|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
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Drawn to the Pilgrimage
As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I came to a place where there was a den. Inside, I lay down to sleep, and as I slept, I had a dream. In my dream I looked up and saw a man clothed in rags standing in a certain place with his face turned away from his home. He carried a Book in his hand and a great Burden on his back. As I watched, I saw him open the Book and begin to read. And as he read, he wept and trembled. Then, not being able to contain himself any longer, he cried out in anguish, asking, "What shall I do?"
While still in this condition, he returned to his home. Not wanting his wife and children to perceive his distress, he restrained himself as long as he could. He couldn't hide it for long, however, because his anguish only increased. Finally, he bared his soul to his wife and children and began to talk to them.
"Oh, my dear wife, and my children, the fruit of my own body, I, your beloved friend, have lost all peace because of a great Burden weighing heavily upon me. What's more, I have been informed that our City is most certainly going to be burned with fire from Heaven. And unless some way of escape can be found by which we can be rescued, all of us — you, my wife and sweet children, as well as myself — will come to a dreadful end in this terrible destruction."
At this his family was greatly perplexed — not that they believed there was any truth in what he was saying, but they feared he was losing his sanity. Since nightfall was approaching, they quickly helped him to bed, hoping that some sleep might settle his troubled mind. But the night was as disturbing to him as the day, and instead of sleeping, he groaned and cried all night. When morning came, his family asked him how he felt. "Worse and worse," he answered. Once again he began to tell them about his fears, but they were not receptive, and their hearts began to harden. They also thought that perhaps they could drive the mental illness away by treating him harshly and rudely. Sometimes they ridiculed him, sometimes they rebuked him, and sometimes they totally ignored him. Consequently, he began staying in his own room, pitying and praying for his family and also grieving over his own misery. At times, however, he walked alone in the fields, sometimes reading and sometimes praying. He spent several days this way.
Now I saw that one day when he was walking in the fields, he was reading in his Book, as was his habit, and his mind was greatly distressed. As he read, he burst out as he had done before, crying, "What shall I do to be saved?" I also saw him looking this way and then that, as if he would run, yet he stood motionless. I perceived that he must not have known which way to go. Then I looked and saw a man named Evangelist coming toward him. Upon reaching him, he asked, "Why are you crying?"
"Sir," he answered, "I can see by the Book in my hand that I am condemned to die, and after that I will be brought to judgment. I find that I am not willing to do the first, and not able to bear the latter."
Then Evangelist asked, "Why aren't you willing to die, since this life is so filled with evil?"
The man answered, "Because I fear that this Burden on my back will drive me lower than the grave and into Hell itself. And, sir, if I am not even able to face prison, then surely I cannot bear the judgment and its subsequent execution. Thinking about these things makes me cry."
Evangelist then asked, "If this is your condition, why are you standing still?"
He answered, "Because I don't know where to go."
Then Evangelist gave him a Parchment Scroll inscribed with these words: "Flee from the wrath to come."
The man read it and, looking at Evangelist very carefully, asked, "To where do I flee?"
Then, pointing his finger to a very wide field, Evangelist replied, "Can you see the Wicket-gate in the distance?"
"No," the man answered.
Then the other asked, "Do you see that shining light?"
He said, "I think I do."
Evangelist continued, "Keep your eyes fixed upon that light, and go directly to it; then you will see the Gate. When you knock on it, you will be told what to do."
Pursued by Obstinate and Pliable
So I saw in my dream that the man began to run. He had not run far from his own house when his wife and children saw what was happening. They cried after him to return, but the man put his fingers in his ears and ran on, crying, "Life! Life! Eternal life!" He would not look behind him but fled toward the middle of the plain.
The neighbors also came out to see him run, and as he ran, some mocked and others threatened. Some, however, cried out for him to return. Among these neighbors, there were two who resolved to go after him and force him to come back. The name of one was Obstinate and the other, Pliable.
By this time the man had traveled a good distance from them, but they still resolved to pursue him, and in a short time they were able to overtake him.
"Neighbors," the man asked them, "why have you come after me?"
"To persuade you to come back with us."
