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Introduction by the Editor
Chapter I

life a pilgrimage through a state of spiritual conflicts—‘the pilgrim’s Progress’ A guide to all heavenward pilgrims—The author furnished with leisure time to write it, by being shut up in prison for refusing to violate his conscience.

‘Art thou for something rare and profitable?

Wouldest thou see a truth within a fable?

Art thou forgetful? Wouldest thou remember

From New Year’s Day to the last of December?

Then read my fancies, they will stick like burs.’

Bunyan’s Apology for his Book.

The pilgrimage of life is a deeply-interesting subject, coextensive with human nature; every individual of our race is upon pilgrimage, from the cradle to the grave. It is the progress of the soul through time to enter upon a boundless eternity; beset on all sides, at every avenue, and at every moment, with spiritual foes of the deepest subtilty, journeying from the commencement to the close of the course through an enemy’s country, uncertain of the term of existence, certain only that it must terminate and usher us into an eternal state, either of exquisite happiness, or awful misery. How natural that every man’s life should be called by its proper name—a pilgrimage.

The patriarch felt this when he bowed before Pharaoh, and said, ‘The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.’ Ge. 47:9. David sang the statutes of the Lord in the house of his pilgrimage. Ps. 119:54. And after the lapse of ages. when the Volume of Inspiration was about to close, the Holy Spirit continued the simile in the apostolic epistles, ‘and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.’ Heb. 11:13. As such we are exhorted, ‘I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts.’ 1 Pe. 2:11. ‘See then that ye walk circumspectly.’ Ep. 5:15. ‘So run, that ye may obtain.’ 1 Co. 9:24. These are instructions that reach the heart of every Christian convert throughout the world: all are warned of the necessity of sobriety and vigilant watchfulness, ‘because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.’ 1 Pe. 5:8. ‘He shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.’ Re. 2:10.

All mankind are pilgrims; all are pressing through this world: the Christian willingly considers that his life is a journey, because he is seeking a better country; but the greater multitude are anxious to prevent the recollection, that time is a preparation for eternity, and, in consequence of this neglect, they shudder when approaching the brink of the grave, into which they are irresistibly plunged. Although perpetual examples warn them that suddenly, at a moment when they least expect the fatal catastrophe, it may befall them, still, as if infatuated, they make no inquiry of the Holy Oracles as to how they can escape the second death; but take the miserable counsel of some ‘worldlywise man,’ and seek a refuge in lies, which death will terribly sweep away; or they wholly neglect any preparation for so important and certain, if not sudden, an event. All are on the advance; time hurries on those whose pilgrimage is limited to the foul, but fascinating streets of the ‘city of destruction,’ to their eternal doom; while those whose anxious cries lead them to the Christian calling, press on in the narrow and difficult path that leads to the heavenly Jerusalem.

To condense the instructions given to the pilgrim in the Inspired Writings into a map of the road, a guide or hand-book to the celestial city, a help to Zion’s travellers, and a faithful warning to the votaries who crowd the broad road to ruin, was a labour of love for its vast importance, worthy of the highest powers of human intellect, the warmest Christian philanthropy. It is surprising that a work which so naturally suggests itself to the imagination, and which is of such universal interest, was delayed so long. The abstruse dreams of Jewish rabbies, the splendid figures and scenery that floated before the minds of Oriental and Greek sages, and the intense subtlety of the schoolmen of the Middle Ages, were intended for a very limited class, excluding all but those who were their immediate disciples; and all their instructions having a direct tendency to lead them from the highway of happiness, to wander in the mazes of a senseless sophistry, or, to use the apostle’s words, ‘spoil them through philosophy and vain deceit.’ It was a work that could only be prepared by an expanded soul, above all sectarian bias, by one who could, with unbounded charity, embrace all nations, all tongues, and every people, as brethren in the vast dominions of his God; by one who felt that human happiness would not be perfect until this universe became the kingdom of his Christ. Such a hallowed and sanctified mind alone could furnish his fellow-sinners with an epitome of the way to the celestial city, equally acceptable to Christians of all denominations.

To write for the instruction of the whole family of man, is not the province of a bigoted sectarian, whose visions of happiness extend no further than to embrace his own immediate disciples. Had ancient sages, or more modern schoolmen, felt their brotherhood to the whole human race, knowing that every individual, of all sects or parties, is fulfilling his pilgrimage through the short space of time allotted to fit him for an unbounded eternity, surely some of the great and illustrious philosophers of bygone ages would have attempted to complete an allegory, the outline of which had been given in the earliest of records—the Holy Oracles. No trace, however, has as yet been found in Hebrew, Oriental, Greek, or Latin literature, of such an attempt. The honour of producing this extraordinary work, in a surprising degree of perfection, was reserved to a later age, and was conferred upon an Englishman; a man, as to human learning, unlettered, but deeply learned in the school of Christ, and profoundly skilled in all the subtleties of the human heart; upon a man connected with a denomination eminent for love of Christian liberty, and for hazardous, but resolute obedience and conformity to every institute which they found in the New Testament; and therefore everywhere spoken against, and bitterly persecuted.

