1.1.1 Flight from the City of Destruction
From John Bunyan's classic The Pilgrim's Progress, Part I, Section 1, Step 1.
As I walk'd through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a Denn; And I laid me down in that place to sleep: And as I slept I dreamed a Dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a Man cloathed with Raggs, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own House, a Book in his hand, and a great burden upon his Back. (Isa. 64; Luke 14:33; Ps. 38:4; Hab. 2:2; Acts 16:30,31) I looked and saw him open the Book, and Read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled: and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry; saying, what shall I do?
In this plight therefore he went home, and refrained himself as long as he could, that his Wife and Children should not perceive his distress; but he could not be silent long, because that his trouble increased: wherefore at length he brake his mind to his Wife and Children; and thus he began to talk to them, O my dear Wife, said he, and you the Children of my bowels, I your dear friend am in my self undone, by reason of a burden that lieth hard upon me: moreover, I am for certain informed, that this our City will be burned with fire from Heaven, in which fearful overthrow, both my self, with thee, my Wife, and you my sweet babes, shall miserably come to ruine; except (the which, yet I see not) some way of escape can be found, whereby we may be delivered. At this his Relations were sore amazed; not for that they believed, that what he had said to them was true, but because they thought, that some frenzy distemper had got into his head: therefore, it drawing towards night, and they hoping that sleep might settle his brains, with all hast they got him to bed; but the night was as troublesome to him as the day: wherefore instead of sleeping, he spent it in sighs and tears. So when the morning was come, they would know how he did; and he told them worse and worse. He also set to talking to them again, but they began to be hardened; they also thought to drive away his distemper by harsh and surly carriages to him: sometimes they would deride, sometimes they would chide, and sometimes they would quite neglect him: wherefore he began to retire himself to his Chamber to pray for, and pity them; and also to condole his own misery: he would also walk solitarily in the Fields, sometimes reading, and sometimes praying: and thus for some days he spent his time.
Now, I saw upon a time, when he was walking in the Fields, that he was (as he was wont) 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 saw also 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 looked then, and saw a man named Evangelist coming to him, and he asked, Wherefore dost thou cry? He answered, Sir, I perceive, by the Book in my hand, that I am Condemned to die, and after that to come to Judgment (Heb. 9:27); and I find that I am not willing to do the first (Job 16:21,22), nor able to do the second (Ezek. 22:14).
Then said Evangelist, Why not willing to die? since this life is attended with so many evils? The Man answered, Because, I fear that this burden that is upon my back, will sink me lower then the Grave; and I shall fall into Tophet (Isa. 30:33). And Sir, if I be not fit to go to Prison, I am not fit (I am sure) to go to Judgement, and from thence to Execution; and the thoughts of these things make me cry.
Then said Evangelist, If this be thy condition, why standest thou still? He answered, Because I know not whither to go, Then he gave him a Parchment-Roll, and there was written within, Fly from the wrath to come (Matt. 3:7).
The Man therefore Read it, and looking upon Evangelist very carefully; said, Whither must I fly? Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide Field, Do you see yonder Wicket-gate? (Matt. 7) The Man said, No. Then said the other, Do you see yonder shining light? (Ps. 119:105; 2 Pet. 1:19.) He said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto, so shalt thou see the Gate; at which when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do.
So I saw in my Dream that the Man began to run; Now he had not run far from his own door, but his Wife and Children perceiving it, began to cry after him to return: (Luke 14:26) but the Man put his fingers in his Ears, and ran on crying, Life, life, Eternal Life: so he looked not behind him (Gen. 19:17), but fled towards the middle of the Plain.
The Neighbours also came out to see him run (Jer. 20:10), and as he ran, some mocked, others threatned; and some cried after him to return: Now among those that did so, there were two that were resolved to fetch him back by force. The name of the one was Obstinate, and the name of the other Pliable. Now by this time the Man was got a good distance from them; But however they were resolved to pursue him; which they did and in a little time they over-took him. Then said the Man, Neighbours, Wherefore are you come? They said, To perswade you to go back with us; but he said, That can by no means be: You dwell, said he, in the City of Destruction, (the place also where I was born) I see it to be so; and dying there, sooner or later, you will sink lower than the Grave, into a place that burns with Fire and Brimstone: Be content good Neighbours, and go along with me.
What! said Obstinate, and leave our Friends, and our Comforts behind us!
Yes, said Christian, (for that was his name) because that all, which you shall forsake (2 Cor. 4:18), is not worthy to be compared with a little of that that I am seeking to enjoy, and if you will go along with me, and hold it, you shall fare as I myself; for there where I go, is enough (Luke 15), and to spare; Come away, and prove my words.
