Newton's diary and correspondence references to Pilgrim’s Progress

Newton’s diaries contain very many references to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. The first mentions are:
Thursday 4 November 1756
My reading these two days has been chiefly in John Bunyan's  Works, in which I observe with pleasure a remarkable instance of the power and efficacy of divine teaching, how the Lord can make the weak and despised of the world, precious vessels and instruments of his grace. The account of his experience affected me very much; many things there may both instruct and reprove me. My heart still continues in a wandering and worldly frame.
Tuesday 9 November 1756
The morning at home – afterwards upon the tide till two. Too much vanity in many things this day. Having finished John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, in reading in the evenings began the account of his experience.
A subsequent selection of quotes from his diary and correspondence:
Diary:    Tuesday 1 December 1772
At the Great house began the Pilgrims Progress again, which I formerly went through in about two and a half years and finished three years ago.
Newton to John Thornton, 20 January 1774:
I purpose from this day to set apart the most of my leisure (which some days is but little) to looking over the Pilgrim with Mr King's notes, and subjoining upon a separate paper such observations as may occur of my own. If we sometimes should differ in our explication, I shall not contradict Mr King – but only give my view (referring to the number in the book) as if I had not seen his. And I will dispatch it and return the papers as soon as I conveniently can. There are some good things in the second part of the Pilgrim, if taken separately, equal to anything in the first – Christiana at the Sepulchre, the character of Mr Fearing, and especially the death of Mr Standfast. But take it altogether, I think after the first part has been well explained, it will hardly be worth while to publish the second with notes – as the same leading ideas run through both, and many of the additions are rather trivial. When John Bunyan dreamt the Pilgrim's Progress, I believe he did not dream of writing a second part; he had a regular connected plan in his mind, and filled it up very happily. But the great acceptance it met with, put him I suppose upon drawing it out farther, and having done it well once, when he came to do it over again he was obliged to strain his invention for materials enough to fill up a book. Indeed there is generally such a difference between first and second parts in writings, as between ale and small beer. The latter in common family brewings, is a second part from the same malt, but the ale has imbibed the chief virtue, and therefore the other is but small beer.
Diary:    Tuesday 25 January 1774
Part of my leisure employed in making observations on some notes on the Pilgrim by Mr King.
Diary:    Thursday 10 February 1774
My leisure is chiefly employed in writing notes and observations on the Pilgrim.
Diary:    Tuesday 15 February 1774
Leisure chiefly employed in reviewing Mr King’s notes on the Pilgrim, and making some of my own.
Diary:    Thursday 17 February 1774
Finished the notes on the Pilgrim.
Newton to John Thornton, 28 February 1774:
I hope the parcels I lately sent by the wagon came safe to hand, and shall be glad if any of the remarks I made upon the Pilgrim may be acceptable to Mr King. I find the Pilgrim is going to be published piecemeal in the Gospel Magazine with notes by Mr Mason. But I did not know it in time, or I should have tried to dissuade them from it. But I do not apprehend that what he may do, will supersede the utility of Mr King's design. There is room enough and readers enough for both. I should have advised the publishers to confine themselves to original pieces, which till they do I think their Magazine will not obtain a very general credit; however I wish it may be kept open as a vehicle for occasional intelligence. I have sent them a paper for the month of March, but do not at present think I shall write constantly. I must do a little to earn the Magazine which of their own accord they promised to send me monthly.
Diary:    Tuesday 17 May 1774
I purpose to intermit the Pilgrim a while having finished the death of Faithful, which is a convenient period and I have been upon this book about 18 months.
[this refers to the Tuesday night Prayer Meetings at Olney, where Newton expounded Pilgrim's Progress]
Newton to John Thornton, 26 July 1775:
I will try at the Preface soon for the Pilgrim.
Diary:    Saturday 29 July 1775
At Mr Thornton’s request drew up a short preface for his New Edition of the first part of the Pilgrim’s Progress with notes chiefly by Mr King.
Newton to John Thornton, 3 August 1775:
I shall be glad if you approve of my preface to the Pilgrim. I thought it probable that your edition of it may come into the hands of some, who knows little of the Author, and that therefore it might not be amiss to say something about him, and I took the opportunity of censoring the third part as it is called, because I believe it has deceived many, and is quite unworthy of bearing the name of Mr Bunyan, being not only inferior in point of composition, but is I apprehend very erroneous, and more likely to mislead pilgrims into a wrong path, than to confirm and animate them in the right. But I am ready to alter or add whatever you may think needful.
Diary:    [week beginning Monday 30 October 1775]
I have to beg thy blessing upon my exposition of the Pilgrim’s Progress, which after a long intermission I returned to last night.
[this refers to the Tuesday night Prayer Meetings at Olney, where Newton expounded Pilgrim's Progress]
Diary:    8 October 1776
Had a full meeting at the Great House. Finished the Pilgrim.
[this refers to the Tuesday night Prayer Meetings at Olney, where Newton expounded Pilgrim's Progress]

'Mr King' was John King (1744-1782), a graduate of St John's College, Cambridge, vicar of Middleton with Cropton and Lockton in the North Riding of Yorkshire, who became perpetual curate of North Ferriby and St Mary's Kingston upon Hull. The appointment was a great trial for Newton, who was first urged to take it on.

He recorded in his diary:

27 March 1777
My gracious Lord, help me to praise, love and serve thee for Thou hast done great things for me and mine. [On the] 12th we went to London, had a safe and pleasant journey, except my feelings about Hull, which at times were anxious and painful. But immediately upon my arrival I found relief, this cup is removed from me and Mr King appointed in my stead. Dispatched the news to my people that night, and they received it on the 13th. And now the return of the 13th March is to supersede the annual commemoration of the 1st February. Thou hast given us a Hull Day, instead of a Cottingham Day which was growing old. Lord make us thankful and fruitful.

Marylynn Rouse, 30/04/2019