands and ten thousands that have gone before us to that place; none of them are hurtful, but loving and holy; every one walking in the sight of God, and standing in his presence with acceptance for ever. In a word, there we shall see the elders with their golden crowns, there we shall see the holy virgins with their golden harps, there we shall see men, that by the world were cut in pieces, burnt in flames, eaten of beasts, drowned in the seas, for the love they bare to the Lord of the place, all well, and clothed with immortality as with a garment.

PLIABLE: The hearing of this is enough to ravish one's heart. But are these things to be enjoyed? How shall we get to be sharers thereof?

CHRISTIAN: The Lord, the governor of the country, hath recorded that in this book, the substance of which is, if we be truly willing to have it, he will bestow it upon us freely.

PLIABLE: Well, my good companion, glad am I to hear of these things: come on, let us mend our pace.

CHRISTIAN: I cannot go as fast as I would, by reason of this burden that is on my back.

Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk, they drew nigh to a very miry slough that was in the midst of the plain: and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was Despond. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.


PLIABLE: Then said Pliable, Ah, neighbor Christian, where are you now?

CHRISTIAN: Truly, said Christian, I do not know.

PLIABLE: At this Pliable began to be offended, and angrily said to his fellow, Is this the happiness you have told me all this while of? If we have such ill speed at our first setting out, what may we expect between this and our journey's end? May I get out again with my life, [10] you shall possess the brave country alone for me. And with that he gave a desperate struggle or two, and got out of the mire on that side of the slough which was next to his own house: so away he went, and Christian saw him no more.

Wherefore Christian was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone; but still he endeavored to struggle to that side of the slough that was farthest from his own house, and next to the wicket-gate; the which he did, but could not get out because of the burden that was upon his back: but I beheld in my dream, that a man came to him, whose name was Help, and asked him what he did there.

CHRISTIAN: Sir, said Christian, I was bid to go this way by a man called Evangelist, who directed me also to yonder gate, that I might escape the wrath to come. And as I was going thither, I fell in here.

HELP: But why did not you look for the steps?

CHRISTIAN: Fear followed me so hard that I fled the next way, and fell in.

HELP: Then, said he, Give me thine hand: so he gave him his hand, and he drew him out, and he set him upon sound ground, and bid him go on his way.

Then I stepped to him that plucked him out, and said, "Sir, wherefore, since over this place is the way from the city of Destruction to yonder gate, is it, that this plat is not mended, that poor travellers might go thither with more security?" And he said unto me, "This miry slough is such a place as cannot be mended: it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore it is called the Slough of Despond; for still, as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there arise in his soul many fears and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place: and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.

"It is not the pleasure of the King that this place should remain so bad. His laborers also have, by the direction of his Majesty's surveyors, been for above this sixteen hundred years employed about this patch of ground, if perhaps it might have been mended: yea, and to my knowledge," said he, "there have been swallowed up at least twenty thousand cart loads, yea, millions of wholesome instructions, that have at all seasons been brought from all places of the King's dominions, [11] (and they that can tell, say, they are the best materials to make good ground of the place,) if so be it might have been mended; but it is the Slough of Despond still, and so will be when they have done what they can.

"True, there are, by the direction of the Lawgiver, certain good and substantial steps, placed even through the very midst of this slough; but at such time as this place doth much spew out its filth, as it doth against change of weather, these steps are hardly seen; or if they be, men, through the dizziness of their heads, step beside, and then they are bemired to purpose, notwithstanding the steps be there: but the ground is good when they are once got in at the gate."

Now I saw in my dream, that by this time Pliable was got home to his house. So his neighbors came to visit him; and some of them called him wise man for coming back, and some called him fool for hazarding himself with Christian: others again did mock at his cowardliness, saying, "Surely, since you began to venture, I would not have been so base as to have given out for a few difficulties:" so Pliable sat sneaking among them. But at last he got more confidence, and then they all turned their tales, and began to deride poor Christian behind his back. And thus much concerning Pliable.


