If I were to be stranded on a desert island and allowed only one other book apart from the Scriptures this would be my book of choice. There are many editions of this world classic, but I would have to have an unabridged edition with all of its quaint diction. Not simply because there is something very special about the expressiveness of the language of that day but more so because any attempts of editing/altering this book will inevitably kill off something in the process. If I had to describe this book in one word I would have to say that it is ‘inspired’. Note that is with a small ‘i’. I do not place any writing on a level with Scripture itself but I do recognize the same ‘God-breathed’ life in some Christian writings, be they books, hymns, Bible studies etc. This book undoubtedly has such a hallmark.So what is it all about? Well, Bunyan, who was incidentally in prison at the time he wrote it, says that this story was given to him in “the similitude of a dream.” I don’t think he was actually saying that he dreamt all of it while asleep, but he wrote it in the style of a vivid dream. He ‘watches on’, as it were, and relates what happens to a man called ‘Christian’ as this man takes a journey (a pilgrimage) from ‘The City of Destruction’ to ‘The Celestial City’.
Christian takes his journey and traverses all kinds of places en route – ‘The Slough of Dispond’, ‘Vanity Fair’, ‘The Interpreter’s House’ and so on. It is not only the places that are allegorical but also the people. On the positive side he encounters such people as ‘Evangelist’, ‘Hopeful’, ‘Faithful’ and ‘The Shepherds’ who tend sheep in ‘Emanuel’s Land’. But he also comes to blows, victories and defeats with such characters as ‘The Flatterer’, ‘Mr Legality’, ‘Mr Hate-Good’, and ‘Apollyon’ himself.
This book, like Scripture in a way, is multifaceted and multi-layered. I think I have read this three times now and each time there are ‘new things’ I see which are being alluded to. Depending on ones spiritual understanding of certain issues and ones current spiritual experience different things come through. I think also that perhaps some elements may be better understood by someone who is aware of some of the history of that time, mainly those issues that relate to the great divide of establishment religion and true faith in Christ.
Please don’t let these last comments put you off if you don’t consider yourself to have great enlightenment on anything. The whole point of what I mentioned earlier is that this book will ‘reveal/speak’ things to you wherever you are along the road of your personal pilgrimage with Him. There is so much more which could be said about this great classic. Many people have had an appreciation for this book (again just like the Authorized Version of the Bible) for its literary value, but any who only come that far have entirely missed its real beauty. If I had to choose a few more words to describe this book, I would have to include the word ‘beauty’, along with ‘poignancy’ and ‘prophecy’. I cannot state enough what a rich treasury of spiritual instruction this book is to those who will apply themselves a little to unlocking its messages.