John Bunyan

The greatest Puritan writer of all time, John Bunyan
The Pioneer
John Bunyan was born on the 30 November, 1628 in Elstow, England, near Bedford.
[1] All that is told of his birth are the records in the Elstow Church: “John, the sonne of Thomas Bonnion Junr baptized on the 30th of Novemb”.[2] John’s parents were part of the Anglican Church, raising him in the beliefs of their church. His father, Thomas Bunyan was a tinker in trade. Little is known of his mother, Margaret Bunyan. John’s mother passed away in the summer of 1644, followed by his sister Margret a month later. Two months after the death of his wife and daughter, Thomas Bunyan remarried.[3] Because of the devastating loss of his mother and sister, John Bunyan, at the age of 16, entered the Parliamentary Army. Though scholars debate on how long he served in the army, he was discharged June of 1647. After his discharge from the army, John married. Though her name was never recorded, she bore him three children, Elizabeth, John, and Thomas. Neither John nor his wife were well-off. They only had a dish, a spoon, and two books that John’s wife brought with her. These two books were gifts to her from her father.[4] Though they were very poor, John loved his wife dearly. As the years passed, she helped John rise to his full educational potential. Along with education, she showed John her love for the Lord. John began to see his wife’s, spiritual life carried out in her everyday life.
The Conversion
In 1650, Bunyan began to watch and wonder what made his wife’s life so different than the other religious men and women around him. Within the next five years, he converted to Puritanism. During this time Bunyan gave up some of his activities such as, dancing, bell ringing, and sports. He still struggled in many ways with the temptation of spiritual despair. The scriptures of damnation that he had read in the Holy Bible began to mold Bunyan into different beliefs then he believed before. Bunyan found texts that showed him that his sin was not unto death. These passages comforted him; he was able to overcome his depression while making spiritual progress. To his benefit, John became good friends with John Gifford. John Gifford was an associate from the Bedford Separatist Church. He invited John Bunyan into the community of saints, there at the local church.
[5] Shortly after John attended the church, he became a member. In 1654 Pastor Gifford would pass away. At this time Bunyan started to preach in many churches in Bedford. During the next five years, Bunyan argued[6] for open communion with the Quakers.[7]
The Preacher
In 1659, Bunyan’s work, The Doctrine of the Law and Grace Unfolded, showed the covenant theology and the practice of Calvinism that he believed in. His beliefs, along with his preaching of sermons, were not in conformity with those of the Church of England. This landed would land him in the county jail in 1660. Here, Bunyan stood for his beliefs. He refused to quit preaching against the Church of England. At this time Bunyan was sentenced to three months in jail. He was told to conform or be banished. In 1661 Bunyan was placed in prison for refusing to preach what he believed. Before Bunyan’s imprisonment, he remarried in 1659. While in jail, Bunyan made shoelaces for money to support his family, and he also wrote endlessly during this time. His wife, Elizabeth, requested for his release from prison. She appealed to Sir Matthew Hale and Thomas Twisden who denied it. Over the next 12 years, Bunyan was given the privilege to leave prison and preach in many of the Bedford Churches. He was also allowed to attend church related activities. He was even granted a visit to London in the fall of 1661. He bought with him a copy of the Bible and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs to prison. Throughout these years in prison, the threat of the gallows troubled his mind. Though very troubled, Bunyan focused on Rev.21:10-22:4 where he would one day be.
The Liberation
June 21, 1677 John Bunyan was released from prison with the aid of John Owen. John Owen ministered in a church in London. He had appealed Bunyan’s release to Bishop Thomas Barlow. From this day on John Bunyan continued writing even more than before. He wrote books on spiritual areas that he had preached, expositions of texts, and finished his most famous work, Pilgrims Progress in 1685. Within the next three years Bunyan had written ten more books, which were included in his three volume set, Bunyan’s Works.
On August 31, 1688 Bunyan was called home with the Lord. Bunyan had caught a severe cold on his travels. While lying on his death bed, his good friends, George Cokayn, John Strudwick, and Charles Doc asked him what more could be done for him. Bunyan reply, “I desire nothing more than to be with Christ, which is far better.” He was buried in Bunhill Fields next to his good friend John Owen.
[10] Bunyan never sought after worldly belongings, nor did he care to become a well-known man. Bunyan was a man that sought after Christ and lived out his convictions.

[1] Easy to get information on John Bunyan read: Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Edited by John M’Clintock and James Strong, 1867-87; Dictionary of National Biography, 1908-09; Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 1908-28; The New Encyclopedia Britannica, 1974- ; New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1908-12.
[2] Harrison, 1964, pp.5
[3] Other biographies on John Bunyan’s life, theology and works: John Brown, John Bunyan: His Life Times and Work, 1885; J.A. Froude, English men of letters, 1887; E. Venables, Great Writer’s Series, 1888; W.H. White, Literary Lives Series, 1904; Kerr Bain, two volumes set on The People of the Pilgrimage, 1887; Sir Walter Scott’s review of Southey’s Life in the Quarterly Review, Oct. 1830; Dean Howson, Companions for the Devout Life, 1877; W. Robertson Nicoll, Evangelical Succession Series, 1884. Ola Elizabeth Winslow, John Bunyan, 1961; Monica Furlong, Puritan’s Progress, 1975; Lynn Veach Sadler, John Bunyan, 1979; William York Tindall, John Bunyan, 1934.
[4] The title of these two books are: The Plain Man’s Path-way to Heaven, Wherein every man may clearly see, whether he shall be saved of damned, by Arthur Dent, and The Practice of Pietie, directing a Christian how to walk that he may please God, by Lewis Bayly.
[5] It is best to read John Bunyan’s word’s himself on his conversion to Christ: Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, paragraphs 229-32, pp.105-07.
[6] On John Bunyan’s debates and concerns against other religious practices that he dealt with during his time: Dictionary of National Biography, 1908-09.
[7] Dealing more with the debate between the Baptist and the Quakers: T.L. Underwood, Primitivism, radicalism, and the Lamb’s War: the Baptist-Quaker conflict in the seventeenth century England (1997). For more information on Bunyan and the Quakers (his first printed works): Some Gospel Truths Opened, 1656, and A Vindication of Some Gospel Truths Open, 1657.
[8] This text in Rev.21:10-22:4 would later be what inspired him to write, The Holy City, which was an understanding of the Church and end times. Later its’ sequel in 1665 would be written, The Resurrection of the Dead.
[9] Easy reference guide to Bunyan’s works: J.R. Beeke and R.J. Pederson, Meet the Puritans, pp. 101-12. For more in-depth work on Bunyan’s works: J.R. Knott, Bunyan Studies: John Bunyan and his time, vol. 1, 1998, H. Talon, John Bunyan: the man and his works, 1951.
[10] You can read George Cokayn benediction of John Bunyan’s life in Harrison, John Bunyan, pp.198-99.


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