Now as Christian was walking solitary by himself, he espied one afar off come crossing over the field to meet him; and their hap was to meet just as they were crossing the way of each other. The gentleman's name that met him was Mr. Wordly Wiseman: he dwelt in the town of Carnal Policy, a very great town, and also hard by from whence Christian came. This man then, meeting with Christian, and having some inkling of him,—(for Christian's setting forth from the city of Destruction was much noised abroad, not only in the town where he dwelt, but also it began to be the town-talk in some other places)—Mr. Worldly Wiseman, therefore, having some guess of him, by beholding his laborious going, by observing his sighs and groans, and the like, began thus to enter into some talk with Christian.

MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: How now, good fellow, whither away after this burdened manner?

CHRISTIAN: A burdened manner indeed, as ever I think poor creature had! And whereas you ask me, Whither away? I tell you, sir, I am going [13] to yonder wicket-gate before me; for there, as I am informed, I shall be put into a way to be rid of my heavy burden.

MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: Hast thou a wife and children?

CHRISTIAN: Yes; but I am so laden with this burden, that I cannot take that pleasure in them as formerly: methinks I am as if I had none.

MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: Wilt thou hearken to me, if I give thee counsel?

CHRISTIAN: If it be good, I will; for I stand in need of good counsel.

MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: I would advise thee, then, that thou with all speed get thyself rid of thy burden; for thou wilt never be settled in thy mind till then: nor canst thou enjoy the benefits of the blessings which God hath bestowed upon thee till then.

CHRISTIAN: That is that which I seek for, even to be rid of this heavy burden: but get it off myself I cannot, nor is there any man in our country that can take it off my shoulders; therefore am I going this way, as I told you, that I may be rid of my burden.

MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: Who bid thee go this way to be rid of thy burden?

CHRISTIAN: A man that appeared to me to be a very great and honorable person: his name, as I remember, is Evangelist.

MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: I beshrew him for his counsel! there is not a more dangerous and troublesome way in the world than is that into which he hath directed thee; and that thou shalt find, if thou wilt be ruled by his counsel. Thou hast met with something, as I perceive, already; for I see the dirt of the Slough of Despond is upon thee: but that slough is the beginning of the sorrows that do attend those that go on in that way. Hear me; I am older than thou: thou art like to meet with, in the way which thou goest, wearisomeness, painfulness, hunger, perils, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, and, in a word, death, and what not. These things are certainly true, having been confirmed by many testimonies. And should a man so carelessly cast away himself, by giving heed to a stranger?

CHRISTIAN: Why, sir, this burden on my back is more terrible to me than are all these things which you have mentioned: nay, methinks I care not what I meet with in the way, if so be I can also meet with deliverance from my burden.

MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: How camest thou by thy burden at first?

CHRISTIAN: By reading this book in my hand.

MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: I thought so; and it has happened unto thee as to other weak men, who, meddling with things too high for them, do suddenly [14] fall into thy distractions; which distractions do not only unman men, as thine I perceive have done thee, but they run them upon desperate ventures, to obtain they know not what.

CHRISTIAN: I know what I would obtain; it is ease from my heavy burden.

MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: But why wilt thou seek for ease this way, seeing so many dangers attend it? especially since (hadst thou but patience to hear me) I could direct thee to the obtaining of what thou desirest, without the dangers that thou in this way wilt run thyself into. Yea, and the remedy is at hand. Besides, I will add, that instead of those dangers, thou shalt meet with much safety, friendship, and content.

CHRISTIAN: Sir, I pray open this secret to me.

MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: Why, in yonder village (the village is named Morality) there dwells a gentleman whose name is Legality, a very judicious man, and a man of a very good name, that has skill to help men off with such burdens as thine is from their shoulders; yea to my knowledge, he hath done a great deal of good this way; aye, and besides, he hath skill to cure those that are somewhat crazed in their wits with their burdens. To him, as I said, thou mayest go, and be helped presently. His house is not quite a mile from this place; and if he should not be at home himself, he hath a pretty young man to his son, whose name is Civility, that can do it (to speak on) as well as the old gentleman himself: there, I say, thou mayest be eased of thy burden; and if thou art not minded to go back to thy former habitation, (as indeed I [15] would not wish thee,) thou mayest send for thy wife and children to this village, where there are houses now standing empty, one of which thou mayest have at a reasonable rate: provision is there also cheap and good; and that which will make thy life the more happy is, to be sure there thou shalt live by honest neighbors, in credit and good fashion.

Now was Christian somewhat at a stand; but presently he concluded, If this be true which this gentleman hath said, my wisest course is to take his advice: and with that he thus farther spake.

CHRISTIAN: Sir, which is my way to this honest man's house?

MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: Do you see yonder high hill?

CHRISTIAN: Yes, very well.

MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: By that hill you must go, and the first house you come at is his.

So Christian turned out of his way to go to Mr. Legality's house for help: but, behold, when he was got now hard by the hill, it seemed so high, and also that side of it that was next the way-side did hang so much over, that Christian was afraid to venture further, lest the hill should fall on his head; wherefore there he stood still, and wotted not what to do. Also his burden now seemed heavier to him than while he was in his way. There came also flashes of fire, out of the hill, that made Christian afraid that he should be burnt: here therefore he did sweat and quake for fear. And now he began to be sorry that he had taken Mr. Worldly Wiseman's counsel; and with that he saw Evangelist coming to meet him, at the sight also of whom he began to blush for shame. So Evangelist drew nearer and nearer; and coming up to him, he looked upon him, with a severe and dreadful countenance, and thus began to reason with Christian.

EVANGELIST: What doest thou here, Christian? said he: at which words Christian knew not what to answer; wherefore at present he stood speechless before him. Then said Evangelist farther, Art not thou the man that I found crying without the walls of the city of Destruction?

CHRISTIAN: Yes, dear sir, I am the man.

EVANGELIST: Did not I direct thee the way to the little wicket-gate?

CHRISTIAN: Yes, dear sir, said Christian.

[16] EVANGELIST: How is it then thou art so quickly turned aside? For thou art now out of the way.

CHRISTIAN: I met with a gentleman so soon as I had got over the Slough of Despond, who persuaded me that I might, in the village before me, find a man that could take off my burden.

EVANGELIST: What was he?

CHRISTIAN: He looked like a gentleman, and talked much to me, and got me at last to yield: so I came hither; but when I beheld this hill, and how it hangs over the way, I suddenly made a stand, lest it should fall on my head.

EVANGELIST: What said that gentleman to you?

CHRISTIAN: Why, he asked me whither I was going; and I told him.

EVANGELIST: And what said he then?

CHRISTIAN: He asked me if I had a family; and I told him. But, said I, I am so laden with the burden that is on my back, that I cannot take pleasure in them as formerly.

EVANGELIST: And what said he then?

CHRISTIAN: He bid me with speed get rid of my burden; and I told him it was ease that I sought. And, said I, I am therefore going to yonder gate, to receive farther direction how I may get to the place of deliverance. So he said that he would show me a better way, and short, not so attended with difficulties as the way, sir, that you set me in; which way, said he, will direct you to a gentleman's house that hath skill to take off these burdens: so I believed him, and turned out of that way into this, if haply I might be soon eased of my burden. But when I came to this place, and beheld things as they are, I stopped, for fear (as I said) of danger: but I now know not what to do.

EVANGELIST: Then said Evangelist, Stand still a little, that I show thee the words of God. So he stood trembling. Then said Evangelist, "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh; for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven." He said, moreover, "Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." He also did thus apply them: Thou art the man that art running into this misery; thou hast begun to reject the counsel of the Most High, and to draw back thy foot from the way of peace, even almost to the hazarding of thy perdition.

