Faith Cook has again produced an excellent biography, this time on one of the most famous of English Christians. Bunyan strides two worlds — the literary, mainly on the strength of Pilgrim’s Progress; and the spiritual world dear to all professing Evangelicals. Yet the tragedy today is that few are familiar with his life or times.
To know about Bunyan is to know about one of the great Christians. To read of his turbulent background should make us grateful that we live in comparatively peaceful times. Yet his life and times can teach us many valuable lessons, and this is the author’s objective. She has achieved it to a remarkable degree.
In a sense Bunyan’s life could be summed up with one word – struggle. He suffered from inner turmoil to a greater degree than most Christians do. Coming to Christ slowly, he was driven deeper into the Word and closer to Christ.
His experience enabled him to encourage fellow strugglers — and served to make him a great man of God, an outstanding preacher and profuse writer. Though having little education, he stood with other great Puritan preachers and in many ways excelled them.
Bunyan also struggled outwardly. The times were evil and he spent two long periods of his life in prison, simply for preaching. It was a confusing time for religion and politics. A civil war tore the nation apart, and was followed (after short time of freedom under Cromwell’s rule) by further strife. The political backlash for Puritans like Bunyan was severe. Not being an ‘official preacher’, he was censured and hounded to prison.
The author manages to pull together the strands of a complex period without making it too confusing for the reader. There is enough background information to help the reader make sense of Bunyan’s situation without it being overwhelming. A helpful appendix gives further information on the historical context.
Bunyan’s critics are answered concerning his mental state of health, especially in his early years. What few of these critics would understand, says Faith Cook, is that Bunyan had gone through a deep experience of conviction of sin – something our 21st century church knows little about.
It is true that throughout his life Bunyan was particularly sensitive, and this may in part be due to his personality type. But this only makes his life more compelling. He suffered much but also achieved much.
The book is carefully arranged in clear chapters and is illustrated with photographs and ink drawings. Apart from it being a fascinating biography, much light is thrown on Bunyan’s key writings which are set in chronological order.
I would heartily recommend this book. Don’t be put off by its size. It is not a difficult read. It informs the reader on a vital part of our history, describes a great man of God, and demonstrates the grace of God in action. Buy it, read it and pass it on to a friend.