A Pilgrim's Progress: Suffering in the Life of John Bunyan

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Michael Gleghorn — John Bunyan is known to most people today as the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, a book he began writing in prison. It tells the story of “Christian,” who makes his way from the “City of Destruction” (which represents this world) to the “Celestial City” (which represents Heaven). It’s been described as “perhaps the world’s best-selling book” (after the Bible), and has been “translated into over 200 languages.” Written in the form of an allegory, it essentially relates the story of Bunyan’s own Christian journey. And just as his life was full of trials and suffering, so also “Christian” must face many hardships and difficulties as well.

Bunyan was born in England in 1628 at a time of great political and religious unrest. In 1644, at just fifteen years old, both his mother and sister died within a month of each other. Later that year, “when Bunyan had turned sixteen, he was drafted into the Parliamentary Army and for about two years was taken from his home for military service.” He married in 1648, at about the age of twenty, but his wife died just ten years later, leaving him with four children, the oldest of whom was blind. He married again the following year, in 1659, but incredibly, just one year after this, “Bunyan was arrested and put in prison.” His wife, who was pregnant at the time, suffered a miscarriage, probably because of the added stress which this ordeal created. She was then left to care for Bunyan’s four children while he spent the next twelve years in jail.

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"I first became interested in Bunyan after reading his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. I wanted to write this article to help acquaint others with his remarkable story."

Michael is a research associate with Probe Ministries. After earning a B.A. in psychology from Baylor University and a Th.M. in systematic theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, he is back at DTS pursuing more suffering a Ph.D. in theology. The joy of Michael's life is his wife Hannah and their two young children.

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