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John Bunyan

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John Bunyan was a celebrated 17th century English Christian writer. He spent his lifetime as a Christian preacher. English literature is considered to be incomplete without his epic allegorical fiction, The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Bunyan was born on 28 November 1628, in Elstow, Bedfordshire, England, to Thomas and Margaret Bunyan. His family suffered extreme financial problems. However, his parents were able to school their son.  In 1644, his mother died and his father remarried within two month. This action on his father’s part drove Bunyan away from home and he enlisted himself in the Parliamentary army, where he served from 1644 to 1647. It is reported that he married in 1649, although there is no evidence to authenticate the existence of the marriage. On his return to Esltow he resumed working as a tinker. Afterwards, he moved to Bedford and remarried after death of his first wife.

Some Gospel Truths is marked as the first book published by John Bunyan in 1656. Then he became a revered deacon and a preacher two years after being admitted in the Baptist church. Shortly afterwards he was indicted for preaching without license, nonetheless, did not suffer imprisonment. It was not until 1660 that he was imprisoned for twelve years. On his release, he took up the services as a pastor of the Bedford church and again faced imprisonment for six months. In 1676, as he was serving his time in prison, he began writing the acclaimed Christian allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress. It consists two parts, the first part came out in London in 1678 and second one appeared six years later.

The first part of The Pilgrim’s Progress charts the journey of an everyman character, Christian, who burdened by his sins seeks redemption and travels from “City of Destruction” to the “Celestial City”. The former City represents the world and the latter denotes Heaven. On his journey he meets people representing different sects, faiths and agendas. The second part illustrates Christian and his wife, sons and maiden Mercy’s journey to the Celestial City again. The two books depict everyman’s constant struggle to rid oneself of the burden of sins. It is a highly spiritual book that reflects Bunyan’s true devotion to his religion even when he was being imprisoned for preaching it.

Besides writing spiritual allegory, he also penned a puritan spiritual autobiography, entitled Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. The book was written before The Pilgrim’s Progress. The autobiography traces Bunyan’s conversion from a depraved youth to a true believer. The book acknowledges his struggle to embrace the faith. He claimed to have suffered from terrorizing visions questioning his faith. Assuming the visions to be God’s reprimand on his over-indulgent lifestyle, he feared the outcome of his sinful acts. The incident filled him with utter guilt and self-doubt and eventually he believed in salvation and damnation of man as promised in the Bible. It still took him years to fully convert and embrace Christian faith.

John Bunyan was a commendable preacher and prolific author, although most of his works included expanded sermons. He was highly influenced by Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians authored by Martin Luther. His other notable works include The Life and Death of Mr Badman (1680), The Holy War (1682) and The Heavenly Footman (1698). Bunyan caught severe cold on his visit to a friend in London and died on August 31, 1688. He is buried at Bunhill Fields cemetery in London.

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