John Bunyan: His Life, Writing, And Influence -- By: Geoffrey Thomas

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 06:2 (Jul 2014)
Article: John Bunyan: His Life, Writing, And Influence
Author: Geoffrey Thomas


John Bunyan: His Life, Writing, And Influence

Geoff Thomas

John Bunyan had no family influences encouraging him to become a Christian. His grandfather married four times, his father three times, while he married twice. His grandfather was what we might understand to be a kind of “traveling salesman” who left his grandson 6d in his will. His father, Thomas Bunyan, was a tinker or brazier. He possessed a “smallholding” with a few animals and chickens, but his income came from traveling around farms and villages in Bedfordshire repairing saucepans and kettles. He was a hard man, his speech laced with frequent swearing. The home was modestly comfortable characterized by unremitting hard toil.

John Bunyan was the first of the Bunyans to become literate. He gained a school scholarship by a bequest of the Mayor of London. No Bunyan in all the generations before him could read or write; his father signed his will with an X. Bunyan learned to read, and later wrote Pilgrim’s Progress as well as three fat volumes of his books which are still in print.

In June 1644, when he was sixteen, Bunyan’s mother passed away and four weeks later his sister died. Eight weeks after his mother’s death, his father remarried and, in eight months, his wife gave birth to a boy whom his Royalist father named Charles. Four months earlier, John had left home and joined the Parliamentary Army fighting against King Charles. There was little affection between son and father. How then did John Bunyan become a Christian? Ten factors all played their part, great and small.

His Conversion

1. Bunyan Heard Gospel Preaching While He Was In The Army.

For three years, Bunyan served under Oliver Cromwell’s growing leadership. Bunyan was originally based in Newport Pagnell, and we know that in October, seven preachers were active there. Twice on Sundays and every Thursday there were Puritan ministers exhorting the troops. There were prayers every day and the Bible was read. The teenage Bunyan was given a new concept of worship in which the climactic aspect was the preaching of the Word. Captain Hobson was one of those preachers. He had signed the 1644 First London Confession and at least one of his sermons was printed. He said such things as this to the gathered soldiers: “They alone are fit to declare Christ who understand Him for enjoyment. This is like the difference between reading about a country and visiting that place. That man only is fit to declare the truth whose spirit is crucified by the power of the truth.”

2. Bunyan Married And Obtained His First Books.

We know practically nothing about Bunyan’s first wife, not even her name...

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