John Bunyan (Born::November 28, 1628 – Died::August 31, 1688) was the highly acclaimed author and Nonconformist preacher who wrote the book The Pilgrim's Progress (first published in 1678). For three centuries, The Pilgrim’s Progress was second only to the Bible in book sales in the English language. It is a wonderful allegory that follows a pilgrim named Christian on his journey to the Celestial City.
John Bunyan was born in Elstow, Bedfordshire (England), in November 1628. His father, Thomas, was a tinker who travelled the agricultural midlands mending pots and pans. When his mother died in June 1644, he felt deep grief, which turned into rebellion when his father remarried only two months later. He left home and joined the Parliamentary army as a soldier for two years.
He married at the age of 18, in 1647, and wrote later that he and his wife were "as poor as poor could be." He said they had not "so much household-stuff as a dish or spoon" between them.
In 1649, Bunyan began four years of spiritual conflict after talking to an old Nonconformist woman who pricked his heart about Jesus Christ. Nonconformists were any Christians who did not conform to the doctrines or practices of the Church of England, such as Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists. Eventually he joined the Nonconformist church of St. John at Bedford. His wife died in 1655, and shortly after this he became a deacon of the church and later a preacher. He traveled the countryside, preaching in barns and on village greens, and occasionally in churches.
First writings and Second Marriage
In 1656, now aged 27, Bunyan began writing. He wrote Some Gospel Truths Opened,[] which argued largely against Quaker teachings. When Quaker Edward Burrough responded with a strongly worded pamphlet, Bunyan wrote another publication against Quakers, which he titled A Vindication of Gospel Truths (1657).
In 1659, he married his second wife, Elizabeth. They had two years of happy marriage before the monarchy under Charles II reinstated an old Act against Nonconformists and Bunyan was arrested for preaching unlawfully. He spent the next 12 years in the county jail. As the prison was often full of Nonconformists, Bunyan held services for them. His constant reading materials were the Bible and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
In prison he made and sold long-tagged laces to support his family. But he also had time to write. He produced a stream of works, the greatest of which was his spiritual autobiography Grace Abounding (1666). It is possible he began The Pilgrim’s Progress at this time, but it was more the product of a short second term in prison around 1675.
King Charles II was at heart a Catholic, and in March 1672 he relaxed the laws against Catholics. To avoid suspicion that he was favouring Catholics, he repealed the laws against Nonconformists at the same time, which brought Bunyan’s release.
The Pilgrim's Progress (1678) preceded the delightful The Life and Death of Mr. Badman in 1680. In 1682, Bunyan produced his second allegory, The Holy War, and in 1684 he wrote a second part for The Pilgrim’s Progress. He also wrote verse, and one of his most interesting later volumes was the children’s book, A Book for Boys and Girls (1686).
His Final Years
In his later years he often traveled to London and preached to huge congregations. On one cold winter morning, 1200 people turned out to hear him preach.
In 1688, a little before his 60th birthday, Bunyan rode from London to Reading in pouring rain to try to resolve a dispute between a father and son. He caught a cold, which turned into a fever, and on August 31 he died at the home of a friend, John Strudwick. His burial site is in Bunhill Fields, the traditional burial grounds for Nonconformists.
John Bunyan Quotes
- "... commit the keeping of your souls to your God as unto a faithful Creator." Sermons and allegories: Seasonable Counsel
- "... remember thy Creator as thou art commanded, (Eccl. xii.1,)" Some Gospel Truths Opened
- "To make thy preparation complete, consider that thou art but DUST and ASHES; and he the great God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, THAT CLOTHES HIMSELF WITH LIGHT AS WITH A GARMENT; that thou art a vile sinner, and he a holy God; that thou art but a poor crawling worm, and he the omnipotent Creator." Bunyan's dying sayings
- "That light wherewith Christ, as he is God, hath lightened every one that cometh into the world, is the soul of man, which is the life of the body, and yet itself is but a creature, and made by the Creator of all things, (Isa. lvii.16;) and is not the Spirit, as some do think it is." A Vindication of Gospel Truths Opened
- " 'These words are enough,' I said to my conductor, 'To convince anyone of the great power of their Creator ...'" Visions of Heaven and Hell
- Some Gospel Truths Opened (1656)
- A Vindication of Gospel Truths (1657)
- Grace Abounding (1666)
- The Pilgrim's Progress (1678)
- The Life and Death of Mr. Badman (1680)
- The Holy War (1682)
- Second part of The Pilgrim’s Progress (1684)
- A Book for Boys and Girls (1686)
- Christian Biography Resources
- John Bunyan online library Sermons, allegories, poetry
- WikiPedia entry
- Burnhill Fields Burial Ground
- Nonconformist gravestones