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Archive for September 6th, 2010

Christian comes to the cross.

He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.

… Now, as he stood looking and weeping, behold three Shining Ones came to him and saluted him with "Peace be unto thee". So the first said to him, "Thy sins be forgiven thee"; the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment ; the third also set a mark on his forehead, and gave him a roll with a seal upon it, which he bade him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the Celestial Gate.

Christian comes to Hill of Difficulty.

I beheld, then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the Hill Difficulty; at the bottom of which was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the gate; one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring, and drank thereof, to refresh himself … I looked, then, after Christian, to see him go up the hill, where I perceived he fell from running to going, and from going to clambering upon his hands and his knees, because of the steepness of the place. Now, about the midway to the top of the hill was a pleasant arbour, made by the Lord of the hill for the refreshing of weary travellers; thither, therefore, Christian got, where also he sat down to rest him.

Christian falls asleep in the arbour. He is awaken by a Shining One but has to proceed in the dark and as an oversight leaves his scroll behind.

At last he bethought himself that he had slept in the arbour that is on the side of the hill; and, falling down upon his knees, he asked God’s forgiveness for that his foolish act, and then went back to look for his roll. But all the way he went back, who can sufficiently set forth the sorrow of Christian’s heart? Sometimes he sighed, sometimes he wept, and oftentimes he chid himself for being so foolish to fall asleep in that place, which was erected only for a little refreshment for his weariness. Thus, therefore, he went back, carefully looking on this side and on that, all the way as he went, if happily he might find his roll, that had been his comfort so many times in his journey. He went thus, till he came again within sight of the arbour where he sat and slept; but that sight renewed his sorrow the more, by bringing again, even afresh, his evil of sleeping into his mind. Thus, therefore, he now went on bewailing his sinful sleep, saying, O wretched man that I am that I should sleep in the day-time! that I should sleep in the midst of difficulty! that I should so indulge the flesh, as to use that rest for ease to my flesh, which the Lord of the hill hath erected only for the relief of the spirits of pilgrims!

… Now, by this time he was come to the arbour again, where for a while he sat down and wept; but at last, as Christian would have it, looking sorrowfully down under the settle, there he espied his roll; the which he, with trembling and haste, catched up, and put it into his bosom. But who can tell how joyful this man was when he had gotten his roll again! for this roll was the assurance of his life and acceptance at the desired haven. Therefore he laid it up in his bosom, gave thanks to God for directing his eye to the place where it lay, and with joy and tears betook himself again to his journey.

After climbing the Hill of Difficult, Christian sojourns at the Beautiful Palace. There he is shown many things from the Scriptures before the time comes for him to depart.

Then he began to go forward; but Discretion, Piety, Charity, and Prudence would accompany him down to the foot of the hill. So they went on together, reiterating their former discourses, till they came to go down the hill. Then said Christian, As it was difficult coming up, so, so far as I can see, it is dangerous going down. Yes, said Prudence, so it is, for it is a hard matter for a man to go down into the Valley of Humiliation, as thou art now, and to catch no slip by the way; therefore, said they, are we come out to accompany thee down the hill. So he began to go down, but very warily; yet he caught a slip or two.

Later on the journey Christian meets up with Faithful.

Then I saw in my dream they went very lovingly on together, and had sweet discourse of all things that had happened to them in their pilgrimage

Hopeful allows himself to follow Christian’s lead off the narrow path. Christian believes that the slight detour will not permanently lead them off the path and make things more comfortable.

Christian: Who could have thought that this path should have led us out of the way?

Hopeful: I was afraid on it at the very first, and therefore gave you that gentle caution. I would have spoken plainer, but that you are older than I.

Christian: Good brother, be not offended; I am sorry I have brought thee out of the way, and that I have put thee into such imminent danger; pray, my brother, forgive me; I did not do it of an evil intent.

Hopeful: Be comforted, my brother, for I forgive thee; and believe, too, that this shall be for our good.

Christian: I am glad I have with me a merciful brother; but we must not stand thus: let us try to go back again.

