Since the publication of The Pilgrim’s Progress in 1678, John Bunyan’s masterful work has inspired millions of readers. A classic is a work of art or manufacturing, which is perceived as timeless, memorable and unforgettable. The Pilgrim’s Progress certainly qualifies.
This series of articles is entitled The Progress of the Pilgrim. It will seek to frame the flow of Bunyan’s work with various portions of Scripture. The goal will be for unbelievers to be convicted of sin, repent and trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Additionally, it is hoped that believers in Christ will become more dedicated in their walk of faith.
John Bunyan was born in November 1628 in Harrowden, Bedfordshire. Bunyan’s father was a traveling tinker by trade. His childhood was not easy. Plagued by recurring nightmares of God’s judgment, he quit school as an adolescent so he could assist his father and help financially support his family.
At age sixteen, John enlisted into the Army to fight in the English Civil War that began in August, 1642. He experienced many near-death experiences. This convinced him that God had a special purpose for him to fulfill. However, he remained an unbeliever.
Bunyan married in 1649. His wife was a fervent believer in Christ. He would read with her The Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven by Arthur Dent, and The Practice of Piety by Lewis Bayly. However, while increasingly under conviction of his sin he remained unconverted to the Gospel.
Bunyan’s attempts at self-reformation and religiosity reflected his increasing desire to please God. He became proud of his unconverted godliness, but there was no peace within his soul. It was through the faithful ministry of Pastor John Gifford that the Holy Spirit regenerated John and he placed his faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord in 1653.
By 1660, John was preaching the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, the political climate under king Charles II became increasingly antagonistic towards evangelical Protestantism. Bunyan was eventually arrested and imprisoned for twelve years.
“While in jail he studied his Bible, wrote books, tried to minister to other prisoners, and made lace, which he sold to help support his family. He wrote eleven books during this period, including his autobiographical Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners,” explains Warren Wiersbe.
In 1672, Bunyan obtained a pardon. He became a licensed preacher. However, increasing government interference in church life by 1675 resulted in Bunyan being jailed for six-months. It is likely at this time that he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress. It was published in 1678.
After his release, Bunyan pastored and preached for another decade until his death in 1688. He is buried in Bunhill Fields in London.
There have been many references to The Pilgrim’s Progress in art, poetry and literature. There have also been many dramatizations in music and film.
Bunyan’s work remains a classic that has stood the test of time. It is to this work that we seek to explain and biblically exegete.
Soli deo Gloria!