Bunyan is marvelous. Pilgrim’s Progress is of course his most famous work, but The Holy War is in much the same vein. However, whereas Pilgrim’s Progress is much more of an allegory for a Christian’s sojourn from earth unto heaven, The Holy War is more of an allegory about the internal war which takes place in a man. Bunyan presents us with a town called Mansoul, and describes how it was lost to Satan, and how Shaddai and His Son Emmanuel regained it. Bunyan does allegory like none other, and while many have tried and done quite shabbily, Bunyan knows what notes to hit, and throughout are gems of wisdom, insight and edifying truths. One statement that struck me was this one, which Bunyan put in the mouth of Diabolus (the Devil):
Their looseness of life is a sign that there is not much heart in what they do, and without the heart things are little worth.
Truly, the Devil knows, often more than Saints do, that true religion must be from the heart and engage the whole man, body, soul and spirit.
One of the most insightful (and edifying) points was when Mansoul had fallen into a state of backsliding and indifference, it is the character Mr. Prywell whom Bunyan selects to be the means of grace whereby God (Shaddai) awakens the town of Mansoul. This was one of the more useful tidbits from the book. I’ve discipled folks who are so introspective, and have all the self-evaluation of the Puritans without any of their Gospel freedom. We must often reflect on our spiritual state, but we ought to “prywell.” It doesn’t do any good to simply find all your faults, fears, and doubts, and then fail to ring the warning bells of the town. True introspection and pious self-reflection ought to be done with the goal of awakening grace within us to fight.
This was my first time through this classic. There was only one thing that felt “off” to me and it was that the allegory’s portrayal of God lacked trinitarian robustness. The Father was presented as “Shaddai,” and His son, the Prince Emmanuel; however, the Holy Ghost didn’t quite play as integral a part as I think would be more Biblically accurate. Perhaps I missed it, but the character the Lord-Secretary, I believe was presented as being the Spirit, but Bunyan didn’t seem to quite give Him the right sort of attention. That could have been by design, for the Spirit moves mysteriously. That would be my only quibble, and perhaps on a subsequent tour through Mansoul, I might be made to change my mind.
Finally, in the final chapter, Prince Emmanuel gives a message of comfort to the inhabitants of Mansoul, and it is quite moving. I’ll leave you with the first paragraph of His speech:
You, my Mansoul, and the beloved of mine heart, many and great are the privileges that I have bestowed upon you; I have singled you out from others, and have chosen you to myself, not for your worthiness, but for mine own sake. I have also redeemed you, not only from the dread of my Fatherâ€™s law, but from the hand of Diabolus. This I have done because I loved you, and because I have set my heart upon you to do you good. I have also, that all things that might hinder thy way to the pleasures of Paradise might be taken out of the way, laid down for thee for thy soul a plenary satisfaction, and have bought thee to myself; a price not of corruptible things, as of silver and gold, but a price of blood, mine own blood, which I have freely spilled upon the ground to make thee mine. So I have reconciled thee, O my Mansoul, to my Father, and entrusted thee in the mansion-houses that are with my Father in the royal city, where things are, O my Mansoul, that eye hath not seen, nor hath entered into the heart of man to conceive.