John Bunyan is most known for his work 'The Pilgrim's Progress'. But his testimony is also pretty interesting and gives a great insight into the man who wrote one of the greatest stories of English fiction.
John was born in Bedford on 28th Nov 1628 to Thomas & Margaret. While he was 'schooled' we don't really know to what extent, but he took the career path of becoming a 'tinker' which was a semi-skilled job and was often a job that brought a lot of travelling around. Basically a tinker mended pots. Tinkers back then were regarded much like gypsies and travellers and held in low esteem; even while most people would be queing up with broken and damaged pots.
From 1644-1647 during the civil war, John served in the Parliamentary army but afterwards returned to tinkering. In his autobiography Bunyan writes that this period of his life was full of sin, and John often considered that he had been so abandoned to sin that he was concerned he may have already committed the unpardonable sin.
Around the age of 20/21 John married (we don't know her name) and went on to have 4 children; Mary, Elizabeth, John & Thomas. Mary was born blind which added a burden to him and was a huge concern during his imprisonment.
"Such treasure by the roadside!" Thats how William H. Harding describes what took place in Bedford as John Bunyan listened into the conversation of a group of women. Bunyan said of this:
"Their talk was about a new birth, the work of God in their hearts; also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature. They talked how God had visited their souls with His love in the Lord Jesus, and what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil.
And methought they spake as if joy did make them speak; they spake with such pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such appearance of gracein all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new worldAnd methought they spake as if joy did make them speak; they spake with such pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such appearance of grac ein all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new world..."
While The Holy Spirit had been working in Bunyan prior to this, Bunyan's life took a new course under the influence of Pastor Gifford and furthered by Luther's Comments on Galatians.
In 1655 a preacher was born.
England in this era had different laws, and one such was a need for a licence to preach the Bible. John did not have one, and it would be 17 years before he was granted one. But he was popular and hundreds would come to hear his expounding of Scripture. When one of his contemporaries, John Owen, was asked by King Charles why he, a great scholar, went to hear an uneducated tinker preach, Owen said, "I would willingly exchange my learning for the tinker's power of touching men's hearts."
When he was 30 His wife died, but one year later he remarried. Yet one more year after that he was arrested. Elizabeth, his 2nd wife miscarried under the stress of his arrest but over the next 12 years cared for her step children alone as though they were her own.
Bunyan was constantly plagued by guilt and worry and often considered signing an agreement that he would never preach again so that he could go home and provide for his family. He wrote:
The parting with my Wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place as the pulling of the Flesh from my bones; and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great Mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries and wants that my poor Family was like to meet with should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all I had besides; O the thoughts of the hardship I thought my Blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces.
But he chose a clear conscience and to follow the call of God upon his life rather than freedom with a soiled conscience.
He was finally released in 1672 and was given a licence to preach as the pastor of the church in Bedford. This is where he faithfully ministered for another 16 years, until his death.
In 1675-1676 he was imprisoned again, and it was at this time he penned The Pilgrim's Progress, a book that has had a huge influence on Christians since then. After his release he was never imprisoned again, even though his church was continually raided and members of his congregation were arrested again and again.
In 1688 at age 60 John fell sick and died.
His last sermon had been preached on 19th August 1688 just 12 days before his death. And his last words from the pulpit were "Live like the children of God, that you may look your Father in the face with comfort another day."