For Thanksgiving 2013, the lack of a Protestant justice on the US Supreme Court, which is a court absent the Protestant Reformation, was noted via John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), an English Christian classic.
This Thanksgiving we find Bunyan’s character Graceless at the beginning of his journey. Graceless is on a pilgrimage from the City of Destruction to Mount Zion and the Celestial City, traveling the path Evangelist showed him, through the wilderness, carrying his burden to the Wicket Gate and the Shining Light. Graceless was just recently pulled from the mire of the Slough of Despond by a nice man named Help; now he meets a stranger – Mr. Worldly Wiseman – who gives advice against Graceless’ way:
"How now, my good fellow, where are you going?" he said. "And what are you doing with that big burden on your back?"
Graceless told him that he was on his way to the Wicket Gate, and that he hoped when he reached it, to be shown how to get rid of his burden.
"Well," said the stranger, "I have spent many years in study, and my neighbors call me WORLDLY WISEMAN because of my wisdom. Will you listen to me if I give you some advice?"
Graceless listens to Mr. Wiseman who tells him of the town of Morality, of Mr. Legality, and of the ability to ease his burden; Graceless takes the path recommended by Mr. Wiseman, to his despair, and then Evangelist appears again …
"Alas! Alas!" cried Graceless, "I see now my error. I ought not to have listened to that man. I ought not to have turned off from the straight way which leads toward the Shining Light."
"Surely you did very wrong," answered Evangelist, "and you deserve to suffer for your folly."
Then there was a great rumbling in the earth, as though words were coming from it; fire flashed from the crevices in the rocks; and the mountain shook from top to bottom.
"Sir," he asked, "is there no hope? Is there no way of escape? May I not be forgiven? And may I not return and go up to the Wicket Gate?"
Evangelist answered him very kindly: "Yes, if you are truly sorry for your error, you may again seek the true way. The man at the gate will receive you, for he has good will for all men."
"Then I will go back," said Graceless.
Evangelist kissed him, gave him one smile, and bade him Godspeed.
And Graceless went on with haste, and spoke to no man by the way.
Protestant pilgrimages are grace-based, as it is the grace of the Good Lord, not acts or deeds, that define John Bunyan’s Graceless character and the Protestant Reformation. Easing a burden with grace is for each individual (soul) … that is, after one reaches the Wicket Gate and enters through the help of Good-Will; that’s when Graceless got his new name ~ Christian.
Happy Thanksgiving All!
Video: Introduction to the Protestant Reformation: Setting the Stage (1 of 4)
Posted by Bryan W. Brickner