—Evangelist, Pilgrim’s Progress
here is for everyone who loves to read a moment of deliciousness when the eye lights upon some old, familiar book, particularly one from childhood.
So it was that my joy was multiplied by 10 several summers ago when I discovered a much-used multivolume set of The Book of Knowledge
on a dusty New Hampshire bookshelf. My eye lingered on the dull red binding of the early-twentieth-century children’s encyclopedia, stamped with the dark, distinctive titles. My fingers traced the pages that had so much entranced me as a child—articles, stories, selections of great literature. In that moment of memory and imagination I was again sitting in my Italian grandfather’s leatherette recliner in the trilevel house in Syracuse, lost in the wonder of places I was sure I would never visit and tales that never grow old.
I thumbed the well-worn pages until I spied the images I had to find—black-and-white engravings buried in the chapters of The Book of Knowledge
’s selections from Pilgrim’s Progress
. Even before the font characters on the page made sense to me as a child, I knew the characters in those pictures. I had slogged with Christian through the Slough of Despond; languished in the dungeon of Doubting Castle; thrilled with horror as Faithful met his fiery end at the hands of the wicked residents of Vanity Fair; climbed the Hill of Difficulty. The geography of discipleship was being etched upon my imagination, and now, nearly 50 years later, its features still are clear.
I read the full and unabridged edition when I was 19, wrestling like Jacob with Bunyan’s moving depiction of grace. Like Jacob, I succumbed before dawn, clinging to my Savior with his words: “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” (Gen. 32:26, NKJV).1
I came to know why Ellen White admired Bunyan’s fictional allegory so much: “This book, The Pilgrim’s Progress
, portrays the Christian life so accurately, and presents the love of Christ so attractively, that through its instrumentality hundreds and thousands have been converted.”2
And of all its thousands of lines, its myriad of vivid characters, the words with which this column began have always been most memorable. In some places where I’ve worked, I’ve even posted them where my eye would catch them frequently during the day: “Let the kingdom be always before you; and believe steadfastly concerning things that are invisible.”
This is, for me, a cogent summary of the faith I live by, both a reminder of the dangers of this-worldliness, and a call to evaluate all things by how they grow the kingdom of my Lord. Beyond the columns waiting to be edited, the budgets needing to be balanced, the hundred bits of busyness that invade each waking hour, I am called—invited even—to a life so fixed on the joy that is set before me that all things else acquire a lesser value. As the church sign I once passed so aptly proclaimed, “Some things have to be believed in order to be seen.”
Yes, they do, and the Adventism that moves my heart invites me to an ever-increasing awareness of the “angels hovering round” as well as the someday home where I will be content to be lost in the great multitude of the redeemed.
There you have it: Eyes forward; heart fixed; head up—always expecting “Him for whom my soul yearns.”3
1 Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2 Ellen G. White, The Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald, May 30, 1912.
3 William Miller, Letter, Nov. 10, 1844, in The Midnight Cry, Dec. 5, 1844.
Bill Knott is editor of the
Adventist Review. This article was published January 12, 2012.
Let the kingdom be always before you; and believe steadfastly concerning things that are invisible.”