, was baptized on 30 November 1628 at Elstow, Bedfordshire, the eldest of the three children of Thomas Bunyan (bap
. 1603, d
. 1676), brazier, and his second wife, Margaret (bap
. 1603, d
. 1644), daughter of William Bentley and his wife, Mary (née
Goodwin). Although Bunyan averred that his ancestry was low and inconsiderable, in 1542 William Bonyon, a direct ancestor, held part of the manor of Elstow from Henry VIII (Bunyan, Grace Abounding
, 5). Subsequent generations of the declining family sold the land, leaving Bunyan's father poor but not destitute.
Youth and military service
Although Bunyan's father apparently was unable to write, he sent his son to school to learn reading and writing. Bunyan later wrote contemptuously of his education, claiming he had neither studied Plato and Aristotle nor acquired a knowledge of Greek and Latin. Yet even his earliest works manifest an ability to write grammatically and coherently, so that he can hardly have forgotten what he had learned, as he professed. Whether he attended a grammar school for a time or taught himself what he knew, he took pains throughout his career to dissociate himself from dependence on the writings of others apart from the Bible
and John Foxe's Acts and Monuments
. Yet he read more than he admitted, acquiring an ability to use the theological language of academic discourse, a degree of legal knowledge, and a facility in writing verse and emblem literature. Before he married, he preferred to read newspapers, ballads, medieval romances, and possibly works on alchemy. He felt some guilt as he observed others reading pious books, but this did not deter him from a youth he later depicted as replete with profanity, vice, ungodliness, and illegal activities.
Near his sixteenth birthday, Bunyan enlisted or was conscripted into the New Model Army. The muster rolls for the garrison at Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, though incomplete, list him as a member of Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Cokayne's company from 30 November 1644 to 8 March 1645, and of Major Robert Bolton's between 21 April and 27 May 1645; he probably served in Bolton's company until its disbandment in September 1646. Because the garrison was chronically behind in its pay and poorly equipped, Bunyan's experience must have been grim. Indeed some of the troops mutinied in February 1645. Bunyan would have learned to wield a sword and probably a musket and handgun. The garrison troops participated in the siege of Oxford and the defence of Leicester as well as periodic patrols, but there is no evidence to indicate whether Bunyan was engaged in the fighting. By June 1647 he had volunteered to serve in Captain Charles O'Hara's company, which was bound for Ireland to fight the rebels, but on 21 July parliament disbanded the regiment of which O'Hara's company was a part, thus terminating Bunyan's military career.
In addition to providing Bunyan with the military imagery he used in some of his works, especially The Holy War
, his service in the Newport Pagnell garrison exposed him to assorted religious views, including those of the presbyterians, especially after the governor, Sir Samuel Luke, imposed the solemn league and covenant in March 1645. Bunyan may have first learned Calvinist tenets from Luke's chaplain, Thomas Ford, and he probably heard the sectaries William Erbery and Paul Hobson preach; Bunyan would later espouse a doctrine of spirit-baptism akin to Erbery's. Nevertheless, none of these preachers had an immediate impact on Bunyan, who left the army without having made any noticeable religious commitment.
Bunyan married at some time after he left the army, undoubtedly by October 1649, for his first child, a blind daughter named Mary, was baptized on 20 July 1650. He and his first wife had three other children, Elizabeth (b
. 1654), John (d
. 1728), and Thomas. He does not record his wife's name, but she was poor, bringing to the marriage only two books bequeathed to her by her pious father, Lewis Bayly's The Practise of Pietie
and Arthur Dent's The Plaine Mans Path-Way to Heaven
. Under her influence Bunyan outwardly reformed, attended the Elstow parish church, and revered its minister, Christopher Hall. The latter's sermon on sabbath observance impressed Bunyan, helping set the stage for the famous scene on a Sunday afternoon when an inner voice struck terror in him as he played the game of cat. The anxiety that had plagued him in his pre-adolescent years owing to nightmares of exclusion and punishment now returned, and he found himself in a spiritual maze whose false turnings and blind alleys would dominate much of his life for some nine years, until late 1657 or early 1658.
For approximately a year Bunyan sought spiritual comfort in outward conformity, though he was discomfited when a shopkeeper's wife castigated him for his swearing, and again when his fondness for bell-ringing stirred feelings of guilt. On a trip to Bedford to pursue his tinker's occupation he overheard three or four female members of John Gifford's separatist congregation discuss religion. What Bunyan heard triggered a spiritual awakening, prompting him to turn to Ranter works and the Bible
, particularly the Pauline epistles. Before long he manifested signs of poor self-esteem and fatigue. Unrelieved anxiety and a growing fear that the day of grace had passed, leaving him without hope of salvation, probably led to chronic mild depression. Awash in feelings of guilt, he was overcome with doubt and anxiety for several years by his reckoning, experiencing only brief respites. Prone to blasphemy for a time, he was sorely tempted to commit the dreaded sin against the Holy Spirit, to sell (abandon) Christ. Though Gifford's ministry and Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians
provided temporary relief, the old fears returned, and in early or mid-1651 he succumbed to the temptation. Down I fell, as a Bird that is shot from the top of a Tree, into great guilt and fearful despair (Bunyan, Grace Abounding
, 43). Reading A Relation of the Fearful Estate of Francis Spira
deepened his anguish, and he likened his plight to Esau's after he had sold his birthright. The combination of self-deprecation, a profound sense of shame, physical symptoms, diminished interest in other things, and difficulty sleeping suggest mild depression.
Bunyan was still wandering in this psycho-spiritual maze when, in 1655, he joined the separatist church in Bedford. Although still afflicted with profound spiritual doubts and a sense of doom, he began preaching approximately nine months later. I went my self in chains to preach to them in chains, and carried that fire in my own conscience that I perswaded them to beware of (Bunyan, Grace Abounding
, 85). His lengthy spiritual travail finally terminated in late 1657 or early 1658, after he had been preaching for two years. Hope dawned when he found himself able to reconsider the biblical passages that had caused him the most pain, especially Hebrews
6, 10, and 12. Now did my chains fall off my Legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations also fled away (ibid., 72).
