Friday, April 29, 2016

Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Once upon a time (when each household had only one or two books), Pilgrim's Progress was the most widely read book apart from the Bible. A Christian classic worthy of the name, it tells the story of Christian's journey from this sinful world to heaven and the heavy price one must pay to remain faithful. No wonder this title has gone out of fashion!

If I needed any proof that the internet has fried my brain, this book convinced me. I've read it three times in the last thirty years and I've never before struggled with the archaic language. This time my shortened attention span made it a struggle to plow through. Don't get me wrong. I still loved it, but I really had to make an effort to persevere to the end.

Occasionally I would compare my hard copy of the original to the updated version I found on Kindle. The newer version has four big advantages. First, the actual scriptures are included (rather than just the references). Second, the editor has taken the stilted dialogue and made the prose flow much more smoothly. Third, the original illustrations are included. (My version did not have them.) And, four, the updated version is divided into chapters. My hardcopy had no breaks, which added to my inability to feel like I was making headway.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that I am no fan of dumbed-down language, but here the rich language is only slightly modified.

original: This miry slough is a place that 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. (p.16)

updated: This miry slough is a place that can't be repaired. It is a low-lying place where the scum and filth that come with the conviction of sin drains and collects as the traveling sinner becomes aware of his lost condition. It is the fears, doubts, and discouraging apprehensions about oneself that arise in his soul.

Some of my favorite lines -

[Hypocrites] do puzzle the world, blemish Christianity, and grieve the sincere. (p. 100)

Christian's response to prosperity preaching: You must also own religion in his rags, as well as in his silver slippers; and stand by him, too, when bound in irons, as well as when he walketh the streets with applause. (p. 119)

On pride: Let us not be tickled with thoughts of our own manhood. (p. 156)

There is a marvelous section on reasons for backsliding, one of them being, "they seem to be hot for heaven, so long as the flames of hell are about their ears, yet when that terror is a little over, they betake themselves to second thoughts." (182)

Amazon has three free versions: The slightly modernized version mentioned above, a children's version (which I have not read) and the original. For someone with no familiarity to the story in it's old-fashioned language, I highly recommend the newer edition. Every Christian should be familiar with this classic of English literature.


Janie said...

I love Pilgrim's Progress and used it every year for 7th graders while teaching in a private school using Pilgrim's Progress in Today's English. This is a really accessible edition. I aim to read this once every few years but haven't done so in the last few. :( One book I want to acquire and use with it next time is Alexander Whyte's The Characters in Pilgrim's Progress. I am saddened that many, if not most, of today's pew-sitters don't have any idea what you're talking about when you mention Pilgrim's Progress in the course of a conversation.

Peggy Arthurs said...

Hope, I have an old 1930's hardback of this book, with lovely illustrations. I got about a third of the way through and stopped for some reason years ago and never went back. Not sure why, as I loved it. Maybe the new version would be easier and I'd finally get it read!