One of the most familiar Puritans was John Bunyan. His allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, remains in print and by many statisticians is second to the Bible as the all-time best-selling book. There are some 1,300 editions of The Pilgrim’s Progress currently in existence.
In spite of his many years in prison, John Bunyan remained productive. In the mid-1660s, Bunyan wrote extensively, with only the Bible and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs at his side. In 1663, he wrote Christian Behaviour, intended as a handbook for Christian living and a response against charges of Antinomianism, as well as a last testament, since Bunyan expected to die in prison. He also finished I Will Pray with the Spirit, which expounded 1 Corinthians 14:15, and focused on the Spirit’s inner work in all true prayer.
In 1664, he published Profitable Meditations; in 1665, One Thing Needful, The Holy City, and The Resurrection of the Dead. This work, a sequel to The Holy City, found Bunyan expounding on the resurrection from Acts 24:14-15 in a traditional way, and then uses his prison torments to illustrate the horrors that await the damned following the final judgment.
In 1666, the middle of his prison-time, he wrote Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, in which he declared, “The Almighty God being my help and shield, I am determined yet to suffer, if frail life might continue so long, even till the moss shall grow upon my eyebrows, rather than violate my faith and principles.”
During the last part of his imprisonment, he finished A Confession of My Faith, A Reason for My Practice, and A Defence of the Doctrine of Justification, an uncompromising criticism of the rising tide of Pelagianism. The Bedford congregation, sensing some relaxation of the law against preaching, appointed Bunyan as pastor on January 21, 1672, but Bunyan was not released until May. He had been the first to suffer under Charles II and was the last to be released. His long years in Bedford’s county prison made him a martyr in the eyes of many.
Bunyan had enjoyed only a few years of freedom when he was again arrested for preaching and put in the town jail. Here he wrote Instruction for the Ignorant (a catechism for the saved and unsaved that emphasizes the need for self-denial), Saved by Grace (an exposition of Ephesians 2:5 that encourages the godly to persevere in the faith notwithstanding persecution), The Strait Gate (an exposition of Luke 13:24 that seeks to awaken sinners to the gospel message), Light for Them That Sit in Darkness (a polemical work against those who oppose atonement by Christ’s satisfaction and justification by His imputed righteousness, especially the Quakers and Latitudinarians), and the first part of his famous Pilgrim’s Progress.
Yet John Bunyan was not finished with the work for which God gave him. What work has God given you to accomplish? Are you being faithful to the task at hand?
Soli deo Gloria!