"No way!" he replied. "You live in the City of Destruction where I also was born. If you stay there, however, sooner or later you will sink lower than the grave into a place that burns with fire and brimstone. Find peace, dear neighbors, and come along with me."
"What!" Obstinate objected, "and leave our friends and our comforts behind?"
"Yes," said Christian (for that was his name), "because what you will leave is not worthy to be compared with even a little of what I am seeking to enjoy. If you will come along with me and not turn back, you will find blessing as I will, for where I am going there is enough for all and plenty to spare. Come away with me and see if I'm telling you the truth."
"But what things are you seeking, for which you would leave all the world to find them?" Obstinate asked.
"I am seeking an inheritance that is not subject to decay and that cannot be tarnished and that will never fade away. It is kept safely in Heaven to be given at the appointed time to all who diligently seek it. If you will, you can read about it right here in my Book."
"Ridiculous! Get your Book out of here!" responded Obstinate. "Are you going to come back with us or not?"
"No, I'm not," said Christian adamantly, "because I have already put my hand to the plow."
Then Obstinate turned and addressed Pliable. "Come on then, neighbor Pliable; let's turn back and go home without him. A lot of these crazy-headed fools get an idea in their head and think themselves wiser than seven reasonable men."
"Don't insult him," Pliable answered. "If what Christian says is true, the things he is searching for are better than ours. I am inclined to go with him."
"What?" demanded Obstinate. "Another fool! Listen to me and go back. Who knows where this sick-headed man will lead you? Go back! Go back if you have any sense at all!"
"Come with me, neighbor Pliable," Christian pleaded. "Besides the things I told you about, there are many other glorious things to be gained. If you don't take my word for it, read it here in this Book. And if you want to be sure of the truth expressed within it, look closely, for all is confirmed by the blood of Him who wrote it."
At that Pliable said, "Well, Obstinate, my friend, I am making a decision. I intend to go along with this sincere man and to cast my lot in with him." Then, turning to Christian, he asked, "But, Christian, my good companion, do you know the way to this desirable place?"
"I have been directed by a man named Evangelist to travel quickly to a little Gate up ahead where we will receive instructions about the way."
"Then come on, neighbor, let's go!" Pliable said excitedly. And they left together.
Obstinate called out after them, "And I will go back home. I refuse to be a companion to such crazed fanatics!"
Christian and Pliable Discuss Heavenly Things
Now I saw in my dream, that when Obstinate had left them, Christian and Pliable went walking on over the plain, talking as they went.
"So, Pliable, my neighbor," Christian said, "let me get to know you. I am glad you decided to come along with me. If Obstinate had been able to feel what I have felt of the powers and terrors of what is yet unseen, he wouldn't have so easily rejected us."
Pliable was brimming with questions. "Come on, Christian, since we're the only people here, tell me more! What things are we seeking? How will we enjoy them? Where are we going?"
"I can better imagine them with my mind than speak of them with my tongue," said Christian, "but since you want to know, I will answer from my Book."
"Do you believe the words in your Book are really true?"
"Absolutely. For it was written by Him who cannot lie."
"This sounds good. What are the things we're seeking?"
"There is an endless kingdom to be inhabited and everlasting life to be given us so that we will live in that Kingdom forever."
"Wonderful! What else?"
"There are crowns of glory to be given us and garments that will make us shine like the sun in the heavens above."
"Excellent! What else?"
"There will be no more sorrow and crying, for He who owns the place will wipe all tears from our eyes."
"And who will be there with us?"
Christian's face shined as he went on. "There we will be with seraphim and cherubim — beings who will dazzle our eyes when we see them. We will also meet with the thousands and ten thousands who have gone on before us to that place. None of them will cause harm; all will be loving and holy. Everyone there will walk before God and stand approved in His grace and presence forever. Furthermore, we will see the elders with their golden crowns and the holy virgins with their golden harps; and we will see men who by the world were cut to pieces, burned in flames, eaten by beasts and drowned in seas, all because of the love they had for the Lord of the place. Everyone there will be completely well, made whole, and clothed with immortality as with a garment."
Pliable could hardly contain himself. "My heart is seized with ecstasy at hearing all this. But are these things really for us to enjoy? How can we come to share in them?"
