Pilgrim's Progress

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Pilgrim's Progress

The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come is an allegorical novel by John Bunyan. It was first published 1678.

Bunyan wrote the book while imprisoned in 1675 for violations of the Conventicle Act which punished people for conducting unauthorised religious services outside of the Church of England. An expanded edition, with additions written after Bunyan was freed, appeared in 1679.

The allegory tells of Christian, an Everyman character who must make his way from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City of Zion. During his travel, he must make his way past hazards such as the Slough of Despond, temptations like Vanity Fair, and foes like the Giant Despair. Due to the long popularity of this devotional book, many of these phrases have become proverbial in English. In a second book, his wife and children, who once denounced his ideas, follow his path to the Celestial City.

The allegory of this book has antecedents in a large number of Christian devotional works that speak of the soul's path to Heaven, from the Lyke-Wake Dirge forwards. Bunyan's allegory stands out above his predecessors because of his simple and effective, if somewhat naïve, prose style, steeped in Biblical texts and cadences. He confesses his own naïveté in the verse prologue to the book:

. . . I did not think
To shew to all the World my Pen and Ink
In such a mode; I only thought to make
I knew not what: nor did I undertake
Thereby to please my Neighbour; no not I;
I did it mine own self to gratifie.

Its explicitly Protestant theology also made it much more popular than its predecessors. Finally, Bunyan's gifts and plain style breathe life into the abstractions of the anthropomorphized temptations and abstractions Christian encounters and converses with on his course to Heaven. Samuel Johnson said that "this is the great merit of the book, that the most cultivated man cannot find anything to praise more highly, and the child knows nothing more amusing." Three years after its publication, it was reprinted in colonial America, and was widely read in the Puritan colonies.

The book was the basis of an opera by Ralph Vaughan Williams, premiered in 1951.


But now, in this Valley of Humiliation, poor Christian was hard put to it; for he had gone but a little way, before he espied a foul fiend coming over the field to meet him; his name is Apoll­yon. Then did Christian begin to be afraid, and to cast in his mind whether to go back or to stand his ground. Christian no armour for his back. But he considered again, that he had no armour for his back; and, therefore, thought that to turn the back to him might give him the greater advantage, with ease to pierce him with his darts. Therefore he resolved to venture and stand his ground; Christian's resolution at the approach of Apoll­yon. for, thought he, had I no more in mine eye than the saving of my life, it would be the best way to stand.

So he went on, and Apoll­yon met him. Now the monster was hideous to behold; he was clothed with scales, like a fish (and they are his pride), he had wings like a dragon, feet like a bear, and out of his belly came fire and smoke, and his mouth was as the mouth of a lion. When he was come up to Christian, he beheld him with a disdainful countenance, and thus began to question with him.

Apol. Whence come you? and whither are you bound?

Chr. I am come from the City of Destruction, which is the place of all evil, and am going to the City of Zion.

Apol. By this I perceive thou art one of my subjects, for all that country is mine, and I am the prince and god of it. Discourse betwixt Christian and Apoll­yon. How is it, then, that thou hast run away from thy king? Were it not that I hope thou mayest do me more service, I would strike thee now, at one blow, to the ground.

Chr. I was born, indeed, in your Dominions, but your service was hard, and your wages such as a man could not live on, 'for the wages of sin is death,' Ro. vi. 23; therefore, when I was come to years, I did as other considerate persons do, look out, if, perhaps, I might mend myself.

Apol. There is no prince that will thus lightly lose his subjects, Apoll­yon's flattery. neither will I as yet lose thee; but since thou complainest of thy service and wages, be content to go back; what our country will afford, I do here promise to give thee.

Chr. But I have let myself to another, even to the King of princes; and how can I, with fairness, go back with thee?

Apol. Thou hast done in this according to the proverb, Apoll­yon undervalues Christ's service. 'Changed a bad for a worse;' but it is ordinary for those that have professed themselves his servants, after a while to give him the slip, and return again to me. Do thou so too, and all shall be well.

Chr. I have given him my faith, and sworn my allegiance to him; how, then, can I go back from this, and not be hanged as a traitor?

