1628 - 1688
"I got me back into prison and did sit down to write again. I have been away from my writing too long. Maybe this is not so much a prison as an office from which I can reach the world with Christ's message." -- Bunyan on being sent back to prison in 1675.
English Baptist preacher and writer, John Bunyan the tinker of Bedford,was born in Elstow, England near Bedford where he spent most of his life. When he was just a boy, he was saved from drowning by his neighbor, Oliver Cromwell. Although today he is regarded as a literary genius, he had little formal education. At the age of 16, this rough and profane young man joined Cromwell's army to fight against King Charles I. His life was spared again when a friend who took his place on guard duty was killed in a skirmish that started while Bunyan was away. After the war in 1647 at the age of 19, he married a young woman and had four children. She persuaded him to attend church with her regularly where he heard the Gospel. He tried to obtain salvation by reforming his life and giving up his evil habits, but he found no peace with God. Finally, he made a complete surrender to Christ and was converted after reading Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians with its emphasis on God's saving grace, after which he was baptized and joined the Baptist church of Bedford.
Bunyan began his ministry as a lay preacher in Bedford, and also in the surrounding villages which caused the people to recognize in him elements of leadership as well as ability as an expositor of the scriptures. Continuing in his trade as a tinker, "mending pots and pans by day, and saving souls on nights and weekends." He witnessed wherever he went. He spent his holidays and Sundays preaching in barns, shops, village greens, as well as in the open air. His powerful preaching resulted in numerous conversions-and powerful enemies. The restored king, Charles II, revoked the religious freedom that had been granted under Cromwell. Such great crowds began to follow him that it led to his arrest and imprisonment in 1660 for conducting a "conventicle," a religious meeting without the permission of the state church. When offered his freedom if he would promise not to preach, he refused and chose jail from then until 1672. While imprisoned he studied, preached and wrote. Selling shoelaces made by his wife and the royalty checks from his books were the only supports his family had during his imprisonment. He was freed briefly in 1665 during the Bubonic Plague when he worked as a nurse and preacher to the dying in London, but then returned to jail again..
Although Bunyan authored 60 books, the most famous is "Pilgrim's Progress", he wrote this while in prison. Begun as a story to entertain his children on their visits to his jail cell, it has become one of the most famous and enduring works of Christian fiction. Bunyan wrote most of the book during his second stay in jail on the brown paper covers his wife used as stoppers on the milk jugs she brought to him in prison. First published in 1678, Pilgrim's Progress sold more than 100,000 copies in its first year in print and remains a best-seller to this day.
In 1672 he was released and immediately resumed his ministry. During the last sixteen years of his life he was active as pastor, writer, helper, counselor, organizer, administrator, and pastor-in-chief to a multitude of churches and young ministers. Bunyan was a champion for the cause of religious liberty and freedom of conscience in spiritual matters. One who knew him well wrote, "The grace of God was magnified in him and by him, and a rich anointing of the Spirit was upon him; and yet this great saint was always in his own eyes the chiefest of sinners and the poorest of saints." John Bunyan continued to preach until his death in 1688 from pneumonia after riding forty miles in a driving rain on horseback to London to preach. He was always a poor man, yet through his example, his ministry, and especially his pen, he bequeathed inestimable riches to posterity.
[ Thanks to: John Bunyan's Site ]