CHRISTIAN FLEES FROM THE CITY OF DESTRUCTION
John Bunyan AS I walked through the wilderness of this world, I came upon a certain place where there was a den;1 and I lay down in that place to sleep; and as I slept I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a man clothed in rags standing in a certain place, with his face [turned away] from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden on his back. I looked and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled: and not being able to contain himself any longer, he broke out with a lamentable cry, saying, “What shall I do?”[sgmb id=”1″] Therefore in this plight he went home, and restrained himself as long as he could, so that his wife and children would not notice his distress. But he could not be silent long for the reason that his trouble increased. Therefore at length he broke his mind to his wife and children; and thus he began to talk to them. “Oh my dear wife,” he said, “and you the children of my bowels [deepest affections], I your dear friend am myself undone [crushed], by reason of a burden that weighs heavily upon me: moreover, I am certainly informed that this our city will be burned with fire from Heaven, in which fearful overthrow, both myself, with you my wife and sweet babes, shall come to a miserable ruin, except (which alternative is not apparent) some way of escape can be found, whereby we may be delivered.” At this these close relatives of his were greatly amazed. It was not that they believed to be true what he said to them, but rather because they thought that some frenzy distemper [disorientating disease] had got into his head. Consequently, with the night approaching, and with the hope that sleep might settle his brains, they got him to bed with all haste. However instead of sleeping, he spent that evening in sighs and tears. So when the morning was come, they enquired as to how he was feeling, and he told them, “Worse and worse.” He also intended to talk to them again, but they began to firmly resist him. They also contrived to drive away his demented frame of mind by means of surly carriages toward him [responding with contemptuous and irritating behavior]. Sometimes they would deride, sometimes they would chide, and at other times they would quite neglect him.4 Therefore he began to retire to his bedroom to pray for and pity them, and also condole [lament] over his misery. He would also walk alone in the nearby fields, sometimes reading and sometimes praying; and so for some days he spent his time in this manner. Now I noticed on a particular occasion, when he was walking in the fields, that he was (according to his habit) reading in his book, and greatly distressed in his mind; and as he read, he burst out, as he had done before, crying, “What shall I do to be saved?” I also saw that he looked this way and that way, as if he would run; yet he stood still because, as I perceived, he could not tell which way to go. I then looked and saw a man named Evangelist coming to him who asked, “For what reason are you crying?” He answered, “Sir, I understand by the book in my hand that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to judgment; and I find that I am not willing to do the first, nor able to do the second.” Then said Evangelist, “Why are you not willing to die since this life is accompanied with so many evils?” The man answered, “Because I fear that this burden that is upon my back will sink me lower than the grave; and I shall fall into Tophet [a place of burning]. And sir, if I am not fit to go to prison, I am quite sure I am not fit to go to judgment, and as a consequence to execution; and the thoughts of these things make me cry.” Then said Evangelist, “If this is your condition, then why are you standing still?” He answered, “Because I do not know which way to go.” Then Evangelist gave him a parchment scroll11 on which was written within, “Fly from the wrath to come.” Therefore the man read the scroll, and looking upon Evangelist very carefully, said, “Which way must I go to escape?” Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger beyond a very large field, “Do you see a Wicket-gate [small gate] over there?” The man replied, “No.” Then he was asked, “Do you see a shining light14 not quite so far away?” He said, “I think I do.” Then said Evangelist, “Keep that light before your eye, and go directly toward it, and then you shall see the gate,15 at which, when you knock, you will be told what you are to do.” So I saw in my dream that the man began to run. Now he had not run far from his own door when his wife and children, perceiving his departure, began to cry out to him so that he might return. But the man put his fingers in his ears and ran on crying, “Life, life, eternal life.” So he did not look behind him, but rather fled toward the middle of the plain..
