Thursday 19 November 2015

Zion's Pilgrim

Robert Hawker was the vicar of Charles, in Plymouth from 1778-1827. He was concerned to engage the attention of his flock beyond the church walls with an extensive writing ministry, which is most well known for his Poor Man's Bible Commentary and Morning and Evening Portions. Altogether it ran to 10 volumes when his collected works were first published in 1831. He inventively adopted a different literary form in Zion's Pilgrim to provoke interest whilst instilling sound teaching. It appears his thoughts ran along similar lines to those of John Bunyan, and indeed this composition of his has been favourably compared with Pilgrim's Progress. It has the same theme - tracing out the life and experiences of a pilgrim (cf. Hebrews 11:13). However it must be said that in terms of literature it is far short of Bunyan's standard, although arguably reaching greater heights theologically. Hawker has a style that is quaint, his characters and plot are almost ludicrously contrived, but for the serious and discerning reader there is much meat on the bone here. His Pilgrim starts out and almost immediately encounters a neighbour - the Moral Man. Hawker's familiarity with the methods and reasonings of Pilgrim's antagonists is evident. He does not set up straw men to knock down, but we recognise in them the age-old arguments subtly brought forward. These deepen with the Moral Preacher at church, then shift when entering the home circle of a 'pious' family. But he is helped to progress by meeting a Traveller and through his introduction to a very different kind of prayer meeting and the (inevitable) Poor Man who ministers at it. Here we find a very different kind of religion, and one which begins to enter into Pilgrim's case. There are yet many adventures leading to his conversion, and after to an advanced age, but all are subservient to Hawker's purpose of instruction in the vital principles of a revealed faith. There is a savouriness about these truths which transcends the shortcomings of the form into which they are cast, and well repays persevering reading.
The edition of Zion's Pilgrim still available to purchase new is a paperback volume within Gospel Mission's Select Works set, which sells separately at just £6.95. They are reproductions of the originals, which is short of desirable, as this book could do with some reformatting. Introducing chapters would be helpful for a start!
Zion's Pilgrim by Robert Hawker, Gospel Mission, £6.95

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