Early writings and ministry
While he was still troubled by anxiety and doubt, Bunyan learned about the Quakers, probably in late 1654 or early 1655. William Dewsbury had come to Bedfordshire in summer 1654, convincing John Crook of Beckerings Park and others to embrace the Quaker message. George Fox and other leading Friends met at Beckerings Park the following month, after which they held a series of debates with other protestants. Four times between April 1656 and January 1657 Bunyan engaged in these disputations, which provided the context for his first book, Some Gospel-Truths Opened
(1656). His pastor, John Burton, provided a commendatory epistle in which he acknowledged Bunyan's lack of a higher education while insisting he had been trained in the heavenly university. Bunyan's primary audience consisted of believers he feared might be misled by Quaker and Ranter teachings about Christ's person and work. Edward Burrough replied to Bunyan in The True Faith of the Gospel of Peace Contended For
(1656), to which Bunyan responded in A Vindication of … Some Gospel-Truths Opened
(1657). Burrough countered with Truth (the Strongest of All)
(1657), and Fox briefly denounced Bunyan in The Great Mistery of the Great Whore
(1659). At root, Bunyan and Burrough each insisted his antagonist was not enlightened by the Spirit; his words might be true, but his spirit was false. Substantive differences existed, though sometimes these were a matter of emphasis, as in Bunyan's stress on the Bible
and Burrough's on the Spirit's primacy. Much of the debate revolved around Bunyan's accent on the external Christ in contrast to Burrough's focus on the Christ within everyone, and on Bunyan's sharp distinction between conscience and Christ's Spirit, a difference Burrough denied. Heated and at times offensive, the rhetoric reflected each man's belief that this was a duel between the forces of light and darkness.
For preaching at Eaton Socon, Bunyan was indicted at the assizes no later than February 1658. Nothing seems to have come of this, perhaps because of the Bedford church's willingness to seek legal counsel for him. This encounter with the state may have provided some of the impetus for his third book, A Few Sighs from Hell
(1658), an exposition of Luke
16:1931 probably based on sermon notes, in which he referred to his persecution at the hands of enemies who rage and threaten to knock me in the head (Miscellaneous Works
, 1.36061). The work's primary thrust was a scathing attack on professional clergy and the wealthy, coupled with an exhortation to his readers to repent or be condemned to horrific everlasting punishment in a physical hell. Although this work, like many others of Bunyan's, included evangelical appeals implying people's right to choose their eternal destiny, he was a Calvinist. As enunciated in his next work, The Doctrine of the Law and Grace Unfolded
(1659), an exposition of covenant theology, his views place him in the strict Calvinist tradition, with its stress on the promissory nature of the covenant of grace as distinct from the moderate Calvinists' emphasis on human responsibility in the covenant. This work also reflects Bunyan's indebtedness to Luther's commentary on Galatians
, particularly the dichotomy between law and grace. Bunyan's denigration of the law led to charges of antinomianism by Richard Baxter, an accusation that cannot be sustained if one considers the total corpus of Bunyan's works.
Bunyan was also embroiled in other controversies. About the time he was writing Law and Grace
, he preached in a barn at Toft, Cambridgeshire, sparking a debate with Thomas Smith, university librarian at Cambridge, who challenged his right to preach without formal ordination. The General Baptist Henry Denne came to Bunyan's defence in The Quaker No Papist
(1659). The same year Bunyan became involved in a dispute over witchcraft, the reality of which he accepted, finding evidence for it in scripture. An anonymous tract, Strange & Terrible Newes from Cambridge
(1659), recounted how one Margaret Pryor had been victimized by a Quaker witch who temporarily turned her into a mare. Bunyan wrote a pamphlet endorsing the allegation; no copy survives, but it was refuted by the Quaker James Blackley in A Lying Wonder Discovered
(1659). Further controversy erupted when Bunyan preached in the parish church at Yelden, Bedfordshire, on Christmas day 1659 at the invitation of the rector, William Dell. Because of this, thirty of Dell's parishioners unsuccessfully petitioned the House of Lords for his ejection. In 1659 Bunyan married his second wife, Elizabeth (d
. 1691), his first wife having died the previous year. He and Elizabeth had two children, Sarah and Joseph (bap
Imprisonment: the early years
At the Restoration the Bedford congregation to which Bunyan belonged lost its right to use St John's Church, though it continued to meet. However, when Bunyan went to the hamlet of Lower Samsell, near Harlington, to preach on 12 November, he was arrested under the terms of the 1593 Act against Sectaries
. Warned of his impending apprehension, he eschewed flight, preferring to set an example for other nonconformists. Offered his release if he promised to cease preaching, he refused and was detained until the quarter sessions. In defending his position against a local minister, Dr William Lindale, Bunyan denounced the Church of England as false, thereby taking a more extreme stand than dissenters such as Philip Henry who were willing to worship in the established church. At the quarter sessions in January 1661, Bunyan and Sir John Kelynge (Keeling) argued over the former's right to preach as well as the nature of prayer and worship. Kelynge sentenced Bunyan to three months in prison, at which time he was to conform or be banished. Resolute, Bunyan stood his ground in April, refusing to renounce his right to preach if he were released. Unwilling to sue for pardon because it would entail an admission that the meeting at Lower Samsell had been illegal, he failed to benefit from the coronation pardon on 23 April. As Bunyan explains in A Relation of my Imprisonment
(posthumously published in 1765), his wife thereupon went to London with a petition for his release, but Sir Matthew Hale and Thomas Twisden rejected her plea. Nevertheless, a sympathetic gaoler granted Bunyan a fair amount of liberty, enabling him to participate in the Bedford church's activities and even visit London in autumn 1661. When his enemies accused Bunyan of having gone to the city to plot an uprising and threatened to indict the gaoler, Bunyan was closely confined in late October.
While he was at liberty Bunyan had preached against the Book of Common Prayer
, and he now expanded and published his sermon as I will Pray with the Spirit
.1662). Expounding on 1 Corinthians
14:15, he insisted that true prayer is rooted in the Spirit's inner work, a profoundly intense uttering at the core of the Christian life. The Book of Common Prayer
and other formal prayers are not only ineffectual, he averred, but unlawful human inventions. Those who enforced the established liturgy he likened to Edmund Bonner, the Marian bishop of London. The tract is an uncompromising denunciation of the Church of England as false and evil.
