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John Bunyan (1628-1688) was born at Elstow, England, about a mile from Bedford, in 1628 and became one of the most influential authors of the seventeenth century. Few writers in history have left us with such a wealth of Christ-centered writings.
Bunyan’s moving conversion is recorded in his Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. His first lasting conviction of sin was produced by a sermon denouncing the violation of the Lord’s Day by labor, sports, or otherwise—because his greatest enjoyment came from sports on the Lord’s Day. Sometime later while passing through the streets of Bedford, Bunyan heard “three or four poor women” sitting at a door, “talking about the new birth, the work of God in their hearts, and the way by which they were convinced of their miserable state by nature. They told how God had visited their souls with His love in Christ Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil.” From these pious women Bunyan learned to despise sin and to hunger for the Savior. Later, while passing into the fields, he recounts, “This sentence fell upon my soul, ‘Thy righteousness is in heaven’…for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Then “his chains fell off,” and he went home rejoicing. In 1655, Bunyan was baptized by immersion by Pastor John Gifford of Bedford and called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Bunyan was arrested November 12, 1660, for preaching without the approval of the Anglican Church. He was charged with “teaching men to worship God contrary to the law” and was in jail more than twelve years.
His most well-known work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, was written while in the Bedford jail. During Bunyan’s lifetime there were 100,000 copies circulated in the British isles, besides several editions in North America. Bunyan’s remarkable imagery was firmly rooted in the Reformation doctrines of man’s fallen nature, grace, imputation, justification, and the atonement—all of which Bunyan seems to have derived directly from Scripture.