John Bunyan’s Immortal Dream

John Bunyan’s Immortal Dream

John Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ has been one of the world’s most famous stories. It all started with a dream. Our modern age needs more dreamers. Dreamers with vision of new horizons and better worlds.

As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den, and laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold, I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back’.’

Opening words from ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’

John Bunyan’s Bedford

Bunyan lived in this village of Elstow. One day in nearby Bedford market he heard some women talking together about their new found experience of God. Bunyan was intrigued and it was later to lead to his own discovery of God as he records in his  autobiography ‘Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners’.

.. they spake as if joy did make them speak; they spake with such pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new world,’

The 17th century Moot Hall in Elstow
The historic timber-framed ‘Moot Hall’ in Elstow. Did ‘Vanity Fair’ come from the market that was regularly held here in Bunyan’s day?

 Bunyan’s new found convictions led into a ministry of preaching in the non-conformist chapels of the area, and further afield. Soon he was arrested for un-licenced preaching and spent the years 1660-1672  in prison in Bedford and a shorter spell in 1676. It was during this later spell that he began to write a sermon. But, as he describes in his introduction to ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, he found himself writing a story instead.

 ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ became one of the most published books in the English language. It has became a part of our national cultural heritage. Children have enjoyed it as a story; scholars study it as a major work of English literature, Christian believers see their own lives reflected in the characters of its pages.

Robert Browning wrote of the book:

     “His language was not ours;
Tis my belief God spoke; no
tinker has such powers.”

Style and path up a hill
Pilgrimage involves effort, but there are grand views at the top!

A Pilgrim’s Progress

But as we read the story for ourselves we soon begin to find the story reading us. We see ourselves in the ‘Slough of Despond’, find ourselves toiling up ‘Hill Difficulty’, fearfully walking through the Valley of the Shadow’, trapped in the castle of ‘Giant Despair’ or walking through ‘Vanity Fair’. For all of us there stands the final river of life awaiting us, before we can reach the final destination.

Silhouette of man kneeling before a cross

So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up to the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble; and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.

Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said, with a merry heart,

“He hath given me rest by his sorrow,
And life by his death.
“‘

The Christian life starts there, at the cross, then the pilgrimage begins – ‘the entrance fee into the kingdom of heaven is free, but the annual subscription is all you’ve got!

Statue of John Bunyan in Bedford
Which way? – John Bunyan standing at the cross roads in Bedford – Photo by David Howard – Geograph

Dreams and Dreamers

Son of a tinker by trade, with a troubled life, Bunyan has left us with an inspired work of genius. A piece of classic English literature and a spiritual treasury. In his Introduction he urges us:

This book will make a traveller of thee
if thou by its teaching wilt instructed be.

Yes, dreamers and visionaries are a huge inspiration to others. The Bible stories are full of them. Dreams can bring hope and vision, They can help to change us and our world. When we heed them they set the bells of joy ringing in heaven.

Then I heard in my dream that all the bells in the City rang again for joy, and that it was said unto them;
“Enter into the joy of your Lord.”………..

And after that they shut the gates, which, when I had seen, I wished myself among them.

From the end of Pilgrim’s Progress -The two pilgrims arrival at the gates of the heavenly city

Thank you for visiting.

8 thoughts on “John Bunyan’s Immortal Dream

    1. Thank you for commenting, Tina. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Next time I hope to return to home territory. I have happy memories of growing up in the ‘Royal County of Berkshire’! Love to all the family. Keep safe.

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    1. It’s a book for dipping into. Always an inspiration and a challenge. He was way ahead of his time as a communicator. I have often read of famous Non-Conformists being buried in Bunhill Fields. I seem to remember you visited there in one of your posts, Mike.

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  1. I remember studying Pilgrim’s Progress in my first year at Grammar School and was required to produce an illustrated booklet which I still have. I’m sure there are few schools which have the book on their English Literature syllabus. Thank you as always for your beautifully written and informative blog about Bunyan. It has inspired me to dip into the book once again. Every blessing Sue

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    1. Thank you, Sue. What an achievement for a first year pupil! It isn’t any easy book for a first-time read. Hopefully many of your old class-mates have since returned to it with a deeper appreciation of its value. Putting ourselves into the shoes of Bunyan’s Christian brings the book to life. Do dip again and be blessed by these timeless stories.

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  2. Thanks for this interesting post Richard. I know very little about John Bunyan. I don’t think I’ve read the Pilgrim’s Progress, but I did have very strong memories of an Enid Blyton book The Land of Far Beyond, which we read as children, in which travellers carried ‘burdens’ on their backs. I bought it recently to remind myself and I understand it’s a children’s version of the Pilgrim’s Progress (I haven’t read it yet).

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    1. Thank you, Andrea. I don’t know the Enid Blyton book. Perhaps I should have a look. Bunyan’s masterpiece is not an easy read today. But it’s so worth the effort of seeing one’s self (and others!) in its characters and catching a glimpse of ‘the land far beyond’.

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