Bunyan passed some of his time in the Bedford county gaol writing verse (and making shoelaces). His poetry reflects the influence of ballads, chapbooks, and broadsides, and probably of Sternhold's and Hopkins's metrical version of the Psalms
. As Bunyan's poems improved over time, they marked a refinement of popular religious verse. His first volume, Profitable Meditations
(1661), defended his use of poetry to convey the gospel message, reflected his conversion experience, and embodied the tension between the Calvinist doctrine of predestination and the preacher's call to repentance. Whereas the mood of Profitable Meditations
was upbeat, Bunyan's Prison Meditations
(1663) reflected his struggle to overcome the despair of seemingly interminable incarceration. The gaol, he concluded, was a school in which Christ teaches his disciples how to die. Now capturing Bunyan's emotional state, his verse has the capacity to move readers. Expecting to die in prison, he wrote Christian Behaviour
(1663), intended as a final testament as well as a guide to Christian living. Essentially, it was a companion piece to Law and Grace
, for it effectively repudiated the charge of antinomianism. Reflecting traditional protestant moral principles, Bunyan emphasized moderation as well as the subordination of wives to husbands, children to parents, and servants to masters. When he completed this book in June 1663, he thought death was imminent.
Reflections on the end times
Separated from his wife and children, Bunyan went through another period of depression in late 1663 or 1664. Thoughts of the gallows haunted him, especially the fear of dying cravenly. Feeling empty, spiritless, and barren when he was asked to address his fellow prisoners, he finally found inspiration in Revelation
21:11, with its depiction of a gleaming new Jerusalem. The full passage, Revelation
21:1022:4, soon became the subject of a new book, The Holy City
(1665), in which Bunyan set forth his understanding of church history and the end times. After the period of Christ and his apostles, church history's first age, the church entered into captivity. Near the end of this stage, according to Bunyan, two sub-periods occurred, the first of which, altar-work, extended from John Wyclif to Thomas Cranmer. The second sub-period, temple-work, in which Bunyan lived, featured the gathering of congregations of the manifestly godly, or visible saints. Antichrist's fall marks the commencement of the final stage, the millennium, when the godly will build the new Jerusalem. Although Bunyan had almost certainly been attracted to Fifth Monarchist views at some point in the 1650s, in this work he does not call for the saints to expedite the millennium's arrival by taking up arms against the government. During this age, most monarchs will continue to serve the Mistress of Iniquity, though ultimately they will turn against her. Near the millennium's conclusion, Satan will mount a final, furious but unsuccessful assault, following which Christ will return to preside over the last judgment. Unlike some millenarian commentators, Bunyan refused to propose dates for these events, but he believed the millennium's onset was imminent. Writing this work, with its triumphal tone, heralded his emergence from the recurring depression and provided him with the assurance that enabled him to withstand nine more years behind bars.
Whereas Bunyan had decoded the book of Revelation
's typology in The Holy City
, in its sequel, The Resurrection of the Dead
(1665?), he pursued a more traditional homiletic approach in explicating Acts
24:1415. Again, the tone is exultant, the conviction of election certain, and the acceptance of persecution unwavering. Prison's terrors no longer daunted him; indeed, he used his temporal experience of torment as a model for the horrors that awaited the damned following the last judgment. In The Holy City
Bunyan had dated that event at the conclusion of the millennium, but now he reversed his position, averring that the last judgment was impending. Much of the book is devoted to the great trials of the just and the unjust, the former in their spiritual, immortal bodies, unconstrained by the laws of physics, the latter in their physical but no less eternal bodies, subject to everlasting burning. These trials effectively reverse that of 1661, providing Bunyan with an opportunity to see the godly avenged. The same message, in verse form, appears in Ebal and Gerizzim
(1665?), the sequel to One Thing is Needful
(1665?), a poetic work that parallels The Holy City
. Unlike Bunyan's earlier verse, which utilizes quatrains, Ebal and Gerizzim
breaks new ground by adopting iambic pentameter couplets, probably influenced by his reading of other poets in prison.
About late 1665 or early 1666 Bunyan composed his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
(1666), six editions of which were published in his lifetime. This was to be a defence of his ministerial calling and an aid to his converts as they struggled to remain loyal to their nonconformist convictions. With its vivid recountingand thus relivingof his battle with spiritual doubt and depression, the book could only have been written once Bunyan had overcome the despair that threatened to engulf him during the early years of his incarceration. Although conventional in structure, Grace Abounding
transcends contemporary examples of the genre in its depth of psychological experience, its riveting account of Bunyan's struggle to keep from succumbing to pervasive, numbing despair, and his agonizing wrestling with biblical texts. He was, of course, a prisoner of his memory no less than of the state, and his recollection of distant events and chronology is sometimes imprecise. Allowance must also be made for his undoubted tendency to exaggerate, as when he depicted himself as the greatest of sinners, a deliberate attempt to associate himself (here and elsewhere) with the apostle Paul. Indispensable as a source for Bunyan's early life and conversion, Grace Abounding
also reveals much about Bunyan in the mid-1660s, especially his renewed triumph over despair and his state of spiritual assurance. In a telling analogy, he likened himself to David as he held Goliath's head in his hand.
The Heavenly Foot-Man and The Pilgrim's Progress
Unless A Pocket Concordance
, of which no copies are extant, appeared between 1666 and 1672, Bunyan published nothing between Grace Abounding
in 1666 and A Confession of my Faith
in 1672 other than the second edition of his spiritual autobiography; he completed the third edition about 1672. However, some four years earlier he had begun to prepare The Heavenly Foot-Man, a sermon on the Christian life, for publication. Internal evidence suggests it may have been preached, or at least prepared for the pulpit, late in 1659 or in 1660. Directed to the spiritually indolent, the sermon urges people to repent before the day of grace has passed, a concern that played a prominent role in Bunyan's conversion experience. Using the metaphor of a race to portray the Christian life, Bunyan admonished his readers to begin promptly, cast off encumbrances, shun distractions and bypaths, and fight off fatigue. The message clearly implies an ability to choose to run this race, thus reflecting Bunyan's recurring tendency to suppress predestinarian doctrine in favour of pastoral evangelism. As he worked on his text, he became intrigued with the idea of writing a full-scale allegory on
And Race of Saints,
at last laying aside his manuscript to fall
suddenly into an Allegory
About their Journey, and the way to Glory. (Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress, 1)
Thus was born the first part of The Pilgrim's Progress
, though Bunyan, deterred by some of his friends' negative reaction to his allegorizing, delayed publication until 1678. Various biblical authors, he reasoned, use a similar methodology. The Heavenly Foot-Man
lay unpublished until 1698.