This important work was destined to be accomplished by a preaching mechanic, not vainly or falsely claiming, but really possessing the true evidence of apostolic descent in spirit and in truth, as his works and afflictions fully proved; to a man, while suffering under the tyranny of Antichrist, whose judges and officers shut him up to languish in a noisome prison for twelve years and a half of the prime of his life; thus vainly attempting to bend his free, his heaven-born spirit, to submit, or pretend to submit, to what he considered to be popish and unchristian forms and ceremonies, and to compel him to conform to the church established by law; having at its head, at that time, the most debauched monarch in Europe.

He was apprehended while conducting the public worship of God, and sent to prison in Bedford jail. The indictment preferred against him was, ‘That John Bunyan, of the town of Bedford, labourer, hath devilishly and perniciously abstained from coming to church to hear Divine service, and is a common upholder of several unlawful meetings and conventicles, to the great disturbance and distraction of the good subjects of this kingdom, contrary to the laws of our sovereign lord the King.’ To which he pleaded, ‘We have had many meetings together, both to pray to God, and to exhort one another; and that we had the sweet comforting presence of the Lord among us for our encouragement; blessed be his name therefor! I confess myself guilty no otherwise.’ No witnesses were examined, but a plea of guilty was recorded; and his sentence was, ‘You must be had back again to prison, and lie there for three months following; and, at the three months’ end, if you do not submit, and go to church to hear Divine service, and leave your preaching, you must be banished the realm; and if, after such a day as shall be appointed you to be gone, you shall be found in this realm, yon must stretch by the neck for it, I tell you plainly; and so he [the justice] bid the jailer have him away.’‌1

This was soon after the restoration of Charles II., when a persecuting hierarchy having been re-in-stated in power, revived obsolete and tyrannical laws. The mechanic, or fisherman, shall not preach or teach, was the sullen, stern voice of despotic authority. But, at the imminent risk of transportation, and even of death, the pious and highly-talented mechanic, John Bunyan, persevered in instructing the peasantry who came within the reach of his voice. He was for this, and for not attending his parish church, seized and sent to Bedford jail; and, by the overruling power of his God, the means that were thus used to prevent his voice from being heard by a few poor labourers, opened to this persecuted disciple of Christ the path to honour, as well as to lasting and most extensive usefulness.

Dragged from the arms of his affectionate wife, who was brought to death’s door by painful apprehensions that his life would be sacrificed; bereaved of the company of his children, and of personal communion with the little flock of Christ to which he ministered, this holiest, most harmless, and useful of men was incarcerated in a jail, with felons and the most degraded characters. But ‘surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain,’ O Lord. Ps. 76:10. Here he finds a resting-place, with leisure time to write his far-famed allegory; here, having commended his bereaved wife and infant family to the protection of the King of kings, even in that den, with a conscience, void of offence, and full of spiritual peace, he tranquilly reposed, waiting with resignation the will of his heavenly Father. How strange a dwelling for one so highly honoured of God! how unearthly a mode of fitting him for his glorious destination, to shine as a star in the heavenly firmament, and to occupy a mansion in glory! He who thinks that happiness, or holiness, or true honour, is to be measured by temporal grandeur, makes a false estimate, and knows little of the ways of God.

‘These walls and bars cannot a prison make,

The freeborn soul enjoys its liberty;

These clods of earth it may incaptivate,

Whilst heavenly minds are conversant on high,

Ranging the fields of blessed eternity.‌2

The poor persecuted Christian was free from that mental wretchedness which cankered the souls of his persecutors; one of these, named Feckenham, whose violent conduct will be presently seen, died miserably while Bunyan was in prison;‌3‌ and the Christian inhabitants of Bedford trembled under the thought, that his wretched end was one of the just judgments of God upon persecutors. We must be, however, very careful in such conclusions. Every solemn event, in Divine providence, is not to be considered a judgment upon those who have offended God. Thus, when Charles II. said to Milton, ‘Your loss of sight is a judgment of God upon you for your sins committed against my father;’ the intrepid poet dared to answer, ‘Does your Majesty judge so? then how much greater must have been the sins of your royal father, seeing that I have only lost my sight, while he lost his eyes, and head, and all !’

Notwithstanding that Bunyan fully anticipated an ignominious death, his days were spent as happily as the prison discipline would permit. Working to provide for his family—studying his Bible—instructing his fellow-prisoners—and writing on the most important subjects—must have fully occupied every moment of his time. And it was here, in this den, that his vivid imagination conceived, and his pen wrote this wondrous Pilgrimage, under the similitude of a dream. And when it was published to the world, he by it preached, and is now preaching, not merely to a few villagers in the neighbourhood of Bedford, but is making known the glad tidings of salvation, the way of escape from the city of destruction, the pilgrim’s path to heaven, to millions of every elime.

