Spurgeon’s One Qualm with Pilgrim’s Progress

Charles Spurgeon loved John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. He first read the book as a young boy, and he began his commentary on the classic with these words:

“Next to the Bible, the book I value most is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times. It is a volume of which I never seem to tire; and the secret of its freshness is that it is so largely compiled from the Scriptures.”

As Spurgeon said elsewhere, he loved Bunyan because Bunyan bled Bible.

But he did have one qualm with the great book:

“I am a great lover of John Bunyan, but I do not believe him infallible; and the other day I met with a story about him which I think a very good one.

There was a young man, in Edinburgh, who wished to be a missionary. He was a wise young man; he thought—”If I am to be a missionary, there is no need for me to transport myself far away from home; I may as well be a missionary in Edinburgh.” . . .

Well, this young man started, and determined to speak to the first person he met. He met one of those old fishwives; those of us who have seen them can never forget them, they are extraordinary women indeed. So, stepping up to her, he said, “Here you are, coming along with your burden on your back; let me ask you if you have got another burden, a spiritual burden.”

“What!” she asked; “do you mean that burden in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress? Because, if you do, young man, I got rid of that many years ago, probably before you were born. But I went a better way to work than the pilgrim did. The evangelist that John Bunyan talks about was one of your parsons that do not preach the gospel; for he said, ‘Keep that light in thine eye, and run to the wicket-gate.’ Why—man alive!—that was not the place for him to run to. He should have said, ‘Do you see that cross? Run there at once!’ But, instead of that, he sent the poor pilgrim to the wicket-gate first; and much good he got by going there! He got tumbling into the slough, and was like to have been killed by it.”

“But did not you,” the young man asked, “go through any slough of Despond?”

“Yes, I did; but I found it a great deal easier going through with my burden off than with it on my back.”

The old woman was quite right. John Bunyan put the getting rid of the burden too far off from the commencement of the pilgrimage. If he meant to show what usually happens, he was right; but if he meant to show what ought to have happened, he was wrong.

We must not say to the sinner, “Now, sinner, if thou wilt besaved, go to the baptismal pool; go to the wicket-gate; go to the church; do this or that.”

No, the cross should be right in front of the wicket-gate; and we should say to the sinner, “Throw thyself down there, and thou art safe; but thou are not safe till thou canst cast off thy burden, and lie at the foot of the cross, and find peace in Jesus.””

-Charles Spurgeon, The Dumb Become Singers, 1912,

As quoted at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/10/11/spurgeons-one-qualm-with-pilgrims-progress/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+between2worlds+%28Between+Two+Worlds%29

One thought on “Spurgeon’s One Qualm with Pilgrim’s Progress

  1. That is why we see that, even Spurgeon never really understood the Gospel as John Bunyan did. I felt Mr Bunyan appreciation of the Gospel is in line with the Puritans’ teaching on preparatory work (eg. Thomas Shepard on Conviction, Compunction, Humiliation before True Saving Faith; see in The Sincere Convert and The Sound Believer). Here one may see the importance of preparatory work, as the Lord Jesus Himself taught in the parable of the four grounds. What made the fourth ground good? Which fool of a farmer would not prepare his ground before sowing his precious seed?

    Perhaps because of this, Spurgeon’s undoing is shown a little more when it comes to the salvation of infants. Spurgeon believed ALL children dying in infancy are saved. It begs many questions. (1) if children dying in infancy are saved and the elect of God, why doesn’t he baptise any infant? Would any of us dared to deny the elect of God an ordinance of the New Testament? (2) if hypothetically, children who did not die but live to a ripe old age, when does one looses his/her salvation? (3) does the act of dying saves an infant or the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ? (4) how then, is the Biblical doctrine “once saved, forever saved” be properly applied here in Surgeon’s gospel?

    Thus, when then is Abraham justified? When was the pilgrim Abraham imputed righteous before God Almighty? Was it in Genesis 12 when he had a true encounter with the True and Living God or much later on in his life? When was Jacob justified? Was it in Genesis 28 when he had his encounter with the God of his father Abraham or some twenty years later on in his life? Thus, should the Cross be at the wicket gate (Surgeon’s standard of salvation) or further down in Pilgrim’s journey (Mr Bunyan’s standard of salvation)?

    And He said unto them, Know ye not this parable? And how then will ye know all parables? (Mark 4:13)

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