One of the most popular books ever printed, The Pilgrim's Progress
was composed by Bunyan partly as a distraction from worser thoughts, partly to allegorize his religious experience as a guide for others, and partly to add his voice to the great debate over conscience that raged especially between 1667 and 1672. A potent appeal for the primacy of conscience, The Pilgrim's Progress
belongs with works by John Owen, Sir Charles Wolseley, John Locke, William Penn, Slingsby Bethel, and Andrew Marvell espousing liberty of conscience. The Vanity fair episode brilliantly makes the point that those who repress the godly in England are not the obviously evil but one's law-abiding, superficially religious neighbours, the same people whose worship found expression in the Book of Common Prayer
. Christian's experience at Vanity fair echoes Bunyan's at the hands of Restoration magistrates and judges. More broadly, Bunyan drew on his military experience to craft an epic that creatively combined warfaring and wayfaring. Christian is both pilgrim and warrior, and the message of The Pilgrim's Progress
is not only a call to embrace and persist in the Christian life, but also a summons to battle the forces of evil, if necessary by refusing to yield to the state's demands for religious conformity. Christian's Travels and Wars brook no compromise (p. 248). Most of the work was probably in hand by autumn 1669, when Bunyan enjoyed modest liberty, and the rest was probably composed by early 1671.
Debating with Baptists and latitudinarians
Bunyan was still in Bedford gaol when, on 21 January 1672, the Bedford congregation appointed him to the pastoral office. Following Charles II's promulgation of the declaration of indulgence, Bunyan emerged from prison in May at the hub of a network of five dissenting congregations that he and other imprisoned ministers had organized. Each of these churchesat Bedford, Keysoe, Cranfield, Stevington, and Newport Pagnellhad satellite meetings in surrounding communities. As a result of this organization, the churches were assured of an ample supply of preachers and teachers. In the ensuing years Bunyan preached widely, from Leicester to London and Southwark, at times engaging in the polemic characteristic of the period.
Bunyan had returned to debate while he was still in prison, having been motivated by Edward Fowler's The Design of Christianity
(1671). The rector of Northill, Bedfordshire, Fowler admired the latitudinarians. In his book he argued that Christ purifies human nature, restoring believers to perfect righteousness rather than merely justifying them in God's sight; the design of Christianity will be accomplished in those who make Jesus's life the pattern by which to live. To Bunyan this amounted to an attack on the doctrine of justification by Christ's imputed righteousness, a thesis he expounded in A Defence of the Doctrine of Justification
, finished on 27 February 1672 though not licensed until 21 November. Hoping to shame Fowler, Bunyan compared his views to those of the Jesuit Edmund Campion and the Quaker William Penn, and averred that Fowler's tenets contravened the Thirty-Nine Articles
. Irate, Fowler or a defender replied in the anonymous Dirt Wip't Off
(1672), denouncing Bunyan as a grossly ignorant antinomian who used inane arguments. Bunyan ignored such vituperation, though he later referred disparagingly to latitudinarians.
Another late prison work, A Confession of my Faith
(1672), began with an epistle to an unnamed Baptist critic in which Bunyan defended his practice of communing with the godly who had not been baptized with water. His confession articulated his views on imputed righteousness, the Reformed doctrine of predestination, the Bible
, and magistracy, but much of it argued for the right of the godly to participate in church fellowship, including communion, as long as they had been baptized by the Spirit. This work established Bunyan as an open-membership, open-communion Baptist with Reformed predestinarian views. His confession prompted attacks from the General (Arminian) Baptist John Denne in Truth Outweighing Error
(1673), and the Particular (Calvinist) Baptist Thomas Paul in Some Serious Reflections
(1673), with a preface by William Kiffin. Citing Henry Jessey for support, Bunyan retorted in Differences in Judgment about Water-Baptism, No Bar to Communion
(1673). Paul issued a rejoinder in a work no longer extant, and Henry Denne appended a postscript to his Treatise of Baptism
(1673), attacking Bunyan. Again Bunyan defended himself, this time in Peaceable Principles and True
(1674), in which he complained that some of his critics had compared him to the devil while others had adjudged him insane. He chose not to respond to John Denne's Hypocrisie Detected
(1674) or Kiffin's A Sober Discourse
(1681), a general critique of the open-communion position.
While Bunyan duelled with his opponents over the place of water-baptism in church life, Charles II, pressured by parliament, rescinded the declaration of indulgence in March 1673. Many dissenters, undoubtedly including Bunyan, continued to regard their licences to preach as valid, and numerous magistrates were reluctant to prosecute. Against this background, Bunyan focused on pastoral concerns, particularly his determination to give Calvinist theology a warm, evangelical face. His sermon on Luke
13:69, entitled The Barren Fig-Tree
(1673), included a jeremiad warning England about the peril of being a nation of fruitless professors, but it was also directed to those members of gathered churches whose lifestyle brought disrepute on the godly. The easing of persecution had made religious complacency a matter of growing apprehension. For members of his congregation and the unconverted who had heard him preach, Bunyan wrote a catechism, Instruction for the Ignorant
(1675). Although similar in form and matter to various contemporary works in the same genre, instead of the traditional sections on baptismal vows, the apostles' creed, the ten commandments, and the Lord's prayer, Bunyan's catechism is unique in devoting a full section to self-denial. His book is also rather atypical in the extent to which it reflects his personal experience. A reference to efforts to denigrate ministers by falsely accusing them of scandal recalls the controversy that erupted in 1674 when he infuriated Agnes Beaumont's father by carrying her to a meeting on his horse.
