- Bunyan, John
- ( 162 8-1688 )inspirational author of The Pilgrim's ProgressBaptist minister and author of the Protestant classic The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan was born at Elstow, Bedfordshire, England, in November 1628. His father was a whitesmith, a maker and mender of pots and kettles, and Bunyan continued professionally in his father's footsteps. He received some primary education locally, but did not attend college. Following his mother's death and his father's remarriage, in 1644, he left home for the army, the civil war that would bring Oliver Cromwell to power having already begun. After two years of service, he returned to his home and married. His wife influenced a turn toward religion - he gave up a number of bad habits and began to attend church regularly. He also began a spiritual search that led to a personal understanding of Christianity In 1653, he joined an independent nonconformist (Baptist) church. He would later describe the change in his life in his second most famous text, "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners."Moving to Bedford around 1655 after his wife died, he became more active in church, first as a deacon and then as a preacher. In 1657, he was ordained as a nonconformist minister. He began to travel and win a reputation as a speaker, attracting large audiences that caught the attention of the authorities. He also began to write, his first publications being attacks upon the beliefs and practices of the Quakers. He married again in 1659.Bunyan's life took a new direction after the monarchy was restored in England in 1660. The nonconformist meeting houses were closed and nonconformist worship outlawed. People were required to attend worship at the local parish of the Church of England. Nonconformists continued to meet in barns and other buildings, andBunyan continued to travel and preach. He was arrested on November 12, 1660. He remained in jail after confessing to his preaching activity and to his determination to continue if freed. He refused all compromises offered him, including an agreement that he would preach only in small private gatherings.He remained in prison for 12 years, ministering to his fellow prisoners, not infrequently his cobelievers. He also found time to write both poetry and religious tracts. His autobiographical "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners" appeared in 1666. Shortly before his release in 1672, he penned the "Confession of my Faith and Reason of my Practice," an apologetic of his ministry.Even before his release, Bunyan was called to pastor the Baptist church in Bedford, which was meeting in a barn. From Bedford he traveled through the countryside, founding churches and nurturing believers. He also kept up his production of books and pamphlets. His most famous book, The Pilgrim's Progress, was probably written during a brief second imprisonment in 1675, and first appeared in print in 1678. It was an immediate success, and a second edition appeared before the year was out. The allegorical book recounts the course through life of the hero, Christian, who along the way meets various types of worldly people who try to tempt him from the successful completion of his course.By the time The Pilgrim's Progress was published, the acts against nonconformists had been reinstituted (1675). However, acting more circumspectly, Bunyan was able to continue to travel and preach, drawing large crowds, and was not again molested by the authorities. He died in 1688. His works remained popular for several centuries, though more recently only his two most important works continue to be widely read.Further reading:■ John Brown, John Bunyan (1628-1688): His Life, Times and Work, rev. ed. (London: Hulbert, 1928)■ John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (New York: Columbia University Press for the Facsimile Text Society, 1934). Numerous editions and reprints exist; Frank Mott Harrison, A Bibliography of the Works of John Bunyan (London: Bibliographical Society, 1932)■ Roger Sharrock, John Bunyan (London: Hutchinson, 1954)■ Ola Elizabeth Winslow, John Bunyan (New York: Macmillan, 1961).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.