Biography of John Bunyan


JOHN BUNYAN, one of the most popular religious writers of any age, was born at Elstow, near Bedford, in 1628. He was brought up to his father's trade of tinker, and spent his youth in the practice of that humble craft, of which his name alone now serves to lessen somewhat the disrepute. It has generally been taken for granted that his early life was very loose and profligate, on the sole ground of his terrible self accusations in after years, when from the height of religious fervor and puritan strictness, he looked back on dancing and bell ringing as sins. In his 16th or 17th year, he enlisted in the Parliamentary army, and in 1645 was present at the seige of Leicester, where he escaped death by the substitution of a comrade in his place as sentry. Nothing further is known of his military career. After leaving the army, he married, and soon after began to be visited by those terrible compunctions of conscience, and fits of doubt, sometimes passing into despair, which, with some quieter intervals, made his life for several years, a journey through the valley of humiliation, of which he afterwards gave so vivid a picture. Hope and peace came at last, and in 1655, Bunyan became a member of the Baptist congregation at Bedford. Soon after he was chosen its pastor, and for five years ministered with extraordinary diligence and success, his preaching generally attracting great crowds. The act against conventicles, passed on the Restoration, put a stop to his labors; he was convicted, and sentenced to perpetual banishment. In the meantime, he was committed to Bedford jail, where he spent the next twelve years of his life, supporting the wants of his wife and children by making tagged laces, and ministering to all posterity by writing the Pilgrim's Progress. His library consisted of a Bible and Foxes Martyrs. The kindly interposition of a high church Bishop, Dr. Barlow, of Lincoln, at length released him, and he at once resumed his work as a preacher, itinerating throughout the country. After the issuing of James II's declaration of liberty of conscience, he again settled at Bedford, and ministered to the Baptist congregation in Mill-lane till his death, at London, of fever, in 1688. Bunyan's whole works were published in 1736, in a two-volume folio. The most popular of them after the Pilgrim's Progress, are the Holy War - another allegory, much less successful - and Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, an autobiographical narrative. It is supposed that no other book, except the Bible, has gone through so many editions, and attained to so wide a popularity in all languages as the Pilgrim's Progress.