About the same time, Bunyan published Light for Them that Sit in Darkness
(1675), a polemical work implicitly directed against Quakers and latitudinarians, who repudiated the doctrines of atonement by Christ's satisfaction and justification by his imputed righteousness. More broadly, Bunyan was attempting to reach those Christians who appeared to be succumbing to Fables, Seducing-Spirits, and Doctrines of Devils through the Intoxications of Delusions, and the Witchcrafts of false Preachers (Miscellaneous Works
, 8.49). Bunyan wrote amid heightened persecution, including a warrant for his arrest on 4 March 1675 for having preached at a conventicle. For his offence and subsequent refusal to appear in the archdeacon's court to answer the charges, he was excommunicated. He was almost certainly in London at this point, but some time after his return to Bedford he was arrested, probably in December 1676. He was released on a bond dated 21 June 1677, the result of an appeal to Thomas Barlow, bishop of Lincoln, by John Owen, minister of an Independent congregation at Leadenhall Street, London.
Bunyan published three more pastoral works in this period. In The Strait Gate
(1676), an expanded sermon on Luke
13:24, he sought to awaken congregations and professing Christians to the gospel message, though much of the work reflects his opposition to the established church through his insistence that most professing Christians were bound for eternal damnation. Reflecting older controversies, he denounced latitudinarians and Quakers as well as Socinians, Arminians, libertines, formalists (Anglicans), and legalists. By June 1676 Bunyan had completed Saved by Grace
, an exposition of Ephesians
2:5 in which he reiterated his belief that few would be saved, and assured the godly that they would persevere, notwithstanding persecution. Bunyan's most popular sermon, Come, & Welcome, to Jesus Christ
(1678), six editions of which were published in his lifetime, was composed between the summer of 1677 and March 1678. An exposition of John
6:37, it dynamically reflected his refusal to let the logical ramifications of the Calvinist doctrine of predestination dim his enthusiastic appeal to his audience, urging them to respond to the offer of divine grace. The personification of Shall-come in this sermon is similar to the allegorical personages of Help, Good-Will, and Great-Grace in The Pilgrim's Progress
, possibly reflecting Bunyan's decision to publish his allegory at this time. Both works beckon the unconverted to embrace the gospel, implying the sufficiency of divine grace for those who accept. Not surprisingly, Come, & Welcome
echoes many of the themes and some of the imagery in The Pilgrim's Progress
Coping with the Catholic threat
When allegations of a popish plot caused consternation among many protestants, Bunyan used the atmosphere of fear to remind his audience of the imperative to fear God. A Treatise of the Fear of God
(1679), apparently an expanded sermon on Revelation
14:7, explored the nature of godly fear, which prompts believers to revere God, seek mutual edification with other saints, observe such ordinances as the Lord's supper and prayer, practice self-denial, and distribute charity to needy believers. His condemnation of those who endeavour to overthrow the authority of the divine word was directed, inter alia
, at Catholics. Paul's Departure and Crown
, published posthumously but probably composed in the winter of 16789, also addressed the fears sparked by the Popish Plot, provided guidance for the godly in times of fierce persecution, and urged ministers to prepare to die for propagating the gospel. The Popish Plot was again in Bunyan's mind when he wrote Israel's Hope Encouraged
, which was posthumously published. With its exploration of the theme of hope, it was the natural accompaniment of the virtually contemporary treatise on fear. Instead of placing their hope in God, the people of England, he complained, trusted in the king, parliament, London magistrates, and statutes to preserve them from the Catholic threat. He reminded his readers that the ordinary condition of the godly was to suffer persecution, especially at the hands of great men, whose Teeth, the Laws terrorize saints (Miscellaneous Works
Throughout many of his works, Bunyan distinguishes between the suffering saints and the superficially religious. It was therefore natural for him to compose a sequel to the first part of The Pilgrim's Progress
in which he recounted the story of someone who might have been a resident of Vanity fair; the sequel was published in 1680 as The Life and Death of Mr Badman
. However, unlike most Vanity fair inhabitants, who are religious formalists, Badman is an atheist; indeed, he ridicules his wife's religious companions because of their hypocrisy. Like the youthful Bunyan, Badman is prone to swear, though unlike Bunyan he has inherited his father's wealth and acquired additional prosperity by marrying a rich bride. A dishonest businessman, Badman serves as a foil for Bunyan to moralize about appropriate standards of behaviour. Unlike Bunyan's pilgrim, whose end is perpetually in doubt, Badman's fate is clear from the beginning, and Bunyan recounts his story without exploring Badman's psyche. Devoid of drama, the book is nevertheless interesting because of Bunyan's incorporation of his observations of other people; the behaviour he describes, he says, has been acted upon the stage of this World, even many times before mine eyes (p. 1). Mr Badman
is a series of snapshots depicting the commonplace attitudes and practices against which Bunyan regularly preached. In addition to his own observations, he drew on Samuel Clarke's Mirrour or Looking-Glass both for Saints & Sinners
(4th edn, 1671) as well as broadsides and newsbooks.
The succession crisis: holy war
By the time Mr Badman
was published, the country had plunged into a rancorous debate over the succession, the perceived threat to protestantism, and the role of parliament. Bunyan undoubtedly heard much about the controversy, particularly when he visited London, as in early 1682, when he preached to Richard Wavel's congregation at Pinners' Hall. An expanded version of the sermon, possibly inspired by the death of his stepmother, Anne, in September 1680, was published as The Greatness of the Soul
Bunyan addressed the political and religious crisis that gripped England in The Holy War
. Using multiple levels of allegory, The Holy War
deals simultaneously with the believer's justification and sanctification, Christian or world history from Satan's initial fall to the eve of Christ's conquest, and the contemporary crisis. The warfaring of The Pilgrim's Progress
now becomes not only the dominant motif but the vehicle for Bunyan to address nonconformists and whigs concerned about the threat of Catholicism and arbitrary government. Bunyan wrote The Holy War
in 1681 and early 1682, probably moved in part by the parliamentary dissolutions in January and March. The epic's violencerape, arson, banishment, and murder, even of childrenis a damning indictment of the tory regime. Bunyan's message was a call to resistance, but not insurrection, a summons to the faithful to stand resolutely for their faith in the face of a state determined to crush nonconformity and impose a Catholic sovereign on the country. Bunyan issued a shrill warning that arbitrary government and popery are the enemies of Emanuel; Mansoul is not only the soul of each believer and the allegorical personification of Christianity but the symbol of England itself. At the time Bunyan wrote this epic, he knew Owen, George Griffith, and probably Matthew Meade, all three of whom the duke of Monmouth and others subsequently implicated in the plotting now under way for an insurrection. Although there is no evidence that Bunyan knew of the conspiracy, some of his ministerial comrades in London had indisputably radical connections.