[17] Then Christian fell down at his feet as dead, crying, Woe is me, for I am undone! At the sight of which Evangelist caught him by the right hand, saying, "All manner of sin and blasphemies shall be forgiven unto men." "Be not faithless, but believing." Then did Christian again a little revive, and stood up trembling, as at first, before Evangelist.

Then Evangelist proceeded, saying, Give more earnest heed to the things that I shall tell thee of. I will now show thee who it was that deluded thee, and who it was also to whom he sent thee. The man that met thee is one Worldly Wiseman, and rightly is he so called; partly because he savoreth only the doctrine of this world, (therefore he always goes to the town of Morality to church;) and partly because he loveth that doctrine best, for it saveth him best from the cross, and because he is of this carnal temper, therefore he seeketh to pervert my ways, though right. Now there are three things in this man's counsel that thou must utterly abhor.

1. His turning thee out of the way.

2. His laboring to render the cross odious to thee.

3 And his setting thy feet in that way that leadeth unto the administration of death.

First, Thou must abhor his turning thee out of the way; yea, and thine own consenting thereto; because this is to reject the counsel of God for the sake of the counsel of a Worldly Wiseman. The Lord says, "Strive to enter in at the straight gate," the gate to which I send thee; "for strait is the gate that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." From this little wicket-gate, and from the way thereto, hath this wicked man turned thee, to the bringing of thee almost to destruction: hate, therefore, his turning thee out of the way, and abhor thyself for hearkening to him.

Secondly, Thou must abhor his laboring to render the cross odious unto thee; for thou art to prefer it before the treasures of Egypt. Besides, the King of glory hath told thee, that he that will save his life shall lose it. And he that comes after him, and hates not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be his disciple. I say, therefore, for a man to labor to persuade thee that that shall be thy death, without which, the truth hath said, thou canst not have eternal life, this doctrine thou must abhor.

[18] Thirdly, Thou must hate his setting of thy feet in the way that leadeth to the ministration of death. And for this thou must consider to whom he sent thee, and also how unable that person was to deliver thee from thy burden.

He to whom thou wast sent for ease, being by name Legality, is the son of the bond-woman which now is, and is in bondage with her children, and is, in a mystery, this Mount Sinai, which thou hast feared will fall on thy head. Now if she with her children are in bondage, how canst thou expect by them to be made free? This Legality, therefore, is not able to set thee free from thy burden. No man was as yet ever rid of his burden by him; no, nor ever is like to be: ye cannot be justified by the works of the law; for by the deeds of the law no man living can be rid of his burden: Therefore Mr. Worldly Wiseman is an alien, and Mr. Legality is a cheat; and for his son Civility, notwithstanding his simpering looks, he is but a hypocrite, and cannot help thee. Believe me, there is nothing in all this noise that thou hast heard of these sottish men, but a design to beguile thee of thy salvation, by turning thee from the way in which I had set thee. After this, Evangelist called aloud to the heavens for confirmation of what he had said; and with that there came words and fire out of the mountain under which poor Christian stood, which made the hair of his flesh stand up. The words were pronounced: "As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."

Now Christian looked for nothing but death, and began to cry out lamentably; even cursing the time in which he met with Mr. Worldly Wiseman; still calling himself a thousand fools for hearkening to his counsel. He also was greatly ashamed to think that this gentleman's arguments, flowing only from the flesh, should have the prevalency with him so far as to cause him to forsake the right way. This done, he applied himself again to Evangelist in words and sense as follows.

CHRISTIAN: Sir, what think you? Is there any hope? May I now go back, and go up to the wicket-gate? Shall I not be abandoned for this, and sent back from thence ashamed? I am sorry I have hearkened to this man's counsel; but may my sin be forgiven?

EVANGELIST: Then said Evangelist to him, Thy sin is very great, for by it thou hast committed two evils: thou hast forsaken the way that is [19] good, to tread in forbidden paths. Yet will the man at the gate receive thee, for he has good-will for men; only, said he, take heed that thou turn not aside again, lest thou "perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little."




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