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Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Pilgrim's Progress

Title: The Pilgrim's Progress
Author: John Bunyan
Published: 1678/1684
What was it I said in my last entry? I hope it doesn't take a whole month to finish this one? Great; it's taken me just under three months! Judging from the length of time it took me to finish this book, you probably think I didn't enjoy this one. But I loved it!

The Pilgrim's Progress is again two books in one, published six years apart. It's an allegory about a man's journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. This journey represents the highs and lows of any Christian's life while growing in his faith, becoming more Christlike, and eventually ending up in heaven. Many people meet him on the road, both good and bad.

Early in his journey Christian meets Mr. Worldly Wiseman. Despite the Bible's statements that the only way to the Father is through Jesus, this minister attempts to instruct Christian to rid himself of his burden (sin) by going to the village of Morality and speaking to a man named Legality. Christian is at first led off of his path and finds himself in fear that Mount Sinai (the law of Moses) is too much for him. He is soon brought back to the correct Way by his friend Evangelist.

I loved the allegorical nature of the book; it really gave me a lot to think about while being fun to read. One thing that confused me, though, was toward the end, when they entered the land of Beulah, where the sun shines night and day. "In this land they heard nothing, saw nothing, felt nothing, smelt nothing, tasted nothing that was offensive to the stomach or mind." My first thought was that this was heaven. But then it discussed the River that they had to cross over to get to the Celestial City. "...only when they tasted of the water of the River . . . they thought that tasted a little bitterish to the palate, but it proved sweeter when 'twas down." The River is clearly death, which Bunyan describes as bitter to the flesh, but sweet to the soul. But there is no place that is perfect until we die and get to heaven. So I am still unsure of what this land of peace could be.

I looked Beulah up in the dictionary and it means either "married" or "bride" depending on which dictionary is used. I'm thinking this land could be the peace of mind a mature Christian gets when his faith in God is strong. That there are still painful things all around him, but because of his faith and hope in eternal life, he doesn't taste the bitterness. That answer doesn't completely satisfy me, but it's the closest I can figure.

Over all, I loved this novel. One of the most beautiful moments was near the end, when Mr. Ready-to-Halt crossed the River of death. He had said his goodbyes to his companions, given away his crutches, and stepped into the water. His last words were, "Welcome, life!"

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