John Bunyan the Tinker of Bedford In the 17th century England, during the breakage of the old and birth of a new consciousness, religious issues were as topical as ever. That struggle for a new way of life, for the greater part of the British, as well as an attempt to defend the old one, was inextricably linked with the search for a true faith and religious freedom. Major role in that struggle was played by Puritans. Puritanism in England, with all its brutal regimentation of ideas, was not just a part of the Reformation, but also a particular view of the world, which determined a person’s behavior, the very manner of his life.
The power of those ideas was so strong that their influence can be felt to this day even, though Puritans had long disappeared from the stage of history. It should be noted that, despite the strict Calvinist nature, puritanical views have been recognized by different branches of English Protestantism. In the era of the Stuarts they were shared by Anglican Conformists (Richard Baxter) and Dissenters: Congregationalists (John Owen) and Baptists (John Bunyan).
John Bunyan, probably, was the most prominent representative of the reform movement. This paper is an effort to give a short summary of life of this outstanding man according to Deal’s book. “Shakespeare of preachers” was born in Elstou, a small village in the heart of England (Bedfordshire), where he spent most of his life. His formal education was poor. At sixteen, he enlisted in the army of Parliament and served during the Civil War. In 1647, being 19 years old, he married a young woman who convinced him to attend church regularly.
There he listened to the Gospel, and after a deep and prolonged spiritual struggle, he completely submitted himself to God’s hands. He was baptized and became a member of the Baptist Church of Bedford. Soon he began preaching in the church and surrounding villages. People quickly recognized Bunyan’s leadership skills, as well as the ability to interpret Scripture. Continuing to work as a tinker, he preached wherever he could. All Sundays and holidays he spent in the stables, shops, on the village meadows and just on the streets where he inevitably gathered crowds. In 1660 he was arrested and jailed for holding secret, unauthorized by the state, religious gatherings.
When he was offered freedom in exchange for a promise never to preach again, he disagreed. During imprisonment he studied, wrote and supported his family by making and selling shoelaces. Right in prison he wrote his immortal work – The Pilgrim’s Progress. In 1672 he was released and immediately returned to his previous activities. Over the next 16 years of his life he was active as a pastor, writer, counselor, leader and the supreme pastor of many churches and youth ministers.
He died in 1688, after riding 40 miles to London in the pouring rain to preach there. He was always poor, but thanks to his lead, service, and, in particular, his pen, he left a priceless legacy to posterity. Bunyan was an advocate of religious freedom and freedom of conscience in religious matters. His The Pilgrim’s Progress is certainly one of the most remarkable books written in English. Suffice it to say that the number of its translations is less that of the Bible only - more than 200 languages.
The missionaries, who preached Christianity in its Protestant form, usually translated The Pilgrim’s Progress into the languages of different aborigines immediately after the Bible, because they believed that the book of Bunyan better than any other meets their goals, stating in figurative and easy form the basis of their faith. But it would be quite wrong to see in the book only that preaching aspect. It has already become an integral part of the classical heritage of English literature, has occupied a place among the most famous literary works. One day King Charles asked John Owen, a noble puritan and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, why he visited preaching of John Bunyan so often.
Owen replied that he would willingly give his scholarship if he could preach Christ as a simple tinker of Bedford. His profound and expressive sermons make impression on readers throughout the centuries. He encourages and stimulates the readers to follow the footsteps of the Lord as he did, the man of God - John Bunyan.
Someone said about Bunyan that he was the poorest of all the saints, who, at the same time, considered himself the most sinful of all sinners. References Deal, William. John Bunyan the Tinker of Bedford. Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 2007.
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