Apol. Thou didst the same to me, Apoll­yon pretends to be merciful. and yet I am willing to pass by all, if now thou wilt yet turn again and go back.

Chr. What I promised thee was in my nonage; and besides, I count the Prince under whose banner now I stand is able to absolve me; yea, and to pardon also what I did as to my compliance with thee; and besides, O thou destroying Apoll­yon! to speak truth, I like his service, his wages, his servants, his government, his company, and country, better than thine; and, therefore, leave off to persuade me further; I am his servant, and I will follow him.

Apol. Consider again, when thou art in cool blood, Apoll­yon pleads the grievous ends of Christians, to dissuade Christian from persisting in his way. what thou art like to meet with in the way that thou goest. Thou knowest that, for the most part, his servants come to an ill end, because they are transgressors against me and my ways. How many of them have been put to shameful deaths! and, besides, thou countest his service better than mine, whereas he never came yet from the place where he is to deliver any that served him out of their hands; but as for me, how many times, as all the world very well knows, have I delivered, either by power or fraud, those that have faithfully served me, from him and his, though taken by them; and so I will deliver thee.

Chr. His forbearing at present to deliver them is on purpose to try their love, whether they will cleave to him to the end; and as for the ill end thou sayest they come to, that is most glorious in their account; for, for present deliverance, they do not much expect it, for they stay for their glory, and then they shall have it, when their Prince comes in his and the glory of the angels.

Apol. Thou hast already been unfaithful in thy service to him; and how doest thou think to receive wages of him?

Chr. Wherein, O Apoll­yon! have I been unfaithful to him?

Apol. Thou didst faint at first setting out, when thou wast Apoll­yon pleads Christian's infirmities against him. almost choked in the Gulf of Despond; thou didst attempt wrong ways to be rid of thy burden, whereas thou shouldest have stayed till thy Prince had taken it off; thou didst sinfully sleep, and lose thy choice thing; thou wast, also, almost persuaded to go back, at the sight of the lions; and when thou talkest of thy journey, and of what thou hast heard and seen, thou art inwardly desirous of vain-glory in all that thou sayest or doest.

Chr. All this is true, and much more which thou hast left out; but the Prince, whom I serve and honour, is merciful, and ready to forgive; but, besides, these infirmities possessed me in thy country, for there I sucked them in; and I have groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon of my Prince.

Apol. Then Apoll­yon broke out into a grievous rage, saying, Apoll­yon in a rage falls upon Christian. I am an enemy to this Prince; I hate his person, his laws, and people; I am come out on purpose to withstand thee.

Chr. Apoll­yon, beware what you do; for I am in the king's highway, the way of holiness, therefore take heed to yourself.

Apol. Then Apoll­yon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said, I am void of fear in this matter: prepare thy self to die; for I swear by my infernal den, that thou shalt go no further; here will I spill thy soul. And with that he threw a flaming dart at his breast; but Christian had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that. Then did Christian draw; for he saw it was time to bestir him: and Apoll­yon as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail; Christian wounded in his understanding, faith, and conversation. by the which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apoll­yon wounded him in his head, his hand and foot. This made Christian give a little back; Apoll­yon, therefore, followed his work amain, and Christian again took courage, and resisted as manfully as he could. This sore combat lasted for above half a day, even till Christian was almost quite spent; for you must know, that Christian, by reason of his wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.

Then Apoll­yon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up Apoll­yon casteth down to the ground the Christian. close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that, Christian's sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apoll­yon, I am sure of thee now. And with that he had almost pressed him to death; so that Christian began to despair of life: but as God would have it, while Apoll­yon was fetching of his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian's victory over Apoll­yon. Christian nimbly stretched out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying, 'Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise,' Mi. vii. 8; and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound. Christian perceiving that, made at him again, saying, 'Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.' Rom. viii. 37. And with that Apoll­yon spread forth his dragon's wings, and sped him away, that Christian for a season saw him no more. Ja. iv. 7. [1]



  1. Offor G (1859), "The works of John Bunyan", Vol 3, Blackie & Son. For download from archive.org . There is also a version with seventeenth century spelling, that is, Bunyan J (1847), "Pilgrim's Progress", Ed Offor G, Hanserd Knollys Society.


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