At the suggestion of my friend, Blake Holmes, I’ve been rereading The Pilgrim’s Progress. Blake mentioned to me this Summer that the book is the most accurate depiction of the spiritual life available. It’s been decades since I read it, and like any good book, you see things differently with each reading. John Bunyan’s fantasy story about a man, named Christian, who goes on a journey is an allegory for the spiritual life. It begins with one of the greatest opening lines:
“As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept I dreamed a Dream.”
I love this passage from Christian’s journey that deals with differing approaches to the spiritual life–law and grace:
Then he took him by the hand, and led him into a very large Parlour that was full of dust, because never swept; the which after he reviewed a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a Damsel that stood by, Bring hither the Water, and sprinkle the Room; the which when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure.
CHR. Then said Christian, What means this?
INTER: The interpreter answered, This parlour is the heart of man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the Gospel: the dust of his Original Sin and inward Corruptions, that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first is the Law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now, whereas thou sawest that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about the Room by him could not be cleansed, but that thou was almost choked therewith; that is to shew thee, that the Law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it, for it doth not give power to subdue.
Again, as thou sawest the Damsel sprinkle the room with Water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure; this is to shew thee, that when the Gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then I say, even as thou sawest the Damsel lay the dust by sprinkling the floor with Water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean, through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of Glory to inhabit.
Some of you grew up in churches or religious movements that were steeped in Law and external morality. You found them to be stifling and powerless to change your heart. You felt condemned and suffocated because Law only stirs up sin but cannot remove it.
There is another way called Grace. The Gospel of Grace brings freedom and pleasure. It does not wink at sin, but deals with it by a powerful and deep cleansing, extending even to the hard to reach corners and the tiny cracks of your heart. And, best of all, this cleansing was not just for your joy and your goodness (though these are certainly true), but it was also done that you might share it with the King of Glory, who comes to live with you.
Did you grow up in a church or movement that was centered on Law rather than Grace? What was it like when you discovered Grace? Is Grace still having it’s way in your heart? Have you read The Pilrgim’s Progress? Thoughts?