COURTEOUS companions, some time since, to tell you my dream that I had of Christian the pilgrim, and of his dangerous journey towards the Celestial Country, was pleasant to me, and profitable to you. I told you then also what I saw concerning his wife and children, and how unwilling they were to go with him on pilgrimage: insomuch that he was forced to go on his progress without them; for he durst not run the danger of that destruction which he feared would come by staying with them in the city of Destruction: wherefore, as I then showed you, he left them and departed.
Now it hath so happened, through the multiplicity of business, that I have been much hindered and kept back from my wonted travels into those parts whence he went, and so could not till now obtain an opportunity to make further inquiry after whom he left behind, that I might give you an account of them. But having had some concerns that way of late, I went down again thitherward. Now, having taken up my lodgings in a wood about a mile off the place, as I slept I dreamed again.
Notes and Commentary
John Bunyan begins Part 2 of The Pilgrim’s Progress in a similar way to Part 1. He tells his story “in the similitude of a dream.” As the story opens we learn that it has been “some time since” Bunyan related his first dream “of Christian the pilgrim and of his dangerous journey toward the Celestial Country.”
Bunyan began writing Part 1 while he was imprisoned for his faith. When laws were enacted in his day by the king of England that hindered the preaching of the gospel, Bunyan continued to preach and teach. He was jailed in 1660 for being a non-conformist and spent the next 12 years in prison. While he was in prison, he continued serving the church through his writing. He wrote an autobiography called Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, where he shared his own story of how God had rescued him from his sin and eventually called him to gospel ministry. He also began shaping his experience into an allegory that would later develop into The Pilgrim’s Progress.
When Bunyan was released in 1672, he set his writing aside while he resumed his pastoral ministry to his church. But in God’s providence, his freedom was short-lived. He was imprisoned again in 1675 in a prison known in his town of Bedford as the Den where he completed The Pilgrim’s Progress (Part 1). The allegory was published soon after his second release in 1678.
Following Bunyan’s second release, he returned to his home in the village of Elstow in Bedfordshire, “about a mile off” (south of) Bedford and the jail where he had been imprisoned. It was here, in his “lodgings in a wood” where he wrote “The Second Part.” Part 2 tells the story of Christian’s wife, Christiana, and their children, as they make their way from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. It was published in 1684, “some time since” (about six years after) he published Part 1. Bunyan died in 1688 and never wrote a Part 3.
So why did Bunyan write a sequel?
Some of the reasons are the same reasons that compel authors in our day to write a sequel.
1. Bunyan was a popular preacher and author.
During the years he was first imprisoned (1660–1672), he published numerous pamphlets and five books, including Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. He became very well known, especially in his willingness to suffer for the cause of Christ.
When The Pilgrims Progress was published in 1678, it was instantly popular. A second edition was published the same year. A third edition followed in 1679 and two more in 1680. At the time of Bunyan’s death the book has gone through 13 editions, selling over 100,000 copies. It became the most widely read book in the English language apart from the Bible. It and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs could be found in most homes. Bunyan went on to write at least 60 books.
2. Many were counterfeiting Bunyan’s work and writing their own continuations.
Bunyan was a popular author and so there was a demand for more. Some tried to profit from Bunyan’s success and write their own versions and sequels to The Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan refers to these in his introductory poem to Part 2:
“‘Tis true, some have, of late, to counterfeit
My Pilgrim, to their own my title set;
Yea, others half my name, and title too,
Have stitched to their books, to make them do.”
“But yet they, by their features, do declare
Themselves not mine to be, whose’er they are.
If such thou meet’st with, then thine only way
Before them all, is, to say out thy say”
These counterfeit works proved to be inferior, both in their prose and theology. Bunyan desired to set the record straight by writing his own sequel.
3. Bunyan had more that he wanted to say.
His first idea for a sequel was published in 1680. It was called: The Life and Death of Mr. Badman; Presented to the World in a Familiar Dialogue Between Mr. Wiseman and Mr. Attentive. It was written as a companion book to The Pilgrim’s Progress to show the end of those who remained in their sin at death.
The book was good, but it was never received as “the sequel.” It went a different direction and left some important questions unanswered. The questions that Bunyan’s readers wanted him to address were: What happened to Christian’s family? What about his wife and his four sons who stayed behind in the City of Destruction? Did they perish? Did they escape! Tell us more!
As Bunyan gained more readers and critics, their unanswered questions and criticisms compelled him to write the real sequel to the story. For Part 2 he had three main goals in mind as a writer and pastor.
1. Emphasize the importance of the family and bringing the gospel to our children. Part 1 focused more on the experience of the individual soul in salvation and sanctification.
2. Emphasize the importance of the church and how the family serves in and benefits from the ministry of a local church. Bunyan highlighted the significance of the church in Part 1 with Palace Beautiful (for the new believer) and the Delectable Mountains (for the more mature believer). In Part 2 he focuses on the journeying together in the fellowship of the church.
3. Emphasize more the joys and comforts of gospel. Some of Bunyan’s critics thought he focused too much on the dangers and warnings of Christian’s “dangerous journey” in Part 1. They argued that it was too dark and too filled with peril. In Part 2 Bunyan highlights more of the help and encouragement God gives us on the journey, especially as we journey together and benefit from the ministry of the church.
I invite you to read through Part 2 of The Pilgrim’s Progress with me as I offer my thoughts and commentary along the way. If you enjoyed Part 1, you will find Part 2 just as rich and profitable. These posts will seek to draw out a small portion of Bunyan’s insights and hopefully encourage you to search after more.
The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain.
Notes and Commentary for Part 2 ©2014, 2021 Ken Puls
You can follow the journey of Christiana and her children by following my blog. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter, or join my Pilgrim’s Progress reading group on MeWe.
You can read earlier posts from The Pilgrim’s Progress by searching the Table of Contents.