Pilgrim’s Progress – Living for that which is to come

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Some time ago my daughter gave me a present of some second hand books from the Trinity College book sale. Perhaps the most interesting of these (priced at just €5) was a beautifully bound and embossed antiquarian copy of “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” something which I have only started to read for the very first time in the past few weeks. Inside this very old edition was equally old handwriting showing that it had also been given as a gift to someone on 7th August 1866.

I have seen other copies of The Pilgrim’s Progress, but somehow the print was very small in these, while the larger, clearer print in this book made me just want to read it!

So far I have been reading it very slowly, taking everything in, including all the Biblical references which are marked on the side of each page and I have to say that I find this allegory of the Christian life deeply fascinating and revealing so far. Sometimes I just have to smile with recognition when I encounter the places that Christian finds himself in and the people he meets!

From time to time as I read of Christian’s adventures, I feel that I must write about these from a personal point of view.

Very early in his journey, when Christian is in the ‘interpreter’s house,’ the latter talks of Lazarus and the rich man and Christian comments: “Then I perceive it is not best to covet things that are now, but to wait for things to come.”

The interpreter agrees with Christian: “You say truth: for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal.” (“2Cor. 4v18)

Interpreter goes on to say: “But though this be so, yet since things present and our fleshly appetite are such near neighbours one to another; and again, because things to come and carnal sense are such strangers one to another; therefore it is, that the first of these so suddenly fall into amity, and that distance is so continued between the second.”

In our materialistic ‘throw-away’ world “The Pilgrim’s Progress” is like an alien piece of literature or a little piece of gold in a rubbish tip. I learned that it has never gone out of print since it was first published in February 1678 and that it has been translated into more than 200 languages. It has also been regarded as one of the most significant pieces of English religious literature ever written.

From the outset of his journey I see that Christian’s is the path of the “few that find it” and I have a great sense of his loneliness at this point of the journey.

Of the Christian life I would say with ‘Christian’ – “To go back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it: I will go forward.”

We must go forward.

Perhaps something that made a very real impression on me this week was when I read of Christian being confronted by ‘the lions at the palace gate’ – a sight to frighten the bravest of souls.

But Watchful reassures Christian: “Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for the discovery of those that have none: keep in the midst of the path, and no hurt shall come unto thee.”

In my life just recently I have met some ‘lions’ but I thank the Lord that they are ‘chained’

“And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (1Peter 3v13)

Those who know the Lord can say with the psalmist… “My times are in thy hand…” (Psalm 31v15)

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8v35-39)

I look forward to joining Christian on the rest of his journey, for in his words… “but now I desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one…” (Hebrews 11v15&16)

 

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