Christian and Hopeful are captured by Giant Despair who locks them in his dungeon in Doubting Castle. They are beaten often and come close to falling into total despair as had many pilgrims before them. Hopeful says:

Others, so far as I can understand, have been taken by him, as well as we; and yet have escaped out of his hand. Who knows, but the God that made the world may cause that Giant Despair may die? … my brother, let us be patient, and endure a while. The time may come that may give us a happy release … With these words Hopeful at present did moderate the mind of his brother; so they continued together (in the dark) that day, in their sad and doleful condition.

Shortly afterwards, Christian remembers that he has a key ‘Promise’ and the Pilgrims are able to escape the giant and dungeon of despair. Later they learn of how Giant Despair had blinded the eyes of many of his captives causing them to wander and fall amongst the tombs of the dead.

The Pilgrims travel in through the Delectable Mountains and the Shepherds’ Fields and the Beautiful Land belonging to Immanuel.

Finally Christian and Hopeful together cross the dark river. For Christian in particular the crossing is difficult and fearful.

These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters are no sign that God hath forsaken you; but are sent to try you, whether you will call to mind that which heretofore you have received of his goodness, and live upon him in your distresses.

Shining Ones meet the pilgrims on the other side of the river. The pilgrims ascend the mighty mountain upon which the celestial stood. The climb with much agility and speed having left their mortal garments behind them in the river. Bunyan mentions a city with foundations on the mountain but rises above the clouds, sweet conversation, clouds as chariots, beauty and glory inexpressible, the paradise of God, tree of life, never-fading fruits, white robes, walking with the King, the former things no more, participating in the final judgment, comforts, crowns of glory, the perpetual sight and vision of the Holy One. Also the sounding of trumpets, the ringing of bells, shouts and joyful singing that welcome the pilgrim’s arrival.

Oh, by what tongue or pen can their glorious joy be expressed!

And thus they came up to the gate.

So I awoke, and behold it was a dream.

source: John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

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A room full of dust

Then he took him by the hand, and led him into a very large parlour that was full of dust, because never swept; the which after he had reviewed a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now, when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel that stood by, Bring hither the water, and sprinkle the room; the which, when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure.

Then said Christian, What means this?

The Interpreter answered, This parlour is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the gospel; the dust is his original sin and inward corruptions, that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first, is the Law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now, whereas thou sawest, that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about that the room by him could not be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith; this is to shew thee, that the law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it, for it doth not give power to subdue.

Again, as thou sawest the damsel sprinkle the room with water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure; this is to show thee, that when the gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then, I say, even as thou sawest the damsel lay the dust by sprinkling the floor with water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of glory to inhabit.

Two children, Passion and Patience

Passion receives his treasurers immediately and ends with nothing left him but rags. Patience waits for eternal glories.

A fire against a wall

Then I saw in my dream that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a place where was a fire burning against a wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it, to quench it; yet did the fire burn higher and hotter.

Then said Christian, What means this?

The Interpreter answered, This fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart; he that casts water upon it, to extinguish and put it out, is the Devil; but in that thou seest the fire notwithstanding burn higher and hotter, thou shalt also see the reason of that. So he had him about to the backside of the wall, where he saw a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, of the which he did also continually cast, but secretly, into the fire.

Then said Christian, What means this?

The Interpreter answered, This is Christ, who continually, with the oil of his grace, maintains the work already begun in the heart: by the means of which, notwithstanding what the devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still. And in that thou sawest that the man stood behind the wall to maintain the fire, that is to teach thee that it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of grace is maintained in the soul.

A palace entry guarded by armed men

I saw also, that the Interpreter took him again by the hand, and led him into a pleasant place, where was builded a stately palace, beautiful to behold; at the sight of which Christian was greatly delighted. He saw also, upon the top thereof, certain persons walking, who were clothed all in gold.

Then said Christian, May we go in thither?

