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THE NEW YORK
ASTCR. LEN XD TILDEN FOL. 11.11lu.V3 R 1940
SURTON HIST. COLLECTION
THE high estimation, in which the PILGRIM'S PROGRASS has been held for much above a century, sufficiently evinces its intrinsie value : and there is every reason to suppose, that it will be read with admiration and advantage for ages to come, probably till the consummation of all things.
The pious Christian, in proportion to “his growth in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ,” derives more and more instruction from repeated perusals of this remarkable book ; while his enlarged experience and extended observation enable him to unfold, with progressive evidence, the meaning of the agreeable similitudes employed by its ingenious author : and even the careless reader is fascinated to attention, by the simple and artless manner in which the interesting narrative is arranged. Nor should this be represented as mere amusement, for it has been observed, by men of great discernment and acquaintance with the human mind, that young persons, having perused the Pilgrim as a pleasing tale, often retain a remembrance of its leading incidents, which, after continuing perhaps in a dormant state for several years, has at length germinated, as it were, into the most inportant and seasonable instruction ; while the events of their own lives placed it before their minds in a new and affecting point of view. It may, therefore, be questioned, whether modern ages have produced any work which has more promoted the best interests of mankind.
These observations indeed more especially apply to the First Part of the PILGRIM'S PROGRESS ; as that is complete in itself, and in all respects superior to the Second. Yet this also contains many edifying and interesting passages : though, in unity of design, in arrangement of incident, and in simplicity of allegory, it is not comparable to the other. Indeed the author, in his first effort, had nearly exhausted his subject; and nothing remained for his second attempt, but a few detached episodes to his original design : nor could any vigour of genius have wrought them up to an equal degree of interest. It must, however, be allowed, that Mr. BUNYAN here, in some instances, sinks below himself, both in fertility of invention, force of imagination, and aptness of illustration ; nay, he occasionally stoops to a puerile play of fancy, and a refined nicety in doctrine, which do not well accord to the rest of the work. Yet the same grand principles of evangelical and practical religion, which stamp an inestimable value on the First Part, are in the Second also exhibited with equal purity, though not with equal simplicity : and, on many occasions, the author rises superior to his disadvantages, and introduces characters and incidents, which arrest the attention, and deeply interest the heart, of every pious and intelligent reader.
It would not perhaps be difficult to prove, that the PilGRIM'S PROGRESS is as really an original production of vigorous native genius, as any of those works, in prose or verse, which have excited the admiration of mankind, through successive ages and in different nations. It does not indeed
possess those ornaments which are often mistaken for intrinsic excellence : but the rudeness of its style (which at the same time is aptly characteristic of the subject) concurs to prove it a most extraordinary book : for, bad it not been written with very great ingenuity, a religious treatise, evidently inculcating doctrines always offensive, but now more unfashionable than formerly, could not, in so homely
a garb, have durably attracted the attention of a polished age and nation. Yet it is undeniable, that BUNYAN'S PilGRIM continues to be read and admired by vast multitudes ; while publications on a similar plan, by persons of respectable learning and talents, are consigned to almost total neglect and oblivion.
This is not, however, that view of the work, which entitles it to its highest honour, or most endears it to the pious mind : for, comparing it with the other productions of the same author, (which are indeed edifying to the humble believer, but not much suited to the taste of the ingenious) we shall be led to conclude, that in penning this, he was favoured with a peculiar measure of divine assistance : es. pecially when we recollect, that, within the confines of a jail, he was able so to delineate the Christian's course, with its various difficulties, perils, conflicts, and supports, that scarcely any thing seems to have escaped his notice. Indeed, the accurate observer of the church in his own days, and the learned student of ecclesiastical history, must be equally surprised to find, that hardly one remarkable character, good or bad, or mixed in any manner or proportion imaginable ; or one fatal delusion, by-path, or injurious mis. take, can be singled out, which may not be paralleled in the PILGRIM'S PROGRESS ; that is, as to the grand outlines ; for the minutiæ, about which bigoted and frivolous minds waste their zeal and force, are, with very few exceptions, , wisely passed over. This circumstanee is not only very surprising, but it suggests an argument, perhaps unanswerable, in confirmation of the divine authority of those religious sentiments, which are now often derided under the title of orthodoxy : For every part of this singular book exclusively suits the different deseriptions of such as profess those doctrines ; and relates the experiences, mistakes, falls, recoveries, distresses, temptations, and consolations of serious persons of this class in our own tiines, as exactly as if it
had been penned from the observation of them, and for theis immediate benefit ; while, like the sacred Scriptures, it reinains a sealed book to all who are strangers to evangelical religion.
These remarks may very properly be concluded with the words of a justly admired poet of the present day, who in the following lines has fully sanctioned all that has been here advanced :
“O thou, whom, borne on fancy's eager wing
COWPER, TIROCINIUM, V. 129.
Several persons have already favoured the public withi original explanatory notes, of the nature of those here published; but the editor, on mature deliberation, did not think himself precluded by this consideration, from communi