66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2000
"The Works of John Bunyan", edited by George Offor
This review intends to inform readers of the contents of these three volumes so they may buy these books without the risk of guessing. Fortunately for me I guessed correctly!
To answer your first question, reader: Yes, "Pilgrim's Progress" IS INCLUDED in volume 3! Part I, Christian's journey, begins on page 89 after an 88 page introduction by the editor. Part II, Christiana's journey begins on page 168. And part III, The Life and Death of Mr. Badman, begins later in the volume on page 586. All parts are included. (Note that the latter is not commonly included as a part of "Pilgrim's Progress" in most books.)
Having said the above, if you are *only* looking for "Pilgrim's Progress", especially parts I and II, then these collected works are not for you. These books are physically HEAVY to hold, much too heavy for comfortable reading; you will need a stand, table or desk to avoid cramping your hands while reading.
The print, while quite legible, is small; some sections seem 6pt or smaller, especially the footnotes. As is common with many reprints of early editions, a few letters per page are faint, and a few have slight blotches such as a filled "e" center or a slightly thicker "t" crossbar, etc. As mentioned before, the print is still quite legible; if you are looking for the collected works please do not let the print deter you!
The sturdy binding and covers on the volumes handles the unexpectedly heavy contents well. I suppose the dimensions are roughly 9x7x1.125".
The copyright information says "Reprinted from the edition of 1854 published by W.G Blackie and Son, Glasgow". Reprints from the middle of the 19th century somehow seem appropriate for the writings of Bunyan; it gives one a feeling of history. And I *DO* love old books!
The editor describes the difficulty of obtaining 1st edition prints of Bunyan, especially since most editions were cheaply and badly printed "for the poor". Another interesting editorial comment is that Bunyan was somewhat of a misogynist.
As expected from a 1854 reprint, there are many woodcuts throughout the volumes, and they are excellent.
The 19th century compiler and editor, George Offor, supplies many footnotes. The footnotes, especially in the "Pilgrim's Progress", are often of a devotional nature such as "Take heed reader!", etc. But there are also many other footnotes clarifying rare words, doctrinal points, cross references, circumstances of writing, etc. Many of the footnotes have initials next to them, presumably indicating selected editorial comments of other commentators. (I was unable to find a clear list relating the initials to full names.)
Volumes I & II are entitled "Experimental, Doctrinal and Practical". Volume III is titled "Allegorical, Figurative and Symbolical".
To help you decide for yourself whether to purchase these books, here are the contents:
Volume I: "Experimental, Doctrinal And Practical" (771 pages)
- Grace Abounding To The Chief Of Sinners (his personal testimony)
- Bunyan's Prison Meditations
- The Jerusalem Sinner Saved
- The Greatness Of The Soul
- The Work Of Jesus Christ As An Advocate
- Christ: A Complete Saviour
- Come And Welcome To Jesus Christ
- Of Justification By An Imputed Righteousness
- Saved By Grace
- The Strait Gate
- Light For Them That Sit In Darkness
- A Treatise On The Fear Of God
- The Doctrine Of The Law And Grace Unfolded
- Israel's Hope Encouraged
- A Discourse Touching Prayer
- The Saint's Privilege And Profit
- The Acceptable Sacrifice
- Paul's Departure And Crown
- The Desire Of The Righteous Granted
Volume II: "Experimental, Doctrinal And Practical" (758 pages)
- The Saints' Knowledge Of Christ's Love
- Of Antichrist And His Ruin
- The Resurrection Of The Dead, And Eternal Judgement
- Some Gospel Truths Opened According To The Scriptures
- A Vindication Of Gospel Truths Opened According To The Scriptures
- A Discourse On The Pharisee And The Publican
- A Defence Of The Doctrine Of Justification By Faith In Jesus Christ
- Reprobation Asserted
- Questions About The Nature And Perpetuity Of The Seventh-Day Sabbath
- Of The Trinity And A Christian
- Of The Law And A Christian
- Scriptural Poems
- An Exposition On The First Ten Chapters Of Genesis
- A Holy Life: The Beauty Of Christianity
- Christian Behaviour
- A Caution To Stir Up To Watch Against Sin
- A Discourse Of The Building, NaTure, Excellecy, And Government Of The House Of God
- Bunyan On The Terms Of Communion, And Fellowship Of Christians, At The Table Of The Lord
- A Confession Of My Faith, And A Reason Of My Practice
- Differences In Judgement About Water Baptism No Bar To Communion
- Peaceable Principles And True
- On The Love Of Christ
- A Case Of Conscience Resolved
- John Bunyan's Catechism (called "Instruction For The Ignorant")
- Seasonable Counsel
- An Exhortation To Peace And Unity
- Bunyan's Last Sermon
Volume III: "Allegorical, Figurative And Symbolical" (790 pages)
(Note: the first 88 pages of this volume, called chapters I-IX, comprise an introduction written by the editor describing the writing of "Pilgrim's Progress" itself. That which you and I know as "Pilgrim's Progress", the journey of Christian begins on page 89 and is labeled "First Part" in the volume's table of contents. The "Second Part", the story of Christiana, begins on page 168. The third part appears later in the volume, beginning on page 586, and is labeled as "The Life And Death Of Mr. Badman.")
