John Bunyan (28 November 1628 – 31 August 1688) was an English Christian writer and preacher, who is well-known for his book The Pilgrim's Progress. Though he was a Reformed Baptist, he is remembered in the Church of England with a Lesser Festival on August 30th, and on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (US) on August 29th.
Few writers have been as biblically obsessed as John Bunyan (1628–1688). In his spiritual autobiography, he writes of being literally accosted, struck, and pursued by Bible verses wherever he went. His life, like his writings, was a biblical allegory.
The year 1644, when Bunyan was sixteen, proved shockingly eventful. Within a few months his mother and sister died; his father married for the third time; and Bunyan was drafted into the Parliamentary army, in which he did garrison duty for the next three years. He never saw combat, from which he seems to have thought himself providentially spared, since he reports that a soldier was killed who was sent in his place to a siege. Nothing more is known about Bunyan's military service, but he was unquestionably impressed by a church that was military as well as militant, and his exposure to Puritan ideas and preaching presumably dates from this time.
In 1648, Bunyan married a God-fearing woman whose name remains unknown, and whose only dowry was two books: Arthur Dent’s <i>The Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven</i> and Lewis Bayly’s <i>The Practice of Piety</i>. When Bunyan read those books, he was convicted of sin. He started attending the parish church, stopped swearing (when rrebuked by a dissolute woman of the town), and tried to honor the Sabbath.
Bunyan's wife died in 1658, leaving four children, including a daughter who had been born blind and whose welfare remained a constant worry. He remarried the following year; it is known that his second wife was named Elizabeth, that she bore two children, and that she spoke eloquently on his behalf when he was in prison. The imprisonment is the central event of his later career: it was at once a martyrdom that he seems to have sought and a liberation from outward concerns that inspired him to write literary works.
After twelve years in prison Bunyan was released and immediately began pastoring a congregation in Bedfordshire, which grew upwards to 4,000 members. Five years later Bunyan would be imprisoned again for preaching. Yet whether he was in jail or out of jail, Bunyan staunchly proclaimed the truth of God through
In 1688, Bunyan died suddenly from a fever that he caught while traveling in cold weather. On his deathbed, he said to those who gathered around him, “Weep not for me, but for yourselves. I go to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will, no doubt, through the mediation of his blessed Son, receive me, though a sinner; where I hope we ere long shall meet, to sing the new song, and remain everlastingly happy, world without end” (Works of Bunyan, 1:lxxviii). After telling his friends that his greatest desire was to be with Christ, he raised his hands to heaven, and cried, “Take me, for I come to Thee!” and then died. He was buried in Bunhill Fields, close to Thomas Goodwin and John Owen.
The most well-known allegory ever written, this journey of the protaganist, Christian, is simultaneously filled with vivid and full human portraits of its characters. With over 100,000 copies sold in Bunyan’s lifetime, this “most perfect and complex of fairy tales” succeeded in attracting audiences from every Christian sect.
"But if an adventuresome story won for Bunyan a host of readers, the book also owed it popularity to the way in which it addressed the fundamental hermeneutical problem of English Protestant culture."
"Many previous writers of pilgrimage homilies and allegories had employed the concept of the one path, but it seems fair to say that non of them gave it quite the centrality, emphasis and powerful realization which it receives in Bunyan's narrative."
"As I walk'd through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a Denn; And I laid me down in that place to sleep: And as I slept I dreamed a Dream. I dreamed and behold I saw a Man cloathed with Raggs, standing in a certain place, which his face from his own House, a Book in his hand and a great burden upon his back."