John Bunyan Biography

Baptized on 30th November 1628, John Bunyan was a Puritan preacher and an English writer as well. He is best remembered till date because of the title he wrote. The Pilgrim’s Progress. Apart from this well-known article, he wrote around 60 articles and most of them expanded sermons.

John Bunyan Painting
John Bunyan Painting

Early years of John Bunyan

He was born in Elstow, Bedfordshire to the couple Thomas and Margaret Bunyan at Bunyan’s end. It is located midway between Harrowden and Elstow High Street. His exact date of birth is not available but surely he was baptized on November 30th 1628. This is verified from the parish register reading.

John didn’t have a great family legacy to carry. His father was a tinker who travelled for work and make money. His grandfather was a small trader is his time. Most of John’s young years, he learned about tinkering from his father and had basic schooling.

In 1644, John lost his mother and sister Margaret. When he was around 16 years old, he got listed in the Parliamentary Army after the demand for 225 recruits from the city was made public. Though there aren’t many details of his military career, the war did bestow him with knowledge. Most of his military knowledge he gained was used in his book, The Holy War.

He was also exposed to several religious and radical groups while he became familiar at the Newport Pagnell.

He served in the military for three years and return to his city where he started his life as a tinker. Till then his father married again and John moved to a cottage in Elstow High Street.

Sketch of John Bunyan
Sketch of John Bunyan

The married life of John Bunyan

Bunyan was married after two years he left the military services. There are no exact details of his wedding date and his wife either. He himself described his wife as a religious woman who brought along two books along with her at the time of their marriage. She had inherited them from her father. These books were: Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven by Arthur Dent and Lewis Bayly’s Practice of Piety

They had four children together however, their first child, Mary was blind.

Bunyan published his first book Gospel Truths Opened in 1656. Till then he had moved to St Cuthbert’s Street in Bedford with his family. His first book was inspired by a dispute between Quakers and Ranters.

But in the year 1658, his first wife died leaving him with four children. He remarried the next year to a young woman aged 18 years and named Elizabeth.

Imprisonment of John Bunyan

While John was working as a tinker in Bedford he came across a few women talking about the Bedford Free Church. He was so moved by the talks that he joined it under the leadership of former Royalist army officer John Gifford. This is when Bunyan began to preach.

When the monarchy was restored in 1660, Bunyan’s freedom to preach was endangered. The people and members of the Bedford Meeting were no longer meeting at the church.

In the month of November the same year, he received a warning that a warrant has been issued to arrest him. However, he decided not to escape and was brought at the Harlington House.

He was imprisoned for three months initially with a warning that he will not continue preaching once he will be released. Bunyan refused to abide by this and his imprisonment was extended up to 12 years.

His prison was located at the corner of High Street and if allowed by the authorities he attended the meetings and continued preaching whenever he got a chance to do so.

Later he was a father to two more children from his second marriage.

While he was in prison, he wrote Grace Abounding and it was then that he started writing The Pilgrim’s Progress. He was chosen as a pastor in 1671, while he was still imprisoned.

John Bunyan in Prison
John Bunyan in Prison

Later Years of John Bunyan

He was released in 1672 but John did not go back to his previous life as a tinker. He continued as a pastor of Bedford and was devoted to writing and preaching. He later became famous as Bishop Bunyan.

John Bunyan
John Bunyan

His preaching made name soon and he got to meet with Lord Mayor Sir John Shorter in London. He was there presented with a silver mounted walking stick.

IN 1678, his book The Pilgrim’s Progress was published and in a short duration of time, it became famous. The book made great profits and more in the accounts of the publisher than the author.

When in 1688 he was on his way to London he decided to take a detour. On the way, he was caught with a fever. He died in Strudwick’s house on August 31st 1688. He now rests at the Bunhill Fields in London.

Famous works of John Bunyan

  • The Holy City or the New Jerusalem, 1665
  • The Holy War – The Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Man-soul in 1682
  • Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, 1666
  • Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, 1678
  • Light for Them that Sit in Darkness
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress, 1678
  • The Life and Death of Mr Badman, 1680
  • The Strait Gate, Great Difficulty of Going to Heaven, 1676