The editor writes the following introduction:
- The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come
- Chapter I: Life A Pilgrimage ...
- Chapter II: ... having been written in prison ...
- Chapter III: Bunyan's Extraordinary Qualifications To Write The Progress
- Chapter IV: Bunyan's release from jail ...
- Chapter V: The inquiry "Was Bunyan assisted in writing?" ... No.
- Chapter VI: A bibliographical account of the Progress' editions ...
- Chapter VII: An account of the versions, commentaries, ...
- Chapter VIII:The opinions of learned men ...
- Chapter IX: Obervations upon ... some prominent parts
- First Part (this is the actual "Pilgrim's Progress")
- Second Part
- The Holy War Made By Shaddai Upon Diabolus, For The Regaining Of The Metropolis Of The World
- The Heavenly Footman
- The Holy City (Or "The New Jerusalem")
- Solomon's Temple Spiritualized
- Discourse On The House Of The Forest Of Lebanon
- The Water Of Life
- The Barren Fig-Tree
- The Life And Death Of Mr. Badman (This May Be Considered The Third Part Of The "Pilgrim's Progress")
- A Few Sighs From Hell
- One Thing Is Needful
- Ebal And Gerizim
- A Book For Boys And Girls
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2014
This is one of the best sets—maybe the best one of all that a student of the Bible can own. I have read a good chunk of what’s in it. I have room to squeeze in my reviews of three of John Bunyan’s treatises.
Not only is reprobation not believed among certain Christian groups today. But some of these groups eschew even the use of the word. This is good enough reason to turn to a master such as Bunyan was. Good old John Bunyan could exposit difficult texts of Scripture as well as anybody could. Those who know him only by his Pilgrim’s Progress will be surprised to learn that he was not a novelist, but a theologian ‘of the first water,’ as they say.
Bunyan begins by proving the fact of reprobation from the Bible. He does not belabor this, for “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (p. 337.) Is that not smart? He references copiously enough later into his work, though, whenever he feels the need. After proving the fact of the matter from Scripture, he proves reprobation’s existence by inferring it from the doctrine of election. “From the very word election, it followeth unavoidably…that therefore some are thence excluded” (p. 337.) This common sense inference, because it’s so obvious, goes to show how averse some persons are to some doctrines just because they are harder to accept than others. If God has ordained from eternity some persons to everlasting life, then it follows that he must have determined from eternity to pass others by. This passing by is the doctrine of reprobation.
But things get more intricate. There is a temporary visible reprobation. This means that some persons have a reprobate mind and act wickedly; but they may yet become visible saints by crying for mercy and finding grace. And there is an eternal invisible reprobation. This is Bunyan’s subject per se. This means that there are some persons who are left out of God’s election. These are those “that pass through this wicked world without the saving grace of God’s elect” (p. 337.)
This reprobation happens before a person is born, which proposition is proven true in Romans 11 by the case of Esau as compared to that of Jacob. Reprobation is proven to be as ancient as election in the following way. Since the elect were chosen before the foundation of the world, “these rest therefore must needs be of as ancient standing under reprobation” (p. 339.) That is another obvious inference.
