John Bunyan's Life and Works
John Bunyan (1628-1688) was born at Elstow, England, about a mile south of Bedford. Born the son of a tinker, he joined the Parliamentary Army at around the age of 16 to fight in the English Civil War. He then followed his father's trade and travelled the villages of Bedfordshire, repairing people's pots and pans. Following a dramatic conversion experience, he became one of the most influential authors of the seventeenth century and produced a wealth of Christian publications.
Bunyan's conversion is recorded in his autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. His conviction of his sinful nature was awoken by a sermon at Elstow Abbey church, in which the vicar - the Reverend Christopher Hall - denounced the violation of the Lord's Day by work or sports or by other past-times. Then, walking through the streets of Bedford, Bunyan heard ‘three or four poor women’ sitting at a door, ‘talking about the new birth, the work of God in their hearts’. From these pious women Bunyan learned to despise sin and to hunger for salvation and, in 1655, Bunyan was baptised by immersion by Pastor John Gifford of St John’s Church, Bedford.
He felt called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, despite not being a state-authorised minister. As a result, he was arrested November 12, 1660, for preaching without the approval of the Anglican Church. He was charged with "teaching men to worship God contrary to the law" and was sent to Bedford gaol for three months. His continued refusal to cease unlicensed preaching meant that he was left in gaol for more than twelve years. It in gaol that he wrote his world-famous allegory The Pilgrim's Progress.
Bunyan’s theology was rooted in the Reformation doctrines of man's fallen nature, grace, imputation, justification, and the atonement. His remarkable imagery comes from his reading of the Bible and from the popular culture of rural Bedfordshire in the seventeenth century.
He was married twice and had three daughters and three sons.
In 1688, riding from Reading, Berkshire to the house of his friend, grocer John Strudwick of Snow Hill in the City of London, Bunyan was caught in a storm and fell ill with a fever. He died in Strudwick's house on the morning of 31 August 1688 and was buried in a tomb belonging to Strudwick, in Bunhill Fields Burial ground -38 City Road, London EC1Y 2BG
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John Bunyan is best known for his allegorical story The Pilgrim's Progress - an account of a man's journey, in which he seeks (and eventually finds) salvation and release from his 'burden' of sin.
Less well known is that John wrote a sequel - The Pilgrims Progress part two.
The Pilgrim's Progress was a ground-breaking piece of literature, in that it sought to bring the Christian message to ordinary people, in a way that they could easily understand.
In Bunyan's lifetime, over 100,000 copies circulated in the British Isles, plus there were several editions published in North America.
It has remained continuously in-print ever since, has been translated into over 200 languages and became a world-wide best-seller, its sales being second only to the Bible - a record that it held for over 300 years. Following the publication of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, The Pilgrim's Progress is still the world's third best-selling book.
Bunyan wrote over 58 books and pamphlets, 16 of which were published posthumously. Titles include: The Life and Death of Mr Badman and his autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.
PDF copies of John Bunyan's books can be read and downloaded at the Chapel Library website.
Biographies of Bunyan
An essay; Introducing Bunyan can be found on the IJBS website.
There is a biography of John Bunyan on Wikipedia.
Reverend Dr John Brown. John Bunyan - his life times and works 1886. Dr Brown was a theologian, historian and author. He became minister of the Bunyan Meeting Church, Bedford from 1864 to 1903, when he retired and was given the title pastor emeritus, which he held until his death in 1922, aged 91. A PDF version of his biography of John Bunyan can be found at archive.org
Christopher Hill, A Turbulent, Seditious, and Factious People: John Bunyan and his Church (1988)
Richard L. Greaves, Glimpses of Glory: John Bunyan and English Dissent (2002)