Among Bunyan's posthumous publications are two that were almost certainly composed during the succession crisis. One of these was the treatise Of Antichrist, and his Ruine
, probably written in early 1682 and thematically related to The Holy City
. Thoroughly millenarian, Of Antichrist
was unmistakably anti-Catholic, with its denunciation of Rome, the great Babylon, for its witchcraft, blasphemy, spiritual prostitution, and myriad other offences. In a burst of patriotism, Bunyan lauded Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I for having eradicated Catholic worship in England. The Antichrist, Bunyan prophesied, would be overthrown by Christ through the agency of monarchs and the church. Bunyan's message was to resist evil, not topple the Stuart regime, God's interim agent in the war against Antichrist. He reiterated this theme in an unfinished work, An Exposition of the First Ten Chapters of Genesis
, where his damning characterization of Nimrod, the instigator of absolute monarchy and the creator of an iniquitous state religion, as a Catholic tyrant can be read as a critique of Louis XIV or James, should he succeed Charles. Bunyan made the same point in depicting Cain as a tyrannical persecutor. In his commentary on Genesis
Bunyan neither professed republicanism nor called for an insurrection to overthrow the Stuart regime, but he boldly castigated absolute monarchs and persecutory state churches.
Nonconformity in crisis
The disclosure of the Rye House plotting and Monmouth's scheme for a general insurrection to exclude James triggered a widespread crackdown on nonconformists in summer 1683. In response to the revelations, Bunyan fiercely denounced the plotters, blaming their divisive work on Satan. In Seasonable Counsel
(1684) he implicitly likened Monmouth to Absalom and advised the godly to follow Solomon's advice to shun those who schemed against the government. Evincing no pity for the plotters as they met their fate, he reserved his compassion for innocent dissenters assailed in the tory backlash, articulating an ethic of suffering designed to strengthen their resolve to persevere. Although Bunyan escaped persecution, perhaps owing to his unequivocal denunciation of the plotting, his heart clearly ached for nonconformists lashed by the whip of persecution.
Bunyan's other works during the tory reaction stress survival through Christian living, reliance on Christ's love, and a continuing denunciation of persecutors. Publication of A Holy Life
, completed by August 1683, was delayed until the following year, probably because the printer, Benjamin Alsop, went into hiding following disclosure of the cabals. In A Holy Life
Bunyan argued that godly living is the logical corollary of faith, and those who profess Christianity while living iniquitously are hypocrites. As the persecution deepened, Bunyan returned to verse to reach as many people as possible. His broadside, A Caution to Stir up to Watch Against Sin
, published by early April 1684, strove to keep the godly from Enemies external as well as internal, particularly by reminding them that sin is a prison capable of subjecting its victims to a living Death [that] will gnaw thee day and night (Miscellaneous Works
, 6.180, 182). The tyrant is no longer the monarch but sin. Bunyan also found space to lash out against those who boldly and audaciously engaged in what he regarded as vile, beastly behaviour. Likewise, in The Saints Knowledge of Christ's Love
, also published posthumously but composed probably in late 1685, Bunyan combined comfort for the godly, expressed here through an exposition on the breadth of God's love through Christ, with a denunciation of the rage of men who endeavour to swallow up the church. In this context, Bunyan's mention of the king of Assyria was an implicit reference to the late Charles II or James II. To such rulers Bunyan's message was blunt and uncompromising: God is with us; God will overmatch and go beyond you (ibid., 13.343). This may have been Bunyan's response to the bloody assizes that followed Monmouth's revolt in 1685. To comfort the saints the posthumously printed Christ a Compleat Saviour
, written probably in the spring and summer of 1686, discusses Christ's intercession with God on the elect's behalf. Alert to the fact that he might be incarcerated by the regime of the new Catholic king, on 23 December 1685 Bunyan transferred everything he owned to his wife, Elizabeth, through a deed of gift.
Women, the church, and pastoral matters
Twice in the early 1680s Bunyan addressed the role of women in the church. On the first occasion he published A Case of Conscience Resolved
(1683) in opposition to the practice of women regularly meeting alone for prayer or other acts of worship. Such a practice, he argued, had no scriptural precedent and was characteristic of the Quakers and Ranters. Bunyan's position rested on his fundamental belief in women's weakness and inferiority. For taking this stand he expected to be soundly chastised, and even to be sufficiently Scandalized, and counted a man not for Prayer, though there is no evidence this occurred (Miscellaneous Works
Addressing this issue may have contributed to his decision to write the second part of The Pilgrim's Progress
(1684), in which Christiana and other female characters play prominent roles. On one level, women remain subservient in the sequel to men, but simultaneously Christiana is a type of the church, Christ's bride, and she and her companions represent an alternative, communitarian society that not only challenges but defeats its enemies. Their power, like the church's, is spiritual, not physical, but ultimately both Christiana and her co-pilgrims as well as the church are invincible. Although Bunyan does not relinquish his patriarchal attitude, his respect for women's religious prowess is manifest in Christiana's rigorous pursuit of the pilgrimage, the effective instruction of her children in doctrine, and the unplumbed depth of her piety. Yet Bunyan's traditionalism is evident in Christiana's reliance on male assistanceGreat-heart's guidanceto navigate her journey successfully. As different as Christiana and Christian are, their pilgrimages traverse much of the same ground, underscoring the universality of the godly's religious experience. The sequel, however, also explores the church's communal life and worship. The two parts of The Pilgrim's Progress
thus deal with much more than gender by pointing to varieties of religious experience, the dependence of churches on Great-hearts as pastoral guides, and the church's ultimate triumph over its foes. This is Bunyan's answer to the persecutory work of the tory reaction.