Obstinate: What are the things you seek, since you leave all the world to find them?
Christian: I seek an Inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away (1 Pet. 1:4); and it is laid up in Heaven, and fast there (Heb. 11:16), to be bestowed at the time appointed, on them that diligently seek it. Read it so, if you will, in my Book.
Obstinate: Tush, said Obstinate, away with your Book; will you go back with us, or no?
Christian: No, not I, said the other; because I have laid my hand to the Plow (Luke 9:62).
Obstinate: Come then, Neighbour Pliable, let us turn again, and go home without him; there is a company of these Craz'd-headed Coxcombs, that when they take a fancy by the end, are wiser in their own eyes then seven men that can render a reason.
Pliable: Then said Pliable, Don't revile; if what the good Christian says is true, the things he looks after are better than ours; my heart inclines to go with my Neighbour.
Obstinate: What! more Fools still? be ruled by me and go back; who knows whither such a brain-sick fellow will lead you? Go back, go back, and be wise.
Christian: Come with me Neighbour Pliable, there are such things to be had which I spoke of, and many more Glories besides; If you believe not me, read here in this Book; and for the truth of what is exprest therein, behold, all is confirmed by the blood of him that made it (Heb. 13:20, 21).
Pliable: Well Neighbour Obstinate (said Pliable) I begin to come to a point; I intend to go along with this good man, and to cast in my lot with him: But my good Companion, do you know the way to this desired place?
Christian: I am directed by a man whose name is Evangelist, to speed me to a little Gate that is before us, where we shall receive instruction about the way.
Pliable: Come then, good Neighbour, let us be going: Then they went both together.
Obstinate: And I will go back to my place, said Obstinate: I will be no Companion of such mis-led, fantastical Fellows.
Now I saw in my Dream, that when Obstinate was gon back, Christian and Pliable went talking over the Plain; and thus they began their discourse,
Christian: Come Neighbour Pliable, how do you do? I am glad you are perswaded to go along with me; and had even Obstinate himself, but felt what I have felt of the Powers, and Terrours of what is yet unseen, he would not thus lightly have given us the back.
Pliable: Come Neighbour Christian, since there is none but us two here, tell me now further, what the things are, and how to be enjoyed, whither we are going.
Christian: I can better conceive of them with my Mind, than speak of them with my Tongue: But yet since you are desirous to know, I will read of them in my Book.
Pliable: And do you think that the words of your Book are certainly true?
Christian: Yes verily, for it was made by him that cannot lye (Tit. 1:2).
Pliable: Well said; what things are they?
Christian: There is an endless Kingdom to be Inhabited, and everlasting life to be given us; that we may Inhabit that Kingdom for ever (Isa. 45:17, John 10:27-29.)
Pliable: Well said, and what else?
Christian: There are Crowns of Glory to be given us; and Garments that will make us shine like the Sun in the Firmament of Heaven (2 Tim. 4:8, Rev. 3.4, Matt. 13.)
Pliable: This is excellent; And what else?
Christian: There shall be no more crying, nor sorrow; For he that is owner of the place, will wipe all tears from our eyes (Isa. 25:8. Rev. 7:16,17, 21:4).
Pliable: And what company shall we have there?
Christian: There we shall be with Seraphims, and Cherubins (Isa. 6:2, 1 Thess. 4:16,17, Rev. 5:11), Creatures that will dazle your eyes to look on them: There also you shall meet with thousands, and ten thousands that have gone before us to that place; none of them are hurtful, but loving, and holy; every one walking in the sight of God; and standing in his presence with acceptance for ever: In a word, there we shall see the Elders with their Golden Crowns (Rev. 4:4): There we shall see the Holy Virgins with their Golden Harps (Rev. 14:1-5). There we shall see Men that by the World were cut in pieces, burnt in flames, eaten of Beasts, drownded in the Seas, for the love that they bare to the Lord of the place (John 12:25) all well, and cloathed with Immortality, as with a Garment (2 Cor. 5:2,3,5).
Pliable: The hearing of this is enough to ravish ones heart; but are these things to be enjoyed? how shall we get to be Sharers hereof?
Christian: The Lord, the Governour of that Countrey, hath Recorded that in this Book (Isa. 55:12, John 7:37. 6:37, Rev. 21:6, 22:17). The substance of which is, If we be truly willing to have it, he will bestow it upon us freely.
Pliable: Well, my good Companion, glad am I to hear of these things: Come on, let us mend our pace.
Christian: I cannot go as fast as I would, by reason of this burden that is upon my back.