Awakening of Europe - M. B. Synge

The Pilgrim's Progress

"So I awoke, and behold it was a dream."


In the very same year that Penn left England to found the colony of Pennsylvania, a book was finding its way into all parts of Europe, and was filling men with wonder and delight. The 'Pilgrim's Progress' was written in English, and was soon translated into Dutch and sent over the seas to the Dutch and English colonies in America. Soon after it was translated into no less than eighty-four different languages, and is to-day one of "the most popular and most widely read of all English books."

It was written in prison by John Bunyan, a poor man, the son of a tinker. For his religious opinions he was thrown into prison at Bedford, where he was kept for twelve years. The Bible was his constant companion, and the very language of his book is the language of the Bible itself. The story is the journey of a man called Christian from his home, the City of Destruction, to the Heavenly City, and the whole beautiful story has a deep meaning running through it.

"I dreamed, and behold I saw a man clothed in rags," begins Bunyan, "standing with his face from his home, with a book in his hand and a great burden upon his back."

This man was Christian, the hero of the story, and the burden was his sins.

"What shall I do?" he cried pitifully to his friends, for he was feeling the weight of his sins.

"Do you see yonder wicket-gate and yonder shining light?" said one, Evangelist, to him. "Keep that light in your eye and go up directly thereto; so shalt thou see the gate, at which, when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do."

So Christian started off, as Evangelist had suggested, with his burden on his back, to reach the Heavenly City. But soon he found himself struggling in a bog. The name of the bog was the Slough of Despond, and by reason of his load Christian began to sink in the mire. Then came a man called Help, who stretched forth his hand and drew him out. So Christian went on again. And now he met a man known as Mr. Worldly Wiseman, who advised him to turn elsewhere to get rid of his burden. Christian was following his advice when Evangelist again met him.

"What dost thou here, Christian? Did I not direct thee to the little wicket-gate?" he said sorrowfully.

Ashamed of his weakness, Christian took the narrow path once more. At last he reached the wicket-gate. "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you," was written above. Christian knocked and passed through. He will know the road, for it is strait and narrow and the wrong road is wide. Then a wonderful thing happened. He came to a cross, and as he stood before it his burden rolled off his back. Three shining ones appeared, who stripped him of his rags, clothed him with a change of raiment, set a mark on his forehead, and gave him a sealed roll to give up at the gates of heaven.

He now passed on, meeting various friends on the way. Then they came to the Hill Difficulty. There were two roads at the foot, one marked Danger, the other Destruction. Though his friends took these roads and were never heard of again, Christian went straight up over the hill and reached the Palace Beautiful, built by the Lord of the Hill for strangers. Two lions guarded the way, and Christian paused.

"Is thy strength so small?" cried the watchman. "Fear not the lions, for they are chained. Keep in the midst of the path and no hurt shall come unto thee."

At the Palace Beautiful he was armed from head to foot by the ladies Prudence, Piety, and Charity, for he had yet to go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Two men appeared to him on the borders of it, warning him to go back, for it was dark and full of horrors. But Christian went through with it, to find the sun shining on the other side. Faithful, a pilgrim like himself, now joined him, and they went forward together. Together they came to Vanity Fair, which had been going on for five thousand years, and through which they must pass to reach the Heavenly City.

"What will you buy?" cried the noisy rough men who were selling there.

"We buy the truth," answered Christian and Faithful. A great hubbub broke forth, which ended in the death of Faithful, and Christian went on alone.

A man called Hopeful now joined him, and together they crossed the River of Life. But here they strayed into By-path Meadow, lost themselves in Doubting Castle, and were seized by Giant Despair. With a key called Promise Christian opened the door of their dungeon, and they went forward once more. And now they reached the Enchanted Ground, Doubting Castle could be seen no more, and between them and their last rest there only remained the deep river of Death, over which was no bridge. On the hill beyond glittered the towers and domes of the Heavenly City. The sun shone on the city, which was of pure gold. Through the deep waters of the river went Christian and Hopeful. On the farther bank two Shining Men were waiting to lead them up the last hill to the city. There they were received with "ten thousand welcomes, with shouts which made the very heavens echo, and with trumpets."

"These pilgrims are come from the City of Destruction, for the love that they bear to the King of this place," said the Shining Men.

So Christian and Hopeful were taken into the presence of the King, and as they entered their raiments shone like gold, crowns were placed on their heads, harps were put in their hands, and the bells in the city rang again for joy.

"So I awoke," says Bunyan, "and, behold, it was a dream."