Although Bunyan described himself in his 1685 deed of gift as a brazier, he would have had little if any time to ply a trade given his ministerial responsibilities, prolific pen, and demand as a preacher, especially in London. Among his posthumously published works is The Desire of the Righteous Granted
, which was based on a sermon to Stephen More's open-communion Baptist church at Southwark in 1685. During Bunyan's visits to London he learned about the Seventh-Day Baptists, probably because of Francis Bampfield's congregation, which shared Pinners' Hall with Wavel's church. Bampfield had died by the time Bunyan published his refutation of the sabbatarian Baptists, Questions about the Nature and Perpetuity of the Seventh-Day-Sabbath
(1685). Generally less strident than his earlier polemical writings, this work nevertheless denounced those who rejected the primitive church's embrace of Sunday worship. Admitting that much had already been written on this subject, Bunyan joined the fray to address the common people. His simple approach differed sharply from the erudite treatises of Owen and Baxter. Bunyan's Discourse upon the Pharisee and the Publicane
, also published in 1685, is unique in being the only book by a seventeenth-century author devoted solely to an exposition of the parable in Luke
18:1013. Theologically, the book is significant because it reveals Bunyan's reversal of the traditional Calvinist sequence of faith preceding justification. Above all, the Discourse
is evangelical in purpose, for Bunyan urges his readers to see themselves as either the self-righteous Pharisee or the penitent publican. In castigating the Pharisee's superficial piety Bunyan is again denouncing Church of England formalists. His pastoral concerns were also manifest in A Book for Boys and Girls
(1686), a collection of parables or fables that use common actions and objects to make religious points. Bunyan drew on popular literature and, according to some scholars, the emblem poetry of George Wither and Francis Quarles. Bunyan's ability to make his points in a manner attractive to children sets him apart from writers such as James Janeway and Henry Jessey, who sought to scare children into repenting.
In Bunyan's final years the threat of arrest abated when James embraced a policy of toleration in summer 1686. As part of this policy he issued a declaration of indulgence in April 1687, seeking support from Catholics and dissenters. The anonymous author of A continuation of Mr Bunyan's life (published with the seventh edition of Grace Abounding
in 1692), claimed a prominent man had come to Bedford to offer Bunyan a position of public trust, but the latter refused to meet with him; this cannot be confirmed. According to the alderman John Eston, Bunyan expressed support for parliamentary candidates who favoured repeal of the penal laws and tests, and in March and April 1688 six members of his church were appointed to the Bedford corporation. Such co-operation was consistent with Bunyan's conviction that monarchs would help overthrow Antichrist, but the anonymous biographer insisted Bunyan had zealously opposed the corporation's remodelling because of its potentially bad consequences. Given the fact that this author wrote in the aftermath of the revolution of 16889, he probably tried to distance Bunyan from the discredited James. Thus Bunyan likely favoured James's toleration policy.
By now Bunyan was drawing large crowds when he preached in London to the congregations of Cokayne, Wavel, More, Gammon, and possibly Griffith and Meade. His popularity fuelled demand for his works, including an eleventh edition of The Pilgrim's Progress
in the year of his death. His final writings continued to reflect his evangelical pulpit oratory, as in Good News for the Vilest of Men
(1688), an expository sermon on Luke
24:47 in which he argued that God offers mercy to the most heinous sinners first, and The Water of Life
(1688), an exposition of Revelation
22:1 likening divine grace to a river. Addressed to the newly converted, The Advocateship of Jesus Christ
(1688) casts Christ in the role of a barrister who pleads the cause of his clients, the saints, before the supreme judge in the heavenly court. The similitude suggests that Bunyan's audience primarily comprised people of substance in London and other urban areas; judging from this book, he had continued to acquire legal knowledge since his initial imprisonment in 1660. His interest in verse continued throughout this period, concluding with A Discourse of the Building … of the House of God
(1688), in which he employed biblical and common imagery to explore the church's foundation, polity, and laws. A related work, Solomon's Temple Spiritualiz'd
(1688), sought to unravel the temple's typological mysteries, finding multiple meanings in many of the types.
At a neighbour's request, Bunyan went to Reading in summer 1688 to mediate in a quarrel between father and son. Drenched in a rainstorm as he travelled to London, Bunyan became ill, though he preached on 19 August to Gammon's open-communion church. At the home in Snow Hill, London, of the grocer John Strudwick, a member of Cokayne's congregation, a high fever racked his body, finally claiming his life on 31 August 1688. He was buried at Bunhill Fields, Finsbury, on 3 September. He had brought the manuscript of his latest work, The Acceptable Sacrifice
, to London, and this was published in 1689, as was Mr John Bunyan's Last Sermon
, an exposition of John
1:13, explaining how people can ascertain if they have experienced spiritual rebirth. Cokayne's preface to The Acceptable Sacrifice
, in which Bunyan affirmed the importance of a contrite heart, observed that this sermon was but a Transcript out of his own Heart (Miscellaneous Works
, 12.7). The ability to preach so effectively from his own spiritual experience was the key to Bunyan's success in the pulpit; in his own words, I preached what I felt, what I smartingly did feel (Bunyan, Grace Abounding
The popularity of Bunyan's major works brought a degree of international recognition during his lifetime. The Dutch publisher Johannes Boekholt issued five editions of Eens Christens reyse
(The Pilgrim's Progress
) between 1682 and 1687, three of Het leven en sterven van Mr Quaadt
(The Life and Death of Mr Badman
) between 1683 and 1685, and Den heyligen oorlogh
(The Holy War
) in 1685. The first, though incomplete, edition of Bunyan's works, edited by Charles Doe, appeared in 1692. A nearly complete edition, edited by Ebenezer Chandler (Bunyan's successor) and Samuel Wilson, followed in 17367, and the first complete edition, with George Whitefield's preface, was issued in 1767. Of subsequent editions, the most influential for more than a century was that of George Offor, first published, with evangelical commentary, in 1853. After J. B. Wharey planted the seed of the first critical edition with his Pilgrim's Progress
in 1928, Roger Sharrock brought the work to fruition with a revised edition (1960) and new editions of Grace Abounding
(1962), The Holy War
(with James Forrest, 1980), Mr Badman
(also with Forrest, 1988), and the collaborative thirteen-volume Miscellaneous Works
Bunyan's reputation has largely been driven by demand for The Pilgrim's Progress
, the seventeenth century's most popular work of prose fiction. Its success is reflected in part by the appearance of imitations beginning in Bunyan's lifetime. According to Joseph Addison, Bunyan was as popular as Dryden and Tillotson by 1710, and Joseph Morgan drew inspiration from The Pilgrim's Progress
and The Holy War
in writing his allegorical History of the Kingdom of Basaruah
(1715) for American colonists. Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, and John Wesley were complimentary about Bunyan, and Wesley even prepared an abridged edition of The Holy War
in 1750. Bunyan's reputation suffered from about 1740 to 1830 as the upper classes tended to look disdainfully on popular culture. Edmund Burke contrasted Bunyan's inferior style with the Aeneid
's refined language, David Hume averred that no more equality of genius existed between Addison and Bunyan than between a mountain and a molehill, and John Dunlop castigated Bunyan for his coarse taste and execrable poetry. Even during this period Bunyan had his defenders, among them Laurence Sterne, Benjamin Franklin, James Boswell, and Horace Walpole. Although William Cowper thought highly of Bunyan, he recommended not mentioning his name lest it provoke sneers. Others looked on Bunyan's writings as little more than drivel, yet the Victorian emphasis on Bunyan's genius was foreshadowed in an anonymous article in the Gentleman's Magazine
in 1765. Throughout this period evangelicals such as the Baptist historian Thomas Crosby and the Methodist preacher George Whitefield continued to express interest in Bunyan, sensing an affinity between their views and his.
