The Life of John Bunyan HTML version

Chapter 1
John Bunyan, the author of the book which has probably passed through more
editions, had a greater number of readers, and been translated into more
languages than any other book in the English tongue, was born in the parish of
Elstow, in Bedfordshire, in the latter part of the year 1628, and was baptized in
the parish church of the village on the last day of November of that year.
The year of John Bunyan's birth was a momentous one both for the nation and
for the Church of England. Charles I., by the extorted assent to the Petition of
Right, had begun reluctantly to strip himself of the irresponsible authority he had
claimed, and had taken the first step in the struggle between King and Parliament
which ended in the House of Commons seating itself in the place of the
Sovereign. Wentworth (better known as Lord Strafford) had finally left the
Commons, baffled in his nobly-conceived but vain hope of reconciling the
monarch and his people, and having accepted a peerage and the promise of the
Presidency of the Council of the North, was foreshadowing his policy of
"Thorough," which was destined to bring both his own head and that of his weak
master to the block. The Remonstrance of Parliament against the toleration of
Roman Catholics and the growth of Arminianism, had been presented to the
indignant king, who, wilfully blinded, had replied to it by the promotion to high and
lucrative posts in the Church of the very men against whom it was chiefly
directed. The most outrageous upholders of the royal prerogative and the
irresponsible power of the sovereign, Montagu and Mainwaring, had been
presented, the one to the see of Chichester, the other - the impeached and
condemned of the Commons - to the rich living Montagu's consecration had
vacated. Montaigne, the licenser of Mainwaring's incriminated sermon, was
raised to the Archbishopric of York, while Neile and Laud, who were openly
named in the Remonstrance as the "troublers of the English Israel," were
rewarded respectively with the rich see of Durham and the important and deeply-
dyed Puritan diocese of London. Charles was steadily sowing the wind, and
destined to reap the whirlwind which was to sweep him from his throne, and
involve the monarchy and the Church in the same overthrow. Three months
before Bunyan's birth Buckingham, on the eve of his departure for the
beleaguered and famine-stricken city of Rochelle, sanguinely hoping to conclude
a peace with the French king beneath its walls, had been struck down by the
knife of a fanatic, to the undisguised joy of the majority of the nation, bequeathing
a legacy of failure and disgrace in the fall of the Protestant stronghold on which
the eyes of Europe had been so long anxiously fixed.
The year was closing gloomily, with ominous forecasts of the coming hurricane,
when the babe who was destined to leave so imperishable a name in English
literature, first saw the light in an humble cottage in an obscure Bedfordshire
village. His father, Thomas Bunyan, though styling himself in his will by the more
dignified title of "brazier," was more properly what is known as a "tinker"; "a