People

John Bunyan

Why was The Pilgrims Progress written in prison?

John Bunyan was born at Elstow, near Bedford, in 1628. He was not well educated but he was a hard-working. John became a soldier but after he left the army he turned his back on his old ways and promised that there would be no swearing, no fighting and no stealing in his life! But despite all his efforts, John could not free himself from a heavy burden of guilt.

Finally, a chance meeting helped John to understand that he had to simply hand his sin over to Go to feel forgiven. This revelation made John a new man. Nothing now could stop him from sharing the good news of Jesus with everyone he met. Before long, this uneducated man was preaching to crowds of people.

There was just one problem. Preaching outside of the official church was illegal in England in 1660s but Bunyan would rather follow his calling and suffer the consequences than live in fear as a free man. He was arrested on 12th November 1660 for preaching without a licence, and spent most of his time in prison from then until 1672. He was locked up again from 1675-76.

Once in prison, John’s work took on a new turn. The man with little education discovered a real talent for writing. After writing several non-fiction books, John began the most important work of his life.

The Pilgrim’s Progress

The story follows the struggle of a Christian to stay true to his beliefs, to avoid temptations, and remain on the narrow path to reach heaven. After the Bible, it has been the most circulated Christian work of all time and has been translated into 70 languages. Bunyan also wrote a popular hymn:

“He who would valiant be ‘gainst all disaster. 

Let him in constancy follow the Master.

There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent

His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.”

Can you think how Bunyan might have written this in today’s language? Why not have a go at rewriting it?

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