John Bunyan lived through tumultuous times in the 17th Century during which he endured a 12-year sojourn in Bedford County jail. Imprisoned for his faith or, as the charge sheet read, “For perniciously abstaining from Divine Service and for holding unlawful meetings.” Bunyan used the time to write. Of his many works, by far the most well known is his grand allegory entitled “Pilgrim’s Progress,” in which first Christian and later his wife Christiana and their four children journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. It has been claimed that only the Bible has enjoyed a wider readership. Pilgrim's Progress has been translated into 200 languages and has never been out of print.
During his pilgrimage, Christian meets with various characters whose speech and actions accord with their names.
Of particular note are the various discourses between Christian and his traveling companions from which a golden vein of sound Gospel truth emerges. Bunyan himself comments at the end of the first part:
What of my dross thou findest here, be bold
To throw away, but yet preserve the gold.
What if my gold be wrapped in ore?
None throws away the apple for the core.
Here is an excerpt in which Hopeful tells of his conversion:
Hopeful: If a man runs a hundred pounds into the shopkeeper’s debt, and after this shall pay for all that he shall fetch; yet if his old debt stands still in the book uncrossed, the shopkeeper may sue him for it, and cast him in prison till he shall pay the debt.
Christian: Well and how did you apply this to yourself?
Hopeful: Why, I thought thus with myself: I have by my sins, run a great way into God’s book, and my now reforming will not pay off that score; therefore I should think still, under all my present amendments, but how shall I be freed from that damnation that I brought myself in danger of by my former transgressions?
Christian: A very good application: but pray go on.
Hopeful: Another thing that hath troubled me ever since my late amendment is, that if I look narrowly into the best of what I do now, I still see sin, new sin, mixing itself with the best that I can do; so that now I am forced to conclude, that, notwithstanding my former fond conceits of myself and duties, I have committed enough sin in one day to send me to hell though my former life had been faultless.
Christian: And what did you then?
Hopeful: Do! I could not tell what to do, until I broke my mind to Faithful, for he and I were well acquainted. And he told me that unless I could obtain the righteousness of a man who had never sinned, neither mine own nor all the righteousness of the world could save me.
Christian: And did you think he spake true?
Hopeful: Had he told me when I was pleased and satisfied with mine own amendments, I had called him a fool for his pains; but now since I see mine own infirmity, and the sin which cleaves to my best performance, I have been forced to be of his opinion.
Christian: But did you think that when he first suggested it to you that there was such a man to be found, of whom it might justly be said that he never committed sin?
Hopeful: I must confess that the words at first sounded strangely; but after a little more talk and company with him, I had full conviction of it.
Christian: And did you ask him what man this was, and how you must be justified by him? (Rom. iv; Col. i; Heb. x,; 2 Pet. i)
Hopeful: Yes, and he told me it was the Lord Jesus, that dwelleth on the right hand of the Most High: and thus, said he. You must be justified by Him, even by trusting to what he hath done by Himself in the days of His flesh, and suffered when He did hang on the tree. I asked him further, how this man’s righteousness could be of such efficacy as to justify another before God. And he told me that He was the mighty God, and He did what he did, and died the death also, not for Himself but for me, to whom His doings, and the worthiness of them should be imputed, if I believed on Him.