"The Lord, the Ruler of that Country, has given the answer in this Book. It says that if we are truly willing to receive it, He will freely give it to us."
"Well, my good friend, I'm glad to hear all these things. Come on, let's quicken our pace."
Christian sighed. "I can't go as fast as I would like to because of this Burden on my back."
The Slough of Despond
Now I saw in my dream that, just as they had ended their conversation, they approached a miry Slough (a muddy swamp) in the plain. Neither of them paid attention to it, and both suddenly fell into the bog. The Slough's name was Despond. Covered with mud, they wallowed in it for some time. And Christian, because of the Burden on his back, began to sink in the mire.
"Oh, Christian, my neighbor!" Pliable cried out. "Where are you now?"
"To tell you the truth, I don't know," Christian answered.
Hearing this, Pliable became offended and angrily scolded his companion. "Is this the happiness you have told me about all this time? If we have such terrible misfortune here at the beginning, what are we to expect between here and the end of our journey? If I can possibly get out of here with my life, you can possess that wonderful Country for you and me both!"
With that, Pliable gave a desperate struggle or two and was able to get out of the mire on the side of the Slough that faced his home. So away he went, and Christian never saw him again.
Help Comes to the Rescue
Thus Christian was left to roll around in the Slough of Despond by himself. Even then, however, he tried to struggle to the side of the Slough that was farthest from his own home and closest to the Wicket-gate. He continued to struggle but couldn't get out because of the Burden that was on his back. Then I saw in my dream that a man named Help came to him, and he asked Christian what he was doing there.
"Sir," explained Christian, "I was instructed to go this way by a man named Evangelist who gave me directions to that Gate up ahead where I might escape the coming wrath. As I was going toward the Gate, I fell in here."
"But why didn't you look for the steps?" asked Help.
"Fear pursued me so hard that I fled this way and fell in."
"Give me your hand."
So Christian reached out his hand, and Help pulled him out. He set him on solid ground and told him to continue on his way.
Then I stepped up to the one who had pulled Christian out and asked, "Sir, since this is the way from the City of Destruction to the Gate, why isn't this place fenced off so that poor travelers may go by more safely?"
And he answered me, "This miry Slough is the type that cannot be fenced. It is the lower ground where the scum and filth that accompany conviction of sin continually accumulate. Therefore it was named the Slough of Despond because, as the sinner is awakened to his lost condition, many fears, doubts, and discouraging anxieties arise in his soul. All of them come together and settle here in this place, and that is the reason this ground is no good.
"It is not the King's desire that this place should remain so bad. By the direction of His surveyors, His laborers have been working for almost two thousand years to fence off this patch of ground. Yes, and to my knowledge at least twenty thousand cartloads of profitable instructions — yes, millions of them — have been swallowed up here. In all seasons they have been brought from all places in the King's domain, and those who are knowledgeable say that these materials have the best potential for making the ground good. Nevertheless, it remains the Slough of Despond, and so will it be even when all has been tried and failed.
"It's true that some good and substantial steps have been placed evenly throughout this Slough by the command of the Lawgiver. Even then, however, this place spews out so much filth that when the weather gets bad the steps can hardly be seen. And even if people do see them, because of confusion they step the wrong way and fall into the slime. In any case, the steps are there, and the ground is good once they go through the Gate.
Now I saw in my dream that by this time Pliable had arrived back home, and his neighbors came to visit him.
Some of them called him a wise man for coming back, and some called him a fool for endangering himself with Christian. Still others mocked his cowardice, saying, "Surely, if I had begun such a venture I would not have been so cowardly as to have given up because of a few troubles." So Pliable sat cowering among them until he finally gained enough confidence to raise an objection. At this, they immediately left him alone and began to insult poor Christian behind his back because of what had happened to Pliable.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Pilgrim's Progress"
Copyright © 2016 Cheryl V. Ford.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
The Author's Defense of His Book, xvii,
THE FIRST PART, 1,
The Author's Way of Sending Forth His Second Part of the Pilgrim, 195,
THE SECOND PART, 199,
General Index, 391,
Scripture Index, 409,
Discussion Questions, 419,