At the final service at The Grove we sang: ‘Who would true valour see, let him come hither’.
The source of that hymn is in the second part of a once widely read, classic literary work entitled ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’.
Like many of the New Testament letters of St Paul, this book was written in prison.
Its author was John Bunyan who was born in 1628. He was a one-time soldier in Cromwell’s army during the civil war in England.
He became a preacher in a community in Bedford.
When Charles 11 came to the throne Bunyan was arrested on more than one occasion for unlicensed preaching.
While in prison in Bedford jail in the winter of 1675-1676 he wrote the book which soon became famous.
It is an allegory. Every person has a symbolic name indicating their character. There is Obstinate, Talkative, Faithful, Hopeful, Prudence, Timorous, Evangelist, Ignorance and so on. There is a giant called Despair, a bog named Despond and the city Vanity Fair. The English author, Thackeray chose the name of that city for the title for his novel which was recently made into a film for television.
So what? The main character is appropriately named Christian. He became aware his city was about to be destroyed. He was greatly distressed and wandered about uncertain how to react. In this time of not knowing what to do about the future he met Evangelist.
After a short discussion, this comment emerged which seems to be relevant for our threatening times.
THEN SAID EVANGELIST, POINTING HIS FINGER OVER A VERY WIDE FIELD, DO YOU SEE YONDER WICKET GATE? THE MAN SAID, NO. THEN SAID THE OTHER, DO YOU SEE YONDER SHINING LIGHT? HE SAID, I THINK I DO. THEN SAID EVANGELIST, KEEP THAT LIGHT IN YOUR EYE, AND GO UP DIRECTLY THERETO, SO SHALT THOU SEE THE GATE; AT WHICH, WHEN THOU KNOCKEST, IT SHALL BE TOLD THEE WHAT THOU SHALT DO. SO I SAW IN MY DREAM THAT THE MAN BEGAN TO RUN”.
So began Pilgrim’s journey, with all its various perils and experiences towards the heavenly Jerusalem.
This seems so relevant for our times as we pilgrims reach out earnestly towards the fulfilment of what Jesus taught us to pray for in the words ‘Thy Kingdom come’ that the comment to “keep walking TOWARDS THE LIGHT WE THINK WE CAN SEE”, undiscouraged despite how difficult circumstances may be.
We used to sing the hymn :
Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home:
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene: one step enough for me.