The cause of reprobation is God, who is without beginning, from whom all things and causes have their rise (p. 339.) “It was impossible that any should be reprobate, before God had both willed and decreed it should be so” (p. 340.) It is the exercise of sovereignty that produces reprobation. God has a sovereign right to exercise wrath as well as mercy.
Many have wrung the word of God this way and that to avoid this grim doctrine, says Bunyan. But reprobation cannot be undone, being decreed and established. Verses like the following are adduced to show this: “Hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23.19.) Not only would it prove weakness in the decree if it were altered, “but monstrousness in the body [the Church], if after this [the decree], any appointed should miscarry, or any besides be added to them” (p. 341.) A divine decree is so precise as to determine all graces and gifts bestowed upon God’s elect members according to an eternal purpose.
Since this doctrine of reprobation might seem to implicate God in something less than innocent, Bunyan vindicates God in a variety of instances. Wisely, in the midst of it all, he accentuates the fact that God is not answerable to us, and that he alone knows entirely how reprobation is innocently done. “You shall see in that day…how clear the Lord will shew himself of having any working hand in that which causeth eternal ruin…though none herein can see his way…he alone knows how to do it” (p. 341.)
The principal argument used in the attempt to vindicate involves a theological distinction between sovereignty and justice. God reprobates from sovereignty. He condemns from justice. “For a man to be not elect, and to be condemned to hell-fire, is two things” (p. 345.) Other than for the reason of hating the fact that God reprobates at all, those who balk at the doctrine do so on account of not making this distinction that Bunyan emphasizes.
Those who deny or distort the teachings of election and reprobation are anxious about how the doctrines might undermine the preaching of the gospel, or the receiving of it by those preached to. First, “The gospel must be preached to sinners as they are sinners, without distinction of elect or reprobate” (p. 349.) Second, if this doctrine of reprobation be any hindrance to man seeking salvation, it comes upon him from the means of the fall, not by the simple act of eternal reprobation (p. 347.) The obstacle is sin.
There are a few distinctions that Bunyan makes near the end that I am not able to square with Scripture or with what he states in the previous part of his treatise. Some further explanation of these might have convinced me. Though Reprobation Asserted is not as ‘promiscuously handled’ as the subtitle promises, its basic points, I think, are unassailable. Far from believing or ascribing to a doctrine of reprobation, the majority of Christians do not know what it is or even that there is one; many more who suspect one, or have heard of it, deny not only it but the doctrine of election too. Some use clever obfuscation to avoid the topic. For instance, ‘the Bible Answer Man’ limits election to Jesus Christ, whom he calls ‘the elect one.’ He means that Jesus was elected to be Saviour and Lord, which is true. This man thinks that focusing on Jesus alone where election is concerned, should stop every mouth from asking questions about election as it pertains to man. He thinks that this maneuver clears him of his responsibility to address the subject. His tactic is nothing but sophism driven by fear. How many evangelical Christian scholars and teachers are there who pervert the word so they can dodge these teachings of election and reprobation, and who verbally denounce and condemn those who embrace them as truth, which they undoubtedly are? Such people attack and slander brothers; the greater sin is that they push away the parts of God’s word that they find unpleasant. “Shall God the only wise, be arraigned at the bar of thy blind reason, and there be judged and condemned for his acts done in eternity?” (p. 345.)
Bunyan lets God be God while he lets every man be a sinner. This is why his help should be sought when laboring to understand subjects that are controversial among Christians. You get no spin or subterfuge from Bunyan because he fears God more than man. Sometimes his grammar is complicated. But in this treatise, his grammar prevented me only once from getting his gist. In Reprobation Asserted, he gives us a peek into the inner sanctum of God’s divine decrees. Who should not want to read about that?
