John Bunyan -- By: Albert Henry Currier
BSac 66:264 (Oct 1909) p. 561
Among the old English divines of the Anglican Church, there were men of great genius, eloquence, and learning. Such were Richard Hooker, Joseph Hall, Thomas Fuller, and Jeremy Taylor; but Dr. Thomas Arnold says, “I hold John Bunyan to have been a man of incomparably greater genius than any of them, and to have given a far truer and more edifying picture of Christianity.”
This man of extraordinary genius, however, was born in the humblest class of society and had but few educational advantages. “I never went to school,” he says, “to Aristotle and Plato, but was brought up in my father’s house in a very mean condition among a company of poor countrymen.” Born November 30, 1628, at Elstow, Bedfordshire, into the family of a tinker, “of that rank that is meanest and most despised of all the families in the land,” as he says, and brought up by his father to the same calling, the whole extent of his acquisitions from the poor instruction and brief schooldays given him, was “to read and write according to the rate of other poor men’s children.” But God plants a great mind where he will, and gives the highest powers of intellectual
BSac 66:264 (Oct 1909) p. 562
and moral achievement to people dwelling in the most unequal and diverse conditions. Rome had two illustrious moralists, of about equal eminence, who stood high above all others; one was the slave Epictetus, and the other the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. God made the slave the teacher and peer of the Emperor in genius and virtue, to show men that in the bestowal of his highest and best gifts he is no respecter of persons. Bunyan’s genius was developed and trained in the school of Providence. It came slowly to maturity, and to the glorious fruitage it finally yielded only by the hard and various discipline of sin and remorse, of a wonderful experience of God’s grace, and the vicissitudes of family affliction, a soldier’s life, poverty, religious persecution and long imprisonment for conscience’ sake, where celestial visions brightened his dreary captivity as with the glory of heaven, and qualified him to write his immortal allegory, “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” which Thomas Arnold extols for its “edifying picture of Christianity,” “with none of the rubbish of the theologians mixed up with it.”
Among his lesser writings is an autobiography, which he entitled “Grace Abounding,” that is similar in character and the nature of its interest to Augustine’s “Confessions.” This small book, which one could read in three or four hours, might be called, “The history of a benighted soul in its struggles to find the light.” The struggles it describes are mainly those of the spirit with sin and doub...
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