Faithful Heroes: John Bunyon

John Bunyan was an English writer and Puritan preacher. He is best remembered for his book The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Birthplace of John Bunyon

Bunyan was born in 1628 to Thomas and Margaret Bunyan in Elstow, Bedfordshire, England.

As a child, he received some rudimentary schooling and learned his father’s trade of tinker.

In the summer of 1644, both his mother and sister, Margaret, died. That fall, around his 16th birthday, he enlisted in the Parliamentary army.

Within two years of leaving the army, he was married. The couple would have four children. Their first daughter, Mary, was born blind.

Bunyan entered several years of spiritual conflict in which he struggled with his doubts and fears over religion and the guilt of his own state sin. One afternoon, while playing a game, he heard a voice from the heavens ask “Wilt thou leave thy sins, and go to Heaven? Or have thy sins, and go to Hell?”

Drawing of Bunyan in prison

Overhearing women of the Bedford Free Church speak in the street, he was so impressed with their spiritual hearts, he joined the church. Eventually he began to preach, both in the church and surrounding countryside.

His wife died in 1658, leaving him with four small children. The following year he married an 18-year-old named Elizabeth.

With the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, Bunyan was no longer able to preach. Ignoring the warnings, he was arrested in November 1660 and after a trial was sentenced to three months, as long as he attended a Church of England congregation and stopped preaching.

He refused and his imprisonment was extended to twelve years. His family was left to rely on the charity of his supporters.

While in prison he wrote his autobiography Grace Abounding and began his famous work The Pilgrim’s Progress, as well as several tracts.

In March 1672, the king issued a declaration of indulgence, which suspended the penal laws of religious nonconformists. Thousands of pastors and nonconformists, including Bunyan, were released. He immediately obtained a license to preach under the declaration of indulgence.

He devoted his time to writing and preaching.

The Pilgrim’s Progress was published in 1678 and immediately became popular. By this time, two more children were added to the family.

The following decade saw a short six month stint of imprisonment. He also dealt with a scandal that decade when a woman rode unchaperoned with him. When her father died two days later, many accused the woman of having an affair with Bunyan, which he denied. Other accusers stated the young woman killed her father.

While traveling, he was caught in a storm and fell ill with fever. He was taken to the home of a friend, John Strudwick, where he died on August 31, 1688. His widow, Elizabeth, died in 1691.

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