August 31 – John Bunyan

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.

31 – John Bunyan, faithful servant

John Bunyan is best remembered for his allegorical novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress, but perhaps he should best be remembered as a fearless preacher.

Bunyan was born in November 1628 in Bedfordshire, England, at a time of religious unrest. Growing up, he had a reputation for enjoying life to the full, but he married a woman with a strong faith, and through her influence joined a local non-conformist church. The change from blasphemer to preacher intrigued the population of Bedford, and his preaching increased in popularity and power.

After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the meeting-houses of the non-conformists were closed by Act of Parliament, and preaching other than in authorized parish churches was forbidden. Bunyan, however, continued to preach throughout the countryside, and was arrested and gaoled for twelve years. It was while in prison that most of his books and articles were written.

Religious intolerance had meanwhile decreased, and after he was freed, he became a pastor, again spending much time preaching throughout the countryside. His boldness led him to be imprisoned for six months in 1675, and it was during this time that he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress

The spirit of God was so strong in Bunyan that he could not stop sharing the gospel no matter what the consequences. His boldness and confidence in God in all situations is reflected in his hymn “Who would true valour see” (TiS 561; AHB 467). John Bunyan’s life and works are remembered on 31st August.

Contributed by Ruth Slater