Then the Interpreter took him, and led him up towards the door of the palace; and behold, at the door stood a great company of men, as desirous to go in; but durst not. There also sat a man at a little distance from the door, at a table-side, with a book and his inkhorn before him, to take the name of him that should enter therein; he saw also, that in the doorway stood many men in armour to keep it, being resolved to do the men that would enter what hurt and mischief they could. Now was Christian somewhat in amaze. At last, when every man started back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man of a very stout countenance come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, Set down my name, Sir: the which when he had done, he saw the man draw his sword, and put a helmet upon his head, and rush toward the door upon the armed men, who laid upon him with deadly force; but the man, not at all discouraged, fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely. So after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, he cut his way through them all , and pressed forward into the palace, at which there was a pleasant voice heard from those that were within, even of those that walked upon the top of the palace, saying — "Come in, come in; Eternal glory thou shalt win." So he went in, and was clothed with such garments as they.

A man in an iron cage

So he took him by the hand again, and led him into a very dark room, where there sat a man in an iron cage.

Now the man, to look on, seemed very sad; he sat with his eyes looking down to the ground, his hands folded together, and he sighed as if he would break his heart. Then said Christian, What means this? At which the Interpreter bid him talk with the man.

Then said Christian to the man, What art thou? The man answered, I am what I was not once.

What wast thou once?

The man said, I was once a fair and flourishing professor, both in mine own eyes, and also in the eyes of others; I once was, as I thought, fair for the Celestial City, and had then even joy at the thoughts that I should get thither.

Well, but what art thou now?

I am now a man of despair, and am shut up in it, as in this iron cage. I cannot get out. Oh, now I cannot!

But how camest thou in this condition?

I left off to watch and be sober. I laid the reins, upon the neck of my lusts; I sinned against the light of the Word and the goodness of God; I have grieved the Spirit, and he is gone; I tempted the devil, and he is come to me; I have provoked God to anger, and he has left me: I have so hardened my heart, that I cannot repent.

Then said Christian to the Interpreter, But is there no hope for such a man as this? Ask him, said the Interpreter. Nay, said Christian, pray, Sir, do you.

Then said the Interpreter, Is there no hope, but you must be kept in the iron cage of despair?

No, none at all.

Why, the Son of the Blessed is very pitiful.

I have crucified him to myself afresh; I have despised his person; I have despised his righteousness; I have "counted his blood an unholy thing"; I have "done despite to the Spirit of grace". Therefore I have shut myself out of all the promises, and there now remains to me nothing but threatenings, dreadful threatenings, fearful threatenings, of certain judgement and fiery indignation, which shall devour me as an adversary.

For what did you bring yourself into this condition?

For the lusts, pleasures, and profits of this world; in the enjoyment of which I did then promise myself much delight; but now every one of those things also bite me, and gnaw me like a burning worm.

But canst thou not now repent and turn?

God hath denied me repentance. His Word gives me no encouragement to believe; yea, himself hath shut me up in this iron cage; nor can all the men in the world let me out. O eternity, eternity! how shall I grapple with the misery that I must meet with in eternity!

Then said the Interpreter to Christian, Let this man’s misery be remembered by thee, and be an everlasting caution to thee.

Well, said Christian, this is fearful! God help me to watch and be sober, and to pray that I may shun the cause of this man’s misery!

A man in bed awakened by a dream of final judgment

The man dreams that he is not among those gathered by the angels when God’s people are caught up to meet the one sitting on the clouds of heaven but instead the lake of fire opens beside him.

Conclusion

Then said the Interpreter to Christian, Hast thou considered all these things?

Yes, and they put me in hope and fear.

Well, keep all things so in thy mind that they may be as a goad in thy sides, to prick thee forward in the way thou must go.

source: John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

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Having fled the City of Destruction, Pilgrim falls into the Slough of Despond. A servant of the king is sent to assist Pilgrim out of the bog. Help makes the following statement:

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 ariseth 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.

source: John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

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I have just started to read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in its original unabridged old English style (and with no divisions into chapters). The copy I am reading was given to my grandmother’s sister in 1934 by my great-grandparents. I like the idea of reading a book that almost 80 years ago and four generations ago came into my family. I value that. The book has that old smell of dusty pages. I think reading this book is going to be really enjoyable. The first line is great! So is the first paragraph.

 

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?"

 

source: John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

We are pilgrims on a journey
We are brothers and sisters on the road.
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile, and bear the load.

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