CHRISTIAN IS PURSUED BY OBSTINATE AND PLIABLE
THE neighbors also came out to see him run;15 and as he ran, some mocked, others threatened; and some cried for him to return. Now among those that did so, there were two that were determined to fetch him back by force. The name of one was Obstinate, and the name of the other was Pliable. Now by this time the man was a good distance ahead of them; however they were resolved to pursue him, and this they did and in a little while overtook him. Then said the man [Christian], “Neighbors, why have you come after me?” They said, “To persuade you to go back with us.” But he said, “That can by no means be. You dwell in the City of Destruction, (the place where I also was born) as it appears, and dying there sooner or later, you will sink lower than the grave, into a place that burns with fire and brimstone.16 Be more content good neighbors, and go along with me.” OBSTINATE: What! And leave our friends and our comforts behind us! CHRISTIAN: Yes (now claiming the pilgrim name of Christian), because all of that which you cling to, and should forsake, is not worthy to be compared with a little of that which I am seeking to enjoy;18 and if you will go along with me and persevere, you shall obtain even as I myself; for where I go there is more than enough to spare.19 So come away with me and prove my words. OBSTINATE: What are the things that you seek, since you leave all of the world to find them? CHRISTIAN: I seek an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and does not fade away; and it is laid up in Heaven, being secure there,21 ready to be bestowed at the appointed time upon those that diligently seek it. Read about it, if you will, in my book. OBSTINATE: Tush [nonsense], put away your foolish book. Tell me whether you will return with us or not. CHRISTIAN: No, not for a moment, because I have laid my hand to the plough [and will not look back]. OBSTINATE: Come then, neighbor Pliable, let us turn about and go home without him. He represents those crazy-headed coxcombs [pompous and silly strutting cocks] who, when possessed by some blind passion, are wiser in their own eyes than seven men who can offer a reason. PLIABLE: Perhaps you are right. But don’t be so critical; if what good Christian says is true, then the things that he seeks after are better than ours; my heart is inclined to go with my neighbor. OBSTINATE: What! Are there more fools than one? Be ruled by me and go back. Who knows where such a brain-sick fellow will lead you? I insist, go back, go back, and be wise. CHRISTIAN: Come with me neighbor Pliable. There are such things to be had which I spoke of, and many more glories besides. If you do not believe me, then read here in my book; for assuredly the truth of what is expressed in these pages has been fully confirmed by the blood of he who wrote it.25 PLIABLE: Well neighbor Obstinate, I begin to come to a point [of decision]. I intend to go along with this good man, and throw in my lot with him. But, my good companion, do you know the way to this desirable place? . CHRISTIAN: I have been directed by a man whose name is Evangelist, to hasten toward a little gate that is before us, where we will receive further instruction about the way ahead. PLIABLE: Come then, my good neighbor, let us be on our way. So both of them went on together. OBSTINATE: And I will go back to my own place. I will be no companion of such misled, fantastical [eccentric] fellows. Obstinate
CHRISTIAN AND PLIABLE CONVERSE ALONG THE WAY
NOW I saw in my dream that when Obstinate had turned back, Christian and Pliable talked as they went ahead over the plain; and thus they entered into earnest conversation. CHRISTIAN: Now tell me, neighbor Pliable; how are you getting along? I am glad you were persuaded to come along with
- Had even Obstinate felt what I have sensed concerning the
powers and terrors of the world to come that are presently unseen, he would not have so lightly turned his back upon us. PLIABLE: Then good neighbor Christian, since there are only the two of us here, do tell me further of the things that are ahead, what they are like, how they will be enjoyed, and where we are going. CHRISTIAN: I can better appreciate them with my mind than with my tongue. Nevertheless, since you are eager to know, I will describe them to you from my book. PLIABLE: And do you believe that the words of your book are certainly true? CHRISTIAN: Yes, definitely so, for it was written by he who cannot possibly lie. PLIABLE: Well said; tell me, what things are they? CHRISTIAN: There is an endless kingdom [Celestial City] to be inhabited, and everlasting life to be given to us so that we may inhabit that kingdom forever. PLIABLE: Again, well said; but tell me still more. CHRISTIAN: There are crowns of glory to be given to us, and garments that will make us shine like the sun in the firmament of Heaven. PLIABLE: This is excellent. What further details are there? THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS CHRISTIAN: There will be no more crying or sorrow; for he who is the owner of that place will wipe all tears from our eyes. PLIABLE: And what company shall we have there? CHRISTIAN: There we shall be with the seraphim and cherubim, creatures that will dazzle your eyes to look on them. There also you shall meet with the thousands and ten thousands that have traveled ahead of us to that place; none of them are unkind, but rather loving and holy, everyone walking in the sight of God and standing in his presence with everlasting acceptance. In a word, there we shall see the elders with their golden crowns; there we shall see the holy virgins with their golden harps. There we shall see men who were, by this present world, cut in pieces, burnt in flames, eaten by beasts, drowned in the sea, because of the love that they maintained for the Lord of the place, all well, and clothed with the garment of immortality. PLIABLE: The hearing of this is enough to ravish a person’s heart. But how shall we be able to enjoy and share in these things? CHRISTIAN: The Lord, the governor of that country, has recorded in this book that, in essence, if we are truly willing to have them, he will bestow them upon us freely. PLIABLE: Well, my good companion, I am glad to hear of these things; so come on, let us mend our pace [travel more rapidly]. CHRISTIAN: But I cannot go as fast as I would like on account of this burden that is on my back.
