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The Burden Falls
March 22, 2012
Today we continue with reading John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and we have come to the third stage of Christian’s journey. Just to do something a little bit different, I decided to listen to it while reading it, and quite enjoyed doing it that way. It seemed to help with my overall comprehension. Plus, the person reading is really, really good at her job.
This stage of the journey gets off to a great start with the account of Christian finally losing his burden.
He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with 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.
I guess that is an experience every Christian knows, of looking to the cross and feeling that burden fall. There was no more to it than that; he simply looked to Christ and was transformed. But, of course, this does not mark the end of the journey—not by a long shot. Christian is immediately given certain items to take with him on his journey—assurance that his sins are forgiven, new clothing, a mark on his forehead, and a scroll—and then he travels on.
I loved to read of Christian sleeping in the daytime and the trouble that it brought him. Somehow there was comfort there in seeing him sleep and hurry on and have to travel back. And I love reading of his distress, that he had had to repeat so much of his journey because of falling asleep. That all sounded strangely and uncomfortably familiar.
And, of course, it was great to read of him passing between the lions. It was only in looking back that he was able to see that the lions were chained. During the midst of his trial it appeared as if they would consume him and it was only by staying in the middle of the straight and narrow path that he was able to avoid them. But when he did that, the lions could only wave their paws in the air and make a lot of loud roaring; there was nothing they could do to hurt him. I love how Bunyan has Christian pass through the trial feeling as if it will bring him death, only to let us know that Christian was safe the whole time.
I have a question about Piety, Prudence and Charity that perhaps you can answer. Are these characters meant to point to the growth of godly character within Christian? In other words, is Piety proof that Christian is growing in piety and Prudence proof that he has developed prudence? I think I understand their part in the narrative, but I’m not entirely sure what it is that they represent.
Those are just a very few reflections on a powerful chapter; much more could be said, of course, and I’m hoping that others of you will reflect on some of what remains.
For next Thursday please read (or listen to) stage four. You may want to consult the CCEL version if the version you are reading has a different chapter breakdown.
The purpose of this program is to read these books together. If you have something to say, whether a comment or criticism or question, feel free to use the comment section for that purpose.