Anyway, last night I read an article in Tabletalk by Gene Edward Veith, "Pilgrims Who Make No Progress." Comparing Bunyan's book with several others, he writes the following:
After Bunyan, when a new vision of "progress" emerged, writers wrote about new kinds of pilgrimages. The great American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a takeoff of Bunyan called The Celestial Railroad. Reflecting nineteenth-century technology and liberal theology, the more modern pilgrim finds an easier way to the Celestial City: he takes the train.
After all, engineers have built a bridge over the Slough of Despond and installed gas lights to illuminate the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The pilgrim has it easy. He goes to church in Vanity Fair, where he listens to the sermons of Rev. Stumble-at-Truth and Rev. Shallow-Deep. Guided by Mr. Smooth-it-Away, he makes fun of the handful of pilgrims he sees out of the train window living the Christian life in the old way. Unfortunately, at the end of the line, his train plunges into a tunnel straight to hell.
Hawthorne sounds rather prophetic, doesn't he? Are we as believers taking the slow and difficult route to our eternal home? Or are we more interested in shortcuts to gain spiritual maturity? These kinds of questions make me want to pick up and read a copy of The Celestial Railroad. Maybe it will finally give me what I need to be more devoted to God in my life of discipleship.