CHRISTIAN AND PLIABLE CONFRONT
THE SLOUGH OF DESPOND
NOW I saw in my dream that just as they had ended this talk, they drew near to a very miry slough [filthy quagmire] that was in the middle of the plain. And not watching where they were going, they both suddenly fell into the bog. The name of the Slough was Despond. Here therefore they wallowed for some time, being shamefully bedaubed with the dirt; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink into the mire. Then Pliable spoke: PLIABLE: Ah, neighbor Christian, where are you now? CHRISTIAN: To be sure, I do not know. PLIABLE: (Offended and angry) Is this the happiness you have told me about as we have traveled? If we have such a halting [crippling] disaster at this early stage, then what may we expect from now on till the end of our journey? If I escape out of this with my life, you shall possess the brave country alone for me. Hence Pliable, making several toilsome attempts, eventually struggled out of the mire on that side of the Slough which was closest to his own house. So he went back and Christian saw him no more. Therefore Christian was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone. But he still endeavored to struggle to that side of the Slough that was further from his own house and closer to the Wicket-gate. And this he did, yet he was unable to get out because of the burden that was upon his back. However, I [Bunyan] saw in my dream that a man came to him named Help, and he asked Christian, “What are you doing here?” CHRISTIAN: Sir, I was advised to go this way by a man named Evangelist, and he directed me toward the Wicket-gate ahead so that I might escape from the wrath to come. But as I was pressing forward, I fell in here. HELP: But why did you not look for the steps43 across the mire? CHRISTIAN: I was so fearful in my escape that I missed the safe way across the mire and fell in. HELP: Then give me your hand. So Christian stretched out his hand, and Help44 lifted him out of the mire and set him on solid ground; then the pilgrim was exhorted to be on his way toward the Wicket-gate ahead. Then I [Bunyan] approached the person who lifted him out and said, “Sir, since the way from the City of Destruction to the Wicket-gate ahead runs directly through this place, why is it that this plat [low-lying piece of land] is not repaired so that travelers might pass through with greater safety?” And he said to me, “This miry Slough is peculiar in that it cannot be mended. Being low-lying it attracts a continuous stream of scum and filth that is associated with conviction of sin; for this reason it is called the Slough of Despond. As the traveling sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there arise in his soul many fears, doubts, and discouraging perceptions concerning himself; then all of these accumulate and pile up in this place. And so this is the reason for the badness of this ground.” “It is not the pleasure of the King45 that this place should remain in such a bad condition. For this reason His laborers have, according to the direction of His Majesty’s surveyors, been employed for sixteen [now over nineteen] hundred years in attempting to mend this piece of ground. Yes, to the best of my knowledge, this location has swallowed up at least twenty thousand cart-loads, that is millions of wholesome instructions that have, at all seasons, been brought from all regions of the King’s dominions. And those that know from experience say that there is no better material for making the ground solid here. This being so, it might well have been mended, but it remains the Slough of Despond still, and so it shall be when they have done what they can.” “It is true, according to the directive of the Law-giver, that a number of reliable and solid steps46 have been placed through the very middle of the Slough. But at such a time as this when so much filth spews forth, as is the case during periods of changeable weather, these steps are hardly visible. And even if they are noticed, yet on account of guilt-induced dizziness, their feet miss the steps. So they are thoroughly bemired, notwithstanding that the steps are there. However, the ground does prove to be good [firm] once they enter in at the Gate.” Now I [Bunyan] saw in my dream that by this time, Pliable had arrived back at his house. So his neighbors came to visit him, and some of them called him wise on account of his return to his home; some called him a fool for endangering himself with Christian’s company. But others mocked his cowardliness, saying, “Surely since you commenced your adventure, I would not have been so fainthearted as to give in for a few difficulties.” So Pliable sat cringing in their midst. But at last he regained his confidence so that his neighbors then turned their attention toward deriding poor Christian behind his back. However, that is enough concerning Pliable. …to be continued
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