A Few Sighs from Hell
Is it not true that when the average evangelical pastor gets around to the subject of hell, he begins by apologizing to his congregation for having to speak on it? Bunyan, he apologizes to God by signing under his title, By that poor and contemptible servant of Jesus Christ, John Bunyan. Instead of coming to the task in a pouting spirit, Bunyan comes to it humbly. He considers it his privilege to teach this unpopular subject. Is it any wonder that at least some of us are turning to the Puritans? We are weary of apologies being made for what God has written. Some of us are not ashamed of God’s word. On the one hand, pastors regard parts of God’s word as too unholy to touch; on the other hand, they smile approvingly whenever someone praises them for their holiness. Some of these pastors even publish books! Would even one of our evangelical authors allow himself to be called a babe and a suckling by the man chosen to preface his treatise? The great John Bunyan permitted his pastor to say as much about him! Our writers have neither the humility nor the reverence to produce a treatise this excellent (so necessary) on the dark and deep facts of that region most of us spend our whole lives trying hard not to hear about, think about, or know about.
‘Our great pilgrim forefather’ (so called by the Editor at the back of the volume) draws his facts about hell from the most lucid account of this place of torment and woe that was ever told. In the parable of the rich man and the beggar, the rich man in hell represents the ungodly; the beggar in Paradise represents the godly. Bunyan goes back and forth between the two, doing whatever he can to show the reasonableness of seeing to it that our end be like that of the beggar. “O! who do you think was in the best condition? who do you think saw themselves in the best condition? He that was in hell, or he that was in heaven? He that was in darkness, or he that was in light? He that was in everlasting joy, or he that was in everlasting torments? The one with God, Christ, saints, angels, the other in tormenting flames, under the curse of God’s eternal hatred, with the devils and their angels, together with an innumerable company of howling, roaring, cursing, ever-burning reprobates?” (p. 685.) In the midst of such eloquent, rampaging descriptions of the afterworld, a gospel appeal is often couched. “There is a possibility of obtaining mercy, if now, I say, now in this day of grace, we turn from our sins to Jesus Christ; yea, it is more than possible. And therefore, for thy encouragement, do thou know for certain, that if thou shalt in this day accept of mercy on God’s own terms, and close with him effectually, God hath promised, yea, made many promises, that thy soul shall be conducted safe to glory, and shall for certain escape all the evils that I have told thee of; aye, and many more than I can imagine” (p. 701.) More often than not, his appeals are folded right into whatever part of the parable he is expounding. Sometimes a personal confession is included to identify with the reader in order to woo him to repentance (p. 681.) Once he even gives a summary account of his own unbelieving history to accomplish this (p. 711.) Nothing is held back. Bunyan really believed in, knew about, and had felt the need to flee from, the torments of hell. It is unreasonable and unscriptural to believe in heaven but not in hell. Maybe more than anything else, we need to read about hell in detail. We need to pay attention to what Bunyan tells us about it. In Scripture, the torments of hell are called, variously: the “never-dying worm…oven fire, hot…a furnace, a fiery furnace…the bottomless pit, the unquenchable fire, fire and brimstone, hell fire, the lake of fire, devouring fire, everlasting fire, eternal fire, a stream of fire” (p. 683.)
It is startling how many legitimate measures may be employed to accomplish everything short of what only the Holy Spirit can finally do! A Few Sighs from Hell should be regarded as archetype evangelism. The Puritans used to speak of ‘opening’ the Scripture text. Even the most learned reader will be surprised to have opened up to his view what he never saw before in this parable, and what must obviously be true. For instance, that the beggar desired the crumbs off the rich man’s table, doesn’t mean he got any. This opening of the text is the chief thing out of all the things that Bunyan does to convince us of this terrible aspect of God’s word. Close exposition requires a lot of time, dedication, meditation, and prayer. Everything Bunyan does is subservient to this one thing. He does not spend his paper and time on irrelevant stories, like our pastors do. Because he has been touched by the word in a profound way, he labors to touch us with it also. He puts his all into it.
All other measures that he employs, including illustration, repetition, warning, and anecdote, are performed at the highest level, though. All of this serves his exposition, not the other way around. His questionnaire for the seeker, next to the exposition per se, may be the most potentially useful measure of all. In it Scripture references are cited, not only to set the seeker searching for answers, but to show, at the same time, how Scripture texts agree with one another on his subject, even from Genesis to Revelation. For a group study, I can think of nothing better than this questionnaire. One could confidently hope to God for some results by the use of it. To put your faith in God through the watered-down Alpha Course, or the self-help Purpose Driven Life, is nothing but a misguided waste. Even the whole of Bunyan’s treatise could be used as a study guide because the Scriptures are so thickly spread throughout it. It could serve as a textbook example, too, of how to prosecute that most basic and vital principle of hermeneutics: comparing Scripture with Scripture.
