John BunyanJohn Bunyan was born in November, 1628, at Elstow, a little village about a mile south of Bedford in Bedfordshire [England]. His ancestors, who were in very humble circumstances, lived in Bedfordshire probably as early as the twelfth century; and the name, under various spellings, appears in the records of that county at intervals from that time until very recently. Thomas Bunyan, the grandfather of John, left at his death in 1641 a small property, one-half of which he bequeathed to his son Thomas. This second Thomas, who was a maker and mender of pots and kettles, described himself in certain documents as a brazier or tinker. He did not belong to the rather disreputable class of vagrant tinkers for whom seventeenth century literature expressed great contempt, and who were usually of gypsy origin, but was a freeholder, settled permanently in Elstow and plying his trade in the neighboring towns and villages. The mother of John Bunyan, Margaret Bentley of Elstow, came from people of some substance and of a slightly higher social position than the Bunyans.

The life of the family was a severe struggle with poverty. Bunyan's parents were able, nevertheless, to send him to school. In his own words, "It pleased God to put it into their hearts to put me to school, to learn me both to read and write." The only book that we know of his reading in childhood was the Life of Sir Bevis of Southampton, probably one of the cheap pamphlets known as chapbooks. This book was ever after in his mind the type of profane and worldly literature. We know very little of Bunyan's life during this period, but it is clear that the intensity of his inner life, even as a child, was extraordinary. He tells us that it was his delight "to be taken captive by the devil at his will, being filled with all unrighteousness," and that he had few equals for his years "both for cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming the holy name of God." At the same time, he was "greatly afflicted and troubled with the thoughts of the fearful torments of hell-fire." Already he had begun to dream dreams and see visions.

In 1644 his mother died, and within two months his father married again. This marriage apparently caused an estrangement between father and son, and the son spent the three following years as a soldier. There is in Bunyan's works one allusion to his military service, and there are many passages which could not have been so realistically managed except for this experience, but there is not a single line to indicate on which side be fought. This is the more remarkable when we remember that the issues in the English Civil War were as much religious as political. The fact is that Bunyan took very little interest in political questions and literally obeyed the injunction to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. In the absence of direct proof Macaulay assumed, in his article on Bunyan in the Encyclopædia Britannica, that Bunyan was on the side of Parliament. Froude, on the other hand relying upon the facts that Bunyan's parents were adherents of the Established Church and that he himself was baptised in the parish church, felt sure that he was on the side of the King. There was really not a particle of direct evidence on the subject until, a few years ago, the muster rolls of the garrison at Newport Pagnell were discovered. By them it was shown that Bunyan served under Sir Samuel Luke, a well-known Parliamentary commander, who is commonly supposed to be the original of Hudibras, the hero of Butler's celebrated satirical poem. What battles Bunyan engaged in under the leadership of Sir Samuel are entirely unknown, but there is a probability that he was present at the siege of Leicester.

Read more


A Few Sighs from Hell - John Bunyan Sermon

What the Bible Says About Hell