Thus do the emissaries of Satan ever overreach themselves. So it was when the Bishop of London paid a large price for a few score of English New Testaments, to burn them. The money that Tyndale received from Tonstall enabled him to publish a new and superior edition, corrected in the translation, and which was extensively circulated. Some of these remain to this day,‌4‌ a monument to the faithfulness, the piety, and the talent of the translator, and to the folly of persecution. It led Tyndale to sing—

‘The devilish imps did strive to have

For the Holy Book a burning grave,

But all their travail was in vain,

God multiplied it quick again.

The pope and devil are scared and wondered,

Their gold burns one, but makes a hundred.’‌5

The world would probably have heard but little of John Bunyan—he might, with thousands of similar valuable characters, have remained comparatively unknown—had not the natural enmity of the human heart to the simple, but Divine truths of Christianity, excited wicked men to acts of persecution. Crafty and designing priests, under the pretence of the sole cure of souls, engrossed the patronage of the state, enjoyed exalted dignities among their fellow-men, and appropriated to themselves immense wealth. To preserve this worldly eminence, they sought to stay the onward improvement of the human mind, and the progress of Divine truth. To effect this object, they resorted to an old plan which had been often tried, and had as often eminently failed. It was the obsolete system of tyranny similar to that which cast the three Hebrew youths into the fiery furnace, Daniel into the den of lions, and had martyred thousands of God’s saints—a system opposed not only to reason and common sense, but to the operations of God in nature. It was to compel uniformity in modes of worship, and matters of faith; to bind the spirit in fetters, and to prevent those personal inquiries into religion which are so strictly enjoined in the Word of God. The mode of a sinner’s access and approach to the throne of Divine grace, was limited to the same dull round of forms and ceremonies under all circumstances; in fine, it demanded the entire prostration of the immortal mind before the claim of priestcraft to infallibility. Such a system required the support of violence and tyranny. Therefore it was enacted by law, that all should constantly attend the parish church, and go through the prescribed service, upon pain of fine, imprisonment, transportation, or death. If any benevolent person, not connected with the sect of religion taken into partnership with the state, was detected in visiting and praying with the sick, teaching the ignorant the way to heaven, comforting the distressed conscience, or converting sinners to holiness, he was doomed to imprisonment, that such useful labours might be stopped.

By this time, the Bible, which for ages had been concealed, was widely circulated among the people; education had spread abroad the means of examining those sacred pages; while a holy ministry, under the Commonwealth, had extensively sown the seeds of life. Many felt the powers of the world to come; hundreds of thousands had been taught the Assembly’s Catechism, and had sanctioned the Confession of Faith; while upwards of twenty thousand had become united in Baptist churches. Multitudes of godly men and women, of all denominations, were proving the sincerity and truth of their Christain profession by their harmless, benevolent, and pious conduct. The death of Oliver Cromwell let loose those ambitious and licentious spirits, which had been for some years kept under severe restraint. It opened the way for the restoration of the old system of extravagance, tyranny, and iniquity. Like streams long pent up, they now rolled on with resistless violence, filling their course with the tears of the virtuous, and the oaths of the profane.

The Puritans, by their simple habits of life, had secured many comforts, which excited the thirst of plunder, and the enemies of Divine truth entered with alacrity upon the work of wholesale persecution and spoliation. Among the first of those upon whom the hand of tyranny fell, was John Bunyan, a man who had determined, at all costs, to maintain his integrity. With the most inflexible devotion to his Saviour, he preferred death to hypocrisy, and would submit to no compromise with the enemies of his soul’s happiness and salvation. In the face of most imminent danger, he dared not pretend to believe that the priest could, by any ceremony, convert an infant into a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven; or that one poor feeble, sinful man had power to forgive the sins of his fellow-transgressor. He dared not conform to ceremonies which were not commanded in Holy Writ. He could not unite with a system which, in his conscience, he believed to be directly and essentially opposed to Christianity; inasmuch as it prevented free inquiry, and usurped the throne of God, in wickedly attempting, by coercive laws, to regulate or direct the mode in which the soul shall publicly worship the God of salvation. Bunyan refused obedience to laws that interfered with the sacred rights of conscience. His free immortal spirit was not to be confined by articles, creeds, and confessions made by fallible mortals. He persevered in his pious benevolent course, and the tyrants immured him in a prison. Here his God most eminently honoured and blessed him, and, by his providence and grace, consecrated him to be a guide and companion to Christian pilgrims of every country, and every age, while on their way from the city of destruction to their celestial and eternal habitation in glory.