There are some terms and concepts in this treatise that will sound strange to the modern ear. ‘Devils’ means ‘demons’; most of us know that. Other terms, like ‘puddle pleasures’ by John Gifford (Preface), these are easy enough to fathom, and quite pleasant. More obscure terms are explained in footnotes by George Offor. He seems to come to the rescue whenever he is needed. In fact, what a blessing to encounter such a respectful editor! About one section of the work, “I should have preferred Bunyan’s first arrangement,” he says. “But,” he continues, I “dared not alter what he had considered an improvement” (p. 722.) The chief concept that may trouble the modern Christian (provided he is orthodox enough that he takes no issue in the main) is the ancient belief that the ungodly soul, at death, is transported, not by holy angels, but by the devils, to his place of torment (p. 680.) Whether Bunyan believed that demons were the tormentors, another concept that seems unbiblical and that seems to go along with the first, is not clear from this treatise alone. There are other minor matters that I disagree with, too. But they are differences of opinion about minor things. John Gifford’s advice is reasonable, “If any expression thou meetest with may (haply) offend thee, do not throw aside the whole, and resolve to read of it no more; for though some one may offend thee, yet others (I hope) may affect thee” (p. 672.) This word ‘affect’ has lost much of its force since the 17th century. What is meant is that hopefully one might be more than just instructed, but moved in the affections of love, gratitude, fear, grief, etc. Only a petrified heart could remain unmoved by this treatise on hell.
There is more useful matter in this slender treatise than in the whole works of some of our hardest working evangelicals. Believe it, John Bunyan is indeed that much better. It would be extremely beneficial to read, study, and digest every single line of the three volume set of his works. I think that God would be pleased by such an effort. A Few Sighs from Hell is more valuable to me than Bunyan’s most celebrated allegory. It is written in a thrilling style occasioned spontaneously from his passion. It is done in earnest; it is done with pleading; it is fearless from start to finish.
The Heavenly Footman
According to the Editor, the language used in this treatise proves that it is a summary form of the fuller message contained in Bunyan’s guide books: like Grace Abounding, Pilgrim’s Progress, and Holy War. Running toward heaven is the theme.
That heaven must be run to is an idea quite missed nowadays. The message that is communicated to us now amounts to this: just accept the gift of eternal life, do some social work, and loiter around until you get raptured. Bunyan’s message is the correct one. The Bible says, “So run, that ye may obtain” (1 Corinthians 9.24.) Many are running, as if against one another to get a prize. This is the picture that the verse presents to us. This verse from Corinthians is the principal part of Scripture that Bunyan engages to exposit. Many professing Christians, or ‘professors,’ will find out too late that the prize of heaven is not obtained by a post-conversion standstill.
Our churches are so far from knowing how heaven is obtained that they do not realize that running is necessary. The truth is, not only is it necessary to run, but to run in a certain manner. This must be a flying run, a pressing run, and a continuing run, all the way, until the race is won. (p. 381.) One must fly for one’s life, just as the desperate man did in Old Testament times when fleeing to the city of refuge to get away from the avenger of blood. One must press toward the mark and push through whatever stands between the soul and heaven. One must continue this flying and pressing run through the whole of one’s life until the very end in order to reach the desired prize. This is Bunyan’s message. It is all so obviously biblical. It seems that the greater part of those who call themselves Christians either don’t get it, or simply don’t believe that the Bible seriously requires this kind of urgency, dedication, and perseverance. When do professing Christians ever hear of having to empty their hearts of the world, with its profits and pleasures, as if this baggage were like having a runner’s pockets filled with stones on his way to the finish line? (p. 384.) This is a neglected message.
This moving picture of repentance, or of fleeing from sin, is seldom resorted to in the evangelical appeal of today for many reasons. Among those who at least agree that a lifestyle of repentance is biblical, this illustration of Paul’s is commonly avoided, I think, because obtaining heaven by running seems too much the same as meriting heaven by one’s own effort, which, to the Protestant, is the heresy of heresies. But to obtain and to merit are not the same. This word ‘obtain’ is the word employed, not only by the apostle, but by theological writers of old and of note, to indicate something that is got which has been provided by someone else—namely, salvation by Jesus Christ. The subsidiary title, A Description of the Man that Gets to Heaven, gives the sense. Running is a description of obtaining heaven, not a method for meriting heaven. The prize is not merited. It is obtained.
