Doctrinal and Devotional Thoughts
on John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
“I dreamed, and behold I saw a Man cloathed with Raggs, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a Book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the Book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled: and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry; saying, “What shall I do?”
John Bunyan (1628-1688) was Baptist, and in seventeenth century England, Baptists were known as Dissenters or Non-conformists. The Church of England (the Anglicans) was the official church of the British Empire.
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” —Isaiah 64:6
Imprisoned in the Bedford Jail, John Bunyan begins his famous allegory (I dreamed, and behold I saw) with man in his depravity. Interestingly, as the first publication of The Pilgrim’s Progress came to the English speaking world in 1678, six years after Mr. Bunyan’s release from prison, the written form of English is a bit different than it is today. Many modern editions even lose the subtle nuances of the first printed work, which certainly does not take away from the overall blessing of the allegory; yet, some may miss the impact of such subtleties.
Notice that the word “Man” is capitalized in our considered portion, yet it is followed immediately by his condition as being clothed with rags (cloathed with Raggs). Why wouldn’t it be upper case to begin with? Mr. Bunyan reminds us of man’s first estate in the garden before sin corrupted Adam and his progeny. The psalmist declares, “Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet” (Psalms 8:5-6, ESV). From proof texts from Genesis 1:27-28, Ephesians 4:24, and Colossians 3:10, the tenth question from our beloved A Puritan’s Catechism, “How did God create man?” may be answered confidently: “God created man, male and female, after His own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.” Yet, with the description of the man’s garments fast upon the heels of his initial estate, we see mankind fallen in sin; that the best of our righteous deeds are unclean and as far away from the purity of God as the east is from the west; that the most holy of our good intentions are not garments of praise, but instead, rags of filth and shame; that our works are temporary and not eternal, fading as a leaf, while we, ourselves, are carried away with the wind of our iniquities. Yea, Isaiah says illustratively that which Mr. Bunyan presents allegorically and Paul the apostle says plainly, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, ESV).
How radically corrupt is man in his fallen state? So totally depraved is man since the fall that Mr. Bunyan capitalizes the word “Raggs.” The total depravity of man in his sinful condition is so cursed and miserable that his salvation can come by nothing less that God becoming a flesh and bone Man, perfect, holy and righteous; being fully man, yet, never diminishing one iota as God Almighty, the same in essence, equal in power and glory. It is only through trusting faith in Jesus Christ, in all He is and all He has done, that our filthy rags may be overcome, our sins washed, our transgressions forgiven, our hearts replaced, our souls resurrected, and our minds renewed. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14, ESV).
Consider how far was the fall of man, crowned with glory and honor, yet fallen to dust and death in disobedience to a holy and righteous God. Have you boasted this week in your filthy Raggs? (A tell-tale sign of my own depravity is that I might exalt my Raggs though I am but man, and not Man.)
In Christ, the perfect Man, we are seated together with Him in heavenly places. What passages of scripture bring you delight in the midst of your depravity?
Please leave a testimony of Christ’s faithfulness in the comments below.
Click on the title at the end of this sentence to read the last article, “A Pilgrim’s Ponderings 2.”
If you do not have a copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress, you can get a free PDF download from ChapelLibrary.org.
You can also download a free PDF copy of Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners from ChapelLibrary.org.
 Or, clothed with rags.
 Isaiah 64:6; Luke 14:33; Psalms 38:4; Habakkuk 2:2
 Acts 2:37; 16:30