Book Review: Pilgrim’s Progress

What can be said about this allegorical tale written in the late 1600’s by John Bunyan that hasn’t already been said?  Pilgrims Progress has been regarded as one of the most significant works of religious literature second only to the Bible.  Bunyan’s compelling tale of Christian and his pursuit of of reaching the Celestial City has been translated into more than 200 languages, and some 400 years later still remains in print.

The Pilgrim's ProgresIn this story we find a very troubled man named Christian weighed down by a great burden which we come to discover is the knowledge of his sin, after he read the Bible.  Seeking to be set free from his burden he encounters a man named Evangelist who tells him about the City of Destruction and beckons him to go out to the Wicket Gate where he will be relieved of his burden.  Christian is then sent on a quest to find rest in the Celestial City.

Crossway Publishing has recently released a revised edition of this classical work and I want to spend the majority of this review covering what Crossway brings to this beloved story.  If you have ever tried to read the free editions of Pilgrims Progress available online, you may discover that old English just isn’t your thing. If that’s the case, then you will be pleasantly pleased with the updated language from the editor C. J. Lovik.

The highlight of the Crossway edition of the book however comes in the illustrations.  The deluxe edition has 40 full page color illustrations by the award-winning illustrator Mike Wimmer that help bring this story to life for the reader.  They look great in the ebook edition but you really see the detail and color come to life in the printed edition.  If you’re a digital reader, this is one book you will likely consider buying in print.

The second best feature of this edition is the many footnotes along the way that help the reader understand the biblical principles behind this story.  A great example is Christian’s first question to Evangelist when he learns about the City of Destruction and the fate awaiting all who live there.  Christian asks “What shall I do?”

pilgrims-progress-18The footnotes explain to the reader “This question now flowers into the only question that can successfully launch his journey, “What shall I do to be saved?”  This question is predicated by his impending sense of danger, his humbled posture under the burden of sin, and his deep desire to receive guidance that will result in both deliverance and peace. If he seeks God’s face, it is a muted desire, temporarily overshadowed by his preoccupation with the tragic condition that fills his consciousness with fear and dread.”

The addition of the footnotes could be a great aid for a Bible study or a great tool to help children to understand the Gospel behind the story of Christian and his quest for the Celestial city.  Another great feature of the footnotes is a helpful look at the history of John Bunyan’s life.

Pilgrims Progress is a must read book for everyone.  There is something there for both the believer and the non believer.  The story of Christian is one that captivates the heart and leaves you anticipating what happens next at every turn of events. This has been a favorite story of mine for several years. Last year at bedtime I would read a chapter a night to my boys and they were captivated and couldn’t wait until bedtime the next time to find out what happened next on Christian’s journey.

Anyone who is serious about their faith should read this book. It is a book that is encouraging, challenging, and saturated with the Gospel. It reminds of that we are called to stay on the narrow road, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, and not to be taken away by the things of this world.

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