Today In Church History: August 29

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John Bunyan

The author of Pilgrim’s Progress was born to a poor English family in 1628. He received little education and took up the lowly trade of tinker before serving in the Parliamentary army during the English Civil War. The victory of Parliament brought an end to many of the laws that restricted Protestant worship that was not of the Anglican variety, and Bunyan fell in with a group of Dissenters known as the Bedford Free Church. His Christian faith grew deeper as a result and soon, despite his limited education, he began to preach and write.

In 1660 the monarchy was restored to England, and with it came religious persecution of those who would not attend the official Church. That year he was arrested and though he might have been released after three months if he promised not to return to his unlicensed preaching, his refusal to abjure his understanding of his calling meant that he would spend 12 years in jail. This brought extreme hardship to his wife and children but Bunyan maintained: “O I saw in this condition I was a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his Wife and Children; yet thought I, I must do it, I must do it”. While in prison Bunyan continued to write. In 1666 he issued his spiritual autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, or The Brief Relation of the Exceeding Mercy of God in Christ to his Poor Servant John Bunyan and he began his most famous work Pilgrim’s Progress. He was released in 1672 when Charles II relaxed his religious policies; he preached widely, wrote many books and sermons, and achieved fame when Pilgrim’s Progress was published in 1678. Its allegorical style can seem a little wearing to the modern reader but it has been a bestseller for over three centuries. Bunyan died in 1688 and is commemorated by his old foe, the Anglican Church, on August 29 or 30 (depending on the country.)