The Romantic revival brought fresh appreciation of Bunyan's literary talent. Sir Walter Scott was the first British writer to allude to Bunyan in his works, and William Blake, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Keats, and Nathaniel Hawthorne looked favourably on him. Robert Southey's critical edition of The Pilgrim's Progress
and accompanying biography (1830) was a landmark in Bunyan scholarship, attracting attention from Scott, Thomas Babington Macaulay, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Southey faulted Bunyan for his pessimistic view of human nature and intolerant attitude toward the Book of Common Prayer
, but credited him for the mildness of his Calvinism and the catholicity of his spirit. Scholarly debate was now fully engaged, with most critics concluding that Bunyan was a literary genius. In Macaulay's opinion, Bunyan and Milton were the only two great creative minds in late seventeenth-century England. Yet Hawthorne, writing in 1836, worried that people were reading Bunyan mostly for entertainment, laughing rather than trembling as they read Mr Badman
. The growing tendency to take Bunyan out of historical context was evident as apologists appropriated him to espouse evangelicalism, universalism, Anglicanism, nationalism, and liberalism. When Hawthorne's Celestial Rail-Road
adapted The Pilgrim's Progress
to satirize liberalism, the American Sunday-School Union quickly revised this for its own evangelical endeavours. American slaves found the allegory a ready source of metaphor to express their flights from slavery.
Bunyan's psychological state attracted the attention of John Ruskin (1845), who saw Grace Abounding
as the product of a diseased mind. He contrasted George Herbert, who contemplated God cerebrally, with Bunyan, who supposedly viewed the deity through his liver. Ruskin labelled Grace Abounding
a dangerous work that discredits religion and causes schism, heresy, and insanity. Half a century later Josiah Royce (1894) commented on Bunyan's morbidly insistent impulses, depression, and slow recovery. William James (1902) in turn thought Bunyan manifested a psychopathic temperament while a young man as reflected in his acutely sensitive conscience, melancholy, and subjection to sensory and motor automations. Never, he concluded, did Bunyan's mental health fully recover. Esther Harding's psychoanalytic approach (1956), indebted to Carl Jung, interpreted The Pilgrim's Progress
as an archetype of humanity's quest for greatness.
The great outpouring of works at the tercentenary of Bunyan's birth generally extolled him, often uncritically, although Alfred Noyes harshly assessed his fear-dominated theology, style, and alleged vanity, asserting that The Pilgrim's Progress
was the product of a defective, crude mind. William York Tindall (1934) and Christopher Hill (1988) returned Bunyan to his historical context amid enthusiasts and mechanic preachers. Some twentieth-century writers continued to appropriate Bunyan in expounding their ideologies. During the First World War, Rudyard Kipling adapted The Holy War
to the allied cause in a poem of the same name accompanied by an illustration depicting the British pilgrim attacking the German Diabolus, and letters from British soldiers included many allusions to The Pilgrim's Progress
. Jack Lindsay and Alick West appropriated Bunyan in defence of Marxism, and in 1940 Christopher Hollis cited Bunyan in depicting the struggle against the axis powers as a holy war. The resurgence of scholarly interest in Bunyan in the late twentieth century owed much to Roger Sharrock's work. By 2000 the major achievement of Bunyan scholarship was a critical edition of his works and a historical contextualizing of him without slighting his literary talent. The Bunyan of Parnassus had at last been fully reconciled with the Bunyan of the conventicle.
The Pilgrim's Progress
, twenty editions of which had been published by 1695 and at least 1300 by 1938, has been remarkably successful. It has been translated into more than 200 languages, with Dutch, French, and apparently Welsh editions appearing in Bunyan's lifetime. The New Zealand government commissioned its translation for the Maori in 1854, and the book has since sold well in the developing world. Musical settings date back to 1870, with the most famous being Ralph Vaughan Williams's, first performed at Covent Garden in 1951, the predecessor of his cantata Pilgrim's Journey. The allegory has been adapted various times for enactment as a pageant. The most imaginative is a mystery play composed in 1928 featuring a dialogue between Cinderella and Bunyan using quotations from the latter's works. Among the literary classics that owe inspiration to Bunyan are Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter
, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women
, Herman Melville's Moby Dick
, Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist
and The Old Curiosity Shop
, e. e. cummings's The Enormous Room
, and Aleksandr Pushkin's The Wanderer
. Of the artists drawn to Bunyan the most eminent was William Blake, who rendered twenty-nine watercolours of The Pilgrim's Progress
. The unusual adaptations of the allegory include an eighteenth-century jigsaw puzzle, a 1000 foot canvas panorama exhibited in many American cities in the 1850s, and Bob's Hike to the Holy City
, the tale of a boy scout and his sister on the road of life. Perhaps the most remarkable fact about Bunyan is that a work written amid bitter sectarian controversy has transcended internecine Christian rivalries and appeared in Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, and Unitarian versions.
Richard L. Greaves