Today is the 326th anniversary of the passing of John Bunyan, a man of little formal education, but of great courage and deep faith. He was a Dissenter that is one who opposed the state Church of England and sought to practice his faith within the folds of a Baptist Church which he pastored in Bedford. Such an act was illegal and several times he was imprisoned for preaching and teaching his views that were based upon the Bible.
Foremost amongst these was that the Church was made up of those who had personally committed their lives to Jesus Christ as their Redeemer, Lord and Saviour. This was not only his teaching of Christianity as being a personal decision on the part of each individual, but it was also an insistence that the Church was made up only of Believers, the doctrine of a Regenerate Church!
During the time of the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, such views were tolerated, but not so under the Monarchy. Bunyan was imprisoned and his family impoverished as a result. It was during his times in prison that he began writing, firstly “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners”, his spiritual autobiography. Then on a second imprisonment, “The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World to That Which is to Come”, his great allegory of Christian fleeing from the City of Destruction and undertaking a great Journey until at last he comes to the Celestial City. It was published in 1687, just 10 years before he died.
So popular was the book that it is said that at one time along with the Bible, a copy of it was found in every English speaking home. When he wrote about Christian’s persecutions and obstacles he was speaking as one who had faced similar sufferings for his faith. I guess that is why the deep faith that shines through the book seems so genuine. If I was to sum up the book it would be in that phrase that Jesus used:
“In the world you shall have tribulation, but do not fear I have overcome the world!” John 16.33
It is a reminder for us that our Christian life is not only a significant life changing experience, but also a faith journey a pilgrimage. Throughout our lives there will come blessings, trials and troubles and perhaps persecutions, but nevertheless like Bunyan’s character, we too can know the companionship of others with us and the good hand of the Lord upon us.