The most important part of any treatise touching on heaven is the presentation of the gospel, for the gospel is the way of our arrival there. In keeping with the illustration of the runner, Bunyan directs the sinner in the Way, or to Christ. So he directs the sinner to Christ’s bearing of sin and to the destruction of one’s own righteousness in order to receiving his. Bunyan’s presentation of the gospel is not only true, but wise and brave also. He says that not only is the cross the only way, but that “it is the cross which keepeth those that are kept from heaven” (p. 387.) This is not just an inflammatory statement. It is a true one. The Bible calls Jesus a ‘stumblingstone’ in Romans 9. Where can we get preaching on the cross like this except in old books? It is because of lack of preaching like this that our churches teem with tares. The less preaching there is on the cross, the more empty professors we have (pp. 388.)
Bunyan is too brave, at one point, for the Editor. George Offor seems hardly able to believe that Bunyan means it when he says that the day of grace could end before the end of one’s life on earth. Really, he is unwilling to believe the full extent of Bunyan’s intent. Offor tries to soften the blow of Bunyan’s opinion by speculating that Bunyan has in mind, only persons gone mad, or else a Judas or an Esau. He would whittle these persons down to practically nobody, while Bunyan gives examples, then leaves it open for the sinner to consider. Any procrastinator or backsliding sinner may come to a period in his life where repentance is sought after but not found. John Bunyan would have us know that such a thing may happen to anybody. There is no use trying to make Bunyan’s opinion mean something less than what he plainly means. Besides, in a treatise called The Barren Fig Tree, he develops this thought much more, with biblical proofs. That is what we call ‘internal evidence’ for what the Editor tries to obscure and practically nullify. When we are so uncomfortable about what one of our heroes believes, the temptation is to help our hero out by trying to show that his belief is not as it appears to be. When we give in to this temptation, we frequently and justly, probably always, misspeak somewhere in our rationalizing. When we attempt to ‘help’ a writer out in this way, our sin finds us out somewhere. We tend to get caught in some embarrassing contradiction that makes us look like a twister of someone’s words. This can even happen to a righteous and well-meaning chap like George Offor—and it did. Sad to say, good old Offor tries to have us believe something that flies in the face of crystal clarity. In his nervous frenzy to qualify Bunyan’s opinion to death, he proposes an inquest: “It becomes an interesting inquiry as to who Bunyan means by the ‘some’ of whom he says, ‘that the day of grace is past before their life is ended’” (p. 377.) Here is one of the solutions proffered by Offor: “He cannot mean the backslider, for Bunyan was such” (p. 377.) Perhaps Offor should have read the short treatise one more time before pitching his speculative answer. Men like Esau and Francis Spira are specially mentioned by Offor (p. 377) as the kind of sinner Bunyan has respect to by the word ‘some.’ That this is correct is easily confirmed in The Barren Fig-Tree. But Bunyan may in fact include the backslider in this, because that’s what he calls Francis Spira (p. 392.) What Bunyan teaches is that there can be a point, even during what we call a ‘backslide,’ from which repentance is impossible. Why take away this biblical incentive to repentance? Because it might offend someone? This kind of backslide, by the way, is done by a person who’s been exercising what used to be called ‘temporary’ faith, or ‘historical’ faith, not ‘evangelical’ faith. In that sense alone might it be said that Bunyan ever backslid into any significant sin. It was before his conversion.
So Bunyan believed that our day of grace might pass away even before we do. Regardless of the presence of this frightening, disturbing doctrine (maybe because of it, if Offor did not do too much damage), there is ample incentive in The Heavenly Footman, to set a wanderer sprinting. Why running is demanded, what kind of running is necessary, and what hindrances must be cast off in the run—these basic questions, along with more nuanced ones, are all addressed here. They are addressed in that brilliant simplicity that is so characteristic of Bunyan, and with his usual tenderness, “Run, sweet babe” (p. 391.)